Tag Archives: PPC

Written by Sam Yadegar on Nov 11 , 2022

From getting started to optimizing and testing, these expert tips will ensure your ecommerce PPC ads are set up to stand out.

Here, you’ll find:

  • How to create a proper ecommerce PPC marketing foundation
  • Ways to optimize, organize, and test your PPC campaigns
  • How to grow your success beyond Google Shopping ad campaigns
  • SEM tricks to create successful ads that convert

Ecommerce spending broke holiday records in 2021, with U.S. consumers spending a record $204.5 billion online.

But surprisingly, just 17% of brands say they’re ahead of the curve or leading in the ecommerce space in their industry.

That tells us there’s a wealth of opportunity for your ecommerce company to rise above the ranks. One of the most effective ways to do just that: paid search (also called pay-per-click or PPC) campaigns.

Whether you’ve been doing ecommerce for years or have recently switched to a digital platform amid the pandemic, it’s always good to know what elements make up a successful Google search engine marketing (SEM) ad.

Traditional search campaigns are powered by keywords. But with ecommerce PPC ads, it’s all about the product feed.

Wondering how to get started with ecommerce PPC campaigns? You’ve come to the right place. Let’s break down what steps to take when creating paid search ads for your ecommerce brand.

hawksem article: e-commerce ppc

How you get your products into GMC to create the feed mostly depends on how many products you have. (Image: Rawpixel)

1. Set up your Google Merchant Center account properly

It should come as no surprise that the right setup is key to creating successful ecommerce PPC ads. But plenty of companies, whether or not they realize it, don’t have their accounts set up properly.

This can lead to improper tracking and unnecessary steps. So, how do you ensure you’re starting off on the right foot?

Link your account via a shared email address

To begin, you need to create a free Google Merchant Center (GMC) account. It’s best to use the same email you use for programs like Google Ads (formerly Google Adwords) and Google Analytics. That way, your accounts will all be linked.

From there, you can link your Google Ads account to GMC. It’s also a good idea to install ecommerce tracking in your Google Analytics account for even more insight into performance metrics.

Choose a product data input method

Next, it’s time to get your products into the Google Merchant Center. A few things to consider when determining how to get your product data into GMC are:

  • Which ecommerce platform will you be leveraging?
  • How many products will you be uploading?
  • How many product variations with individual SKUs will you be uploading?
  • Do you have all the product details organized?

How you get your products into GMC to create the feed mostly depends on how many products you have. If you have a lot of products and are using a popular ecommerce marketing platform, such as Shopify or BigCommerce, it should be easy to integrate with GMC.

This will help map your product feed and submit the most updated info to GMC regularly, ensuring your product data is always fresh.

If you’ve got a smaller number of products, you can simply integrate manually via a Google spreadsheet. You can also manually add products one by one if you want to test out the platform first.

Pro tip: If your product list is especially large, Google’s file processor Centimani might be a great solution for you.

Optimize your Merchant Center settings

There are a lot of GMC settings that often get overlooked. One is enabling automatic updates.

Google will crawl your page and find your most updated price and availability if you opt in to get automatic improvements.

This is great if, for example, you run out of stock on a product, because it keeps you from running Google Ads to a page where your products aren’t available. However, if you have your site structured in a way that keeps Google from understanding your pricing, it’s probably best to turn off the automatic price updates.

Once you have everything in GMC, you’ll connect to your Google Ads account and manage your ecommerce PPC efforts there. In April 2020, Google announced that they’d run free listings on Google Shopping. This Shopping section is a lot like Amazon in that you can filter by things like price.

This means it’s more important than ever to get your GMC created with your products and prices because you’ll start getting an organic lift from being on the Shopping tab for free. This can be especially helpful for local SEO.

Pro tip: Even if your business doesn’t have the budget for new campaigns, we still recommend going into GMC and setting up a feed, because you’ll be eligible for free listings in the U.S.

2. Stay on top of your product feed

Once you set up your GMC account, don’t fall into a set-it-and-forget-it mindset.

Making sure to update your product feed is just as crucial as proper setup. (The last thing you want is to have someone click on your ad and see that the item is out of stock or priced higher than advertised, right?)

Once you input products, they’ll remain active for 30 days. After that, those products will expire if you don’t update their info, meaning they won’t be eligible to show potential customers.

You can update your products either by reprocessing your feed or setting up automatic processing on a daily or weekly basis, depending on how often your product inventory changes.

It’s also important to keep your prices updated. A 2021 GMC update increased the scrutiny on prices. Prices listed in your product data, on your landing pages, and at checkout must match. They’ll give you 28 days to resolve the mismatch before suspending your account.

hawksem: e-commerce PPC blog

Including prices in your ads can be a highly effective way to get more clicks than your competition. (Image: Rawpixel)

3. Set up your ecommerce PPC ads campaign

It’s pretty easy to get started once you have GMC linked. It’s usually a good idea to start with a standard Shopping campaign.

Smart Shopping is usually best fueled by having a solid foundation of account data. If you’re just getting started, you may want to run a manual cost-per-click (CPC) campaign first, then experiment with Smart Shopping or automated bidding down the road.

We helped furniture, decor, and design services brand Grayson Living grow e-commerce sales by 279% in the first year alone. Check out this case study to see how we did it.

Get granular

The #1 way to set yourself up for campaign success is to get granular. That’s because the more specific a product search is, the higher the purchase intent is likely to be.

The more you segment your products, the more targeted your PPC ads will be. It makes sense: someone searching for a specific brand, style, color, and size of running shoe is probably more motivated to buy than someone just searching with the term “running shoe.”

You can split products into separate campaigns and ad groups that can then be split further into product groups. If you have a small, manageable number of products, you can break everything out by single-product product groups.

An example: Let’s say your core products are sporting goods, but you also sell apparel as 20% of your business. It may be wise to put all of your apparel into a separate campaign to make sure you’re giving most of your budget to your core products.

You can also divide in other ways, like by devices. Take, for example, a 100% bid adjustment to separate desktop and mobile. For your desktop campaign, you’d put in a 100% bid adjustment on mobile to show only on desktop, and vice versa.

You can separate traffic based on how specific the search is by setting up campaign priorities and then using negative keywords to segregate those searches. Google’s 2021 GMC updates include additional sizing attributes which may be helpful as well.

But that’s not the only way to get granular with your PPC campaigns. Jordan Fultz, a SEM Manager at HawkSEM, recommends being as specific as possible with shipping and return policies. 

“You can set shipping expectations for the holiday rush, or you can set expectations by day of the week in normal sale times,” he explains. “GMC has features to help with the specifics of the holiday rush, too.” For example, you can place something like “Free delivery by Sat, Dec. 24” directly into your ad. 

He also advises investigating whether certain products in specific states don’t collect sales tax. This is an opportunity to reduce your prices as low as possible. For instance, in New York and Connecticut, clothing and footwear priced under $110 are tax-free). 

Pro tip: Google Shopping is unique because it has a priority system — you can set low, medium, and high priority campaigns. If you have several Shopping campaigns, this system dictates which ones serve an ad first.

Include prices in your ads

Your GMC account isn’t the only place you want to make sure your prices are visible. Including prices in your ads can be a highly effective way to get more clicks than your competition. Not only can this help qualify your traffic to ensure you get the right clicks, but it doesn’t take up a ton of valuable ad real estate.

As HubSpot explains, “This saves your ad spend for those qualified leads who saw your prices, know what to expect, might not be scared away by price, and are much more likely to convert into a sale.”

Even if they don’t end up buying your product or service, you’ll have a higher chance of snagging them through remarketing, since they already know what your pricing looks like.

Google recently added a “Deals” feed to the SERP (search engine results pages). When you’re running a promotion, sale, or have products with a recent price drop, consumers searching for deal- or sales-related listings will see your products.

Pro tip: To help products stand out, use promotions and set up the feed to enable strikethrough pricing in Shopping ads. This is when original prices are crossed out to indicate temporarily lowered prices (creating FOMO).

A look at how GMC has recently started reporting free clicks

A look at how GMC has recently started reporting free clicks (via Google Merchant Center)

Remember to optimize

Without optimizing, your PPC campaign can only go so far. Optimizing will help you better manage your budget by putting more spend where you’re seeing more success.

There are two major KPIs to consider when optimizing a Shopping campaign. If you’re on a manual bidding strategy, pay attention to conversion volume and the result of conversion value over cost. That will calculate a rough idea of your return on ad spend (ROAS).

Many ecommerce companies optimize their bids by starting low, then adjusting accordingly. The more data you gather, the more informed your decisions will be.

After you’ve accrued some data, you can decrease bids on anything under your goal or average. You can also increase bids on items that are producing the most conversion value when compared to ad spend.

With Shopping, you can’t run a traditional experiment within Google Ads, but you can switch over for a time period and compare after a while. Automatic bidding strategies are powered by data, so the longer you run them, the better they should get.

If you’re going to try Smart Shopping, it’s a good idea to pick a mix of high and low performers, then exclude those from your regular Shopping campaign. Don’t simply pick all your low performers from your regular Shopping campaign and put them in Smart Shopping. You want a mix to ensure you’re getting accurate results.

Other ways to optimize include:

  • Experiment with different ad types (like product listing ads vs. text ads)
  • Leverage ad extensions to give ads more context
  • Add pricing to ads for a competitive edge
  • Test different campaign structures and categories

Pro tip: We don’t recommend running the same products in your traditional and Smart Shopping campaigns. If you do, Smart Shopping will automatically take precedence.

A remarketing email from Uncommon Goods triggered by cart abandonment.

A remarketing email from Uncommon Goods triggered by cart abandonment.

If you’re planning a holiday sale, then use Google Ads’ seasonality tool to optimize ad performance. 

“If you expect conversion rates (CVR) to increase by 20% for a few days, such as during a Black Friday sale, signal to Google that the CVR will be higher,” Fultz says. “This way, the algorithmic smart bidding doesn’t take 1+ days to adjust. This prevents you from getting a slow start to holiday sales when most shoppers are active.”

Leverage dynamic remarketing

Ah, yes, remarketing — otherwise known as “those ads that follow you around the internet,” as your friends or family may describe them. But the fact remains that remarketing works, particularly for cart abandoners.

If you’re running Google Ads, you’re already paying for people to get to your website. But, as consumers ourselves, we know not everyone buys the first time they visit a site or product page. That’s where dynamic remarketing comes in.

While remarketing (also called retargeting) can be effective in various industries, it’s particularly useful for ecommerce PPC ads. It can help you land more recurring sales, increase your campaign’s clickthrough rate (CTR), boost your ROI, and more.

Dynamic remarketing is a great way to nurture your funnel. At its core, this method aims to show users specific products they’ve viewed on your site. If they look at running shoes, you then show them that exact pair of shoes as a Shopping ad while they browse other sites on the web.

To set up dynamic remarketing, you generally have to add a bit of code to your site. This is powered by your GMC feed, so you have to make sure your account is set up and working if you want it to be successful.

A lot of people put things in their carts while shopping online, then don’t end up following through with the purchase. You can remarket these products to cart abandoners and, if you have the ecommerce settings set up correctly in Google Analytics, you should already have some audiences available.

two woman looking at e-commerce site on laptop

Google will allow your products to remain active for 30 days without new product info. (Image: Unsplash)

4. Test your ads consistently

If you want high-performing ecommerce PPC ads, testing repeatedly is an important step.

You can A/B test elements like your imagery, verbiage, call to action (CTA), and more. After all, what works on your paid social media campaign might be a flop when it comes to SEM. See how a flat-lay image of an item on a white background performs against an image of a real-life scenario.

You may think you know what your target audience wants, but the results could end up surprising you.

5. Think beyond Google

It makes sense that, when you think of paid search ecommerce PPC ads, you automatically think of Google. And while it’s holding strong in its place as the top global search engine, it’s not the only one worth looking into. If you’re seeing success in Google and topping your impression share, why stop there?

You can easily carry your Shopping campaigns over to Bing, now rebranded to Microsoft Advertising. Along with the Bing search engine, this suite includes Yahoo!, MSN, and AOL.

Bing has a user base that searches 7.2 billion times a month. Depending on your ecommerce product, you could see less competition on Bing than on Google, and a potentially cheaper cost per click (CPC).

If you already have a Microsoft Ads account, it’s easy to get a merchant center account set up right from the ad platform. Microsoft will process this data just like Google. Once it reviews the product data, you can create a Shopping campaign within Microsoft or import a Shopping campaign from Google that’s already working well.

In Microsoft Ads, you can even import on a recurring basis. If you set up a recurring sync, you can optimize in one place and make sure it’s carried over easily, instead of having to manually optimize within each platform. You can even optimize based on the different platform behaviors if that proves advantageous.

Publish Amazon PPC ads

Think Amazon Advertising isn’t related to PPC? Think again. Amazon operates as a search engine and even has an advertising platform. It has various ad types and structures similar to what you find in traditional paid search campaigns. 

So if you have an online store on Amazon marketplace and want to drive more user clicks and sales, then setting up an Amazon PPC ad campaign is your best bet. This is particularly helpful if you’re new and need to compete for new customers. Amazon PPC is one of the quickest methods for building brand awareness. 

Similar to Google, you’ll find Amazon sponsored product listings at the top of its search page:

Amazon sponsored ads

Sponsored product listings in Amazon search give your online store a competitive edge.

If you look at the two on the right, you find they only have hundreds of reviews and ratings, compared to those on the right that have thousands or even tens of thousands. Trying to get to the first page of Amazon without PPC ads with only hundreds of reviews is tough when competing against established brands.

