PPC Campaign Planning Mini-Series | Part 5 | Optimisation

So you’ve defined your business goals, you’ve setup your account, you’ve created conversion points and launched your campaigns. Its driving clicks its spending money and great, it’s converting! But what now? How do you improve the account? How do you improve Profitability, ROI and Cost per Acquisition? What do you look to change and what are the key metrics you should look for? In the 5th part of this mini-series we are going to go through the most basic, most important steps in optimising your PPC account, how these simple tips will allow you to grow Acquisition volume, improve conversion rates and reduce CPA.

In previous blogs we’ve discussed how to define your business goals Objectives whether you’re trying to drive Sales, Leads or Phone Calls. You’ve built the account in the right way to deliver the right ads to the right users in the most effective way Implementation and you’ve setup basic reporting to show you how that traffic is performing Reporting . So let’s grow the account, let’s isolate the best and worst performing keywords, ads and strategies and make improvements that day by day, week on week will deliver growth and efficiencies in the account.

  1. Setup your dashboard correctly

Without the correct reporting you simply will not be able to see the right data in the right way to make the right changes.

The Advertising platforms (mainly Google AdWords) do not always show you the most useful information out of the box, so we need to make a few changes to the dashboard interface so that we can quickly and easily see the best information to make informed decisions.

When looking at campaigns, Ad groups, Keywords, ads, Negative keywords or pretty much any report these are the main metrics and KPI’s that we would recommend using:

  • Impressions
  • Clicks
  • CTR
  • CPC
  • Cost
  • Avg. Position
  • Impression Share
  • Quality Score
  • Conversions
  • Cost/Conversion
  • Conversion Rate
  • Revenue
  • Revenue/Cost

With these metrics on hand you can quickly and easily identify which elements are and aren’t working.

In Google and Bing you can achieve this by clicking on the Columns button in the filter bar:

Then select the relevant columns from the drop down list:

We recommend doing this for the Campaign, Ad group, Keyword & Ad tab to give you a good picture of what’s working at each level.

  1. Pause non converters

So now that you can see the conversion data you can easily identify which campaigns, ad groups and keywords are simply not driving any conversions at all, look for components that haven’t converted over a good data range as too little data can show you a skewed picture of performance. With high traffic accounts make sure it’s at least 2 – 3 days and spend is proportionally high, with low traffic account stretch this to 2-3 weeks, this will completely depend on your product & account.

For campaigns review this over a longer period, keywords a shorter period.

Look for keywords that have a high spend and haven’t driven any conversions at all, these keywords are simply not working for your product & account.

The immediate impact of this is that it will reduce wasted spend instantly improving your CPA and ROI

  1. Push good converters

Look for Keywords that are producing conversions with a low CPA or a high ROI and increase their bid price to increase their positions, this will drive more click traffic from these good converters and therefore more conversions and maintain a healthy CPA/ROI

Be careful to constantly review this as ultimately you will achieve a position and bid price that makes the CPA/ROI unprofitable. A healthy balance here between conversion volume and profitability is essential.

One great trick to improve performance of these good converters is to isolate them into their own campaigns. This allows you to give them their own individual budgets, improves impression share and quality score and also helps you to monitor and optimise them quickly and easily.

  1. Volume drivers

Typically 80% of the conversions in an account come from 20% of the keywords, and of these 20% typically only 5-10 are your best performers. These Volume or Power or Golden keywords are your more important keywords and need to be treated very carefully & gently so as not to upset the overall performance.

Firstly make sure they are in their own campaigns, this helps to isolate, identify and improve their performance which will have many positive benefits in the account as a whole.

Secondly do any of these have a below average CPA or above average ROI? If so then increase the bids & positions straight away, they are performing well! Make sure you get as much traffic out of them as you can.

With volume drivers we would always expect some of these to have an above average CPA and below average ROI and that’s ok, so long as the balance of the account is correct and the overall performance is strong. Use the volume drivers to increase Sales or Leads when other terms are driving the CPA down or ROI up; if the overall CPA or ROI is poor then these are the key keywords to optimise to improve the overall performance.

Small bid changes can have a massive affect so make small changes, often and treat them very carefully.

With a segregated structure it should be easy to identify if these keywords are performing or not.

  1. Ad Copy

Optimising ad copy is vitally important to the account, a keyword and its position can only go so far to improve performance, it’s the ad that gets the click, it’s the ad that convinces the user and it’s the ad that delivers all your oh-so important brand messages.

