Did you know that 64.6% of people who are looking to buy online click a Google Ad in their search results? These ads are called pay-per-click (PPC) ads, and their purpose is to present users with relevant, highly visible search results which encourage click-through and bring users into your funnel.
While there’s no disputing that organic search ranking is important, it takes much longer to build and prove ROI. In contrast, when executed correctly, PPC has the power to deliver near-instant results. PPC advertising with Google AdWords and Bing Ads gives you control over the keywords and search terms your ad appears for—enabling you to immediately begin attracting traffic for your top keywords and direct it to conversion-focused landing pages where visitors can become leads.
But, PPC isn’t easy. It requires thorough, up-to-date knowledge of advertising platforms, guidelines, and best practices, plus a healthy dash of marketing acumen. Additionally, to ensure you’re set up to succeed with PPC, you first need to develop an effective PPC management strategy.
As Google Partners, we’ve helped dozens of clients across North America plan, execute, and manage PPC campaigns that deliver results time after time. In this post, we’ve drawn on our experiences and assembled some of the most effective best practices we’ve encountered to help you manage solid, results-focused PPC campaigns. While this post focuses primarily on Google AdWords, we’ll touch on Bing Ads specifically a little later on.
A few of the key terms we’ll be using throughout the post include:
- Organic Traffic: This refers to traffic that arrives at your website via search engines without the use of paid search results.
- Pay-Per-Click (PPC): The form of internet advertising we’re discussing in this post, pay-per-click (PPC) is a bidding structure for purchasing keywords that are relevant to your business in which marketers pay a fee for every time their ad is clicked.
- Click-Through Rate (CTR): Commonly referred to as a CTR, a click-through rate is the ratio of the people who see your ad compared to the number of people who click on it. A CTR offers essential data for determining how your ads and keywords are performing.
- Keywords/Search Terms: These are words or phrases users search for in search engines.
- Quality Score: A score that acts as an estimate of your ads, keywords, and landing page quality. The higher your quality score, the lower your cost per click and the better your ad position.
8 PPC Management Best Practices To Implement Now
A solid foundation built on best practices is essential to your PPC campaigns’ success. Here is a list of effective—yet often overlooked—strategies to build into your PPC management practices to ensure your paid ads are working as hard as possible for you.
1. Keep Your Ad Groups Narrow and Focused
An ad group is a collection of one or more ads that is focused on a common set of keywords or search terms. Developing ad groups is crucial for the success of any PPC campaign you run because they help search engines determine which keywords will be used to trigger your ads. While there’s no set limit on the number of ad groups an AdWords campaign can have, it’s always in your best interest to keep the number manageable.
When setting up your ad groups, there are two common pitfalls that marketers encounter:
- They put all of their keywords into a single ad group
- They create a few groups, but still fill them with too many keywords
The problem you’ll quickly face is that your ad groups will be far too generic—making it difficult to serve relevant ads and thus gain traction with users. Instead, each of your ad groups should contain a single keyword or search term focus that appears in your ad and again on the landing pages your ad points to.
You want the ads you’re serving to be relevant to users—meaning ad copy should match the keywords they are searching for. The more closely your ad matches the keywords being searched, the more likely someone is to click on it. The same goes for the landing page your ad points to. By creating a dedicated landing page that informs your ad copy and aligns with a user’s search term, you’ll increase the odds that they will convert on your offer. This, in turn, can boost your quality score, which helps improve the placement of your ad and lowers your bidding cost, further boosting campaign effectiveness. More on this later.
You can narrow the search terms your ads appear for by adding negative keywords to your ad group. Negative keywords can be used to exclude certain search terms from your campaign, allowing you to focus on the keywords you believe matter most to your customers. For example, if you’re a chocolate company that exclusively sells milk chocolate, some useful negative keywords for your ad group could include “dark chocolate” and “white chocolate”.
With focused ad groups that contain ads written around a single keyword, and negative keywords minimizing users who aren’t searching for your product, you’ll see a higher CTR and quality score. In turn, this can lower your cost per click rate, meaning you’re paying less per conversion.
Bottom line—narrow, focused ad groups make your ads more effective and save you money.
