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Written by Sam Yadegar on Apr 6 , 2021

Don’t fall for these roadblocks on the path to PPC success.

Here, you’ll find:

  • The common PPC mistakes even seasoned marketers fall for
  • How to avoid these pitfalls in your own campaigns
  • What elements make up a successful PPC program
  • Why optimization, consistency, and proper targeting are key

Running a pay-per-click (PPC) advertising campaign is like getting your first credit card. If used wisely, you’ll spend some money now and be rewarded for your good decisions later. 

On the other hand, if you’re careless or not especially thoughtful about your decisions, you could be out of funds before you know it. 

While we can’t speak to your credit score, we can help you learn from the PPC mistakes of others without having to make these missteps yourself.

Here are the top 9 most common PPC mistakes we’ve seen, along with tips for avoiding them.   

HawkSEM: PPC mistakes

Once you know your audience, you can choose better keywords and create stellar ad copy that gets your target audience to click. (Image via Unsplash)

1. Not having a concise goal and strategy

We don’t recommend starting a PPC campaign without a clear goal in mind. Without a specific target or timeframe, it’s difficult to track your progress or know how to measure success.

End goals are so important that Microsoft Advertising begins every campaign setup process by asking you what your goal is so they can offer helpful suggestions. Plus, not having a goal can potentially make any strategy seem like it’s moving in the right direction.

Once you define your goal, you can create a plan for how to reach it. Define your audience as specifically as you can. Once you know your audience and strategy, you can choose better keywords and create stellar ad copy that gets your target audience to click. 

2. Not realizing that PPC goes beyond Google

Plenty of marketers get trapped in a Google-only mindset. But, as we’ve said before, Microsoft Advertising is a viable option for plenty of industries. 

Ads on Bing (Microsoft’s search engine) also run on the Yahoo! and AOL search networks. They have exclusive access to 63 million searchers who opt for the Microsoft search engine over Google, and their users tend to spend more money too. Don’t let Google’s reputation trick you into missing out on that opportunity.

Pro tip: Microsoft Advertising has a display network called the Audience Network that can be leveraged as well.

3. Not geo-targeting

Even if you’re selling your product or service all over the country, geo-targeting can help your ads appeal to people on a more personal level. 

People are attracted to brands and ads that feel personalized and like they’re speaking to them. This goes for both local and national companies. Google will allow you to geo-target advertisements by state, so you can include the user’s home state in the header of your ad to grab their attention. 

Take it from the search engine itself: “Location targeting helps you focus your advertising on the areas where you’ll find the right customers, and restrict it in areas where you won’t,” explains Google. “This specific type of targeting could help increase your return on investment (ROI) as a result.”

4. Not using negative keywords

You already know how essential your keywords are in a campaign, but there are a few other things you need to be aware of to better make use of keywords.

One of the PPC mistakes many companies fall for is failing to use negative keywords in their strategy. Negative keywords are terms that you can use to tell Google which search terms you don’t want to show up in the results for. 

For example, if you’re selling luxury bedding, and “bedsheets” is your keyword, you wouldn’t want to appear in a search query like “what to do with old bedsheets?” Using negative keywords can help improve the relevancy of your ads and make sure the right people are seeing them.

Pro tip: Don’t neglect your own branded keywords. Some companies will bid on the competition’s keywords to siphon off buyers looking for their brand. If your competition is bidding on your keywords and you aren’t, that could be a costly mistake.

5. Not taking advantage of available resources

Paid search platforms often have various features and tools to make managing your account easier. The trick is knowing what they are. For example, Google has ad scripts that help you automate many important but tedious repeating tasks. They can analyze your ads, send budget alerts, and assist with bid management.

Google also allows you to schedule your ads to run during certain times of the day. There are often windows of heightened conversion when your target audience will be most likely to see your ads. 

Ad extensions are another great resource. You can spotlight prices, location, site link, or features by adding them. They make the ads larger and more engaging. Ad extensions are free and can do wonders for your clickthrough rate (CTR). 

confusing ppc mistakes

If people get different messages from your ads and landing pages, they may end up confused about who you are and what you offer. (Image via Unsplash)

6. Not optimizing your landing pages

Where do people get sent when they click on your ad? If they’re not taken to a specific and optimized landing page, they may be unsure of what to do next. 

An optimized landing page has specific language about the next step a visitor to your site should take — aka the call to action (CTA). The CTA could ask them to do something like sign up for your email list, schedule a consultation, fill out a form, or give you a call.

Make sure your landing page is written with clear, easy-to-understand messaging that matches the language in your ad, and that you have an explicit next step. Elements that make up a killer landing page include:

  • An eye-catching headline
  • An easy form
  • A mobile-friendly experience
  • A thoughtful design

7. Not having a consistent message

Let’s circle back to messaging. Throughout all the content you create (including ads and landing pages), your tone, message, and branding should be consistent. If people get different messages from your ads and landing pages, they may end up confused about who you are and what you offer. 

Do your keywords match what you’re selling? Do they match the keywords on your landing page? If not, visitors may be unsure about whether your business is what they’re looking for and bounce from your page. 

To remedy this, it’s wise to repeat your ad copy on your landing page to keep visitors on track. Other best practices include having a similar design across all of your platforms and offerings, and keeping the tone and voice consistent throughout.

Need more help with your PPC? That’s why we’re here.

8. “Setting and forgetting” your campaigns

Another one of the PPC mistakes we see over and over is thinking that you can simply set up a campaign and let it run on its own. Experience has shown us that these campaigns require consistent monitoring, analyzing, and updating to reach their goals. 

Building a PPC campaign is a lot of work, so once it’s up and running, you may be tempted to leave it alone, sit back, and let it do its job for a while. But the truth is, it’s a good idea to monitor its performance as often as possible. You’re paying for the ad daily, after all, so you want to make sure you’re spending your ad budget wisely.

Look at your key performance indicators (KPIs) and watch for things like:

  • Low CTR
  • A low number of conversions
  • Keywords that aren’t converting
  • Other strange behavior or problematic issues 

As your campaign matures, you can start to think about scaling it. Then, once the campaign has collected enough data, you can look into expanding your keyword lists, try new types of campaigns and bidding strategies, and set up additional campaigns.

9. Striving for first place

Everyone wants to be #1 when it comes to PPC advertising, but it may be difficult (not to mention unsustainable) to strive for the top spot in the long term. 

