Tips to Improve PPC Campaigns and Reduce Cost Per Click

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:: By Travis Bliffen, Stellar SEO ::


Pay per click advertising can be an effective method of driving traffic instantly to your website or blog. In case you are new to PPC advertising, it is a method in which you create ads, select keywords, and pay each time someone clicks your ad and visits your website. You can gain a better understanding of the basics and even advanced tactics by participating in the Google Certification Program. As for those of you who are already somewhat familiar with PPC advertising, here are fifteen ways you can improve your campaign and lower your cost per click.

1. Define Clear Goals for Your Campaign

This seems obvious, but I have run across numerous business owners who advertise without any clear goals. Just as your business needs a solid plan, you PPC campaign does too.

2. Structure Your Campaigns Properly

For some reason many people want to make as many ads and add as many keywords as possible to a single campaign. Stop it! The PPC platforms offer you a great way to manage and monitor your ads, take advantage of it. I like to limit each campaign to about five keywords and some variations of those terms. This will allow you to better target your ads and landing page thereby increasing your ad quality score and decreasing your cost per click.

3. Long Tail Keywords

This is a gold mine right in front of you. Long tail keywords generally have a lower cost per click and a higher conversion rate. Unless your goal is only traffic, stick to long tail keywords that are commercial in nature. Here is an example: “buy widgets online”. An educational keyword on the other hand could be “what are widgets”? In addition to long tail keywords, you should also use negative keywords to improve your results. If you sell widgets, use negative keywords to prevent ads from showing to people looking for “free widgets”.

4. Using Competitor Names

This trick has been working for quite some time now but is still underutilized. In order to use this properly, you will need to find competitors offering the exact same products or services as you that have a decent search volume for their brand name. You will then need to craft ads the really get people’s attention. Let’s say we were using “Franks widget shop” as our keyword. Our ad may say “Franks Widget Shop? Forget about Franks, come save big and give us thanks”. This sends a clear message that you are just like Franks, but cheaper. It also uses “rhyme as reason bias” which was made famous in the OJ Simpson trial.

5. Proper Ad Development

You could have the very best landing page possible and a great list of keywords but your ad has to get clicks. Your ad should include the target keyword, a clear message of what you are offering and an incentive. Remember, the client wants to know how you can help them specifically, so tell them in the headline.

6. Creating Dedicated Landing Pages

Your Ad quality score in Google Adwords Is determined by your click through rate, bounce rate, and relevancy of the landing page. If you are sending visitors to a generic page such as your homepage, you are missing out on possible conversions. Creating a custom page with a clear call-to-action will lower your cost per click and increase conversion. Do not overlook this step.

7. Track ALL Data Carefully

This is another seemingly simple step but it is also overlooked the most. Sure, most of you check to see how many clicks you have gotten and maybe your click through rate; but what about all the other valuable data? Having set up your clear goals earlier in the process, you will be able to identify the data that you need to track.

8. Used Advanced Ad Scheduling

Advanced ad scheduling can allow you to reach customers at a peak time. Do you have a breakfast shop? Why not only advertise when you are open for business? This is especially important when it comes to advertising on mobile networks.

9. Incorporate Ad Extensions

Local search is quickly moving toward the leading form of all search conducted. Statistically speaking, most people will visit a place they have conducted a local search for within 24 hours. In order to make the process as easy as possible you should include your phone number, hours and any other pertinent data users may be looking for. If they find your number and not your competitors; who do you think they are going to call?

10. A/B/C Split Testing

While I love PPC and have worked a lot in the field, SEO is my true passion and working in the field has taught me to obsessively split test every variable. Split testing is a critical component of all marketing strategies and PPC is no exception. I suggest that you set up different versions of your ads and landing pages. Try the various combinations and keep the best performing. Then reverse engineer the top ads and see why they succeeded. Use that information for future ads.

11. Cost Per Click Vs. Cost Per Action Vs. Cost Per Impression

While many of you think about cost per click as the primary pricing module, you can also opt for pay per action or impression. If your goal is brand awareness, then perhaps a pay per impression model may work better for you. If your PPC campaign is on Facebook and you want more like, cost per action makes the most sense.

12. Monitor/Improve Your Ad Score

As you know, your ad score directly affects your average cost per click and ad position as well. Improving your ad score is crucial and using the tips above, you are well on your way to getting a great score. I like to isolate and test variables such as keyword density and positioning on the landing page to identify score improvements. If you monitor your score properly you too can find ways to improve it. I have found that including the keyword from your ad at a density of 2 percent with placement in the title and one subheading can improve your score significantly. You should also include the keyword in your image file names and alt text.

