Pay per click advertising. People love it and they hate it. PPC can bring instant results, or instantly drain your budget. With Google’s recent upgrade and rebranding (AdWords is now called “Google Ads”), they now offer a full range of advertising options across search, display, YouTube, and more. Even with all the handy tools Google Ads offers, including an enhanced “recommendations” section that tells you how to improve your results, small business marketers still find themselves with underperforming PPC campaigns. Here are 5 easy ways to troubleshoot a PPC campaign to get the most out of the money you’re spending.

An overview of the new and improved Google Ads

The impetus behind the new Google Ads was to make it easier to advertise on Google. According to Google, the benefits of the new Google Ads includes:

  • Features such as call bid adjustments and new shopping campaigns.
  • Ability to create and improve campaigns based on your unique business goals.
  • Helps you save time and get more done with faster access to the features you use most.
  • Gain actionable insights with new graphs and powerful reporting tools.
  • Campaigns continue to run the same way you’re already familiar with.

Overall, it’s meant to be user friendly while offering many of the same benefits and adding better insights on performance. But even with all the new bells and whistles, there are times when campaigns simply don’t perform. That’s when you need to troubleshoot your campaigns to find how to improve results.

Constantly review your keywords in your PPC campaigns

One common area where campaigns can go sideways quickly is keywords. This can be very confusing for new users of Google Ads, so here is a quick review of what’s called match types. Keyword match types are parameters that can be set on your keywords to control which searches trigger your ads to appear. There are 4 different keyword match types in AdWords: Broad Match, Broad Match Modifier, Phrase Match, and Exact Match. Here’s a handy image that illustrates match types:

Google match types

Broad match keywords are going to bring in a LOT of clicks, and most may not be relevant. While there are some instances where that may be a good idea, most newcomers to Google Ads would be best to not use broad match, as you can quickly burn up a budget with little results. Same goes for broad match modifier. Exact match, on the other hand, may bring in too small of a crowd. To get your ad served up, the term has to match exactly or a very close variation. If you’re highly confident in the terms you want or want to carefully watch what kind of traffic very specific terms bring in, this is a good way to go. Also good if your budget is tight with little wiggle room for exceptions.  Phrase match is a good middle of the road, though again, keep an eye out, as even phrase match keywords may not bring you the traffic you want.

Revisit negative keywords in your PPC campaigns

Even the most seasoned PPC advertisers forget to check this area on a regular basis. Negative keywords can significantly help your PPC campaign. This is where you tell Google all the terms NOT to serve up your ad for. It’s a type of keyword that prevents your ad from being triggered by a certain word or phrase. Your ads aren’t shown to anyone who is searching for that phrase. This is also known as a negative match. Common negative keywords include “cheap” and “free” (unless of course your product or service offering is cheap or free!). This can again protect your budget from getting eaten up. Not sure how to come up with negative keywords for your campaigns?  Wordstream has a handy little negative keyword tool to help you get started.

Try different variations of your ads

Sometimes how your ad reads makes all the difference, just like any other copy. It should be clear, concise and inviting. Take a look at your ads:  can an outsider ascertain from your ads what you, how you’re different from the competition, and what they should do (also known as a call to action)?  Ads that resonate with searchers need to tell how they’ll benefit from what you’re offering, and then tell them what to do to get it (call, click here, free trial, etc.). Google Ads can help you create variations of the same ads, so you can compare which ones seem to be doing well, and which ones are dogs (no offense to dogs) and should be stopped. If you’re unsure how to put ad copy together, reach out to a marketing consultant who is well-versed in paid advertising.

Review your keyword bids

Google Ads

Image by Google Ads

Google Ads allows you to see how your bids compare to the average first page bid, or even the first position on page one. Are you seriously underbidding? While there is some strategy involved with bidding on keyword phrases (you don’t want to get sucked into a bidding war), bidding incorrectly can really hinder a campaign. first-time advertisers often want to number one for every search phrase; this can be expensive and not necessarily the best way to go. Review your bids and see where you sit compared to others. Where do you typically rank (it’s referred to as “position” in Google Ads).

Look at your landing pages

There is nothing more frustrating than a click bouncing off your site immediately. Why would that be?  Likely because what the searcher was looking for could not be found on the page your ad sent them to. Take a good look at your landing page. Dedicated landing pages are great because ideally, they’re designed with just one goal in mind: to convert the visitor that came to your site from your ad. A poor landing page experience won’t convert and will likely discourage the visitor. When you’re starting out, it may seem like you need to create a new landing page for every single phrase, but that’s not necessarily the case. You just don’t want to send all your traffic to your home page, or to a landing page that’s too generic or has too much information on it. Look at your keyword phrases and the page you’re sending them to. They need to fit nicely together, or you may indeed need to create a more dedicated landing page.

There are many Google Ads experts out there that can advise you on how best to manage your Google Ads. Google itself also will offer free help if you’re still new. These are five easy ways to troubleshoot a PPC campaign yourself, or outsource your paid search marketing to a small business marketing expert to help you manage your campaigns.

Patty Hughes
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