Managing and Optimizing Your Pay Per Click Campaign

Posted on May 1, 2012

This is the third installment of our Pay Per Click tutorials, and it is also the most advanced.  If you are just starting out in the world of PPC and have not already done so, we highly recommend a thorough reading of the first two parts of our series before continuing any further.  “Introduction to Pay Per Click,” outlines many of the basic concepts involved with PPC campaigns, and “AdWords Bidding, Targeting, and Quality Score” discusses how to target your local search market, and how you can manipulate bidding and Quality Score to decrease costs.

In this tutorial we will be taking a more in depth look at how you can improve the performance of your campaign, as well as some of the tools you can use to monitor that performance.  Although the principles in this article can be applied to almost any product or service, specifics will be discussed in the context of dentistry.

Ad Group Improvements

Ad Text

The easiest way to optimize your ad performance is to continually improve the text of your ads through intermittent changes.  These changes are not made at random, rather it is strategic testing to determine what words or phrases are most attractive to your potential clients.

After logging into your AdWords account, make sure you are viewing the ‘Campaigns’ tab.  Then click on the sub tab labeled ‘Ads’ located toward the middle of the screen.  It should now display each ad variation that was created when you first set up your campaign, along with all the vital performance statistics.  Within each Ad Group, there will almost assuredly be one or two top performers (those with the highest clicks, Clickthrough rate, and lowest cost-per-click).  These will become the benchmarks against which all your other ads will be measured.  Edit the poorest performing ads by clicking on the ad text (when the pencil icon appears), and then copy the exact wording and punctuation of your top performing ads.  Finally, you simply make one or two slight changes to test for improvement.

Once these new ad variations have had time to collect enough data (typically a few days to a week) log back into your account to view the results.  Repeat the process of keeping the best performers while deleting the poorest.  This allows for a very efficient and continuous method for improving ad performance.

Keyword Matching Options

There are 4 options for keyword matching that determine exactly what search will display your ads.  These include broad, phrase, exact, and negative.  Editing your keyword matching options can improve your campaign performance by eliminating the searches that might in some way be related to your product or service, but that you determine result in low value visitors.

Broad Match Keywords

Broad match allows for your ad to be displayed for not only your exact keyword, but also for similar words or phrases.  These can be synonyms or even industry jargon that is related to your product/service.  This option is suitable if you are looking to capture a wider variety of visitors, but it may mean a lower overall conversion rate if your site does not have content specific to those keywords.  For example, if your keyword is ‘dentist’ your ad may also be eligible to be displayed for a search of ‘dental care’, ‘root canal’, or ‘dental crown’.  If you do not offer root canals then that is a low value visitor.

Phrase Match Keywords

Phrase match allows your ad to be displayed for searches that include your exact keyword or keyword phrase, but that might also accompany other words.  For example, if your keyword is ‘dentist’ your ad may also be eligible to be displayed for a search of ‘dentist reviews’ or ‘dentist in San Francisco’.  This setting is appropriate if you want to qualify visitors searching for only your targeted phrase, but also want to allow some slight variation in wording.

Exact Match Keywords

Exact match is the most specific keyword match setting, and it allows for your ad to be displayed for ONLY your exact keyword or keyword phrase.  This means that if your keyword is ‘dentist’ your ad is only eligible to be displayed for the search of ‘dentist’.  While this option often results in less overall visitors, you are guaranteed that people viewing your ads meet the exact criteria of your keywords.

Negative Match Keywords

Negative match guarantees that your ad will not be shown for any searches containing that specific keyword, and it is a valuable setting to combine with the broad and phrase match options.  For example, if your keyword is ‘dentist’, but you don’t want to be found for specific services like ’emergency’ or ‘pediatric’, then you can set a negative match option for those phrases.  This way your ad will never appear for services which you do not offer or that are deemed low value.

Modify Ad Groups and Bids

Once your PPC campaign has had time to collect data, it is important to revisit your bidding and budgeting strategy to ensure that you are getting the most value for the lowest possible cost-per-click.  One of the easiest ways to manage this strategy is to categorize your keywords into Ad Groups based on performance.  This is because top performing keywords that receive many click might be using up your daily budget, leaving little room for less popular keyword to gain any exposure.

This requires examining all your targeted keywords to evaluate performance.  The keywords that are consistently attaining the largest number or impressions and highest Clickthrough rate should be grouped together (these keywords are usually more general to your industry, such as ‘dentist’ or ‘cosmetic dentist’).  Then, the terms that get less overall traffic are placed into their own group.  (These keywords are usually more specific, such as ‘porcelain veneers’ or ‘dental implants’).

