10 Proven Ways to Get Better Results from Google Ads
Want more results from your Google Ads account - without investing tons of time and resources? See our ten proven best practices for squeezing more ROI from every click you pay for.
It can be hard to be a solo marketer or a marketer on a small team. You’ve got a lot of responsibilities, a lot of different skills to keep up with, and very little time.
Google Ads, in particular, evolves constantly. Even a simple account can require a lot of knowledge to manage it effectively.
But hard or not, many marketers find themselves in exactly that position. So to help you get more ROI from your Google Ads account – and more ROI from the time you put into it – here are ten proven, timely ways to kick your account performance up a notch.
None of these best practices require a ton of work, either. They don’t require any coding or expensive technical set-ups. Just get one of these done every week and you’ll be looking at a different account by this time next quarter.
1. Apply the 80/20 rule.
Let’s start with a productivity power law. The 80/20 rule, also known as the Pareto Principle, refers to how a small portion of your efforts frequently creates the bulk of your results. In other words, the actions you take throughout your day are not equal: Some actions generate far more results than others.
The 80/20 rule doesn’t always work out to exactly 20% and 80%, but it’s almost always there in some percentage. You can use this power law in PPC management to maximize the limited time you have to focus on what will really make a difference in your Google Ads account.
So instead of going through every ad group in your account every week or so, figure out which ad groups are driving the bulk of your results right now. “Results” could mean clicks, or ad spend, or conversions (more about that in a moment). However you measure it, pick the ad groups that are driving the bulk of your results. Focus on optimizing those.
Why do this? Because it maximizes your work in a powerful way. Here’s an example of how focusing on your most important ad groups – instead of trying to manage all of them – will create 350% more results:
Total spend per month
Average spend per ad group for top 10 ad groups
Average ad group spend
Increase profitability by 10% for just the top 10 ad groups
Increase profitabilty for 10 average-volume ad groups
$350 improvement (i.e., $35 x 10= $350)
$100 improvement (i.e., $10 x 10= $100)
Just by applying this one principle to your Google Ads management, you can radically improve your results. This works especially well for solo marketers or marketers in smaller teams – aka, for marketers who have limited time and resources.
Apply the 80/20 principle to your bid edits, your ad copy testing, your retargeting campaigns, your landing pages and more. Every aspect of your account can benefit from this productivity hack.
2. Set up conversion tracking.
This is the very first issue that will come up if you start to apply the 80/20 principle. Which measurement will you use to define the top 20% of your Google Ads account?
We hope – we sincerely, ardently hope – you installed conversion tracking a long time ago, and have months or even years of data about how your paid clicks convert. But if you don’t have conversion tracking installed, you’re not alone. A mind-bending 42.3% of PPC marketers have not set up conversion tracking.
Unfortunately, that’s not the only bad news: Of the 57.7% of marketers that have set up conversion tracking, only half of them – a mere 29% – have set up conversion tracking correctly, or are tracking meaningful conversions.
This is a colossal waste of money. And being that Google made $137 BILLION dollars in 2018, we really don’t think they need any more money. You and your business, however, probably could use more money.
So, please – set up conversion tracking immediately if you have not already done so. And if you have set it up, check it to make sure it’s working correctly. Then check it again to confirm you are tracking conversions that actually mean something to your business.
Nothing else you do will make as much of a difference as this. You are probably losing at least 50% of your potential revenue simply by blindly advertising. And we do mean blind.
Get this done immediately. Please.
3. Never pay for the first position.
Most agency people know the story all too well: A client who confuses pay per click advertising with display advertising, and insists on having their ads in first position because of “visibility” (or ego, if we were being honest).
So why is this such a bad idea? Because first position ads tend to have a poor return on investment. They do get more clicks, sure. But often those clicks are from overly active clickers, and so they don’t convert well.
What’s worse, first place clicks tend to cost more. Often a lot more, because so many advertisers just insist on being in first place. This study found that first position ads typically cost dramatically more than clicks from ads in other positions:
So what’s the optimal position for your ads?
Probably somewhere around position 3.6:
Of course, if your ad is in first position because you’ve got a smokin’ quality score, and the ad is generating a nice stream of affordable, high-converting clicks, you are free to enjoy being in first position. But way too often, marketers over-spend to hold this position simply because they don’t know any better.
4. Invest in quality score.
Quality score still matters, and it can increase or reduce your cost per conversion by a lot – like 16-80%.
The average quality score in 2018 was about a five. Given that, here’s how much your advertising costs can go up or down based on where your quality scores fall:
If you’ve forgotten exactly how quality score works, no problem. Here’s a nutshell refresher:
So how do you improve these extraordinarily valuable quality scores? Well, the best way is to increase your ads’ click-through rates. Other ways are to:
- Better match the keywords in your ad groups.
- Make your ad text more relevant to your keywords/ad groups.
- Improve landing page quality.
- Improve your entire Google Ads account’s historical performance.
Obviously, that last one will have to improve over time. But really, all the other factors that contribute to Quality Score are about relevance. So really, the best way to improve quality score (and relevance) is often to break up ad groups so they are more relevant.
This is why so many PPC ninjas love single-keyword ad groups, aka ”SKAGS”.
SKAGS aren’t the only path to a better quality score, but they are a very helpful tool. Just use them with discretion. Your Google Ads’ account should probably have at least 5-20 SKAGS: One for each of your most valuable keywords. You don’t need to go crazy and have hundreds of them.
Other ways to improve quality scores would be to test your ad copy rigorously. (Of course, you’ve been doing already, right? So there’s no reason for us to add testing ad copy as another point in this blog post… right?)
