Conversion rate should be the #1 KPI you optimise towards.

As a PPC consultant, focussing on conversion rate optimisation is what’s brought ROI and growth for my client’s Google AdWords accounts.

Why? Because it’s the percentage of visitors delivered from a traffic source who physically convert, whether that’s to buy/book/enrol/signup, whatever your conversion is. The topline.

This guide is for you, the busy business owner or marketing manager self-managing your Google AdWords account.

Yes, in depth, extensive optimisation is imperative to running successful PPC campaigns, but quick wins can positively affect your PPC conversion rate.

Whilst website and landing page elements play a vital role in overall conversion rate improvements, we’re going to focus on 10 techniques you can implement inside your Google AdWords account, to deliver more qualified users and ultimately improve conversion rate from PPC.

What Is Your Conversion?

Before we get into it, you need to determine what a conversion means to your business. For retail and ecommerce this will be a sale, for travel companies, a booking. What is your conversion?

Now you need to make sure this conversion is setup, either directly in Google AdWords through Conversion Code, or pulled in to AdWords as an eCommerce Sale, Goal or Event from Google Analytics.

Want to track multiple actions, including newsletter signups, phone calls, enquiries? No problem. If you’re tracking multiple conversion actions, you might want to use the “Include in ‘Conversions’” setting to ensure only your pure conversion, which you determined above, is included in your AdWords “Conversions” reporting column.


10 Techniques

  1. Negative Work

Aside from keyword and match type selection, negative keyword implementation is the best way to ensure your ads are delivered against the most relevant searches and prospective customers.

Are you regularly adding negative keywords?

This can be done in just 10 minutes. Select your highest volume broad or phrase match keyword, a relevant date range, and use the ‘search terms’ report to find out exactly what searches your selected keyword is being matched against.

From there it’s as simple as analysing the list of search terms and compiling a list of negative keywords you don’t want to be matched against. Once complete, upload them in bulk to your AdWords account.

You can also be proactive in your negative work. Prior to setting a campaign live, add negative keywords that are likely to be searched alongside your keywords. For example, a holiday cottage lettings agent might include negatives such as:

for sale

I have self-built, generic lists of negative keywords per market, which I’m continually adding to, and add to campaigns prior to going live. This reduces wasted ad spend from the start.

  1. Pause Low/Non-Converting Keywords

Do you regularly check the performance of your keywords?

I do plenty of PPC audits, where accounts are self-managed, and the keyword lists remain unoptimised from the setup. Just left to waste budget and perform poorly.

Keywords need continual analysis and decisions. And it doesn’t have to take long.

I prefer to look at the data in Excel, but you can analyse performance directly from the AdWords UI just as efficiently. From the keywords section, make sure you have an appropriate date range selected and conversion columns activated. Sorting by “Cost / conv.” will immediately highlight keywords spending large portions of your budget, but generating minimal to no return. Pause keywords with excessively high Cost / conv. so that budget can be reinvested into keywords that perform within targets.

Before pausing, analyse the keywords over longer date ranges to see if it they have a history of poor performance, or if it’s just a seasonal trend.

  1. Implement Device Bid Adjustments

Bid adjustments allow you to prioritise or deprioritise your ads based on where, when and how users search. For example, sometimes a click is worth more to you if it comes from a mobile, at a certain time of day or from a specific location.

Device bid adjustments specifically, allow you to affect priority of device, whether that’s mobile, tablet or desktop.

Adjustments can be set from -90% to +900%.

To analyse performance and implement bid adjustments, navigate to the “Devices” panel found on the left main menu. The table found in this view will give you a breakdown of device performance by campaign. Now it’s just a case of seeing where there’s opportunity to exploit good performance, and reduce on devices that is bringing limited return.

  1. Review Campaign Budget Split

Have you thought about how your campaign budget split can affect return? If there’s no strategy to your existing campaign budget split, you need one.

It’s important to note first, the number of campaigns you’re looking to run needs to fall in-line with the daily budget you have to play with. By that, I mean there’s no pointing attempting to run 10 campaigns if your daily budget is £20, you’re spreading yourself too thin and the granularity becomes counterproductive. At the other end, you need more than a single campaign to make the best use of your budget.

So, you have your campaigns, from there your daily budget needs to be split as effectively as possible over them, to deliver the best ROI. Ensure campaigns with the highest conversion rates are attributed budget to cover off >75% impression share. If you have a top converting campaign, or a couple of campaigns that convert exceedingly well, feed them with budget in an attempt to run as near to 100% impression as you can.

  1. Keyword Bid Management

Previously, we touched on keyword lists being left unoptimised and pausing low ROI keywords. Following on from that, let’s look at bid management.

Bid management is one of a handful of core optimisation methods needed to maintain a profitable PPC account. Again, this is a task that doesn’t have to be super extensive or lengthy.

