‘The key is not the will to win… everybody has that. It is the will to prepare to win that is important’.

This and many other nauseating clichés are emblazoned around my local gym. However keeping yourself in shape is important, as is keeping your PPC activity in good order.

That gym card in your wallet that has never seen the light of day, how much is that costing? £30, £40 a month? The wasted spend on a lazy PPC (pay per click) campaign is far more costly. While the gym can wait until the last of the Christmas dinner has disappeared, your PPC account can’t.

Although it is easy to be seduced by automation tools, or tempted to CTRL C your copy across to next month, please don’t. In order to squeeze every penny spent on PPC, it’s necessary to spend time on optimising your paid search activity. Every month it’s important to work through a number of tasks to ensure the money you spend on PPC isn’t being wasted, or worse, damaging your business.

I’ve outlined a monthly exercise routine to whip your PPC Account into shape.

Exercise 1: What words are triggering your ads? – refine your match types

It is important to understand which search queries are triggering your ads to appear in the SERPs (search engine results pages).  This can be done by reviewing the ‘Search Terms’ report, located in the Keyword section of your AdWords account, on a monthly basis. Here it is:

search terms image_will

This will show all the search terms that triggered a click on your ads. This not only lets you check that your keywords’ match types are correct, as you can see if the search term was triggered by broad, phrase or exact match keywords, but also forms the basis of your campaigns’ negative keyword strategy: the part of your strategy which keeps the bad traffic away from your site.

You might think that all traffic is good traffic. Well, it isn’t. Let me put it into perspective for you.

For example, a holiday company specialising in luxury breaks may be bidding on the term ‘Spanish Breaks’ on broad match, which will trigger an ad for anything Google relates to ‘Spanish Breaks’. This might make the holiday company’s ad appear with a number of irrelevant Search Queries such as, ‘lads holidays Magaluf’, and ‘holiday in spain to watch football’ (these are genuine search phrases by the way).

Even if the phrase the holiday company is bidding on is set to phrase match, where the search term needs to include the precise phrase, ‘spanish breaks’, the ad will trigger for ‘lads boozey spanish breaks’, which is not desirable.

Whilst some of these clicks can be eliminated once searchers read the ad copy and discover that a “lads boozey spanish break” is worlds away from a “luxury break in Spain”, a far easier way to combat irrelevant searches is to add negatives to your keyword list, in this example’s case ‘lads’, ‘lads holidays’ and the like.

Negative keywords use match types in the same way as positive keywords. Normally the most effective way to use them is to set the negative as ‘phrase’ match. This will then stop the ad from appearing in any search query where that single word appears in any part of the query. This way the account can still bid on broad terms but is cutting down wasted spend by continually assessing the search term report.


Exercise 2: Mix up your adverts

Can you remember when you last changed the text in your ads? Are they littered with old products, services or phrases? Do they refer to Snicker bars as Marathon bars?

Out of date ads are not only wasted spend, but can also be damaging to the business as a whole.

Best practice requires four ads per Ad Group, this allows for different ad variations to be tested to discover the best attributes, such as CTR (click-through rate), for the account. How you vary these four ads is up to you. You might want four completely different ads; four similar ads with slight differences, or split the ads into running two ‘stock’ tried and tested ads, along with trailing a new technique. This could be dynamic keyword insertion where the keyword is inserted into the ad text automatically, or an ad that changes every month to reflect current events. For example-

1. Stock Variation A:

acme holidays_a

2. Stock Variation B:

acme holidays_b

3.  Technique Variation

acme holidays_c

4. Current

acme holidays_d

Language and search behaviour change frequently, it is important to move with the times and keep your ads feeling current and fresh.

Exercise 3: Appraisals

At the end of the month you’ll have a whole month’s worth of data in which to optimise your account. These are the types of questions you should be asking yourself when analysing the data:

  • Is one call to action delivering a greater conversion rate than another?
  • Are the ads with dynamic keyword insertion out-preforming those without?
  • Are there keywords that could be switched to a different match type?
  • Are there keywords you can no longer afford to bid on?

It is important to analyse the performance of ads and keywords every month to check what’s working, what’s not and trial new techniques.

Other areas to analyse:

It’s not just ads and keywords that require continual review, other factors will strongly influence the success of your campaigns. I’ve listed the areas to consider below.

