When it comes to PPC advertising (like AdWords), it can be easy to just "set and forget" your campaign. Unfortunately, the major ad networks (like Google) make it very easy to spend more money than you should. And with so many tools and options available, it's tough to identify which problems you should address first. The good news is, with just a few small tweaks to your campaign every week, you can improve campaign performance and reduce wasted ad spend. PPC is deep, man. I’m not talking about a level of profundity or an existential crisis (but, like, what if the world is a search engine and we simply are the keywords we seek?) … No, honestly, I’m talking about the depths one can dive while optimizing a PPC campaign. For beginners, the possibilities truly are overwhelming: query reports, ad testing, analytics data, the dimensions tab, display placements, demographic data and more. For seasoned professionals, there always is more to learn and more tools to use as Google and Bing continue to release exciting new features. So, where do you start when you need to see bigger and better PPC campaign results? And, how can you make the most of the scarce time you have to overhaul a PPC campaign? It may be simpler than you think. Let’s take it one week at a time.

Week 1: Improve the User’s Experience

If there is one golden rule of PPC, it’s that you must guide your audience down a consistent, predictable path. Each step the user takes from typing into the search bar, to clicking on the ad, to encountering your landing page and beyond must follow exactly his or her needs. I love surprise parties, personally, but users? Users hate surprises. So, take a week to really dig in and see what kind of experience your ads are giving those who click on them. No one likes searching for children’s dental braces and finding an ad for leg braces. Similarly, no one likes seeing an ad promising a “free trial!” and finding that the free trial does not exist on the landing page or comes with a big catch like a request for credit card information. Surprise! These unpleasant surprises can harm your click-through rate (CTR), lower your quality score, drive up audience departure rates (bounce rates) and simply give you a bad advertising reputation. It’s not worth high impressions to target in a sloppy way and give the user a bad experience. So, try tailoring your landing pages for PPC, and increase quality score using keyword relevance. These are some great first steps. Similarly, watch out for big search waves that may rock the boat of your campaign. I once worked on a campaign for a cell phone provider some years ago. The week that Justin Bieber’s cell phone number was leaked to the press, the innocent cell phone keywords being targeted in our campaign were flooded with "Beliebers" clicking on every ad in sight. What an incredible waste of money! This can be prevented if you understand your searchers and target accordingly with smart negative keywords. You can never go wrong by examining what is going through the searcher’s head when he or she submits a query and decides to click on your ad. Understand that searchers don’t always click carefully, acknowledge how pop culture and trends can change the search landscape dramatically, and be prepared for these seismic shifts.

Week 2: Gather Data to Interpret Keyword Trends

The search habits of the world are constantly evolving. Here's what to do in your second week on task:

  1. Make sure you only are targeting keywords that are specific to what you offer.
  2. Make sure your keywords are well-searched and appropriate.

To better understand your audience and how people search, here are just a few amazing tools you can use:

  • Google Trends – Here’s the scoop, straight from Google. This tool allows you to see searches over time, seasonal search ups and downs, and searches by geographic location.
  • Google Keyword Planner – This is the go-to tool for understanding search volume and brainstorming related terms. For example, with this tool you can discover that the word mug has more searches than coffee cup. But, you also can discover that the word mug also can draw in queries for travel mugs, personalized mugs and so on, including Moscow Mule copper mugs that get almost 400 searches per month! Here are three pro tips on this item to demonstrate the value of search trend tools:
    • If you don’t sell Moscow Mule copper mugs, make sure you don’t accidentally bid on the keyword by using broad match. This draws back to the user experience. Someone looking for such a product does not want to see your cute porcelain coffee cups, no matter how cute they are.
    • If you do sell Moscow Mule copper mugs and cross-reference data from Google Trends, you should prepare yourself for a search spike on the cocktail term over the holidays, for better or for worse. See the graph below.
    • If you specialize in Moscow Mule cocktails, I toast you to your future success, because your service is growing more popular by the day!
  • SpyFU / SEMrush – It’s important to keep an eye on your competitors, and these data aggregators are wonderful sources of competitor information, live SERPs (search engine results pages, aka screenshots) and competitor ad text. While it is important to stand out, it’s also vital to understand where your competitors may be surpassing you with their PPC ads. Also, these tools allow you see a more comprehensive view as opposed to Googleing your competitor on your own (though it is indeed fun to click on their ads and make them pay money).

