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Pay-Per-Click: 5 Tips to Decrease Costs and Improve Performance

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Optimize Your PPC Advertising

Most marketers know two things about pay-per-click advertising -- it’s more than just picking keywords and setting bids, and it can end up costing a lot of money.

Whether you’re advertising with Google, Yahoo, Microsoft or others, these guidelines will help optimize your PPC campaigns, driving the most number of relevant visitors to your site, for the lowest price.

Google adWords CTR and Quality Score columns
CTR and Quality Score columns in the Google adWords interface

1. Deal with Low Click-Thru-Rates

Your keywords’ click-thru-rate (the number of clicks your ad receives divided by the number of times your ad is shown) is also used to establish your keyword's Quality Score. Higher Quality Scores mean lower costs-per-click and higher ad positions, so it’s an important metric. Every campaign is bound to have keywords with low click through rates -- but what should you do with them?

Try adding negative keywords to your campaigns to eliminate non-relevant searches (especially if you’re using broad or phrase matching), and moving these poor performers out of their current Ad Group and into a new Ad Group, then creating new, more relevant ads and landing pages for them.

If they still continue to perform poorly, you probably want to pause or delete them, as they will have a negative effect on your overall account Quality Score (do not confuse with keywords that have no impressions – these will not affect your score).

2. Limit One-Word Keywords

Think like a customer – if you were searching for your type of product or service, would you be likely to type in just one word? Keywords that are too broad (travel, desk, shoes) can lower your performance by generating a lot of impressions but not many clicks, and one-word keywords tend to be the biggest culprit.

Delete generic keywords - especially if you’re using exact match - and replace them with two- or three-word phrases that are more likely to display relevant ads to the right people and improve your account Quality Score. Your PPC budget will thank you!

3. Test Different Match Types

If you've been told one type of match is better than another, you may have been misled. They each serve a different function, but their value generally depends on your needs and budget.

Broad match (usually the default) can trigger your ads if any of your keywords is searched, regardless of what other words are also used or in what order. You’ll probably get a lot of traffic (if this is what you want), but won’t have a good idea of the keywords your target audience are using.

Phrase match is more targeted than broad match, so you’ll have a better idea of what terms are serving your ads and may receive fewer, but higher quality, clicks. Finally, exact match only triggers your ad with the exact keyword string in the exact order and nothing more. You not likely to get as many impressions or clicks, but your traffic will probably be much more targeted.

So how do you decide what match type to use? Since there’s no benefit to adding the same keyword to your account three times, start by using the broad matching option, then monitor which keyword variations are triggering your ads (for example, Google has a “Search Query Performance Report” that will show exactly what users typed in when your ad was shown).

From there, you can add more of these key phrases, and negative keywords as well (to eliminate searches that aren’t relevant to you). Change the type to phrase match and monitor, add, and refine. If your goal is to be highly targeted (rather than generate loads of traffic), eventually you will have a very comprehensive list of phrases and can start using exact match to refine your bids.

4. Separate Content and Search

Debate on the effectiveness of content networks (PPC advertising on websites as opposed to search) aside, if you’re advertising there, you should optimize and track your campaigns separately from search.

Why? Because paid search advertising behaves differently from content advertising. On a search engine, people are searching for specific words and phrases. With content, people are browsing websites, so ads are targeted based on themes rather than specific keywords.

Tailor your ads for each and you’ll probably find that you receive better leads and higher ROI, and can start to adjust bids at a more granular level to optimize your budget.

Microsoft adCenter Desktop
Screenshot of the Microsoft adCenter Desktop Menu

5. Use Their Software

Google’s Editor and Microsoft’s adCenter Desktop are free applications you can download and use offline. They have powerful editing tools that allow you to make changes quickly and easily, whether you’re adding one text ad or editing hundreds of keyword bids.

Other benefits include the ability to download, sort and view performance statistics, copy or move items between campaigns or ad groups, and export snapshots for sharing. You simply make your changes then upload to your account in real time.

The Payoff

Optimizing paid search advertising can be tricky. But with practice, testing, and proper analysis, your campaigns will succeed.

Are you looking for PPC advice? Let’s discuss your pay-per-click objectives. Contact us for a free, no-obligation consultation today.

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Kristina SmithKristina Smith is an Associate Writer with Single Entry Point Marketing. She brings 9 years of experience in online marketing, brand building, and copywriting, specializing in the advertising, publishing, and travel industries. She spends her free time blogging and channeling her inner chef in the kitchen. Contact Kristina via email at