Wordstream posted a great blog post in April 2014 that’s still true two years later. In the world of PPC, a lot can change, but there are tried and true methods to optimize your search campaigns that remain the same.
This blog, originally posted by Margot da Cunha at Wordstream, discusses a company Wordstream worked with that had a limited budget, small staff, and not a lot of time. These are also barriers many colleges and universities face. So how can you take your PPC performance from good to great when facing these challenges?
Build a Strong Account Structure
The first point Cunha discusses goes back to the basics of when you are initially building your search account. She discusses the need for campaigns with specific goals, ad groups with tightly knit keyword themes, and keywords within your ad text.
These are all points we can agree on. Think of your search account like a house and the structure of your account like the house’s foundation – you can’t have a sturdy house without a well-built foundation.
If you are focused on generating leads for two different graduate programs at your school, you’ll want to establish two separate campaigns to ensure your account is streamlined and allocate the budget you want to each program’s efforts.
You can separate your ad groups into specific themes, such as master’s degree, online master’s degree, graduate school, etc. The keywords in these ad groups should be variations of the theme, adding in your program such as ‘social work master’s degree,’ ‘master’s degree in social work,’ etc.
Finally, ensure you are using keywords in your ad copy and using your ad copy on your landing page. These are all quick wins when revitalizing an account.
Focus on High-Performance PPC Keywords
Cunha’s next point is ensuring you focus optimization efforts on high-performance keywords.
This is another great point, but you might be wondering how you determine what high-performing keywords are ideal for your account. It depends on your goals.
Let’s return to our goal of generating leads for a graduate program. We recommend that lead generation clients focus on click-through-rate (CTR), conversion rate (CVR), and cost per conversion/lead (CPL).
CTR is an important metric as it indicates the relevancy of the keywords you are bidding on to the ad copy users are reading. If you have a high CTR, it tells you that people read your ad and the ad spoke to their search intent.
CVR is important because it speaks to the relevancy of your ad to the landing page. If you have high CVR, you are providing a consistent message and sending people to a place where they can take action on their intent.
Finally, CPL lets you know how much you are paying for each lead that comes through. In higher education, we also want to use this number alongside lead-to-enrollment rate and the cost per enrolled student.
Further Build-Out Negative Keyword Lists
Staying on top of your search query reports and adding negative keywords should be a no-brainer. Checking the search query report to see what your keywords are matching to is extremely important. You should add irrelevant terms as negative keywords to ensure your ads don’t appear for similar queries in the future.
Negative keywords also help with query mapping and ensure you are serving the most relevant ad. For example, if you have an ad group with online program keywords, you should add ‘online’ as a negative keyword to your other ad groups. This ensures that when people are searching for an online program, their query will match your keywords in the correct ad group and they will see online-focused ad copy.
Pause Keywords with Poor Performance
The next point is poor keyword performance. Ensure there’s enough data to make an informed decision before pausing a keyword. Cunha’s tips include checking that you are bidding high enough, reviewing the status column for low search volume keywords, and considering the match type.
You want to check that your most important and relevant keywords are at least up to Google’s estimated first-page bid. With the recent changes to the search engine results page, your position goal should be anywhere from one to four.
Low search volume keywords are those flagged by Google as not having enough search volume to show your ad. You can clean up your account by pausing these keywords. Checking this column for low-quality score keywords is helpful as well. Quality score is impacted by a number of things, and we recommend checking the relevancy of the keyword to your overall ad group and its relevancy to the ad it’s paired with.
If you’re seeing high volume but low CTR on a broad-match keyword, consider adding it to the account as broad match modified or phrase match to decrease the number of queries that match it. Likewise, if you see extremely low volume on an exact-match keyword, consider pausing it and adding a phrase or broad match modified to gain volume.
Optimize Ads & Create New Ad Text
Cunha’s final tip is one many people don’t do often enough: continuously optimize ad text.
While account structure is the foundation of your house, your ads are the exterior of the home – these are what people actually see. You want to be sure your house is attractive and inviting from the outside, much like you want your ad copy to draw people in.
The key factor is relevancy, both to your keywords and landing page copy. Be sure to set yourself apart by describing benefits or value propositions to your program and distinguishing it from others.
Finally, take advantage of ad extensions. Google wants you to use them, and your ads will have a better quality score if you do. Utilize site links, location and call extensions, callout extensions, and structured snippets.
Do you have other tried and true optimizations for your search accounts? Share them in the comments below.
This article originally appeared on Internet Marketing Blog by WordStream and has been republished with permission.