Top AdWords Tips:
8 Things You’re Gonna Get Wrong [2.0 Update]

Johnathan Dane
Johnathan Dane

EDITOR’S NOTE: This post has been updated to include additional insight on previous tips we have outlined, plus one bonus tip.

Original post date: February 23, 2017.

Why did I develop this AdWords guide? (or Google Ads Guide, according to the new rebrand). If there’s anything I’ve realized after working with hundreds of different clients and seeing what truly happens under the AdWords hood, it’s this:
Most advertisers suck when it comes to execution.
I know, pretty harsh. But hear me out.
Businesses can make an average of $2 in revenue for every $1 they spend an AdWords, if done correctly. In fact, it’s not unheard of to have above 300% positive ROI from AdWords campaigns. No wonder over 1 million businesses use this inbound marketing channel.
Still, you’ll find that many of them waste a good deal of what they spent on the platform and could potentially achieve an even higher ROI if they had a better understanding of AdWords.
AdWords PPC is performance based, and you’re often paying for results rather than eyeballs (as you might for other advertising channels). With Google getting $1 of every $3 spent, it’s a great source of revenue for them as well — and the more results you see, the more you spend, right?
That being said, having an understanding of Google’s own objectives and the right “inbound mindset” can be the key to success. But what does having an “inbound mindset” really mean? Don’t worry, we’ll get there.
In this AdWords guide, I’m going to lay out a brief overview of how AdWords works, and most importantly, 8 tips aka our “KlientBoost Commandments” for success in AdWords.
These are the AdWords strategies and tactics we follow religiously to get our clients results, regardless of their industry. We’ll go beyond just choosing relevant keywords and optimizing ad copy. You’ll be able to determine metrics for measuring success and begin to really leverage PPC as pat of your inbound marketing plan.
If you take advantage of the ones I outline in this AdWords guide, you’ll see overall PPC potential skyrocket (not just for AdWords).
But before we get started with these tips, let’s give you a quick rundown on AdWords. After all, this is the ultimate AdWords guide.

How Does AdWords Work?

Rather than waste hours organically trying to rank for a particular keyword, AdWords provides an auction house where you can set a budget and bid, based on how much a click is worth to you, with the opportunity to potentially rank higher in search results in a quicker amount of time.
Advertisers will try to outbid their competition, but not by too much, so their ad shows up over their competition for that keyword (assuming Quality Score is the same) at the lowest cost possible.
Luckily, if you’re the winner, your cost per click will only be what kicks out your competition, not your Maximum Bid you’re willing to pay. Ad Rank is Quality Score times the Maximum Bid, and determines what position your ads will appear in search results.
We’re brought back to economics and the basics of supply and demand: How many people are searching and how much is the competition spending?
Some of the basic metrics that you can track in AdWords are clicks, impressions (i.e. the number of times your ad has been seen for a particular keyword), and CTR (i.e. clicks divided by impressions).
Many marketers go by CTR (expected and historical) to see if an ad is working, and will focus on Quality Score (on the account, ad group and keyword level) or bidding optimization in an attempt to get a higher click through rate — but we’ll cover why that shouldn’t be your initial focus in a bit.
Now, it’s time to dive into our 8 KlientBoost Commandments.

8 AdWords Tips for Success


Tip #1 – Consider The Full Picture – Part 1

When looking at your entire inbound funnel and all the metrics that you can evaluate, really go to the core of what matters most to you — sales and conversions. All efforts should be in support of the primary objective of increasing sales and conversions.
Google wants users coming back, so it wants to serve up highly relevant and quality ads to these users. With that in mind, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had clients be obsessed with improving their AdWords Quality Score.
It’s not even a KPI; it’s just a relevance metric that Google helps to guide you. So, why are there almost 75 million Google search results for that metric?

Quality Score Search in Google

Quality Score search in Google

Since it’s shrouded in so much mystery, Google had to put out their own AdWords guide, combatting the continued misinformation out there.
But just like the 100+ other metrics you can track when it comes to AdWords, Quality Score is a silly metric to focus on.
Let me re-phrase that.
You should not focus on Quality Score before:

– Average order values
– Cost per sale
– Sales volume
– Cost per conversion
– Conversion volume
And it leads me to this:

Fix the well, not the sink – image source

Don’t fix the sink if the well is broken. In this case, the sink is your AdWords/PPC account, and the well is the conversion or sales point.
When it comes to PPC for lead gen and SaaS, that path for you to make money looks like this:

Traffic less than Conversion less than Sale

Traffic > Conversion > Sale

For eCommerce, it looks like this:

Before you ever start considering trying to improve your click-through-rate, your quality scores, or your impression shares, focus on improving the sales and conversion aspects. Then, you can focus on the PPC aspect. It’s kind of reverse engineering, bottom up approach.
Because focusing on the well first will help you create much more wiggle room for your AdWords account (search and display) to be successful.

