Approaching the wilds of PPC (pay-per-click) marketing can feel a lot like being next in line to ride the world’s scariest roller coaster.
Will the ride go start–to–finish without any huge problems?
Will you end up stuck at the highest point of the coaster with no safe way down?
Will your car come off the track completely at the peak of a loopty-loop?
Okay, we’re not saying PPC is dangerous.
But when it’s all laid out in front of you, it can be really daunting and give you some second thoughts about jumping in. Yep, just like waiting in line for that imaginary coaster.
There’s some good news, though.
A lot of PPC platforms, although different in their own ways, still benefit from a lot of the same best practices. Boiling it down this way makes PPC advertising a lot less dizzying to pull off.
This article will set you up with 19 best practices to take with you on your PPC journey, which will help you push for success in any platform you take on.
Ready to roll?
- 19 PPC best practices to keep in your back pocket
- 1. Be familiar with your platform options
- 2. Establish a budget that’s affordable AND viable
- 3. Focus on driving the metrics that matter
- 4. Don’t miss retargeting opportunities
- 5. Don’t forget the importance of prospecting
- 6. Automate whenever possible
- 7. Continually A/B split test
- 8. Use strong calls-to-action (CTAs)
- 9. Match your offer temperature to your traffic temperature
- 10. Stand out from the crowd
- 11. Set up accurate conversion tracking
- 12. Reign in your geotargeting
- 13. Send traffic to relevant landing pages that drive action
- 14. Don’t set and forget
- 15. Weed out irrelevant audiences or searches
- 16. Stay up-to-date
- 17. Diversify and evaluate your platform mix
- 18. Keep trying new strategies
- 19. If all else fails, bring in the experts
- Now, get those best practices in place
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19 PPC best practices to keep in your back pocket
Getting the hang of PPC and making the most out of any PPC platform can be challenging. Every platform is different, and just when you think you’ve got the hang of one platform, another platform throws a curveball at you.
Thankfully, many of the cornerstone best practices of PPC are the same or similar, no matter what platform you’re looking at.
You’ll still need to know each platform’s little intricacies. But with these best practices in place from the start, it’ll be so much easier for you to see better scalability, reach, conversion volume, and even customer loyalty.
Let’s get right into it.
1. Be familiar with your platform options
Speaking of PPC platforms, there’s a huge sea of options for you to choose from. So, it’s essential to get familiar with the platforms available and what they’re best at.
Additionally, you need to get up close and personal with what your business needs from an advertising platform.
For example, LinkedIn’s primarily geared toward benefitting B2B (business-to-business) and SaaS (software-as-a-service) companies. The target audiences there revolve heavily around the industries people work in, their job titles, work-related interests, etc.
This makes it easier for B2B and SaaS businesses to reach out to a more specific target market of people already who are already in a work and work-network mindset. They tend to be more receptive to ads for products and services that could make their job easier.
But a B2C (business-to-consumer) business, like a makeup retailer, might not have much success on LinkedIn.
In such cases, Facebook does excellently for eCommerce and other B2C businesses since Facebook appeals to a wide, idly-scrolling consumer audience that might be in the mood to shop.
So you can see why B2B and SaaS businesses tend to have a bit more trouble performing on Facebook—the majority of people scrolling their Facebook feeds are doing so for leisure, not business.
So keep these things in mind. Choosing the right platform for your needs can make all the difference in how your PPC efforts will go.
Bottom line? Do your research and get familiar with the platforms. 📝
2. Establish a budget that’s affordable AND viable
Budget, budget, budget. Any PPC platform, and any marketing efforts in general, cost money. And for any business, especially smaller businesses, it can be challenging to decide how much of your profits to allocate to your advertising efforts.
Generally, you should aim to spend about seven to eight percent of your gross revenue on your advertising (this can vary depending on your niche, the size of your business, and annual gross revenue).
The important takeaway here is that you want to decide on an advertising budget for PPC that’s going to be feasible for your business and viable for each PPC platform of choice.