Amazon’s ecommerce advertising platform allows you to do everything Google Ads does, including setting the demographics and search terms to target. The only difference is Amazon is where people go to shop, which increases the odds of growing conversions.

Like with any other campaign, you need to ensure your ad copy, images, and pricing is attractive to get clicks. 

6. Use AI data analytics to enhance PPC campaign results 

Lots of clicks = good. Low conversion rates = bad. 

Using basic reasoning to determine the quality of your PPC ad campaigns will only take you so far. And only after wasting tons of money and time will you realize what truly works and doesn’t. 

But what if there was a faster (and more efficient) way to identify the best search queries to bid on for maximum results? It’s possible when you AI data analytics to your advertising strategy. 

For example, ConversionIQ, HawkSEM’s proprietary marketing technology, offers actionable insights to improve results. It does this by pinpointing high-converting audiences and the search terms they use, so you can reduce time spent on keyword research. 

ConversionIQ video screengrab

AI can identify your best prospects and keywords, so you can optimize campaigns for higher conversions.

Knowing exactly which keywords convert best makes ad management easier. And it focuses your marketing budget, so you’re getting the highest return per dollar spent. 

7. Create AR ad experiences

The best ecommerce PPC marketing doesn’t just attract customers — it also entertains them. And if you can do it in a helpful way, then products will practically sell themselves. This is one reason augmented reality (AR) is a game changer for online retailers.

Allowing customers to try on makeup and accessories or see a piece of furniture in their living room before buying improves the user experience. 

By adding AR to your ecommerce PPC strategy, you can stand apart from competitors and give shoppers a glimpse of your product. 


(Image: Instapage)

If you’re looking for a way to make your PPC advertising better, then consider augmenting the realities of prospective buyers.  

The takeaway

Big brand. Little shop. Your size doesn’t matter on the web. If you can outperform established brands in ecommerce PPC ads, then you’re just as worthy of a thousand clicks. But to do this, you must learn the best PPC strategies and how to make your ads stand out. 

Make sure your GMC account is set up properly, product info is fresh, experiments are consistent, and campaigns leverage all the avenues (Google, Microsoft, Amazon) at your disposal.

From there, you can build a strong digital marketing strategy that garners more clicks and sales, so your company continues to grow. 

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 Nov 10 , 2022

Hiring a PPC expert can be challenging, but finding the right one could be your ticket to big wins.

Here, you’ll find:

  • Tips for hiring a PPC expert
  • Top 6 agencies to consider
  • Pros and cons of hiring an individual vs. a PPC agency
  • Common costs and payment terms

As a seasoned digital marketer, you’re probably familiar with Google Ads, industry terminology, key performance indicators (KPIs), and goals. But, depending on your role, you may not be as well-versed in the daily ins and outs of each of the “doers” who fall under your management.

As your department grows and expands (or finds they need to replace a current employee or agency), you may want to look into hiring a PPC expert to manage your paid search campaigns.

There are numerous ways to fill your current need, but there are also plenty of questions to be asked:

  • What’s the best option for your company?
  • Do you go with an agency, a freelancer, or an in-house expert?
  • What are the best PPC agencies?
  • Should you rely on reviews or the recommendations of colleagues?
  • Do you use a specialty hiring platform or turn to the biggest hiring platforms in the country, like ZipRecruiter and Indeed?

We’ll cover it all in this guide.

Top 6 PPC experts

If you’re ready for a roundup and have no time to waste, we got you! Here’s a list of the top six PPC experts: 

  1. HawkSEM
  2. Wordstream
  3. Tinuiti
  4. Wpromote
  5. Jellyfish
  6. Merkle

From killer case studies and international offices to certifications and proprietary technology, each PPC expert on this list offers something different. No matter what makes them shine, these PPC experts are the real deal. 

Let’s dive in:

1. HawkSEM

Hey, it’s us!

Look, I promise we’re not lacking in humility. It’s just that leaving our team of PPC experts off this list would be a massive disservice.

Founded in 2006, HawkSEM earned a reputation as a team of top experts in the PPC industry. As a Google Premier Partner, Hawk is among the top 3% of PPC agencies in the country. With a 4.5X ROI on average, it’s no wonder we have a 98% retention rate.

Using our PPC expertise, we increased conversions by 7X for Direct TV, tripled lead volume and quality for New Century Financial, increased revenue by 562.45% for 686, reduced conversion costs by 60% for Zephyr, and doubled new clients for Real Estate Law Center PC. (Just to name a few — you can read more case studies here.)

Our PPC excellence partnered with our proprietary marketing tool, ConversionIQ, makes our services pretty darn bulletproof. 

2. Wordstream

PPC expert: WordStream

When it comes to expert PPC resources, Wordstream leads the way. Their tools and articles allow any DIYer or marketing manager to improve their PPC management skills for free

Powered by their Google Premier Marketing Partnership, Wordstream’s Google Ads Performance Grader is a free tool that helps digital marketers assess the strength of their campaigns compared to best practices in the industry. Made specifically for small businesses and agencies, the tool offers insights into nine key metrics:

  • Wasted spend
  • Best practices
  • Quality Score
  • Click-through rate
  • Impression share
  • Display ads
  • Shopping ads
  • Mobile advertising
  • Account activity

These insights are paired with actionable next steps and a graded report to help you improve. If an agency partnership isn’t in the budget, look no further.

3. Tinuiti

PPC expert: Tinuiti

Branded as the largest independent performance marketing firm, Tinuiti specializes in paid search and was selected as a Google Premier Partner, earning their a spot in the top three-percenters club. 

With a long list of big-name clients, impressive case studies, and proprietary marketing technology, Tinuiti makes it to the top of any PPC expert list.


4. Wpromote

PPC expert: Wpromote

Dubbed leaders in performance marketing by Forrester, Wpromote’s Google Ads service began in 2001, combining “best-in-class expertise and innovative tech [that] works in tandem with your other channels, and drives growth across the funnel.” 

With over 700 team members and a long list of seriously big-name clients, Wpromote is a high-end agency with rock-solid rankings as PPC experts. 

5. Jellyfish

PPC expert: Jellyfish

With offices all over the world, Jellyfish is literally a global PPC powerhouse with a team of Google-certified Paid Search experts who “develop award-winning, innovative paid search solutions focused on audiences, automation, and attribution.” Founded in 2005, Jellyfish is not only an expert PPC agency with their own proprietary reporting technology — they’re educators offering training in PPC and paid media

Whether you want an agency or a course to tackle campaigns on your own, Jellyfish is among the top PPC experts to consider.

6. Merkle

PPC expert: Merkle

A leading customer experience management (CXM) company focused on data-driven solutions, Merkle is a PPC expert with over 30 years of partnering with Fortune 1000 companies and nonprofit organizations to maximize the value of customer portfolios. 

With 12,000 employees, over fifty offices throughout the Americas, and over $900 million in ad spend this year alone, Merkle is a staple in paid search. Named the #2 by LinkedIn’s Top Companies in Marketing & Advertising to grow a career in the industry, Merkle’s expertise in PPC is palpable through their resources and proven through their powerful case studies.

What does a PPC expert do?

No matter which expert you choose, your PPC specialist should have the expertise to guide you through PPC strategies and benchmarks.

A PPC specialist has the expertise to guide you through PPC strategies and benchmarks. They’ll actively help you set goals and budgets. They can also do the heavy lifting: researching keywords, building campaigns, and measuring progress against KPI benchmarks.

Your expert isn’t just the one building and managing campaigns. They interpret data and provide needed insights to make your campaigns successful and profitable. They’ll work with your SEO, email, and social media experts to create a cohesive strategy and voice that moves your business towards its goals.

According to the Digital Marketing Institute, “A PPC Specialist manages internet pay-per-click advertising campaigns including the strategy, design, implementation, SEO, and analysis of ad performance. It is a challenging role that is also highly sought after because it takes a unique skill set to nail a PPC campaign.”

Beyond this, they watch trends, assist in producing conversion-optimized pages, and report on performance.

two people outside on a bench looking at a tablet

You should know the pros and cons of hiring an individual vs. an agency, and common methods of calculating service fees. (Image: Unsplash)

How do I hire a PPC consultant?

Hiring a PPC expert can sound daunting with all the potential options. Your first step should be to educate yourself and assess your company’s current needs and goals.

You should know the pros and cons of hiring an individual vs. an agency, and common methods of calculating service fees. Most importantly, you should know your budget and timeline.

Finding a PPC specialist

There are a variety of different places to find PPC experts online. Starting with a simple Google search, you can find more PPC experts than you could ever vet.

You could use a freelancing platform like Upwork, Mayple, or the plethora of new providers cropping up regularly. You can seek out local agencies or one of the big names in the industry. Alternatively, you can post on LinkedIn, ZipRecruiter, or other job sites.

Questions to ask during an interview

It doesn’t matter where you find your PPC expert. You’ll need a good vetting process to get the right person (or agency) for the job.

It’s not just about their skill level but also about how they’ll fit into your company culture and meet your specific needs. Essential questions should be meant to weigh initiative and not just PPC-specific skills.

Skills assessment

The skills assessment is not only about overall skills but also experiences that will make them a key asset in your marketing program.

Start by asking individuals and agencies for case studies, samples of their work, insights into past performance, and information about industries they’ve worked with. Showing a proven track record in your industry (or similar industries) is vital to finding a PPC expert to lead your business to success.

You can use these materials to separate the candidates into those that are definitely not a good fit and those you’d like to speak with. They’ll also give you some key discussion points during an interview.

Potential experts should have experience improving return on ad spend, lowering cost per acquisition, and enhancing other vital metrics.

Now it’s time to schedule the interviews. 

two women interviewing an agency

Hiring an agency comes in two flavors: a full-service agency with many services and a PPC-specific agency. (Image: Unsplash)

Potential interview questions for your PPC expert

Scheduled a consultation with a PPC expert? 

You can expect your prospective hire to come prepared with a convincing presentation a la what makes their PPC services your best option. 

And while any reputable agency will try to knock your socks off with a proposal during this initial meet, make sure you also come prepared with a list of questions to test their expertise and compatibility with your business.

Here’s a helpful list of questions to ask your potential PPC expert:

  • What size budgets have you managed?
  • Has there ever been a time when you couldn’t meet the PPC goals set for an account? What stood in your way?
  • How do you measure success?
  • How do you feel about smart bidding and other machine learning/automation currently available in PPC?
  • What key metrics do you use to make decisions on strategy?
  • Do you typically create branded campaigns?
  • Do you use scripts, automated rules, or third-party tools?
  • How often do you perform account optimization?
  • What do you consider when writing ad copy?
  • How many years of experience do you have?
  • Do you have Google Ads certifications? What about other certifications?
  • Do you regularly do A/B testing?
  • How much of your experience involves managing e-commerce campaigns vs. lead generation campaigns?
  • What percentage of the ad spend do you typically allocate for remarketing?
  • How do you manage the creative asset production process on Google Ads vs. Facebook ads?
  • In what ways do you optimize ads to improve click-through rate?
  • How do you optimize your campaigns to improve conversion rate?
  • What data can you leverage from the SEO team to create winning results for your PPC campaigns?

If you want to learn a little bit more about PPC experts, you can get started with 8 Things Every Google Ads Expert Should Know.

Hiring an individual vs. a PPC agency

There are many differences between hiring a PPC agency and a PPC freelancer (contractor). These differences aren’t necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes freelancers (or contractors) get a bad rap.

Agencies often tell you that you should hire them because they’re more reliable or have better access to tools, but this doesn’t give the complete picture of how the two types of service vary. 

Hiring a full service or PPC agency

Hiring an agency comes in two flavors: a full-service agency with many services and a PPC-specific agency.

A full-service agency is great for businesses that will eventually need other services since there will be easy communication and data-sharing. Hiring a PPC agency allows you to have a dedicated, specialized team.

Here are some of the pros of hiring a full-service agency:

  • You’ll receive a dedicated account manager
  • They’ll understand the importance of a cohesive, seamless brand and message
  • They can also provide other services as you need them
  • A full-service agency can assist with other problems you may run into that a specialist agency may be less experienced in, like implementing Google Analytics 4 or troubleshooting conversion tracking issues

The cons of hiring a full-service agency include:

  • You may only be interacting with the account manager and not your PPC specialist, which may create delays in getting answers
  • They may require a larger ad budget than you are ready to spend
  • Full-service agencies are generally used to working with large businesses, so if you fall into the small-to-medium category, they may not be equipped to provide the service you need
  • They may charge more for services

By comparison, hiring a PPC agency comes with its own pros and cons. Let’s start with the positive aspects:

  • They’re specialists who live and breathe the service you need
  • You’re likely to speak directly to the person managing your account, meaning fewer delays
  • They’re specialists, not generalists, so you’ll get a PPC manager who is well versed in the more complicated aspects of PPC
  • Their management fees may be less since they focus on one type of work
  • They’re likely to be a smaller organization, so your relationship may be a little more personal

Some of the cons of hiring a PPC-only agency include:

  • They may not be able to help you with PPC-related tasks like complicated tracking or building a shopping feed
  • The agency might be less in tune with your overall strategy
  • They may not have the capability to create landing pages or videos

Hiring an individual vs. an agency

Just as there are differences between hiring a full-service agency and a dedicated PPC agency, there are also differences between hiring an individual and an agency.

Who do you want to handle your ad campaigns? That depends on your needs. An agency probably has a whole group of experts who can be consulted when your PPC ads are performing sub-optimally, but they have many clients.

