Start Free Trial
  1. SEJ
  2.  » 
  3. Paid Search

10 Paid Search & PPC Planning Best Practices

Is it time to review your paid search strategy and plans? These PPC best practices can help improve your campaign performance.

10 Paid Search & PPC Planning Best Practices

It’s always the right time to review your current PPC best practices to start improving your performance.

Planning for the months ahead or even revisiting your plan is an opportunity to ensure your strategy aligns with PPC best practices.

As you review, you’ll find new strategies and features to incorporate into your paid search program, too.

1. Budget Review

Some advertisers get stuck in a rut and forget to review and reevaluate the distribution of their media budgets.

Learn more about managing a small PPC budget, or for any size budget, you will want to consider:

  • If you have used the total planned budget for each PPC/ digital account and for each campaign.
  • The poor performance campaigns that have been optimized throughout the year. Should they be eliminated at this time to free up budget for other campaigns?
  • Is there additional traffic to capture to grow results for the winning campaigns? Competitive metrics data can help and include search impression share and click share.
  • For channels with less stellar performance, does it make sense to shift those budgets to another?
  • For the overall paid search / social budget, can your company invest more in the positive campaign results?

2. Review New Features in Google Ads & Microsoft Ads

Remember last year when advertisers were knee-deep in switching over to the new Google Ads experience?

This year we can focus on more important things like optimizing audiences and adding new ad extensions.

Continue Reading Below

Don’t overlook these new features, some in beta, but soon to come:

  • Promotion extensions: In Google, these can be added to the account down to ad group level. This is a great option for advertisers who have been using sitelinks or ad copy for promos. The promotion extensions stand out more and take on a “coupon” look.
  • Gallery Ads: On Google in beta, would show at the top of the search results page in a swipeable image
  • Lead form extensions: In Google, as a beta in search ads, allows advertisers to collect leads directly from the paid ad.
  • Image extension: A great way to attract more attention to the ad texts. Microsoft’s version of this feature allows advertisers to upload images while Google’s version is currently dynamic and automatically pulled from the website.
  • Associate audiences at the campaign level: Now in Microsoft, Audience lists can be assigned at the campaign level as well as the ad-group level. A big time saver to associate audiences across an entire campaign with one click.

3. Test New Platforms

Testing new paid channels is one of the most important best practices you need to know.

Go beyond your comfort zones in Google, Microsoft, and Facebook.

Here are a few other advertising platforms to consider testing:

  • LinkedIn: Most appropriate for professional and business targeting. LinkedIn audiences can also be reached through Microsoft Ads.
  • Pinterest: Products, services, consumer goods with a female-focused target.
  • Snapchat: Younger demographic (13 to 35), video ads, app installs, filters, lenses.

Need more detailed information? Read more about The 8 Best PPC Ad Networks.

4. Mobile Customization

A best practice that is still often ignored is the mobile paid ad strategy. In many cases, mobile ad traffic has surpassed desktop as a way of being discovered.

Continue Reading Below

PPC marketers who don’t optimize for mobile risk wasting paid budgets and losing opportunities to reach their target market.

Start by assessing the volume of traffic coming from mobile devices in PPC.


Minimally, use these simple charts available in both Google Ads and Microsoft Ads to get a snapshot of performance by device.

This advertiser is seeing 76% of clicks coming from mobile phones.

This data can also be analyzed at the campaign level to determine if the bid should be adjusted based on device.

Try to make changes in 10 percent increments or a small level to determine how the changes might impact the bottom line.

5. Test Additional Features

If you haven’t yet, another feature to consider with a big impact is the Audience Network in Microsoft Ads. It is AI-powered and can add a punch to your current search campaigns.

The secret is its analysis of billions of audience intent signals from Microsoft properties (including billions of Bing searches, MSN, Outlook, Skype, and LinkedIn), resulting in highly relevant in-market lists that can reach searchers just at the time they are looking to make a purchase.

When browsing over 200 in-market categories, you also get to see a list size of the users, which is extremely helpful for planning.

