Increase Click Through Rate
Paid Search 101

50 Strategies To Increase Click Through Rate Via PPC Advertising

There remains a plethora of old and new ways for businesses and advertisers to increase the click-through rates of their campaigns via Paid Search.  We could have increased this list to 100 or even 200 strategies worth implementing.  But by keeping the list to 50 targeted techniques, we are able to focus on the main ones that will have the biggest impact.  In addition, this list does keep conversions in mind but occasionally we throw that out because some companies are less focused on ROI and more on brand awareness.

Keyword Performance Chart 637x139 50 Strategies To Increase Click Through Rate Via PPC Advertising

Benefits Of Increased Click Through Rates

There are times when higher click-through rates are not beneficial to businesses and advertisers (i.e. your cost per lead is incredibly high), but overall increased click-through rates are essential to well performing campaigns for several reasons.  First, higher click-through rates allow for an overall lower cost per click at the campaign level.  This will be explained in the strategies advertisers can use, but overall it creates a higher quality score, which reduces cost per click overtime.  Second, you also get more out of your paid search budget by having your campaign more targeted because you know your ads are more targeted and you’re not wasting your budget on non-targeted clicks.  Third, you create a higher likelihood of outperforming your competition who is advertising alongside your ads.  Part of our job as advertisers is to draw attention away from their paid search advertisements and get the targeted searcher to view ours.

We broke down these strategies into five different levels of campaign creation that can impact click-through rate including pre-campaign building, Campaign Level Changes, AdGroup & Ad Level Updates, Keyword Level Modifications, and finally steps you should take after the full creation of the campaign. 

Pre-Campaign Build

Consult With The Client Or Your Company

This is by far the best means of increasing the click-through rate of a campaign.  We try to ask in-depth questions to understand the industry, the market, the business, the target audience, and the competitors.  This knowledge and insight allows you to methodically think through what is likely to be effective and what keywords you want to stray away from.  Here are some initial key questions worth asking:

  • What products/services do you provide?
  • Are you currently offering any special promotions?
  • Who are your main competitors?
  • What impact will your product/service have on the end consumer?
  • What is your value proposition?
  • What has given you a competitive advantage over the past year?

Review Competitors’ Ads & Websites

Competitive analysis is the cornerstone of strategy for any business.  It is even more critical in the world of pay-per-click advertising.  Reviewing a competitor’s company and its ads after you’ve typed in some sample keywords can provide you with ideas on how to create a targeted campaign as well as how they are performing.

Think of the Marketing Funnel

Digital Marketing Funnel 50 Strategies To Increase Click Through Rate Via PPC Advertising

In my post last month, I wrote about the digital marketing funnel and how to think through PPC advertising more effectively.  Overall, consider where your client is in the marketing funnel and where those keywords fall.  For example, if you are advertising t-shirts, it may be a better to target keywords that have purchase intent couple with t-shirts such as “buy customized t-shirts” or “discounted funky t-shirts.”  These are direct response keyword phrases whereas “cool t-shirts” would likely result in lower click-through rates and even conversions.

Consider the End Conversion Goal

Don’t consider the end conversion goal simply to increase the click-through rate of the campaign.  Thinking about the end conversion goal will allow you to create targeted campaigns because you are focusing on the needs and wants of the searcher.  Is the conversion goal a phone call, an email sign-up, or a purchase?  This part of the process helps with clear call to actions and other action verbs worth adding to the adverts.

Don’t Be Shy to Use a Few Tools

I use several tools to help with the idea creation process before and after I’ve consulted with the client.  Some of those tools include SEMRush, VisualThesaurus, PPC Campaign Builder, the classic Google Keyword Planner, and Ubersuggest.  These tools will save you time and allow you to effectively create a stellar campaign.

Landing Page – Modify & Enhance

This may not increase the click-through rate of your Ads, but it does lend itself to generating better ideas for more targeted Ad copy.  As you go through the landing pages in which you’re sending traffic to, you will then be able to lower your quality score, potentially increase your Ad position, which then translates into a higher click-through rate.

Campaign Level

Build Multiple Campaigns

Many people fall into the trap of creating one campaign for all of their paid search needs.  For example, a general contractor may provide multiple services including electric, heating, and water.  Instead of creating separate campaigns for each service, advertisers create a campaign lumping all of their services into different AdGroups (sometimes the same AdGroups).  By creating a campaign for each service, you are given better control on how to use the keywords and this also translates into higher click-through rates for the individual campaigns.

