19 PPC Optimization Treasures That No
One Ever Finds

Johnathan Dane
Johnathan Dane

You gotta admit, Pirates are kinda cool.
Not because they have wooden legs, steal stuff, and smell like rum. But because they effortlessly move on from one place to the next, just trying to improve their lives.
See, without the negative sides of being a pirate – finding new treasures and opportunities is kinda awesome.
Just like this cat’s pirate costume:

And you and I are no different.
We want better health, we want more money, and we want more time.
And when it comes to PPC optimization, we usually just want more money.
Nothing wrong with that.
You and I both know that there are less and less treasures out there. And even less and less PPC optimization treasures out there.
Bid optimizations – Check!
Negative keywords – Check!
Ad testing – Check!

Truth is, all this stuff is regurgitated Pay-Per-Click 101 crap that even my mom knows about (and she doesn’t even know that I do PPC for a living. It’s something with Google and Facebook when you ask her).
So today, I’m not going to talk to you about the stuff you already know. Because even though it’s important, there’s a very strong chance you’re already doing that.
Instead, I took a thorough read through the top posts around “PPC Optimization” and decided to go against the grain by mentioning some less common tactics that you can use to achieve better PPC performance.
And more importantly, I want to separate the men from the boys with this post, so that you can truly take your PPC optimization efforts to the next level by getting higher conversion volumes and lower cost per conversion.
Let’s dive right in (pirate pun intended).

Treasure #1 – Conversion Time Lag Reducing

Our first treasure hunt takes us to the Attribution report within your Tools > Conversions dropdown, inside Your AdWords account.
In there, you’re able to see how long it takes a person to convert from when they first see your ad to when they last click your ad.

It looks like this.

But what do you do with data like this?
For one, it gives you a good idea on how effective a retargeting campaign can be before you even start one.
The longer it takes a visitor to convert, the more you should focus on retargeting and PPC channel temperatures.

  1. Sub-Treasure 1 – Retargeting will help your business stay top of mind in case your visitor is comparing your offer to others (hence the long time it takes them to convert).
  2. Sub-Treasure 2 – Your call to action is too threatening for them or you’re not matching the visitor intent with what you’re asking them to do on your site or landing page. If that’s the case, then you need to learn how to lower the threat of your call to action.

Once you’re able to experiment with the two types of PPC optimization above, you’ll start to see your “Days to Conversion” start lowering.
This will then help you get people into your funnel much quicker, with the lead and conversion quality start going up as well.
And you thought responding to conversions within the hour increases your chance of a sale?
Catching them even earlier like this will make your life and money-making-pirate goals much easier too.

Treasure #2 – Attribution & Assist Conversions

One of the great things about PPC advertising is that it’s pretty black and white.
You know what you spend, and you know what you make.
The only downside to that is that we give all the conversion credit to the last click. What about those seven ad clicks that preceded the final one?
Here’s another question:
Have you ever paused something in your AdWords account that didn’t show direct conversions, and then seen your overall account performance suffer?
Happens quite often in bigger accounts that run search, social, display, and video.
To put it in easier terms, take a look at this scientific explanation of assist conversions in real life:

The goal and conversion here is to retrieve the ball from the pool.
The black dog knows that he can’t get the conversion (the ball) by himself, so prior to him actually getting the conversion, he gets the help of the grey dog (the assist conversion).
That’s how it often works in a multi-device and multi-channel world. There isn’t just one ad click that equals a conversion. There are multiple touchpoints that a visitor goes through to eventually convert.

So, to get a glimpse into your attribution, you’ll want to stay in the same place we were before, just go to Tools > Attribution.

optimize pay per click
Here’s what your Assisted Conversions could look like.

Once you’re there, you can quickly play around with the menu on the left and dive deeper into the definitions of each option here.
More telling though, is the percentage of “Click-Assisted Conversions” vs “Last Click Conversions” that you see on the far right hand number.
In this situation, 23% of your overall conversions have assist clicks happen before the final click conversion.
For you, this helps you see and understand if Display is assisting in Search conversions or if there are multi intent keywords behaving differently because of the attribution.

Treasure #3 – Micro Conversions

This little treasure has now made it up on stage with me twice (and in a few posts) 🙂
Once in Vancouver and once in Estonia.
The cool thing is that while you might not launch a PPC campaign with immediate success, there’s a very strong chance that your micro conversion volume is abundant.
This helps you then optimize the smaller steps that lead up to your actual conversion.
To break things down in PPC optimization language, let’s say that your goal is getting people to fill out a lead form.
And let’s say that no one is filling that form out. What do you do?
Do you change up your landing page, re-arrange keywords, or write new ads?
What if you knew exactly where the problem is so that you’re not wasting your time on mindless optimizations that don’t make a difference.
Take a look at this slide:

ppc conversions
There are many more, these are some of the most common.

These are the things that you should start tracking so that you can see where people are getting stuck before they convert.
A few common tools to help you out:

  • Google Analytics for time on site at the keyword, ad group, and campaign level
  • Hotjar for form field dwelling time and re-fill rates
  • CrazyEgg for scroll depth

Once you identify the point in your funnel where most visitors are stopping, you can quickly diagnose, re-test, and see if you can get more of their feet, in your door.

Treasure #4 – The AdWords Dimensions Tab

The AdWords Dimensions tab is a treasure chest of dimensional PPC optimization potential.
To get to your Dimensions tab, follow this:

ppc campaign help
Dimensions, then View Day.

Within the “View: XXX” dropdown, there are a few important reports you should always keep an eye on.

