It’s common to hear veteran search marketers at conferences and in social media talking a lot about PPC conversion rate — so much so that those new to PPC may think that conversion rate is the end all.
Conversion rate is important, to be sure. I’d even say it’s very, very important. But before a PPC ad can generate a conversion, it needs to generate a click. PPC ads are no good if no one clicks on them.
If you’re new to PPC, or if you want to improve your click-through rate (CTR), here’s a 12-step program to help you.
Step 1: Bid on Relevant Keywords
PPC beginners are often tempted to bid on high-volume keyphrases that are only marginally related to their business. Take, for example, a hotel/casino that wants to bid on “Texas hold-em.” While people indeed play this game at a casino, it isn’t relevant if the goal is to sell hotel room nights.
Don’t fall into this trap. Searchers have gotten sophisticated. If your ad isn’t relevant to the search phrase, they just won’t click on it and your CTR will suffer.
Step 2: Bid on Specific, Not General, Keywords
This is related to Step 1, yet is slightly different. Taking the hotel/casino example, you might be tempted to bid on “hotels.” While this term has significant search volume, it’s too general and is unlikely to drive many, if any, clicks.
Step 3: Use 2, 3, or 4 Word Keyphrases
Years ago, one-word searches like “hotels” were common. Nowadays, searchers have become more specific in what they search for, and it’s common to see search queries with four or more words.
Jason Tabeling wrote an informative article with research showing that CTR was highest on keywords containing two, three, or four words. Our experience has been similar: one word is not specific enough, but more than five shows diminishing returns.
Step 4: Create Small, Tightly-Themed Ad Groups
Tightly-themed ad groups make it easy to write relevant ad copy that will generate clicks. A common rule of thumb is 10-15 keyword phrases per ad group.
This ensures that your ads will be relevant to the search phrase, and increases the chance of a click. This in turn will help drive a good quality score.
Step 5: Include the Keyphrase in Ad Copy Whenever Possible
If you’ve set up your ad groups as described in Step 4, this should be relatively easy to do. Search engines bold the search phrase in both organic and paid results, so including the keyphrase or keyphrases in the ad copy ensures they will be bolded, which helps your ad stand out. Ads that stand out get better CTR.
Step 6: Use Dynamic Keyword Insertion
Dynamic keyword insertion (DKI) is a feature that automatically inserts your bidded keyphrase into your ad text. It’s a great way to make sure Step 5 above happens.
That said, use DKI with caution: make sure you’re not inserting misspellings or other awkward phrases into your ad copy!
Step 7: Include a Price in Your Ad Copy
An old adage in classified advertising says that if you don’t include a price in your ad, people will assume you’re selling something expensive.
Calm those fears by including the price in your ad upfront. Even better, include the price in the ad headline — it’ll attract attention and clicks.
Step 8: Include Action Words in Your Ad Copy
Including action words (e.g., exclusive, limited time, online only, 1-day sale, etc.) adds a sense of urgency to your offering. Adding urgency encourages click-throughs.
Step 9: Include Symbols in Your Ad Copy
If applicable, include symbols such as ©, ™, ®, and even the plus sign (+) or ellipses (…) can make a significant difference in CTR. Symbols make your ad stand out on the page.
Step 10: Use Ad Extensions
Google offers several different types of ad extensions: Location, Phone, Products, and Sitelinks. Take advantage of them. While these don’t display on every search, you’ll take up valuable screen real estate when they do show up.
Step 11: Be Creative With Your Ad Copy
Let’s face it: There’s not a lot of space in PPC ad copy. With only 25 characters for a headline and 70 for a description, it’s tempting to put “just the facts” in your ad copy and forget about being creative.
Don’t! When I’ve tested ad copy that I thought was too “wacky” to be effective, I’ve often been surprised by the results.
Remember, PPC often generates results in a short period of time, so if an ad isn’t working, you can always pause it. You might even try an ad like this:
Step 12: Engage in Ad Copy Testing
Ad copy testing is one of the biggest benefits of PPC, yet I’m always surprised by the number of advertisers who don’t take advantage of it. The most successful PPC advertisers are continually testing and refining ad copy — take a page from their book and set up your own tests now!
Go ahead — give a few of the 12 steps a try!
Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in Search Engine Watch on March 23, 2011.