Once separated, you need to customize the bidding and budgeting for each Ad Group’s specific needs.  The high performing groups need a greater daily budget as well as a higher cost-per-click bid.  Conversely, the lower traffic keywords (which can be just as valuable if they result in a client) need lower budgets and bids.

If your ads have achieved a reasonably high Quality Score (discussed in our second tutorial, “AdWords Bidding, Targeting, and Quality Score”) then you can make changes to your bidding in an attempt to decrease costs.  Start decreasing your bids, no more than 10% at a time, and return in a few days to see if there is a noticeable decrease in impressions.  If there is no change, then continue decreasing your price.  Once a decrease is noticed, then your bid price was previously at the approximate threshold for winning the auction and you should immediately reverse the change to achieve your former position.  Then, continue tinkering with even smaller bid reductions to determine your exact lowest cost.

Google Tools and Resources

Google’s entire profit structure relies on the ability of their users to set up and manage successful PPC campaigns.  So, naturally, they provide valuable tools that can aid in virtually every step of the process.  From researching your keywords, estimating their effectiveness and level of competition, to optimizing your campaign for peak performance and analysis, there is a Google tool that can help you make informed decisions.  Here we take a brief look at a few of the most important.

Keyword Tool

The Keyword Tool helps you brainstorm ideas for adding new keywords to your campaign and gives you an estimated traffic level for those words.  It can also provide you with common negative keywords associated with your topic, and shows examples of what additional keywords might qualify your ad to be shown (depending on your keyword matching options).

Traffic Estimator

The Traffic Estimator has some of the same functionality as the Keyword Tool above, giving you traffic estimates for targeted keywords.  But it also goes deeper into the specific cost estimates of the keyword, providing you with average cost-per-click, cost per day, and average ad position.  Using this tool can give you a general idea about what bid prices you’ll need to set in order to be competitive.

Search Terms Report

The “Search Terms” report and the Search Query Performance report are both advisable to perform after you campaign has been running for enough time to collect some initial data.  The reports allow you to see all of the exact search terms that were entered to trigger your ad.  From viewing this report you can often notice potential negative keywords that result in low value clicks.

Website Optimizer

The Website Optimizer tool is all about testing the content of your website for improvement.  When initiating the process, you first choose the portion of your site to test.  Typically this is either the homepage, or the specific landing page to which you’re sending PPC traffic.  A segment of this traffic is directed a second variation of the page to implement split testing.  When clear trends of improvement become evident, the changes are made permanent and another variation is created to further build on that improvement.

Conversion Tracking

Conversion Tracking is a very valuable tool for measuring the performance of each ad, in terms of its effectiveness in generating a conversion.  In order to enable Conversion Tracking you will need to edit the HTML code of your site to include the tracking code that Google provides.  The code tracks the user’s activity once they click on your ad, and when a predetermined goal is completed (such as purchases, contact form submissions, emails, or visits to certain pages) a conversion is recorded.

Conversion Optimizer

The Conversion Optimizer uses an alternative model to cost-per-click, and instead focuses on cost-per-acquisition (CPA).  It works in conjunction with Conversion Tracking (discussed above) so you must have that enabled to continue.  For best results, Google recommends that you run Conversion Tracking for at least 2 weeks before proceeding.  It is also a requirement that your campaign has received at least 15 conversions in the last 30 days, so this is a tool that is best used on already successful campaigns that are looking for further improvement.

Once it is enabled Conversion Optimizer asks you to set the maximum price you’re willing to spend on a conversion.  Then, Google’s system automatically adjusts your bid price to the optimal level, depending on the historical value and conversion rate of the search term.  Bid price is increased for more valuable clicks and decreased for less valuable.  You still pay on a per-click basis, but no longer need to worry about adjusting bid prices manually.  The algorithms used by the Conversion Optimizer are very effective at showing your ads more often in the times you’re most likely to get a conversion, which will have a direct and positive influence on your return on investment.

Final Thoughts

Managing and optimizing is the final (though ongoing) step in a Pay Per Click campaign, but it is also possibly the most important.  If you don’t work to continuously improve your performance then you run the risk of the worst possible combination, ineffectual ads with inflated costs.  Over the entire lifespan of a campaign, this can easily grow into thousands and tens of thousands of dollars.  Managing and optimizing will ensure that your ads are running lean and mean, getting lots of clicks at the very lowest possible cost.

There you have it!  With the conclusion of our PPC tutorials you should have all the knowledge and tools necessary to set up, run, optimize, and analyze your campaign.  With a firm grasp on all these topics you will be well on your way to becoming an Adwords guru.  While this ends our series on the overall steps of a PPC campaign, we are by no means finished.  Check back for future articles on PPC, as from time to time we will delve into greater detail on very specific topics, as well as discuss any significant updates made to the AdWords platform.

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