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Mar 31, 2009
How To

How to Maximize AdWords to Increase Conversions: 3 Processes

SUMMARY: Maximizing conversions from Google AdWords is at the top of marketers’ checklists. But it’s easy to get lost in all the data the program generates. Find out how one marketer increases AdWords conversions by applying three processes.

This is a useful how-to article for anyone in a niche industry where one to three main keywords are the bread and butter.
Troy Olson, Online Marketing Manager for BillardEx, a large pool-table retailer, loves digging into AdWords and site-analytics data. He uses three processes to get the highest conversions at the lowest cost.

Before applying the processes, Olson recommends that all marketers use Google Analytics because some data gets pulled into Google Analytics that doesn’t get pulled into other analytics programs.

Olson thinks AdWords Editor should be every marketer’s most used search tool. “You can download it when you log into your AdWords account,” he says. “Once I found it and figured out how to use it, which is pretty easy, I can honestly completely revamp and change a campaign in a matter of hours.”

Olson uses AdWords Editor to copy and paste entire accounts and campaigns, move around ads, keywords and negative keywords, and diversify campaigns by geographic region.

Once you download AdWords Editor, try using one of Olson’s three processes to refine AdWords campaigns.

Process #1. Follow the Click

This process is the big picture, an overview of how Olson thinks about the data. It is the first step to executing all three processes.

Step #1. Dig into AdWords data

Olson looks at the clickthrough rate (CTR) of each ad to find out how many visitors an ad is pushing to the site.

Note: BilliardEx uses PPC ads to attract visitors to its website.

Step #2. Dig into site analytics

Once he knows how many visitors get pushed to the site, he evaluates what they do on the first page. Do they leave? How many leave? What do they look at while on the site? Where do they go?

Step #3. Dig into shopping-cart analytics

Next, he looks at how many enter the purchasing process. How many add a product to the shopping cart? How many abandon the shopping cart?

Step #4. Dig into conversion analytics

Finally, he digs into the conversion data. Who made a purchase? What did that person buy? What does he know about him/her? How can he tweak AdWords to get more buyers?

Olson follows this process because it shows each step a visitor takes -- from clicking a PPC ad to purchasing a product. If he looked at the data in reverse, it would lead to the conclusion that he needs to bid on more keywords to increase conversions instead of trying to find better keywords, create better ads, create better match types, etc.

By following each click from entry to purchase, Olson makes conclusions about how to tweak AdWords campaigns to send only those visitors who are likely to purchase.

Process #2. Look Deep Into Data

Process #2 reveals the hard numbers to look at within AdWords and site analytics. Looking at the data in this order allows you to draw conclusions about which keywords to keep or eliminate, which ads to tweak, which Web pages to tweak, etc.

Step #1. Evaluate CTRs and bounce rates

Bounce rates measure the percentage of single-page visits (i.e., the number of visitors who leave the site from entry page without clicking on anything).

Olson looks at CTRs, then at bounce rates because there might be an ad that’s really effective, it draws a lot of visitors, but if the bounce rate is higher than the site’s average bounce rate, something’s not right.

The bounce rate tells you something about the ad, Olson says. If it’s too high, the ad isn’t giving the right impression of the site (or landing page) or the site isn’t matching visitors’ expectations based on what the ad copy promised. “You can change the keyword or the ad if your bounce rate isn’t where it should be,” he says.

TIP: Don’t forget to follow the process through to conversions because there might be a keyword that has a high bounce rate but also a high conversion rate.

Step #2. Evaluate time on site and pages visited

Looking at time on site and pages visited helps identify trends. If there’s a common exit page, for example, perhaps that Web page should be tweaked or eliminated from the website. If a Web page gets bypassed by most visitors, perhaps that page isn’t necessary.

“There is an invisible line for converting browsers into buyers,” Olson says. For example, it might take at least 10 minutes and 12 pages visited to complete a sale; therefore, it’s important to generate keywords and ads that produce visitors who spend at least 10 minutes looking at 12 or more pages.

TIP: There is a point at which the quality and effectiveness of the site takes over.

