How to Optimize a PPC Campaign

Note from Shabbir: In an earlier post, I had written about how I set up my PPC campaign for my store, and Dennis from Store Growers was kind enough to give some constructive criticism on how I went about things. Since then, Dennis has helped me optimize my campaign to try and make the best of the situation.

In this post, Dennis shows you what to do with a PPC campaign after it has been running for a while. By this time, a campaign will have gathered enough data to show you something meaningful.

Optimizing a PPC campaign can be a tough nut to crack.

When you first start working with Adwords, you’ve got plenty to learn.

These can be fundamental things, like when you create a new ad group or which keywords you group together. There are also Adwords specific things: where can you make a certain change or where to find a useful report. And their ever-changing interface doesn’t make this any easier.

But if you spend some time to set up a campaign, it’s not too hard to learn how you can change certain things.

What is harder is knowing what to change. How can you make improvements to your campaigns that actually move the needle.

I’ve been running advertising campaigns for the last 5 years, and that has made me pretty good at spotting what’s wrong and knowing how to turn things around.

In a previous article Shabbir explained how he had set up his PPC campaign. In this article I take a look at the first results.. Then I’ll run through the campaigns and show how you how I will optimize them.

I’ll share what I change and my thinking behind it. This will give you a better idea when you are working on your own PPC campaigns.

Initial results

1.5 months after Shabbir had set up his PPC campaign, the results looked like this:

  • Clicks: 660
  • Impressions: 133,813
  • CTR: 0,49%
  • Average CPC: $0.75
  • Average position: 2.9
  • Total cost: $497.76
  • Orders: 4
  • Cost per order: $125
  • Conversion rate: 0.61%

His goal with this campaign was to get the cost per order down to $20-30.

So the results weren’t looking good.

The first thing that caught my attention was the very low click through rate. When you are just starting out, you should try to aim for a 2-5% CTR. And with the right tweaks, you can take that all the way up to 30%!

A low CTR is an indicator that there is a mismatch between the keywords that people search for and the ads that we are showing for these searches.

Let’s say people are looking for new garden furniture, but if all our ads talk about are our great dining table chairs, few people will click on them.

But  with Adwords you only pay per click, so if people don’t click you don’t pay right?

That’s 100% correct.

But like its organic search results, Google wants to show the most relevant ads

To do this they created a thing called Quality Score. This a score from 1-10 and it’s Google’s judgement of how relevant your ad is for a specific keyword.

If only a few people click on your ad, Google uses that as a signal that your ad isn’t very good for that search query.

They use this quality score to determine your position and the exact price you’ll pay for the click. The better your quality score, the bigger the discount you’ll get.

In summary: a low CTR leads to a low quality score which leads to a higher CPC and lower position.

You can fix the CTR in two ways: by making sure your ads don’t show for irrelevant searches or by improving your advertisements.

In the next section we’ll explore both options

Want to see your own quality scores?

Go to the Keywords tab in your Adwords account, hover over the little speech icon and you’ll see the score.

Adwords keyword quality score


Optimizing the campaign

As became clear from the initial results, our main goal is to bring the cost per order down.

One way to start with this is to look at the campaigns or ad groups with the highest cost and see if we can reduce the spending in those.

Adwords ad groups

In Shabbir’s campaign, there are 3 ad groups that make up almost 60% of the total cost.

Lets start with ad group 2, since there are no conversions and it has the lowest CTR.

In this ad group, as Shabbir outlined in the first article of this series, he grouped generic keywords with the modified broad match type.

I open up the Keywords tab to see which keywords have the biggest impact on the total cost.

Adwords keywords tab

When starting out, he thought that these keywords would attract the right people to the store.

But although our ads are appearing when people look for those keywords, people don’t find them interesting and few click on them.

To figure out why, we have to know the actual phrases people searched for when our ad appeared.

Discovering actual search queries

We kind find that information in the Search Terms report. (Find that for yourself: Keywords > Details > Search Terms > All)

Adwords search terms report

In this report we are looking for two things:

  • Popular keywords that can be interesting to add to our campaign
  • Irrelevant searches that we want to avoid

In the search terms report for Shabbir’s campaign a couple of things become clear:

  • The short tail (2 words) keywords attract a ton of searches
  • The ads are appearing for brands that he doesn’t sell
  • Ads are appearing for searches for competitor stores that also sell this product. There are both big stores like Walmart, Amazon and very niche stores.

Adding negative keywords

For the keywords that are irrelevant, we’re going to add these as negative keywords to the campaigns.

If you’re in the Search Terms report, you can check the boxes of the keywords you want to exclude, then click Add as a negative keyword.

