Perfecting Your Google Adwords PPC Strategy: 14 Core Elements

Perfecting Your Google Adwords PPC Strategy: 14 Core Elements

I have heard many people complaining that Adwords does not work, it’s wastage of money, clicks are too costly, I lost so much of money with Adwords and so on.

These are true stories and all of these people were right.

Adwords does not work and it’s a waste of money WHEN you don’t have a perfect Google Adwords PPC strategy in place.

Running successful PPC campaigns on Google Adwords requires detailed planning, monitoring multiple metrics and continuous optimization.

One single loophole in the strategy can dig a deep hole in your pockets and you end up saying the same words about Adwords.

In this blog post, I am going to discuss the most important elements that you must cover while designing your Google Adwords strategy. Whether you are just starting out or have already been running campaigns for some time now, you can benefit from the points discussed below. Read on!

1). Goals and KPIs

Many businesses jump start to run PPC ads on Google Adwords without defining realistic goals.

If you don’t have clearly defined goals: 1) You might end up choosing wrong campaign type and setting up unprofitable campaigns 2) You would not be able to measure performance and you will not be able to take further actions to improve your campaigns.

Common goals with PPC advertising are increasing website visitors, increasing leads, increasing orders, getting repeat orders/business, branding, higher market share, etc. Your KPIs will be based on your goals. Here’s a guide to decide your KPIs according to your goals.

Also, based on your goals, you will be deciding which type of campaign(s) you will run on Adwords.

2). Competitive Research

If you are not spying on your competitors, chances are that your competitors would be spying on you. There are many tools available which greatly help in spying what your competitors are doing on Google Adwords.

Competitive research allows you to see the keywords, ads, landing pages, placement websites and offers your competitors are using. In addition to all this, you will also be able to see their keyword bids, keyword positions, their historical data like all versions of ads, etc.

The two big benefits of competitive research are uncovering the opportunities which you were unaware of and discovering the opportunities which even your competitors are unaware of so you can capitalize on them.

3). Keyword Research

Keywords are the lifeblood of Google Adwords campaigns. You will spend most of your time working on keywords throughout your Adwords journey.

Unlike SEO where you select a handful of keywords (out of so many available) to work on, PPC requires an extensive list of keywords.

How to find the best keywords for your campaigns:

  • Think as your audience. If you are the customer yourself, what will you type to find the solution(s) you offer? Will you settle with just one query? Obviously, you will perform multiple searches. Write the searches you perform in an excel sheet. This will be your starting point. Put all these keywords in Google’s Keyword Planner to uncover hundreds of keyword ideas.
  • Make sure that the keyword attracts the right audience? Perform a Google search to see what results it brings.
  • Make sure that the keyword resonates with the offer on your landing page
  • Find different variations of one single keyword. For ex: 5 star hotels in delhi, five star hotels in delhi, 5 star hotels in delhi for lunch, 5 star hotels in delhi ncr, etc.
  • Find similar keywords and synonyms. For ex: buy computer table, buy laptop table, buy computer desk, buy pc table, etc.
  • Consider your buyer’s journey. Divide keywords for TOFU, MOFU or BOFU offers. This might not apply to every business as not everyone focuses on TOFU and MOFU offers.
  • Find long tail keywords. In addition to generic, primary keywords, add a good number of long tail keywords. Long tail keywords have 4 or more words. These keywords are generally highly relevant, low competitive and cheaper than generic keywords.
  • Find even more related terms using Ubersuggest and KeywordTool. Get suggestions from these tools and run them in Google’s Keyword Planner to see their search volume.
  • Explore brand queries and brand + service queries. For ex: regus, regus coworking, regus business center, etc. Brand queries generally attain high Quality Score which results in lower overall costs.
  • Find competitor queries. Competitor queries are great to generate highly relevant traffic and leads. You can bid on the names of your competitors however you can only use their names in display URL of your ads.

4). Keyword Match Types

Adwords offer this powerful feature called keyword match types. There are 4 keyword match types which are broad match, broad modifier match, phrase match and exact match.

Broad match is the default match type in Adwords and broad keywords get you the highest possible exposure. There’s no format for this match type and the keyword can be used as is.

For example: buy women shoes. The query buy women shoes will attract a number of other queries as well like women shoes, buy ladies shoes, buy women sandals, buy women shoe polish, women jogging shoes, women shoe shiner, etc.

Pro Tip: this match type must be used carefully as advertisers who are new to Adwords can end up losing big money. Adding more and sensible negative keywords will help improve the efficiency of broad match keywords. Read about negative keywords in point #5.