When selecting the best search queries, it is important to think outside the box and be creative. Sometimes opportunities are revealed through a simple search. But, other times understanding search angles requires you to go much deeper into the heart of search trends.

Week 3: If You're Not Tracking, Track!

The beauty of paid search and online marketing is that you can see the fruits of your efforts or identify failed strategies immediately in Google Analytics, Webmaster Tools and in the AdWords dashboard itself. That’s just to name a few tools—leaving out heat-mapping, cross-domain tracking, landing page tracking and so on. If you aren’t tracking your contact form submissions, phone calls and site visit data such as duration and pages per session, you are flying blind and missing out on a great opportunity to put some insightful data to good use. Gone are the days of putting up a billboard and hoping someone visits your store. Now you can see what happens to each clicker, how much time they spent looking at which page of your site, how many times they came back to your site, on which device and which operating system, and through which web browser or referring site. The data is rich and deep and can help you tailor your marketing efforts. Here are just a few types of tracking possibilities:

Funnel tracking:

Allows you to see how far along in a funnel (be it a purchase funnel to buy a selfie stick or a sign-up for a mortgage appraisal) before a user bailed out. Funnel tracking helps you diagnose flaws in your funnel process and areas that could be more nimble and result in more conversions for your business.

Phone tracking:

A dynamic number changes on your site when a visitor comes from paid search and all calls to that tracking number are redirected to you. Phone calls can be recorded for quality, tracked by the user’s phone number, geography and so on. Many times, one can track all the way down to the paid search keyword and see which ad text drew the most calls. With this data, you have so much power to understand the exact elements that are drawing calls and elevate those elements in your campaign.

Event tracking:

You can track any event on a page, from a user clicking on a video, to opening a PDF file that you wish to be seen or clicking to open an external link.

Tracking for remarketing:

This tracking allows you to collect the data of those who have visited your website and to show ads to those who may have navigated away from your site. It’s a great way to show ads to those who may have been interested, but pulled away from your site and to give users top-of-mind awareness of your company as they browse the Internet.

Week 4: Try New Approaches

Since paid search is changing all the time, you can’t expect the strategies you used in 2007 to work today (I’m talking to you, people who still are bidding on every variation and misspelled word under the sun!) In your final week of your performance-boosting month, see if there are any new approaches you could be taking to custom-fit your campaign to your business goals, and integrate what you’re doing in other channels to benefit PPC:

Remarketing:

As I mentioned earlier, if you have a lot of people landing on your page; you should not let them go without collecting their information. RLSA (remarketing lists for search ads) still are a fairly new Google feature, but if your business has a lot of customers who price shop or do deep research before they purchase, it is essential to target those who have navigated away from your site as they search Google for the same or related products. And, they already recognize you, so they are more likely to click.

Google Shopping:

If you are e-commerce or product focused, Google shopping ads can take your business to a whole new level. These ads include price, shipping and a picture of the product offered. Very often, shopping ads are included at the top of Google search results—you couldn’t ask for better placement!

Google Customer Match:

If you’re using email marketing or have strong email lists, Google now offers targeting by plugging those emails into AdWords and remarketing to those valuable contacts.

Facebook Customer Match:

The same as above, only on Facebook. Take note, most people use their personal emails for their Facebook accounts, so more business-to-business clients should use this option with some caution.

TrueView/YouTube Ads:

It’s now easier than ever to advertise on YouTube, and if you have a story-worthy product, video ads may be a great opportunity for you.

Bing Ads:

Bing may be a smaller player in the search engine landscape, but its audience is growing, and the engine is too strong to ignore. As the company joins forces with Yahoo! Gemini, Bing now has almost one-third of all searchers online using their engine. You can’t ignore Bing, and the cost per click on the network is often far cheaper than Google because it is a less competitive landscape.

Improving your PPC performance doesn’t always have to be an overhaul. It should be about breaking tasks down into manageable pieces and seeing new opportunities every day you enter your campaign. I hope this list gave you some ideas on how to truly elevate your campaign’s performance and think outside the box when it comes to using paid search. The opportunities truly are endless. And if you want quick results (and savings), our negative keyword list is a great place to start.

Download our guide to negative keyword success