Are your search campaigns feeling a little limp? Do you need to spice up your PPC strategy? Are your campaigns missing the spot? Is your analytics impenetrable? The following list highlights 50 essential steps you can take to ensure your campaigns are performing to their full potential.
1. Set daily budgets Setting a daily budget will ensure that you don't overspend on any of your campaigns. This is especially important when juggling large budgets on accounts that have multiple campaigns. Take into account that Google will spend up to 20% more of your specified campaign daily budget cap.
2. Use Broad Match Modifier Using broad match keywords can often lead to your ads showing up for similar, but irrelevant terms. For example bidding on "dvd cases" might result in your ad showing for terms such as "blue ray DVDs ". By inserting a + symbol in front of each of your keywords (broad match modifier) will ensure that your ad only shows up for those keywords, including plurals, misspells and abbreviations.
3. Create negative keyword lists Using negative keyword lists makes it a lot easier to manage your negative keywords at campaign level. Rather than adding negative keywords at campaign level across all or multiple campaigns, you can create lists of keywords that you can apply to each campaign. These can be found in Shared Library > Campaign Negative Keywords.
4. Break out high volume exact match keywords Performance for exact match keywords can give a good indication of fluctuations in competition, conversion rate & CPC, because it's just one single keyword. For example, if conversion rate fell 5% for one of your exact match keywords from a usual steady 15%, it might indicate an problem with on site usability, or competitors dropping prices. It would be much harder to conclude this from a broad match keyword because it might be a case of certain search terms not converting as well. As a result, it's a good idea to break out higher volume exact match keywords into their own ad groups.
5. Make relevant content for landing pages Ensuring your web page is relevant to your ad copy not only gives the user a better on-site experience, but helps increase your quality score leading to you paying less per click.
6. Use labels to Make your life easier Labels can be used for a whole host of purposes, including reporting, filtering and automated scripts. It can be particularly useful for looking at snapshots of an account performance. If for example you were running an account with own brand, non-brand, competitor & remarketing campaigns, these might all have different target CPAs. By labelling all the campaigns as such, looking in dimensions at a campaign label report would immediately segment performance by label, rather than needing to drill down into each campaign.
7. Experiment with Bidding on Brand & Competitor Terms If you're not currently bidding on brand or competitor terms, it's probably a good time to try. In many cases competitors will be bidding on your brand, so it's a good idea - as the brand owner - to start bidding on your brand terms yourself. As your own website is going to be the most relevant to these terms, it's likely your clicks will be much cheaper than what your competitors are paying. The same works but the other way around - try bidding on your competitor's names.
8. Bid higher initially, and when CTR increases, look at reducing bids Starting with a low bid when bidding on a new keyword can often result in "below first page bid". What can often happen is that by bidding higher initially, your ad is eligible to appear in the auction. But as CTR data starts coming in, CPCs can really fall based on the quality score model. Don't assume that just because your initial bid is a high one, that you will always be paying that per click.
9. Ensure goals or conversions are in place Without any goals or conversions in place, there is no accurate way to calculate your return on ad spend, particularly at campaign/ad group/keyword level. Even if you're not selling a product, it would be a good idea to set up conversions to track certain events, such as form submits, email clicks, or even users landing on certain pages you might deem most relevant.
10. Try to optimise based on ROI, not CPA Whilst it might be easy to aim for a CPA of - for example - £3.50, some of these leads might be worth half the amount as others. This is particularly apparent for ecommerce websites that are tracking revenue across different value products. Someone clicking through a paid ad and buying one phone case for 50p is less valuable than someone clicking through and buying a phone case, a Gorillapod stand and a screen removal kit for a total spend of £28. As a result analysing against a CPA wouldn't work here. You can look at ROI in AdWords by choosing the "conv. value/cost" column in the reporting interface.
11. Look at time of day & day of week reports to analyse better performing times, then adjust bids It might be a case that your users seem to convert better or more cheaply on a Saturday evening than any other time in the week. This could be down to some kind of external factor like what's on TV or in the media, but could also be because competitors reducing their bids at this time. In such a case it would prove valuable to increase your bids for this period to maximise the exposure for your ad, and get as many sales as possible for this period. By looking at a time report in the Dimensions tab, you can identify any peaks or troughs in account performance, and adjust your bids for these times accordingly.
