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Ever been frustrated with your Google Ads campaign? You keep dishing out cash, but have no new leads to show for it? 

It’s a common problem for marketers. Google Ad campaigns seem like a bright and shiny way to close deals. Just follow the prompts and in minutes you have an ad ready to launch.

Google will provide some recommendations, but a PPC campaign should take time and strategy. You have to know how to go beyond the default settings of the platform. 

When you learn the ins and outs of paid search, you’ll begin to see your Google Ads attract more traffic while costing you less per click. And that can be powerful. 

For those at the beginning of their Google Ads journey, these seven tips will help you beat the learning curve and get more traffic at a lower cost per click.

1. Understand Your Quality Score


The first and most crucial step to having a successful PPC campaign is to understand Google Ad’s most heavily relied on metric - Quality Score

Quality score can be defined as the measure of the quality, relevance, and performance of your PPC ads. Google grades your campaign on a scale of 1-10, based on your keyword and ad relevance, expected click-through rate, and landing page quality. The higher your score, the more likely your ad will be shown for a designated keyword, and more importantly, the lower your costs. 

Before starting your Google Ad campaign, note the Quality Score benchmark. The average score is 5. Maximize your success by shooting for above this score. You’ll notice the higher on the scale you reach, the less money you’ll spend per conversion. 

So how do you raise your Quality Score? Well, since increasing traffic while lowering CPC costs all go hand in hand with achieving a high-quality score - the next six tips we discuss will help you do all three. 

So keep reading. We’re just getting into the good stuff… 

2. Pay Attention to Location Targeting in Google Ads

One of the default settings in Google Ads that can hurt your ad performance is the location settings. 

Head over to your campaign settings in the Google Ads platform, and scroll down to the location section. You’ll notice under location options, two different settings: target and exclude. Focus on the “target” section. Google gives you three options to choose from and “recommends” one. Most people are fooled by this “recommendation”.

lower cpc location targetingThe default setting targets ads to people in your target area, OR people who have shown interest in your target area. What this really means is someone lives thousands of miles away, and maybe searched for a fact about your city, could now be served your ad. Is this really what you want? 

If you want to cut down on your CPC, and really target the best audience, we recommend choosing option two. This ensures you are only focusing on traffic in your target location and will exclude anyone who might be in a different country entirely and just curiously googling your location. 

Of course, there are exceptions. If you are an online service where location doesn’t matter quite as much, maybe you want to attract people from anywhere. We still recommend utilizing the second option, along with being a bit more creative about your location choices. 

Think about the areas you’ve attracted business before, and target these locations. Remember, in order to keep your CPC down, a successful Google ad doesn’t cast a wide net, but a targeted and specific net to drive conversions.

3. Use Keyword Research to Find Long Tail Keywords 


Another common mistake advertisers make with their PPC campaigns is focusing too much on broad search terms. Common sense would lead you to believe that when planning your targeted keywords - or the search queries that your ad will appear in - you should select as many broad keywords as possible. This gives you a better chance to reach someone, right? 

Maybe… a better chance to reach someone. But not the right person. 

Being very specific about your keywords will ensure you’re reaching customers that are truly interested in your specific product. Descriptive long tail keywords are an easy way to accomplish this. 

For example, if you sell computers you could target broad keywords like new computers, laptops, cheap laptops, or computer monitors. But a more specific keyword strategy will not only help you target your ads more specifically, but it will also help you reach searchers closer to the bottom-of-the-funnel. 

For instance, targeting keywords like “Lenova Chromebook Duet 10 inch” or “Dell Inspiron 15 3000 laptop” will get your ad in front of people who are ready to make a purchase. These searchers have done their research, and they know what they want. These are the types of consumers you want to attract with PPC ads. 

So where do you find the best long-tail keywords for your business? There are many different tools out there, but we’ve found often the best way is to just use Google. Start with Google’s autofill feature. Make a Google search with a base keyword, then pay attention to what Google suggests. These terms are highly searched, and relevant long-tail keywords based on your base.

Another thing that’s helpful is Google’s “Searches Related” feature. At the bottom of your search, scroll down, and take note of the keyword ideas related to your root keyword. These are all good terms, relevant to your search, and being searched by others.

related searches googleWe suggest using the above method to compile a list of long tail keywords. From there you can use a tool like SEMRush or Google Keyword Planner to narrow down that list, and find the keywords that will give you the best return on investment. 

