​How to Reduce Wasted Spend in PPC

Wasted advertising dollars kill profitability, regardless of medium. Unlike traditional advertising though, digital media marketing is eminently trackable. So there’s no excuse for wasteful spending—especially on pay-per-click programs.

I’ve seen too many campaigns with muddled results due to wasted spend. Convinced that paid search is unprofitable based on past experiences, clients may turn their backs on a potential lead goldmine. I can’t blame them, given their experience. But by understanding some common PPC best practices, it’s possible to revive those campaigns. Simple tweaks can save thousands of dollars and improve the quality and quantity of sales leads.

Here are 6 ways you can avoid wasting your PPC budget:

1.) Separate display vs. search

This is the #1 mistake for PPC newbies. It’s nobody’s fault; Google defaults new campaigns to target both, (likely to increase their profits). For the client, though, there’s a big difference in user engagement from search and display.

In general, search clicks are significantly more valuable than display clicks due to intent. Search ads appear when users are actively seeking the product or services you provide. Display ads, on the other had, may be more valuable for branding and awareness, with the potential to drive leads through related content on a website. The mind-states of the user when being presented your ads are totally different. For the best ROI, you want to get in front of the active, engaged user—and you should be willing to pay more for that user.

If you want your ads to appear in Google display, you need to create a separate campaign with distinct bids. A display click may be worth $.50, while a search click on the same term may be worth $5.00. Don’t let Google make that call for you.

2.) Check your location specifications

So many wasted dollars! If you don’t set up campaign location targeting, you are paying for clicks, regardless if they come from an area you don’t service or sell to. Fortunately, it’s very easy to identify and remedy this problem. Review and update your location targeting based on your business’ footprint. Don’t pay for clicks in Alaska if you don’t operate there!

3.) Utilize your search query report

This is a little more effort, but worth the time, especially if you are targeting a lot of broad match keywords. Broad matches drive a high volume of search queries, but the queries may not always be ideal.

For example, you’re an exterminator targeting “pest control.” Someone looking for a quick DIY approach might search for “pest control products” and be served your ad. This problem can become expensive when there are a lot of clicks and relatively few conversions.

The search query report shows the exact query typed for each click on your ad, allowing you to determine where you’re losing money to irrelevant clicks. To solve the problem, consider making the irrelevant term (in this case, “pest control products”) a negative keyword. (Or see #4 below.) But reviewing this report provides much needed data to drive that decision.

You can find the search query report in the “Keywords” tab. Click on “Details,” highlight the terms you want to audit, and click “Select.”

4.) Scale back your broad match keywords

We just discussed making broad match searches work for you by analyzing data and implementing negative keywords. Another option is to begin with focused keywords and expand strategically into broader areas that are working well by utilizing “phrase match.” As Google describes it, “With phrase match, you can show your ad to customers who are searching for your exact keyword and close variants of your exact keyword, with additional words before or after. Phrase match is more targeted than the default broad match, but more flexible than exact match.”

Scaling back your broad match to phrase match will save you money in nearly all cases. To learn more about the different types of keyword matching, check out AdWords support documentation

Exact match keywords are also fantastic to use, but a little more difficult for beginners. Generally, if you update all of your broad match to phrase, it is usually a good start! Once you get the hang of it, shift toward managing more exact match keywords to pinpoint your target for even more savings.

5.) Make your clicks count

You pay every time someone clicks on your ad. So you’d better be sure that the next thing they see convinces them to move forward. Review your competition and make sure your offer is better than theirs. Try out different offers and different wording to see what works best.

(Conversion Rate Optimization is a discipline unto itself, and well worth your time. Check out our Conversion Rate Optimization Library for more info.)

Once you’ve settled on the winner, make sure the message is clear in your ad text and also highlighted prominently on your landing page.

6.) Get Google AdWords certified

You might as well if you’re reading this. It doesn’t take very long and it presents a great introduction and overview of most core functions in AdWords. And the best part is that it’s free. Visit Google Partners to sign up!

There are certainly more than 6 PPC “best practices,” but these are a good start. And if this all feels a little overwhelming to you, consider hiring a professional. While you might initially balk at the thought of paying a management fee for something you have access to yourself, consider this:

  • You probably have a full-time job to do, and managing your company’s PPC campaigns isn’t in the description. Turning control over to a company or individual who specializes in search marketing frees you up to do all those things you were hired to do—and to do them well.
  • More often than not, handing the reins over to a professional will actually save you money. They’ll identify and cut out wasted spending, or they’ll optimize the campaign for a better use of the existing budget and a better ROI. Or both.

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Author: Author Image Dave Crist

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