10 Paid Search & PPC Planning Best Practices

6. Audiences Integrated with Search

For 2020 be sure to re-review the audiences you selected last year, especially if you have been testing the audiences in #5.

Continue Reading Below

First, many more audiences have been added by both Google and Microsoft.

Some additional “features” found in the settings that automatically expand your audience could be helpful, but keep an eye out for any degrading performance over time:

  • Google: targeting expansion
  • Microsoft: audience network

Remember an audience is simply a list of users who are grouped together by interests or behavior online.

Therefore, there are unlimited ways to mix and match those audiences and target per the sales funnel.

Here are few opportunities to explore and test:

  • LinkedIn targeting: Exclusively in Microsoft Ads.
  • Detailed Demographics: Marital status, parental status, home-ownership, education, household income.
  • In-market and custom intent: Searches and online behavior signaling buying cues.
  • Remarketing: Advertisers website visitors and video/ YouTube.
Continue Reading Below

Note: This varies per the campaign type and seems to be updated frequently, so make this a regular check-point in your campaign management for all platforms.

7. Learn to Use Scripts

PPC managers can learn to automate repetitive tasks in their Google Ads accounts using scripts added to the account.

Navigating through the world of scripts can seem overwhelming, but a good place to start is a post here on Search Engine Journal providing use cases and resources to get started with scripts.

Luckily you don’t need a PhD in computer science because there are resources online with free or templated scripts.

Google also holds workshops across the country for training.

8. Voice Search Preparation

You may not be getting a large number of voice searches yet. Most advertisers aren’t.

But it will be important for you to check the trends in your account.

Be ready to respond to information voice searchers are seeking or negative-out the irrelevant searches.

Read up on the basics in 4 Steps to Prepare Your PPC Campaigns for Voice Search, including how to identify voice search queries.

Continue Reading Below

Here’s a screenshot that shows a quick way to eyeball possible traffic in your account in the Google Ads interface:

10 Paid Search & PPC Planning Best Practices

Review this activity on a regular basis to determine if there are any valuable keywords to add to the account or as a new campaign.

For example, if you notice several navigational voice searches like “sushi restaurant near me”, consider creating a campaign to hyper-target those people trying to find you, perhaps with ads and landing pages with easy access to reservations, directions, hours, and parking.

Continue Reading Below

9. Reevaluate How You Report

Have you been using the same performance report for years?

It’s time to reevaluate your essential PPC key metrics and replace or add that data into your reports.

This year, Google Ads removed the average position metric and recommends using the search top impression rate and search absolute top impression rate as a replacement.

Consider adding this and other competitive metrics in both Google and Microsoft which will show details on your impression share and lost impression share due to rank or budget.


Both Microsoft Ads and Google Ads have Overview pages that provide a few handy graphs if you need them in a pinch.

Continue Reading Below

Your objectives in reevaluating the reporting are:

  • Are we still using this data?
  • Is the information we are using actionable?
  • What new metrics should we consider adding we haven’t thought about? How often do we need to see this data?

Adding new data has no point unless it is actionable and will be used to make decisions on the account, so it’s not necessary to waste a lot of time in simply adding more data for the sake of it.

10. Seek Collaboration

If the PPC wheels keep spinning, going nowhere, it’s a time to step back and seek out friendly resources and second opinions.

Much of the skill and science for PPC management is as unique as the individual or agency so there is no shortage of ideas.

The Paid Search Association recently launched, with the goal of being a resource for paid ad managers globally. Also, check out ebooks, experts on Twitter, and industry publications for resources and tips for motivation.

Continue Reading Below

Bonus tip: Be sure to read 10 Important PPC Trends to Watch, as it can further inform your plans!

More Resources:

Image Credits

All screenshots taken by author, November 2019

CategoryPaid Search

Subscribe to SEJ

Get our daily newsletter from SEJ's Founder Loren Baker about the latest news in the industry!

Topic(s) of Interest*

Lisa Raehsler

SEM Strategy Consultant at Big Click Co.

Lisa Raehsler is a search engine and social media ads pay-per-click (PPC) strategist, International speaker, and columnist for leading search ... [Read full bio]

Read the Next Article
Read the Next