1. Review manual bids

There are a number of niches out there where keyword bids take on an upwards trajectory all year in the run up to Christmas. As soon as the holiday season is over, the CPC falls right off.

So, the simple question you need to ask yourself is this: “Am I overpaying for any of the keywords I’m bidding on?”

If you don’t review your manual bids then you may never know. Play around with the data you see in your AdWords control panel. You can toggle different time periods to analyze, from “Today” and “Yesterday” to “All time”.

Take a look at your CPCs over the holiday season, then have a look at them so far this year – if the CPCs have dropped right off, it might be time for you to think about lowering some of your manual bids.

2. Check deep links still work

I can’t believe I’m writing this, but I will anyway. You must triple check the pages you’re sending AdWords traffic to actually exist. There’s nothing more annoying than running a Google search then clicking an ad listing, only to be taken to a 404 page.

The bounce rate on a 404 page is as close to 100% as you’re likely to see. Visitors won’t stick around and attempt to find the correct page on your website, they’ll just click back to the search results page and find another listing to click.

Websites evolve over time. Pages get moved and links get broken, that’s perfectly normal. You’ve just got to keep on top of it, because if you don’t you’ll end up throwing lots of money at traffic that lands on non-existent pages.

Traffic that won’t convert – it’ll blow a massive hole in your ROI expectations. Check your traffic stats carefully and look for users requesting pages that don’t exist.

Are these users emanating from your PPC campaigns? If so, put things right as quickly as possible in order to minimize your losses. Sending paid clicks to pages that don’t exist is akin to flushing money down the toilet.

3. Dig out your keyword research tool

Keyword research is something that only needs to be done when a PPC campaign is first established, right? Well, actually no. Keyword research is an on-going task you should make a commitment to.

You don’t need to fire up your favourite software every day to sniff out the latest keywords, but you should make an effort at least once every quarter. U

ser trends mutate and change on a continuous basis. The most profitable keyword in your niche might not remain the same for long – if you’re serious about PPC success you can’t rest on your laurels, you’ve got to be active in seeking out the latest and greatest keywords.

Whether you use the Google Keyword Planner (which for all its faults, is a very effective tool) – or even a third party keyword research tool, finding new keywords to build campaigns around is extremely important indeed.

If you don’t bother your campaign will simply stand still – or even worse, it may start to regress and lose ground to your competitors.

Whilst we’re on the subject, it’s worth investing in one of the keyword sniffing tools that shows you the keywords your competitors are bidding on – they usually throw up a few useful terms for you to incorporate into your own campaigns.

4. Be creative with ad copy

Can you think of anything worse than having to write creative ad copy for your campaigns? I know I can’t.

I really don’t enjoy doing it, but at the end of the day if you want your PPC campaign to remain profitable, it’s something you’ve got to do.

You don’t have to come up with three or four new ads for every single ad group you’re working on, why not just come up with three new ads for your entire campaign, then modify them slightly for each ad group in that campaign? That way you can use the data the ads generate across your whole campaign in order to decide how to take them forward.

Some ad copies will get the chop because they perform poorly – other ad copies will prove themselves to be clear winners, you can then tweak and adapt these copies to make them even more successful.

Getting creative with ad copy does not involve lifting the ad copy that your competitors have used. Ad copy is one of the most important factors in any AdWords campaign because it allows you to distinguish your ads from the rest of the pack.

Sit down with a pen and paper, make yourself comfortable and get creative. The more creative your ad copy happens to be, the more chance it’ll bring in the desired results.

5. Set up conversion tracking

Even in January 2014, there are still PPC account owners out there that are going to setup conversion tracking “tomorrow”.

It’s time to stop putting off your conversion tracking installation – just get it done! If installing conversion tracking code isn’t something you can do yourself, make a date with your designer or grab a coffee with your coder. It takes less than an hour to install AdWords tracking code.

It doesn’t matter how many metrics you’ve got to work from in your AdWords dashboard. If you don’t have conversion tracking data to work with, you’re flying blind. It’s the single most important metric because it shows the ads and keywords you’re running that users are the most receptive to. It shows the ads and keywords that make your visitors actually spend money – or complete some other desired action.

There’s no excuse whatsoever for not setting up conversion tracking – do it now and you’ll see a whole new dimension in the data and statistics that you collect in your AdWords account.

A new year is upon us – make the most of it. The same goes for your AdWords budget – make the most of it – why blow it on mediocre results? Make a few changes that could take your ROI from being “OK” to outstanding!