12. Ensure Analytics is linked to track web metrics If using Analytics, you will need to ensure the two accounts are linked in order for all data to pushed from AdWords to Analytics. Any traffic being sent in from an unlinked account will appear in Analytics as "(not set)".
13. Turn on ecommerce tracking for ecommerce websites In order to track sales revenue and product level performance, ecommerce tracking in Analytics will need to be switched on and implemented. A full guide for steps on how to do this can be found here.
14. Assess bounce rate & time on site for low volume campaigns Whist you can look in AdWords at cost and click data, you can't see how users interact with the website post-click. In the Analytics acquisition reports, you can see which of your users bounce off the site after they click, how long they were on the website for, and how many pages they viewed. This can be particularly important for justifying an increase/decrease in spend for campaigns that track a very low volume of conversions or goals.
15. Look at attribution & multi-channel funnels to see how paid interacts with other channels Analytics gives good insight into how different channels interact with each other. For example, you might see that users will do a search for a specific product, click through, and then come back organically through an own brand search. Multi-channel-funnel reports can be found in Analytics > Conversions > Multi-Channel Funnels.
16. Look at matched search queries for stats at keyword level Similar to looking at ad group and campaign level post-click metrics in Analytics, you can look at these metrics for specific search terms that users searched to find your website. These can be found in Analytics > Aquisition > Adwords > Search Queries.
17. Use keyword insertion Keyword insertion allows you to dynamically insert the search term a user is searching for if there is not enough room to fit it within the 25 character headline. Not only can this allow you to fit more characters in, but can also increase CTR because of higher ad relevancy. You can view all the details of how to set up keyword insertion here.
18. Call to action in ads To try and increase CTR, use some kind of call to action or hook to entice the user. Popular call to action messages include "buy online today", "contact us today", "Get a free quote today", etc. You cannot use the word "click" in your ad - this will automatically get your ad disapproved.
19. Use of trademark symbols (if you own the trademark)Using trademark symbols can help your ad stand out, and gives users a feeling that your brand is more authoritative and trusted. In turn, it's likely that CTR will increase as a result.
20. Make full use of display URL field The display URL field is a good way of getting certain keywords into your ad if you reach your ad text limit. This can help both quality score by increasing the ad relevancy to your keyword, as well as visually looking more relevant to the user.
21. Split test ad copy One of the most important steps for any PPC account manager is testing ad copy. Ad headlines in particular are the first things that people see when they conduct a search, so it's essential that the right message is being used. Ad text or headlines that sound good to you, might not necessarily result in the highest CTRs. By setting ads to "rotate evenly", you can test different ad copy and analyse which has a higher CTR after a certain period of time.
22. Include offers or USPs in ad copy The better the offering in your ad text, the more likely it is your ad will be clicked on. It's always a good idea to include any "free" services or extras in your ads, such as "free delivery", "free consultation", "free fitting", etc.
23. Optimise for clicks Once you've split text your ads and you are happy with your current ad copy, it's a good idea to set your ads to "optimise for clicks". This will choose the higher performing ad in terms of CTR, and show this more frequently. This will in turn help increase your quality score by increasing your overall CTR, and help reduce your CPC.
24. Bid adjustments to push mobile Segmenting by device in AdWords allows you to see performance down to keyword level by device. Depending on how usable your website is on mobile will likely impact the results you see across devices. For mobile optimised websites, conversion rate can often be higher than desktop. Clicks tend to be cheaper on mobile due to less competition, so it can be beneficial to increase bids for mobile to increase the level of cheaper conversions. Unfortunately tablets cannot be specifically targeted, so even if you see really positive (or negative) results for tablets, there's not much you can do about it.
25. Accelerated delivery for higher budgets Having a budget set to standard delivery can slow search campaigns right down if there is a lot more volume to be had. For campaigns which have larger budgets, or for those which you are wanting to get as much volume as possible, it's important to set your campaign to accelerated delivery. This will bid on your keywords as fast as possible throughout the day until your budget has been exhausted.
26. Contact your Google Rep to enable demographics for search Demographics for search (DFSA) allow you to change your bid adjustments based on age or gender. Age is based on core age brackets (18-24, 34-35, etc.) rather than individual ages. You can only bid on each of these individually, and not together. So you wouldn't be able to bid up for males aged 18-24, but either both genders aged 18-24, or males of all age groups. You'll need to contact Google in order to enable this, as it's still in beta.
