Making the Best of PPC Basics

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I wouldn’t be wrong in assuming that virtually all PPC marketers have been through a stage with one account or another where, no matter what you try, the account just would not perform. You typically notice that the conversion numbers have dropped significantly over the past couple of months, and you perform some standard steps to correct what has gone wrong with your account:

  • Keyword Performance: Do a thorough analysis of the top-performing keywords on your account to find out if there has been any drop in the traffic they are sending you.
  • Keyword Diagnosis: Diagnose your keywords to find out if any of the negative keywords added by you have been blocking your ads from showing up for the most relevant keywords.
  • Seasonality: Check seasonality trends to figure out if the drop in conversions has actually taken place due to seasonal variations.
  • Competitor Behavior: Is there a new competitor in your market who has been very aggressive online, or have any of your existing competitors adopted new strategies that are working wonders for them? Conduct a competitor analysis to find out if changes in their advertising strategies have caused you harm.

Apart from the above common steps to solve the problems facing the account, many PPC marketers also implement a few additional techniques to, hopefully, increase the number of conversions received on an account. Some of these techniques are:

  • Display Network: Try out the display network, preferably for the theme that generates the maximum number of conversions on the search network.
  • Image Ads: Use image ads for existing display network campaigns due to the fact that users surfing on the display network will be more enticed towards clicking on image ads.
  • Conversion Optimizer: Use the Conversion Optimizer with a view to getting a high number of conversions at your target CPA value.
  • Remarketing: Retarget users who have been on your website but may not have converted.
  • Google Analytics: Make use of Google Analytics data like Bounce Rate to find out the performance of the standalone landing pages. View the Top Content report to find out which pages on the website work best, and then create specific standalone landing pages based on this report.
  • Ad Extensions: Implement ad extensions like site link extensions or call extensions to engage people in a more efficient manner with your standard text ads, etc.

While any of the strategies mentioned above may have worked for you at times, there is still a chance that none of the above have worked for your account and have only led to a high spend with no conversions, which resulted in a high account CPA. For example, if remarketing and image ads did not work for you, they might have resulted in high account spending and caused you more damage instead of repairing the problem.

So are there any options left for you in such a scenario? Oh, yes, there is certainly a ray of hope left, and the chance of your account getting back on track still exists. So what if the above so-called “advanced” strategies didn’t work for you? Let’s look at some basic concepts that are generally overlooked by many in favor of the “foolproof” strategies, but these things can also make your account perform.

Budget Optimization

Have you been spending too much on campaigns that aren’t working for you, or have you reduced budgets on campaigns that previously worked but have recently dropped off? I suggest aggressively increasing budgets for the historically best-performing campaigns and see what wonders it can do for you. Beyond historically best-performing campaigns, increase the budget for a campaign that hasn’t performed well in a while but that used to perform well, and there is a good chance that campaign might get leads again once it starts getting a little bit of your attention.

As an example, one of my clients who ran a home remodeling service had a “Bathroom Remodeling” campaign that had stopped converting at all for a few months between January 2012 to April 2012 (as seen in the screenshot below). I was running the campaign at the lowest minimum budget and didn’t give it the desired level of attention because the account had been performing well before then. However, when the account performance recently went down, and I couldn’t figure out what else was wrong with it, I raised the budget for the bathroom-related campaign to see if that would do any good. Would you believe it if I tell you that the campaign got two conversions that month? Well, see for yourself in the screenshot provided below. That campaign got 33% of the total conversions that are usually recorded for that account every month.

To conclude the point, budget optimization, if used intelligently and correctly, can do a lot more good for your account than just simply keeping the monthly spend under control.

Keywords Bids

Along with budget optimization, bid optimization plays a great role in helping an account perform well, even a dead account, for that matter. If you’ve been running your keywords in the same average positions for a long time, and you are happy with their conversion results, I suggest picking out a few average performing keywords and trying new positions for them to see if this can increase conversion performance and make you even happier than you already were with the account performance. If you are a risk taker, go ahead and try different average positions for your top-performing keywords, as I believe this is totally worth the risk.

Broad Match Modifier Match Type

The importance of broad match modifier match type has been emphasized repeatedly since the time Google launched it. Even in my personal experience, I believe it can be of immense assistance, and I ensure that every theme of mine has keywords in the BMM match type. To make the utmost use of this match type when you need your account to perform, pick out your top-performing keywords for every theme and add them all in to the BMM match type. This will help you improve the traffic coming to your website in terms of both quality and quantity (better quality than broad and better quantity than phrase), and, as we all know, quality traffic is always a key contributor to earning conversions for an account.

Ad Copy

Human nature is such that we get bored with things very easily. I want you to think of your target audience in the same way. They may get bored seeing your same old ads with the same old USPs. Thus, you should keep revising your ads to create new, attractive ads that will increase the odds of users clicking on them. New ads also help you stand out from your competition.

Basic things like using exclamation points, capitalizing the first letter of every word, using trademark symbols to establish brand credibility, and using prices in ad text can make a big difference and should be remembered when creating new ads for your account. Check to see if your existing ads are lacking any of these basic components, and if they are, make some of these basic changes to compel users to click on your new ads.

