News & Insights


Why PPC Best Practices Aren’t Always the Best

pwd staff OLIVER WOOD
Oliver Wood

|26th March 2017

Who defines what are best practices for PPC?

In some cases, it is not always obvious, such as the use of broad match keywords in an AdWords account. Most PPC experts will not heavily use broad match keywords since they trigger for any search query that is remotely similar to the paid keywords. As a result, an ad may show multiple times for an irrelevant search and the advertiser is paying for clicks that do not produce customers. However, when starting a paid search campaign for a new company and in the research stage, broad match can be a good strategy for the short-term even for someone who identifies as a PPC expert. Below are six additional cases where best practices for PPC may be counterintuitive.

Non-performing keywords

If a keyword does not have conversions, the assumption is that it not worth keeping in an AdWords account. However these non-performing keywords may perform at a later date. These generic keywords that do not have direct conversions may result in assisted conversions. Before removing a keyword that does not seem to be performing well in a campaign, PPC experts should first check the assisted conversion value of that keyword. Keywords that are costing a lot that aren’t converting should be checked to see if they are assisting in conversions and if not they should be considered for removal.

Day of Week/Time of Day Conversion

Conversions may vary based on the day of the week or the time of day so this seems to be a clear-cut area to reduce wasted spend. If a business is not open on the weekends and does a lot of business by phone, it seems that Saturdays and Sundays would be an obvious time to pause ads or use a bid modifier, then adjusting accordingly from Monday through Friday for the top selling days. Based on call logs and AdWords call data, it may make sense to cut back on Saturday and Sunday ads.

Surprisingly though, this strategy can actually result in a reduction of phone calls. Even though calls for the week start on Monday morning, Sunday evening might be a prime research time for people who are planning for the week ahead and using Sunday to prep for Monday morning. This is the difference in targeting when people search versus when they take action. To stay in front of people over the weekend, a company could have a different advertising message with a white paper download to interest the weekend searchers when the office is not open. The brand is at least introduced to a searcher while the office is closed.

ROAS versus CPA

Bidding can be very complicated which is why we, as PPC experts, take care of implementing the appropriate bid strategy for all of our client PPC campaigns. For example, if a keyword is doing poorly, advertisers often decrease the bid on the particular keyword or increase the bid if a keyword performs well. There is not always a science to it; sometimes a quick look at the raw data is enough to make estimates about the bidding.

But with an ecommerce site, when there is a clear relationship between costs and revenue, advertiser often use Return on Ad-Spend (ROAS) bidding rules to automate this bidding process since it is calculated by dividing the revenue generated from an ad campaign, by the cost of that campaign. Surprisingly though, they may discover that with ROAS, conversions actually drop and their ad hoc bidding method was actually doing better. 

Here’s one explanation – With a business that sees mostly low dollar sales with a few high dollar purchases, they may find the keywords that led to these big dollar sales varied each month. This variation does not work well with ROAS since ROAS relies on predictable information. In this situation where the search patterns are unpredictable, the better choice is to use a Target CPA (Cost-per-acquisition) bid that will better translate to a return on spend because the focus is on as many conversions as possible based on a targeted cost.  

Location Targeting

A service based that goes out to a home naturally wants to target those relevant geographic areas by city, zip code, or radius. Even five years ago, this made sense for businesses to do but those who still use that strategy today may discover a decline in conversions.

The 2 billion smartphone users in the market also have GPS on their phones and it is enabled most of the time so identifying a searcher’s actual location is more accurate. People are no longer in their homes when they are searching for a service to be done in their homes, such as a cleaning service. As a result, location targeting is no longer as relevant as it was when smartphones were first being used.

Instead of targeting ads to home addresses, service businesses should target ads to high volume commuter areas during the weekdays and have a separate campaign for the homes to run on evenings and weekends. The goal is to target where people actually are during the time of the search, not where they reside. Learn more about location targeting from this five-minute video.

Close variant matches

Although changing and creating keyword match types is a time-consuming process for PPC experts, it is the key to success for any paid campaign. To make it easy, advertisers will often allow for plural and singular variations of a keyword in the same AdWords campaign. Before using this strategy, advertisers should first see if the conversion rate varies for plural versus singular variations of a search term. If the difference is significant, then it is worth having an ad group with the plural search term and the singular term as a negative keyword and vice versa so bidding for singulars and plurals are based on the return.

Discovery versus Managed Campaigns

Not necessarily.

Broad match modifiers are useful in discovery campaigns to understand which keywords are doing well. Once the winners are determined, they can be added as negative words in the discovery campaigns and exact match keywords in managed campaign. However, when there are few impressions for a keyword, the “low search volume” message will likely trigger. And a low search volume is likely with an exact match keyword campaign that is also a negative word in the discovery campaign so the desired keyword will not show up in any campaigns. Before separating keywords into discovery versus managed campaign types, give the keyword enough time to reach a large number of impressions before deciding where and how to include each keyword type.

Best practices are generally accepted as the most effective approach to a task. They are useful in any endeavor, including PPC campaigns. However, these practices need to be considered in light of a business strategy and available data so adjustments can be made to ensure that best practices provide the best return.