PPC can be a valuable tool for improving visibility, messaging, and customer acquisition for just about any business. But many times, when companies try to handle their own paid search campaigns, the results can be lackluster or non-existent. Don’t lose hope. No matter your ad spend, you can use this 9-step checklist to improve PPC performance in your paid media campaigns.

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1. Fix your account structure

If the account isn’t structured to fit your business, you’ll probably have an issue seeing any results. Some accounts are structured based on the products or services they offer. Some are structured based on the problem they solve, or the audiences they intend to service.

Avoid trying to build one campaign that tries to market all the products or services you offer. Break apart your keyword lists into small segments and build separate ad groups and campaigns, so you can customize your creative to fit the searcher’s needs and intent. This allows you to allocate more budget to the segments doing well, without adding funding to areas that underperform.

2. Always test ad performance

The difference between two ads with a subtle copy change can be enormous. Continually test your ads and don’t let underperforming ads run too long, as they can drag down results and unnecessarily increase costs. Take stock in the ads you serve — the conversion rates, CTRs, and post-click engagement stats and make sure the new ads you write can beat the current champion.

Ask yourself: Does the new ad have better engagement? Does it generate conversions at a lower CPA? Does it have a better CTR? Are my CPCs lower?

Focus on creating engaging ads, then focus on generating conversion volume, and lastly focus on optimizing by cost per conversion.

3. Pay attention to keyword relevance and grouping

Group like keywords with other like keywords, and spin up brand new campaigns for testing new keyword lists. This way, your historical performance isn’t jeopardized by the new additions, and any results can be analyzed easily without being convoluted with old data.

Make sure the keywords you choose to target relate to the products and services you offer, rather than choosing them due to high traffic volumes. It’s always better to have a handful of very engaged visitors a day, than to have thousands of people visit your page who are uninterested or looking for something else entirely.

4. Use extensions whenever you can

Extensions can help improve your ads by making them more relevant — giving out useful information, or utilize the features of the device the user is on.

Phone call extensions for mobile campaigns allow interested parties to speak with you over the phone with just one click, no landing page or form needed. This extension is amazing for companies that solve an immediate need for a client.

Location extensions can help a person find the nearest office by allowing searchers to click on the map, and find directions easily, often with just one click.

Review extensions can highlight your positive reviews in search, allowing you to take advantage of social proof and reassure visitors that your services are worthwhile.

Sitelinks can link to other areas of your site, allowing visitors to get the information they need immediately.

All of these extensions make your ad larger, more prominent and more useful to those seeking out your service and products. They can also improve click-through rates, allowing you to receive a higher quality score, which lowers your average cost-per-click!

5. Utilize remarketing

Remarketing lists, when used properly can be a goldmine. Remarketing lists allow you to reach previous site visitors with ads to encourage them to come back to your site. When you have a well-defined marketing funnel, remarketing can move people along who have demonstrated interest but need to be nurtured further.

Read more: 7 Reasons Not to Hire a Digital Marketing Agency >> 

The All Visitors audience is perfect for top of the funnel offers, like blog posts, branding, or pdf downloads. Focus the hard sell on reaching people who might have left before a conversion, or who showed engagement on your site.

6. Perform regular account maintenance

Making a weekly routine to perform maintenance on the account is a great way to make sure all the necessary actions for a healthy account are taking place: Adding keywords & negative keywords, checking landing page and ad performance, and monitoring spend.

Negative Keywording

A negative keyword is a term that pops up in queries where you’d rather not appear. If I was selling only blue hats, “red hat”, “blue mittens”, and “green pants” would be examples of queries I’d rather not appear, and “green”, “pants”, “mittens”, and “red” would be examples of negative keywords I’d want to add to my campaign, to prevent spending budget on irrelevant searches. For most small businesses checking weekly is sufficient, however for businesses with high search traffic volume, this may be a daily task.

Ad Testing

As mentioned above, ad testing and improvement is a key element to great account maintenance. Nearly every element of an ad can be tested by cloning a different ad, and making a change to it. Test everything – headlines, description copy, landing page and aim for a high quality score by including keywords you are targeting in the ad itself.

Focus first on engagement (low bounce rate, high time on site), then focus on improving conversion rates, and lastly test ads which generate a low cost per conversion.

Keyword Research

There are a lot of great resources for finding new keywords to test in a search campaign: Tools, such as Answer The Public and KeywordSpy are great resources; Autosuggest and keywords at the bottom of a search page are incredibly useful; and the all-time best source for new keywords — your own search queries report in AdWords.

Take a look at the paid channel report in your analytics account, and use the “second dimension: search queries” filter to see the actual query used by a searcher, and take a look at the metrics for each. Target keyword which have high engagement and result in a conversion. There’s bound to be more people looking for the same solution!

7. Perform bid optimization to improve PPC performance

Testing bids for keywords can be a bit tricky, but ads convert differently at different positions. People tend to believe the top of the page is best for conversions, but many times, this isn’t the case. Position 1 ads also tend to have a lot of tire kickers, accidental clicks, and often cost the most, so it can be an expensive lesson to learn.

Positions that are too low on the page are rarely seen and clicked, so finding a balance is important. We’ve observed that position two tends to perform the best, except in cases of a brand search (someone looking for your business by using the business name).

As a general rule, bid lower for broad match terms, and bid the highest for exact match keywords. This way, you aren’t wasting budget on a random assortment of similar queries, and not the specific ones that actually generate business.

Other ways to optimize your spend is to only run ads during times when your business is open. This is a common issue for those who choose to run ads themselves. Edit the schedule to run right before you open, and close right before you close for the day to avoid generating calls and clicks when no one is around.

8. Optimize your landing pages

Landing pages are a key component to managing a high performance PPC campaign. Make sure the landing page delivers on the promises made in the ad. If the ad mentions “pet medications,” make sure the page you send your traffic to is all about medications for your pet.

Read more: 6 Landing Page Mistakes That Are Killing Your Conversions >

If you target by age or gender or industry, make sure the imagery and copy reflects the audience you are targeting. This is known as “message match,” and it is a useful approach in insuring your message is perceived as trustworthy, relevant, and useful, and that the searcher has come to the right place.

9. Use geographic targeting to your advantage

Making sure your ads are appearing in the right area is an crucial part on your campaign. But being able to slice and dice the data to find the most valuable areas is a way to pull even more performance out of your campaign.

Pay attention to your location reports, and add the city, zip code, metro, or state to the campaign, even if its already included. This will allow you to make a location bid adjustment, so you can appear more often and higher up for queries in that specific area. Use the same location report to exclude your ads from places where they get clicked often, but traffic is unengaged or lacking conversions.

Develop a routine and stick to it

While there are many ways to market a business, paid search is a great way to effectively and efficiently reach your audience, monitor your costs per lead, and become visible for people searching for products and services you offer.

While it can be tricky at first, developing a routine to monitor, analyze, and respond to your paid search campaigns can help you reach your goals in a scalable and cost-effective way. If you have any questions about paid search, we’re here to help! If you’d like Big Sea to review your campaigns, or speak to a paid search specialist, just say hi.

And always remember, keep testing!