AdWords can only get people to a site, nothing more. Also, a change to the website alters the visitor’s experience. For example, when BilliardEx added streaming videos of customer testimonials to its site, the time visitors spent on site went up 20%, but the number of pages visited actually went down.

“We are trying to offset that change by ensuring that it is very easy to shop after watching a video,” Olson says. “This can be challenging.”

Step #3. Evaluate Add-to-Cart rates

Olson tracks shopping-cart additions because they show when visitors enter the transaction process. “You can get anyone to your site,” Olson says. “But if you can’t push them into the sales funnel, then you’re ineffective.”

If the add-to-cart rate is too low, it could mean the page needs a new promotion, such as free shipping, to push visitors to purchase. “It helps us know if we need to be more competitive or attack more when people are getting their tax returns,” Olson says.

Step #4. Evaluate conversions

Don’t discard a keyword based solely on its CTR and bounce rate. If a keyword results in a high conversion rate, keep it because a high conversion rate trumps all.

TIP: The goal of each step is to get the most relevant traffic possible (i.e., traffic that’s likely to purchase).

Example: If Olson discovers that every visitor from a specific geographic area, such as Midwest Oklahoma, leaves the site from the entry page, he goes back to AdWords and blocks the traffic from that area. He eliminates wasted clicks to improve relevancy.

Step #5. Evaluate customer characteristics

Look at every dimension of your customers, including which campaigns they come from, which ads entice them. Look at what countries they came from. What regions? What states? What cities?

Use the data to find more customers. If there’s a certain ad that gets more people to convert, use similar ad copy in other campaigns.

If a significant number of customers come from Los Angeles, try targeting that area with special promotions.

TIP: Don’t forget to look at the screen resolutions and Internet connection speed of Web visitors who convert.

“This is critical for designing your site and landing pages,” Olson says. “How big should your site be? How big should it not be? Is it worth putting video on your front page if 20% of your customers will have to wait for it to load?”

Process #3. Increase Click Relevancy

This is the third process Olson uses to refine incoming traffic and increase the relevancy of AdWords campaigns.

Step #1. Diversify keywords

o Consider every spelling of a keyword and plural form of the word.

o Test each match type with each keyword to see which match types are most effective with the keywords.

o Look at organic search terms. Visitors who find the site through an organic search might use keywords or phrases you haven’t thought of. Add those keywords to the list.

Step #2. Create extensive negative keyword list

Using negative keywords can improve the relevancy of visitors to the site.

Example: If a company sells musical instruments but doesn’t sell pianos, the company might not want its ad to show up when someone searches for pianos. Setting up a negative keyword for “piano” can prevent that from happening.

The larger and more extensive the list, the more likely the traffic that comes to the site is the right traffic (i.e., traffic interested in buying pianos).

Step #3. Maximize Keyword Quality Scores

Quality scores are the relevancy scores Google uses to determine ad placement. They measure the relevancy of a keyword to ad copy and search queries. The better the quality score, the better the ad placement.

To improve a campaign’s quality score, make sure the keywords match the content of the ads, and that the content of the ads matches that of the landing page or site.

TIP: If a company sells guitars, banjos, and ukuleles, it will get a higher-quality score by creating separate ads and landing pages for each instrument than by creating one ad and landing page promoting all three.

Specific and targeted ads prevent the possibility that a person who enters a search for “banjos,” for example, will see an ad about “guitars,” “banjos,” and “ukuleles.” The more relevant the ad is to the search term, the more likely it is that people will click on it.

Step #4. Track analytics results

The goal is to maximize each campaign to get the highest conversion rates possible by eliminating keywords, ads, and campaigns that aren’t working and find new ones that are.

Step #5. Use keyword benchmarks

Use well-performing keywords as benchmarks for new keywords. In other words, hold all new keywords accountable to the standards of the highest-performing keywords. It helps when deciding which keywords to eliminate and which to keep.

Step #6. Manage bids

When each of the previous steps has been maximized, it’s time to consider increasing your bids. Note: Increasing bids should be the absolute last resort!

Step #7. Commit to continual improvement

If each step has not been fully maximized, start the process again to get even better results on your Google AdWords campaign.

Useful links related to this article

Google AdWords help:

Google AdWords Editor:


See Also:

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