2. Bid on Brand Keywords and Terms
Brand keywords are search terms related to your company or product. You may wonder, “Why should I be bidding on my brand? I already rank first for those terms in organic search!”.
The logic behind bidding on your own brand terms is that in addition to (most likely) ranking first in organic search, PPC ads enable you to occupy more real estate on the Search Engine Results Page (or, SERP), which will entice click-though. It’s worth noting that brand terms catch the attention of users, with studies showing that retail PPC ads that include branded terms result in 31% more clicks.
Unlike organic search results, clicks on paid ads can drive traffic to focused landing pages where visitors are most likely to convert (vs. to your homepage where their action won’t be as focused, so they’re more likely to drop off without converting). Finally, the cost per click (CPC) of brand terms tends to be low, so bidding on them can provide a cost-effective way to capture leads that are searching specifically for your brand.
3. Bid Differently on Mobile, Desktop, and Tablet Devices
A few months ago, Google began rolling out bid adjustments for AdWords, which allow you to show your ads with more or less frequency depending on factors such as:
- When people are searching
- Where people are searching from
- The device being used to search
Now, Google AdWords makes it possible to bid on different devices individually, allowing you to further tailor your ad buy. This is great news if you’re not seeing much success with specific devices. For example, until this change, tablet data was combined with desktop data. If you weren’t seeing high CTR from tablet users, it would impact your overall account performance and quality score. However, with the option now available to reduce or increase ad buys by channel, you can see whether there are any CTR trends within your data and re-focus your efforts accordingly. In the end, this will help reduce your cost per click and cost per conversion.
4. Take Advantage of Dynamic Keyword Insertion
Dynamic Keyword Insertion (DKI) is a great feature Google AdWords provides that will take a user’s search query and update the text of your ads to include the keywords they searched. You can activate this by creating ads that include the dynamic keyword insertion code.
For example, let’s say you own a bakery that offers a wide assortment of bread. You may want to use “bread” as your dynamic keyword. In this case, your headline (including your dynamic insertion code, will look something like this:
When serving up this ad, AdWords will replace this code with a dynamic result based on how your keywords are set up for your ad group. Let’s say you have the following keywords set up in your ad group:
- 12-grain bread
- Gluten free bread
- Whole wheat bread
If a user searches for “12-grain bread”, your ad will read “Buy 12-Grain Bread”. If someone searches “Gluten free bread”, your ad will read “Buy Gluten Free Bread”, and so on.
Instantly, dynamic keywords make your ad more relevant to a user, providing them with a result that directly reflects their search term.
5. Implement Expanded Headlines and Text Ad
Introduced in 2016, expanded headlines and text ads provide more space for enticing marketing copy on ads—increasing SERP real estate and supporting CTR increases. Expanded text ads feature:
- Two 30 character headline fields (Previously one 25 character headline)
- An expanded 80 character description field (Previously two 35-character description lines)
- Space for a display URL
- Two optional path fields that can be used in conjunction with your display URL
With more space, you can write more captivating copy or try a new angle on your product or service. These ads can also be served across devices, which is important since 90% of users use multiple devices before completing their final goal.
Expanded headlines and text ads are still in their early days, but already, their impact has been impressive. According to WordStream, expanded text ads are resulting in as much as 20% CTR increases over traditional PPC ads.
6. Use Ad Extensions and Callouts
Ad extensions are a great way to maximize your ad’s real estate on a SERP. They allow you to include additional useful information (such as your address, phone number, or site links) that will encourage a user to click on your ad or to the ad extension link itself—enabling features like mobile click-to-call so that you can generate phone calls directly from your ad.
Callouts allow you to include additional text directly below your standard ad text. This non-clickable text gives you the ability to display additional information about your products and services that you may not have been able to fit in the main ad due to character limits.
Keep in mind that writing expanded ads with more content can result in making your old callouts redundant. Google won’t serve callouts that repeat text included within your ad. To make sure this doesn’t happen to you, it’s worth taking the time to refresh your ad callouts so that they offer new content to showcase alongside your new ads.
