Written by Sam Yadegar on Mar 10 , 2021

PPC marketing is a proven way to get fast results. But just like any other strategy, it needs regular tweaking, updating, and optimizing.

Here, you’ll find:

  • Why Google Ads isn’t the only pay-per-click (PPC) player in town
  • Why manual bidding is worth your attention
  • Expert tips on PPC optimization in 2021
  • What Core Web Vitals are and why they matter

We like to say that digital marketing is part art, part science. Sure, there are guidelines, processes, and steps — but without a heavy dose of creativity, your program isn’t likely to beat out the competition. 

Well-versed paid search marketers know this. They also know that experimentation, analysis, and optimization are key components to creating a PPC strategy that isn’t just successful, but lasting too. 

Behaviors, competitors, and algorithms change fast. To stay on top of your game, you have to catch on before someone else does. Let these PPC optimization strategies guide your paid search efforts for the rest of 2021 and beyond.

1. Switch to manual bidding

No matter how stellar your PPC ads are, they won’t achieve proper results without the right bidding strategy. The tactic you choose for your bids depends on your campaign goals.

If you want to achieve the largest number of clicks according to the set budget, you can use the traditional automatic cost-per-click (CPC) bidding system.

However, allowing Google to do the job for you comes with a couple of downsides. One of them is lack of an easy way to adjust your campaign if it’s not performing properly. Manual bidding can fix this problem. This hands-on, more customized bidding approach:

  • Increases ad visibility
  • Lowers your cost per action (CPA)
  • Allows you to prioritize keywords that convert better

Switching from automatic to manual bidding is an advanced strategy. Often, it requires paying close attention to tactics such as:

  • Focusing on one campaign at a time, since the process can be time-consuming
  • Lowering your bids for keywords that receive solid impressions but don’t generate sales
  • Increasing bids for keywords that convert to increase the position of ads containing them and generate more conversions
  • Choosing the default bid, which is close to the average CPC in your automatic campaigns

When you leverage manual bidding, it’s a good idea to run the manual campaign for a couple of weeks to see if it achieves the goal of lowering CPC and generating sales. 

Pro tip: Manual bidding is great when you need more control over bids. But this strategy also means more time often goes into making sure you’re bidding the right amount at the right time. You can streamline this by setting up automated rules to do things like pause poor performing keywords, raise bids to top of page or first page, raise or lower bids during certain times of day, and more. 

hawksem: ppc optimization blog

Creating an ad group that consists of people who have already visited your landing pages can be the key to improving your conversion rate. (Image via Unsplash)

2. Take advantage of remarketing

Research shows that only about 2% of potential customers convert on their first visit. Does that mean you’re wasting your money on PPC ads? Of course not. You just have to boost their success by pairing them with remarketing (or retargeting) campaigns.

This process involves using ads to follow potential clients who have clicked your ads or visited your site. Placing your ad in front of them serves as a tasteful reminder of the action they may have wanted to take on your website.

Google Ads allows you to segment your remarketing lists to show ads to visitors based on their needs and the landing page the initial PPC ad brought them to. Creating an ad group that consists of people who have already visited your landing pages can be the key to improving your conversion rate.

Pro tip: The minimum audience size for remarketing is 1,000 individual users, which helps Google protect users’ privacy while still allowing you to market to them.

3. Explore Microsoft Ads

Google Ads is an unmistakable leader in the PPC marketing realm. But that doesn’t mean others in the space aren’t worth exploring. For some companies, using Microsoft Advertising can be just the solution they’ve been waiting for. 

What’s more, you could potentially see more success with Microsoft Ads. Depending on your industry, there’s often less competition on these platforms, which means lower CPCs. But simply importing a campaign over from Google Ads and forgetting about it means missing highly useful tools other ad platforms have to offer. 

For example, Microsoft advertising has:  

  • Action extensions – add call-to-action (CTA) buttons near your ad that link to the landing page of your choice
  • Review extensions – feature reviews from third-party sites below your ad
  • LinkedIn targeting – view the reactions of the LinkedIn audience to your ads for further adjustments
  • Competition insight – see how your visibility compares to your competition, which shows up for the same search queries

4. Pay attention to Amazon Ads

Amazon Advertising presents another PPC optimization opportunity. While the audience covered by the likes of Google, Microsoft, and Facebook Ads is huge, those who see your ad on those platforms aren’t necessarily in the decision stage of the buyer’s journey.