Remember, the more generic your keyword is, the more people bid on it, and the higher the bid will be. Sure, lots of people are searching for that term, but it’s an easy way to eat up your PPC budget fast. Before you count out super specific, long-tail queries - consider the fact that 70% of search traffic actually does come from highly specific four-to six-word phrases.

4. Organize Ad Groups Based on Keyword Intent

Mastering Google Ads is all about truly understanding search and user intent. By keeping this in mind when building your ad groups, you’ll drive more traffic to your ads and waste less money. 

There are a lot of different strategies out there for ad group organization. The default and “recommended” setting on Google suggest setting 20 keywords per ad group. Another popular theory is the SKAGS method or Single Keyword Ad Groups. This suggests dividing your keywords into their own individual ad groups. But both methods can steer you in the wrong direction. 

See, the issue with having several keywords in one ad group is your keywords can be interrupted in a bunch of different ways, which will likely steer away from your intent. This will impact the relevancy of your ad, and thus your Quality Score - driving up your costs. It’s very difficult to write ads that are highly relevant to all of the keywords within your ad group - especially if you have nearly 20. 

Here’s a great example from CXL.

ppc user intent

See, this ad would work much better if it was highly targeted to those search terms. It all goes back to search and user intent. But the SKAG method can be time consuming, a mess to create, and can actually increase the odds that you duplicate your keywords, ending up competing against yourself. 

So what’s the solution? We suggest creating looser ad groups that combine keywords with similar intent. For instance, in the example above, you might include “Women’s dresses, Stylish women’s dresses, and women’s red dresses” all in the same ad group because the searcher probably has the same intent for each of those keywords.

When building your ad groups, it’s also important to understand Google’s four main match types. 

  • Broad Match: This is Google’s default match type where your keywords are shown on any synonyms, related searches, misspellings or anything else Google might deem as relevant.  This is definitely a match type you want to stay away from if you're trying to drive down costs, and reach more relevant prospects.
  • Broad Match Modifier: Also known as BMM, this method allows you to specify what keywords must be in the search query. For example, if you searched +content +marketing, both content and marketing would have to be in the search query before your ad appeared. 
  • Phrase Match: Even more specific than BMM is Phrase Match. This allows you to match your keywords to a specific phrase, not allowing words to appear between your keyword phrase, but still remaining flexible about what comes after. 
  • Exact Match: This is the narrowest match type. It limits your ads to only appear to people searching for your exact keyword phrase. 

You’ll want to incorporate a broad match modifier, a phrase match and exact match in the ad groups that you create. This will make sure your ad is being targeted towards that search query. 

So for the above example, your ad group might look something like this: 

Ad Group 1

  • +women’s +dresses
  • “Women’s dresses”
  • [women’s dresses]
  • +stylish +women’s +dresses
  • “Stylish women’s dresses”
  • [stylish women’s dresses]
  • +Women’s +red +dresses
  • “Women’s red dresses”
  • [Women’s red dresses]

By grouping these keywords based on intent, you’ll make sure that the ad that’s shown is much more relevant to the searcher. And as a result, your Quality Score will increase. AdEspresso conducted a study that found that when ad relevance increased, CTR increased, in conjunction with a huge drop in CPC.

5. Manage Negative Keywords in Google Ads

Managing negative keywords is a very simple, but necessary step to increase traffic and decrease CPC. Think about it. If your ads are only being shown to people interested in your products or services, then it’s much more likely your ads will be clicked on. 

Negative keyword targeting allows you to filter out what keywords your ads don’t appear for. This in return filters out the people you don’t want to attract. 

Let’s go back to the computer example. Say your store only sells new computers, and not used. To avoid your ads appearing for customers searching for used computers, you might add “used” as a negative keyword. Match types will come into effect with negative keywords as well. Here’s a great resource on how to use match types with your negative keywords.

So how do you find your negative keywords? A great place to start is running a search term report under the Keywords Tab in Google Ads. Find search terms that have a high volume of impressions but low clicks and low conversions. These keywords are likely costing you the most money, and providing you the lowest ROI. So get rid of them by adding them to your negative keyword list. You’ll be one step closer to improving your Quality Score, and lowering your CPC while increasing your ad rank and traffic.

6. Take Advantage of Audience Targeting

A very common and overlooked strategy in PPC campaigns is audience targeting. Because keywords have long been the focus of Google Ad campaigns, many advertisers forget to consider the role of the audience. But if we’ve learned anything from this guide, we’ve learned that intent is key to PPC. And to choose the most valuable keywords optimized for user intent, you have to understand the person searching for them. 