Days of the Week/Hour of the Day

Most accounts will perform differently depending on time dimensions, such as the day of the week or the time of the day. Google AdWords offers the flexibility to alter your bids depending on these dimensions to either increase bids when the account is performing well or decrease bids at times when your account doesn’t perform as well.


Mobile is a hot topic in the search world; we are rapidly increasing our use of mobile devices within our purchasing habits. This means you may find your account is performing differently depending on whether the ad is viewed on a laptop/desktop/tablet or a mobile. This means you may want to be more or less competitive with your bids for mobile searches.

Again Google’s bid adjustments lets you increase or decrease your bids depending on device. This is another set of data to be reviewed every month as mobile search continues to grow

Geographical Breakdown

Another of the many dimensions to keep tabs on every month is the geographical location of your visitors. This can be located on the ‘Geographic’ section of the Dimensions tab of the AdWords dashboard.


This will allow you to see if a campaign targeting individual locations would be appropriate. This will not only enable you to target searchers in that specific location, but you would also have to consider tailoring keywords, ad text etc. to that location, increasing the relevancy of that campaign to the searcher.

Keeping tabs on the different variables of your account ensures you are making the most of your budget, by not only reducing wasted spend, but also targeting your market more precisely. For example when the nights draw in during the winter, you find consumers are spending more time on your site in the evening, or in the summer they click less at weekend as they’re away from the computer; however this could produce a rise in mobile visits, meaning you may want to take advantage of device bid adjustments.

Exercise 4: Keeping up with the Joneses – Competitor Analysis

An important part of any marketing activity is being competitive. Luckily there are many tools available that will give you a certain amount of insight into what your competitors are doing. This will give you a great basis to form your own strategy. The following tools have been designed to help you with your monthly activities:

Auction Insights

A fantastic tool located in the Keyword tab of your AdWords account. Auction Insights allows you to see how your keywords are performing against your competitors.

auction insights.png

This will give you a great deal of information on how you can tweak your keywords to achieve the objectives of the account. For more information on how this tool can help, read my colleague’s fantastic blog on this very tool.

Keyword Spy

Check what your competition’s keywords, ad copy and bids look like, along with seasonal competition for keywords. This tool will give you a certain amount of data for free, but can only be used to its full potential if you purchase the full package. Using this tool regularly gives you extra data to use on your bidding strategies along with ad text ideas from your competitors.

Ad Preview

This tool, located under the Tools & Analysis section of your AdWords account, allows you to view your ads for different search terms without skewing the impressions total. This allows you to see how your ads stand out from the competition and gives ideas for different ad extensions.

Exercise 5: New Opportunities

Now we’ve stripped away the fat, varied our exercises, checked our progress, it’s time to grow your account by looking for new opportunities to add to your strategy..

Keyword Expansion

As touched on previously, keyword expansion is a vital part of keeping your PPC performing well. There are a number of tools available to help you do this:

1.      The Opportunities tab in the Google AdWords dashboard will give you suggestions based on real search traffic, along with estimations of how many clicks you can expect and how much you can expect to pay for them. While this is useful, bear in mind these suggestions are not based on the unique aims and objectives of your account, so increasing the amount of keywords may not fit in with your budget or attract your desired traffic.

2.      The Keyword Planner, also found in the Google AdWords interface, provides you with the functions formally carried out by the Keyword Tool and Traffic Estimator. This all-in-one solution allows you to plan your keyword list, find new keyword and ad group ideas and understand how much bang you will get for your buck. This tool needs to be checked monthly to ensure your account is in line with current search trends.
3.      Websites such as Keyword Spy, Spyfu and Ubersuggest offers ideas for keyword expansion. However, be cautious of the estimates for CPC (Cost per Click) and traffic as this is ‘scrap data’ and therefore needs to be taken as trends, not precise figures.

New Features

Google are constantly improving their services for advertisers, through new tools, new features and new training. It’s important to stay up to date with developments by reviewing blog posts and AdWords forums. Some recent changes have been the inclusion of sitelink extensions in calculating the ad’s ‘Ad Rank’ and the new AdWords qualifications.

Now your account is ripped and ready to go, it’s important to continue this monthly workout, otherwise you’ll have too much ground to cover once the months fly by.

If you want a kickstart to PPC fitness, why not let Recepetional carry out a FREE PPC Healthcheck, packed full of ideas on how to improve your account!