While being in a higher position on the search engine results page (SERP) will pretty much guarantee you more clicks and an increase in web traffic, this isn’t always a great strategy for your budget. 

Ads further down the page can still have great CTRs and conversion rates, and will end up costing you less in the long run. 

The takeaway

When it comes to creating PPC ads that work, you may need to use a little trial and error before landing on the formula that gets you the results you want for your business. 

Luckily, avoiding the PPC mistakes above can help you have a more efficient journey towards creating a great PPC campaign with impressive ROI. 

This article has been updated and was originally published in May 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.

Questions or comments? Join the conversation here!

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Written by Sam Yadegar on Mar 23 , 2021

Looking to improve your ad strategy without blowing through your PPC budget in a flash? You’re in the right place.

Here, you’ll learn:

  • Why your PPC campaign is costlier than it should be
  • Ways to achieve a lower cost per click (CPC)
  • How to take full advantage of Google Ads’ dynamic cost-cutting features
  • Expert tips for keeping your budget in check

Is your PPC strategy growing costlier each time you pull a report? 

With competition constantly evolving, bidding on high-volume keywords can become more expensive — fast. As a result, while your paid search tactics may still be yielding excellent results, the ROI could be going down.

If you want to keep expenses at the same level, PPC needs regular tweaking, improving, and adjusting. These tips can help you make a more cost-effective PPC plan without having to revamp your entire strategy or lose your competitive edge.

ppc budget challenges

Analyze your existing PPC campaign to find out when the biggest number of conversions occurs. (Image via Unsplash)

1. Leave a few expensive keywords to SEO

Expensive, high-volume keywords may be inflating your PPC campaign budget. However, deleting them from the equation entirely could hurt your marketing campaign. 

If you can’t afford the CPC for several of your important keywords, consider changing your tactic by leveraging them for search engine optimization (SEO) purposes.

Implementing more high-volume keywords into your website content can still get you the traffic you aim for in due time while saving precious ad dollars. Take things a step further by creating a thorough content plan that includes topic clusters with high-volume keywords to achieve even better results.

2. Focus on timing

In the race to choose the perfect PPC settings, companies often forget about the time. But if you don’t limit the time of the day your ads show up in front of the audience, you could be overpaying.

Analyze your existing PPC campaign to find out when the biggest number of conversions occurs. You can determine the times of day (and days of the week) when your PPC efforts are especially effective from there. As a result, you can stop showing your ads during low-conversion times and save money by eliminating useless clicks.

3. Choose one search network

If you’re trying to maximize your use of the Google Ads platform by leveraging all of its networks, you could be spreading yourself (and your PPC budget) thin. 

Running Search and Display network campaigns simultaneously can eat up your ad spend quickly without generating sufficient results or providing you the necessary information for further marketing efforts.

Create a more cost-effective PPC strategy by figuring out which search network can achieve the best results for your current business and marketing goals.

  • Google Search Network: best for attracting high-intent, targeted visitors
  • Google Display Network: best for brand awareness, remarketing

You can also switch between networks, just remember that each one warrants a separate campaign.

4. Explore YouTube Ads

While offering a wide variety of targeting possibilities, YouTube ads often have a much lower CPC than Google Ads (plus, Google owns YouTube). And with billions of monthly users, YouTube can turn into a powerful driving force behind your marketing efforts. 

Besides helping you target consumers by demographics and location, YouTube has highly personalized and advanced targeting capabilities. This allows you to choose the best formats to help achieve relevant marketing goals.

YouTube has a clear affordability advantage ($0.10 — $0.30 CPC) over Google Ads ($1 — $2 CPC for Search Network) while providing an impressive functionality and a wide reach.

Want to learn more about cutting PPC costs without losing value? Get in touch.

ppc budget - clean up testing

Clean up your A/B testing by stopping the process as soon as you get sufficient information. (Image via Unsplash)

5. Give more attention to negative keywords

Negative keywords are a crucial cost-effective PPC plan feature. If you aren’t using them carefully, you could be overpaying for useless clicks. 

Build your list by paying attention to the query reports that show which irrelevant searches are leading to clicks. Analyze these searches to beef up your negative keyword list.

Make sure to update negative keywords regularly. Each new PPC campaign report can give you new ideas for negative keywords. You can also do your own brainstorming to determine which terms you don’t want to rank for. 

Pro tip: Pay special attention to negative location keywords, as they tend to generate numerous erroneous clicks.

6. Clean up your A/B testing

While A/B testing is essential to a high-quality PPC campaign, overdoing it could be costly. Running several split testing campaigns for too long could be eating up your PPC budget quicker than producing results.

Clean up your A/B testing by stopping the process as soon as you get sufficient information. Failing to pause an A/B testing campaign on time simply turns it into A and B campaigns. Essentially, this means you’re paying for two similar campaigns, increasing your CPC in the process.

The length of the A/B testing process depends on a variety of factors, including budget, audience size, testing elements, and more. After a few weeks, see if you have enough info to confidently make a decision.

7. Consider Google’s dynamic keyword insertion feature

One of the advanced Google Ads features, dynamic keyword insertion (or DKI), could do wonders for making more cost-effective PPC campaigns.

DKI lets you create text ads which are automatically updated by Google to match the user’s search terms. This allows your ad to show up for variations of a particular keyword, giving it an opportunity to reach a wider audience with high conversion potential.

Essentially, DKI personalizes the ad for the searcher, making sure they get what they’re looking for. By boosting relevance, you can improve your chances of getting a valuable click-through while cutting costs on creating new ads.

Pro tip: You should avoid using DKI if you’re bidding on competitor brand terms. This is because their name will be in your ad, which could be viewed as deceptive (even if it’s unintentional). 

8. Beef up ad extensions

With traditional text ads, you don’t always get sufficient real estate to say everything you want to say. That’s where using ad extensions comes in handy.

These extensions allow you to increase the size and relevance of your paid ads by letting you include information that doesn’t fit into the ad itself, which can up your CTR.

You can also take advantage of Google’s dynamic ad extensions that pull information from your website and add it to your ad when it’s relevant to the searcher.

The takeaway

Your PPC campaign shouldn’t be static — it needs continuous updates to stay relevant and cost-effective. Luckily, there are a handful of cost-cutting options and strategic ways to keep your budget in check. 