The next logical question is what if you are working with a low-budget per day and you want to leverage the budget for all the services.  Or if the budget for one campaign runs out first but you know there is lost impression share due to budget.  An easy fix is to have all the campaigns work from the shared budget, which can be found under the shared library tab in AdWords.

Shared Campaign Budget 50 Strategies To Increase Click Through Rate Via PPC Advertising

Build Your Campaign(s) Via Search Network Only

This should go without saying but do not lump the search network and display network into the same campaign.  I recommend creating separate search and display campaigns as they both have two separate purposes, search for direct response and display more for brand awareness (occasionally for direct response).  I will provide two caveats to this.  First, Google now has what’s called Display Select, which allows for more control and direct response advertising via the display network.  Second, via the display network you can locate in-market buyers, which should create a higher click-through rate for your ads.  Larry Kim wrote a great post on this.  Overall, I highly recommend separating out display and search campaigns.

Search Display Select 637x212 50 Strategies To Increase Click Through Rate Via PPC Advertising

Review Extensions

Review extensions are fairly new but still very powerful.  The catch with review extensions is they must truly come from third-party websites and excludes Yelp and reviews from your own website.  Those reviews are vetted by the Google Adwords team so pick your reviews carefully.  If used properly, it can provide higher click-through rates for your campaign and lend more credence and credibility to your brand.  That’s why Google added it.

Product Listing Ads

If you are an e-commerce store or selling a product online, you are truly missing out by not having Product Listing Ads (PLA’s) linked to your Adwords campaign.  In order to leverage Product Listing Ads, you must have a Google Merchant Center account in where you can upload your product feed to Google.  Then, link your Adwords campaign to PLA.  Google chooses which pictures and products to show up relative to your keywords, but it is absolutely worth the hassle; especially with the enhancements made with PLA’s via mobile devices.

Call Extensions

If you are a service based business or any business for that matter, you must have call extensions turned on (if you have a phone).  In the world of untrustworthy websites, a phone number listed under your advertisement adds to your credibility.  In addition, it increases the click-through rate of the ads.  If you are running your ads after hours, turn the number listing off.  Also, consider using the Google forwarding number which tracks some of the phone call and phone impressions.

Location Extensions

Again, this is another component that increases credibility.  If you are running a local campaign, this becomes even more important as your location will appear more often based on the proximity of the searcher.  You can have your address show up under your listings, which also increases click-through rate.

SiteLink Extensions

This is one of my favorite extensions, which creates the opportunity to take up more real estate on the first 3 positions in Google as well as highlight other pages on your website.  This is a standard practice I highly encourage you to take advantage of.  Plus, now you can add descriptions to the SiteLink extensions.

Social Extensions

I have not been a huge fan of social extensions as it only tells you how many Google +’s you have to the website.  Plus you have to go through the linking process of your Google Plus profile and your website in order for it to work.  But, another extension does not hurt.

Increase Mobile Bidding

We’ve noticed that when you increase the cost per click for your mobile bidding, the higher your click-through rate will be.  Mobile campaigns typically produce a higher click-through rate than tablet or desktop, however ensuring your ads are seen on mobile devices will likely increase the click-through rate for your entire campaign.  Plus, the cost per click for mobile bidding is typically less than desktop.

Rotate Ads Evenly (Not Optimize)

Rotate Evenly 637x266 50 Strategies To Increase Click Through Rate Via PPC Advertising

Google optimizes the ads they think are performing better from a click-through rate and relevancy standpoint.  Our experience has been the opposite.  We like to have more control by rotating all the ads evenly so we can get a better feel of what’s performing well and what’s not.  By implementing this strategy, you can make the proper changes to the ads that need improving and ensure you’re showing more targeted ads to searchers.

Frequency of Ads

I have noticed for some of my campaigns that ads on accelerated Ad frequency performs better versus showing ads evenly overtime.  The downside is you cannot test your ads and conversions during all times of the day to determine what times of the day produce the largest amount of conversions (you tend to run out of ad budget faster).