For example, platforms like LinkedIn tend to be more costly to advertise on. Generally, for LinkedIn, we recommend a budget no smaller than $10,000 in ad spend per month to stay competitive and see actual results. Budgets smaller than this tend to struggle on LinkedIn and can cause performance difficulties.
Google Ads paid search (formerly Google AdWords), on the other hand, can be cheaper. And the platform allows you to budget as low as you want, but that doesn’t mean you should budget ultra low.
Not if you want high lead volume or positive return on ad spend, anyway.
A budget of $200 per month on Google Ads is a start, but it likely won’t get you very far—especially not if the competition in your business vertical is high.
When your budget is small, you’ll spend that money but typically won’t get many leads or sales out of it; this is because you’re getting the “leftover” clicks your budget could afford, not necessarily the most valuable clicks.
For example, a $200 budget likely wouldn’t do much for you on Google Ads in the insurance space, where CPCs can easily rise above $20 for a click due to heavy competition. (If each click were $20, you’d only get 10 clicks.)
A word of advice?
Aim to start advertising on a PPC platform with $1,000 at least (LinkedIn being the exception—we don’t recommend treading there unless you have at least $10K to spend on it).
Moreover, have up to your max advertising budget limit readily available to spend on your PPC efforts.
You might not end up needing it all, but it’s good to set up the expectation (both with yourself and your team) that you might increase your PPC spend over the course of the month up to that monthly limit if needed.
3. Focus on driving the metrics that matter
There are a lot of metrics to look at across all PPC platforms. Cost per click (CPC), clicks, impressions, click-through rate (CTR), conversions...the list goes on and on.
The important thing to keep in mind is that there are more metrics that don’t matter than there are metrics that do matter.
The metrics that do matter are the ones that contribute to your bottom line (i.e., leads, sales, and profit). These are your
- cost per conversion
- return on ad spend (ROAS)
The metrics that don’t matter are those that don’t directly affect your leads, sales, or profit, like
- cost per click (CPC)
- click-through rate
- quality score/ranking
To an extent, sometimes the metrics that “don’t matter” affect the metrics that do. For example, if your CTR is exceptionally low, your conversion rate could suffer because of it.
But then again, sometimes metrics like CTR and conversion rate are completely unrelated.
So, the point is, don’t make goals out of unimportant metrics. Work on making changes and developing strategies that boost the important metrics, AKA conversions. If your strategies are benefitting other metrics, like CPC, but your conversion rate is crashing, it’s time to pivot.
A factoid to remember: I’ve had plenty of clients in the past whose only goal was to have CPC under $1. But…they still weren’t happy because their lead volume was sinking ever-lower while they focused on the cost of a click.
4. Don’t miss retargeting opportunities
Retargeting (AKA remarketing) is an extremely useful strategy that a good majority of PPC platforms are capable of doing.
When you retarget users, you’re showing ads to people who have already visited your website (or, in some cases, engaged with your in-platform content). Because these potential customers already know your brand, they’re closer to the bottom of the funnel than someone who doesn’t.
It’s important to always take advantage of retargeting opportunities because you can pick up on any loose ends and help nudge visitors toward the sale.
Without retargeting, you’re letting fate decide who someone will buy from, rather than swaying them in your favor by showing them a new offer or reminding them of the value of your product or service.
That said, here’s a tip from me to you: don’t let fate decide.
Get your retargeting going.
5. Don’t forget the importance of prospecting
A lot of the time, when digital marketers see the conversions, low cost per conversion, and high ROAS that retargeting (and other bottom-of-funnel) audiences tend to bring in, their response is to push all or most of their budget there.
I’ve had to do this for clients before.
Let me tell you, it’s not pretty.
Retargeting lists thrive because they’re made of more interested prospects.
But your retargeting lists will dwindle if you’re not doing enough prospecting or top-of-funnel marketing.
You have to get people to your website first before you can retarget them. And more often than not, strategies that push the majority of the budget heavily toward retargeting efforts fail.
