April 26 2021

Tips to Improve Paid Search Campaigns

Paid Search CampaignsWhether you are looking to increase brand awareness, leads, sales, clicks to your website, app downloads or store visits, a paid search campaign through Google or Bing is a smart marketing tactic.

Paid search, also known as pay per click, drives immediate traffic to your website or app on targeted keywords and phrases using additional, specific targeting criteria such as geography or device type. And, connecting paid search campaigns to your existing Google Analytics account allows you to monitor how campaign performance connects to ROI. But what happens if your ads are not performing as well as you had hoped? Here are some tips to help optimize your paid search campaigns.

Do Your Keywords Have a Low Quality Score?

Bidding on keywords is one of the most crucial parts of a paid search campaign. Not only do you have to bid on keywords that are related to your campaign topic, but you must also consider what users are actually searching for, the content on your landing page and your ad copy.

Quality score is a tool Google uses to assess the quality of keywords compared to competitors. There are a few things that Google uses to score keywords: expected clickthrough rate, how close the ad matches a user’s search and how relevant the landing or destination page is to people who click the ad. To check your quality score:

  1. Navigate to “Keywords” in the left menu of your Google Ads account.

  2. In the upper, right corner, click the columns icon.

  3. Click the “Quality Score” dropdown and select “Quality Score,” “Landing page exp.,” “Exp. CTR” and “Ad relevance.”

  4. Click “Apply.”

With these new columns selected, you will be able to view each keyword’s quality score (1-10) and additional information for the score. Start with your keywords that are preforming well (getting high impressions, clicks and conversions if applicable). Are any of their quality score indicators marked “below average” or “average?” This could indicate there is room for improvement.

  • If ad relevance is below average, this could mean your ad is not related to a user’s search. Make sure you are bidding on keywords that are closely related to your ad content. Keep in mind, if you are bidding on competitor terms, which you legally can, your ad relevance is going to be low for these terms.

  • If expected clickthrough rate is below average, Google thinks your ad will produce a high number of impressions, but users are not likely to click on the ad. A quick fix could be incorporating the keyword you are bidding on within the ad’s headline and description. A user is more likely to click your ad if it has content relevant to what they are searching for.

  • If landing page experience is below average, incorporating that keyword into the content of your web page could improve your score. Your landing page should match the language of your ad.

Making these improvements can lead to a higher quality score and in turn lead to more impressions, clicks and conversions.

Are Your Keywords Performing Well? Are Your Search Terms Relevant?

It is not only important to bid on the right keywords, but it is also important on how you bid on those keywords. Keyword match types dictate how closely your keyword matches a user’s search query. Match types range from broad to very specific. If you did not originally select a match type when adding keywords to your campaign, the default is going to be broad match. This means it’s possible that your ads are showing for search queries that are not very closely related to your ad. On the other hand, broad match types can help your ad show for search queries that you may not have thought of, or the keyword planner did not suggest.

To view your keyword performance, navigate back to the Keyword tab in your Google Ads account and click “Search Keywords.” Before deciding if you should alter match types, you must look at keyword performance, but also search terms. Search terms are the actual searches a user typed in before they were served your ad. Let’s say you bid on the term “bank account” as a broad match keyword and one of your top search queries is “checking account,” but you are running ads for a savings account. You would either want to alter your keywords and match type to not be so broad or add “checking account” as a negative keyword.

The key is to find a happy medium. You want to choose match types for keywords that are not too broad that are going to yield relevant results, but you don’t want to be too specific where you limit your reach. It is best to start out with phrase match keywords and monitor your search terms. Then, as you closely manage the account, add negative keywords as necessary to eliminate unrelated searches.

Are You Stealing Organic Traffic?

Regardless of your paid search campaign goals, it is never in anyone’s best interest to “steal” organic traffic from yourself. In other words, if you are already ranked highly organically, there should be no reason to bid on keywords and pay for clicks that would have happened for free.

While organic results certainly vary, Google Ads provides a basic report that outlines which search queries are producing your organic listing, your paid ad, or both. The search queries that are producing both indicates that you may be paying for an ad that does not need to be paid for.

To access this report, you will need to make sure your Google Search Console is connected to your Google Ads account.

  1. Login to your Google Ads account.

  2. In the top, middle of your screen click “Reports.”

  3. Click “Predefined Reports.”

  4. Click “Basic.”

  5. Click “Paid & Organic.”

  6. Filter your “Search Results Type” to only show “Both shown.”

  7. Click “Search Metrics and Dimensions” and type in “Search Keyword.”

  8. Add “Search Keyword” to the report by dragging it to the table and placing it under “Query.”

Just because a search query is showing both organic and paid search ads does not necessarily mean you should remove it from your campaign. If you scroll to the right and view “Organic Average Position,” you may see that the number is very high. For example, if the average position is 25, your organic listing will likely not be found because it will be past the first two pages of search results. In this case, having a paid ad is smart to attract targeted traffic while you continue to refine your organic SEO strategy for this term. However, if your organic position is 2, this indicate that your organic listing is normally at the top of the page and your paid campaign could be cannibalizing your SEO efforts.

The short-term solution for this is to add the search query as a negative keyword to your campaign. However, there may be other unrelated search queries in the future. The best way to prevent this is to determine which keyword (Search Keyword) produced your ad for that unrelated search query (Query). From there you can assess if you need to change your keyword’s match type in addition to adding negative keywords.

