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7 Proven Ways to Improve Your PPC Campaign Performance

eddygates1 | October 7, 2021


Often, when we begin work on a PPC account or campaign, it comes with some history.

Whether it’s because we inherited it or have been asked to conduct an audit, the goal is always the same: To look at it with fresh new eyes, making use of our expertise and hard-earned skills.

We need to make sense of it— to fix issues and improve performance.

In this post, you’ll learn about seven key areas to optimize in order to improve PPC campaign performance. Even an account you’ve worked on for a while can benefit from an intentional check over these important opportunities.

Seven Key Areas for Improving PPC Campaign Performance

  1. Performance by Location.
  2. Performance by Device.
  3. Performance by Network (Search vs. Search Partners vs. Display).
  4. Audience Performance.
  5. Negatives and Negative Lists.
  6. Features Available (and Applicable to the Account/Campaign) in the Platform.
  7. Conversion Tracking.

1. Performance by Location

One often overlooked but obvious way to segment the performance by audience is to look at where your existing and prospecting customers are located.

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You will likely see patterns for different states, regions, and even postal codes.

This seems to be quite obvious if we consider that demographics can be entirely different from place to place.

For example, users from the so-called affluent suburbs might see higher transaction values, or LTVs (lifetime values) that would therefore justify an increase in the amount we are prepared to spend to acquire those customers (CPA).

Target location performance.Screenshot from Google Ads, October 2021

Strong differences in performance by location might even suggest splitting the campaigns and structuring them so that ads and ad text can be aligned and tailored accordingly.

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2. Performance by Device

It’s a given. Despite the increasing convergence between experiences on different platforms and devices, user behavior is still (more often than not) considerably different.

It’s not just a matter of screen size and resolution, but also about context and the reasons why we use a device (i.e., mobile), instead of another (i.e., desktop).

Knowing our users and customers and how they convert will mean that it is unlikely to be a surprise if one device outperforms the other. But the numbers never lie, so it’s easy to see and to up or down weight our bids to adjust the strategy.

3. Performance by Network (Search vs. Search Partners vs. Display)

From time to time, we still see PPC campaigns that are targeting all networks (Search, Search Partners, and Display).

Performance split by network.Screenshot from Google Ads, October 2021

We could argue at length about the quality of the impressions and clicks from partners’ websites. But most of the time, these only generate such a small amount of traffic that in the wider context of an account, the spend can really be negligible.

And considering that there is no way to target Search Partners alone, whether we keep the Search Partners on or off is a different matter.

However, that cannot be said for the Display Network — you should always split Search and Display campaigns.

For starters, Search is a pull medium of advertising, whereas Display is a push medium. Even when highly targeted, display ads are a form of disruption of the user experience, and therefore we must always acknowledge that in our creative and messaging.

Additionally, it is likely that we should use the two networks to target customers and prospects at different stages of their user journey, have different strategies, KPIs, and targets aligned to that.

4. Audience Performance

Often, we see search driving a significant amount of traffic from existing customers that use the engines to quickly “navigate” to a website to access their account.

These navigational clicks, if appropriate measures are not in place, can be quite costly when they come from PPC ads.

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Add suppression lists to avoid (where possible) incurring any extra costs that won’t drive additional conversions.

Other logical uses of audience targeting include the segmentation of the user base into clusters defined by behavior (i.e., page visitors), and/or engagement (high consumption of content), and therefore for remarketing purposes.

Are you using audience targeting?Screenshot from Google Ads, October 2021

But audiences can also be used for observation rather than targeting, as in the above example.

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Since these won’t affect the performance of the campaigns, it is strongly suggested to add as many relevant audiences as possible.

Once the data is collected, it will provide valuable insights into which segments are most valuable and which audiences are underperforming. This will enable you to make the right adjustments to bids and other elements of the campaign.

5. Negatives and Negative Lists

Keywords are still the strongest signal. But with the complexity of natural language and the different (often unique) ways people use to search, even with the most sophisticated machine learning, machines can still struggle to fully understand the intent.

Therefore, it’s as important as ever to narrow down the chances that keywords might match unwanted search queries. You must continually review and mine the search query data available.

Even with the current limitations, search query reports can really help you understand what Google thinks a website or a page is about.

As such, it can help us reduce costs for unwanted, less relevant searches, while at the same time also potentially helping to increase the quality score (QS).

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6. Features Available (and Applicable to the Account/Campaign) in the Platform

Continuing from the point above, one of the reasons to use additional features like the ad extensions is the benefit these can have on the quality score.

It goes without saying that QS alone should be a compelling enough reason.

Additionally, considering that ad listings on search engines can be quite expensive, wouldn’t it make sense to try to always maximize the on-page real estate?

If we are paying a dear amount of money to be there, we want to ensure that it’s worth it. Besides, the more space we can take, the less will be available for competitors and other advertisers!

Additional features also include less-used options such as the capability to upload offline conversions (more on that in a moment) or run experiments and A/B testing.

7. Conversion Tracking

Last but certainly not least – and this is one of my favorites – it’s essential that we are tracking conversions and ensuring that we are tracking the right goals.

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In digital marketing, everything should be measurable and marketers accountable for the performance of their advertising campaigns. Conversion tracking should always be at the cornerstone of planning and executing media buying.

However, we often see examples of PPC accounts and campaigns that are either missing conversion tracking altogether or are tracking the wrong endpoints.

Provided we have our conversions firing and recording correctly, some expert tips are to:

  • Use the segmentation option from within Google Ads to easily and quickly see a breakdown of the conversion types by campaign (see example below). In fact, the segmentation view is an extremely useful, yet massively underrated, tool!
Example of segmentation by conversion type.Screenshot from Google Ads, October 2021
  • Set the right conversion goal(s) for each campaign when using Target CPA or Target ROAS bid strategies.
  • Set up and make use of custom columns to add the different conversion points and/or performance metrics such as CPA, ROI or ROAS.

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Final Considerations

In an ideal world, marketing practitioners would have all the time needed to focus on the analysis of the data and working on the fixes.

In reality, we are all often under the pressure of delivering results — and fast.

Therefore, the good and trusted 80/20 Pareto’s rule should always come to help in those situations where we need to make improvements and show results quickly.

It’s easy to get lost in the numbers, especially when we have to work on hundreds of campaigns, ad groups, ads, and perhaps thousands of keywords.

So start where you can make a difference right away. Look for those campaigns and terms that are responsible for the majority of the ad spend.

It is likely that 20% of those are accountable for 80% of your outgoing costs.

If those campaigns or keywords are hitting your targets, improving their performance might really help you to take things to the next level and become the company CFO’s best friend.

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But that is also possible in the case that the 20% is not driving the expected results.

In that case, focus on fixing those campaigns as a priority.

More Resources:


Featured image: Sammby/Shutterstock



Written by eddygates1

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