7. Create Dedicated Landing Pages
As we’ve alluded to several times throughout this post, if you’re serving an ad for a specific product or service (which you likely will if you create narrow ad groups like we’ve suggested!), it doesn’t make sense to send a user to a catch-all homepage where they may lack direction and fall off without converting. Instead, you should send ad clicks to a dedicated landing page.
A dedicated landing page is a page with a single purpose—to convert visitors into leads. When you have a dedicated landing page that aligns with your target keywords and ad copy, and offers a single, clear action for your users to take, you can experience a reduction in your bounce rates, an increase in your quality score, and impressive conversion results from your PPC efforts. In fact, according to AdWords training specialist Iain Dooley, sending users to a dedicated landing page on an eCommerce site can easily double and even triple your conversion rates.
8. Ensure Conversion Tracking is Set Up
Conversion tracking is essential for understanding how many users are clicking on your ads and then taking the desired action. Examples of conversions you might want to track include:
With this data, you can fine-tune current and future campaigns and ad buys, ensuring you’re bidding
on the right keywords and serving compelling ads that drive not just clicks, but result in conversions.
Setting up conversion tracking is relatively simple, and can be done directly through AdWords. For more information, check out Google’s helpful step-by-step set up document.
3 Predictions For the Future of PPC
Now that you’ve learned some of the top PPC management best practices that you can incorporate today, it’s time to look toward the future and what’s coming next. As explained in a previous blog post, 8 Takeaways for inbound marketers from the Google Ads & Analytics keynote, PPC advertising is always changing. That’s why it’s important that your PPC management strategy is able to evolve with these changes. Here are 3 predictions to watch for when planning for the future of PPC:
- Identity-Based Marketing: Before long, your PPC ads are going to be more specific than ever. With identity-based marketing, you can upload a list of email addresses—such as leads or customers—to Google AdWords, then you can create an ad campaign specifically targeting that list. When those users are signed into Google, they will see your hyper-specific ads as they search, and while browsing Google-affiliated sites such as YouTube and Gmail.
- Live Data In Your Ads: Live data is an incredibly powerful tool that enables your ads to update users with information pertaining to remaining stock, time left before a sale ends, a price drop, and numerous other elements that you will be able to define. Live data can create a sense of urgency for a user, which can further compel them to convert on your ad.
- The Rise of Bing: This post has primarily focused on Google AdWords, but it’s important to note that Bing is growing and quickly garnering market share. Bing Ads is largely modeled after AdWords, and while it’s not (presently) quite as evolved, there are a number of benefits associated with implementing Bing Ads as part of your overall PPC strategy. Most notably, there’s less competition, and it’s less expensive. Additionally, certain industries have specific rules regarding internet usage. Some of these guidelines mandate the use of Microsoft products over Google. Beyond that, however, Bing also offers impressive device targeting options, allows you to control your search demographics (which is especially useful if you know you’re targeting a specific age group or gender), and has better social extensions. Social extensions are used in ads to showcase information on your brand’s social media presence. Bing ads offer information on your brand’s twitter followers, while AdWords showcases Google+ (which you may remember as Google’s foray into social networks). While Google is still the king of the PPC mountain, it’s good to know that there are other options for you to take advantage of.
Supercharge Your PPC Management
By taking advantage of the tactics we’ve discussed in this post, you’ll be prepared to:
- Serve targeted content to relevant users across multiple platforms
- Maximize your real estate on SERPs
- Generate higher click-through rates
- Convert more visitors into quality leads and customers
- Lower your cost per conversion
Once these best practices are in place, continue researching and testing ways to improve your PPC campaigns. Consistent fine tuning and refinement through split testing and conversion rate optimization (CRO) will help ensure you’re always running the most effective PPC campaign possible. In fact, if you’ve already set up your PPC campaign and are ready to learn more about CRO, we’ve written a number of posts on the topic.
To learn more about how PPC fits into your overall inbound marketing strategy, get your copy of our helpful guide, How to Create a Comprehensive Inbound Marketing Plan. This FREE guide walks you through the planning process, addresses common questions, and helps you lay the groundwork for an inbound marketing strategy of your own. Get your copy today!