By default, Adwords will add square brackets to your word. This is to limit its impact. In our case, if there is a search like [amazon brand xyz], I remove the square brackets and the words brand xyz. This because I do not want my ads to show for any search that includes the word amazon.

That’s how I run through all of the ad groups and campaigns: looking at the keywords, decide which to add and which to exclude.

To see all of your negative keywords, simply scroll to the bottom of the keywords tab.

Writing better ads

As I said in the intro, low CTRs can also be caused by poor advertisements.

So let’s take a look at the advertisements of an ad group that was focus on one specific product. If the average position of your ad on the page is good (top 3), these type of ads can easily have CTRs from 5-20%.

But here was an ad group with a CTR of 0.31% and an average position of 1.2 that only contained exact match keywords.

That is something that is hard to explain, since the ads were alright. They contained relevant details about the product and use a couple of USPs to distinguish from the other ads. Info on pricing, delivery, etc.

One possible explanation is that for these searches, Google will also show Shopping results, which reduces the attention and amount of clicks on Search ads.

Adwords advertisement example

Example of an advertisement from Shabbir’s previous store

The ads in the account were similar to the advertisement above: one line of features about the product, the other line about the store USPs.

Besides tweaking the ad to be more appealing, there are a couple of extras Shabbir wasn’t using yet that can give us an easy win when it comes to the CTR:

1. Dynamic keyword insertion
Instead of creating a specific ad for every single keyword you have in your account, you can create text that will automatically fill in the keyword people were looking for.

For the example ad we could change the headline into: {KeyWord:Lowrance Elite-5 HDI}. If we have the keyword [lowrance elite 5] in our account and someone searches for it, that would produce the following ad:

Adwords dynamic keyword insertion in advertisement

Because the headline completely matches the search query that someone uses, they are more likely to click.

The text you put between the accolades is the default text that will appear if the search query is too long, so make sure the ad also makes sense with that headline.

2. Ad extensions
These are extra features in Adwords to give your ad more visibility and make them stand out more from your competitors.

The ad below is making heavy use of all different types of these extensions.

Adwords ad extensions callout extensions and sitelinks


The most important ones are sitelinks, which are the 4 links on the bottom of the ad & callout extensions, the text above the address.

You can find all of these on the Ad extensions tab of your Adwords account.

What’s next

Normally it’s best to tweak the existing campaign. But since we wanted to make a lot of changes, we decided to create a new campaign.

The focus of this new campaign was to increase the quality of the visitors that we were attracting to the site.

From analyzing the campaign it became clear that there are a ton of informational searches. These are people looking for general information about the category or what features they can expect.

We could write ads that attract these people, but we would also need relevant content on our site. If someone is looking for more information, they maybe want a guide or comparison table. Trying to convert them straight away on our product page won’t work very well.

Since our budget is limited, we want to focus on the keywords that are most likely to lead to a conversion.

So we’re not only excluding the negative keywords we found during the analysis above, but we’ll also exclude some of the really generic terms.

If we put square brackets around those keywords, our ads won’t show to people that are looking for exactly those keywords, but we’ll still show up for more specific searches. (For more details around these match types, check out this article on running PPC campaigns on a tiny budget.)

By reducing the amount of clicks for general keywords, we’ll cut back on the cost. In return we’ll raise the CPCs to be mroe competitive on the specific product searches.

The cost for a click might be higher, but this is outweighed by the higher conversion rate.

In part 3 of this series we’ll look at the impact of the changes discussed here and we’ll also take a look at the Google Shopping campaigns.

This was a guest post by Dennis Moons from Store Growers. To learn how to increase your traffics and sales, check out his latest guide: 9 Weird Ways to Get Instant & Free Traffic to Your Online Store.

Opt In Image
You will love my eBook!

Get my 42 page eBook where you will learn:

  • How to market your online store
  • The different marketing channels available
  • How to prioritize each one.

The best part? It's FREE when you subscribe!


  1. Hey Hey,

    Ad Extensions are a great little trick for sure:

    Very Very UN-utilized in my opinion.


    Christopher Pontine

  2. Thank you so much for sharing this beautiful information. We are starting Hajj Campaigns and I firmly belief it will really give great results. Jazak ALLAH Shabbir 🙂

  3. PPC with right keyword search plays very important role in running successful ppc compaign.thanks for sharing it.

  4. Writing, like great art requires much more than knowledge and education. A great writer is born as opposed to “”made”” and you are a great writer. This is excellent content and interesting information. Thank you.


  1. […] eCommerce has a step by step guide to optimizing a PPC campaign to tie into their previous primer on creating […]

Speak Your Mind