Scientific PPC Research:
Quick Wins For Higher Performance

Johnathan Dane
Johnathan Dane

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Original Publication Date: December 17, 2016

When you want to learn something, you typically start with some research to strengthen your understanding.

Pay per click advertising is no different.

Many times, your competitors will already know what works and what doesn’t. You can use their insights to start off your PPC campaigns with a built-in advantage.

That’s why we’re partnered with iSpionage, a leading PPC research tool, to give you some quick win ideas you can use to improve your PPC performance immediately.

Know The Stats

A lot of people do PPC research for the wrong reason. They’re looking for untapped niches, average cost per clicks, or what the competition levels are like.

But most of the time, those averages will just bring you down. Or they’ll make you believe that you just have to beat those averages to be successful.

It’s so far from the truth.

Knowing what your competitors are paying per click or even knowing what their conversion rates are will do you no good.

Your sales rates, margins, funnels, and lifetime values are unique to you. They can’t be directly compared to a competitor.

So when you do your PPC research, try looking for areas like:

  • Keywords you’re not currently getting impressions for
  • Landing page ideas you haven’t tested yet
  • Display placements you’re not targeting

From our experience with hundreds of clients, PPC research works best when you’re looking to expand your PPC accounts. Ask yourself, “what have I not taken advantage of yet?”

Competitor Research

One of my favorite things about PPC research is using PPC spy tools to see what our clients’ competitors are doing.

Rear View Mirror Shades

This is me spying – image source

With a tool like iSpionage, we can see what type of keywords and ads are being run and tested. Also, we get alerts when a company tests a new landing page.

But like I mentioned before, blindly copying your competitors is a quick recipe for disaster.

After all, while PPC research tools are great for seeing what the competition is doing, they can only show you micrometrics (part of our eight-piece Google Ads performance pizza) that don’t impact your business’s bottom line like sales rates, conversion costs, and conversion volumes do.

When you do competitor research, see what they do, and then reverse engineer around things you think you can execute better.

Keyword Research

Keyword research is probably the most common usage of all PPC research.

Because advertisers are hoping to find a group of cheap but high-conversion-intent clicks, they’ll do research with no end in sight, hoping to turn over as many stones as possible.

The problem however, is that the competition levels or average cost per clicks can be outdated. Even Google’s Keyword Planner falls short when we compared their results with actual client results.

So what do you do keyword research for?

When it comes to PPC, our biggest win is when we do keyword research to expand the account. This usually includes adding new keywords we’re currently not getting impressions or clicks for (also known as net new traffic).

If you follow our Single Keyword Ad Group blueprint for building search campaigns, then most of your PPC research efforts will revolve around finding new root keywords to bid on. (These are short enough tail keywords that aren’t already getting impressions in your account.)

Display Research

If there’s one thing I love about doing PPC research, it’s when I get to work within display/content networks.

When clients spend a good amount of money on the Google Ads Display network, it’s crucial for us to have visibility into which contextually relevant sites their competitors are targeting.

Because once we find them, we’ve reduced our learning curve and time to achieve results pretty dramatically.

A tool like WhatRunsWhere helps you see advertisers and publishers combined. It also allows you to keep drilling down to find new specific publisher placements to target, or new ancillary audiences you haven’t tried before.

ppc spy tools

You can see traffic sources, landing pages, image ads and more – image source

Once you start seeing competitor placements, keep in mind that some of these placements are coming from retargeting or programmatic efforts.

This means you can’t extract them for yourself to target, as other prerequisites (like having to be on the competitor’s site), needed to happen before the visitor saw that ad.

Conversion Research

If there’s one type of research that I love that’s also vital to PPC success, then it’s conversion research.

The reason why I love this type of research way more (or at least prioritize it) is because higher conversion rates makes all other PPC campaigns perform at a higher level, in a much easier way.

Want to run some new search campaigns, but the CPCs are too high? That won’t be an issue if you’re able to increase your conversion rates first.

By doing your conversion homework, you can also gain new insight into ad tests that are more effective in achieving higher click through and conversion rates.

Over To You…

Is it crazy to think that we hardly do any keyword research around traditional reasons like learning average CPCs, impression volumes, or competition levels?

Unlike most companies, we find that the data that’s available doesn’t apply once we actually have new campaigns live – so most of the time, PPC research can be a waste of it (time that is).

Do you feel the same way? Let us know in the comments below.