Broad modifier match is the advanced version of broad match and it takes this form: +buy +women +shoes. It restricts your ad to show until all the specified words are there in the search query in any order. For example, if you add the modifier match +buy +women +shoes, your ad will not show up for women jogging shoes as it does not have ‘buy’ in the query. However, this query will show your ad: buy red women shoes

Phrase match takes this form “buy women shoes” and will only show your ad when these three words appear as a phrase. Example queries can be buy women shoes online, buy women shoes and sandals, buy women shoes for cheap, etc.

Exact match takes this form [buy women shoes] and will only show your ad when this exact query will be searched. This match also includes close variants, for example, buy womens shoes, buy women’s shoes, buy womens shoe, etc. Bids are generally high on exact match and you should bid highest on the exact match of a keyword.

In your campaigns, you should use broad modifier (not to be confused with broad match), phrase and exact match keywords. I usually don’t prefer using the default broad match as it results in wastage of money if not handled carefully.

5). Negative Keywords

No matter how strictly you manage your keywords and match types, you will receive irrelevant traffic. The best way to stop irrelevant traffic is adding negative keywords. Negative keywords are those terms which you don’t want to target.

Compile a list of keywords that define something you don’t offer at all and add them as campaign level or account level negatives.

Be mindful that you don’t add any term as negative which should not be a negative.

Another way to find and add negative terms is checking your search queries report. It is available under the Keywords tab in Adwords interface (See the screenshot below). When adding negative keywords from search queries report, add them at the ad group level (and not campaign or account level) as it will not affect the traffic of whole campaign then.

google adwords ppc

6). Landing Pages

A dedicated, PPC specific landing page increases conversion rates and decreases cost per conversion. Many businesses make the mistake of sending their visitors to homepage or service pages. Homepage and service pages should only be used when they are optimized for conversions.

Why you need a landing page:

  • All your keyword bidding, ads and other management and optimization efforts will be wasted if your landing page is not optimized for conversions.
  • Landing page is designed solely to convert visitors into leads.
  • Landing page has one single offer according to user’s query which increases conversion rate. Homepage generally has a menu and other options for visitors to go to which reduces conversion rate.
  • Landing page is easily editable as per PPC requirements whereas editing homepage or service pages will require more work and thinking.

There many tools available to build visually appealing and conversion-centric landing pages. But my personal favorite is Unbounce.

You can read about the best practices that you should follow while creating your landing pages here, here and here.

7). Campaign Structuring

The way you structure your campaign enhances its effectiveness. Before actually setting up your campaigns in Adwords interface, you should structure your campaigns locally. I use excel sheet for this purpose.

Pro Tip: Do you know if you have dozens of ad groups, you can use bulk upload feature in Google Adwords web interface? Or you can also use Google Adwords Editor for this purpose?

While planning your campaign in Excel, you should think about Quality Score as the way you set up your ad groups, keywords and ads impact your Quality Score. And Quality Score is vital to decrease your costs and hence improve your ROI.

A campaign has ad groups and an ad group contains keywords and ads. As a best practice, you should not keep more than 3-4 closely related keywords in an ad group. The ads in that particular ad group will only target those closely related keywords which will result in higher Quality Score of keywords.

Another structure can be SKAG (single keyword ad group) i.e. the ad group will have one single keyword and ads around it. It will be a lot of management work if you have too many keywords but it will result in higher Quality Score. You can read more this structure here.

8). Campaign Settings

Campaign settings, if used smartly, will enhance the effectiveness of your campaigns. You have multiple settings in Google Adwords which results in better targeting of your ads.

Important settings that you should pay attention to:

Device bidding: Google Adwords allows you to increase and decrease bids (in percentage) for every device. There are 3 categories of devices: desktop/laptop, mobile and tablet.

Ad scheduling: By default, Google Adwords shows your ads 24X7. With this setting, you can edit the schedule as per your needs.

Location bidding: You can target as many cities/states/countries as per your requirements. You also have control to increase or decrease bid (in percentage) for certain locations.

Bid Strategy: Google Adwords offers multiple automatic as well as manual bidding strategies. New advertisers should always go with manual bidding otherwise they might lose money. As a general rule of thumb, automatic bidding should be enabled only when your campaigns have been running for at least a year now and Adwords systems have enough historical data to further optimize the campaigns.

Ad delivery, rotation and frequency capping: These settings are used to serve your ads in ways which get the best possible results.

9). Ads

After keyword management, ads are what require special attention as creating relevant and compelling ads will result in higher click through rates and higher click through rates will result in higher Quality Score which will ultimately result in reduced costs. See, it’s all connected here.