Keyword Variations

When optimizing your account in the past, you might have paused certain, broad keywords that could have received conversions for you, but at a poor ROAS or CPA value. Now may be the time to add these broad match keywords in restrictive match types like exact or phrase, as these new variations have a high probability of earning conversions for you, preferably at a tolerable CPA or ROAS value.

Ad Scheduling

Did you entirely forget about the ad scheduling you performed on your account? Too bad that it took time to realize that the same ad scheduling has been restricting your visibility, and it should be turned off now to let the ads run through the day. This will give the account a fair chance to show its potential because it will receive the maximum possible traffic. Needless to say, negative keywords should be added frequently to help refine the traffic received in terms of quality, which will improve your odds of receiving conversions from exceedingly relevant traffic.


Although the points mentioned above are very basic, PPC marketers tend to ignore or forget them quite often due to the lure of improving their accounts’ performances by implementing all the “foolproof” strategies. I suggest making the most of the basics before giving up hope, and you are bound to see some good results that will make your clients happy once again.

In the next post, we will discuss the various strategies that we implement in order to improve account performance and a few places where marketers generally tend to go wrong while executing them. Until then, I hope the above points help you see some good results. 🙂

Preeti Singh
Preeti Singh works as an Assistant Project Manager in the Pay per click vertical of Convonix. Managing Adwords accounts of clients & client servicing on... Read Full Bio
Preeti Singh

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  • Will

    I’ve tried the conversion optimizer before and it absolutely killed my client’s account… I find seasonality to be a really big factor. I try not to worry if the traffic and conversion drop for a few days or even a week or so.

    One thing you may also consider is having a look at the competition using Google’s auction insights.. it might tell you that other competitors have come into the market or that you competitors have decided to up their budget or CPC.

    • Heta Sampat

      Will, I completely agree with you that the Conversion Optimizer could ruin your account performance if not used correctly. The Conversion Optimizer works wonders when your account is correctly optimized and you’ve got all your basics right.

      Seasonality is another factor that you must keep in mind. The problem arises when the season is fine and your account still sees multiple bad days. That’s when your basics can really help. As PPC marketers, we always need to look internally before looking at external factors when the account drops.

      Auction Insights is a really good tool that Google has come up with. Not only does it help you keep an eye on the competitor’s activities, but it also keep track of their day parting strategies. For example, if a competitor manages to show up on that keyword only 25% of the time, he is most probably using ad scheduling.

    • Vipan Goja

      I have found conversion optimizer to be very tricky. For one of my accounts I had tried it for a campaign and it initially gave me decent results. But after a while the campaign got saturated. The issue with using conversion optimizer is that the themes within the campaign which did not get as much exposure before get completely neglected once you switch to conversion optimizer.
      I feel that conversion optimizer should mostly be tried in accounts with mid-level budgets where you have seen good trends but there is no room for experimentation. Try avoiding it for high performance campaigns as there is a lot more you can do with the techniques explained in the blog above.

  • Preeti Singh

    Thanks for your comment Will. I agree that a couple of days or a bad week for your account can still be managed without worrying too much. The problem arises when its been 2 to 3 weeks that your performance has dropped and you can see no particular trend there which could have led to this drop.

    Also, the Conversion Optimizer has been performing extremely well for one of my accounts giving me great number of conversions at my target CPA. But again in your case, it did not work well which is why we cannot really rely on it and many other advanced strategies mentioned above. The first thing we could do here is to be sure that we are not going wrong anywhere as far as the basics are concerned.

  • Ayush

    Keyword selection is one of the most important factor to get business / leads via PPC campaign followed by Budget and close eye on campaign. Once these are running then next point to consider is Bounce rate that is very important point you mentioned since it is necessary to monitor traffic and see how much conversion made. Thanks for detailed ppc.

  • dan zammit

    I have never used Conversion Optimizer before when managing customers campaigns. I like the method “Peel and Stick”. Make two campaigns that are exactly the same, only change the two line description. Monitor which one has the best CTR after your campaign period, could be 1 week, 2 weeks etc. Which ever advert has the worst CTR, delete and start again with creating new ad copy and testing again. I find the technique brings great results!

    thanks for sharing your information!

  • Preeti Singh

    @ Ayush – Thanks. Keyword selection is undoubtedly an important aspect in the account’s performance. Along with selecting the appropriate keywords that we think can be profitable for us, we should also keep a close eye on the performance of our top keywords and continuously look into capitalizing on them

    @ Dan – Thanks for your comment. The technique used by you could be worth giving a shot as you say it always bring results for you. However, i guess 2 ads with different description lines could be tested in the same ad group by using the Rotation setting. I am not sure as to why we would want to create 2 separate campaigns. Would like to know your thoughts on the same?

    Also, the Conversion Optimizer has given great results for some of my campaigns. Definitely worth trying. Vipan has shared some great insights above regarding the Conversion Optimizer and I agree with them. It could help you keep a few things in mind in case you want to go ahead with the Conversion Optimizer

  • dan zammit

    Thanks for the reply!

    I suppose putting them into the same ad group does make more sense , which I have started doing and am finding it much easier to handle the different campaigns, so thanks for that.

    I have just started using Conversion Optimizer, I will take all of your advice and give you feedback on how the results compare to my original technique.