This is because when you spend very little on prospecting, you’re exasperating your retargeting audience faster than you can rebuild it.
Eventually, the retargeting members that were going to buy, will buy. And the retargeting members that weren’t going to buy will get tired of seeing your ads and ignore them. Your list members won’t renew fast enough, retargeting performance will die off, and your strategy as a whole will suffer.
So, remember that prospecting and top-of-funnel efforts are always important. You should be spending the majority of your platform budget (60 – 70%) on prospecting and less (30 – 40%) on retargeting.
To back this up, we ran a test with one of our clients where the only change we made was to reallocate more money to prospecting and reduce the budget for retargeting.
In the seven days following this change, we saw a 400% increase in conversions to retargeting, plus a 45.45% increase in conversions to prospecting, plus CPA decreases across the board.
6. Automate whenever possible
Automation has become a much bigger deal in the last handful of years.
Many PPC platforms have some kind of automation options available, whether you’re automating some menial processes to give you more time back or automating bids to be more competitive.
Generally, automated rules can be extremely helpful with keeping performance in check without having to do a bunch of manual work.
Another form of automation is automated bidding strategies, which are becoming more popular across platforms.
Automated bidding strategies use machine learning to adjust bids for you to meet certain goals you’ve defined, which often saves you a ton of time and effort manually adjusting bids. And typically, automated bidding strategies are capable of achieving much better performance than manual bidding.
So, check out the automation options in your platform of choice, and start setting some up. 🚀
7. Continually A/B split test
No matter what PPC platform you’re using, if you want to continually improve performance and scale, A/B testing is essential.
A/B testing is the process of testing two elements against each other to see which does best. And it’s genuinely the cornerstone of excellent PPC health.
Without a regular testing schedule, you’re just cruising and assuming that the performance you’re seeing now is “good enough” or as good as it will get.
But it doesn’t have to be “good enough.” 🧐
It can be better.
There’s always room for testing, and sometimes even the smallest changes can make the biggest difference.
Some common things you can A/B split test are
- landing pages
- ad copy
- ad images
- bidding strategies
- device targeting (e.g., seeing if campaigns targeting only mobile devices perform better than campaigns targeting all devices)
And so. much. more.
However, test one element at a time, so that you know what change caused the results you see.
For example, let’s say in Google Ads, I want to test the headline “Sign up for free” against the headline “Sign up today.”
Those headlines should be the only elements that change within the ad, and the rest of the ad (the other headlines, the descriptions, the landing page, etc.) should all be the same.
PPC marketers are advertising scientists. So, make sure to put your goggles on and test stuff out.
8. Use strong calls-to-action (CTAs)
Your call-to-action is the piece of text that tells potential customers the action you want them to take. In PPC, CTAs are showcased in your ads (and on the landing pages users visit after clicking).
Without CTAs, you’re not planting a seed in anyone’s head nor are you directing them toward action on your site. So if they click, they’re more likely to mosey around without a goal in mind.
You need to be straightforward and clear with your CTAs. But you also want them to grab attention and spur interest.
The call-to-action “Sign up” is clear and straightforward, but it’s also bland and leaves too much gray area.
The more questions and objections someone has about why they should do something, the less likely they are to take the chance.
Instead, you could try “Sign up now for free,” which not only tells someone when they should do it, but also includes the mention that doing so is free. This eliminates one big objection they might have to signing up—the cost.
So get clever with your CTAs, and continually test new ones to see what resonates the most with your audience.
Pro tip: If you offer a free trial or sign-up that someone can register for without having to input any credit card information, use the crap out of that in your ads’ CTAs.
9. Match your offer temperature to your traffic temperature
Every offer and every audience in PPC has a temperature—that’s essential to keep in mind when forming any PPC marketing strategy.
The temperature of your audience is how close they are to the bottom of your funnel (where your most valuable conversion happens). This might be a sale, a lead, a paid sign-up, etc.
Audiences that are closest to the bottom of your funnel and show the most interest are hot. Audiences that don’t even know your brand yet and need to be introduced are cold.