Will an agency give you the time and dedication you deserve, or will you just be a number? Consider asking agencies how many clients your specialist will be looking after. An individual will likely have fewer clients but won’t have the agency support structure either. When they’re sick or on vacation, there’s no one to fill in. They may have no one to assist when they get stuck on an issue.

The pros of hiring an agency are:

  • Reliable service that won’t be affected by sickness and vacations
  • Marketing experts are vetted and held to standards
  • Agencies usually create SOPs, procedures, and processes to ensure accounts run smoothly
  • There’s someone to complain to if things go wrong

The cons of hiring an agency are:

  • Agencies usually charge higher fees
  • They have less flexibility for meetings and changes
  • They have a standardized way of writing reports and performing tasks that may not fit your organization’s operations
  • They’re more likely to require a multi-month or yearly contract

In contrast, you’ll find that the pros of hiring an individual are:

  • They’re generally flexible and willing to make adjustments to fit your organization 
  • Individuals usually work on a month-to-month basis
  • It’s easier to integrate them into your organization than an agency
  • They don’t necessarily have a set amount of time each week to dedicate to you

Cons of hiring an individual are:

  • Less security in the long term since they don’t have anyone to back them up
  • They may not work the hours you work
  • They may not respond to your emails and requests in a timely manner
  • There’s no one to hold them accountable or to provide feedback to

Individuals may be less stringent regarding charging for meetings or the number of hours they dedicate to you and your accounts. They may or may not know other marketing parts, which is convenient if you occasionally need email marketing or a blog post.

Individuals also don’t have required work hours or a vetting process and might be less likely to gain certifications. They may offer much more than PPC services and have a generalist mentality. Freelancers selling their online marketing services can be either specialists or generalists, so you’ll need to investigate their backgrounds carefully before deciding to go with them.

man videochatting with a colleague

Typically, payment terms fall into two categories: hourly and fixed rate. (Image: Unsplash)

Hiring a contractor vs. an in-house PPC expert

You should also consider the benefits and pitfalls of hiring a contractor versus an in-house PPC expert.

Hiring a full-time employee versus an outside entity can be a boon if you have the kind of PPC accounts that require 40 hours of management and optimization each week. An in-house expert may pay off if you plan on advertising on Google Ads, Microsoft Advertising (formerly Bing Ads), and social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter.

Hiring a contractor will allow you to pay someone for the hours they spend without footing the bill for all the other costs an employee brings. You’ll get the services you need without paying payroll tax, benefits, paid time off, and more. However, you won’t be able to dictate how and when they complete the work.

An in-house PPC expert will be there to answer questions when you need it and to work exclusively with your team. They’ll be your paid search guru and no one else’s, so you won’t need to worry about them being occupied with other projects.

The top benefits of hiring a contractor are:

  • You get the work of a true expert even if you don’t have enough work to employ them full-time
  • They work on other projects and can bring those experiences to your project
  • They’re unlikely to get bored or feel unsatisfied with your project because they can work with a variety of businesses in many industries
  • You can negotiate payment options with them, and if your needs change, those terms can be adjusted

Some downsides to hiring a contractor are:

  • They aren’t part of your organization, so they won’t be able to drop things whenever you need them
  • They don’t have to give two weeks’ notice if they decide to leave you
  • You can’t dictate how or when they work or how much time they spend on your projects
  • They could be working with your competitors

If you prefer hiring an in-house PPC expert, consider these pros:

  • They are fully invested in your company and your success
  • They’re a part of the everyday workflow, so they truly understand your company from the inside out
  • They can work on cross-functional teams with ease
  • They can easily access all of the necessary assets and information without extra steps

Of course, with pros come cons:

  • You have to pay them a salary, not just for their work hours
  • They won’t have any backup when they’re out of the office unless you train someone else on the team
  • You may not be able to afford the level of expertise you need, leaving you to settle for less
  • You’ll need someone to manage them

Common payment terms

Just like in other industries, pricing methods vary in the marketing business. Depending on if you hire an individual or agency, this will vary even more.

Typically, payment terms fall into two categories: hourly and fixed rate. Since pay ranges vary by region, experience, and more, we’ll keep things general.

Hourly campaign management

Both agencies and freelancers offer hourly campaign management. If you hire an in-house PPC expert, you could expect to pay them benefits in addition to their salary.

By contrast, freelance rates will vary quite a bit. Rates will also be affected by the country the freelancer is residing in. Those living in countries with a lower cost per living will charge a bit less for their expertise.

You can ask your potential freelance PPC consultant about the number of hours they expect to spend on your account, as this will be based on budget, the number of campaigns, and how often you run promotions or discounts.

Retainer-based PPC management

Retainer-based management allows you to have a predictable fee each month. Both agencies and freelancers offer this arrangement as well. These retainers include specific terms like how reporting is completed, the number of meetings you’re entitled to, and more. 

Agencies tend to prefer the monthly retainer model, while you’ll have more flexibility in payment terms with freelancers.

The takeaway

There are many benefits to hiring a PPC expert. The first is obviously their expertise. They understand the ins and outs of search engine marketing, from quality scores to cost per click.

Since PPC marketing is their forte, they can conduct in-depth keyword research, monitor CPCs, and maximize your return on investment. Other benefits of hiring a PPC specialist are:

  • You’ll get an expert who deeply understands their platforms and how to optimize performance
  • Strategies will be built and customized to work with each platform
  • Channel-specific feedback that will help to inform your marketing strategy
  • Strong ad copy is written to perform on your advertising platform
  • Knowledge about how to reach your target audience on PPC channels
  • They can take care of the technical details

When you’re starting out on searching for the right PPC expert, the process can seem overwhelming. Use the above tips and tricks to guide your journey to finding the perfect fit for your company.

How HawkSEM can help you

HawkSEM is more than just ppc ads management. Our ConversionIQ System will supercharge your management services with actionable insights, full-funnel attribution, and high-quality conversions. We will dramatically improve your ROI, improve lead quality, and ensure you track everything. Request a consultation (or just say hi!)


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 Oct 31 , 2022

Can you expand ad reach beyond Google? Capture new traffic and maximize revenue with Bing PPC ads.

Here, you’ll find:

  • The benefits of advertising on both Google and Bing
  • How Microsoft ads compare to Google ads
  • Tips for creating top-quality ads for Bing
  • How Quality Score plays a role

These days, it’s easy to disregard any search network that isn’t Google. Who uses Yahoo, Ask.com, or Bing, anyway?

The answer may surprise you.

It’s true that Google owns the market share in the U.S., accounting for more than 75% of search traffic. We’re talking billions of eyes on your ads.

But while it’s tempting to instinctively jump to Google search alone, you could miss out on all that other search engines like Bing have to offer as advertising platforms.

Bing (Microsoft Ads) opens up doors to new audiences, meaning you’ll expand your pool of potential customers in your search engine marketing efforts. 

If you’re ready to cast a wider net, we’ll teach you how Microsoft Advertising can benefit your marketing campaign, plus best practices and tips to maximize ad potential.

Why use Microsoft ad campaigns?

The case for Google Ads is clear, but why not add another 1.2 billion users and monthly searches to your audience? That’s right, Bing attracts 1.2 billion users per month worldwide. You wouldn’t say no to more social media followers, right?

The numbers continue to grow as Microsoft Advertising expands to 32 new countries in Asia and Latin America.  Plus, Microsoft’s search engine closely seconds Google in U.S. search engine user satisfaction, only behind by eight points on a hundred-point scale (71 for Bing, 79 for Google). 

Bottom line? Your marketing strategy needs Bing ads.

  • Reason #1: You’ll expand your reach to new audiences.
  • Reason #2: You’ll convert them, too. 

Keep reading for a side-to-side comparison of Microsoft vs. Google Ads.

bing homepage wildlife image

To make your job easier, Microsoft Ads allows you to import Google Ads campaigns seamlessly. (Image: Bing)

Microsoft Advertising vs. Google Ads: A complete comparison

Of course, there are plenty of similarities to be found between Google Ads and Microsoft Ads, which show up on the Bing search engine

They’re both used to push highly relevant ads to users who are most likely to make a purchase. However, there are also a few key differences to keep in mind.

Both Microsoft and Google Ads connect your product or service with target audiences. But each one differs in its audience, targeting settings, and analytics. 


Google has the widest audience and search volumeeveryone hangs out there. Correction: almost everyone.

Bing gives you access to a smaller, segmented group with higher income and less competition. Microsoft tells us 34% of searchers are in the top 25% of household income ($100,000+), making Bing an excellent spot for PPC advertising.

But you should be aware of people you won’t find on Bing. For example, if you’re interested in marketing to the LGBTQ+ community, Bing probably won’t reach them. Only 2% of Bing data searchers identified as LGBTQ+.

Additionally, younger users are more likely to use Google Suite tools before Microsoft and Bing. Our SEM manager, Katherine Kiraly, elaborates: 

“I think the reason Bing users are older is that they are using Microsoft Edge on their work computers in corporate professional settings. These people use the entire Microsoft suite from Teams to Outlook. Younger audiences at smaller companies use the G-Suite (Chrome, Gmail, etc).”

Partner network

While Google Ads has a balanced network of both search and display ads, Bing has a much more limited display ad network. Bing’s network is relegated to Microsoft-owned products, including Windows operating systems, Outlook, Microsoft Edge, and Xbox.

Terms: You may also find that each platform uses a different language to describe its functions and metrics. For example, Google tends to use cost per acquisition (CPA) along with the cost of conversion, while Microsoft Ads only uses the term CPA. 

Cost Per Click (CPC): Microsoft’s average CPC for Bing ad accounts is generally lower at $0.84; Google doesn’t advertise a figure but experts cite Google’s CPC as between $1-$2. You can predict Google’s average CPC depending on your industry with their handy Keyword Planner. 

Click-Through Rate (CTR): Google’s overall CTR is 3.17%, with higher (and lower) rates in specific industries. Kiraly elaborates: 

“I see higher CTRs across the board in Google while in Bing it’s very keyword-dependent, so the overall CTR for a Bing account is usually much lower than its Google counterpart.”

Ad scheduling

Google Ads uses your time zone to schedule ads, while Microsoft Ads uses the ad viewer’s time zone.

Search partner targeting

Both Google and Microsoft Ads let you place your ads beyond the search engine results page (SERP). However, the way you select partner networks is different. Google gives you a choice to expand to these networks, while Bing allows you to target Bing and Yahoo, just search partners, or both.

Close search variants

Google uses close search variants of keywords by default. Microsoft Ads allows this as an option.

The two platforms boast different strengths, but we propose you use both of them. As long as you have a solid PPC strategy and ConversionIQ on your side, you can’t go wrong. 

Next, let’s dig into some best practices that’ll help you create winning ads to attract the ideal Bing searcher

1. Import high-performing Google Ads campaigns to Microsoft Ads

To make your job easier, Microsoft Advertising allows you to import Google Ads campaigns seamlessly. Simply use the import feature to carry your PPC campaigns over to Microsoft’s ad platform. 

While you can test your most successful Google Ads campaigns using Bing, keep in mind things may look and work a little different on each platform.

Our advice? Don’t go live right away. First, carefully examine each of these items after importing.

  • Bids and budgets: Microsoft automatically increases Google’s bids and budgets to meet their minimums. 
  • Negative keywords: Microsoft only uses exact match negative keywords, not broad match. 
  • Targeting options: Microsoft doesn’t include select targeting options (more on this later).

As you make adjustments to your Google Ads campaign, you can apply them to the Bing Ads campaign through import. The result? A lower-cost campaign with a more focused audience. 

Keep in mind that you can’t import:

  • Video campaigns: These are done through YouTube.
  • Remarketing lists: You can’t import in-marketing audiences, combined lists (NOT conditions), or customer lists. 
  • Age targeting: You can’t import Google’s 45-54 age group to Microsoft
  • Exact location targeting: Microsoft doesn’t support some smaller city targets that Google Ads include. 

You can import changes to the Microsoft Ads campaign on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. 

And if your Google campaigns have solid CTR and Quality Scores? 

“Bing copycats Google, so if you have good CTR and Quality Scores in Google it’s a safe bet to import those campaigns into Bing.” says Kiraly. “There is less ad inventory on Bing but it’s also much less expensive (like 1/3rd less)”

Bing SERP rash guards

A smaller budget could take you much farther on Bing than it would with Google. (Image: Bing)

2. Create high-quality ad copy and images 

Like search engine optimization (SEO) for your website, ad optimization is all about creating ads that appeal to your target audience — not search engines.

Keywords are important, but you’re ultimately creating ads to appeal directly to your target audience. With this goal in mind, try to:

  • Use on-brand colors that attract attention
  • Highlight product, service, or brand elements through images
  • Create ads using high-quality images without pixelation
  • Use images of people without accompanying text or logos
  • Keep ads clean and simple so you don’t overwhelm the user
  • Avoid lengthy headlines — stick to concise, easy-to-read phrases

3. Start broad and narrow your audience based on results

Your dream audience is the rich, chocolate fudge hiding within a Ferrero Rocher shell — but the pièce de résistance is the sweet spot in the middle. 

Your strategy should similarly zoom in on the sweet spot that is your target audience. To do that, start with a broad ad campaign that targets as many users as possible without going over your available budget. 

From there, you can narrow down your audience based on demographics and other traits of users who are likely to click on your ads. 

In the process, you can create more valuable ads that target the people who are most likely to be interested in your product or service offerings.

4. Make the most of your budget

Even if you’ve maxed out your Google Ads budget, you can still tailor your budget to perform well on Bing. 

Thanks largely to Bing’s lighter competition, a smaller budget can take you much farther than it would with Google.

