How To Make Any PPC Campaign Profitable

PPC is not rocket science. Some believe that PPC is only for data geeks. It’s not. So why do so many businesses get PPC so wrong? It’s usually because they either don’t understand the basics of PPC and they’ve thrown up a campaign in double quick time in order to boost their lead volume or sales. Or perhaps an agency has taken control and wants to eke out every last bit of allocated budget. Whatever the reason, so many companies struggle and many don’t last the distance. I have run my own campaigns for over 8 years. Granted I work on a much smaller scale than large brands, but the fact remains that I’ve been profitable throughout the years, despite Google’s regular changes. Very profitable in fact. I’ve achieved an average ROI of 100% from PPC, and I know exactly what it takes to make any PPC campaign profitable. Follow these steps to turn your PPC campaigns around:


Step 1: Figure Out Your Priorities

For most small to medium-sized businesses, PROFIT is your most important consideration. If your PPC isn’t making you cold hard cash, why are you doing it? Large brands with deep pockets will throw stacks of money around trying to build ‘brand awareness’, but this is not a viable tactic for most businesses in today’s financial climate where money is tight and a decent, measurable return on investment is paramount.

Spend time in Adwords and you may start thinking that click through rate (CTR) is your most important metric. It isn’t. You can have a terrible CTR and still make a lot of money with PPC. Same goes for Quality Score. I’ve had keywords with a Quality Score of 3 or 4 that have consistently produced results due to the conversion rate on the back of them. And conversion rate is vital. Your focus should shift from getting as many clicks as possible from Adwords to getting as many sales as possible from Adwords. And for this you need to…


Step 2: Track Your Sales

It amazes me how many clients run Adwords campaigns without properly tracking the performance. It’s not difficult. You need to know which keywords and ads are leading to sales, and for this you can get away with using Google Adwords Conversion Tracking.  I would personally recommend running Google Analytics alongside this – it gives you far more information and allows you to really drill down to where your converting visitors are coming from, by location, device and other variables. There’s no need to get too crazy with tracking – it’s easy to get bogged down in the overwhelming amount of detail on offer. First and foremost you need to know which keywords are making money for you, and which ones aren’t so you can delete accordingly.


Step 3: Get Your Website Sorted Out!

Your website is the most important part of your PPC campaign. If you didn’t take that in, I’ll repeat it because it’s so important: your website is the most important part of your PPC campaign. You can have the best PPC campaign in the world, with Quality Scores of 10/10 across the board, but if your website is broken, or doesn’t have the right call to action, or it’s message doesn’t match your ad, or doesn’t work on all browsers including mobile, or doesn’t look trustworthy, then your PPC campaign will not be profitable. PPC is expensive. You’re paying for every visitor your website receives, so you better use that website to convert this paid traffic into sales.


Step 4: Get More Negative Keywords

Negative keywords save you money. The only way that negative keywords won’t save you money is if your campaign consists purely of exact match keywords, but I wouldn’t recommend this. I advise my clients to use modified broad match for the best combination of targeting and volume. In every campaign I’ve ever run, the number of negative keywords has vastly exceeded the number of normal keywords. It’s a list that you need to continuously add to in response to the stats that come in from your tracking. The thing about negative keywords is this: you must think outside the box to find the best ones. You will have a picture of the ideal customer for your business. Anyone who falls outside this, you must put yourself in their shoes and think of things that they might search for in relation to your product.


Step 5: Restructure Your AdGroups For Laser-Targeted Ads

It’s less time-intensive to clump hundreds of keywords together into a few adgroups. I have always aimed for no more than 5 keywords per adgroup. By doing this you can create ads that are laser-targeted to each keyword. You’ll get a Quality Score boost because your ads will be more relevant to the keywords they are showing for, and you’ll find that your CTR goes up. Don’t be daunted by this task – you may want to reduce the amount of keywords in your campaign. Some people go for thousands of keywords per campaign. I’ve always gone for 50-100 highly targeted keywords as it’s much more manageable and targeted. The key here is to start small and add keywords and adgroups once profitable, as and when you think of them.


Step 6: Rewrite Your Ads

In the quest for high CTR, better Quality Score and to steal a march on their competitors, many companies will promise the earth with their ads in order to get clicks. But if they can’t back that offer up on their website then they are not going to convert many of those clicks into sales and their PPC campaign runs the risk of losing money. A much better tactic is to re-write your ads, to tone them down a little so that if a potential customer does click on it, they’re not doing so under false pretences. Your Quality Score and CTR can still be high if your ad retains its relevance to the keyword, without being overly sales-y or promising too much. This is one reason why in my opinion the Google Display Network (GDN) is a bad idea for small businesses – people on GDN are not actively searching for a product or service, they are browsing a news site or something. So in a way your ad needs to be overly enticing to encourage clicks.


Step 7: Do Some Maths

You need to work out exactly how much you make from an Adwords conversion in order to work out your bidding strategy. the tactic I’ve always used is to figure out what this number is, then divide by 10 to come up with your maximum bid. You’re then aiming to improve on a 10% conversion rate from click to sale. This is easily achievable with a well-optimised website, and with a good Quality Score you won’t be paying your maximum bid for every keyword.


Step 8: Avoid Remarketing

I take the view that if a visitor doesn’t convert into a sale the first time they visit, you need to work on your website to ensure that the next visitor does convert. Showing them a remarketing ad and paying to bring them back to your site is not likely to work as the initial problem is still there. I’m not saying remarketing can’t work but it’s something I would definitely avoid from the outset.


Step 9: Dig Into Your Campaign Settings

This is vital. Your campaign settings can make or break an Adwords campaign, and if you’re losing money it may because your campaign is not set up properly. If you don’t have a mobile website, don’t bid on mobile device traffic as you’ll waste money. Be wary of location settings as they can be inaccurate – think about incorporating locations into your keywords instead. Think about restricting your ad delivery by time of day or days of the week based on the data you gather about your conversions. There are so many things you can do with your campaign settings to save money on Adwords.


Step 10: Look At Alternatives To Adwords

Have you tried cheaper paid search alternatives such as BingAds? Bing is lower volume but generally clicks are cheaper than the Adwords equivalent. It’s definitely worth a try.


I hope this article helps you. Please leave any questions/comments/concerns below and I’ll endeavour to answer them. Thanks for reading!




About The Author

Michael Madew

PPC expert with over 10 years' experience in creating and managing highly profitable PPC campaigns on Google Adwords, Bing Ads and other paid search platforms.


  • healthzion

    Reply Reply May 31, 2014

    Thanks for this informative post. Now i understand how to be profitable with PPC.

  • Mariano

    Reply Reply October 29, 2014

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    reminds me of my previous roommate! He always kept
    talking about this. I will forward this information to him.
    Pretty sure he’s going to have a good read. Thanks for sharing!

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