4 Step PPC Ad Optimization Process

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Hopefully I don’t have to convince you that you should be testing ads in your pay per click accounts. If you’re not constantly testing ads as part of your PPC program, you’re missing out. Here’s why:

  • In competitive niches, not testing ads could lead to the low level of performance that gets your entire PPC effort cancelled
  • In many niches, ad testing is required for even successful advertisers in order to stay competitive, and
  • For all PPC efforts, ad testing is an essential tactic to increase your ROI

I cannot cover the entirety of direct marketing, scientific marketing, and copywriting in this post. You should verse yourself in them if you want to succeed in PPC. I have a list of recommended reading for those here at AdWordsConsultant.com. All of those books can and should be read more than once.

Here’s an overview of the evolution of ads in our typical successful PPC campaign.

1. Account Set-up, First Guesses

Along with all the best practices of PPC account setup, you need granularly focused ads. That’s a natural part of the AdGroup approach.

AdGroups are the fundamental functional units of PPC. Every AdGroup targets a specific customer interest/mindset and serves it with an ad. The ad must be relevant to that mindset, attention grabbing, stimulating enough to get a click, warm the prospect up for the landing page, and yet not overpromise or overstimulate.

When you first set up AdGroups, write two ads for each.

You may have ad ideas already, or may be assigned or suggested ideas by someone else. Understanding from the client or your organization about this being an ad testing laboratory is critical. Communicate the fact that you’ll be testing these ads, and the best ones will be kept. In other words, get buy-in ahead of time that you might be deleting someone’s ad suggestion later- get them to understand that you’ll be looking for the best possible ROI, and lower performing ads won’t be kept.

If you’re not sure what to write for your initial set of ads, start the following process:

2. Finding the Right Message

Usually, ads focus on product/service features, benefits, or offers.

Your first goal is to figure out which message gets the best results for both that customer mindset and the landing page the ad leads to.

If you have five current promos, test what you guess are the two strongest ones. Don’t worry too much about the language yet. Just make sure the offer is clearly communicated. See which wins. Keep doing this until you’ve tested all your relevant offers for that AdGroup. Keep the winner.

NOTE: Read my other posts about metrics- make sure you’re using conversion and revenue-oriented metrics to judge which ad is best.

3. Optimal Copywriting

Once you’ve found the best offer, try rewording it. Get out the thesaurus and the Words and Phrases that Sell books. Keep testing ads this way until your results level off.

4. Nitpickization: Microtesting

Now try the little things like

  • Should I put this period at the end here?
  • Should I use camel caps?
  • Does a dash or a comma work best?

The advantage of this approach, moving from big to small, conceptual to details, is that you avoid rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

Brian Carter is the Director of Search Engine Marketing for Fuel Interactive, an interactive marketing agency in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. He is responsible for the SEO, PPC, SMM, and ORM programs at Fuel and its partner traditional agency Brandon Advertising & PR.

Brian Carter
Brian is author of The Like Economy: How Businesses Make Money With Facebook and Facebook Marketing: Leveraging Facebook's Features For Your Marketing Campaigns, How to... Read Full Bio
Brian Carter
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  • Josh Fialkoff

    Great stuff brian!
    Looking forward to more in-depth strategies.

  • Justin Popovic

    Timely message for me Brian. Very helpful thank you.

  • Wendy Brache

    Good info, Brian–look forward to talking with you soon–

  • Wendy Brache

    Good info, Brian–look forward to talking with you soon–

  • ssaakk


  • willtobill

    Its always worthwile adjusting and testing ad copy. Have you ever tried ascii art in the ad text, it deffinately stands out from the crowd:

  • Chawalit

    interesting ……. 😉

  • Chawalit


  • Pay Per Click Management

    I always test my ads. It is crucial to find the best words.

  • Internet Marketing Consultant

    I loved the article, however, I do have a question:

    “Get out the thesaurus and the Words and Phrases that Sell books.”

    The thesaurus is obvious, but any links you could provide to help point your readers in the right direction to find these ‘words and phrases that sell books’? Do you have a ‘go-to’ site that you wouldn’t mind sharing?

    Keep up the good work! Your posts are always informative!

  • Julia


    Thank you for putting all this together. Can you please publish links to your other posts about metrics that you mentioned?

    Thanks in advance!

  • Pay Per Click Campaign Management

    There is always room for improvement. Testing is crucial and it is important to continue to experiment even if one of your ads seems to be doing really well.