You’re also likely to find less expensive costs per acquisition (CPAs) with Microsoft Ads while targeting millions of daily search engine users.

5. Know your target audience on Bing

You might find that your Bing audience is different from your Google audience. If so, you should tailor your campaign audiences accordingly. Bing’s demographic tends to include older users who aren’t as quick to go to Google search if Bing is their default search engine


Your Bing audience is potentially less tech-savvy. However, they make more money than the average Google searcher and will spend more online. They have accumulated more wealth and are willing to spend more money online than their younger counterparts.

Bing is a great place to promote any of your more expensive offerings — costly add-ons that provide more value are more likely to convert Bing’s audience because of their higher budget.  

The differences between your Bing and Google audiences further emphasize the importance of using both.

microsoft advertising benefits

Using a combination of Microsoft Advertising and Google Ads can help you find better paid search success and maximize your business’s overall reach online. (Image: Microsoft Advertising)

6. Optimize the UET tag

Microsoft Ads allows you to set up customized event and conversion actions using Universal Event Tracking (UET). It helps you record visitor activity on your site, powering conversion tracking, automated bid strategies, and audience segmentation. 

The result? You can: 

  • Create custom audiences for remarketing
  • Improve ad performance
  • Lower CPC and CPA

For example, you might notice two distinct audiences on your website: one that abandons your site quickly after one click, and another that lingers, browses and may have already purchased a product in the past. 

UET tags help you cater campaigns to specific audiences and improve campaign performance. 

7. Keep an eye on your Quality Score

Page or domain authority is a key component of a successful Bing campaign. That’s because it gauges a website’s authoritativeness and popularity. 

You can use Bing’s Quality Score metric to determine how much influence your website has on the search engine, which can help you determine your ads’ competitiveness. 

Heads up: Without any adjustments, your Quality Score in Microsoft Ads might be lower than what you have in Google Ads. Kiraly explains:

“Quality Scores seem to be higher in Bing and easier to get than in Google. I think if your Quality Score is above 6/10 in Google it will probably be higher in Bing so you can import those ads easily. Also, you can see QS at the ad group level and keyword level in Bing but only by keywords in Google.” 

The Quality Score ranges from 1 to 10, with the best score being 10. You can improve your Quality Score by: 

  • Conducting more keyword research: Microsoft Advertising has a keyword planner, too – completely free. But if you still need support, we’re happy to take the reins on keyword research and development. 
  • Optimizing your landing pages: Check to ensure your landing page has completely original content and a quick load time. It should also be extremely relevant to ad keywords and buyer intent. 
  • Checking your ad group targeting: You can target ads based on location, day of the week, time of day, device, gender, and age with Microsoft. Plus, you can adjust bids accordingly to up your display chances for your targets.  

8. Take advantage of in-market audiences

Similar to Google Ads, Microsoft Ads offers marketers an intent-based targeting feature that brings the campaign to conversion-ready audiences. Bing uses artificial intelligence (AI) to create lists of users who have shown interest in purchasing items and services similar to yours.

In-market audiences allow you to reach potential buyers without having to run complex targeting campaigns. Not only does this feature save money and help increase conversions, but the setup is easy. 

Hang on, isn’t that the same thing as remarketing based on segmentation? Not quite. With remarketing, you’re responsible for creating a new target list, whereas Microsoft generates in-market audiences with AI. You just have to choose from a list. 

But that list won’t be the same as Google’s. Microsoft has categories and subcategories to narrow things down even further. For example, “Home & Garden” can expand to “Outdoor Items,” “Pools and Spa,” “BBQ and Grills,” or more.

An overlooked subcategory in Bing is a missed opportunity! Don’t assume they’ll be exactly the same as Google — adjust the settings for each one manually to ensure you capture the most suitable targets. 

Note: Microsoft is constantly adding new in-market audience categories. If your industry isn’t there yet, just keep an eye on the updates.

woman using laptop while sitting on floor

Don’t forget to add captions to the video to improve its accessibility. (Image: Unsplash)

9. Import campaigns from Facebook Ads

Do you have a robust Facebook ad campaign in the mix? Compound the success by importing it directly to Microsoft Advertising. As of summer 2021, you can import Facebook Ads campaigns to Microsoft. Here’s what’s included: 

  • Ad groups
  • Bids
  • Location targeting
  • Demographic targeting
  • Images
  • Budget
  • Campaigns 

Just be aware that you can’t import every element of the campaign — you’ll still need to adjust some aspects manually.

Pro tip: Preview all assets, including images, logos, and videos, before allowing your imported Facebook campaign to appear on the Microsoft Audience Network.

10. Explore video extensions

Microsoft Ads allows videos as an extension feature on search ads. Your video will appear next to your ad on the SERP, making it more appealing and engaging to the viewer.

The extension video has a call-to-action (CTA) button that takes the user to the landing page of your choice. Don’t forget to add captions to improve the video’s accessibility.

The cost per click is the same for the video as for the ad, but only for the first click. If the same user clicks to watch the video again, it’s free.

The takeaway

Microsoft Advertising and Google Ads bring unique benefits to your digital marketing strategy, which is why you should take advantage of both. Our list of quick tips will help you optimize your Bing ads for higher conversion rates

But we understand it’s a lot of info to digest.

You might take a crack and still feel like you need some guidance, and hey, that’s where we come in. Many of our e-commerce and B2B clients (including Microsoft) came to us for support with better leads, revenue, and KPIs. 

We have decades of digital marketing experience that informs our process. Additionally, our exclusive ConversionIQ system can help lower CPA by 40%, distinguishing the buyer-intent leads from the tire-kickers. 

Let’s revamp your ad strategy together. Contact us today for a consultation!

This post was updated in October 2022 and was originally published in August 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 Oct 28 , 2022

Pay-per-click (PPC) ads are among the most effective marketing tactics to get your business in front of the right people at the right time.

Here, you’ll find:

  • The different types of PPC ads (and how pay-per-click advertising works)
  • The latest PPC marketing stats 
  • A quick intro to PPC bidding & ad ranking
  • How to calculate PPC marketing ROI

Ah, the ever-changing algorithm. Many a marketer wishes they knew the magic words to instantly land them at the top of the search engine results page (SERP). But we all know it’s not 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.

What is PPC marketing?

PPC (pay-per-click) marketing falls under the search engine marketing umbrella. This type of online advertising allows marketers to have their brand’s ads show up across the internet — most commonly in the sponsored results section of the SERP, but also on other websites as users are browsing the internet, before YouTube videos, and even on social media sites. 

Among the most popular PPC platforms used by marketers today are Google Ads (which includes YouTube Ads), Facebook Ads (which includes Instagram Ads), Microsoft Advertising (formerly Bing Ads), LinkedIn Ads, Amazon Ads, Yahoo Ads, Twitter Ads, and TikTok for Business. 

PPC ads can be a highly effective tool in your digital marketing arsenal, whether your industry is SaaS, financial services, higher education, healthcare, insurance, or something in between. They help connect you with potential clients through engaging copy, images, and video—ultimately taking them to a targeted landing page on your site. 

Paid search ads are the most recognizable type of PPC ad. These appear at the top of the SERP above the organic, search engine optimized (SEO) results. They look similar to the organic results, except with the word “Ad” in bold right before the URL.

los angeles ppc agency on serp

PPC search ads look similar to organic search results, except with the word “Ad” in bold right before the URL.

How do PPC ads work?

As the name implies, you only pay when someone actually clicks on your ad.

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

From there, you place your bid (more on this below) to say how much you think a click is worth. When your ad shows up and is clicked, you’re charged a fee; the fee can vary greatly depending on industry, competition, keywords, Quality Score, and more.

Pro tip: Attracting the right people to your ads isn’t just about choosing the most effective keywords. You also want to use negative keywords to prevent unqualified leads (i.e., the wrong people) from clicking on your ads.

PPC search ads vs. paid social ads

Paid social media advertising is the use of sponsored or promoted posts on social media platforms. Paid social is a great way to meet your target audience where they are. Plus, it can help you subvert pesky platform algorithms that can keep your content from showing up in feeds.

Depending on the platform you use, paid social ads can be a cost-effective alternative to PPC marketing ads. However, because these ads appear in the newsfeed and can easily blend in with the countless other posts people see as they’re scrolling through social media, visibility and reach may be limited. 

PPC search ads vs. display ads

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

Display ads differ from PPC search ads in both cost and placement. Whereas PPC search ads are paid for by the search engine, display ads are paid for by the advertiser. Though generally less expensive, display ads also cast a wider net — meaning they are less targeted. 

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. However, because of their prevalence, they typically have a lower click-through rate (CTR) than PPC search ads and result in fewer conversions.

Most often, this ad type is 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 search ad?

When looking at PPC in digital marketing, it helps to understand what components make up an effective PPC search ad. For the purpose of this blog, let’s take a look at search ads within Google Ads (Google’s paid advertising platform). Google Search ads are basic text ads that are grouped together to make up a PPC campaign. Per Google, they can contain:

  • 1-3 headlines
  • A display URL
  • A description up to 90 characters long
  • Ad extensions
display URL on SERP

Your display URL can be your site’s homepage or a simple, clean URL that relates to the keywords and ad copy.


Recently, Google upped the ante by allowing up to three headlines in a PPC Search ad, separated by a “|” (vertical 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 such as:

  • 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 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 were to create 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 for tracking purposes, such as:


You’ve got a limited number of characters to work with for your PPC search ad’s description — 90, to be exact. Make them count! 

Your description should speak specifically to your target audience and user demographics, 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
  • Pricing 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? Here’s how to fix it.

bing serp

Microsoft Advertising PPC search ads function and look similar to Google Ads PPC search ads.

What are Microsoft Advertising PPC search ads?

Microsoft Advertising PPC search ads function and look similar to Google Ads (formerly Google AdWords) PPC search 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.

bing shopping serp

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

What are PPC shopping ads?

For e-commerce brands and those who sell products online, Google Shopping ads can be a great way to get someone to “add to cart.” Shopping ads spotlight a specific product or service to entice people to click and buy. Because they are more visually appealing, they often result in 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 and keep your product feed updated

To ensure your product is included in the results feed, your product information needs 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 for ad placement perfection. The approval process may take 24-72 hours.

Merchant centers for Google and Microsoft have their own breakdowns to ensure you’re following the proper steps.

Pro tip: Your overall PPC marketing campaign can include several different types of PPC ads, including search, social media, display, and shopping ads. 

What are some PPC marketing stats?

  • 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 653 million unique desktop searchers a year.
  • Brand awareness can be increased by up to 80% through Google paid ads.
  • The paid search market is worth approximately $60 billion in the U.S.
  • 34% of Bing users have household incomes in the top 25%.
  • Google processes over 100,000 search queries every second on average.
  • Mobile devices account for about 69% of all Google’s paid ads clicks in the U.S.

What are the benefits of PPC marketing?

With PPC in digital marketing, 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 people who are searching for something similar to what you have to offer.

Gone are the days of buying ads and crossing your fingers hoping that they’ll be seen by enough interested people to be worth their price.

A PPC strategy with proper keyword research to target your audience and only paying for the clicks you actually get will have a great chance of turning that click into a conversion.

How does PPC bidding work?

PPC bidding, also known as cost-per-click (CPC) bidding, is similar to a public auction. When someone enters a query into their chosen search engine, the built-in algorithm picks what it determines are 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 on your ad. Essentially, you’re deciding how much each click is worth. What makes this tricky is that, unlike a public auction, you don’t know how much your competitors are bidding on each keyword in comparison.

With PPC advertising, 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 — from 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 (real, potential customers) or are they junk? These insights will help you modify both your bidding strategy and your ad content accordingly.

What is a Quality Score (Google)?

If you are running ads on Google’s paid advertising model (Google Ads), each ad will be given a Quality Score, which Google describes as, “…a diagnostic tool meant to give you a sense of how well your ad quality compares to other advertisers.”

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 your CPC rate will likely be.

photobooth atlanta ppc ad on the serp

Your PPC search ad’s ranking at the top of a SERP depends on factors such as the keywords you’re bidding on, the competition for those keywords, your bid amount, and your Quality Score.

What affects a PPC search ad ranking?

Your PPC search ad ranking is a specific value used to determine where your ad appears on the page (relative to other ads) and it depends on a few factors. These include which keywords you’re bidding on, the amount of competition there is 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 ad spend, make sure your search 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 those leads is another thing altogether. Lead scoring, as you may have guessed, is the process of assigning a value to each lead received based on how likely it is that the prospect will convert. 

When you know the true value of the leads coming in through lead scoring, you can better prioritize and iterate your PPC digital marketing strategies. In other words, lead scoring is one of several important metrics that can help you drive more quality leads 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. UTM parameters can be added to landing page URLs that gather info about who is clicking on your ads.

From there, you can pull this PPC marketing campaign data into your CRM to connect with lifetime value and lead score. 

Lead scoring helps determine which campaigns are driving the best leads and value — and it’s an essential part of ConversionIQ, HawkSEM’s unique approach to marketing. Armed with this information, you can better analyze your PPC campaigns and keywords to maximize your return on investment (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 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 search engine marketing (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 conversions at all. Conversion tracking is crucial for giving you insight into performance while providing you with valuable 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 proper tracking set up (more than 70% of our PPC audits reveal improper tracking)

How to find the right PPC agency for you

If you’re not seeing the PPC results you want, or if you 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 the agencies you potentially want to work with, it’s a good idea to prepare by:

Once you decide which agencies you want to actually connect with in person or via phone, make sure you have an understanding of their fee structure, company culture, and communication style.