By taking advantage of the available PPC options, features, and possibilities, you can keep your campaign (and your ad spend) in top shape.

This article has been updated and was originally published in October 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.

Questions or comments? Join the conversation here!

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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.

Questions or comments? Join the conversation here!

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Written by Caroline Cox on Jan 19 , 2021

Yes, your PPC campaign should have negative keywords here’s why.

Here, you’ll find:

  • What defines a negative keyword
  • How negative keywords differ from standard keywords
  • Tips for building a negative keyword list
  • Best practices for these keyword types

Like noodles for spaghetti, sunshine for plants, and gin for martinis, keywords are an essential part of pay-per-click (PPC) campaign success. The trick lies in understanding how best to deal with them so that everything runs smoothly.

Maybe your paid search campaign brings in a ton of leads, but the conversion rate is low, meaning you’re spending precious ad dollars on unqualified clicks. Even with an otherwise stellar PPC strategy, ignoring negative keywords could waste a huge chunk of your budget. 

That’s because you could be getting clicks meant for similar-sounding, but ultimately unrelated keywords. We’ve seen upwards of 90% in wasted ad spend when clients don’t include any negative keywords in their account.

If you feel confident that you’ve selected the right keywords that are hyper-focused on your audience, that’s great! But if you’re not also leveraging negative keywords, you may be missing out on making your PPC campaigns as targeted as they can be.

Want to make sure you know all the benefits of negative keywords for PPC? Then let’s dive in.

What are negative keywords?

Taking advantage of negative keywords can do wonders for eliminating window shoppers and bad leads. According to Google, a negative keyword (also known as a negative match) is a keyword type “that prevents your ad from being triggered by a certain word or phrase.”

Meaning: if someone searches for a phrase including a term you’ve deemed a negative keyword, your ads won’t show up. 

HawkSEM: How Negative Keywords Benefit Your PPC Campaigns

When you’re mining your reports for keywords to exclude, you want to include their variations as well. (Image via Unsplash)

Negative keywords vs. standard keywords

Keyword targeting helps ensure your paid search ad is tailored to your audience. When you pay for each individual click, you want as many clicks as possible to be from qualified leads. Negative keywords work the same way, just in the opposite direction.

When you add negative keywords, ad platforms (such as Google or Microsoft Advertising) know that you don’t want your ad to appear for searches containing those words.

If your company makes salsa, for instance, then you may want “salsa” to be one of your keywords. But if someone searches online for “salsa dancing” or “salsa lessons,” they’re probably not looking for your product. By adding these as negative keywords, you can filter out people searching with these terms and save money on bad leads.

Pro tip: Negative keywords only apply to the first 16 words in a search query. So, when it comes to especially long queries, negative keywords after the 16th word won’t trigger the filter and your ad may still appear.

How to build your negative keyword list

It’s a good idea to conduct your negative keyword research the same way you conduct your standard keyword research, specifically before and during a campaign launch.

There are some terms — like “address,” “free,” and “login” — that you’ll probably want to select right off the bat. Google suggests using your search term reports to look for terms that only seem relevant. Are there any that clearly stand out as negative keywords? Add those to your list.

However, before using search term reports, start by thinking about the types of businesses, products, or services that your brand could be mistaken for (like the salsa example above). Then, brainstorm the search terms that might be used to describe them.

Want to take your PPC to the next level this year? We can help.

The different types of negative keywords

As with standard keywords, there are various types of negative keywords. For PPC campaigns, negative keywords can be:

  • Broad match – Keywords that don’t have surrounding punctuation (there’s no negative broad match modifier match type)
  • Exact match – If the search contains the exact negative keyword you’ve specified, the ad won’t appear
  • Phrase match – Your ad won’t come up if the exact keyword terms, in that order, are searched

But that doesn’t mean they function in all the same ways. As of the past few years, we’ve seen that “exact match” doesn’t always mean exact for standard keywords. It does, however, when it comes to negative ones. 

Google explains that the main difference between these two types is that you need to include variations of these keywords if you want to exclude them. These variations can include:

  • Synonyms
  • Singular or plural versions
  • Misspellings
  • Any other close variations

When you mine reports for keywords to exclude, it’s wise to exclude their variations as well.

Pro tip: When you enter your keywords into Google Ads, you can add them at both the ad group and campaign level. For negative keywords, you generally want to apply them to the campaign level, not just the ad group level, so other keywords can exclude that term.

HawkSEM: How Negative Keywords Benefit Your PPC Campaigns

Regularly go into your ads account, head to “search terms” in your Keywords tab, and mark any keywords you see that stand out as being irrelevant. (Image via Unsplash)

Adjust your negative keyword list as needed

Just like your standard keyword list, your negative list shouldn’t remain stagnant. You should consistently recheck and optimize it to make sure your PPC ads are as targeted as possible.

How often you go over your list will depend on various factors, including your campaigns and bandwidth. No matter what “consistent” means for you and your team, make a recurring reminder to go into your ads account and head to “search terms” in your Keywords tab to mark any keywords you see that stand out as irrelevant.

In January 2021, Google made it easier to manage negative keyword lists. Google Ads users can now add a new column to view, filter, and edit negative keyword lists applied to campaigns.

Pro tip: When it comes to symbols, Google allows for ampersands (&), accent marks (á), and asterisks (*) in your negative keywords. As such, keywords with and without these symbols will be considered two different negative keywords — think Beyonce as a different keyword than Beyoncé or “black & white” vs. “black and white.”

The takeaway

As you can see, there are many potential benefits to adding negative keywords to your PPC campaigns. Not only does this help weed out those who aren’t in the market for your product or service, but it saves you money because you only pay for clicks that will (hopefully) become customers.

While you don’t want to overdo it on the keyword exclusions, with a bit of brainstorming and some campaign tweaks, you can be sure that your PPC campaign won’t attract the wrong crowd.

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

Caroline Cox

Caroline Cox

Caroline is HawkSEM's content marketing manager. She uses her more than 10 years of professional writing and editing experience to create SEO-friendly articles, educational thought leadership pieces, and savvy social media content to help market leaders create successful digital marketing strategies. She's a fan of seltzer water, print magazines, and huskies.

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Written by Sam Yadegar on Oct 21 , 2020

An unoptimized PPC campaign could be worse than not running ads at all.

