Cut Wasted PPC Spend Without Cutting Conversions

When placing PPC ads, there are dozens of metrics to monitor and fluctuations to look for. One of the metrics advertisers are often concerned about is traffic, or more specifically, maximizing the amount they’re getting on their website.

But in order to get this traffic you need to pay for each click, and let’s face it: You’re not really interested in getting traffic. You want conversions. A boost in traffic is great for increasing brand awareness, but probably won’t directly impact your bottom line.

In this article, we’ll outline ways to ensure you’re bringing in quality impressions, and therefore increasing the likelihood of conversions. And while it’s true to some degree that limiting your impressions could result in fewer conversions, there are proven methods that allow you to cut wasted PPC spend without cutting conversions.

1. Get Rid of “Garbage Traffic”

For Search Ads

Negative keywords allow you to prevent your ad from showing up to audiences that aren’t interested in your products or services. Ensure your negative keywords are updated periodically.

What’s the best way to determine negative keywords for your particular business and campaigns? It takes time and a little bit of effort but the best method is to analyze real queries and how much they are costing you is to understand how people search.

In addition to pulling a search query report, you can also head over to Google and do a search for your keywords. You might notice some things that will turn you on to potential negative keywords. Maybe a search term that you thought was super relevant to your site actually serves results for something completely different. Or maybe the opposite is true, and a term you thought had no relevance actually does.

Here is a very basic example. We know you don’t sell “bleach.”

google search results example

You can also use AdWords’ Keyword Planner to get additional keyword insights.

For Display Ads

You have two options for your placements on display network ads: Managed and automatic. Managed placements allow you to pick the sites, apps, and videos you want your ads to show up on while automatic chooses for you based on the targeting you’ve set up. If you don’t sell an app and don’t want your ads showing up in apps, you can exclude the channel in Category Exclusions section in Adwords.

Take a look at your GDN Placements Report. If you have a managed placement campaign, take a look at which ones are converting well and consider ditching the ones that aren’t bringing in conversions. You can do this by adding them to an Exclusion list. The Exclusion list is also good when you see a placement that does not attract your target market. If you’re using automatic placements and identifying sites that aren’t performing well, you’ll want to frequently review the placements so you can control who is seeing your ads.

2. Decrease Bids on Ads That Convert (But Not Well)

Let’s say you have an ad that’s converting, but the return isn’t where you’d expect it to be. Contrary to what most advertisers do, try decreasing your bid on this ad. This will keep some impressions and clicks happening while limiting your risk on this campaign or keyword. If you just turn them off, you don’t get any ROI from them, but if you increase the spending, you’ll end up wasting more money to get a similar amount of conversions.

3. Identify Segmentation Opportunities

Segments allow advertisers to drill down into their campaign performance but can also provide valuable insight into audience targeting.

adwords segments

You can select a specific time frame (hour, day, week, month, quarter, etc.), network, click type, device, and top vs. other, which shows you how your ad is performing based on its location. By digging deeper into these metrics, you can better understand how your audience is interacting with your ad and determine where you can decrease your bid on segments that aren’t converting well. Using the segments may also help you uncover specific elements that are driving more conversions and help you adjust your bid accordingly.

Once again, we didn’t say this to have you turn off complete segments, but to consider bidding down so you achieve your desired level of ROAS or CPA.

Do I Need to Start Trimming the Traffic?

Not all advertisers need to start implementing these tips and jump into trimming their traffic.

If your conversion rate is low:

Don’t start scaling back your impressions just yet. Try testing new ad copy that pre-qualifies traffic before they click your ad. You can also test using a new landing page to help ensure you’re directing traffic to the right area of your website and making it easy as possible for your audience to convert.

Don’t Be Afraid of Broad Match!

Broad match…most advertisers either love it or hate it. But we’ll explain why we love it and why you should too. It’s a setting that allows you to show your ads based on different variations of your keywords. Some advertisers avoid using broad match as they feel that it contributes to wasted spend because the variations aren’t accurate. Sometimes they feel that Google has made this the default keyword setting to get more clicks and money out of advertisers. But on the other hand, businesses could lose out on conversions if potential customers don’t use the exact queries they’re targeting.

We’ve seen broad match actually work better than exact match in some instances where the targeted exact key phrase was too competitive. Of course this doesn’t always work. There has to be mostly qualified traffic and enough broad match volume for it return for you.

When monitored and optimized properly, broad match can pull in large volumes of traffic that cover all variations of your keywords, which saves you the time of having to add them yourself. If you don’t stay on top of monitoring your performance, you risk bringing in low quality traffic and consume more spend than other restrictive match types.

Here’s why we are in favor of broad match:

  1. Using it with the right combination of bids, negative keywords, relevant ad copy and landing page can boost your brand exposure and maximize conversions.
  2. Broad match modifiers are a great hybrid for advertisers who want to target very specific keywords but want to maintain a large volume of impressions.

4. Optimize Your Website for Conversion Rate

As we mentioned in previous posts, conversion rate optimization on your website will do much of the heavy lifting when it comes to lowering your cost per sale. You don’t have to lose out on any impressions or clicks to do CRO. In fact, when your cost per sale decreases you can afford to advertise more which inevitably increases your sale revenue. Don’t overlook opportunities to improve the user experience around your site usability, mobile friendliness, checkout pages, message, and trust.

In short…

Let’s recap how to cut wasted PPC spend without cutting conversions.

  • Instead of focusing on cutting out keywords that haven’t converted, bring in as much qualified traffic as possible for the lowest CPC to maximize conversions and budget.
  • Use negative keywords to funnel out irrelevant search terms
  • Reduce your bid on ads that convert at a lower rate than others
  • Leverage the segments function to identify where you can reduce your bids
  • Continuously test ad copy and and landing page to capitalize on impressions.
  • Continuously improve your website’s ability to convert visitors.

Need an AdWords audit? We can take a look at your Adwords account and help you reduce your PPC spend while increasing conversions. Get in touch today!

About Andrea Moxham

Creative, driven marketing and communications leader with a proven track record in strategy and implementation. Entrepreneurial spirit and experience with inbound marketing, social media, digital marketing, and public relations.

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