Amazon audiences, on the other hand, are generally closer to the bottom of the sales funnel. People who visit this shopping giant are likely ready to buy, which increases your chances of conversion tremendously.

These are the types of sponsored Amazon ads potentially at your disposal:

  • Products – keyword-targeted ads that allow you to promote a certain product
  • Brands – help promote your overall brand while including up to three products in the ad (users are directed to the Stores page or a custom Amazon landing page)
  • Display ads – send those who click to Amazon product detail pages, a custom landing page on Amazon, or an external website

Pro tip: You don’t need to sell your products on Amazon to take advantage of this advertising option. 

hawksem blog: ppc optimization

Core Web Vitals show how good of user experience you should aim to offer your visitors. (Image via Unsplash)

5. Take advantage of responsive search ads

After first appearing in 2019, Responsive Search Ads quickly grew in popularity. That’s partly because these ads allow you to create 15 headlines and 4 different descriptions for your ad. Google then tests various combinations of these elements and selects those that perform best depending on factors like:

  • Keywords searched for
  • Devices used
  • Browsing behavior

Responsive ads save time and money on A/B testing while allowing you to reach your target audience faster.

Need more help optimizing your PPC campaigns in 2021? Let’s talk.

6. Optimize your website

Your PPC campaign results can fall far below expectations if you don’t optimize your website to welcome your target audience once they arrive there. As of this year, Google has said they will consider Core Web Vitals when determining the ranking of your pages. These vitals include:

  • Loading performance – The page should load in under 2.5 seconds.
  • Visual stability – Page elements shouldn’t move when the user is reading the text (it usually happens when a piece of media loads), forcing the visitor to search for their lost place.
  • Interactivity – The time between the visitor taking action (like clicking a button or tab) and the website responding should be under 100 milliseconds.

Core Web Vitals show how good of user experience you should aim to offer your visitors. Improving them won’t just improve search engine optimization efforts, but it’ll also help your PPC ad clickers actually convert.

Pro tip: While you’re working on your website, make sure you’re prioritizing landing page optimization, too. When your landing page has content similar to keywords you’re using, it strengthens the relevancy, which Google may reward with a higher Quality Score.

7. Revisit your keywords

When’s the last time you took a long, hard look at your keywords? Now is a great time to consider things like expanding your current keyword lists, updating your negative keywords, and getting rid of those that are underperforming.

A few keyword tweaks could bring big benefits. Even actions as minor as adding an adverb, removing a term with low search volume, or seeing which terms your competition is ranking for could bring you that much closer to more clicks and higher ROI.

Pro tip: Consult your user search term reports to find new keywords to add that aren’t already in your account, then use Google Keyword Planner for additional research and new campaigns.

8. Check in on your conversion tracking

We highly recommend using Google Tag Manager (GTM) and Google Analytics (GA) for conversion tracking. Why? Let’s say you want to drive form fills. You can configure your tags in GTM, build those goals in GA, and import your GA goals to Google Ads. 

If you have the same goal for multiple channels (e.g. paid social and paid search, or SEO and paid search), it streamlines the conversion setup. You can also configure Google Ads conversion tags in GTM (bypassing GA, but it means that you’re only recording Google Ads conversions). 

As a bonus, once you link your GA and Google Ads accounts — which you need to do before importing goals — you can also create remarketing audiences in GA and import those into your Google Ads.

The takeaway

PPC optimization is an ongoing process. And with multiple new options and updates happening every year, it’s nearly impossible to thrive without analyzing regularly so you can keep enhancing your strategies.

At the end of the day, the best PPC ads are clear, consistent, targeted to the right audience, and follow through on what they offer.

This article has been updated and was originally published in July 2020.

Sam Yadegar

Sam Yadegar

Sam Yadegar is the co-founder and CEO of HawkSEM. Starting out as a software engineer, his penchant for solving problems quickly led him to the digital marketing world, where he has been helping clients for over 12 years. He loves doing everything he can to help brands "crush it" through ROI-driven digital marketing programs. He's also a fan of basketball and spending time with his family.

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