Sub-Treasure 3 – Time/Day/Week + Hour/Day

If you’ve ever run your ads 24/7, then this report could potentially hold a lot of PPC optimization gold for you.
It’s common practice to do what’s called “Day Parting” where you look at your own data to identify hours of the day and days of the week that are not performing well at a cost-per-acquisition level.
Once found, you use this insight to add negative bid modifiers to certain times or days or stop showing your ads during those times or days altogether.

Sub-Treasure 4 – User Locations (Geographic Granularity)

There’s a very good chance that people are seeing your ads outside of your desired geographic targeting.
Take Botswana below as an example:

pay per click tip
Geographic targeting is not perfect.

Now, there are actually three different levels to this report that you can use for PPC optimization.

  1. Sub-Treasure 5 – Any geographic areas such as cities or states that aren’t performing well, could receive a negative bid modifier or removed from targeting all together.
  2. Sub-Treasure 6 – If you see that your ads are showing up in countries you don’t intend to target, then you need to change your Location options (advanced) campaign settings to “People in my targeted location.”
  3. Sub-Treasure 7 – And this is the most fun one: Take the top three cities with the most traffic and start creating granular campaigns around those cities with area code specific phone numbers and city mentions in ads and landing pages. This by itself will make your visitors believe you’re more local, and you should see conversion rates increase.

The perception of proximity can be such a performance improver that other people have started testing it out too:

pay per click help
Inside ads and on landing pages.

Sub-Treasure 8 – Automatic Placements

Are you running a lot of display or maybe just some retargeting within AdWords?
If you are, then there’s always a PPC optimization treasure hiding inside your Automatic Placements report.
Just like your Search terms and keyword perform differently, so do the URLs where your Display ads are showing up.
When you identify these placements that are contextually relevant to what you offer and the data shows that the cost per acquisition is favorable, then extract these automatic placements by creating brand new direct placement display campaigns.

automatic placements

Here’s an example report, along with performance data

Once you’re starting to extract your automatic placements, you’re able to directly target people who are on that specific site or up to three levels deep on that site, to offer them a call to action that makes most sense (if you’re not sure how to go about that, read the PPC Traffic post again).

Treasure #5 – The New Device/Network Segmentation

You already know that you can segment your ad data to see how it performs at the device level (desktop, tablet, and mobile) and on the network level (Google vs. Search Partners).
But instead of just wiping your hands clean after some easy bid adjustments or opting in or out of the Search partners, why don’t you take it a step further?
Most commonly, you’ll find a clear CPA performance difference between mobile and desktop. 
This isn’t necessarily because your mobile visitors are less likely to convert, it could be that you’re stuck in thinking that responsive mobile design is good enough.
The truth is, it’s not.
According to Joel Harvey from Conversion Scientists: “Responsive design, as we know it today is toxic to mobile conversion rates.”
This means that the mobile version of your site should not include everything that your desktop version has.
More importantly, it should be it’s own unique experience for the visitor.
But don’t just take my word for it. There’s plenty of information out there showing what a responsive vs dedicated mobile site does, and why you should run separate CRO tests on mobile and desktop.

Treasure #6 – The Search Term Extraction

Remember how you were extracting Automatic Placements in Treasure #5? Now we’re going to do the same for your Search terms.
Unfortunately today, there are too many people who only use the Search term report for adding new negative keywords.
In addition to that, they should start extracting Search terms with high impression volume and expose them as keywords so you can control their individual bid.
If you don’t, you’re stuck with what we see at our PPC agency – Search term/Keyword discrepancy ratios like 57:1. Where for every keyword you’re bidding on, there are dozens of Search terms that you’re not controlling, but paying for.
This is also what we call, The Iceberg Effect that’s hurting your AdWords strategy.

AdWords strategy

Here’s what that Search term/Keyword discrepancy can look like

But here are the best parts about this PPC optimization treasure.

  1. Sub-Treasure 8 – If you’re in lead gen, SaaS, or eCommerce, then not reducing your discrepancies will ultimately leave you plateaud in PPC performance. Once you extract Search terms, you can control their ad message too, and get higher relevancy, higher click-through-rates, higher quality scores, and lower cost per click.
  2. Sub-Treasure 9 – If you’re not in eCommerce, but lead gen or SaaS, then if you don’t extract your Search terms, then you can never track which keywords are bringing you sales.

The enormous benefits are there. It’s just a matter of you putting in the time and work to granulate your account out further.

Treasure #7 – Tracking Templates For Lead Generation

In the world of lead gen and SaaS, most of us PPC marketers are stuck with only being able to see which keywords, placements, or audiences are producing us leads, not sales.
And in a perfect world, wouldn’t you want to optimize off of sales instead of conversions?
I mean, at the end of the day, what matters most is the money you’re making. Not what the metrics say in your AdWords or Facebook account, right?
If your answer is no, then you’re like this dog that’s clearly getting nowhere.

Although, over time, it might thaw – image source

So to be able to track the sales rates (not conversion/lead rates) of keywords, placements, and audiences. You need to use two things:

  1. Sub-Treasure 10 – ValueTrack parameters or manual UTM parameters that you add to the tracking templates or destination URLs within AdWords or Facebook. 
  2. Sub-Treasure 11 – And, hidden fields in your lead gen/SaaS landing page form that reads the URL to add in that rich data along with the name, email, and phone of your lead.

So once you actually close a deal or gain a new paying customer, you’re able to gather the keyword data over time that was responsible for the sale.
This will also help you clearly see which keywords have stronger sales intent so that you can be wiser with your budget allocation.

What’s Next?

The goal of this post was to help you find some bigger PPC optimization treasures beyond your standard account maintenance tasks.
So if this post marked to spot on the map for you, then let me know what you’re most excited to try out, in the comments 🙂

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