Audience targeting is a valuable tool to take PPC campaigns to the next level. By gathering information about searchers interests, demographics, and ways they’ve engaged with your brand online, you’ll be better equipped to target these users with ads based on where they are in the buyer’s journey.

There are several different methods of audience targeting that can be utilized with PPC campaigns. We’ve broken down our favorite two that you should consider. 

Affinity Audiences

This type of targeting allows you to come up with a list of users who might be passionate about a specific topic or area of interest. You are then able to target your ads based on their browser history and web behavior. It goes beyond just what a person is searching for, but what they might be interested and passionate in as well. 

For instance, B2B companies could target “business professionals” as an affinity audience. This would ensure your ads are served to those searching for your relevant keywords, and an audience of business professionals. Google determines this audience based on factors like search history, frequently visited web pages, browser history and so on.

By refining your ads based on relevant affinity audiences, it's more likely the ads served to your users will be relevant, and thus your users will be more likely to convert. 

Remarketing Lists 

Not taking advantage of remarketing groups is ignoring low hanging fruit. By using this tool, you can make lists based on whether someone has previously visited your website. From here, you can choose to serve a certain ad to these users. When utilizing remarketing lists, it’s important to understand how to use inclusion and exclusion. 

  • Inclusion Lists - Inclusion lists are just like they sound, “including” those you’d like to retarget. Use these types of lists to include people who landed on your site, but maybe didn’t make a purchase. Or, if you sell a product or service that might lend to multiple purchases, you can retarget those that have done business with you before, or maybe those that have done business with you in the past, but not in a while. 
  • Exclusion Lists - This is where the real power comes in. Sure, remarketing is powerful, but it can be easy to get carried away with it. It’s almost like a trap for driving up your ad spend. If you retarget to everyone that lands on your site, you’ll quickly find your budget being eaten up. Exclusion lists “exclude” those that have landed on your site, but you don’t want to target with ads. 

The following are some examples of users you might consider adding to an excluding list: 

      • Those that have just recently made a purchase
      • Those that have visited your site and bounced within three seconds
      • Your own employees
      • People looking for employment


7. Use Google Ad Extensions 

Google Ad Extensions are essentially a way to make your ad more specific. By making your ad more specific, you’re making it more useful and relevant. Two things we know that are crucial to getting more traffic for a lower CPC. 

As a Google user, you're likely familiar with seeing ad extensions. And you’ve probably found them helpful. So why wouldn’t you want to include them with your own ads? 

There are multiple different ad extensions, but here are four we find especially useful in increasing relevant traffic.

Structured Snippets 

structured snippet googleSource: WordStream

A structured snippet allows you to highlight specific details about your company, products, or services. Each snippet contains a header, and features what you would like to highlight. You can include up to two headers at a time. Google will decide on the best header combination to show, so best practice is to include as many headers as relevant to your business.

By providing more context into what your company does, or the services it offers, structured snippets have been seen to increase quality score and click-through-rates. It’s a great way to fit in certain aspects of your business that you might not have been able to fit into the ad text itself.

Sitelink Extensions

sitelink extension googleA site link extension is extra lines of text that display under your ad, and only appear when your ad is featured in the top three positions. They can also link to different locations of your website, like in the example above. Each shoe listed links to different respective product pages. 

The biggest benefit, besides providing your user with more information and more links to your site, is that site extensions make your ad look more like an organic search result. Sitelink extensions have been proven to improve CTR and an added benefit? They also push other ad competitors further down the page. 

Call Extensions 

Call extensions add a “call button” to your ads, making it easier for someone to get in touch with your business. We recommend this extension to those businesses where calls are an essential part of the sales process and whose audience is typical searching on mobile devices. 

Some benefits of call extensions: 

  • You’ll attract the right kind of conversions - if you're a business that values phone calls. 
  • Google Ads will give you a report on the number of calls from your campaign, helping you better determine ROI. 
  • If you only want calls at a certain time - you can schedule when you want the call button to appear.

Key Takeaways

So, we talked about a lot. And this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Google Ad strategy. There are so many different methods out there to help lower CPC, and it can be easy to get lost amid the tricks and tips. 

The key is to remember what your ads are really all about. The potential customer. If you focus on meeting the needs of your user and providing an excellent user experience, you’ll see an automatic increase in the success of your Google Ads campaign. 

Pay attention to your metrics, and don’t get caught up in Google’s default settings. But also keep in mind usability and common sense ways to make your ad experience better for your target customer. 

Combine it all and you’ll start seeing your traffic and most importantly, ROI grow.

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This post was originally published December 2, 2020