When you’re building out your PPC strategies, you don’t want to show a hot offer (such as “buy now” or “schedule a demo”) to a cold prospect.
When a cold prospect sees a hot offer, they’re probably thinking something along the lines of, “Uhh... Who are you again?”
Bummer. So, they’re seeing your ad but aren’t really resonating with your message. This means you won’t drive much that’s valuable and measurable from your cold audiences except apparent eyeballs on your ads (awareness). 👀
So, match your audience’s intent. When prospecting to top-of-funnel users who are cold, show them a non-threatening offer to help them get familiar with you, like a free e-book download or free trial.
Require minimal information (like a name and email), minimal time, and no contact with a salesperson to get this free asset.
And then, once someone’s taken you up on your free asset, nurture them down the funnel nice and easy through tactics like email marketing and customer match targeting.
When they become a hot prospect, hit them up with that lava hot offer of yours, and seal the deal.
10. Stand out from the crowd
The internet is a crowd; that’s no secret, really.
Your job is to stand out from it. The average person these days might see anywhere from 4,000 to 10,000 ads daily across channels.
Google’s search engine results will show you anywhere from 1–4 ads at the top and 1–3 ads at the bottom of every page. That’s up to seven advertisers on each page trying to get a little piece of the same pie that you want.
On the other hand, Facebook rotates one ad into someone’s home feed approximately every 3–5 organic posts, and that doesn’t include any other ads that might appear in the right-hand column, Marketplace, search results, Messenger, etc.
That’s a lot of competition from a lot of different businesses advertising to the same audiences.
Knowing that, what do you think happens when your ad and offer are the same as all your competition?
You disappear, that’s what.
Standing out with your advertising strategy is initially all about your ads and offers.
Put your effort into creating colorful, cool, unique, and eye-catching images or video ads. Craft curiosity-sparking headlines, clear and engaging ad copy, and irresistible CTAs.
And work on creating an offer that’s more attractive, unique, or better than your competitors’.
Catch ‘em, intrigue ‘em, keep ‘em. Then, you’ll be heading toward that positive ROI and steady cash flow.
11. Set up accurate conversion tracking
Let’s lead this section with a funny fact: only about 29% of Google Ads marketers have correct conversion tracking.
Now, if marketers are having this much trouble getting conversion tracking set up on Google Ads, it’s likely that they’re having similar issues on other platforms, too.
Conversion tracking isn’t easy. Some platforms make it a bit more straightforward than others. But regardless, it usually takes a bit of technical know-how…and patience.
Spend enough time learning about setting up conversion tracking on your platform of choice to the point where you feel comfortable or confident setting it up yourself.
A word to the wise: watching instructional videos usually helps build understanding better than reading a step-by-step guide.
Once you know how to set it up and have done so, you’re not done (sorry).
Figure out how to test it to make sure it’s working correctly.
For example, if you set up Google Ads conversion tracking through Google Tag Manager (GTM), you can verify that your conversion event is firing when it should by using either the free Google Tag Assistant extension or GTM’s preview and debug mode.
You’ll submit a test lead or make a test purchase on your site, for example, and either Tag Assistant or the GTM preview and debug mode will be able to tell you if your conversion tag fired when the lead or purchase was completed.
If your conversion tag fired one time when one conversion was completed, you’re golden.
Now…why is correct conversion tracking so important in the first place?
Because the measurability of your PPC success is dependent on this tracking.
You need to know when your ad campaigns, ad groups, ad sets, ads, etc., resulted in things of value to you, like sales or leads. Otherwise, you really have no idea whether your PPC efforts are benefitting your business at all.
Without conversion tracking, you’re just spinning your wheels assuming that those clicks are leading to something…at least you hope. And you’ll have no idea where to make improvements to increase valuable actions from your PPC campaigns.
That’s no different than making a broad scope brand awareness push on the radio. But these aren’t radio ads.
If you want tangible results, you’ll need to get your conversion tracking ironed out.
