One of the big trends in 2023 for PPC advertising is the automation of campaigns using machine learning and it could be very tempting to let campaigns run themselves and not worry about putting in time and effort to running Google Ads Campaigns. Many Google Ads beginners without a proper understanding of how the platform works, and, frankly, some agencies who should really know better, fall into this trap. Since its inception in the early 2000s, the key advantage of paid search is the transparency over spend and control over the relationship between search term and ad, that Google Ads and other channels have offered to the advertiser. So, how should you be approaching your account?
For our client, Somerset Care, we fully optimised their PPC campaigns by defining the overarching PPC strategy to move away from purely driving traffic to focus on finding the right traffic and ultimately making the campaigns more cost-effective.
Step one – back to basics
Whilst the options and implementation practices behind the way Google Ads campaigns are run have changed dramatically over the past few years, the core fundamentals have stayed the same – aim for a clear, precise campaign structure, using tight themes for your campaigns and ad groups. Using the most relevant keywords to your business and monitor your campaigns consistently to determine key areas that work for you and areas of the campaigns that are ultimately wasting your budget.
When we started the optimisation process with Somerset Care, our campaigns were already split out effectively into different core areas to advertise their care homes and community care services. To enhance the campaign structure, we grouped the keywords already existing in the campaigns into 5-6 thematically similar ad groups, rather than keeping them all in a single, large ad group. When Google can see a clear, defined structure like this, the system has an easier time distinguishing which ads to show and ultimately will reward the user by increasing quality score, which in turn will help to lower cost per acquisition of a new lead.
This is not where optimisation ends. Core amendments that are crucial to maintaining this campaign structure include consistent monitoring of campaign data over a greater period of time to determine the high and low performing areas. High-performing areas are often overshadowed by keywords and ad groups that drive high traffic that does not convert, ultimately wasting your budget. Pausing or, in some circumstances, entirely removing these high spending/low converting areas will then free up budget to funnel through to high-performing areas, increasing conversions and reducing cost per conversion. Another key method of eliminating areas of wastage is monitoring the search terms report and adding negative keywords which helps to ensure your ad is not being shown when a user searches for a term irrelevant to your business.
Implementing this first stage of optimisation drove an uplift of 41% in conversions for Somerset Care coupled with a reduction in cost per conversion of approximately 52% across a three-month period.
Without wishing to blow our own trumpet, this sort of improvement in results was far above expectations and does not happen in most circumstances, with uplifts in conversions typically reaching 10-20% in a short time period. With results in a better than expected position, this gave us a significant advantage in our further optimisations.
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Step two – tackling bid strategy
One of the core differences in how Google Ads is optimised today is the level of machine learning and automation that has become involved in running a successful campaign. Spending hours setting manual bids for clicks on a daily basis used to be the gold standard in keyword management, however, Google’s automatic bidding strategies have come on leaps and bounds over the past few years. It isn’t just enough to set your campaigns up on automated bidding – you must pick the right automated strategy for your goals. Here is a brief explanation of the main automated bidding strategies for Search:
- Target Impression Share – great for brand awareness and visibility, aims to show your ads at a set percentage rate that you choose.
- Maximise Clicks – traffic focused, aims to gain as many clicks to your website as possible.
- Maximise Conversions – conversion focused, aims to gain the most conversions possible within your budget limit by targeting users with a higher propensity to convert.
- Target CPA (Cost Per Acquisition) – conversion focused, aiming to get you as many conversions as close to a cost per conversion key performance target as possible. This means you know exactly how much a single lead/conversion is costing you.
- Maximise Conversion Value – revenue focused, designed to gain maximum profit.
- Target ROAS (Return on Advertising Spend) – revenue focused, aims to provide conversions at a target profitability rate. So for each £100 you spend, you may have a target ROAS of 250% and therefore would expect to see £250 in transaction revenue – this is especially useful for eCommerce PPC campaigns.
In Somerset Care’s case, our goal was to move their bidding strategy from driving traffic to a conversion focus. Looking at historical data, we changed individual campaigns over from a Maximise Clicks Strategy to a Maximise Conversions Strategy. This was done gradually over time so as not to shock the system with too much change, beginning with the campaigns already gaining the most conversions. Once we were satisfied with the changeover, we also started to experiment with using a Target CPA method as well as Maximise Conversions, with the goal of not only increasing conversions, but controlling how much each of those conversions were costing us. Consistent reviews of bidding strategy is required to run a successful campaign, with the key to success always coming back to making small changes regularly.
Through this, t&s have successfully increased performance, driving an uplift in conversions by 58% whilst also reducing the cost per conversion by almost 47% between Q2 to Q3 2022. This is again far higher than we were initially expecting, providing Somerset Care with highly profitable campaigns.
Conclusion – this is only the start!
Both Somerset Care and t&s have been delighted with these results, elevating the PPC campaign to new heights and increasing leads to what used to feel like impossible levels and we’re not finished yet, there is always more work to do to fine tune, test and improve. Whilst this is a much better than expected outcome after six months, and we can’t wait to see what’s next!
Optimising campaigns takes a lot more than tweaking a few settings and leaving the campaigns to run themselves. Even the most highly optimised campaigns need to be consistently reviewed and tweaked in order to improve and grow, from basic changes to maintain a clean campaign structure, to reviewing how effectively the machine learning is working to your goals.
If this is something you would like to learn more about, please feel free to get in touch with our PPC team to see how we can help you achieve your business goals using paid search.
Our expert team has been working in the industry for 11 years, with proven track records in lead generation and e-commerce and we would be happy to conduct a free audit of your current Google Ads account or provide a proposal and strategy for future success.