Written by Sam Yadegar on Apr 11, 2022

So, you’ve got the whole PPC campaign process down — or do you?

Here, you’ll find:

  • What makes a PPC campaign successful
  • Ways to determine your PPC campaign goals
  • How to pick the right keywords
  • Why campaign tracking is crucial

These days, having an established PPC campaign isn’t enough. You need one that converts. That usually means a set-it-and-forget-it strategy simply won’t cut it.

ROI should be the driving force behind every aspect of designing, launching, and monitoring your PPC campaign.

Want to make sure it’s embedded in your digital marketing plan and processes? Keep reading.

man sitting and looking at a tablet screen

Your goal should be centered around overall ROI as well as year-over-year growth. (Image: Unsplash)

1. Determine your goals

Most marketing pros are familiar with “SMART” goals. This type of goal-setting can be highly effective, no matter your company size or industry.

  • S – Specific: Well-defined goals that help drive your PPC campaign forward
  • M – Measurable: Goals that can be measured by specific metrics to see how you’re progressing
  • A – Achievable: Goals that you set must be achievable — while the sky’s the limit, you should have a clear understanding of how much your team can really accomplish
  • R – Relevant: Your PPC goals should be relevant to your overall marketing strategy and align with your business goals
  • T – Timely: Goals need to have clear deadlines to help you achieve the desired results on time

A SMART goal for PPC marketing could be: “Streamline Google Ads campaign to increase website traffic by 5% before May 1” or use “PPC to get 15 new leads by the end of the month through a website contact form.”

Applying this mindset to your PPC campaign can help you zero in on what you want to accomplish — maybe it’s more sales, market expansion, the desired CPA, more precise persona targeting, more effective lead nourishment, or something else. 

Whatever your goal, it should be centered around overall ROI as well as year-over-year growth.

2. Identify the right keywords

Having the right keywords is crucial for a campaign’s success. 

Once you’ve determined your goals, you can identify the keywords you want to leverage for this particular PPC campaign. These could include the services you offer, the products you sell, or phrases customers use in connection to your business.

Create a list of keywords by pulling your own search query data or using a keyword tool like Semrush or Google’s Keyword Planner. Add in factors like long-tail and negative keywords, then work to identify those that are highly relevant but not highly competitive.

Pro tip: Having a clear understanding of your ideal client persona (or personas) will help you develop a list of high-performing keywords.

3. Expand on those keywords

Before checking “keywords” off the list, it’s a good idea to expand your list of keywords to make sure there aren’t any important words and phrases you’re missing out on.

You can do this in a few ways: 

  • Analyzing your competitors and seeing what keywords they’re leveraging
  • Looking into your target audience’s search behavior to uncover more keywords
  • Using a keyword tool to see if there are any suggested keywords you haven’t included

For even more inspiration, you can look into a service like Answer the Public that aggregates questions people ask around different keywords, giving you more insight into their search motivations.

4. Prioritize your chosen keywords

As your campaign progresses, you’ll start to get a better idea about which keywords are top performers and which can be cut.

Because the frequent iterating and optimizing of these campaigns can be time-consuming, those without the expertise or bandwidth often turn to a digital marketing agency that can manage these types of campaigns on an ongoing basis.

Thinking of partnering with an agency? Might we suggest…

keys in the shape of a circle next to a newspaper

Put your keywords into different categories based on the type of advertisements they create. (Image: Unsplash)

5. Categorize your keywords

Keywords can fall into many categories: high-intent, branded, and feature-specific, just to name a few. 

A great way to stay organized and make sure you’re covering all your bases is by breaking up keywords into thematic Ad Groups.

You can group keywords into the categories above, or things like funnel stage, persona, service, and intent. Put your keywords into different categories based on the type of advertisements they create.

The eventual goal is to establish and track different types of ads based on the type of keywords. Basically, this ensures your ads directly relate to the search being made.

6. Set up ads

There’s no shortage of advice to be found about the best ways to set up PPC ads for maximum ROI. But through our years of experience, we’ve narrowed it down and found that there are a few key facets to creating ads that convert.

They include:

  • Keeping ads short, catchy, and relevant
  • Having a consistent look and message from ad to a landing page
  • Leveraging ad extensions
  • Targeting based on location
  • Taking advantage of remarketing when applicable
  • A/B testing

Pro tip: If you’re unfamiliar with the technicalities of ad management, your chosen ad platform or platforms should have step-by-step instructions for setting up your ads and their corresponding keywords.

7. Think about context and content

When planning your ad copy, be mindful of where the ads will be placed. With display ads, for example, it makes sense to keep the ad copy relevant to the content of the sites where they’ll appear — if you know what those sites will be.

That’s where the Google Display Network’s keyword contextual targeting comes in. 

As a more advanced and efficient way to choose the sites to place display ads on, this method allows you to create a list of keywords so your ad can be more closely matched to pages with similar context and content. 

Essentially, this lets you better target the sites where your display ad would show up.

8. Determine the desired conversion action

A “conversion” isn’t defined the same way across the board. Different industries and campaigns will have different definitions of what action they consider to be a conversion.

This could mean:

  • A submitted form
  • A completed sale
  • A demo or consultation request
  • A downloaded piece of content
  • An email subscription

No matter your conversion type, it can be measured by tracking the number of people that perform the measurable task once they reach your landing page. 

During the planning process, think about the desired action you want your potential customers to perform, then make it easy for them to do so.

Pro tip: It’s usually a best practice to stick to one CTA per ad and per landing page. Otherwise, you risk confusing the consumer and missing a conversion.

view from the backseat of two people in the front of a driving car

Effective ads drive people to your landing pages. From there, you’ve got to have a strong landing page poised to turn clicks into conversions. (Image: Unsplash)

9. Focus on Quality Score

Quality Score is closely tied to the ROI of your PPC campaign. It helps advertisers understand how relevant Google sees their ad and targeted keywords. Besides affecting the ad performance, it also influences the cost per click.

To improve the Quality Score, you can focus on:

  • Optimizing landing pages
  • Streamlining keyword research tactics
  • Testing a few ad copy variations
  • Organizing your keywords into groups

One way to work on improving your score (and ROI) is to dig deeper into negative keywords. You could be wasting your budget on irrelevant search terms without even knowing it.

Identify negative keywords and implement them into your campaign. Just keep in mind that the negative keyword list has to be adjusted regularly.

10. Design optimized landing pages

We’ve highlighted key ways to boost landing page conversions before.

Some of those ways include:

  • A strong call to action (CTA)
  • A special offer
  • An easy way to share
  • A mobile-friendly experience

Effective ads drive people to your landing pages. From there, you’ve got to have a strong landing page poised to turn clicks into conversions

11. Set up proper tracking

Spoiler alert: Establishing a new campaign is just the beginning.

From there, you’ve got to have the means to test, track, and adjust your initial plan in order to achieve an optimal ROI.

That means taking the time to pull reports, analyze the data, and pinpoint strengths and weaknesses in your campaign so you can iterate accordingly. 

By following the steps outlined above, however, you’ll be set up to see all that effort turn into a well-executed campaign that converts.

The takeaway 

While PPC campaigns can be highly effective, they don’t always provide the desired ROI. 

To make sure you’re getting the most out of your campaign, focus on the right elements.

These include testing and optimizing, improving your Quality Score, staying organized, targeting the right keywords, and having accurate tracking in place to achieve your marketing goals without breaking the bank.

This post has been updated and was originally published in August 2014.

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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