12. Reign in your geotargeting
If your product or service could be sold to anyone worldwide, it’s really tempting to want to target every country you can with your PPC ad campaigns.
More eyes means more sales, right?
The majority of advertisers don’t have anywhere near the kind of budget needed to target every country available. Many don’t even have enough budget to target 10 high-population countries.
Inevitably, if your geotargeting (the locations you show ads to) is too broad for your budget, you’ll end up spreading your advertising efforts too thin, which worsens performance.
Additionally, you’ll typically wind up with a couple countries dominating your clicks and impressions but not giving you many conversions back, which spikes your CPA.
Here are some tricks of the trade when deciding on your geo:
- Start small with your geotargeting, and go where the data takes you.
- If you sell a product or service that requires customer representative communication on the regular, target countries whose dominant language is one your representatives speak.
- Look at the countries or cities your sales have come from in the past and target those to start.
- If you sell very locally (e.g., if you have a brick-and-mortar storefront or a drive-to-your-home service), keep your geotargeting within a reasonable driving distance from your location.
Most importantly, don’t keep a location in your targeting just because you like your ads to be seen there, whether it does anything for you or not.
Focus your efforts on the locations that get you the most results (i.e., conversions or sales) and cut out all the dead weight that uses your budget without giving back.
13. Send traffic to relevant landing pages that drive action
At KlientBoost, we’re all about landing pages.
If you’re not familiar with the difference between a landing page and a normal page on your website, here’s the skinny:
A landing page is a page typically hosted on a subdomain of your website, with minimal navigation capabilities. Your main website usually won’t direct to a landing page within its navigation.
Landing pages are important because, among other benefits, they’re typically 100% more goal-focused than your website is.
A landing page’s goal is to drive one main action (conversion) from its visitors. And the entire landing page is dedicated to encouraging that action through showcasing more information about your product or service, videos, positive reviews, social proof, FAQs, etc.
Sending people to your website through your ads gives them a lot more options than you’d expect, which can actually decrease your chance of getting the conversions you want.
You might have a call button and multiple different form submissions throughout the site, for example (plus dozens of different pages for someone to navigate to).
When you flood people with options, they can get overwhelmed, and they’re actually more prone to do nothing at all as a result.
So, invest in creating landing pages with one clear goal, using a platform like Unbounce. Then, send your PPC ads to those landing pages instead of directing all your traffic to your main site.
14. Don’t set and forget
Forgetting about your PPC campaigns is probably the worst thing you can do for them.
Yes, they will spend money and show your ads without constant supervision, but that doesn’t mean your performance will stay steady or continually scale on its own.
To have successful PPC campaigns, you need to be involved in them regularly (at the very least on a weekly basis).
This helps you stay ahead of trends and keep up-to-date on where performance is going. Both of these things help you optimize and develop new strategies and tweaks for continual improvement and growth, which is what you want.
The bottom line is that you have to work with your campaigns consistently—no matter the platform—if you want to keep performance at its peak.
If you forget about your accounts, then platform updates, market changes, and changes in the competition will outrun you, and you’ll see a steady decline.
15. Weed out irrelevant audiences or searches
There will always be high-value people you want to target. And then, on the flip side of things, there will always be people you don’t want to show ads to.
Many platforms give you the option to exclude, whether you’re excluding audiences or excluding using negative keywords.
When it comes to keyword-based targeting, you need to make a consistent effort to look at the search queries that are actually triggering your keywords. Then, you’ll need to use negative keywords to exclude search terms that are irrelevant to you.
When it comes to audience-based targeting, a good majority of your exclusion strategy will likely be working to prevent audience overlap between your campaigns and funnels. This is so you can minimize how often you advertise to the same people in different audiences and keep your messaging aligned with the right funnel.
You might also find that excluding certain demographics might be helpful (as each platform allows) if advertising to certain demographics is causing waste.
Excluding irrelevancies is one major way to save yourself money and improve performance, and it’s a great rule of thumb to follow.
