How to improve PPC campaign performance: A checklist

With the busy season upon us, you want your PPC campaigns to be in the best shape possible.

Whether you’re getting great results, struggling to perform or somewhere in between, below is a checklist of 13 features to help set your campaigns up for success.

1. Align and reassess client objectives 

Campaign performance is only as good as its ultimate objective. Just because you see year-over-year (YoY) revenue growth or improved return on ad spend (ROAS) doesn’t mean you can get the party poppers out. 

What is the client’s priority objective? Has this changed? Is it still revenue growth? Or has it shifted more toward lifetime value (LTV) or profitability? 

This is the first point because it’s the most important point. Get this right, and everything else will follow. 

2. Enable Google Ads conversion tracking

In the age of AI and automation, accurate data tracking is more important than ever. Without the correct data, what are we even doing here? 

Google Ads conversions are preferred over Google Analytics imported conversions because the former provides better integration (more conversions), cross-device or view-through conversion capabilities and advanced features. 

Dig deeper: PPC Guide: Conversion tracking and what you can measure

3. Layer on Enhanced Conversions

Once you’re happy with the Google Ads tracking foundations, go to the next step and layer on Enhanced Conversions

This feature helps improve the accuracy of Google Ads tracking by sending hashed first-party conversion data from your website to Google in a privacy-safe way.

Google boasts it can increase your conversion coverage by 15% (I’ve seen a few numbers here, so I’m going for average).

4. Implement consent mode

Consent mode is similar to Enhanced Conversions, as it’s another feature to improve your conversion coverage. With third-party cookies on the way out, conventional Google Ads tracking struggles to track all conversions. With this turned on, Google has the capability to use consent signals to model and recover any lost conversions.

Dig deeper: A PPC guide to permission-based audiences

5. Use offline conversion tracking

Offline conversion tracking (OCT) solves my most common problem with my lead gen clients. Looking at our PPC reports, lead numbers are good, but the client’s feedback is that the quality is low. 

What else am I supposed to do? This feature enables you to give a specific value to a lead.

This can be done by manually importing data directly into Google from your CMS or through integration options for automatic imports. 

Successful implementation will then give you the ability to leverage value-based bidding strategies to take full advantage of the advanced data.

Dig deeper: Offline conversion tracking to boost lead gen strategies

6. Configure dynamic remarketing parameters

While an afterthought for most advertisers, properly configuring the dynamic remarketing element of your Performance Max campaigns will show the right products to users, enhancing campaign performance. 

It’s worth checking your data sources in your audience manager to see what is and isn’t configured. “Id” or “Ecomm_prodid” are the big ones here and need to be getting hits.

I know a lot of the tracking implementation best practices are outside the majority of PPC marketers’ comfort zones. 

Have limited access to developers to help you? I’d highly recommend the Conversion Tracking Mastery course from Miles McNair and Bob Meijer over at PPC Mastery. They go into detail on how to implement all of the above.

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7. Optimize ad creative 

While we’re now in a Responsive Search Ads (RSAs) era, don’t overlook your ad creative. Try to keep things refreshed. 

Use the Ad strength feature as a basic guide, which will focus on a combination of relevancy and uniqueness in the ad copy, more from a mechanical viewpoint. 

Layer on some creative messaging to stand out from your competitors, too. Keep an eye on individual title and description performance within the Asset detail report (linked just below each Search ad), where Google highlights the best and worst performers. Swap out the bad performers for new variations of the best.

At a broader level, test out two or three variations in each ad group; one with no pins and the others using a mixture.

Google will optimize its RSA copy to get the best CTR, but sometimes, that CTR doesn’t mean a higher conversion rate or ROAS.

So, even if you generally trust Google to show the best copy and ads, keep that in mind and continue to test.

Dig deeper: Why strong Google Ads creative is THE priority for advertisers

8. Embrace broad match 

Two or three years ago, the thought of including broad match in this checklist would be laughable, but here we are. 

Combined with smart bidding, using broad match is a very effective way to scale your campaigns for success. 

Personally, I would still start off any new campaign with a mixture of phrase and exact match, but when a campaign has enough conversion data to utilize (30 in 30 days is a good place to start), start testing broad match variations. 

Just don’t forget to keep an eye on those search terms and look to bulk them out as much as you can before using broad.

9. Run campaign experiments

Experiments are a personal favorite of mine, and clients love them. I regularly A/B test different landing pages, bidding strategies, broad match variations and ad creative using this feature. 

They are quick and easy to set up within the Google platform and will keep your campaigns on their toes. 

The important thing to remember is to give them time. Google recommends a six-week period plus a conversion cycle, so the time lag is considered. When analyzing performance, bypass the first two weeks (learning period) and focus on the next four weeks. 

When setting up the custom experiment, you will be asked your two primary objectives.

Once the experiment has started, you can keep track of how things are going with the experiment summary report, which breaks the A/B test into a base and trial arm, so you can monitor the statistical significance of the main KPI (Again, clients love this!).

If you are a data nerd, this is the place to be.

10. Test asset groups (for Performance Max campaigns)

It’s not strictly the A/B testing setup we just discussed, but it’s essentially the same concept. 

Create multiple asset groups targeting the same shopping products but test different assets, audience signals, landing pages and so on. 

This is recommended before segmenting your asset groups further into different categories or branded assets. Get the fundamentals right first before expanding.

11. Test Performance Max vs. Shopping campaigns

People are still unsure about Google’s golden goose, so much so that there has been a recent increase in standard Shopping adoption. 

Performance Max is certainly not perfect, and although Google continues to roll out the upgraded features, it’s not for everyone. To see if this is the case for your products, run both campaign types against each other within Performance Max experiments. 

12. Consolidate campaigns

Single-keyword ad groups (SKAGs) are no longer your friend. Simplifying your campaign structure is another secret key that will unlock the power of success. 

Smart bidding isn’t as efficient with multiple campaigns or ad groups with limited keywords in each. It likes its consolidated structures with centralized conversion data to sink its teeth into. 

This is because our Search ads now have so many more copy variations than they used to (15 titles compared to only three pre-RSA).

At the same time, increased broad match coverage and phrase/exact match targeting expansion make it nearly impossible to contain specific search terms with an expansive structure. 

So, if you can’t beat them, consolidate them!

Dig deeper: The Hagakure method for Google Ads management

13. Consider running Microsoft Advertising campaigns

Although some of the above can (and should) be actioned in Microsoft ads, I feel the need to give them a special mention as the little brother to Google. Microsoft advertising is often overlooked because of its smaller scale than Google. 

I often see better results on this platform because less competition means smaller than average CPCs in many verticals. Now, this isn’t as pronounced as it was a few years ago, but it’s still there to be taken advantage of. 

It is far from perfect (its smart bidding and Performance Max offerings are less superior to Google’s). Still, because of its first-to-market AI offering, the platform is increasing in popularity. 

The little brother is growing up fast, and 2024 could be a big year for them, so don’t miss out on the opportunity it brings.

Maximizing your PPC campaign performance: 13-point checklist

Incorporating these strategies and regularly reassessing your campaign’s performance will help you stay competitive and make the most of your PPC efforts. 

Keep in mind that the digital advertising landscape is ever-evolving, and adapting to new trends and technologies is crucial for long-term success.

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