Here’s How AdWords Basics Took an Account from Cost Center to Profit Center

Posted by PaidInsights

Your AdWords account doesn’t need to be complex to be profitable, but there are a few (often forgotten) settings and tweaks that can make a huge difference in ROI. Many times these “small” things can be the difference between losing and making money on your ad spend.

I took over an account that wasn’t in horrible shape, but it needed a little help to stop the bleeding.

I’ll walk you through my initial steps to make this account profitable:

Tracking conversions

Making sure conversions are being tracked properly should always be step No. 1. If your goal is to get leads or sales, you need to know if your ad spend is producing leads or sales at a price you can afford. You can’t improve what you can’t track.

(I was interviewed by CallRail about how keyword-level call tracking helped me to reduce cost per acquisition by 66%, but that’s only part of the story. I consider CallRail’s integration with AdWords step 0.5 because it allowed me to track phone calls to the business as a lead.)

CallRail / AdWords Integration

Form leads for the win

When I took over the account, form leads were being tracked manually through a spreadsheet. There was no integration into AdWords. Not only was this a huge waste of time, but it was inaccurate and prone to errors.

I needed to tie form leads back to AdWords clicks.

But first, in order to track those leads, I needed to create a thank you page.

For the website we were advertising for, there was no thank you page, email confirmation, nor visual indication that a lead was received. The page just refreshed. This led to many double and triple form submissions (which were counted as separate leads), and follow-up calls just to check that the messages were being received (and being counted as leads).

From a user experience perspective, you have to let people know you received their messages, what to expect next, how long they’ll have to wait, and simply say, “Thanks for contacting us.”

The thank you page I created let prospects know they could expect a response within 24 hours. It also provided answers to some frequently asked questions, and contained a tracking code that enabled form leads to be tracked within the AdWords account.

Now that I was tracking both call and form leads coming from PPC, I needed to address a few other oversights and basic settings that were making the account a cost center as opposed to a highly profitable lead generator.

Negative keywords

In this particular account, they had attempted to sculpt ad groups with negative keywords so there was no overlap as to which searches showed which ads. Not a bad idea, but it was done so exhaustively it was nearly impossible to manage. And branded terms were still showing up in general searches.

The main negative (pun intended) was that there was no account-wide negative keyword lists.

This advertiser focused on all types of home repair and installation jobs. They were getting huge amounts of searches (and clicks) for searches related to car and vehicles repairs, services they do not provide.

car window search query report

Adding negatives for the keywords car, truck, auto, and vehicle was a good start. Looking through the search query reports, I found there were many searches that were clearly related to vehicles, but used terms like rear, driver, and side. Also, many searches were using car make and/or model numbers, so I found added a list of popular car makes and models as a separate negative keyword list.

Because most of the keywords were phrase matched, they were triggering for expensive “emergency repair” terms, but this business did not offer 24-hour service. Some of those keywords were over $40 CPC, so excluding the term “emergency” was another quick win.

There were also no generic negatives for things like pictures, videos, training, and jobs, so those were carefully added as negatives, too. (When you do this yourself, ensure you do not exclude searches you do want from showing.)

Finally, there were searches around “how-to” and “do it yourself,” but I was less sure about how those would convert. I didn’t exclude them initially as I wanted to get some conversion data before adding them as negatives.

Right away, the click-through rate nearly doubled; the bounce rate dropped by about 10%.

CTR vs Bounce Rate

Doing negative keyword research can greatly minimize wasted ad spend in the beginning stages of a PPC account. You will still come across many weird and irrelevant searches over time as you continue to monitor the search query reports, but any good PPC manager should put in the time to set this up right before Day 1.

Ad extensions

Ad extensions were non-existent for this account. As nearly every study or article about ad extensions explains, they increase click-through rate and are a positive factor in quality score. This in turn lowers the amount you have to pay per click for the same ad position.

I added sitelinks, callouts, reviews and call extensions to all campaigns. In every case, they increased CTR and conversion rate, which lowered cost per lead.

Because this was a multi-location service area business, I only added location extensions to locations that had enough reviews to show local review star ratings within the ad. This is a more recent change Google made to allow star ratings attached to Google My Business to show within ads.

Local Review Stars in AdWords

I had also noticed while conducting research that dynamic sitelinks were showing, but for the wrong locations, so I used Google’s form to opt out from displaying these. AdWords has been updated so that you no longer have to submit a form to Google in order to opt out of dynamic extensions. You can find the updated instructions on how to remove automated extensions here.

More recently I added structured snippets, AdWords’ newest extension, which have also been performing very well.

Wrapup

Because I made many of these changes while simultaneously setting up proper conversion tracking, I couldn’t see exactly how cost per leads and conversion rates were impacted.

The good news is that Google Analytics was linked to the account, so I could compare bounce rates and a few other engagement metrics before and after the changes. The analytics are not perfect, since many people call directly from the landing page, which looks like a bounce. But I was still able to get a decent estimate of how performance compared before and after integrating conversion tracking.

I did some basic statistical analysis to help estimate the conversion rates prior to tracking based on bounce rate:

Bounce vs CTR Scatter

After a few simple tweaks, lead volume (and quality) went up, cost per lead went down, and the account started to consistently provide a positive ROI.

As more conversion data came in, I was able to further optimize the account by segments like day of week, location, and user device. Substantial results were realized within the first few weeks.

Do you have any similar stories of taking over accounts in bad shape? Surprised by anything? Let me know in the comments!

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Here’s How AdWords Basics Took an Account from Cost Center to Profit Center

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