The takeaway

PPC in digital marketing is a smart way to reach your targeted audience and turn search engine users into customers. 

Not only can paid ads significantly boost your brand awareness, but they can expand your reach, drive traffic, and, ultimately, make you more money.

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

This article has been updated and was originally published in November 2019.

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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Written by Sam Yadegar on Oct 17 , 2022

Crank up your lead quality with expert tips in this ultimate guide to PPC campaigns for law firms.

Here, you’ll find:

  • Reasons why PPC advertising should be a go-to for law firms
  • The benefits of PPC ads for law firms
  • How to plan and execute a PPC campaign for law firms
  • Top mistakes law firms make when using PPC ads

Bus ads. Bench ads. Radio ads. TV ads. 

What do these all have in common? Aside from being fan favorites among law firms, these platforms require exquisite timing. 

Even if these ads are perfectly placed to reach your target audience, it doesn’t guarantee they’re ready for your law services — or that they have the awareness to collect your information before the ad disappears. 

It’s an inconvenient form of advertising, especially in a day and age when people are used to seeking services on their own.

This is what makes online advertising a gold mine. 

If you’re not using pay-per-click (PPC) ads to promote your law firm, you’re leaving money on the table for competitors to take. 

Let’s review why PPC is an important tool for law firms. 

What is PPC for law firms?

When a person needs an attorney, the first thing they do is head to Google to search for one. After search for a term like “personal injury lawyers,” they’ll see local ads (based on the user’s IP address):

Google ppc ads example 

These are pay-per-click ads, which means each time a user clicks on one, the advertiser (the law firm) pays a fee to the search engine. The rate varies, depending on the keywords you’re targeting. However, it can range anywhere from a few cents to a few hundred dollars. 

PPC advertising is a form of search engine marketing (SEM), not to be confused with search engine optimization (SEO). The former requires you to pay to appear in ad-based search results (SEM), and the other is “free” to appear in organic search engine results pages (SEO).

Common PPC terms to know

Thinking about adding PPC to your digital marketing plan? You’ll need to understand the following SEM terms:

  • Click-through rate (CTR): How many times users clicked on your ad. It’s calculated using this formula: CTR Number of clicks / Total number of impressions. (The average CTR in the legal industry is 2.93%.)
  • Cost per click (CPC): How much advertisers pay for each click. CPC is determined by multiplying the bid price by the CTR. For example, if you bid $1 for a keyword that has a 10% CTR, then you’ll pay $10 for every 1,000 clicks.
  • Cost per impression (CPI): How much advertisers pay per view. CPI is determined by multiplying the cost per click by the number of impressions (views). For example, if your cost per click is $5 and you get 100,000 impressions, you’ll pay $50 for every 1,000 views.
  • Conversion rate: The percentage of visitors who convert into customers after clicking on your ad. For example, if 2,000 people click on your ad, but only 20 of them become customers, then your conversion rate would be 0.2%. (The average conversion rate for legal marketing is more than 4%.)
  • Cost per acquisition (CPA): How much advertisers spend to acquire new clients. Cost per acquisition is measured as the total amount spent divided by the number of sales generated. For example, if a company spends $10K on ads to get five conversions, then the CPA is $2K per customer. 
  • Call to action (CTA): An instruction given to website visitors to perform a specific task. Examples include “call us now,” “get a free consultation,” or “contact us,” like this one:

PPC lawyer ad example The term you’ll discuss frequently is the cost per click. If you’re wondering what running PPC ads will cost, you’ll want to pay extra attention to CPC

If you find your ad spend is on the high side, here’s advice from Gabrielle Aldinger, SEM manager at HawkSEM:

“Your CPC might be much higher than you expect, depending on how competitive your keywords are. The best thing you can do for high CPC keywords is to monitor your conversion quality and conversion rate. If users search for high CPC keywords and click through to your ads, you’ll want them to convert. If the conversion rate is low or you have a limited budget for ads, think about targeting a wider variety of keywords with a lower CPC.”

In other words, it’s worth it to target the high-cost keywords if it generates a positive return on investment (e.g., high conversions).

What are the benefits of using PPC ads for law firms?

The first thing your prospects see when searching for legal services are the ads at the top of the SERPs (search engine results pages). It holds position zero, beating the #1 spot SEO strategies aim for. So in a sense, it has a higher chance of getting a click than the landing page in position #1. 

Top of SERPsAnd if you’re using local service ads, you’ll have the bonus of being at the tip-top with the call functionality:

PPC LawyerBut being at the top is only one hurdle to overcome.

Next, you’ve got to create an ad that’ll entice users to click. That brings us to our next benefit: PPC marketing allows hyper-focused targeting. 

With PPC ads, you can control who sees your ad using demographics targeting and super-specific long-tail keywords (e.g., “Houston divorce attorney for men” instead of “divorce attorney”). 

You can find audience data in your ad platform’s dashboard. Or implement other tools that gather more granular audience details. 

For example, ConversionIQ, HawkSEM’s own proprietary software, reveals who’s clicking your ads (and converting), so you can personalize your marketing campaign and messaging for better results. 

Here’s an overview of the other benefits of PPC for law firms:

  • Provides quantifiable results: It’s easy to identify an ad or campaign that’s high-performing or tanking, allowing you to prove your ad dollars are generating ROI. 
  • Attracts high-intent searchers: When someone types in a query to find a law firm, chances are they’re looking to hire an attorney soon. 
  • Builds brand awareness: Your ads appear each time someone searches for your keywords, increasing the visibility of your law firm (a big deal if your content marketing isn’t working yet). 
  • Offers immediate results: It’s possible to get new leads the minute you publish your ad to an advertising platform (e.g., Google, Bing, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.). 
  • Simplifies budget control: Choose how much you want to spend per day, week, or month — you’re always in control of your ad spend

Then if you apply ad extensions, you can change the look of your ads. For example, the sitelink extension takes up more real estate, making the ad easier to spot. In this example, you can see more text beneath the ad, as well as links to additional site pages:

 And here’s another example, but with links directly beneath the ad copy:

Link extensions example

 These are helpful for directing leads to other important pages that guide their purchasing decision. For example, including testimonials and case results to show (not tell) how you can help them. 

Top PPC mistakes law firms make (and what to do instead)

Pay-per-click advertising isn’t new — in fact, a report by CallRail shows 78% of law firms already use paid search to drive growth. But  82% say the ROI isn’t worth it. No surprise, given that only 13% generate leads from their campaigns(!)

However, the issue isn’t the medium — it’s the campaigns.

As advertising experts, we wouldn’t feel comfortable representing ourselves in the courtroom. So lawyers shouldn’t expect themselves to become digital marketing experts either. 

That same CallRail report shows 83% of law firms that outsource PPC management say it improved campaign performance. 

Nearly half of law firms are already planning to increase their budget for paid ads. If you’re doing the same (without the help of a PPC agency), make sure you avoid the following mistakes:

#1 Not having dedicated (or relevant) landing pages

Every ad you create should have a dedicated landing page that speaks to a specific target audience. If you have a generic home page or service page, you’ll risk losing visitors who feel they’re in the wrong place. 

“The more the landing page reflects the keyword and ad, the higher the chances they’ll convert,” says Aldinger. “Tailor landing pages to your target audience, as legal cases regarding different issues may be sensitive topics for individuals.”

For example, if you’re targeting a keyword like “personal injury attorney for teen workers,” then your landing page should discuss the problems relevant to teen employees and how you can help. Then optimize the landing page for that specific keyword instead of neutral keywords like “personal injury lawyer.”

Whenever we build a law firm’s PPC campaigns, we create an optimized landing page to go with it. For example, we increased the bids on high-converting divorce and child custody keywords on one of our legal client’s campaigns, and launched a custom landing page (on May 11th).

The result: their conversion rate average soared to 13.46%. 

Custody conversion  

We used a mix of heatmapping and A/B testing to identify what elements on the landing page worked best (such as placing the CTA “above the fold” on the page).

#2 Bidding on the wrong keywords

Keyword selection is one of the most critical parts of your ad campaign. Get it wrong, and you could waste money targeting the wrong people. Or worse, not having your Google search ads appear at all because the competition is too fierce. 

An example of this is choosing broad search terms

“The legal space has really high CPCs, so it’s a great tactic to look for long-tail, practice-specific, and location-specific keywords to get the most qualified clicks,” says Rachel Corak, Lead Strategist at HawkSEM. 

For example, targeting “divorce attorney” is too broad. Instead, you should include your city and practice, like “Houston child custody lawyer for men.”

#3 Not integrating your ad campaigns with a CRM

A customer relationship management (CRM) platform organizes all of your leads so you know where they come from, who they are, and what stage they’re in the customer journey. It follows each potential client from lead to conversion. 

It’s an excellent way to gather lead and customer insights to guide your advertising and marketing strategies. And it’s why we built ConversionIQ to guide client campaigns. Not only does it monitor leads coming in — it also identifies keywords driving qualified leads that convert.

#4 Poor location targeting

Unless you’re offering virtual legal services, your PPC ads should include location-based keywords. This narrows your target audience, increasing the odds of a click and a conversion. Leaving out city or neighborhood keywords means your ad will appear in front of people too far away to use your service. 

Geo-targeting also improves your odds of appearing in the Google 3-Pack, which shows a map and the top three businesses in the area:

Google 3-Pack ad To appear here, you must enable the location extension.

#5 Targeting competitor keywords

It’s tempting to use competitor keywords (e.g., their law firm’s name) in your ads to boost your visibility and clicks. But you may want to think twice. 

“Getting a high keyword quality score is difficult without using the competitor’s name in your ads or on your landing pages. Instead, try a search campaign targeting a Custom Audience of users that searches for your competitors’ keywords and visits other law firms’ websites,” says Aldinger.

This workaround allows you to snag your competitor’s audience without unintentionally promoting them in your ad and landing pages.  

#6 Neglecting PPC campaigns

Running PPC campaigns isn’t a one-and-done deal. It requires constant attention and pruning to ensure you’re getting the best results. What worked this month may not work next month, so constant reiteration of your keywords, ad copy, images, and CTAs is key. 

Use tools to analyze your campaigns to determine which ads are underperforming (e.g., getting clicks and no conversions or impressions), then run experiments to see what increases the clicks and conversions. 

What are the best platforms for lawyer PPC ads?

Google. Bing. LinkedIn. Facebook. There are many platforms lawyers can use to advertise their firms. But which is ideal to reach target customers?

“If you represent individuals, Google or Bing can be a great place to start. Many people look to search engines for more information when they’re in difficult legal situations” says Aldinger.”But if your law firm’s typical audience is a business, or you want to target job titles or industries, LinkedIn would be your best bet.”

This approach allows you to target users more accurately and meet them where they are. LinkedIn might have a higher CPA, but you’re reaching a more specific group of users, and the clicks and conversions you get are typically higher quality.

How to build a winning PPC campaign for your law firm

A successful PPC campaign requires careful planning and execution. So let’s start with the planning — here’s what to do before building a PPC campaign:

  • Conduct audience research: Use tools and surveys to learn how clients find your firm, what keywords they used, and what legal services they need.
  • Perform competitor research: Find out who your competition is, what keywords they’re ranking for, and what types of services they offer.
  • Do keyword research: Find relevant keywords based on your specific services, location, and target audience (e.g., DUI attorney in Las Vegas).
  • Create a landing page: Make a landing page for each audience/service you target in your ads. 

To make your landing page perform better, use these optimization tips from our Lead Strategist:

  • Include reviews on the landing page that support your expertise in the practice area you’re promoting.
  • Use a clean landing page design that makes complex issues like court proceedings easy to interpret.
  • Use colors that invoke a feeling of calm (e.g., learn the psychology of colors). Court proceedings are stressful, and this visual element can help increase conversion rates.
  • Add design elements that invoke trust and show credibility, like board certifications and case results.

Use the insights you gather from your research to develop ads and campaigns that are relevant and highly targeted for a specific group of people (e.g., young mothers going through a divorce). 

Setting up your PPC campaign

Now, it’s time to create a PPC campaign. You’ll have similar sections to cover no matter the platform you choose. Here’s an overview of the process:

  • Choose campaign goals: Determine why you’re running a PPC campaign. Is it to drive traffic to your website? To generate leads? Or download a free guide?
  • Create a campaign: Create a new campaign for specific keywords and audiences. Each ad group represents one type of service or client segment. For example, if you have two different types of legal services (e.g., DUI and divorce), you’d create separate campaigns for each.
  • Define demographics: Choose audience segments based on location, age, gender, household income, and parental status. 
  • Select days and times: Decide when your audience is most active on the ad platform and choose those days (requires experimentation, but customer research should reveal their working/home hours). 
  • Set your PPC budget:  Set a daily budget for each campaign. This will determine how much you spend per click (CPC) and cost-per-acquisition (CPA).
  • Create your ads: Write the headline, ad copy, and CTA, then include an image (if applicable) to make it stand out. 
  • Monitor performance: Track the results of your ad campaigns using the analytics from the platform and other tools. 
  • Experiment and reiterate: Look at your metrics, such as clicks, phone calls, and conversions, to see what’s working and what needs improvement. Run A/B tests by changing one element (headline, copy, CTA) at a time to see what improves results. 

PPC strategies for lawyers (that actually work)

Managing PPC campaigns is a lot of work, but it’s worth the effort when using the right strategies. Unfortunately, the Call Rail report shows 39% of lawyers say paid search is underperforming for their firms. 

If you’re in this boat (or want to avoid it), then here are several strategies to adopt. 