Higher average order values = higher CPA thresholds

Higher average order values = higher CPA thresholds


Higher conversion rates = higher CPC thresholds

Higher conversion rates = higher CPC thresholds

If you don’t, you’ll continuously have a performance ceiling you can never break through, no matter how much optimization you do in your AdWords account.
AdWords doesn’t operate in a silo. You need to pull levers and push buttons further down your funnel to truly scale your performance.
Keep that in mind as you go through this AdWords guide.

Tip #2 – Consider The Full Picture – Part 2

That being said, once you get to the PPC aspect, it’s worth noting the importance of content to any inbound strategy. If the content on your landing page doesn’t match the message you have in your ads, or the offer you present in your PPC ads is not depicted in a way that elicits action from your audience, you can run all the PPC campaigns you want to find them falling short of your goals.
You still have to get people into the door.
When I say look at the bigger picture, it isn’t just the entire funnel, but the components of that funnel and how each piece works to guide your prospects to the point of conversion or sale.

Tip #3 – Consider Customer Lifetime Value

Sometimes a high upfront cost or investment is worth it, if you believe the clicks will lead to a conversion and the prospect that converts or lead that buys has a high potential to do so again.
Then, the reward becomes more than just the first-time conversion or sale — the lifetime value of the customer should be taken into account.
This may allow you to justify higher bids that will beat your competition in an AdWords auction.
Before you set your budgets and bids on any campaigns:

  • Select what you’re trying to promote.
  • Determine an acceptable customer acquisition cost.
  • Estimate your maximum cost per click with the following formula:

    Max CPC = (profit per customer) x (sales conversion rate) x (1 - profit margin)

    Max CPC = (profit per customer) x (sales conversion rate) x (1 – profit margin)


  • Set a test advertising budget.


Tip #4 – Research Is Overhyped

That’s a dangerous thing to say coming from an agency, but it’s true.
We’ve seen a ton of other agencies scope out keywords, placements, or audiences before starting a new campaign.
They do this to get a sense of competition levels, traffic levels, and costs. But most of the time, that research is a complete waste of time.
And even worse, they’re looking at average aggregated data.
That data is already outdated. Average data doesn’t do you any good.
You don’t pop the champagne when you’ve gotten a lower CPC compared the average, or a better conversion rate compared to the average for your industry.
‘Cause that shit means nothing.
You pop the champagne when you make more money.

giphy 2

This is when you celebrate. – image source

And when your keyword match types, ads, landing pages, and sales process is unique to only you, nothing you research around competition levels can help you out.
It’s not apples to apples anymore.
Instead, focus solely on this when you conduct your PPC research: Expansion.
Here at KlientBoost, the only PPC research we look at revolves around:

  • Keywords we’re not currently bidding on (not their average CPCs)
  • Placements we’re not taking advantage of
  • Audiences we’re not targeting

Since CPCs don’t matter if you have high enough conversion rates to offset the CPA costs, your next focus is AdWords Display Network is great for reach, visibility, and brand awareness.
It’s insanely great for direct response conversions too.
But like I’ve heard from advertisers who say that LinkedIn, Facebook, AdWords, or Twitter doesn’t work, it usually comes down to their crappy execution that looks like this:
First time running an ad to a poorly targeted audience with the expectation of getting them to convert on a CTA that asks them to either buy or commit to something, after the first impression.
It’s like you on the beach with your newly-bought pair of Speedos, expecting people to come over and start making out with you.

