Building a business takes drive, focus, and – perhaps most importantly – sales. At the end of the day, no matter how impressive your product or how refined your business plan, the rubber will hit the road and sales will either follow or they won’t.
Fortunately, today’s wealth of digital tools makes it possible to reach a virtually unlimited number of leads with targeted online ads. Ad platforms are becoming increasingly sophisticated and complex, offering powerful opportunities for targeting potential customers.
So, what’s the biggest challenge standing between most business owners and a profitable paid ad strategy? Making these ads work at a price that leaves you a solid profit margin.
Is it possible? Many DIY entrepreneurs will tell you that pay-per-click ads – by which they are probably only referring to a basic campaign with little optimization and a lot of wasted spend – are a breakeven proposition at best. But the truth is that with a few expert tricks you can drastically reduce the CPA of your PPC campaigns and bring in huge amounts of targeted, highly-converting traffic.
Here are eight simple tips to help you maximize your ad budget:
Raise your quality score.
If there is one thing you need to know about running a successful Adwords campaign, it is this: your quality score directly impacts what you pay for each ad auction. How is the quality score calculated?
Your quality score is built on relevance. If visitors find that the keywords and ad copy you’re using – and, ultimately, the products you’re sending them to – are highly relevant to what they are searching for, your quality score goes up. You can also boost your quality score by making sure you have a high-quality, fast website. Sacrificing your site’s speed and user experience with a glut of ads will put your quality score in the tank.
You can check your quality score under the Campaigns/Keywords tab on your campaign dashboard.
Check search queries.
Checking your SQR (search query report) will give you vital intel about how well your selected queries are working to drive traffic to your site. Here, look for three things:
Queries that are performing well
Queries that could perform well that you have previously missed
Queries that are not performing well or are irrelevant to your goals
An easy way to increase your click-through rate and lower your CPC? Get rid of the irrelevant phrases and double down on queries that are creating leads.
Use keywords wisely in the headline, ad text, and on the landing page of your site.
There’s no use spamming ads with keywords, but a descriptive ad that answers a potential customers implicit questions will often include several permutations of the targeted keywords. Remember, your goal is not to attract every single possible visitor. It’s to attract specific users that are likely to convert. The strategic use of keywords will be essential to this effort.
You ad copy should be compelling and descriptive, clever and efficient. Spend the extra time and double check keyword placement before taking your campaigns live.
Find organic queries that convert.
Organic traffic is the natural traffic you’re already receiving from search engines. This traffic is generally regarded as “free,” though it may also be part of an active SEO campaign.
Finding out which keywords visitors use to find you on their own can be a valuable tool to build your paid ad campaigns. Google Search Console (formerly Google Webmaster Tools) will show you which organic search queries visitors are using to find your site, and Google Analytics will help you follow those visitors from landing page to conversion.
Improve negative keyword lists.
“Negative keywords” are essentially keywords that you want to exclude from being matched with your ad, since they’re likely to deliver unwanted or irrelevant click-throughs. Examples may include the names of specific brands, whether those of your competitors or brands that simply don’t align with what you offer. Clearly identify these types of keywords and exclude them right from the start of any new campaign.
As your campaign progresses, inspect your search query report often (daily if possible,) since you will likely notice additional keywords that need to be excluded from being matched with your ads.
Remove ad groups with poor quality scores.
If you are reviewing your quality score for different ad groups (go to Campaigns/Keywords in your campaign dashboard to do this) and find that some ad groups are performing poorly, remove them right away. This will conserve your campaign budget and help you avoid adversely impacting your quality score (see #1) any further.
The one caveat I would offer on this is to make sure that your sample size is significant before making any wholesale changes. A few days may be too soon to shut off a campaign that appears to be underperforming (though, if it’s especially terrible you may need to make an exception,) so give it enough time to attract a few thousand impressions or a few hundred clicks.
Test different versions of your landing page.
It is rare to be able to construct and launch the perfect landing page on your very first try. Most marketers spend hours and days tweaking their landing pages, trying to find the perfect combination of information and sales hooks. Even then, the best marketers know there is a much better way than simply guessing.
If you want a great conversion rate, try testing different versions of your landing page simultaneously. You can direct a portion of clicks to go to one version of your landing page and another portion to go to a second version, then compare how both versions perform and optimize accordingly. This type of A/B testing (which should be done continuously, not just once) can drastically improve your conversion rate and equate to more revenue for your business.
Ditch poorly performing partners.
Google’s ad network extends far beyond Google.com. Check how each of your ‘search partners’ is performing, and if you don’t see the results you are looking for, you can deselect search partner ads in your campaign dashboard. It’s a bit of an all-or-nothing proposition, but it can be an effective way to rein in excess spending.
With these tips in hand, you can continue to analyze and optimize your campaign to focus on the highest performing keywords and ad groups. I guarantee you’ll find that a lower CPA through paid ads is a goal you can finally reach.
This article has been edited and condensed.
Jimmy Winskowski is a digital strategist who specializes in helping startups and small businesses take the next step. He is sharing his insights on behalf of Levy Online, a full service digital marketing agency. Connect with @jwinskowski on Twitter.
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