Growing PPC Conversions

How We Tripled A Customer’s PPC Conversions With One Simple Tactic

Adam Koontz

When a new customer comes to us to manage their pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns, it’s common for us to see big gains right away with PPC conversions. At the start of an engagement, it can seem like every change we make has a major impact—especially if the account has never been professionally managed before.

Over time, that impact naturally levels out and becomes more gradual. New assets for new campaigns take time to create, and much of the day-to-day management turns to typical PPC optimization tasks: pausing poor performing keywords, adjusting ad copy, adjusting landing pages, and tweaking display ads, for example.

But recently, an account of ours in this “gradual improvement” mode saw surprisingly big gains from one simple thing we did.

PPC Conversions: A Shift in Campaign Strategy

This particular customer’s PPC engagement was already performing well: Quality Scores across the campaigns were high. Cost-per-acquisition (CPA) was below industry averages and trending downward. Conversion rates were climbing. The client was happy and we were reporting record numbers.

Then one day during a chat about their display ads, we decided to test our display ads against keyword matched websites within Google’s Display Network. We were already leveraging these same display ads for remarketing and were using the audience expansion feature within Google Ads. However, this new targeting tactic made perfect sense for reaching new visitors who may not be aware of our customer’s brand.

Before adding this new ad group, the campaign was configured to retarget to any site visitor and exclude anyone who had previously converted. The whole strategy was to secure conversions that had shown some interest in our customer’s products but hadn’t yet decided to convert.

The display keyword strategy, on the other hand, is a prospecting campaign. In fact, we specifically exclude the audiences that have visited the site previously or those who have converted. For this campaign, we ONLY want to show our ads to new prospects. Once new people become visitors, they’ll see our retargeting ads under the same rules that previously applied.

Striking PPC Gold Two Years into the Engagement

After implementing this keyword-targeted display campaign, the results were nearly instantaneous. We TRIPLED our monthly PPC conversions—on an account we’ve been managing for more than two years! It’s rare to see anything besides a budget increase move the needle so drastically at this point in the management cycle, so this was an exciting discovery for us.

Here’s how you can set this up yourself in Google Ads:

Setting up Keyword-Targeted Display Campaigns within Google Ads

1. Create a new display campaign within Google Ads.

Or create a new ad group within an existing display campaign.

2. Choose your campaign settings and budget.

For example, ours is set to run in specific countries, all languages. It’s running CPC (enhanced) bidding, with optimized ad rotation and the recommended setting for Frequency Capping.

3. Create a new ad group and give it a name so that it’s clear this is a keyword-targeted ad group.

4. Under Audiences, choose the Exclusions tab and choose to exclude anyone that has visited your site once before.

(Read Google’s tips for help setting up audiences in Google Analytics and Google Ads).

Note: It’s probably a good idea to also have retargeting campaigns running so that you can show ads to people who have visited your site once before. The combination of the keyword targeted display campaign and the retargeting campaign can work really well together.

5. Go to Keywords and start adding keywords.

You can pull some of your best-performing keywords from other search campaigns. Here it’s not as critical to create tight keyword groupings in separate ad groups. You’re not trying to optimize Quality Scores the same way that you are for search ads. What you’re doing is trying to match websites within Google’s Display Network that should show your ads. That said, you should still try to choose keywords that attract the audience you believe would be interested in your offer.

6. Go to Placements and select the Exclusions tab.

Here you can add a list of sites where you absolutely know you don’t want to appear. You may have already built this list in other campaigns. If not, it’s okay to let the campaign run with a small budget for a little while. But be prepared to check the Where Ads Showed tab often, and exclude any obvious sites that don’t belong. Over time, you should also remove any sites that fail to yield the proper results. For example, if you’re looking for conversions, get rid of sites that have lots of clicks but no conversions. Save your budget for sites that are more likely to convert.

7. Start running your new keyword-targeted campaign and check back often.

It’s important to note that (as with anything in digital marketing) you should test this with a small budget first before making any sweeping changes.

There are several factors that could have contributed to the considerable gains we saw with this particular customer, so bear in mind that your results may vary. But hopefully, with a bit of testing, monitoring, and optimizing you’ll be able to see some great results with your keyword-targeted display campaigns.

If you’d like to share your thoughts on keyword-targeted display campaigns or experiences applying this simple fix, let us know in the comments.

Adam Koontz

Adam is President of SEMbyotic, a digital marketing, web design, and SEO company based in San Jose, California.   @adamkoontz