Your confidence has you believe that you can swing for the home run right away and get people to convert on your ad after the first impression.
But that’s not how reality works.
Not online, and not in person.
It’s like you trying to ask for your spouses hand in marriage, through a text message, without ever meeting them first.
There’s a 99.9% chance they’re gonna say no (and not convert).
All you have to have, is a scale of call-to-actions/offers that can attract different prospects in various parts of the decision making cycle.
Which leads us to…

Tip #6 – Traffic Temperatures, They’re Really Important

It sounds super complex, but hear me out.
You don’t have to know your buyer personas.
You don’t have to know your PPC customer journey.
Because the truth is, you can create the journey.
When it comes to any business that wants to use PPC, you’ll eventually find that your ultimate optimization isn’t the ad testing, bid optimization. It isn’t even your landing page testing.
It’s the CTA you’re using in conjunction with a specific set of traffic.

mind blown

It’s true – image source

And we have hundreds of client tests to back it up.
What we’ve found is that most of the time, it comes down to these traffic temperature equations:

Cold traffic + hot offer = no conversion

Cold traffic + hot offer = no conversion


Cold traffic + cold offer = conversion

Cold traffic + cold offer = conversion


Hot traffic + cold offer = conversion

Hot traffic + cold offer = conversion

Let’s say that you’re an injury attorney (you sue the crap out of Walmart when someone slips in their aisle or when someone is in a car accident), and your goal with PPC is to drive “Free Consultations” that turn into lucrative cases that you can close and make money from.
When it comes to AdWords Search (warm to hot traffic) you can make the CTA of “Free Consultation” (hot offer) work well for you. Remember, intent to buy or convert is going to be higher in search than in display or through Facebook.
But if you try to target people on AdWords Display or direct Facebook traffic (cold traffic), your hot offer won’t work anymore, because you’re asking for the visitor to do too much.
Instead, the best PPC advertisers who can make PPC work on any platform have a wide range of CTAs/offers that they use to get people’s feet in their door.
Let’s go back to the attorney example.
Your end goal is to make money, but before that, you could (in order of difficulty):

  • Drive in-office consultations
  • Drive free phone consultations
  • Allow visitors to take a quiz to see if they have a case
  • Offer an ebook on injury lawsuits
  • Offer a whitepaper/checklist on what a person suing needs to consider
  • Offer a blog post on injury lawsuits

Right there, you have seven different CTAs/offers you can try in different formats to drive more conversions, regardless of the type of AdWords or PPC traffic.
This “CTA arsenal” is what helps us get faster results for our clients as it truly unlocks some serious scaling potential.

Tip #5 – Mini Micro Conversions & Why They Matter

I know your goals are to get conversions, but what if that doesn’t happen right off the bat and you’ve followed everything else above?
If that happens to you, don’t fret.
You’ll now want to focus on improving your micro conversion rate to push people closer and closer to your actual macro conversion (like a “Free Consultation”).
What are micro conversions? They’re smaller metrics you can track that show engagement and intent, like:

micro conversions

From my speech at Unbounce’s CTA Conference – image source

Things like time on site, scroll depth, and partial form field completion can tell you where your bottlenecks are and where you should focus your optimization efforts.
Like you read earlier:
“Don’t Fix The Sink, If The Well Is Broken”

Tip #7 – Granularity = More Control

Right now, there’s a big discrepancy between your search terms and keywords.
You might not think it’s a big deal, but it is.
Because when your search term volume outpaces your keyword volume by 100:1, you end up with something we call The Iceberg Effect.

ppc secrets 600x338

Anything below the surface is something you can’t control – image source

You can click the link above to learn more, but the jist of it is this:
If you can granulate your campaigns, do it.

More control = better relevance = lower costs

More control = better relevance = lower costs


ppc tip 600x338 1

It’s not just for AdWords Search, but for display & social too – image source


Tip #8 – Track All The Monies

Last but not least, don’t just track money being made back to your AdWords account.
Track it all the way to the keyword, placement, and audience.
I see accounts too often that could be saving 50% of their ad spend and still get the same amount of conversions and sales.
If you’re an eCommerce advertiser, then you’re already covered with eCommerce tracking. But if you’re a SaaS or lead gen business, you MUST plant the seed early enough to track sales down the most granular level.
Even if you don’t have enough conversion or sales volume today, you’ll eventually start seeing patterns that allow you to adjust your strategy behind certain types of traffic.
The fastest way to do this is to manually track with UTM parameters or use ValueTrack parameters in your AdWords account.

AdWords Guide Wrap-Up: Over To You…

As you start to learn over the next six days from super smart people, keep these AdWords guide tips in mind.
They’re going to save you a ton of time and a lot of headache as you start to truly use AdWords as a predictable source of business growth.
I’m excited to hear your feedback when you’re done.
Enjoy! 🙂