Here you’ll find:

  • Common pay-per-click (PPC) myths
  • The truth behind these myths 
  • The benefits of monitoring and optimizing ads
  • How SEO plays into PPC success

We know PPC is a key component to most digital marketing programs. Not only can it help increase web traffic, but it allows you to target your audience at a time when they’re seeking your products or services. 

Because of the popularity of PPC (or paid search), there’s a wealth of information swirling around about best practices and getting started. But, depending on the source and age of the content, you shouldn’t always believe what you read. 

As times change and technology shifts, some PPC practices become outdated. What’s worse, following some obsolete suggestions about paid ads can end up costing you. 

Want to make sure you can separate fact from fiction when it comes to PPC? You’re in luck: we’ve busted 8 common PPC myths to ensure you’re on the right track. 

PPC myths blog

Being in the top spot on the search engine results page (SERP) is great for visibility, but it’s not always the best for conversion rates. (Image via Unsplash)

PPC Myth #1: You should run PPC campaign on autopilot to save time

Truth: While it’s easy to see the appeal of the “set it and forget it” strategy, this will not only cost you more money, but could cost you qualified leads. 

Some brands think a campaign simply consists of selecting keywords, creating ads, setting a budget, and letting it run. But we’re filing this under “PPC myths,” since putting a PPC campaign on autopilot often isn’t the way to get the most bang for your buck. Rather, your PPC management should follow the same advice that applies to most things in life: the more effort you put in, the more you get out of it. 

Setting up an effective PPC campaign is a detail-oriented process that requires consistent monitoring and testing. This is why some businesses opt to hire a PPC expert to manage their campaigns and achieve the best results. 

PPC Myth #2: Top placement means higher conversions

Truth: Being in the top spot on the search engine results page (SERP) is great for visibility, but it’s not always the best for conversion rates. That’s because the #1 spot not only grabs those ready to purchase but also those searchers who may be in the researching stage of the buying process. 

Because of this, you may end up spending more money to keep the top placement than you’re getting in return on ad spend (ROAS). 

It’s also important to remember that a company with a larger budget may be able to outbid you for the coveted top position. Testing different ad positions (and types) is the only way to determine which one strikes the best balance of cost vs. value in your target market and in terms of your goals. 

Pro tip: If you notice a low click-to-conversion ratio when monitoring your paid ads, dig deeper to determine what the cause might be (such as an irrelevant landing page or broken link).

PPC Myth #3: You should use generic keywords for a wider reach

Truth: While dumping a bunch of general industry keywords into your PPC account may help get your ad in front of more people, it won’t provide you with the most qualified traffic or help increase your bottom line. 

In reality, adding a ton of generic keywords will deplete your budget super-fast without the desired results. Instead, it’s best to rank for the most relevant keywords that your target audience uses when typing into the search box to generate a much better return on your paid ad investment. 

Pro tip: Use geo-targeting and a mix of short-tailed and long-tailed keywords to reach a variety of buyers within your service area. 

PPC Myth #4: PPC is best as a short-term strategy

Truth: Some business owners mistakenly believe they only need to employ PPC to promote specific sales or limited-time offers. But using paid ads only as a short-term strategy can be detrimental to its overall effectiveness. 

While PPC helps generate website traffic relatively quickly, having continually running ads will yield you the highest ROI. Also, the data gathered from those clicking on your ad can be beneficial for optimizing your ads and for retargeting campaigns later. 

blog - PPC myths

Some advertisers see better conversions and ROI results with search engine sites outside of Google because there’s less competition. (Image via Rawpixel)

PPC Myth #5: You can quickly improve rankings by increasing your PPC budget

Truth: Of course, it helps to have a sizable budget you can put towards PPC bids — but it’s certainly not everything. There are other key factors you need to take into account when it comes to a campaign’s relevance to improve your rankings, such as:

  • Quality score
  • Targeting
  • Ad copy
  • Extensions

Paying attention to your quality score can help to improve your rankings because the higher the score, the more Google or other search engine ad platforms see your ads as relevant for the search intent. 

When you notice a lower score, it should be a red flag to take a closer look at your ads and see how you can improve the targeting or message of the campaign. Even without a large budget, you can create an effective PPC strategy. 

PPC Myth #6: Stick to Google for your PPC campaigns

Truth: One of the biggest PPC myths is that Google is the only search engine you need to invest in when advertising. While Google is the most widely used search engine by consumers, other search engines, such as Microsoft’s Bing and Verizon’s Yahoo!, are also worth exploring.

Although the number of searches on these make up a smaller percentage, they still see a significant number of users that would seem silly to ignore altogether (especially when these platforms make it relatively easy to export existing Google ads). 

Some advertisers even see better conversions and ROI results with these sites than with Google because there’s less competition. 

PPC Myth # 7: Don’t bother with PPC if you have high organic rankings

Truth: Both SEO and PPC are powerful cornerstones for any well-rounded digital marketing plan. Staying on top of your website’s SEO so you can rank well in organic searches is greatly beneficial, but paid ads can work alongside this organic reach to increase your overall branding efforts and grow your website traffic as a whole. 

PPC campaigns can help you reach your target audience and expand your exposure by allowing your brand to show up for competitive, highly sought-after keywords that you may have trouble ranking for organically. In this way, both organic traffic and paid ads are essential to ensuring your business is reaching the right people at the right time. 

PPC Myth # 8: Any marketer can manage a PPC campaign

Truth: While some teams may be able to handle PPC on their own, others simply don’t have the time or resources to properly dedicate to it. If you or someone on your team doesn’t have time to focus on your PPC account at least on a weekly basis, it may be best to call in an experienced agency to manage your account. 

Besides the time commitment, there are constant changes to monitor and best practices to follow. Hiring professionals who have extensive experience and stay current on new features and updates will help successfully grow your traffic and revenue while giving you hours of time back. 

The takeaway

With an industry that changes as rapidly as digital marketing, it’s no surprise that there are plenty of myths surrounding the best practices, tips, and tactics to follow.

Once you determine what makes a paid search campaign and overall program successful, you can better weed out the PPC myths from the facts. 

Need more help creating a myth-free PPC campaign? Get in touch.

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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Written by Sam Yadegar on Jul 15 , 2020

When it comes to measuring the success of your pay-per-click (PPC) program, here are the top metrics to monitor. 