IP Address Exclusions

It can be difficult to identify the searchers who visited your site who are not viable searchers or potential customers, but overall if you’re able to identify those people, you should add them to the IP Address Exclusions List.  This is particularly true in large organizations or competitors you know are simply clicking on your adverts each day to spite you.  This won’t necessarily increase your click-through rate, but it will save you more campaign budget.

Geography Exclusions

For those of you who choose to target all the United States you must consider the Geographies where you’re likely to sell your product/service more than others.  For example, if you sell a luxury good, maybe collecting a list of the zip codes where the median income is above a certain threshold would be a better approach than blanketing all of the U.S.  This too has the potential of increased conversions as well as a higher click-through rate.

AdGroup & Ad Level

2 Ads Per AdGroup

This strategy allows you to test the performance of certain ads as they compete against each other.   Try to stay away from three or more ads, as this can impact performance.  Once you know which ad is performing best, work to modify the under-performing advert and start over.

Dynamic Keyword Insertion

Dynamic keyword insertion, which is denoted by {KeyWord:ABCDEFG}, allows for keywords that are entered in by the searcher to be dynamically inserted into the ad.  This is beneficial because it creates a more targeted ad and that text is bold, which draws viewers’ eyes.  It isn’t always the best approach, but I tend use it more often than not.  The key is to ensure the campaign remains highly targeted with default text that closely matches the keywords in the Adgroup and ads.

Leverage City Keywords in Ads

I tested this strategy for a local campaign in New York State.  After seeing it succeed with a few ads, I copied this strategy for the remainder of ads.  The click-through rate for the campaign has been achieving over 4.00% while not having to bid more for a higher ad position.

Leverage Buyer Keywords in Ads

Leveraging buyer keywords (if you’re selling a product) creates a targeted ad and allows you to better target users who are in the market actively looking to buy.  This also holds true for leveraging buyer keywords as keywords you target.

Leverage Action Keywords in Ads

These action verbs should describe movement and benefit in simply talking about your company.  For example, “Learn How To Achieve High CTR’s” is better than “High CTR’s With Our System.

Content Experiments

Google rolled out Content Experiments a couple of years ago.  It allows you to test many things including ads, landing pages (via Google Analytics), and other aspects.   I love this tool more for A/B split testing landing pages, but it can be useful in leveraging it with ad performance.  That is why it’s best to have 2 ads versus 3 or more.

Focus On Benefits…Not Features

Do I need to go into detail on this?  Think about the many benefits and the impact your product or service will have on the end consumer.  Not simply what your product or service does or provides.

Include Numbers in Ads

Don’t try to force it, but if you have an offer or a discount that could drive more traffic and elicit a response, try to take advantage of this as often as you can.

Include Relevant Characters in Ads

A technique I use occasionally when I’m trying to draw more attention to Ads we run is to put certain text inside quotation marks (“ “) or find places to add certain relevant characters such as ( – ), which tends to break the text.  Again, only use this when it makes sense and improves the click-through rate of your ads.

Use Clear Call to Actions

Shop Here, Call Us Today, View Our Store, Check Us Out, etc. Call to actions psychologically move people to action.  It is usually best to add those call to actions on the third line of text where you are allotted 35 characters, however I have occasionally used it on the second line of text.

Rework Ads Under-Performing

Another pretty obvious one, but this one can make a huge difference. I typically don’t make changes until the ad has achieved over 100 impressions.  Also, consider whether the ad has a click-through rate below 1%.  Because of my competitive nature, I always work to achieve higher click-through rates unless the cost for conversions is way too high and the ROI simply doesn’t make sense.

2 – 4 Keywords Per AdGroup….Really?

I’ve built campaigns with well over 10,000 keywords and 2 – 4 keywords per AdGroup.  This translates into 2,500 – 5,000 AdGroups.  I know this can be insane, but sometimes this targeted of a campaign can allow for better control, campaign performance, and a higher click-through rate.  If your concern is the time it would take to build that targeted of a campaign, there are tools out there that allow for building campaigns faster with more targeted approach.  But don’t allow these tools to take away from the methodical nature and patience required to create targeted and robust campaigns.

