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Six top tips to kickstart your paid search

Friday 25 January 2019 Digital ConsultancyDigital Marketing


Katarina Djuric's picture
By Katarina Djuric

Paid Search is a marketing acquisition channel whereby companies bid in a live auction across various search engines (such as Google and/or Bing) for their website to appear, usually against competitors, in the ‘ad’ listings area at the top of the Search Engine Results Page (SERP). Paid Search uses a Cost Per Click (CPC) model to drive traffic to a website by matching the keywords you have set to the search terms that users are typing in to find specific information.

The joy of paid search advertising is that you can have complete control of where you spend your marketing budget, and the search terms your brand is showing up for. The key is to ensure that the clicks you’re paying for are valuable by knowing that the person has the right intent and will subsequently lead to a conversion.

Below are 6 important top-tips to remember when starting and growing your paid search account;



This one seems obvious, but it’s so easy to get lost in the day-to-day of paid search that you forget to look at the bigger picture. Before you start, you should make sure that you know what your ROI is, or at least a maximum Cost Per Acquisition (CPA) and CPC, that you are willing to spend. Once you have these numbers in mind, researching keyword costs and volumes, and forecasting activity is useful to understand and to later benchmark performance. You can do this through Google / Bing Keyword Planner, which is an easy to use tool right at your fingertips.

By being armed with the numbers and performance expectations, it minimises the risk of overspending and will allow you to be mindful of how far you can push the budget when testing – you need to be flexible with budgets to gain insights early on.  
As marketing technology continues to grow, it’s important to take care when changing or selecting new marketing platforms to ensure that all conversion tracking is kept intact for analysis and reporting. Even if you have an analytics platform, you should keep your search engine conversion data as a backup, should anything go wrong, or you need to cross check.


Manual vs. Automated Bidding

There are 2 ways that you can choose to bid on search terms which vary on how much control you want to have. However, you need both to succeed. Knowing when to use them and when to move from manual to automated bidding is key.

Manual bidding provides greater control, particularly in a newly created paid search account. It’s important to start here as there is a period of machine learning required to gain data and understand performance of keywords. However, I’ve seen multiple times that as the account grows, the in-house PPC manager believes they can continue to do manual bidding across the account. This is not the case, particularly when there are thousands of keywords to manage. Manual bidding should be reserved for high value keywords only to better optimise those driving the bulk of your income and enable improved control over spend and Cost Per Sale (CPS). Machine learnt automated bidding will then deliver improved results by finding efficiencies a lot quicker than 1 or 2 people could do manually. The bids are then modified instantly to capitalise on the opportunities presented.

Nevertheless, accurate and effective automated bidding depends on the data you feed it beforehand, therefore focus on getting the manual bidding right at the start, and make sure that you are happy with performance, then slowly migrate towards automated bidding.

As your account grows, you may want to consider a bid management tool that helps you create, optimise and manage your PPC campaigns. Adobe Media Optimiser or Search Ads 360 (previously DoubleClick Search) can enhance your tech stack as they integrate easily with search engines and aggregate multiple sources of data to simplify, automate and provide greater control across your campaigns.


Paid Search Real Estate and Testing

PPC is a bidding game and the most noticeable ads are more likely to win. Extensions are perfect for this and are not used enough. They provide snippets of information which are beneficial to the user, adding further insights and complementing the ad copy. As a result, they are bigger and take up more real estate on the SERPs. The more relevant and informative the ad, the higher the Click Through Rate (CTR) and, dependant on your industry, extensions can also help with footfall to stores.

Sitelinks are also great for expanding your ad, however, they tend to only show up when in Position 1 (P1). As a result, a quick analysis of P1 costs (CPCs) and Conversion Rate (CR) is required to have a view on ROI. If the ROI is positive, it is recommended that some of the high value keywords are pushed into P1 to improve CTR and, in turn, Quality Score (QS).

Across most companies the branded search strategy tends to be an always-on, authoritative channel, causing search performance to be inflated by the lower CPCs and higher CTRs. Despite branded ads dominating when in P1, it is worth exploring whether they are required at all. This can be done by looking at the cannibalisation with SEO which would allow you to prove the value in spending on Brand or remove it altogether to allow for cost savings. If being in P1 is adding incremental value in search, the sitelinks should be used with the consumer in mind, by providing them with a shortcut to the webpage that is most useful to them.

With this, you also need to keep ad copy testing on the forefront of your mind, to help creep up that CTR by engaging users and in turn improving performance. In conjunction with this, the CR of each keyword should be considered and reviewed to ensure that all traffic being driven is of high value.


Landing Pages - Thinking beyond the Click

Acquisition marketing and UX teams tend to work in siloes focusing on their own priorities and goals. This tends to lead to disjointed messaging which negatively impacts CR, QS and CPC of your keywords. Landing page testing is required to improve KPIs and ensure that the user gets a seamless journey. The best results come from tailored PPC ads.
Try stripping down the landing pages to navigate the user to complete the call-to-action that was in the ad, with no distractions, and test it against the current product page. By improving your CR, you are lowering your CPS and therefore can afford to bid higher to bring in more traffic.

Further to this, the user journey to conversion impacts any target CPA bidding strategies, hence you want to ensure that the ad copy message is reflected on the landing page and throughout the user journey.


Who are your visitors?

Accurately tracking and tagging the audience that visits your site is an art and a must in a digital first world. Knowing who has visited your site and how far down the funnel they have gone can be passed back to your search account for targeting rules to be set up. There are a multitude of ways that you can target these users; in the form of bidding only via audience lists. For example, increasing bids on those searchers you know have visited your site, to full Remarketing Lists for Search Ad (RLSA) Campaigns which target specific users, at different stages of the funnel, with relevant messages. Most clients we examine don’t have RLSA strategies set up. It’s a simple way to get warmer leads back into the funnel or further into the user journey, with personalised messaging to improve CTR. It is also a great way to cross-sell more products to those that are already customers. For example, if a user has bought a travel insurance product and you also want to sell them travel money, you can adapt the ad copy to recognise that they are already a customer and highlight the ease of purchasing another product through you.

Another tactic, Customer Match, uses lists of email addresses so you can bid higher on those that have signed up to your services and are more likely to convert. Beware of GDPR and ensuring that you have the right marketing consent.

Note: Don’t forget the negatives! You can use Audience lists as exclusions for those that you don’t want to target or have already converted and now have a different intent e.g. customers visiting a site to use a subscription service.


Don’t forget your Search Query/Terms Reports (SQRs)

Search Terms reports are essentially a hygiene check of how well your account is set-up by allowing you to see what keywords you are showing up for. They also provide an easy source of keyword mining, which when used properly (i.e. the applicable search terms being added/removed) can help to improve efficiencies across the account by decreasing CPCs and ensuring that the relevant ad is matching to the search term intent as planned. It also highlights whether you’ve captured all the essential negatives in the account, i.e. if you’re selling car insurance, you don’t want to be showing up for the search term ‘sell my car’.

All your questions can be answered using the search terms report regularly. An accessible source of so much information.


With so many tips jam-packed into one blog post, it can be overwhelming to know where to start. If you would like to discuss your paid search activity in more detail, get in touch.

Paid search is a useful digital tactic to give yourself the best opportunity to be seen at the top of the Search Engine Results Page. However, you need to align your goals with your campaign to make sure that money isn't being wasted. Here are six tips to get the best results from your PPC campaign.

Six top tips to kickstart your paid search