Here, you’ll find:

  • Ways to determine your specific PPC goals
  • How your goals relate to your KPIs
  • How to evaluate your business’s definition of success
  • Common PPC KPIs used to measure campaign effectiveness

Are you measuring key performance indicators (KPIs) for your marketing campaigns? If you’re not sure how your marketing campaigns are really performing, or if you’re struggling to measure the effectiveness of your campaigns, it may be time to revisit your KPIs.

KPIs, or key performance indicators, give your business an effective, measurable way to track how your campaigns are performing. In the case of a PPC campaign, you want to be sure that you’re seeing a reasonable return on your overall investment. 

By establishing your PPC KPIs, you can create goals in Google Analytics that connect with your Google Ads. This way, you’ll have visibility into campaign performance and can begin sourcing accurate data right from the start. If you haven’t yet determined what you’re trying to accomplish with your campaign, here are some factors to consider.

hawksem blog: PPC KPIs

When you’re first deciding on goals, consider your past marketing successes as well as what you want this specific campaign to accomplish. (Image via Unsplash)

What are you trying to accomplish with your PPC campaign?

Typically, the goal of a PPC campaign is to raise awareness of your brand and to encourage customers to click through the ad to your website over your competitors’. Your PPC campaign may focus on a specific stage of the buyer’s journey or encompass specific keywords that are related to your product or service. 

When determining what KPIs to track, make sure you’ve clearly defined what you’re trying to accomplish with the campaign. For example, if you’re creating a top-of-funnel campaign intended to raise brand awareness or spread information about a new product or solution, you may want to focus on direct clicks more than conversions. 

What does “success” look like for your business?

Every industry — and every brand within those industries — has a different measure of success. A brand that has a significant marketing budget, for example, may have higher goals and be willing to spend more on a campaign. 

If you sell high-dollar products or services or see a significant customer lifetime value (CLV), you may be able to spend more to acquire a single customer than if you’re a small business with relatively low-price items or a lower CLV.

When you’re first deciding on goals, consider your past marketing successes as well as what you want this specific campaign to accomplish. 

Ideally, you want to boost ROI through new sales. But if your goals are more focused on raising brand awareness or bringing customers to your website, you may not see that kind of return in the early stages of your campaign. 

Common KPIs to help track PPC campaign success

Taking a look at common PPC KPIs used to measure the success of campaigns can give you a better idea of what you need to focus on when evaluating your campaign. You may want to consider:

Clickthrough rate (CTR)

Clickthrough rate, or CTR, measures how many people clicked on your ad after seeing it. You can assess clickthrough rate by taking the total number of impressions (the number of times the ad was seen) and dividing it by the number of clicks it received. 

For a view to qualify as an impression, the consumer doesn’t actually have to take any action or interact with the ad. However, the clickthrough rate can give you a better idea about what percentage of people you can expect to click through an ad based on the number of times it’s been seen. 

Cost per click

The cost per click determines how much it costs you when someone clicks on your ad. In the competitive digital ad space, particularly when it comes to specific, high-volume keywords, you may pay more per click than you would in the case of lower-frequency keywords. 

However, those higher costs may be well worth it when you end up with a better overall return on your investment for critical keywords than you do for low-volume keywords. 

hawksem: PPC KPI blog

Keep a close eye on your conversion rate as you consider the performance of your campaign. (Image via Unsplash)

Cost per conversion

As customers click through your ad, some of them will explore your site, join your mailing list, or even make a purchase. How much does it cost to convert customers through those ads? 

Your cost per conversion will naturally be higher than your cost-per-click rate. Not every customer who clicks through your ad will choose to convert, whether that means joining your list or making a purchase from your business. 

Notice that your cost per conversion is higher on a specific type of campaign, or based on specific keywords? You may want to consider revisiting those keywords or the elements of your campaign. This way, you can potentially create a more effective campaign that has a higher return on your investment. 

Conversion rate

Not only do you want to know the cost per conversion, but it’s also important to know how many prospects actually convert. If you notice your conversion rate decreasing — that is, that people are clicking through the ad, but not choosing to make a purchase from your business or to sign up for your mailing list — you may want to consider why. 

Is your campaign focusing on the wrong keywords? Does your landing page fail to deliver the information customers need, or not provide them with an effective call to action? Keep a close eye on your conversion rate as you consider the performance of your campaign. 

Pro tip: Quality score is another KPI worth looking into. While this score is determined by Google, it’s based on factors like your expected clickthrough rate, ad relevance, and landing page experience. A higher quality score means you could rank higher while spending less. 

The takeaway

The last thing you want is to pour money into a PPC program without a clear goal in mind. Having key performance indicators helps you measure success and better pinpoint strengths and weaknesses in your campaigns.

By knowing what PPC KPIs are most important to your brand, you can build a solid plan to help ensure your goals are met.

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.

Questions or comments? Join the conversation here!

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Written by Caroline Cox on May 5 , 2020

In the competitive paid search landscape, “set it and forget it” just won’t cut it.

Here, you’ll find:

  • What a PPC audit is
  • How a PPC audit can improve your paid search
  • Experts tips for conducting PPC audits
  • How often you should audit your PPC program

We know there are the moving parts that come with running successful paid search campaigns. Sometimes, it can feel like balancing spinning plates while trying to ride a unicycle, Cirque du Soleil-style. Add that to all the other tasks on your to-do list, and the set-it-and-forget-it strategy starts to look appealing.

But the best, most profitable PPC campaign you can run is one that you’re consistently analyzing, testing, and improving. That’s where a PPC audit comes in. Here, Jordan Fultz, one of our esteemed SEM managers, breaks down the ins and outs of PPC audits — and why they’re worth your time.

HawkSEM: PPC audits

It’s easy to let PPC audits fall to the back-burner when you’re juggling multiple projects, but they’re one of the most effective ways to assess your PPC efforts. (Image via Unsplash)

What is a PPC audit?

A PPC audit is a detailed look into your PPC account to assess performance, strengths, weaknesses, and what could be tweaked for better results. Whether your account is a rousing success or underperforming, it’s worth conducting a PPC audit. 

It’s easy to let PPC audits fall to the back-burner when you’re juggling multiple projects. But they’re one of the most effective ways to find things in your paid search efforts you may have missed. This is particularly true if you’ve been working with the same account for a long period of time.