Use the 80/20 principle as you work toward better quality scores. Go after, say, 3-5 ad groups at a time. Choose your targets based on:
- Ad spend, focusing on ad groups or keywords with a Quality Score of 6 or less.
- A low impressions to clicks ratio.
Always focus your efforts on what will generate the biggest result. Ask yourself: “If I could increase the quality score of only three ad groups by three full points, which three ad groups would I pick?”
Then start carefully breaking those ad groups up, rigorously testing ad copy, and fine-tuning your landing pages. Which brings us to the next best practice…
5. Use more landing pages.
There are a lot of ways to waste money. One of the worst ways to waste it is to send paid clicks to the home page of your site, thus forcing people to go hunt and peck for what they clicked on your ad for. Inevitably, most of them won’t find what your ad was promoting. And so they’ll leave your site, frustrated.
Instead of frustrating your visitors, send your paid traffic to landing pages, or at least send people to a section or specific product page on your site.
“But landing pages are hard to make,” someone says. “They’re expensive!”
Not if you use templates, and especially not if you use templates in combination with any one of the WYSIWYG landing page creators. It’s quite possible to modify a landing page from a template in half an hour or less. Sometimes much less.
For quick ideas for how to get your landing pages to convert better, see Unbounce’s study of 18,000 landing pages, which discovered interesting information like “Pages with one call-to-action (meaning one link) have an average conversion rate of 13.50%. On the other hand, landing pages with 5 or more links have an average conversion rate of 10.50%.”
6. Use more negative keywords.
The goal of PPC marketing is not to get the most impressions. It’s not even to get the most clicks.
It’s to get the most conversions.
So once you’ve got your conversion tracking set up and dialed in, head over to the Search Terms Report in your Google Ads account. Start developing campaign level, account level, and ad group level negative keywords based on what you find in that report.
If you haven’t been using any negative keywords, or have only been using a handful of negative keywords, adding a detailed negative keyword list could cut your wasted ad spend by 30-50%.
7. Use your Google Ads account to optimize your website’s title and description tags.
PPC can benefit your SEO work, too. Especially when it comes to the title and meta description tags of your website’s pages.
To optimize these fields, head over your Google Search Console account. Go to the Performance report, then filter the data by “CTR” and “Position”. Next, download the results. Sort the columns by Position (Ad position), then look for the pages getting lots of impressions but few clicks.
Here’s an example of what a report like that might look like:
See the page that’s at position 7.31, getting a 1.56% click-through rate? That’s a candidate for optimization. So the marketer for this site should go look at the search terms that page is appearing for. Then they’d set up a campaign and an ad group to drive traffic to this page, using that ad group as a way to split-test several different ads… one of which will later become the title tag and meta description for this page.
This is a fast, easy way to get dramatically more traffic to your website. It doesn’t require any link building, content development, or on-page optimization beyond just writing some ad copy and then replacing the old title and meta tag description with the top-performing ad copy.
8. Look at your reports more often.
Maybe you don’t have as much time as you’d like to optimize your Google Ads account.
But if you’ve got even 20 minutes to spare, you can set up automated reports to come right into your inbox.
You can set up an automated Google Ads report in your Whatagraph account, complete with customized fields. Then set when you want it to run, and who you want it to be sent to. The reports come in several flavors, too: You can use them for Text ads, Video ads, Display ads, or Shopping campaigns.
This makes it easy to keep track of how your campaigns are performing, but it also gives you one less to-do item every week.
Use the extra time however you’d like… maybe to optimize your Google Ads account.
9. Try splitting up your campaigns by device.
As you probably know already, mobile traffic now exceeds desktop traffic. It’s also now driving Google’s mobile-first SEO index.
This change affects your Google Ads account, too. Some of your campaigns might be performing well on desktops, but poorly on mobile devices. Or vice versa.
Instead of trying to figure this out on a keyword by keyword or placement by placement level, just duplicate an existing campaign twice, then rename the new campaigns with “Mobile” and “Tablets” at the end, so you can recognize them easily. Then rename the old campaign “Desktop”. Change the campaign settings for all three campaigns accordingly so you have the same campaigns running on the three different device types.
Now, sit back and wait. At least a week, and preferably even two weeks. You will probably find that one device type performs significantly better or worse for each campaign.
This can be a way to keep a campaign running that you’d otherwise have to turn off. If you can manage to be profitable for even one device type, pause the other device type campaigns and keep that one profitable campaign going. You’ll get less traffic, but you’ll also save a lot of ad budget.
10. Be picky about where you advertise on the display network.
The display network can be an amazing channel for new business. Or a sinkhole for your advertising budget. It all depends on which sites your ads are showing on.
To find out where your ads are showing, go to Display Network > Placements and take a look. You’ll probably learn that you’re showing ads on thousands of websites. Consider dialing that back. Start with the sites driving the most clicks, actually visiting each site as you go.
You may also want to duplicate your display network campaign, then start weeding out the new campaign. This can minimize any disruptions, and will also show you how much money you’ve been wasting on bad sites.
This isn’t to say you shouldn’t use the display network at all. It can be a terrific source of traffic, especially if you follow up with retargeting, showing targeted ads to the people who clicked through to your site, but never actually converted.
You don’t even have to be advertising your product directly to get retargeting to work: Many content marketers have found they can advertise a particular piece of content, generating a slew of really cheap clicks, then follow up with some retargeting ads to get people to come back and convert.
That’s just a few hacks you can use in your Google Ads account, but it’s enough to get you ahead of most of your competition. Hopefully, it’s also enough for you to get some more budget, so you can hire more help and put more time into further optimizing your account.