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PPC optimisation in less than 30 minutes a week

By 26 April, 2012
  • Thinking

Small business PPC campaigns don’t need as much in-depth management as large e-commerce companies but that doesn’t mean you can set them up and forget about them. These basic steps that can be done in less than 30 minutes per week will get your campaigns on the road to performing well.

If you’ve taken the time to properly set up your campaigns, you should have your budgets properly allocated, robust negative keyword lists and targeted ad text for tightly themed ad groups. If you haven’t properly set up your campaigns, researched negative keywords and written good ad text, you need to start there before you focus on on-going optimisation.

Once you have your solid foundation in place, follow these steps to efficiently optimise your campaigns by focusing on what can make the most difference with the smallest time commitment.

Search Network

Step 1: Review the search query report

Time: 5-10 minutes
Frequency: Once per week

Review the search query report to find keywords and negative keywords to add. This report can also give you ideas for phrases to use in your ad text.

Sort this report by impressions (highest to lowest) and review. Then re-sort by cost (highest to lowest) and review. Add any keywords or negatives that you’ve found.

If you have a lot of impressions and a very low CTR on specific keywords, make sure to spend extra time reviewing just the queries generated by those keywords to find negatives and improve the CTR for these high volume keywords. Chances are they are very broad terms that need a lot of negatives to reach the correct audience.

Step 2: Review keyword level profitability

Time: 10 minutes
Frequency: Once or twice per week

Click on the keywords tab and sort by cost (highest to lowest). Review your most expensive keywords to ensure they are profitable. If your landing page and ad text convert well overall and you just have a few keywords that aren’t profitable, you will probably want to reduce the bids on these keywords. If none of your keywords are profitable you will need to spend more time determining why. Are you bidding too high? Is your landing page not converting? Is your offer competitive?

If you have a lower traffic campaign, you may only need to do this step once per week. Also, keep in mind that with low traffic campaigns it can take a long time to get a conversion. You can’t expect conversions after the first few clicks. So, you will need to be patient.

Step 3: Test ad variations

Time: 10 minutes
Frequency: Every other week

Since we are talking about small business campaigns that presumably don’t convert enough or get enough clicks to give your ad data statistical relevance each week, this step can be done every other week. You still may not get enough data to make a decision after two weeks but you want to at least check in on your ads at regular intervals to make sure there’s nothing that needs immediate attention.

Review the ads in each of your ad groups. If there is enough data to pick a winner, either for CTR or conversion rate, pause the losing ad and write a new variation to test against the winning ad. This can be as simple as copying the winning ad and changing it slightly. Or, you could create an entirely new ad to try.

Display Network

Step 1: Review placements

Time: 10 minutes
Frequency: Once per week

Click on the Networks tab and review the automatic placements. Sort by cost (high to low) and see if there are any that were costly but didn’t convert. You may want to exclude these placements. If there are some that converted but not at your goal CPA, you can add them as managed placements and reduce the bids to a level that is more likely to make them profitable. Additionally, if there are placements that are converting very well and exceeding your CPA goals, you may want to add them as managed placements and increase the bids to see if you can get additional volume.

Take a quick peak at your managed placements as well and make sure they are meeting your goals. If they aren’t, adjust the bids accordingly.

Step 2: Test ad variations

Time: 10 minutes
Frequency: Every other week

Ad testing for display campaigns is basically the same as for search campaigns except that the click through rates will be much lower. When you write ad text for these campaigns, keep in mind that people aren’t searching for your product or service when they see the ad. They are being “interrupted” as they view a webpage about a (hopefully) related topic. So, you will need to make your value proposition much more apparent and try to capture the attention of someone who may not be in a buying mind-set.


The most important thing is to make sure you actually do these steps and do them on a regular basis. If you don’t it will be easy to put it off to the next week (and the next and the next), resulting in wasted money and potential damage to your quality scores, costing you more time in the long run.

Once you see the results that you can get from your campaigns and are more willing to dedicate time to optimising them, you can learn about and start incorporating more advanced tactics to increase quality score, decrease CPC and improve overall performance.

Written by Jay Shah, PPC Consultant