Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising can help any business reach customers that may otherwise go elsewhere with their money. Proper PPC management helps the little guys compete with the big boys, including heavyweight franchise businesses and big box stores like Walmart. It can also be very costly when you don’t know the basics, stumble on keyword choices or fail to closely monitor your campaigns while they’re running.

Since we’re here today to learn about improving results, I’ll assume you know a thing or two about setting up ads. Here’s 3 ways to improve on your existing and future PPC campaigns, for more targeted clicks and better ROIs.

PPC advertising management

1. Search vs Display: Which network do you really need?

Google likes to sneakily set your campaign preferences to both options by default. However, most small businesses may not benefit from both in all campaigns they run.

The benefit of search ads to an SMB owner should be obvious, particularly the geo-targeted variety. You pay for specific keywords, allowing you to compete with other brands, and hopefully get paying customers to justify the ad spend. If your keywords are effective and your bids are competitive, you’ll likely get good ROI using search ads on their own without display ads.

Display ads are more of a slippery slope depending on what kind of business you’re running. Google and other display networks use cookies to target users who’ve clicked on the keywords you purchase in the past, then serve them up whenever that user visits a site that allows their banner ads. Display ads are beneficial for branding but often ineffective for triggering clicks.

Pointless impressions vs smart branding:

If you sold a car to “Mary” based on a lead from an AdWords campaign two months ago, display ads could cost you a lot of money on non-productive impressions, serving up those ads to her over and over again – regardless if they’re personalized or not – considering she’s no longer searching for a car and will likely be a great source of free ($$$) referrals moving forward.

If, on the other hand, you own the best pizza joint in town and someone finds you via the Internet, serving display ads to them over and over again is a great way to keep your brand, and the delicious experience that user had when they last ordered, fresh on their mind.

2. Negative keywords: Just as important as the “positive” kind

Obviously any small business owner should understand how identify search terms that will bring cash-toting customers to their ecommerce or brick-and-mortar storefront. However, you need to monitor your campaigns and filter out negative keywords that cost you money and jack up abandonment rates (which offer zero ROI.)

Negative keywords are most important as you continue to test and tweak each campaign you set up. A common term that can cost a lot of unnecessary money in ad spend are words like “free,” “discount” or “cheap”. Say you’re a high end dentist targeting local search in your area and you start to pull in lots of clicks for “Best cosmetic dentist in Toronto”. You leave your ads running for a week without much concern, only to realize you’ve spent hundreds, maybe thousands on search users looking for related terms like “Best cheap cosmetic dentist in Toronto”. If you filter those words during campaign set up, or as you monitor where clicks are coming from, you’ll save money and patience for your customer service team.

Local PPC campaign

3. Understand your limits: Be realistic with location targeting

An easy way for business owners who are new to PPC to max out their budget and minimize the effectiveness of a campaign is to neglect using the location targeting feature. Additionally, if you’re local or semi-local, you need to have tight limits set in the location targeting filter within your campaign settings in AdWords or Bing Ads, selecting only the areas you can service including shipping distances, if applicable. Otherwise, you’re just making the search engines richer, diminishing/destroying the ROI on your campaigns, and annoying search users who click poorly conceived ads.

Consider how quickly poor geo-targeting can ruin your budget and/or potentially harm your brand’s reputation:

  • Will customers visit a mechanic 50 miles from their home when there are 10 licensed garages within throwing distance of their location?
  • Do you really want people in another state clicking PPC ads for your catering business when it’s not feasible for you to provide service to them?
  • How effective is it to have people in Russia clicking on your ad for discounted air conditioners to be picked up or delivered locally in Fargo, Minnesota?

Don’t get lazy!

Forget about set-and-forget when it comes to PPC campaigns. If you get lazy with SEO, you’ll lose rankings and potential sales. If you get lazy with PPC, you lose out on sales, and to add insult to injury, you get to pay for it too!

Considering you’re spending advertising money to cut to the chase and get the sale right away, you need to have someone at the helm monitoring metrics and tweaking things like network choices, adding negative keywords as they come up, and overall doing whatever it takes, including killing unproductive campaigns to maximize ROI.