#1 Include keywords in your headline and ad copy

Having targeted keywords throughout your ad helps Google understand who you’re targeting. But don’t overdo it — adding the terms to your headline and once in the ad copy is enough. 

This ad targets keywords similar to “family law attorneys,” which improves the ad strength and keyword quality score.

Family law ad example

Google takes this into consideration when deciding whose ads will appear in search (yours or a competitor’s). As a result, having the keywords in the ad copy is crucial. The first text a user reads from the ad is similar to or exactly what they’re searching for, which will improve CTR.

We used high-quality keywords with high conversion rates in the ads we managed for a client’s law firm. And you’ll never guess what happened next — they reduced their ad spend in August from $210/day to $40/day because they were getting too many quality leads.

Custody proof

This just goes to show the power of optimizing ads with the right keywords. 

#2 Show more details about your law firm using the location extension

When you add the location extension to your Google ad campaign, it shows more information about your law firm. For example, you can include your address, phone number, office hours, and additional helpful links. 

Location extension

It also increases the odds of getting clicks, since prospects can see whether you’re near them and available to take their call right now.

#3 Include a CTA in the ad copy 

What is it you want prospective customers to do? Call to schedule a consultation? Visit your office? Or fill out a lead form? Whatever the call to action is, include it in the body of the ad, so people know what to do next. 

You can also add other details to make your law firm stand apart. 

“Add information like the number of cases worked or years of experience to set a foundation of trust that you can help them,” Aldinger advises. 

#4 Optimize your website

Your landing page is optimized for the target audience. But don’t forget about the rest of your website. Odds are, visitors will browse through the rest of your site to get a feel of your legal status. This is where you can showcase your legal prowess. 

“Include how many cases your firm worked on or individuals you’ve helped,” says Aldinger. “Reviews are also great to showcase your firm’s experience relating to those specific case types. Legal cases can get expensive quickly, so the user needs to know you’re going to fight for their best interest.”

Then to weed out those who are only there for answers, place FAQs at the top of the page (instead of the bottom). We’ve seen success doing this because it provides general legal information to those at the top of the funnel. 

#5 Be available for client calls within 24 hours (or less)

The sooner you can connect with a lead, the higher the odds of closing a deal. CallRail’s report mentioned above shows that 46% of law firms state phone as the preferred outreach method for legal prospects. 

On average, it takes law firms five hours to respond to prospective clients. Roughly 99% of firms are okay with their response times.

However, due to the time-sensitive nature of the legal industry, slow response times lead to 46 lost prospects per year, equating to $200,000 in lost revenue. 

So if you can get on the phone within the first few hours, the less likely you’ll lose a lead to a competitor. 

The takeaway

Running a law firm takes a lot of time and effort. Unfortunately, so does managing a profitable PPC campaign. Paid search is an investment that keeps on giving, but only with the right tools and strategies.

Implement both, and you can reduce time spent managing your PPC, while still maintaining a positive ROI.

Bookmark this guide and follow it to enhance your PPC efforts and maintain a competitive edge.

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 Oct 11 , 2022

PPC campaigns may be the golden goose of your digital marketing strategybut without a PPC audit, how would you know?

Here, you’ll find:

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

There are plenty of moving parts that come with running successful paid search (also called pay-per-click or PPC) 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 truth is, the most effective PPC campaign you can run is one that you’re consistently analyzing, testing, and improving. That’s where an audit comes in. 

Here, Jordan Fultz, one of our expert SEM managers, breaks down the ins and outs of PPC audits — and why they’re worth your time.

person riding a unicycle in front of a sunset

Audits are one of the most effective ways to assess your PPC efforts. (Image: 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, PPC audits can benefit your marketing program. 

Why you should conduct a PPC audit

Think of all the campaign settings, keywords, ad groups, and components of your PPC campaigns. Each one demands your attention every quarter.

Yeah, we know it’s tedious.

But a PPC audit can be the eureka moment to find improvement opportunities you may have missed and scale your ad performance. This is particularly true if you’ve been working with the same account for a long time.

PPC audits help marketers:

  • Maximize ROI on PPC campaigns
  • Analyze conversion rates and other metrics
  • Assess ad performance for Google ad accounts
  • Correct settings mistakes costing companies higher ad spends
  • Collect data for marketing and performance reports
  • Decrease CPC (cost per click) and CPA (cost per acquisition)
  • Increase CTR (clickthrough rate)

While it may sound painstaking to analyze each element, it’s key to ensure your PPC is as high-performing as possible and you’re not wasting money. After all, what business wouldn’t want to cut ad spend, reach targeted audiences, and increase revenue?

Getting granular with settings is how you do it.

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.

group of professionals discussing a ppc audit

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

How to conduct a PPC audit in 10 steps

Your first step? Set aside a day or two for your PPC audit.

You have lots of ground to cover, so keep this checklist handy to make the process efficient and headache-free.

1. Double-check conversion tracking settings

Conversion tracking offers valuable insights about ad performance and customer actions after clicking an ad — purchases, email signups, phone calls, app downloads, and more. 

You could be crushing your PPC campaigns and wouldn’t know if you weren’t tracking conversions. That’s why the first step of any PPC audit is to confirm you’re tracking everything properly. 

But hang on, didn’t I already set this up when I opened the account? 

Probably, but it doesn’t hurt to double-check. 

If you didn’t install conversion settings or made errors throughout the process, you might not catch all your conversions. Look for these red flags in your conversion tracking settings: 

  • Notice any “unverified” or “inactive” statuses? Google’s Tag Assistant can help with debugging. 
  • Confused about uncharacteristically low conversions, or worse — none for an account? First, ensure each account has a conversion tracking code and link everything to Google Analytics. Otherwise, you may be tracking website conversions and phone calls but neglecting to track app downloads. Or any other similar combination. 
  • Do conversion figures feel super high or match your click rates? Perhaps you’ve forgotten to remove legacy tags that are causing double counts. Or, you’re tracking home page visits over order pages.

2. Assess PPC account structure 

Your account structure organizes your ads, campaigns, and keywords. We’ll dive deeper into keywords shortly, but let’s start with account structure, specifically naming conventions. 

Do you have coherent, logical names for the following: 

  • Campaigns: Campaign names should adequately describe the campaign type, theme, location, and product or service. E.g., Search – Branded — Skin Cleanser — USA
  • Ad groups: We can’t stress enough the power of skimmable content. That’s vital for both published content and PPC ads. Categorize ad group names with a clear, relevant keyword. While we’re on the topic of ad groups, check how many ads fall into each one. If you only have one, it’s time to test some variations.
  • Campaign themes: Again, categorization is your friend. Separate campaigns by theme, including branded, generic, location, and match type.
  • Labels: These are great for further filtering, especially for e-commerce retailers or businesses with many products.

3. Review keywords & search terms

Every quarter, you should revisit your positive and negative keywords — and your PPC audit is a great time to do this. But the keywords themselves aren’t the only thing impacting CTRs and conversions. 

  • Keyword quality scores: Always aim for scores of six to 10 or higher. Low scores mean it’s probably a good time to update your keyword list. Ensure each ad group has directly related keywords to avoid generic ad copy. 
  • Primary keywords: Fit them into the display URL, paths, ad copy, and descriptions.  
  • Keyword Numbers: Aim for 5-10, but try not to exceed 10. 
  • Negative keywords: Being bunched into irrelevant search results can skyrocket your CPC. Use search term reports to inform your negative keyword list and flag anything unrelated to your products. Additionally, mix up keyword match types to reduce your chances of appearing in unwanted results. 
  • Longtail keywords: Don’t shy away from these behemoths. They might look long and surface as questions, but they are more personalized—great for generating more leads. 
  • Varied match types: Use a mix of phrase and exact match types to balance volume and relevance.

Additionally, PPC audits should involve a thorough search term review to determine where your traffic goes and if there are any trends or surprises. This can fill in gaps from keyword research. 

Then, using that data, you can decide if more negative keywords or account restructuring would optimize the account. (Keep in mind that Google tends to hide approximately 30% of search terms because Google doesn’t think they’re relevant.)

If you’re looking for tasks to offload to free up crucial time, consider partnering with experts hellbent on your success. 

HawkSEM is at the ready with SEM services like keyword research and optimization. Less stress, more visibility. Win-win!

4. Analyze ad copy

We’ve talked about PPC ad settings and analytics, but what about the meat of your ads? I’m talking about content.

Every PPC audit should include a detailed review of each ad’s content. Look out for: 

  • Keywords: Promote ad relevance by including keywords in your ad copy.
  • Logic, Spelling, and Grammar: Do your ads have outdated offers, times, or dates? If so, remove them, or update them to be evergreen. Include a quick spelling and grammar check as well. 
  • Images: Are you relying only on text ads? You might be excluding visual consumers, who respond better to images. This is especially vital for highly technical services that might be harder to convey through copy. Make sure each image meets size and pixel requirements for Google. 
  • CTA (call-to-action): CTAs persuade your audience to check out your products or services. Now’s the time to ensure every ad has one! Need inspiration to ensure your CTAs boost engagement? Check out Forbes’ roundup of the top CTAs in history!  
  • Google Ad Guidelines: Google has a long list of ad policies, including restricted content and technical requirements. Compare any low-performing ads with Google’s ad policies in your PPC audit

5. Optimize ad extensions

Notice any ads slinking away from your audience’s visibility? Extensions offer browsers more info about your product. Plus, they’re built-in (free) and don’t increase ad spend

Google offers automated extensions that you can review in one tab — remove or improve the ones with low performance. 

You can also add manual tabs (and adjust automated tabs) to suit your ad goals. At a minimum, try to include three of these extensions: 

  • Sitelinks: These might include links to contact forms, sales landing pages, pricing pages, testimonials, and more. They should link to pages with the same domain as your ad. 
  • Snippets: Add a short and sweet description to give your audience a quick preview of your offerings.
  • Lead form: Itching for subscribers to your email list? Add a lead form extension! You might want to offer an incentive, like a free value-add or discount. Promotion extensions also work well. 
  • Callouts: Callouts are similar to CTAs and highlight pertinent product info. They usually come toward the end of a snippet. Just ensure they’re under the 25-character limit.
  • Locations: Eager for web searchers to visit your local brick-and-mortar? A location extension gives them the necessary information while appealing to convenience-focused customers in the neighborhood. 
  • Phone call extensions: What if searchers don’t click on your ad? Reel them in with a phone number. If they call, that’s a great conversion. Remember to enable call reporting to see if the extension works for you.
  • Images: A picture is essential for visual businesses, like clothing retailers, makeup manufacturers, artists, and other creative companies. 

All set with ad extensions? These are some ideas, but don’t feel obligated to add a bunch of extensions to every ad. Instead, use extensions to promote ad relevance, complement your business, and support your goals. 

For example, location extensions are great for showrooms and in-person purchases but don’t add value to an e-commerce store. Likewise, sitelinks extensions to your contact page might not be the best choice if you want to highlight a promotion on a sales landing page.

6. Audit sales landing pages

E-commerce store owners, we’re talking to you. How many sales landing pages do you have right now? Chances are, a product might be sold out, discontinued, and irrelevant to web searchers, which could lower your ad rank.

Ad Quality Scores have a separate tab to include landing page quality in your reports. Use it to improve visibility and pump up ad performance.

7. Review bid strategy

What’s your ultimate goal with Google Ads? Of course, conversions are a top priority for most, but you might be after more specific goals, like increased clickthrough rate or impressions.

Bid adjustments can tweak your strategy to better reach your bottom line.

Check out the following bid strategies and corresponding goals:

  • CPC Bidding: Web traffic and clicks
  • Smart bidding: Conversions and direct actions
  • CPV (cost per view) or CPM (cost per thousand impressions) bidding: Views and interactions with video ads; Product and brand consideration
  • vCPM (cost per thousand viewable impressions): Brand awareness

Content goals evolve with time, so your bidding strategies should reflect that. Check out Google’s guidelines for more bidding info.

8. Listen to ROI & ROAS

Your ad campaigns work for you, but how hard? ROI (return on investment) and ROAS (return on ad spend) calculations help you distinguish the money-makers from poor performers.

Ruler Analytics shares a quick, easy formula for ROI:

ROI = 100 ((Revenue – Expenses)/Expenses)

Expenses include ad spend, labor, tech costs, and everything else you spend related to your ads.

ROAS is slightly different but equally important. Short for “Return on Ad Spend,” ROAS narrows down individual ad performance and tells you how much revenue you make for every ad dollar.

Here’s how you calculate it:

ROAS = Ad spend revenue/Ad spend

Notice any less than savory numbers? Might be time to cut a campaign or improve it.

When you do, aim for:

  • 25-50% ROI
  • 2.87:1 ROAS

9. Inspect targeting settings

What’s the difference between hitting a bull’s eye on the target board and missing the board entirely? In the PPC world, not much. 

That’s why targeting settings are the final and arguably most important part of the PPC audit

A simple PPC error could mean your ad wins a game of hide and seek with your audience…yikes. 

Avoid this scenario (and hefty ad spend) by reviewing these targeting settings: 

  • Location targeting: Do you sell delicious, packaged cupcakes? Maybe you dream of a global audience, but you’ll waste thousands without converting high-interest leads. To avoid this loss, narrow in on local audiences by city or state (and state might be pushing it). Remember to download a geo report during every PPC account audit, which tells you where your audience is. Finally, up the ante with IP exclusions. For example, exclude IP addresses from Georgia (former Soviet republic) if you sell kids’ toys in Georgia, USA.
  • Device: Working with display and video campaigns? Streamline ads by device, making them visible on tablets, mobile devices, or any others that make sense for your campaign. 
  • Timing: Sometimes, ads perform better at certain times of the day. For example, alcohol delivery service ads might fare better after the liquor stores close. Use Google’s Ad Schedule to toggle date and time settings. 
  • Remarketing: Repeat site visitors are essential segments to track. Ad campaigns might target remarketing lists for search ads (RLSA) more aggressively since the searchers demonstrate greater interest. 