27. Create IP targeted campaigns without location keywords Often people will search for products or services within the location you want, even though they don't specify that location in their search term. For example, someone in Surrey searching for "loft insulation" would have intent to find loft insulation in the Surrey area, but might not use "Surrey" in their search term. Creating an IP targeted campaign only targeting Surrey would allow you to catch all of the generic, more high volume searches in the area you want.
28. Google Call Tracking Whilst some have relied on third party call tracking services to track calls coming from PPC, this can often come at an extra expense. Google now offers a free on-site call tracking service, which reports calls directly into AdWords like a normal website conversion. You can learn how to setup Google Call Tracking here.
29. Estimated Total Conversions Estimated total conversions is Google's attempt at trying to track cross device conversions. With mobile usage overtaking desktop usage, this statistic is becoming more and more important. Whilst this isn't 100% accurate, it uses data from users that are logged into the same Google account across devices, to track conversions. This is about as close as you will get to tracking cross device conversions, so it's worth looking at this statistic in your AdWords reports to give you an idea of how different devices are impacting your overall performance. You can add "estimated total conversions" as a column in your AdWords interface reports.
30. Install Tag Manager for easier implementation of conversion tracking Installing Tag Manager means that you will no longer have to modify your website code next time you want to install any conversion tracking codes. Click here for a full guide on how to implement Tag Manager on your website.
31. Analyse search funnels Search Funnels is an interesting report in AdWords that many overlook. It works alongside Analytics to give you detailed stats into how your campaigns interact with each other, the user path length & attribution modelling including first and last click analysis. This can be particularly useful if you want to work out for example if a non-brand campaign has helped drive own-brand conversions. You can view the search funnel report in AdWords under Tools > Conversions > Search Funnels.
32. Ensure feed titles & descriptions are relevant Google Shopping works by basing the relevancy of your feed content to a user's search query. In a similar way to how you would optimise the content to rank for certain organic keywords, you want your product feed title and descriptions to be relevant for the search terms you want to appear for. Try and get any relevant product attributes in these fields as well.
33. Include relevant feed attributes to segment feed Using Product Types, you can segment your product groups down to a manageable level. For example, an online store selling socks might have 40 different themes of socks. To break these out into their own product groups in AdWords, the feed would need different product types for each type of product. Product types might include "cartoon theme", "adult theme", "movie theme" and "plain theme". Each of these product types would then have their own product group, which you could analyse and optimise performance for. You can see a full list of product attributes available for shopping feeds here.
34. Break out product groups into granular structure Once you have a well structured product feed, it's essential to break out your shopping campaign into as much of a granular structure as possible. Using the above example, it might be the case that "plain socks" are spending 40% of the budget, and converting unusually poorly. Without breaking out into it's own product group, you would have not identified this under performing product group.
35. Analyse search term report in dimensions Just like with normal search campaigns, you can view search query reports for shopping campaigns. These are visible in the Dimensions tab on your selected campaign. Whilst you can't include or add keywords you're not appearing for, you can negative out search terms that are performing poorly. Quite often these will be very generic terms, such as "men's jeans", "cheap toilet seat", "garden hose", etc. It's likely that longer tail, more specific search terms are the better performing ones.
36. Rank spend by product level overall Whilst breaking out into product groups can provide a good level of detail, it's often necessary to look at your top spending products overall. In Dimensions at campaign level, view by Shopping > Item ID, and then rank by spend. This will show you the product IDs and corresponding stats for your products in that campaign, ranked by spend.
37. Break out product groups by ID to identify highest spending products For higher spending product groups, it's important to break down into product level. For many campaigns, it will be one or two products that end up spending the most, and in some cases you might want to curb this spend. Breaking out at product level allows you to set product level bids, or exclude certain products completely so they don't show up in the shopping results.
38. Don't always follow benchmark bids Shopping campaigns will show a "benchmark CPC" alongside your average CPC. This gives you an idea of what other people in the market are bidding per click. This is often much higher than your current bid - possibly an attempt by Google to drive up the CPCs for everyone. It's recommended that you bid at a level where you feel you're driving a good level of traffic, and not bid up just to be in line with the benchmark CPC.
