Paid search: 10 ways to save a buck

As a paid search manager working with defined media budgets, I am always looking for new ways to stretch a client’s dollar. Paid search can be expensive, which is why my colleagues and I focus on return on investment (ROI) above everything else.

Defining goals for a campaign and thinking about ROI from the get-go is crucial. Once we know our objective and what key performance indicators we will use to gauge a campaign’s success, we can optimize the campaign to improve relevancy and decrease cost per clicks (CPC).

It’s important to always look for new opportunities. If something’s working, put more money to it, and if something’s not working, don’t be afraid to pull the plug and try something new.

I have written about saving money in paid search before on the LoSasso blog, explaining why you can afford PPC. This time around, I’m going to provide a few actionable tips for saving money in paid search, thus increasing your traffic, conversions and ultimately, return on investment.

1. Create a branded campaign
Branded terms will usually outperform other keywords in your account, which is why it’s important to separate them into their own campaigns. Because someone searching with a branded term in their query is already familiar with your business, they are much more likely to click on your ad and convert. Another benefit of segmenting branded terms into their own campaigns is that you can govern how much budget is spent on them. If branded terms are strewn throughout all your campaigns, they can dominate click spend.

2. Group similar keywords into ad groups
Relevance is the most important factor when it comes to saving money in paid search. This is why segmentation is so important. The more closely related your keyword, ad copy and landing page are, the better chance you have at achieving significantly cheaper CPCs. Follow best practices and lump similar keywords into ad groups.

3. Review keyword match type
I implement a variety of keyword match types, including broad match modified, phrase and exact match keywords to maximize coverage while maintaining strong relevance. By using search modifiers, you can ensure that fewer random queries will trigger your ads.

4. Add negative keywords
The search terms report is one you should mine regularly, especially if a lot of your keywords are broad match. This report will unveil the exact keyword searches that resulted in clicks on your ads. Add any keywords in the report that don’t make sense as negative keywords.

5. Add long tail keywords
In the same vein as the previous point, the search terms report can reveal some incredibly specific long tail keywords that you may want to bid on. Often, you can get a lower CPC on these keywords because not as many advertisers are bidding on them.

6. Pause underperforming keywords
I’m a big advocate of “less is more.” I like to focus on the keywords that drive traffic and conversions. Don’t be afraid to pause keywords that have generated little or no impressions or clicks for several months. However, if those keywords that aren’t getting traffic are important to your business, it may be that you are not bidding high enough to enter the auction. Be sure the lack of traffic is not due to the latter.

7. Refresh landing pages
If conversions and conversion rates have stalled or started to decline, it may be time to refresh your landing page. For example, can you tweak the call to action or overview copy to make the offer more enticing? Test one variation of the landing page at a time and see if performance improves.

8. Review day of week, time of day and device performance
By default, ads will run 24/7 on all devices. After your campaign has run for some time, dig in and review the days per week, hours per day and devices where performance is strongest. Using a bid adjustment, you can allocate budget to the days, hours and devices that drive results in your campaigns

9. Run A/B tests (and declare a winner)
Always be testing (ABT) is a common acronym for paid search. Testing allows you to make informed decisions about what is working and put your advertising dollars towards those initiatives. Make sure to end the test after sufficient data has been accumulated and start testing another variation.

10. Use search remarketing
Remarketing lists for search ads (RLSA) is a critical option for advertisers looking to save money. With RLSA, you can run search campaigns as normal, only instead of targeting the entire Internet, you are only targeting people who have been to your website before. This makes the searcher automatically more qualified, which can lead to better engagement and lower CPCs. Using RLSA, you can bid on broader or more competitive keywords at less cost.

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