Why you should conduct a PPC audit

Multiple elements and settings go into a paid search campaign. That means they all deserve consideration and a closer look when you’re strategizing. It’s easy for subtle settings to function under the radar — even for experienced account managers. 

While it may sound painstaking to analyze each element, it’s key to ensuring your PPC is as high-performing as possible and you’re not wasting spend. After all, what business wouldn’t want to cut spend while increasing revenue? Getting granular with settings is how you do it. Questioning your PPC ad settings can help you consider how you can better aim your ads to searchers when it matters most. 

Pro tip: While quick wins will likely be found during these audits, the process as a whole is a long-term investment that should be honed and repeated for best results.

What a PPC audit can tell you about your brand

An audit can quickly reveal whether your PPC efforts have been working together in tandem toward a common goal or are simply a mishmash of individual campaigns operating in silos. Audits will reveal how much work your business has put into crafting your overall paid search strategy. 

Audits can also reveal how well paid search ads are being deployed according to plan. Even well-designed strategies don’t always follow the planned steps to a T. Corrections may be needed for settings and processes. You might also discover that your paid search data doesn’t completely sync up with your sales data and assumptions, such as increased demand for historically underperforming products or services. 

Lately, COVID-19 has caused many shifts in supply and demand. Thus, weekly audits of search terms and product groups have been especially key. Let this time serve as a reminder that there will always be unpredictable market shifts. PPC audits allow you to see what’s changing so adaptations can be easily implemented.

HawkSEM: PPC audits

During a PPC audit, it’s a good idea to go through every tab, view, and setting in your paid search accounts. (Image via Unsplash)

How to conduct a PPC audit

Audits begin with financial assessments that look at how well your PPC efforts are stacking up against your business goals. Once you have a snapshot, you can then dig into the settings and data to see what opportunities there might be moving forward. Every setting — from the account to the keyword — should be analyzed.

It’s a good idea to go through every tab, view, and setting in your paid search accounts, and to set up your columns so you can see relevant settings all at once.

For larger accounts, once your columns are set up in Google Ads, you can export the data to a spreadsheet to see how many campaigns are:

  • running with automated or manual bidding strategies
  • running with limited budgets
  • targeting different locations
  • and more

Google Ads’ Reports feature will be useful, especially when analyzing a shopping campaign’s product groups (particularly when using custom labels). You should also be analyzing ad copy and landing pages. E-commerce sites are particularly vulnerable to landing pages becoming forwarded or discontinued as products are added and sell out. These businesses in particular need to develop processes for auditing landing pages. 

Conversion actions should also be a primary concern during an audit. You can reference Google Analytics to see what kind of time lag is expected from ad click to conversion. New site visitors will likely behave differently from returning visitors, so you can start to get an idea of how audiences and interest segments will be useful for targeting, observation, or bid modification in Google Ads. Basically, everything should be questioned, tested, and recorded.

How often you should conduct a PPC audit

Generally speaking, planning for a quarterly PPC audit is a good place to start. But your specific frequency will depend on a few factors — namely:

  • your business needs
  • the age of your PPC account
  • the size of your team
  • the rate at which things are changing for your business

Once you go through the process a few times and get a feel for what you want out of your audits, you can then develop your own schedule that meets your needs. After a few quarterly audits, you may find your business needs them more or less frequently.

What steps you should take after your PPC audit

Once your PPC audit is complete, it’s time to dig into the results. Circle up with your team to discuss each finding. This is also the time to address any other questions, concerns, and ideas relating to your PPC initiatives. 

If you’ve performed your audit well, you’ll have plenty to review — even if your accounts have years of strategic iterating behind them. PPC audits aren’t just about looking for weaknesses in your strategy. They’re also a great opportunity to see where (and how) you can improve your PPC, and what parts are working well. 

HawkSEM: PPC audit

Nobody feels good after spending months on PPC efforts just to realize optimizations have been made based on misleading data. (Image via Unsplash)

PPC audit advice from an SEM agency expert:

Make sure your conversion actions are set up properly so you know you’re not double-counting conversions. Look at every single conversion setting, then ask yourself (or your team) if it should be changed. 

Nobody feels good after spending months on PPC efforts just to realize optimizations have been made based on misleading data. No matter your business, it’s key to focus on increasing revenue with paid search. Lock in the best conversion goals for improving the bottom line. 

As a secondary benefit, you’ll be able to test and trust automated bid strategies that rely on conversion actions to optimize themselves. Make sure you set them up for success so you can free up your paid search team’s time with a strategy-driven account suited to automated bid strategies.

The takeaway

 Tunnel vision is a common ailment of paid search teams that are fighting in the proverbial trenches every day. Because of that, fresh eyes can help identify opportunities and threats. 

If your paid search team has writer’s block or is too busy to develop new strategies and ideas, consider bringing in other teams or outside consultants to audit accounts. It’s a time-consuming process, but it’s worth it — there’s always more that can be done or tested. 

But don’t let auditing give your paid search team the impression that they’re not trusted. Audits should be seen as positive, helpful exercises. They’re meant to serve as honest assessments of what’s being done and what can be improved.

Fun fact: At HawkSEM, PPC audits are one of our specialties — see what we mean by requesting a free 10-point PPC analysis today.

Caroline Cox

Caroline Cox

Caroline is HawkSEM's content marketing manager. She uses her more than 10 years of professional writing and editing experience to create SEO-friendly articles, educational thought leadership pieces, and savvy social media content to help market leaders create successful digital marketing strategies. She's a fan of seltzer water, print magazines, and huskies.

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Written by Caroline Cox on Nov 22 , 2019

Pay-per-click (PPC) ads are a highly effective tool for getting your business in front of the right people, at the right time.

Here, you’ll find:

  • What PPC marketing is
  • How to properly manage a PPC campaign
  • What makes PPC ads successful
  • The latest PPC stats

Ah, the ever-changing algorithm. Many a marketer wishes they knew the magic words to instantly land them at the top of search engine results, but we all know it’s not nearly that simple.

And that’s too bad, because we also know that approximately three-fourths of users don’t read past the first page of search results. That’s where pay-per-click (PPC) ads come in.

Also referred to as paid search marketing, PPC marketing falls under the category of search engine marketing. PPC ads are the hyperlinked results at the top of the search engine results page (SERP) above the organic, search engine optimized (SEO) results. They look similar to the organic results, except with a little green box denoting “ad” next to it.

