You’ve got a great structure, continually improving ads through A/B testing, running RLSAs (Remarketing Lists for Search Ads) and using all forms of extensions and bid segment, so what next?

How do you eke out some extra performance from your PPC campaign?

Here are five optimisation tips that you may not have considered:

1. Don’t overbid on branded keywords already in first rank – You could be overpaying

Overbidding on first rank brand keywords can lead to over paying without any ranking gains. Keywords where this is happening can often be identified by having max cost per click (CPC) bids set much higher than the average CPC paid. 

Rather than dropping the bids in one shot, slowly reducing max bids on these keywords over time can lead to massive savings whilst seeing zero or negligible drops in ranking. In some cases, we have seen as much as a 50% reduction in CPCs.

This tactic works particularly well on brand terms but do be careful to monitor and ensure that you don’t start to drop below your desired rank.

2. Be cautious using BMMs on search partners – They could be tanking performance

The Broad Match Modified (BMM) match type doesn’t work on (most) search partners, it essentially defaults to standard broad match. This means that your search partner activity could be underperforming and wasting budget.

Unfortunately, Google has done very little over the years to improve the features and functionality of search partners. It’s pretty much opt in or opt out, with scant opportunity to optimise them separately from Google Search.

However, if you have your campaigns split by match type (BMM and Exact is a typical strategy) you may see significant performance drops with the BMMs compared to the exact match. It is worth reviewing and potentially setting your BMM campaigns to Google Search only to cut the poor performing search partner activity – especially if you are budget constrained or not hitting KPIs.

3. Split Shopping campaigns by brand and non-brand – You could have more levers to pull

Shopping campaigns don’t use keywords to target users, so splitting your shopping structure based on keyword context is not something Google allows you to do. Shopping ads are however still triggered by search terms, so your activity will be a mix of brand and non-brand terms. As we know these two streams behave very differently. 

A work around if you want to split these out, is to duplicate all your shopping campaigns.  Name/Prefix one set as “Non-Brand” and set this to a high priority, then add your brand term(s) as a phrase match negative to these campaigns. Then name/prefix the other set of campaigns as “Brand” and set this to a lower priority. This will mean that if someone searches for a non-brand term, they will trigger the non-brand campaigns as these are set to a higher priority. However, if they search for a brand term, it will skip over the non-brand campaigns as these have the brand terms as negatives and only trigger the brand campaigns.

This will only work if you have both sets of campaigns running – (i.e. pausing the non-brand campaigns, will mean the brand campaigns will start to pick up non-brand terms) alternatively you can add all of your non-brand keywords as exact match negatives to your brand campaigns, but this will not be exhaustive and will still trigger long tail non-brand terms.

4. Don’t let campaigns run with an “impression share lost due to budget” status (even if you can’t increase the budget) – You could be getting more clicks

This may seem like a simple one, but it’s often overlooked. Campaigns that are capping due to lack of budget are almost certainly able to drive more clicks, simply by reducing your bids. 

Imagine the scenario, you are losing 20% impression share due to budget and collectively the campaign’s keywords are averaging position 2. This means for 80% of the day your keywords are showing in position 2 and 20% not at all. By simply reducing your max bids you will show for more hours of the day, because you won’t burn through your budget as quickly. You may be in a lower rank with a lower CTR, but you will show more often, leading to more clicks overall. 

A more advanced approach would be to use audience, time, location or device modifiers to lower bids or deactivate poor performing segments, so only your top performers are eligible to run. Either way you approach this, your aim should be to avoid the dreaded lost due to budget status and maximise your best performers, that way you not only get more volume but better performance for the same budget.

5. Consider changing attribution model in Google Ads – You could be ignoring valuable keywords

Google Ads defaults to a last click model whether you are using the Ads pixel (last Ads click) or the Google Analytics conversion import (last non-direct, multichannel click).

This means that if you have a multi-click journey that looks something like Fig 1 below, you will only give credit to the last keyword in the journey. This can often discredit upper funnel activity like non-brand, that drove the initial visit but didn’t immediately convert. Meaning you may devalue this activity and ultimately stop running it, which can have a knock-on effect of reducing your upper funnel traffic.

Fig 1. Last Click

Journey Step  Click 1 - Visit  Click 2 - Visit  Click 3 - Visit  Click 4 - Purchase  PPC Keyword Type  Non-Brand Keyword  Non-Brand Keyword  Non-Brand Keyword  Brand Keyword  Credit  0%  0%  0%  100%

To overcome this, you can choose a different attribution model within Google Ads to share the credit across multiple touch points. Fig 2 below shows the Position based model.

Fig 2. Position Based

Position based table

By choosing a model which splits the credit you can more effectively optimise upper funnel activity and the other touch points which led to a conversion. This way you don’t arbitrarily assign credit to one position in the journey. This should lead to a more balanced approach to optimisation and help maintain presence across the customer journey.

Hopefully these tips will give you some food for thought. Bear in mind that these tactics may not be the right fit for your account or strategy, so assess these on a case by case basis before jumping straight in. Good Luck and happy optimising.

Econsultancy subscribers can download our PPC Best Practice Guide. Econsultancy also runs a PPC training course

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Published 27 July, 2018 by Mike Turnham

Mike Turnham is head of international media at Oban International.

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