Oftentimes, when we start working on a PPC account or campaign, it comes with some history.
Whether it’s because we inherited it or we’ve been asked to do an audit, the goal is always the same: to look at it with fresh, fresh eyes, drawing on our hard-earned experience and skills.
We need to understand it – to fix problems and improve performance.
In this post, you will learn about seven key areas for optimization in order to improve PPC campaign performance. Even an account you’ve worked on for a while can benefit from deliberately screening for these important opportunities.
Seven key areas for improving PPC campaign performance
- performance by location.
- performance by device.
- Performance by network (search network vs search partners vs display network).
- audience performance.
- negative and negative lists.
- Features available (and applicable to the account/campaign) on the platform.
- Conversion tracking.
1. Performance by location
An often overlooked obvious way to segment performance by audience is to look at where your existing and potential customers are located.
You’ll likely see patterns for different states, regions, and even zip codes.
This seems quite evident if we consider that the demographics can be very different from one place to another.
For example, users from so-called affluent suburbs might see higher transaction values, or long-term values (lifetime values) that would justify increasing the amount we are willing to spend to acquire those customers (CPA).
Strong differences in performance by location might suggest that campaigns are segmented and structured so that ads and ad text can be aligned and customized accordingly.
2. Performance by device
It’s giving. Despite the increasing convergence of experiences on different platforms and devices, user behavior is still (for the most part) vastly different.
It’s not just about screen size and resolution, it’s also about the context and reasons why we use one device (eg mobile), over another (eg desktop).
Knowing our users and customers and how they convert will mean it wouldn’t likely be a surprise if one device outperformed the other. But the numbers never lie, so it’s easy to see bids, raise or lower them to adjust the strategy.
3. Performance by Network (Search Network vs. Search Partners vs. Display Network)
From time to time we still see PPC campaigns targeting all networks (Search Network, Search Partners and Display Network).
We could argue at length about the quality of impressions and clicks from partner websites. But most of the time these generate so little traffic that the spend can be minimal in the broader context of the account.
Given that there is no way to target search partners alone, the question of whether we keep search partners on or off is a different matter.
However, that cannot be said of the Display Network – campaigns on the Search and Display Networks should always be split.
For starters, search is an ad attraction, while the display network is a payment method. Even when display ads are highly targeted, they are a form of disruption to the user experience, and so we should always acknowledge this in our creatives and messaging.
In addition, it’s likely that we should be using the two networks to target customers and prospects at different stages of their user journey, and have different strategies, KPIs, and goals that go along with that.
4. Audience performance
More often than not, we see search driving a large amount of traffic from existing customers who use the engines to quickly “navigate” to a website to access their accounts.
These navigation clicks, if the right actions are not in place, can be very costly when they come from PPC advertising.
Add block lists (where possible) to avoid incurring any additional costs that do not result in additional conversions.
Other logical uses of audience targeting include segmenting your user base into groups defined by behavior (i.e. page visitors) and/or engagement (high consumption of content), and thus for remarketing purposes.
But Audiences can also be used for monitoring rather than targeting, as in the example above.
Since these will not affect campaign performance, it is highly suggested that you add as many relevant audiences as possible.
Once the data is collected, it will provide valuable insights into which segments are most valuable and which audiences are underperforming. This will enable you to make correct adjustments to your bids and other elements of the campaign.
5. Negative and negative lists
Keywords are still the strongest signal. But with the complexity of natural language and the different (often unique) ways people search, even with more sophisticated machine learning, machines can still struggle to fully understand the target.
Therefore, it is more important than ever to narrow the chances of keywords matching spammy search queries. You should constantly review and mine the available search query data.
Even with the current limitations, search query reports can really help you understand what Google thinks a website or page is about.
As such, it can help us reduce the costs of spam and less relevant searches, and at the same time it can also help increase your Quality Score (QS).
6. The features available (and applicable to the account/campaign) on the Platform
Continuing from the point above, one reason to use additional features such as ad extensions is the benefit these features can bring to your Quality Score.
It goes without saying that QS alone should be a sufficiently compelling reason.
Plus, given that listings on search engines can be expensive, wouldn’t it make more sense to always try to maximize on-page real estate?
If we’re paying a ton of money to be there, we want to make sure it’s worth it. Besides, the more space we can occupy, the less space there will be for competitors and other advertisers!
Additional features also include less-used options like the ability to upload offline conversions (more on that in a moment) or run experiments and A/B testing.
7. Conversion tracking
Last but not least – and this is one of my favorites – it is imperative that we track conversions and ensure we track the right goals.
In digital marketing, everything needs to be measurable and marketers are held accountable for the performance of their advertising campaigns. Conversion tracking should always be a cornerstone of media buying planning and execution.
However, we often see examples of PPC accounts and campaigns that either miss conversion tracking altogether or track the wrong endpoints.
Provided we have properly launched the transfers and registration, some expert tips are:
- Use the segmentation option from within Google Ads To easily and quickly see the breakdown of conversion types by campaign (see example below). In fact, hash view is a very useful tool, but it is greatly underestimated!
- Determine the correct conversion objective(s) for each campaign When using Target CPA or Target ROAS bidding strategies.
- Set up and use custom columns To add various conversion points and/or performance metrics such as CPA, ROI, or ROAS.
In an ideal world, marketing practitioners would have all the time necessary to focus on analyzing data and working on fixes.
In fact, we’re often under pressure to get results — and fast.
Therefore, a good and reliable Pareto rule 80/20 should always come to the rescue in those situations when we need to make improvements and quickly show results.
It’s easy to get lost in numbers, especially when we have to work on hundreds of campaigns, ad groups, ads, and possibly thousands of keywords.
So get started where you can make a difference right away. Research those campaigns and terms that account for the majority of ad spend.
It is likely that 20% of those are responsible for 80% of the outgoing costs.
If those campaigns or keywords are hitting your targets, improving their performance can really help you take things to the next level and become a CFO’s best friend.
But this is also possible in the event that the 20% is not driving the expected results.
In this case, focus on fixing those campaigns as a priority.
- Developing a sustainable PPC strategy: What you need to know
- 12 Hidden PPC Features You Must Know
- PPC 101: A Complete Guide to the Basics of PPC Marketing
Featured image: Sammby/Shutterstock