The good news: According to a survey by Clutch, 75% of people say paid search ads make it easier to find the info they’re searching for online.

PPC can be a highly effective tool in your digital marketing arsenal, whether your industry is SaaS, financial services, higher education, insurance, or anything in between. It can help connect you with potential clients through eye-catching copy that provides context and a hyperlink taking them straight to a targeted landing page on your site.

HawkSEM - PPC marketing

PPC ads look similar to organic search results, except with a little box denoting “ad” next to it.

What is PPC marketing?

Paid search and PPC are defined as a type of online advertising that allows marketers to have their brand’s display ads show up on in the sponsored results section of a SERP. And because of the pay-per-click nature of these ads, you only pay when someone actually clicks on your ad.

Getting the clicks — that’s the tricky part. To create the most effective PPC campaigns, you want your ads to appear in front of the right audience searching for the right keywords that makes sense for your product or service.

From there, you place your bid to say how much you think a click is worth. When your ad shows up and gets clicked on, you’re charged a fee (that can vary greatly depending on industry, competition, keywords, quality score, and more).

PPC vs. paid social ads

Social media advertising is a great way to meet your target audience where they are while also subverting pesky platform algorithms that can keep your content from showing up in feeds.

But unlike PPC ads, you pay a flat rate for the ad space — rates don’t change depending on impressions or engagement. This often translates into social ads being more expensive than PPC.

PPC vs. display ads

Display ads are ads that show up on almost every revenue-generating site across the web. These are the ads you see on the top, side, or bottom of website you visit, a mobile app you use, or a video you watch.

Display ads are known for their high visibility rates. Ads created via the Google Display Network reportedly reach more than 90% of people on the Internet. Because of their prevalence, display ads often don’t have as high of a click-through rate (CTR) as PPC ads.

Most often, these ad types are used for branding, so you stay top of mind after someone visits your site, in conjunction with your PPC efforts.

What are the components of a PPC ad?

Let’s start with Google PPC ads. These can contain:

  • 1-3 headlines
  • A display URL
  • A description up to 90 characters long
  • Ad extensions
HawkSEM - PPC marketing

Google allows up to three headlines in a PPC ad.

Headlines

Recently, Google upped the ante by allowing up to three headlines in a PPC ad, separated by a “|” or pipe symbol. Your headlines are where you have the opportunity to catch someone’s attention and highlight a product or service while being direct about what you offer.

When brainstorming PPC ad headlines, consider elements like:

  • Including keywords
  • Highlighting a common problem and/or solution
  • Getting as close to character limits as possible
  • Asking questions
  • Using concise, to-the-point language

Display URL

Your display URL can be your site’s homepage or a simple, clean URL that relates to the keywords and ad copy (such as hawksem.com/ppc). This clean display URL is simply what appears to users within your ad.

Ideally, though, the URL links to a targeted landing page on your site. The landing page should closely match with the look, feel, and verbiage of the ad, with a clearly defined CTA so the person knows what action to take next.

For example, if HawkSEM was creating a PPC ad that offered a free PPC audit, the display URL could be something like hawksem.com/free-ppc-audit. This way the offer is clearly matched with the ad itself. The link might then route to a more complex URL like hawksem.com/ppc-audit/?utm_source=ppc&utm_medium=google-ads&utm_campaign=ppc-audit for tracking purposes.

Descriptions

You’ve got a limited number of characters to work with for your PPC ad’s description — make them count! Your description should speak specifically to your target audience, highlight benefits for them (vs. just talking about how great your offering is), and have a strong call to action (CTA).

Descriptions are most effective when they’re tangible, i.e. offering “25% off” instead of simply saying “we’re the best!” Plus, Google now allows for 2 descriptions, doubling your character count to 180.

Ad extensions

Ad extensions are no-cost additional lines of text that can help improve your CTR by adding more info and context to your ad (as well as more real estate on the SERP). As Google explains, ad extensions can include:

  • More text
  • Call buttons
  • Location info
  • Additional links to your website
  • Star ratings

Your extensions aren’t guaranteed to show up with your ad, but if your ranking is high enough and the extension is likely to improve performance, it will.

Suspect your PPC program might be broken? We’ve got a guide for that.

What are Microsoft Advertising PPC ads?

HawkSEM - PPC marketing

Microsoft Advertising PPC ads (formerly known as Bing ads) function and look similar to Google Ads.

Microsoft Advertising PPC ads (formerly known as Bing ads) function and look similar to Google Ads. They feature the “ad” box next to the result, and include a headline, URL, and description. As you can see above, some ads include additional links and descriptions as well.

HawkSEM - PPC marketing

Shopping ads are more visual, often leading to a higher CTR than plain-text ads.

What are shopping PPC ads?

For e-commerce brands and those who sell products online, shopping ads can be a great way to get someone to “add to cart.” Shopping ads are more visual, often leading to a higher CTR than plain-text ads.

Shopping ads are automated based on data you send to the search engines. That’s why it’s crucial to fully optimize the product pages on your website. To set up your product to be included in the results feed, you’ve got to format your product information to be compatible with the Shopping feed’s ad platform.

Once you submit your product data to the search engine in the proper format, you’ll be primed to show up on the SERP’s ad section. The approval process can take 24-72 hours. Merchant centers for Google and Bing have their own breakdowns to ensure you’re following the proper steps.

What are some stats on PPC marketing?

  • One-third (33%) of respondents in a Clutch survey said they click on a paid search ad because it directly answers their search query.
  • The first PPC ad spaces were reportedly created in 1996 by Planet Oasis and Google as a research project at Stanford University.
  • Microsoft’s search network Bing attracts 116 million unique desktop searchers a year.
  • Between 40 and 60 billion Google searches take place each month in the U.S.
  • In 2018, Google ad spending grew by 23%.
  • Bing users spend 35% more online when shopping from their desktop computers than average internet searchers.
  • People are most likely to click on text paid search ads (49%) vs. shopping or product listing ads (31%) and video ads (16%).
  • Sponsored ads account for 2 out of 3 clicks on the first page of Google results.

What are the benefits of creating PPC marketing ads?

With PPC marketing ads, you don’t have to fight against the algorithm to show up at the top of a SERP listing. These ads put your business in front of the right people at the right time — when they’re searching for something similar to have you have to offer.