10. Check for outdated scripts or rules

Sometimes, accounts have old scripts or rules running that can undermine current projects. 

To check for outdated scripts:

  • Login to Google Ads
  • On the top of the menu, click on “Tools & Settings” (the wrench icon in top right)
  • Under “Bulk Actions” you can find “Scripts” and “Rules”

Take a look through and consider what rules should be retried — and what new ones might be worth a shot.

PPC audit checklist 

Ready to hunker down and audit your heart out? Great! Here’s your go-to PPC audit quick list.

Conversion Tracking Settings

 ▢ Resolve Unverified or Inactive statuses with Tag Assistant

 ▢ Link PPC data to Google Analytics

 ▢ Ensure each account has a conversion tracking code

 ▢ Track website conversions, phone calls, app downloads, and any other actions

 ▢ Remove legacy tags

 ▢ Track order confirmations over home page visits

Account Structure

 ▢ Add coherent, skimmable, logical names to campaigns and ad groups

 ▢ Ensure ad groups have more than one ad and test variations

 ▢ Add campaign themes like branded, generic, location, and match type

 ▢ Use labels to filter ads 

Positive and Negative Keywords

 ▢ Update keyword list

 ▢ Ensure ad groups have directly related keywords

 ▢ Add primary keywords to display URL and paths, as well as ad copy

 ▢ Ensure 15-20 keywords per ad group, but don’t exceed 20

 ▢ Review query reports to find potential negative keywords

 ▢ Mix up keyword match types

 ▢ Add longtail keywords

Ad Content

 ▢ Include keywords in ad copy

 ▢ Check logic, spelling, and grammar

 ▢ Include image ads, especially for e-Commerce stores

 ▢ Include CTAs

 ▢ Ensure adherence with Google Ad policies

Ad Extensions

 ▢ Ensure each ad has an ad extension (ideally three)

 ▢ Review automated ad extensions and remove low-performing ones

 ▢ Ensure sitelinks match ad page domain 

 ▢ Ensure callouts are under 25 characters

 ▢ Add location extensions when relevant for local audiences

 ▢ Enable call reporting for phone call extensions

 ▢ Add image extensions 

 ▢ Align ad extensions with business goals and situation

Sales Landing Pages

 ▢ Review sales landing pages

 ▢ Remove outdated pages with sold-out or discontinued products

Location Targeting

 ▢ Review geo reports

 ▢ Add IP exclusions

 ▢ Optimize locations for relevant audiences

 ▢ Add device targets where relevant (display and video campaigns)

 ▢ Add time settings where relevant with Google Ad Schedule

▢ Use remarketing campaigns for repeat visitors

Scripts and Rules

▢ Click “Tools & Settings” (the wrench icon in top right)

▢ Under “Bulk Actions” you can find “Scripts” and “Rules”

▢ Consider what rules should be retried — and what new ones might be worth a shot

How often should you 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
  • Your PPC account’s age
  • The size of your team
  • Fundamental changes or updates to Google Ads

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.

At HawkSEM, we use ConversionIQ to audit client campaigns. This platform syncs all digital marketing data into one dashboard, so we can measure campaign performance, the customer journey, and make informed optimization decisions. 

person using a rock climbing wall indoors

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

Pro tip: If you decide to partner with an agency for your PPC, they’ll likely want to conduct an audit. If it’s not a good time for changes to be made (such as during peak season), you may want to consider partnering at a time when you won’t be sweating each change.

The takeaway 

PPC campaigns thrive with awareness… and die with complacency. A PPC audit is the refresh your ad campaign needs to awaken with fresh eyes on your audience.

Don’t get us wrong, PPC audits are tedious and time-consuming. But every digital marketer needs them for visible, audience-grabbing ad campaigns.

PPC account audits are immense learning experiences for every marketer, and you’ll glean invaluable insights that’ll help you optimize your ads to be more targeted and efficient.

But if you just can’t squeeze in the time? Put us in, coach. We’re here to help with PPC management — just say the word.

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 Caroline Cox on Sep 12 , 2022

PPC marketing is a proven way to get fast results from digital advertising. But it requires refining, updating, and optimizing for best results.

Here, you’ll find:

  • Why Google Ads isn’t the only game in town
  • Reasons manual bidding is worth your attention
  • Expert tips on pay-per-click (PPC) optimization in 2022
  • What Core Web Vitals are and why they matter for PPC

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 rise to the top. 

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 2022 and beyond.

1. Explore manual bidding

No matter how stellar your PPC advertising efforts are, your ads 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 highest number of clicks according to your set ad spend 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 is the limitation 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

That said, 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 bids for keywords that receive solid impressions but don’t generate sales or leads
  • Increasing bids for keywords that convert to boost the position of those ads and generate more conversions
  • Choosing the default bid, which is close to the average CPC in your automatic campaigns

Manual bidding is great when you need more control over bids. But this strategy also means more time goes into making sure you bid the right amount at the right time. 

You can streamline this by setting up automated rules to do things like pause poorly performing keywords, raise bids to top of page or first page, raise or lower bids during certain times of day, and more. 

Pro tip: 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. 

two people working in front of a white board

While recent data and privacy updates have posed some additional hurdles to remarketing, there are still ways to create ad groups that specifically target these prospects. (Image: Unsplash)

2. Take advantage of remarketing

Almost no one converts (aka completes a purchase) on their first website 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 campaigns as part of your PPC optimization plan.

This process uses ads to re-engage potential customers 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 should take on your website.

While recent data and privacy updates have posed some additional hurdles to remarketing, there are still ways to create ad groups that specifically target these prospects.

3. Explore Microsoft Ads

Google Ads is the clear leader in the PPC marketing realm. But that doesn’t mean other avenues aren’t worth exploring. 

For some companies, using Microsoft Advertising can be just the solution they’ve been waiting for to increase their paid search ROI. 

Depending on your industry and the location you’re targeting, there’s often less competition on non-Google search engines and platforms, which means lower CPCs.

But while it’s easy to import a campaign over from Google Ads and let it run its course, you may be missing highly useful tools these 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 profile targeting – target people by company, job function, and the industry in which they work 
  • Competition insight – see how your ads compare to your competition

4. Pay attention to Amazon Ads

Amazon Advertising presents another PPC optimization opportunity for e-commerce brands. 

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 at your disposal:

  • Brand ads — display as banner ads in search results
  • Product ads — show within the search results for selected keywords as promoted relevant results
  • Brand videos — that auto-play while also showing an image, description, and link to the product
  • Lockscreen ads — for e-books

As far as targeting goes on Amazon, you can opt for automatic or manual targeting. The former includes close match, loose match, substitutes, or complements, and it relies on the ‘zon’s algorithm to determine the related keywords to target. As time goes on, it’ll compile data from clicks and purchases to (hopefully) increase your conversion rate. 

For manual targeting, you decide which keywords to bid on. Your ads should surface when a shopper searches using those keywords.

When it comes to optimizing Amazon PPC ads, you have a few options. As Seller App explains, those options include:

  • Setting up a structured ad campaign, ideally with campaigns for each primary product category
  • Being as precise and descriptive as possible in your ad copy
  • Leveraging Amazon’s Search Term Report to see which keywords to include in your title or headline
  • Using high-resolution, high-quality imagery
  • A/B testing and monitoring metrics to see what resonates with your audience so you can optimize and modify accordingly

For Amazon PPC optimization, what works for one brand may not work for another. This marketplace is vast — which means that, depending on your industry, you may have to employ some out-of-the-box strategizing to get your campaign to stand out.

Don’t be afraid to mix up your imagery (especially since Amazon lets you upload multiple images per product) and play off of relevant trends in your copy, then monitor campaign performance to see if you’ve hit the right note.

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

5. Leverage responsive search ads

After first appearing in 2019, Responsive Search Ads (RSAs) quickly grew in popularity. That’s partly because these ads allow you to create 15 headlines and four 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
  • Devices used
  • Browsing behavior

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

Pro tip: Google sunsetted expanded text ads in June 2022, meaning RSAs are now Google’s preferred ad type.

creating a ppc optimizaton plan with pencils and sticky notes

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

6. Optimize your website

Even with PPC optimization, your marketing campaign results can still fall below expectations if you don’t optimize your website. 

Recently, Google has begun to factor in Core Web Vitals when determining the rank 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 a 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 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 results in more relevant ads, 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? 

There’s never a bad time to revisit your keyword research, consider expanding your current keyword lists, updating your negative keyword list, and getting rid of those that are underperforming.

Plus, 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 in Google Analytics (GA) to find new keywords to add that aren’t already in your account, then use Google Keyword Planner for additional research.

8. Check in on your conversion tracking

Conversions help marketers determine what is working in our campaigns, and what isn’t. Taking the extra time to ensure your conversion tracking is set up properly is well worth it so that you know you’re making data-informed decisions based on accurate numbers.

We highly recommend using GA and a tool like Google Tag Manager (GTM) for conversion tracking. 

Why? Let’s say you want to drive more form completions. You can configure your tags in GTM, build your goals in GA, and import those GA goals to Google Ads. 

If you have the same goal for multiple channels, e.g. paid social media and paid search or SEO and paid search, it streamlines the conversion setup. You can also configure Google Ads conversion tags directly in GTM. (This bypasses GA, which means 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.

If all this sounds like a bit too much to add to your plate, consider chatting with us – we’ve created our own unique marketing technology built to drive actionable insights, full-funnel attribution and high-quality conversions that continuously improve your bottom line. Learn more about ConversionIQ here.

The takeaway

PPC optimization is an ongoing process. 

Add that to the multiple new options and updates happening every year, and 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. Use the above tips to guide you as you work to maximize PPC marketing efforts through this year and beyond.

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

Questions or comments? Join the conversation here!

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Written by Sam Yadegar on Aug 22 , 2022

There’s never a bad time to reevaluate your search engine marketing plan.

Here, you’ll find:

  • What Google has in store for search in 2022 and beyond
  • Which new tools could enhance your SEM
  • The latest standout SEM trends
  • Tips for SEM success

The search engine marketing (SEM) landscape continues to change faster than you can flip calendar pages. From algorithm updates to the eventual sunsetting of third-party cookies, the industry is ever-evolving.

Because of that, it’s almost always a good idea to take stock of your SEM program — its strengths, weaknesses, and what new frontiers can be explored.

Whether you’ve already exceeded your 2022 goals or are working to make it happen before year’s end, this is a great time to make sure you’re strategies are poised for SEM success.

Below, we offer some ways to do just that.

1. Stay on top of the latest Google news

We already know Google rolls out dozens of updates each year. These updates vary in their impact and reach, and the search engine doesn’t always make it crystal-clear exactly how the changes will affect websites.

That’s why, when they do give people a heads up, it’s worth noting. Some recent changes Google has announced include:

A move toward better “information literacy”

In the past few years, misinformation has seemingly exploded online. Between people spreading articles they haven’t actually read and scammers posing as “experts,” it can be hard to decipher what is and isn’t credible information.

Google Fellow and Vice President of Search Pandu Nayak recently penned an article for Google’s blog outlining the steps its team is taking to combat misinformation and ensure their users get served accurate, high-quality search results.

This includes using their latest AI-powered Multitask Unified Model (MUM) to help determine what’s deserving of a featured snippet spot on the search engine results page (SERP). 

Additionally, Nayak says they’re working to:

  • Expand content advisories for information gaps
  • Expand its “About this result” to more places
  • Educate people about misinformation

Third-party cookie phase-out

In January 2020, Google announced its plans to phase out third-party cookies (which have been used in marketing to track, monitor and analyze a site visitor’s behavior) on Chrome by the end of 2022. 

It’s a move to quell growing online privacy concerns, with cookies slated to be replaced by “browser-based tools and techniques aimed at balancing personalization and privacy,” according to Marketing Land. 

Now, Google has pushed things back to 2024, giving marketers a bit more time to pivot.

This could affect your marketing strategies if you leverage advanced retargeting or remarketing tactics. The good news is that you have more than a year to learn how to pivot from relying on third-party cookies.

Pro tip: With third-party cookies on their way out, learning how to leverage first-party data successfully is more important than ever. 

person looking into an alley in the daytime through eyeglasses

As far as content types go, you can’t get much better than articles and other materials that aim to educate your audience. (Image: Unsplash)

2. Get familiar with Google Analytics 4

Google is constantly perfecting its tools. One prime example of this is its new and improved analysis platform, Google Analytics 4. Launched in October 2020, this machine learning-driven program can help you get more nuanced insights into customers’ behavior.

New features also include the ability to track users across different platforms, improve audience segmentation in Google Ads, and much more.

With Google planning to discontinue Universal Analytics in summer 2023, exploring this new opportunity as soon as possible can help you gain a competitive edge and streamline your SEM campaigns.

3. Beef up your educational content

As far as content types go, you can’t get much better than articles and other materials that aim to educate your audience. People love this kind of content because it provides a service and (ideally) helps them solve a problem or glean new information without having to make a purchase. 

With millions of people changing up their employment status in 2022, the need for educational content is on the rise. In fact, consumers are 131% more likely to buy a product after reading educational content, according to a recent study.

This content is a great incentive to include on a landing page in exchange for a user’s contact info. The time and money you invest in the educational content right now can bring impressive SEM success in the future.