Are You Using Ad Extensions?

If you are not doing so already, consider using ad extensions to show additional information. There are several different types of ad extensions that can not only increase your clickthrough rate, but can also increase your Quality Score from Google at no additional cost.

  • Sitelink extensions: Think of sitelinks as quick links. They are additional links that fall below your ad copy to take a user to a different page on your website than your campaign landing page. For example, if you were promoting an auto loan campaign, maybe you would want to provide a sitelink extension to a rates page and a second sitelink extension to a contact page to get more information. As long as the links are relevant to your campaign, sitelinks are a great way to increase the likelihood of a click.

Paid Search Image with Sitelink Extensions
  • Callout extensions: Callout extensions are not clickable, but they emphasize important information at the end of your ad copy. For example, if you offer 24/7 customer support, this is a great benefit to highlight on your ad that can differentiate you from competitors.

Paid Search Image with Callout Extensions

  • Call extensions: To drive conversions by phone, add a phone number so users can call directly from your ad. Google will automatically track clicks to call, but to track calls as conversions, additional code needs to be placed.

Paid Search Image with Call Extensions

  • Structured snippet extensions: These extensions highlight aspects of your product/service in a list form. For example, if you were running a general brand awareness campaign, you may want to use a structured snippet to highlight your “Service catalog” and list out product/service offerings available.

Paid Search Image with Structured Snippets Extensions

  • App extension: If applicable, you can link to download your mobile app using this extension. If you were promoting online banking for example, an app extension could increase clicks.

Are You Targeting the Right Location?

Most U.S. businesses have a defined geographic footprint, and leaving the campaign location set to target all of the United States can be costly and often ineffective. Instead, focus your campaign on locations that make sense for your business. For example, bid in locations where you have a physical branch if you are a bank or credit union, or top cities if you’re a recruiter. On the other hand, make sure your location targeting is not too narrow. If you plan to target a single city that has a low population and low overall search volume for many of your keywords, think about expanding your targeting to a 20 mile radius of the city or target the county it is in.

To view your current location targeting, navigate to your campaign in Google Ads. Then click the Locations tab at the bottom left of your screen. You should see performance by each targeted location. If you are already targeting by location, but some locations are performing better than others, maybe you should think about bid adjustments. Increase your bid on the locations that are performing well to put your money to better use.

Are You Targeting the Right Audiences?

Reaching the right audiences is another key factor in creating a successful paid search campaign. Google Ads offers several ways to target the right people.

  • Detailed demographics: This provides a way to target people based on marital status, education, homeownership status, etc. Note that Google Ads has a policy that any ads revolving around housing, employment or credit will not be allowed to target by demographic information.

  • Affinity audiences: Reach people based on their lifestyle habits and interests. For example, baseball fans or luxury travelers.

  • In-market audiences: This includes people that are actively searching a certain topic and are considering buying. For example, auto loans and credit cards are both in-market audiences.

  • Remarketing: Remarketing is a powerful way to target people that have already visited your website. You can also use remarketing lists to exclude website visitors from your campaigns.

  • Similar audiences: You can also target users that have similar searches and interests as the remarketing list you uploaded to Google Ads.

Just because you use audience targeting does not necessarily mean those are the only people you are going to focus on. Google gives you two target setting options: Targeting and Observation. Targeting means that out of the audiences selected, you will narrow the reach of your campaign to only those that fall within one of those audiences. Observation does not limit where your ads are displayed, but you will be able to see audience performance.

To evaluate the performance of each audience, navigate to the Audiences tab on the left side of your Google Ads account. There you will see performance data. Just like location targeting, you can make bid adjustments to spend more of your money on a certain audience.

Is Your Budget Too Low?

Sometimes it seems like the easiest solution is to add more money to the campaign. More money means more clicks and conversions, right? The answer is sometimes, but not always. If you do have wiggle room in your budget, follow these steps to see if you can benefit from an increase in budget and where you should increase it.

  1. Navigate to your paid search campaign in Google Ads.

  2. Click the columns icon and click “Modify Columns.”

  3. Click the dropdown for Competitive Metrics and select “Search lost IS (budget).”

  4. Click “Apply.”

Search lost IS (budget) shows you how often your ad was not shown due to low budget. If this percent is anywhere above 0% it means you are missing out on impressions. If you have additional budget, consider increasing your spend. This will increase impressions and hopefully clicks and conversions as well.

Are you Following Google’s Recommendations?

Google Ads has a recommendations tab within your account that can help you get started with improving your Google Ad campaigns. However, it is important to know that these recommendations are algorithm-based using historical data and predictions, and may not always take into account your exact goals or strategies.
 
Paid search campaigns are never a one-size fits all strategy. The best way to see the performance you want is to understand your campaign goals, know where to start looking to make improvements and continually optimize. You will be on your way to great performing ads in no time.

Looking for an agency to setup and support your Google Ads campaigns? Contact an expert at ZAG to get started.

  • Paid Advertising

posted by
Kelsey Dombrosky
Kelsey Dombrosky

ZAG Interactive is a full-service digital agency in Glastonbury, CT, offering website design, development, marketing and digital strategy to clients nationwide. See current job openings.