13. Get Creative with Niche Sites

Some of the very best PPC advertising opportunities exist on niche sites. Sites such as LinkedIn offer PPC advertising and offer you unique targeting options. Less-known sites such as niche specific forums also commonly offer advertising options and can be significantly cheaper than Adwords. Reach out to the top sites in your niche and ask if the offer banner ads or pay per impression options. You will be amazed at the amount of cheap and targeted traffic you can find.

14. Refresh Regularly

As humans we are all creatures of habit. If you set up a campaign and see even decent results, you may be tempted to “set and forget” it. By regularly reviewing your keywords, ads, and overall campaign goals you can stay ahead of new trends and capitalize on cheaper traffic. Google Trends is a great way to find newly popular terms of trending topics to capitalize on.

15. Brainstorming

This is where you guys come in. What is your favorite way to improve your PPC marketing campaigns? Share your tips below.


Travis Bliffen is the senior SEO consultant at Stellar SEO a St Louis SEO and PPC marketing firm. They have worked with several national and local clients to date including the PPC marketing team at Adficient. You can find Stellar SEO on Twitter @stellarseo.

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11 comments

ValerieJ 08-22-2013 2:03 PM

Agree with all except 4, using competitor's names. Law firms used to do this, then one sued another for this practice and it's been (mostly) curtailed profession-wide. Firms run reports to see who's using their name in keywords, far deeper than looking at the ad copy.

VincentM 08-22-2013 5:13 PM

Great info, we all know a lot of it but it is important to hear it again. I do agree that you could be shaking the bees nest with the competitors name in the title.

Dinomite SEO 08-23-2013 5:17 PM

Impressive post Travis. I really liked the psychology of using rhyme for reason in point number 4. Well said. Thanks for sharing.  

DarrenD 08-23-2013 6:04 PM

I echo ValeriJ's thoughts on using competitor's names. I work for a client that has won a law suit against a competitor(s) that was using their brand name in ads. Agencies and brands both have the option of protecting their copyrights and trademarks through Google Adwords where they can ban or limit the use of them in ad copy. I have never heard of restrictions on buying brand terms but your quality score suffers immensely due to the lack of ad and landing page relevance as well as typically poor click through rates which we all know makes for low position and increases in cost per click (not a decrease as mentioned in this articles title) all of which devalues the opportunity to capitalize on a competitor's brand unless the brand is that worthy and converts enough that it is worth the increase in cpc. If you decide to use this strategy, definitely break it out into a separate campaign.

KO Websites 08-23-2013 6:56 PM

There's another time to use Cost Per Impression. When you want to show an unsuspecting shopper that they may want your widget and didn't know it. For example- "I sell brand name widgets cheap." And link the ad to a used brand widget website. This method causes more bounces and a lower conversion percentage, but also new sales to a new market. So you don't want to pay per click, you want to pay per impression. With this method, you get the "I never new that I could get these widgets used before" sales, mixed with the "yuck, I'm not buying used" bounces. With people still trying to save money, it works.

Travis B 08-23-2013 9:45 PM

Thanks for the feedback everyone. In response to point 4 which seems somewhat controversial, I would like to elaborate a little more. In my experience this should only be used for very small businesses who are not likely to take legal action for using there name as a keyword. In the ad copy, you should not directly use your competitors name, but you should elude to it. This works well in small local advertising campaigns.

Further, yes, it should be it's own campaign to avoid lowering your ad score. Is it questionable; yes. Can it work if your business is failing and you need to get visitors cheaply? Yes. If PPC was SEO, this would be a black hat method. I offer it up only as food for thought and with any marketing strategy you have to way the risk vs. reward.

Overall though, I have used this to get clicks at 30-40 cents each, so done tactfully and carefully it can work.

Thanks for all the feedback guys!

RezaulH 08-24-2013 6:14 PM

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Cohlab 08-26-2013 12:18 PM

Great article!  We continue to see a trend where campaigns don't include the negative keywords or even think about their competitors.

Teledini 08-27-2013 6:18 PM

Great article I agree with all of the above.  Only bit I'd add is a clear focus on the call to action itself.  A PPC or Pay-per-action campaign can be great tools, but the action itself better be something that converts those leads into customers or you're still going to see that high bounce rate.

Particularly liked the competitor idea, I hadn't thought of that strategy in the Adwords environment.

Web Design Quote 09-13-2013 4:46 AM

Travis your SEO tips list is very detailed. I still see a lot of PPC campaigns using homepages as landing pages.

KariR 06-20-2014 2:31 PM

One of the best things I like about this article is that it encourages you to explore the websites of your competitors. See what they're doing and then let your customers know you can sell them the product, or get what they want accomplished for far less money. This is sound advice, as we sometimes try to concentrate so much on what we're doing with our own websites, we forget to check out what our competition is up to. Our company just wrote a great article, where we talk about how important this is. Read it here, www.boostsuite.com/.../tailor-website-personality-marketing-success and let us show you some other great ways to compete in the Internet world of marketing!

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