The main scenarios to look for when it comes to bid management are…

  1. Keywords in position 1-2, performing outside of ROI, COS, CPA target.
  2. Keywords spending under 3x target, delivering no return.
  3. Keywords below position 1-2, performing inside ROI, COS CPA target.

From there it’s self-explanatory. Drop bids on keywords in position 1-2 performing outside of ROI, COS, CPA target and keywords spending under 3x target, delivering no return.

Increase bids on keywords below position 1-2, performing inside ROI, COS CPA target.

  1. Ad Scheduling

By default, AdWords schedules your ads to run 24/7. So what if this A: doesn’t match your business hours, or B: doesn’t reflect your conversion data?

Timing is everything. As a business, you want to make sure your ads are showing when your customers are awake and online, increasing exposure when your customers are researching, contacting and buying, and lowering exposure at times of low conversion.

Ad scheduling allows you to do just that, specifying certain hours or days of the week you would like your AdWords ads to show.

Here’s how you can use implement ad scheduling…

  1. Scheduling ads to only show inside business hours.
  2. Reduce bid adjustments or switch off ads outside of business hours.
  3. Increase bid adjustments at times of high conversion rate.
  4. Reduce bid adjustments at times of low conversion rate.

In the New AdWords Experience this is very quick and simple to do. Find the “Ad Schedule” header located in the main left menu. From there you can specify a campaign and add the days and times you’d like to show ads.

  1. Geo Targeting

This one might sound obvious, but you have to ensure you’re targeting your most qualified audience, geographically. Minimise the wasted budget.

AdWords has advanced location targeting options that allow your ads to appear in selected countries, counties, towns, postcodes and more. You can also group locations or use a radius to target by a certain distance around a location.

The first point is to ensure your geo targeting reflects your business offering. For example, if you’re a local brick and mortar business, you need to look at targeting at the specific town or postcode level with radius targeting to capture the outskirts. Online service providers or national ecommerce businesses might look to target at country or city level.

I would always start by targeting small and specific, then expand from there if you need additional volume.

You can also exclude locations. If you’re targeting the UK for example, and the data suggests London cannibalises your budget for poor return, exclude it.

Another optimisation to look at, if you’re targeting at country level or multiple cities/areas, is location bid adjustments. Use location bid adjustments to increase or decrease your ad’s exposure in certain locations.

  1. Add Promotion Extensions

Google recently released a new iteration of the AdWords UI, the New AdWords Experience, and with that came some exciting new features.

One of the best in my opinion, and one I’ve been using for the majority of my clients, is Promotion Extensions.

Promotion extensions highlight your business’s sales, offers and promotions, in addition to your standard headlines and description line. This adds an extra element to your listing, sets you apart from your competition in the SERPs and takes the prospective customer directly to promotion’s landing page on your site.

They’re super easy to get setup too…it won’t even take you 10 minutes.

After logging into the AdWords UI, jump in to “Ads & extensions” from the main left navigation. From there, select “Extensions” from the top menu and then the + button. Scroll down to “Promotion Extensions” and from there is should be self-explanatory. Input the details of your promotion, choose from a default list of occasions, add your monetary or percentage discount, input your promotion specifics and finally choose a start and end date if necessary.

  1. Add Exact Match Keywords

Exact match keywords form the foundations of a strong PPC conversion rate. If they’re not driving your match type strategy, they should be.

Exact match keywords have to be factored in to your strategy from the keyword research stage, and built in to your campaigns from the get-go. But they can also be added ongoing.

Unfortunately, keyword research doesn’t take 10 minutes, but analysing a search query report and finding new exact match keywords does.

I mainly utilise search query reports to find negative keywords, but they’re also an excellent source for finding new exact match keywords. The exact search terms your prospective customers are searching for to find your products or services.

I’d do this by sorting my data by click volume, which will instantly show you your highest volume search queries. From there you can pick relevant exact match keywords to drop into your existing ad groups, or if the keyword signifies a new ad group theme, create that ad group, drop the keyword in to it and write tailored ad copy.

  1. RLSA

It’s no secret that remarketing is one of the most effective strategies for conversion rate optimisation. Marketing blogs are littered with content around remarketing and the huge impact it can have on your business’s marketing efforts.

Many of you will likely be utilising display remarketing as part of your wider paid strategy, but not RLSA (Remarketing Lists for Search Ads).

So, let’s cover RLSA.

RLSA is a feature that lets you customise your search campaigns for people who have previously visited your site, and tailor your bids and ads to these visitors when they’re continuing to search on the keywords you’re targeting.

Only a small percentage of visitors buy, purchase, signup or book on the first visit. They research. Do you?

RLSA allows you to reengage with these past visitors and prospective customers, at the time they’re continuing to search for a product or service just like yours. Keeping your business at the forefront of their minds and search engine results pages.

You can use the audience lists already setup for display remarketing. Simply add them at campaign or ad group level and toggle the Flexible Reach for Interests and Remarketing to “Observations”.

Now you just need to add your bid adjustment. I’d recommended setting this at a minimum of 20%, with a view to increasing based around return.


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