I will specifically discuss text ads in search campaigns here (most of the points listed below will also help with other ad formats though). Remember I talked about setting up campaigns locally in excel sheet in point number 7 above. While doing so, you will have to create ads according to your keywords and ad groups.

Important points to focus on while writing ads:

  • Think as your customer. What will you look at in an ad and what will make you click on it?
  • Does your industry have some buzzwords? Include them in your ads.
  • Include target keyword in the headline (preferably first headline), description and display URL paths.
  • Use power words in your headings. Here’s a good list of power words.
  • Use CTAs right in your headings. Repeat them in description and display URL paths if possible and if they don’t sound too repetitive.
  • Try to use all the available characters of every field.
  • Include your USPs over your competitors.
  • Speak to your audience by making your ads personal. For example, increase your sales, protect your data, improve ROI of your hotel, etc.
  • Make your headlines stand out by including numbers and stats (don’t put anything inaccurate). For example: Get 5X Productive from Day 1, Get Upto 40% Yearly Returns, etc.
  • If you have your brand trademarked, you can use symbols like TM and ©. This will help build credibility.

10). Ad Extensions

Ad extensions work as catalysts to improve the effectiveness of your ads and help improve click through rates. Google Adwords offers multiple types of extensions which are beneficial for almost every business.

Extensions offered by Adwords are Sitelink extensions, callout extensions, location extensions, call extensions, review extensions, rating extensions, structured snippet extensions, message extensions and app extensions. You can consider including your keywords in some of the extensions like callout and sitelink extensions.

Not every type of extensions will fit every business though so you have to choose the ones which make sense with your business.

11). Keyword Bid Adjustment

Once your campaigns are up and running, keyword bid adjustment is what you will be spending most of your time on.

There’s no definite answer for how much you should bid on which keyword and which match type. But generally, you should bid highest on exact match keywords, a bit lower on phrase match and lowest on broad (or modified broad) match.

In the Adwords interface, you will be able to see the least amount you need to pay to show your ads on the first page of Google and the amount you need to pay to show your ad on the first position.

Important: The bid amounts you see in Adwords interface are estimates and you should take those numbers as a rough idea to set your bids. Many times, I have seen big differences in the estimates shown by Adwords and the actual CPC of keywords.

Equally important is to understand the best position for your ads. Generally, the first position is not the most profitable one. While adjusting your bids, you should not only look at the amount of traffic but also metrics like cost per click, no. of conversions, cost per conversion and conversion rate.

12). Split Testing

You should run multiple tests in your campaigns to make them more effective and profitable.

The testing I am talking about here is split testing or A/B testing. With split testing, you create multiple versions of ads and landing pages.

Why do you need split testing? It’s because you can test more than one message, different words, different images, different CTAs, and different offers simultaneously. This powers you to understand your audience and what are they liking so you can align your efforts accordingly.

13). Tracking

You must spend time on tracking and measuring the results of your Adwords campaigns. As I mentioned in the first point, while defining your goals, you should set some KPIs which you should measure over time.

It starts with setting up tracking on your website. While Adwords will show you the number of impressions and clicks, CTR of keywords and ads, Avg. CPC of keywords and ad positions in their interface itself, you will have to insert a conversion tracking script on your thank you pages or messages if you want to track how many people filled the contact forms and called you.

You can insert conversion tracking script directly on your pages or through Google Tag Manager.

In addition to Google Adwords tracking, you should also set up Google Analytics tracking. Similar to Adwords, Analytics also gives you a tracking script which you need to put on your website pages.

Here are some guides to set up tracking:

http://www.wordstream.com/blog/ws/2013/08/13/adwords-conversion-tracking-guide

https://support.google.com/adwords/answer/1722054?hl=en

https://support.google.com/tagmanager/answer/6103696?hl=en

https://support.google.com/tagmanager/answer/6103576?hl=en

https://www.optimizesmart.com/beginners-guide-google-tag-manager-v2/

14). Continuous Optimization

You don’t get success from Adwords if you just set it and forget it. To get the most out of your campaigns, you need to monitor and optimize them continuously. The best way is to dedicate some hours to one account once or twice every week. That time should only be spent to go through all the keywords and ads to find any problem areas.

Many times it happens that keywords/ads/landing pages working great at one point of time don’t work at all some other time. You need to be on top of such behaviors.

You should make efforts towards improving your CPCs, CPAs, CTRs, average positions, Quality Scores, keyword impression shares and conversion rates as getting a higher ROI from Google Adwords depends a lot on these metrics.

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