4. Explore paid social advertising

The popularity of social media continues to rise, as more apps and features continue to roll out on a regular basis. 

The proof is in the data. Instagram now has over 1 billion monthly active users (that’s up from 500 million in 2019). Meanwhile, TikTok has more than 650 million monthly active users and counting.

Because of this, 2022 could be a great time to invest in paid social strategies. Social media ads are generally more affordable than other digital ad types, making them a smart diversification tactic. 

Depending on where your target audience is most active, you could explore ads on platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, and Pinterest

Hand holding a light bulb for SEM success idea

Technical SEO is one of the more neglected SEO elements — it’s also one of the most crucial. (Image: Rawpixel)

5. Reevaluate your SEM spend

With a potential recession looming, some people are tightening up their budgets. As a result, it may be a good idea to reevaluate your PPC campaign budget to make sure you’re spending wisely and on the right marketing tactics.

A good plan of action: Single out the highest performing ads and keywords, then channel more of your PPC budget to support them. To pace your campaign spend better, you may consider such settings as lifetime spend or monthly spend limits instead of daily budgets.

6. Keep your technical SEO top notch

Search engine marketing isn’t all about paid search. Search engine optimization (SEO) is also key to SEM success, since both hinge on search engines.

SEO is a long game with results that often take more time to see than PPC efforts. But making sure that your SEO program is thorough and high-quality can keep you climbing up the organic rankings and growing your audience as a result.

Technical SEO is one of the more neglected SEO elements — it’s also one of the most crucial. Technical SEO is the term for the technical aspects of your site, such as your site architecture, metadata, and Schema markup, that search engines crawl to understand your site’s content.

An audit is the more thorough way to analyze your technical SEO. But if you want to take a quick glance at your current status, look at website elements such as:

  • Structured data
  • Site security
  • Page speed
  • Mobile-friendliness
  • Site architecture
  • Navigation
  • Internal links
  • URL structures
  • Metadata 

The takeaway

In digital marketing, as in life, it seems like the only constant is change.

But it’s also true that you can create campaigns with human-focused messages and initiatives that are set up to stand the test of time.

No matter what search engines throw our way this year and the next, these insights can help you craft strategies set up to see impressive results and SEM success.

This article has been updated and was originally published in June 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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Written by Sam Yadegar on Jul 20 , 2022

Digital marketing gets you in front of potential customers. The right strategy leads them to convert.

Here, you’ll find:

  • How search results affect customer acquisition
  • Organic ways to acquire new leads
  • Effective paid marketing strategies
  • How to set your website up for optimal acquisition

Experienced marketing pros know all about the customer journey. 

It comprises the stages we base our content, campaigns, and plans on: awareness, consideration, and decision. (With delight as the bonus step.) The customer journey is crucial when it comes to acquisition.

Customer acquisition is the process of converting a generated lead into a customer. It’s basically the whole funnel (or journey) combined. 

Marketing is about attracting new customers, and keeping customer acquisition top of mind is how marketers can make that happen.

While there’s no one way to pinpoint and acquire qualified leads that are sure to become customers, there are digitally minded marketing strategies you can implement with customer acquisition in mind. Here, we’ve mapped out six of our favorites.

line of people outside from aerial view

Companies that use paid search for successful customer acquisition know it’s not only about the ad. (Image: Unsplash)

1. Paid search marketing

Also known as pay per click or PPC, paid search is one of the most effective digital marketing strategies when it comes to customer acquisition. That’s because it allows companies to target their specific audience with the right keywords at the right time.

Paid search ads appear at the top of the search engine results page (SERP) on sites like Google and Bing. If someone’s searching for “women’s black cycling shoes,” for example, and you’re an e-commerce brand selling cycling products (including women’s black cycling shoes), you want your targeted ad to be the one they see. 

The same goes for brands selling other products and services.

The companies that use paid search for successful customer acquisition know it’s not only about the ad. Rather, it’s crucial to pair eye-catching, appealing ad copy with an optimized landing page that boasts consistent verbiage, clean design, and a clear call to action (CTA).

2. Search engine optimization (SEO)

Along with a strategic paid search plan, having a solid SEO strategy helps search engines more easily recognize your website. This helps improve your rankings and, ideally, grow your reach for better customer acquisition.

Proper website SEO means having elements such as:

  • Unique title tags on your pages
  • High-quality content 
  • Internal links and external links (to authoritative sites)
  • A thorough sitemap
  • Thoughtful meta descriptions
  • Images with alt tags

As a reminder, optimizing your site for search engines won’t guarantee that you’ll get in the first position (or even on the first page) of the SERPs. 

After all, the search engine algorithm that determines the best content for each search query is constantly changing, and the details about how each search engine determines the best content to show searchers aren’t always clear.

However, by keeping your site up to date, easy to navigate, and educational for prospects and clients, you can position your brand as a thought leader and your site as a trustworthy information source.

3. Social media

When it comes to social media, you’ve got the option to leverage both organic and paid avenues. But don’t make the mistake of thinking that each path can be leveraged in the same way or achieve the same results.

Let’s start with organic social media. The practice of regularly creating social media posts can help spread the word about new business offerings or updates, increase your exposure, and even help you go viral (in a good way, ideally).

While organic social posts likely won’t directly result in customer acquisition, they can aid in brand awareness, content sharing, and allow you to highlight the fun side of your brand.

Paid social, on the other hand, can be a powerful tool if wielded properly. When choosing which platforms to advertise on, you should first consider your target audience and the platforms they use most.

From there, you can take advantage of the audience targeting tools most of these platforms have in place to get your content delivered straight to those who need to see it most. 

group of millennials on their laptops laughing

While blogging is a great medium for businesses when it comes to customer acquisition, effective content marketing can encompass much more. (Image: Unsplash)

4. Remarketing

As we’ve touched on before, remarketing can benefit your business in numerous ways. 

Not only does it keep you top of mind when someone takes an action like visiting your site, or requesting a consultation or demo, but it allows you to hyper-focus your ads and ups your chances of turning a lead into a conversion.

Remarketing (also called retargeting) works by leveraging display ads to connect your business with people who have already visited your site or mobile app. When done right, it’s one of the best and most cost-effective ways to get past visitors back to your site. 

Of course, the most successful retargeting campaigns aren’t one size fits all. A brand-new site visitor shouldn’t be remarketed the same way as a returning visitor. 

Along with data and online privacy changes, the eventual demise of third-party cookies is going to force some changes in digital marketing, particularly for remarketing ads. But there’s no need to panic.

While more solutions will become apparent as the process unfolds (such as replacement tools like FLEDGE and Topics), focusing on attracting new prospects is one way to keep your lead pipeline flowing. 

Looking for more ways to increase your customer acquisition? Let’s talk.

5. Content marketing

Blogging is a great medium for businesses when it comes to customer acquisition, but effective content marketing can encompass much more.

Examples of valuable content include:

  • Blog articles
  • Videos
  • Webinars
  • Guides
  • E-books
  • Infographics
  • Checklists
  • Downloadable templates
  • Product descriptions
  • Case studies

No matter the content you create, you want to make sure it’s accurate, helpful, and keyword targeted. The more deliverables you publish and promote, the more industry topics you can cover. This makes your site more likely to surface in organic search results for people seeking what you have to offer.

Pro tip: You can take things a step further by partnering with another brand (with a similar audience but not a competitor) on something like an infographic, webinar, or guest blog. This expands your reach, helps build your professional network, and boosts your brand’s credibility.

two people working on laptops at a coffeeshop

You’re six times more likely to get a click-through from an email campaign than from a tweet. (Image: Unsplash)

6. Email newsletters

Email newsletters can be a powerful acquisition channel if you follow a few best practices. 

As Campaign Monitor reports, you’re six times more likely to get a click-through from an email campaign than from a tweet. 

Experience tells us the most successful newsletters:

  • Include one main CTA
  • Offer a tactical takeaway (like a pro tip, discount, or statistic)
  • Feature an attention-grabbing subject line
  • Have an easy-to-read template
  • Are optimized for mobile

When you’re looking to build your non-client subscriber list, get creative! You can add exit-intent pop-ups to your site or include a subscription box in your site’s footer navigation. 

Pro tip: Let your readers help you spread the word! Encourage forwarding in your email newsletter to make sharing a breeze. Due to the psychology of social proof, peer-recommended content is more likely to be trusted.

The takeaway

Customers are the bread and butter of any business. And digital marketing is one of the most direct ways to connect with your desired prospects.

By knowing your audience, meeting them where they are, and analyzing the data behind your campaigns, you’ll have the tools you need to not only attract more customers, but keep them loyal and happy as well.

This post has been updated and was originally published in December 2019.

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 Caroline Cox on Apr 20 , 2022

Not currently using call tracking? Here’s a guide to filling in this attribution gap.

Here, you’ll find:

  • An explanation of call tracking
  • A breakdown of various tracking tiers
  • How tracking can help optimize campaigns
  • The latest call-tracking updates

When it comes to connecting with companies, people want options. 

That’s why most businesses have a phone number, even if most marketing, communications, and customer service happens online. 

And it’s a wise choice, since reports show click-to-call rates are four times better than online conversion rates.

The question is: Are you taking full advantage of all that phone calls have to offer your business? 

As Marketing Land explains, “If your marketing strategy involves driving potential customers to the phone, you could be missing out on important attribution data as well as the best source of first-party customer data.” 

Basically, if you’re not tracking calls, you could be missing a key element in your conversion tracking. Here’s how to set up call tracking for your ads, and why you should.

call tracking for digital marketing

There are various solutions available when it comes to call-tracking options for your business. (Image: Unsplash)

What is call tracking?

Call tracking is the process of gathering information about the phone calls people make to your company. Basic tracking helps you make sure you’re attributing calls to your ads to help optimize campaigns. 

More advanced tracking allows you to accrue data that will tell you more about your prospects and customers. This includes their wants, pain points, frequently asked questions, and more. 

Phone calls can be a key part of your buyer’s journey. Call tracking serves to help bridge the gap between online and offline touch points, giving you a clearer picture of your prospects and customers.

Know your call-tracking options

There are various solutions available when it comes to call-tracking options for your business. You can choose from a variety of softwares and tiers depending on your budget and needs. 

hawksem call on GBP

You can include a “Call” CTA on your company’s Google Business Profile as well. (Image: Google)

Tier 1 tracking

The basic, standard level of call tracking is simply to track phone number clicks on your website. This allows you to properly attribute the click to your campaigns. You can set up this level of call tracking through Google Tag Manager. 

It will give you some basic data about calls to your existing phone number, such as when someone clicks the phone number on your website via their smartphone to call you. 

Tier 2 tracking

The next level involves implementing call tracking into your Google Ads campaigns. At this level, Google will assign you a forwarding phone number. If someone clicks on your ads, the number on your website will route to your Google forwarding number.

This level also offers more sophisticated call data. When you implement Google call tracking through Google Tag Manager, you can set parameters for what counts as a conversion, such as calls only over a certain amount of seconds. 

This way, you’re not counting irrelevant phone calls (like accidental clicks, spam clickers, and quickly unqualified leads) as conversions. 

Pro tip: While Google call tracking is free, the number you’re assigned won’t necessarily be permanently assigned to you. Further down the line, someone could call that number in search of your business and not be able to reach you. 

Tier 3 tracking

If your company has the means to invest in paid call-tracking services, there are a ton of benefits to be found. For one, you’ll be able to purchase a dedicated phone number that won’t be in danger of being changed. 

With call-tracking services, you pay for dedicated tracking phone numbers, including a ZIP code that matches your area. In terms of data, you’re able to record phone calls (the caller is given a heads up, of course). 

You can go back and listen to how customer service was handled and get more information about the callers. These services also allow you to capture customer contact information in the platforms

Top-tier call tracking can often tell you what caused the person to call, what stage of the buyer’s journey they’re in, and it can even sync with other programs like Google Analytics, Salesforce, or your preferred customer relationship management (CRM) tool.

Pro tip: Think you’ve got tracking covered with your call center? While these centers track things like hold time and client satisfaction, proper call tracking can provide valuable data for marketers that can help optimize and improve campaigns. 

call tracking to enhance paid ads

With the rise of mobile search, it makes sense that Google call-only campaigns would follow suit. (Image: Unsplash)

How call tracking can improve your marketing

Gathering data is only half the battle. After all, what good is all that data if you don’t take the time to analyze and leverage it? 

Call tracking allows you to review calls and pinpoint patterns. What are some common issues customers seem to have? What products or services are they asking about most? 

It can also help you make these calls more efficient by allowing you to personalize and tailor the call experience.

This type of tracking can help maximize ROI by painting a more complete picture of what’s driving people to your business. 

The future of call tracking

In fall 2020, Google began testing a new Google Business Profile feature dubbed “call history.”

According to Search Engine Land, the feature was “designed to help businesses see and respond to missed calls coming from Google Search and Maps.” 

With the rise of mobile search, it makes sense that Google call-only campaigns would follow suit. If you’re a business like a doctor’s office (or if you have a stellar customer service team trained to quickly solve problems), this ad type is worth exploring.

This way, you have the chance to catch someone’s attention and allow them to immediately connect with you, rather than risking them not finding what they’re looking for on your website.

The takeaway

In marketing, the more data you have, the better. If you’re not tracking phone calls on some level, you’re missing out on a key component of your conversion tracking. 

It’s the same idea behind tracking forms on your website. You want to track all ways people can contact you. 

The result: Improved customer service, better insights into why people aren’t converting via phone, help training employees, and a fuller picture of your buyer persona.

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

Questions or comments? Join the conversation here!

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