16. Stay up-to-date
PPC platforms change. A lot. (Especially Facebook. Zuckerberg really likes to keep us on our toes.)
That being said, it’s important to keep up with any changes occurring in the platform’s functionality or with the algorithms of platforms like Facebook, so you can pivot as needed.
For example, one big change in Google Ads lately is the phasing out of Expanded Text Ads (ETAs) and transitioning to Responsive Search Ads (RSAs) only, which is a big deal for advertisers that have been relying on ETAs for years now.
At KlientBoost, we recognized that we still depended heavily on ETAs because, in general, we’d been seeing better performance from them than RSAs run at the same time.
Because we kept up-to-date with this info, we’ve had ample time to seriously test RSA variations to see what elements help an RSA have more success.
One such test we ran was to pin our RSA headlines and descriptions to certain positions, which for one client resulted in a 33% decrease in CPA compared to an unpinned RSA.
Case in point, we had plenty of time to decide what to do about this change because we saw it coming the day it was announced. Luck favors the prepared, y’all.
17. Diversify and evaluate your platform mix
Many of our clients run ads on multiple platforms at once, and that’s genuinely a really good idea.
Like we discussed at the beginning of this list, each platform is more accomplished at different things. Each platform has different audiences, ranging from their demographics to their interests and their mindset while using the platform.
Additionally, some platforms benefit each other by filling out different parts of your funnel. For example, Facebook is generally better at driving more engaged awareness from larger prospecting audiences than Google display ads.
On the other hand, Google search campaigns and retargeting on Google benefit from this rise in prospecting traffic because it leads to more bottom-of-funnel Google activity down the line.
Finally, if you’re already rocking and rolling with multiple PPC platforms, it’s a good idea to periodically evaluate and optimize your platform mix to see what’s benefitting you and what’s dragging you down.
If you really struggle to drum up interest on Facebook, even with your less threatening offers, there’s no need to keep wasting money there. Switch it up and either reallocate your budget to the platform(s) that are working or try out a new one.
18. Keep trying new strategies
If our PPC campaigns are doing well, we tend to get comfy with it. A little too comfy, if you ask me.
Granted, you might have an amazing campaign that maintains steady positive ROI and makes you and your superiors happy. And that’s great.
But scalability only happens when you step out of your comfort zone and try new strategies.
To be successful at PPC, you need to free yourself of the “This is how we’ve always done it” mindset from the start.
You also need to free yourself from the fear of failure.
Both you and your team will benefit from accepting that not all of your strategy tests will be winners. The important thing is that you had a solid, well-thought-out strategy, and that you tried it to improve performance.
Failures are learning opportunities. And while they do cost us money in advertising, and that’s a hard pill to swallow, it’s better than putting your campaigns on autopilot to avoid failure altogether.
So, absolutely invest time in things like keyword research, audience research, bidding research, etc., to build new strategies and get them tested.
19. If all else fails, bring in the experts
PPC is complicated; let’s not sugarcoat it. Right now, you might be running advertising for your own small business, and if that’s not an overwhelming strain, then it’s doable.
But when small businesses become big businesses and marketing needs to reach further, or when you start encountering more issues than successes and it’s looking like a bit of a mess, it might be time to call in some outside experts to help.
PPC agencies have the chops and the time to devote to advertising efforts that you might not have. And everyone likes being given time back to focus on the higher-level elements of running a business.
So, when in doubt, or when in need, call in a team of pros to back you up.
Now, get those best practices in place
A PPC strategy can’t go off without a hitch if it’s missing a smart set of best practices. And again, while each platform functions a little differently, a lot of them thrive on similar golden rules.
You’re now ready to jump into PPC knowing what it takes to make it great, and you’ve got these 19 tips tucked away to reference when you need them.
So, what’cha waiting for?
If you want to delve a little deeper into how to match your audiences better before you get going, check out our next article all about PPC traffic temperatures.
Otherwise, get that goldmine PPC strategy off the ground and start raking in that ROI. 💰