Keyword Level

Build Huge List of Keywords

What’s huge?  I’m talking 1,000′s and possibly 10,000′s.  This can be a pain, but it is worth it in the long haul.  Taking the time to build these campaigns and thinking through large keyword lists will also cover your bases and ensure you’ve identified the potential keywords and phrases that can translate into targeted traffic.  90% of your traffic will come from 10% of your keywords, but by building out detailed and targeted keyword lists, you stand the chance of finding diamonds in the rough you would have missed.

Leverage the Details Report

Keyword Details Report 50 Strategies To Increase Click Through Rate Via PPC Advertising

One of my favorite reports is the details report, which can be found under the keywords tab.  It tells you precisely the search queries the searchers entered, not just the keywords and match types you are targeting.  This report is golden in finding new opportunities, creating new AdGroup and Ads, and finally locating keywords that you don’t intend to target.

Filter Out Negative Keywords

This is a standard practice, but work to understand the keywords that won’t produce the types of results you intend.  There will always be keywords that you don’t uncover during your initial ideation and consultation process.  Obvious keywords include free, pic, or picture unless you intended to advertise via those keywords.  There are many lists of standard negative keywords on the internet you can find, but again reviewing your details keyword report will help with this process.

Bid for Your Brand Name

Yes, some people think that bidding for your brand name results in wasted money.  In the travel industry, this could be farther from the truth as website such as Kayak and Booking.com bid on hotel brand names including Hyatt and Hilton.  The truth is by bidding on your brand name and the variations of it, you are giving yourself a greater chance of capturing that customer when they land on your website.   Also, your branded name should appear #1 in the organic SERPS, so the idea of the searcher seeing your brand in two places lends more credibility and an even higher likelihood they will click to view your landing page.  In this case 1 + 1 is greater than 2.

Use Manual Keyword Bidding

Do not try to automate your bids….starting off.  With manual bidding, you are given more control over your bids and thus can work to improve the click-through rates of your campaign.

Target Keywords Phrases that are 3 or More in Length

By targeting keyword phrases 3 or more, you naturally create a more targeted campaign.  Remember what was discussed regarding brand response keyword phrases versus direct response keyword phrases.

Use Broad Match Modifier, Phrase Match, & Exact Match

These three match types help create a more targeted campaign so you’re not wasting money on clicks and keywords that are unlikely to produce results.

Turn Off Broad as Fast as Possible

Depending on the type of campaign and the market that’s being targeted, turning off broad match for specific keywords sooner rather than later will naturally increase click-through rates.  The benefit of leaving it on initially is you can collect many negative keywords that are likely not to produce the types of conversions you were intending.

Initially Bid Higher For Exact Match & Descending Bids To Broad Match

By bidding higher for exact match and descending downward to broad, you are making sure those keywords with the exact match show up over phrase match and broad match.  This should help with increased click-through rates and better campaign performance.

Be Careful with Broad Match Modifier

Broad Match Modifier is a great feature Google added.  But be cautious using it! First, ensure your keywords are properly modified to show up for targeted traffic.  For example, placing the plus (+) sign in front of words such as of, at, when, in and many others won’t properly modify those queries for you.  Go through your account to ensure it is used properly.

Work to Get Ads to the Top Of Page

Simply performing manual bid changes to get your Ads at the top of the page when a search query is entered naturally increases click-through.  Once again, check to ensure the ROI makes sense and you are in fact attracting many more conversions.

Improve Quality Score

The simple concept of getting a higher quality score means ensuring your ads are relevant, your landing page is relevant to the ads, your keywords are relevant to the ads and landing pages, and your campaign as a whole is performing better than your competitors.  With time and patience, quality scores can improve.

Pause Keywords with Low CTR’s

This should be a standard practice but after eyeballing your keywords that have a low click-through rate, make the determination of whether those keywords need to be moved to another AdGroup or paused.  If you move them to another AdGroup, make sure the AdGroup is more targeted than the initial AdGroup.

Advanced Methods

Top of Page Bidding

Top Of Page Bid 637x394 50 Strategies To Increase Click Through Rate Via PPC Advertising

This advanced method allows Google to slightly control your bidding by ensuring more of the ads show up at the top of Google.  This can be a good strategy if you notice certain ads with higher conversions or notice you get more conversions when your ads show up at the top.  This can be found in your shared library.  The warning here is when you implement this strategy, you cannot make manual cost per click changes in Google Adwords Editor unless you change it back to manual cost per click in the settings tab.