39. Ask your Google Rep to enable shopping promotions Shopping promotions is a new beta that allows you to display a voucher or money off promotion below your shopping ad. These help your ad stand out in the shopping results, and give users an incentive to buy from you over anyone else. These can be added in manually via the merchant centre, or uploaded as part of your feed. For more information on shopping promotions, click here. You'll need to ask your Google Rep to whitelist you for this, as it's currently in beta.
40. Create remarketing lists based on website funnels Users drop out of website funnels at different stages, and it's likely that the further down the funnel they progress, the more likely they are to come back and make that purchase. A typical shopping cart is a good example - someone that drops out at the sign up stage is probably less likely to convert than someone that dropped out at the payment stage. Breaking out remarketing lists based on the progression down the website funnel means not only can you see remarketing stats by funnel stage, but you could also bid more/less aggressively based on which stages perform better.
41. Overlay RLSA lists even if you're not changing bids Overlaying a remarketing audience for search ads doesn't necessarily mean you have to bid differently or show a different message. But it does mean that rather than all of your search traffic being funnelled through one statistic, you can see stats broken down depending on if (or which) remarketing list the user is on. You might then notice that users that have previously visited a certain page of your website convert much better, so then decide to bid up for this audience. Remember to set your ad group settings to "bid only" and not "target and bid", so you are not restricting the ad group to only people on that list.
42. Change messaging based on remarketing list (offers?)Depending on how different your remarketing lists are, you might want to consider changing the messaging of your ads. Someone that has visited your website and dropped out at the last stage of the checkout process could be shown an add along the lines of "Complete your order for 10% off", with a voucher code displayed. Similarly, websites offering a range of different products might include those product names in each of the ads for the different remarketing lists.
43. Look at a placement report to identify top performing placements The placement report shows your remarketing campaign performance split out by the URL of the website your ad appeared on. Generally there are no trends here, particularly for remarketing, as it's based on the user's behaviour rather than the quality of the website. However, you might realise that 80% of your spend is from games related placements that aren't converting, in which case you could add that URL as a negative placement to stop your ads from show on that website.
44. Break out ad groups by cookie length to identify top performing lengths Depending on how long ago a user visited your website might change how likely the user is to come back and convert. In such cases you can break out your remarketing lists by cookie length to funnel users into different ad groups. You might find that visitors of your site in the past 1-2 days have a much higher convert rather than those who visited between 5-7 days ago. Similar to breaking out by website funnel stage, you could bid up or down on these cookie lengths depending on performance. In some cases you may wish to exclude certain cookie lengths entirely.
45. Use audiences built from Google Analytics For more in-depth remarketing audiences you can use Analytics. This gives you access to far more webs stats to base your audience rules on. For example, you might wish to only remarket to users that have dropped out of the checkout stage and have been on the website for more than five minutes. These audiences can then be pulled into AdWords, and you can overlay them as you would a standard remarketing audience.
46. Collect third party reviews Collecting third party reviews means you can take advantage of review extensions. These require you to upload a snippet of a positive review from a trusted website that has been published within the past 12 months. This will show in your ad for eligible searches, with the source of the quote visible. You can find out more about review extensions here.
47. Collect seller ratings Seller ratings are one of the most visually appealing extensions. These are where Google crawls a list of partner review sites for reviews for your URL, and then inserts a star rating into your ads. To be eligible for this, you must have collected at least 30 reviews of 3.5 or more within the past 12 months. These must all have come from one of Google's partnered review websites, which you can find here.
48. Link a Google Places account for location extensions In order to add a location extension to your add (a location marker with the address of your business), you will need to link a Google Places account, and import your business location. If you don't have a Google Places account, you will need to register for one here, submit your business, and wait until it's been verified.
49. Make use of Callout Extensions to enhance real estate & USP Callout extensions are the newest additions to the suite of ad extensions and allow you to list multiple characteristics or USPs of your product or service. These are displayed in your ad below your ad copy, increasing the overall presence of your ad. These can be added in manually through the AdWords interface under ad extensions.
50. Don't forget about Bing Bing can often yield much cheaper conversions than Google due to lower competition from advertisers not bidding on Bing at all. Whilst it's easy to overlook Bing as it only delivers around 10% of the volume of Google, by ensuring your Bing campaigns are updated in line with your Google campaigns can mean a good (albeit smaller) trove of conversions coming your way.