If you’re already using paid search marketing, how can you improve your results? Here are nine tips for sharpening up your campaigns.
Use conversion tracking & Google Analytics
Which keywords produce what results? Which cause people to make purchases, which result in newsletter sign-ups, which drive traffic to your forum or blog? You need tracking to answer these questions. AdWords (or AdCenter) will tell you what ads searchers click, but it won’t say what they do when they get to your site.
If you don’t have any conversion tracking installed yet, then install it. AdWords and AdCenter have their own conversion tracking, which records a conversion when someone who clicked on an ad subsequently visits a page on your site with conversion tracking code. This is usually a ‘thank you’ page for a sign up, or a receipt page after a purchase – it depends on your website’s goals.
Having Google Analytics is in some ways better than just conversion tracking, as it can tell you about the behaviour of visitors who didn’t convert. Analytics tells you which keywords result in bounces, which pages searchers visit and how long they stay on site. If you’ve got an e-commerce site, you want Analytics for its e-commerce tracking – then you can link keywords to the revenue they generate (and so calculate their ROI).
If you’re not using Google AdWords, you can still use Google Analytics: use URL tagging to pass along information on keywords and ads.
It doesn’t matter what quality score, CPC or CTR a keyword has if nothing happens when the searchers reach your website. With conversion tracking you can tell if keywords give results – and then all the other metrics matter, as they help you maximise the results and minimise the cost.
Use a trail of keywords
Your mission is to make it easy for the searcher to click, land and convert. The searcher’s intent is shown in their search term, so you want to use that same term both in your ad copy and on the landing page. That makes it simple for the searcher to see how relevant your website is, and avoids getting them frustrated and clicking away. Also the call-to-action in your ad should reflect the language on the landing page, to reinforce the message of what the searcher should do.
Highlight your best deal
You only have a small space in your ad in which to get searchers’ notice, so make sure you really hook their attention. Lead with your unique selling point or a special offer. If you have a great price for the product they’ve searched for then include it (and make sure this product and price is prominent in the ad’s landing page). This will encourage them to spend time looking around your website.
Test your copy
It’s not just the success of your keywords you should be continuously assessing. The ad copy dictates whether or not someone will click on it, and also sets the tone for the visit to your website. Test different ad copy for your keywords and make sure your words are working for you. You can also try to save costs by prequalifying traffic with your ad text: mention price information or the intended audience (e.g. “for small business”) to avoid clicks from people who will not convert.
Improve your quality score and relevance
If you’re using Google AdWords, then a higher quality score will give you a higher ad rank, which means that you’ll get better ad position or cheaper clicks. Of course, improving quality score isn’t straightforward. Google does not say precisely how they calculate it, nor how they measure ‘relevance’. The column labelled ‘Quality Score’ in AdWords isn’t true quality score – that depends on the combination of keyword, ad and search term and is recalculated at every search – but it does give an indication of which keywords need attention. The main factor of Google’s quality score is click through rate.
(If you’re using Microsoft AdCenter, quality score doesn’t affect ad position, but if it’s too low it will limit the eligibility of your ads to be served. Again, CTR is one of the main factors.)
Improve CTR by making sure your keywords are as relevant as possible to your website. Check search query reports and use negative keywords to get rid of irrelevant searches. Try splitting bigger ad groups into smaller, more tightly targeted ad groups with highly tailored ad text.
Use niche keywords
The obvious keywords may have large search volumes, but they also have high competition and high CPC. By advertising around more niche keywords and phrases, you can drive far more relevant traffic to your pages and often pay less. There are several tools to help if you’re stuck for words to start testing: WordStream’s Keyword Niche Finder is designed especially for the task, but you can also use the Google Keyword Tool or Übersuggest for free if you don’t mind the results being less well organised. You can also find ideas from search query reports, if you have keywords on broad or phrase match – this has the advantage that you have a more accurate idea of the search term’s CPC.
Of course, you have to use your judgement and knowledge of your site to make sure the niche is suitable! If a keyword isn’t relevant but get lots of impressions, then use it as a negative keyword to keep the unwanted searches away.
This may not be relevant for all business, but for some it is an opportunity to get clicks from very targeted potential customers.
You can geotarget with geographical search terms – for example, advertising around ‘Oxford SEO’ instead of ‘SEO’. This is a sort of niche keyword, as above: these keywords are likely to be both better targeted and cheaper, maximising your returns.
An alternative is to set up a geotargeted campaign to only display in your locale, where you can afford to bid higher as the searchers are more likely to convert.
Even if you don’t think your website would benefit from targeting local searches, you can still check to see if there are areas with high impressions and good conversion rates – use the Geographic view in the Dimensions.
If you’ve got a campaign in your account which is doing well but is losing impression share from a restrictive daily budget, then give it a more money. If you’ve got keywords which get high conversion rates but low CTR because of bad positions, raise the bids to improve their positions and see if they continue to convert.
If your paid search is working well and delivering a good return, then it’s time to consider upping your game by increasing your spend. If your business has the capacity to increase turnover then you should consider growing an existing successful pay-per-click campaign.
Analyse and test, test and analyse
Small businesses with no dedicated search marketer often set up advertising around a set of keywords and then ignore it. But a good paid search campaign is constantly monitored, tweaked and sharpened in order to maximise the returns. Even just a few hours every week or two can really make a difference.