In every Ad group in your account you have at least 3 different ads with different messages in rotation (and if not you should), your campaign settings are set to optimise rotation for best performing ads, and you are therefore automatically testing different ads! Google will show your ads to users in rotation until one starts to perform better than the others, it gains a higher CTR (users like it) and a better conversion rate and then google priorities that ad over the others until it is shown most of the time. So it automatically chooses the best ad and optimises the account, which is great, but is there anything else that you can do? Well yes!

By looking at the CTR, the Conversion Rate and the % served you can see which the best ad in that Ad group is. What is it about that ad that is improving the CTR? What messages are conveyed that are making users click and buy?

Try and distil that information and create 2 new variations of that ad with slightly different positioning of the words, different positioning of messages, slightly different delivery of the same message, take the essence of the best performing ad to create 2 new “potentially” stronger ads.

Place the 2 new ads in the Ad group in rotation with the best performing ad and pause the 2 poor performing ads. You now have an Ad group with 3 ads that are stronger than before.

Leave these in rotation and google will prioritise the best performer over time again and repeat the process again in 3-4 weeks.

  1. Devices

We know that mobile devices perform differently to desktop devices and both perform differently to tablet devices, but great news we can quickly and easily modify and optimise our bidding strategies separately for each device. We can use the device information in the campaign or Ad group settings to see how each device performs in each:

The trick is to go campaign by campaign or ad group by Ad group and get a balance between the three devices so that CPA or ROI is similar across the three.

For example in the below example we can see that mobiles and computers have a higher CPA than Tablets and that the mobile CPA is higher than computers:

So we would apply a bid modifier to mobile devices and computer to reduce the CPC and CPA and balance it with the tablet one, we could even give the tablet devices a positive bid modifier to help with the balance:

Going campaign by campaign or Ad group by Ad group and repeating the same procedure will help you drive efficiencies in CPA and ROI whilst growing conversion volumes.

  1. Ad scheduling

Ad scheduling is hugely important to improving an accounts performance as we’ve discussed before Ad-scheduling Strategies and here Ad-scheduling Hacks  The key is to make sure your campaigns are live when customers are researching as well as purchasing and that when neither of those things are happening your account is paused or that your bid strategy is very low.

Consider reviewing your ad scheduling strategy by Day of Week and Hour of Day for the best performance:

Day of Week:

  • Increase your bid aggression on days that perform well and reduce bid aggression on those that don’t.
  • Use bid modifiers +10% and -10% to get the right balance between conversion volume and CPA/ROI incrementally.
  • Remember an increase in impressions shows research periods and don’t concentrate solely on conversion data.
  • Review this data seasonally for optimal performance

Hour of Day:

  • Increase and decrease bid aggression during times of improved and declining performance.
  • Don’t be too restrictive on exact hours but rather break the day down into early morning, mid-morning, late morning, early afternoon etc. for the best overall performance.
  • Remember to separate out weekdays from weekends as the hourly performance tends to differ wildly across the two periods
  • Remember an increase in impressions shows research periods and don’t concentrate solely on conversion data.
  • Don’t include your brand data in your reports as it will skew the data.
  • Review this data monthly for optimal performance
  1. Geo Targeting

Did you know that some cities will perform better than others? And that you can change your bid strategy for those cities? Using the dimensions tab in google and selecting Geographic from the drop down menu you can see individual city performance overall or by campaign:

Make sure you have all the correct columns selected as above!

In the below example you can see that London has spent £131 but not produced any conversions, Birmingham has 1.3 conversions at £147 and Glasgow, Leeds, Bristol etc.. have a sub £100 CPA.

So we would want to pause London, reduce aggression in Birmingham and increase aggression in Glasgow, Leeds & Bristol. And we can do that in the Locations part of the campaign settings:

We simply click +Locations, input the city name, set a positive or negative bid modifier and click save. Now when someone in that area searches for one of your keywords the bid price will increase or decrease and the ad position will differ accordingly. This will give you an overall better CPA/ROI.

In the above example we would set the London bid modifier to -100%, Birmingham to -20%, Glasgow, Leeds & Bristol to +10% to improve the balance.


Optimisation is a beast of a topic and we’ve only scratched the surface! We haven’t discussed shopping, nor video nor display and there are many many deeper facets to what has been discussed above, however what we have given you is the first steps to the main optimisation techniques & strategies that can deliver immediate, profitable results.

For help with optimisation please do get in touch.

We’ve recently started a Testing Series which looks at results from the testing we’re conducting across some of our client accounts – read the first instalment here.

Rick Tobin
Managing Director

Over 20 years dedicated PPC experience working with some of the world's biggest brands.

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