When it comes to digital marketing, the value of pay-per-click (PPC) is extraordinary. According to the Interactive Advertising Bureau, paid online ads accounted for 39 percent of total online advertising revenue in the first half of 2014. When paired with organic SEO, your business’s overall marketing strategy becomes a force to be reckoned with.

Pay-per-click advertising is a simple concept. As its name suggests, you create an ad and only pay for it when it gets impressions on keyword searches you choose and when people click on it. Cost per click is determined by the competitiveness of keywords (which are bid on by advertisers) — the more competitive the keyword, the more expensive the click is. Advertisers are constantly competing for the No. 1 paid ad slot in search engines, which is why some keywords are more expensive than others. Similarly, certain PPC platforms are more expensive than others — Google AdWords being typically more costly than other ad platforms, due to its popularity as well as its powerful analytics features.  

PPC can be extremely beneficial for businesses of any size, allowing online users to discover your business whenever certain keywords are used. But integrating PPC into your marketing strategy goes beyond simply setting up a campaign — you have to continuously monitor and optimize PPC campaigns in order for them to work. Failing to do so is a surefire way to waste precious ad dollars, and that’s never a good thing.

How to Optimize PPC Campaigns

A PPC ad does very little for you unless people are clicking on it and converting. In order to achieve the best return on your investment, you’ll want to optimize your PPC campaigns to drive tangible results. If people are clicking on your ad but then not converting to a sale, you’re wasting valuable advertising spend. In order to create a successful PPC campaign, you’ll want to integrate some best practices into your strategy. We’ll talk about some of these PPC best practices and how they tie in to fine-tuning your overall marketing strategy.

Test, Test, Test

Test everything. Whether it’s your PPC ad text, the images you use in an ad, your call-to-action or anything else that has to do with your ad campaign, you’ll want to test it against a variation to determine which concept gets the best results. This goes beyond your actual ad — you’ll also want to A/B test your PPC landing pages to figure out which pages are more successful at driving conversions. Testing your ad and your landing pages are equally important: the ad is what will grab the user’s attention, but the landing page is the final push to get them to convert.  

Focus on testing one segment of the ad at a time, such as changing the font of your call to action or moving your phone number’s position to a different place in your ad, in order to accurately determine which aspects are more effective at driving conversions. Changing too many things at once can muddle the results (or worse, hurt your traffic), so be sure to make gradual changes.

*Pro-Tip: It’s wise to not allocate all of your traffic to a brand-new, unproven ad or landing page. Start out small, then gradually increase traffic as conversion rates improve.

Use Negative Keywords

Just as you should optimize your PPC ad for targeted keywords, as a PPC best practice you should also optimize your ad for negative keywords —  keywords that you don’t want to be associated with your ad campaign. Incorporating negative keywords into your PPC campaign strategy can be exceptionally useful for driving conversions. If someone types in a keyword phrase, clicks on your ad thinking you sell that product or service only to realize that you don’t, they won’t convert, meaning more wasted dollars out of your pocket.

As an example, let’s say you’re an online retailer that sells women’s ski boots. Some negative keywords you may want to include when optimizing your PPC campaigns may be “men’s ski boots,” “snowboard boots,” “ski pants,” “ski jackets,” and “children’s ski boots.” You may also want to include certain brands that you don’t sell, or the words “discount,” “clearance” or “used” if your ad links to a landing page that only offers full-price, brand-new gear. Remember, the goal of your ad campaign is to drive conversions, so it’s important to think like a customer and be as specific as possible when building your negative keywords list.

*Pro-Tip: Just as you would when conducting keyword research, you should do research on negative keywords as well. Google AdWords’ Keyword Planner can offer you a number of negative keyword ideas, as well as Wordtracker and SEMRush.

Revisit Missed Opportunities

You should constantly be fine-tuning your campaign throughout its lifecycle, which may mean revisiting opportunities you may have overlooked during your initial setup phase. Once your campaign has been running for a while, you can analyze its data and look for areas to improve in order to boost results. Revisit your keywords and negative keywords lists, try different ad layouts and CTAs, and test different headlines. And again, be sure to continuously test everything!

*Pro-Tip: Don’t forget about mobile, as it now accounts for 37 percent of all search engine marketing spend. If you’re not integrating mobile search into your strategy, you’re missing out on significant opportunities for growth.

Set Goals

Another great PPC tip is to set goals. The ultimate goal of any PPC campaign is to drive conversions, so be sure to set small goals for yourself throughout your campaign’s lifecycle. Maybe you want to achieve a 4% conversion rate from one campaign that’s running this month, and then increase that number to 5% next month. By setting incremental goals for yourself, you’ll be able to accurately monitor your KPIs and overall success. And once you hit your goal, celebrate your success and set more goals to continue to achieve growth!

Continue to Do What’s Working

If a particular PPC campaign is driving conversions, continue to expand on that concept. Build out that existing campaign, or use it as a model when creating new campaigns. Remember to dig deep and get to the core of why this particular campaign is working. That way, you’ll know exactly what to do the next time around in order to get results.

*Pro-Tip: If your leads aren’t converting to sales, you need to closely examine your ad campaign to figure out what’s happening. One way to do this is to monitor your phone calls and tag them as “good leads” (i.e. resulted in a sale) or “bad leads” (i.e. did not result in a sale). By doing so, you’ll be able to get a better idea of which keywords/ad groups correlate to sales and which ones do not.

Optimize Your PPC for Success

After implementing your PPC campaign, you’ll want to continuously monitor its success and adjust your efforts accordingly. By continuously optimizing PPC campaigns, you’ll ensure you’re receiving the maximum return on your investment … and take comfort in knowing that your ad dollars are dollars well-spent. CallRail’s integration between Google AdWords and call tracking makes it easy to see calls as conversions and accurately measure your PPC success as a whole.