Change History Report

The change history report helps you view the past changes you’ve made to your campaign, and what occurred after those changes were made.  This can give you insight into certain things you did that was effective in increasing the click-through rate of the campaign as well as provide other pertinent information.

Dynamic Bidding (Geography & Time Based)

Dynamic bidding allows you to bid based on geography and time.  For the time based bidding, you can bid based on time of day, and day of the week.  Definitely a strategy worth implementing. For example, a sports bar might want to bid more in the days before a big sports event. Do some testing to see what works best.

Leverage the Opportunities Tab

The opportunities tab can give you a load of additional information and insights on how to improve the campaign as a whole.  Normally, those opportunities are meant to allow your Ads to be shown more, but you can gather great information from this tab and then further optimize your campaign utilizing the 49 other insights in this post.

Separate Display Campaign – “Relative CTR”

How do you know if a 1% click-through rate is good in your industry or the keywords you’re targeting?  What if a CTR of .4% is good in your industry?  The way to benchmark this is create an identical campaign for the display network.  By doing this, you can better understand how your competitors are performing relative to your campaign.

During & After 2 Weeks

Test & Optimize

Testing and optimizing your campaigns remains the core of how paid search teams create amazing PPC campaigns both in-house and for companies (large and small).  Reviewing campaign data, Adgroup performance, keyword performance, and overall account structure is a sure-fire way to increase the click-through rate of your campaigns.

Sometimes it makes sense implement all 50 strategies and sometimes it makes more sense to focus on just a few.  But this list should serve as a base for advanced Google Adwords users and basic users of the platform.  Here’s to increased click-through rates!

Image Credits: Screenshots taken 1-8-2014

Featured Image Credit: Que Commerce

SEJ 64 by 64 Photo 50 Strategies To Increase Click Through Rate Via PPC Advertising
Justin Croxton is the CEO of Que Commerce, a New Jersey digital marketing agency centered on the world of search engine optimization (SEO), paid search (PPC), content marketing and analytics.
SEJ 64 by 64 Photo 50 Strategies To Increase Click Through Rate Via PPC Advertising
SEJ 64 by 64 Photo 50 Strategies To Increase Click Through Rate Via PPC Advertising

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11 thoughts on “50 Strategies To Increase Click Through Rate Via PPC Advertising

  1. Very informative and inspiring article, thank you. Great read.
    Question: Within the “Landing Page – Modify & Enhance” section, should it read “you will then be able to lower your quality score,” Would enhancing landing page relevance not “increase” quality score?

    1. Oops. Typo. Certainly enhance quality score. That is the premise behind improving landing page quality. Thanks Cheryl…when you write a 3,700 word post, you’re bound to miss something.

  2. Some really great tips Justin always good to review practices -I to have moved away from allowing google control offer my strategies – thx for sharing – worth mentioning adding common Negative keyword as a list and also having Negatives at group and campaign levels

  3. Excellent article Justin, thanks for sharing. Like you said, you could have listed hundreds of other strategies, but these are some of the best.

  4. Hi Justin,

    Your article is really helpful, thanks for writing. I am looking forward to read more articles in future. Keep writing!!! cheers.

  5. Hey Justin you have really written a very good piece of article over PPC and this one is really very informative and worth reading. 50 strategies to increase CTR in PPC is a good write on this topic.

  6. I think it would be nice if people would quit blatantly assuming that “more is always better” when it comes to adding extensions. Yes, adding more opportunities for people to click is an excellent ROI strategy for Google — but not necessarily so for advertisers. More clicks does not necessarily turn into more conversions.

    1. I hear what you’re saying Mike and thanks for the perspective. Keep in mind that a higher click through rate is typically the goal for any advertiser. The more relevant people they get to their business, the more chances they have at conversion. That doesn’t mean a higher CTR translates to higher conversion rate.

      Now of course if it’s best for an Ad to be in positions 4 – 11 due to the CPA is lower, then that’s fine. Of course the CTR will be lower but who cares, but we ultimately wanted to equip people with perspective on how to maximize their paid search budget with achieving higher CTR’s/

  7. Hi Justin,
    I have used prominent call to actions and it has dramatically increased my click-through rate. Along with it I have also reduced the number of keywords per Ad Group. Thanks for sharing this informative post on PPC advertising.