Gone are the days of buying ads and crossing your fingers that they’re seen by enough interested people to be worth their price. By using keyword planner tools to target your audience by preference, region, and more — only paying for the clicks you actually get — you have much greater chances of turning that click into a successful conversion.

HawkSEM - PPC marketing

It’s up to you to determine the amount you’re willing to pay when someone clicks your ad. Essentially, you’re deciding how much each click is worth.

How does bidding work?

You likely know how auctions work — there’s an item (or, in this case, a rank placement), and different people try to outbid each other to be the one who scores.

That’s how PPC bidding works, more or less. When someone enters a query into their chosen search engine, there’s an auction. The built-in algorithm picks what they determine as the most relevant paid and organic search results, and that’s what the user sees.

It’s up to you to determine the amount you’re willing to pay when someone clicks your ad. Essentially, you’re deciding how much each click is worth. What makes this tricky is that, unlike in a public auction, you don’t know how much your competitors are bidding on each keyword compared to yours.

If another advertiser outbids you, their ad is the one that’ll get shown. If you bid too high, you may get more clicks, but you can also go through your budget in a snap. To find the happy medium, it takes time and attention, whether that means you, a team member, or a digital marketing agency.

Keep an eye on your click volume and the types of clicks you’re getting — are they qualified leads or are they junk? These insights will help you modify both your bidding and your ad content accordingly.

What is a quality score?

Along with your bid, your quality score also factors into your ad ranking. Google decides on your overall quality score (on a scale from 1, which is not great, to 10, which is excellent).

This can be viewed in the keywords section of your Google Ads account. The better your quality score, the more you’ll rise through the ranks of results and the better cost-per-click (CPC) rate you’re likely to get.

HawkSEM - PPC marketing

Your PPC ad’s ranking at the top of a SERP depends on factors like the keywords you’re bidding on, the competition for those keywords, your bid amount, and your quality score.

What affects an ad’s ranking?

Your PPC marketing ad’s ranking at the top of a SERP depends on a few factors. These include which keywords you’re bidding on, the amount of competition for those keywords, the amount of your bid, and your quality score.

The formula looks something like this:

The ad ranked below you
———————————- + $0.01 = actual CPC
Your quality score

The higher your ranking, the greater your chances are of getting a click — pretty simple. If you want to up your ranking without increasing your spending, make sure your ads are compelling, accurate, and in line with the hyper-focused landing pages connected to them.

You also want to be mindful of who you’re targeting, when you’re targeting them, and where you’re targeting (from region to the search engine itself).

What is PPC lead scoring?

Generating leads is one thing — but knowing the value of the leads being generated is another altogether. When you know the true value of the leads coming in through lead scoring,you can better prioritize and iterate your PPC marketing strategies. This helps you drive more of the kind of leads you want in the future.

You can determine your lead value by setting up a lead-scoring system that connects your quality leads to the amount spent on each lead.

ValueTrack parameters can be added to landing page URLs that gather info about who is clicking your ads. From there, you can pull this PPC marketing campaign data into your CRM to connect with lifetime value and lead score. This helps determine which campaigns are driving the best leads and value (and it’s part of ConversionIQ, our smart approach to marketing).

Armed with this info, you can better analyze your PPC campaigns and keywords to maximize your ROI.

How do you calculate PPC marketing ROI?

Put simply, you can calculate revenue per lead using the following formula:

Total Revenue Generated / Total Number of Leads = Average Revenue Per Lead

However, this doesn’t paint the whole picture. There are other factors at play as well, including your average sales cycle length, site traffic, customer relationship management (CRM) data, and lead scoring to determine your high-quality leads.

Ensure you’re properly measuring your PPC ROI by:

  • Setting up lead scoring
  • Tracking your leads and conversions properly
  • Adding in subjective data regarding experiences with the lead
  • Calculating anticipated ROI before anticipated site traffic

How can you optimize your search engine marketing (SEM) plan for PPC success?

You can have the best PPC ads around — but if the rest of your online presence is lackluster, you still risk those clicks turning into dead ends instead of closed deals.

Take another look at your SEM program. Are you leveraging the right keywords? Have you planned out your ROI goals? Is your site fully optimized? Being able to answer “yes” to all of these questions will give you and your team the peace of mind that you’re doing all you can when it comes to search engine marketing.

Plenty of companies make the mistake of letting conversion tracking fall by the wayside. Some set it up improperly, and some aren’t tracking this at all. Conversion tracking is crucial for giving you insight into performance while providing you with insightful data about customer actions.

A step-by-step plan for an ROI-driven PPC campaign

Think you’ve got the ROI-driven PPC thing down? Make sure you’re taking all of these steps when crafting your campaign:

  • Determine your campaign’s goals
  • Identify, prioritize, and categorize the right keywords for your campaign
  • Write out your ad copy
  • Set up your ads within your chosen ad platform
  • Determine the desired CTA
  • Make sure your landing pages are targeted, consistent, and optimized
  • Have tracking set up (properly! More than 70% of our PPC audits turn up incorrect or with improper tracking.)

How to find the right PPC agency for you

Whether you’re not seeing the PPC results you want or just don’t have the time and resources to manage it all, partnering with an agency can be hugely beneficial. (OK, so maybe we’re a little biased.)

When you’re vetting out the agencies you potentially want to work with, it’s a good idea to prepare by:

  • Having a list of goals and objectives
  • Deciding which services you need
  • Having a budget in mind
  • Determine your key performance indicators (KPIs)

Once you decide which agencies you want to actually connect with in-person or via phone, make sure you get an understanding of their fee structure, company culture, and communication style. You also want to make sure the team you’re working with is knowledgeable and experienced. (Think all PPC agencies are the same? Think again.)

The takeaway

PPC ads have proven to be a way to reach your targeted audience and turn search engine users into customers. Not only can paid search ads boost awareness of your brand by 80%, but they can expand your reach, bring you more traffic, and, ultimately, make you more money.

Ready to take your PPC game to the next level? Let’s chat.

Caroline Cox

Caroline Cox

Caroline is HawkSEM's content marketing manager. She uses her more than 10 years of professional writing and editing experience to create SEO-friendly articles, educational thought leadership pieces, and savvy social media content to help market leaders create successful digital marketing strategies. She's a fan of seltzer water, print magazines, and huskies.

Questions or comments? Join the conversation here!

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