Hitting the PPC Wall – Tips for Scaling Up

Hitting the PPC Wall – Tips for Scaling Up

20th August 2013

So you’ve hit that point where if you spend more on broad terms you will start to lose money, and you’re already at the top for the other keywords you’re targeting and you’ve separated your matches out so specifically that you can’t improve on CTR. You’ve even tried setting your daily budget to way beyond required levels but your PPC campaign just won’t show any more Ads…

What Now?

We take a look at scaling tips for Adwords and beyond and how to get more traffic from other sources.

Reasons Why It May Be Hard To Scale PPC

There are some obvious reasons and some not so obvious to new advertisers, but before you spend countless hours trying to increase your reach, consider the following:

  • Budget – Can you afford to scale up? Costs increase as terms become more broad or generic
  • Niche – The more competitive it is, the harder you have to work
  • Platform – Are you only trying to scale on Adwords because it’s what you know?
  • The Bigger Picture – What about your conversion rate? (surprisingly often overlooked when trying to scale!), are you also considering SEO, more brand visibility etc etc
  • Implementation – Ok so agency fees and/or software may be an extra cost, but how much is your time worth? – could it be better spent building the business? Often the business owners stand in their own way when it comes to scaling or growing online.
  • Desperation – Trying everything at once because you HAVE to make it work is the worst possible standpoint for intelligent scaling! If the business is not working out – we are back to that bigger picture – PPC is not a be all and end all saviour of an already shaky business model or low converting website (sorry!)

Setting Expectations

“I don’t care how much it costs, I want to be in that top 3 area”


“I want more traffic but I only want to advertise on exact match”


“I have spent $100 more this week and there has been no returns so can we switch off the campaign/keyword?”


“How little can I spend to make more money?”


“But I don’t want to change the website, can’t we just advertise more?”

All Clients – Everywhere In The World

All great questions and as a consultant, these are phrases I often hear in meetings where a client wants to not ‘spend too much’ with initial scaling. Unfortunately, the fact of the matter is that scaling is going to cost more and there may be an initial investment required before you start to see return and here is why:

  • Higher impressions – going broader means you are going to be more visible
  • Lower CTR – when appearing higher up or in more competitive areas, your CTR% will go down. This is often a surprise
  • Lower Quality Score – due to the above – so you may start to see “rarely shown” or “first page bid” notifications in your campaigns
  • Higher competition – you are not more likely to win the race because there are more people running

So you can of course scale up but you also want a campaign that makes you more money. In theory, increasing your CPC will give you higher visibility but due to the competition, quite likely to not give you the same percentage return initially. (Disclaimer Alert – it may not bring you any more return – these are just things to try before giving up!)

If you want to be careful to not spend out on Day 1 – this is what I suggest:

  • Start small – Give yourself a set extra budget per day and stick to it – then gradually add more broad match terms
  • Separate out performing keywords – Target them in their own specialist groups
  • Further separate into keyword matching groups – That way you can keep an eye on your more broad terms and assign separate budget
  • Negative out exact matches from your broad matches – Exact match traffic is then driven to your exact match campaign for less
  • Don’t give up after 1 day – Review your current buying cycle and how much it brings back in brand traffic – then set your expectations accordingly

Are You ‘Really’ Using Everything Within The Adwords System?

New features come fast so if you’re not checking the Adwords Blog for updates and then being pro-active in using them once they roll out to the UK, you could be missing tricks.

Common Adwords areas that I find are not being utilized as they could be:

  • Site Links – if you’re not using these to direct customers straight to Products & Services – why not?
  • Call Extensions – Likewise – I am not sure why you would not make your phone number accessible
  • Product Listing Ads – These guys are the new black – seriously get your products on the Merchant centre – check out some PLA stats from e-consultancy
  • Local Marketing – including Google Map Advertising
  • Re-marketing – one size does not fit all, so look to creating campaigns specific to customers that left the shopping basket or specific product sets using Dynamic re-marketing – PPCHero has a great guide
  • Display Text Ads – seriously – most campaigns I have looked at recently have the text Ads (Adsense Network) switched off. It is not like it used to be and you have much more control of where your content appears these days, so give it another shot! Check out the SEW definitive guide to display
  • Video – uh oh – this is not going to work for everyone, but it is worth looking at part of display so check the same SEW article

Try Other Platforms

It’s common knowledge that Ads are less likely to have the same traffic on Bing as they are on Google, but that does not mean it won’t bring you any more return. Bing has it’s own PPC Desktop Editor now, they also do re-marketing – as does Facebook. Things have moved on and you may have not looked at PPC beyond Adwords or seen the improvements in Facebook, Bing and the soon to be public Twitter pay per engagement model for some time.

With Bing, you no longer have to set up a separate account and you can import your successful Google Adwords groups with a few clicks. This of course is based on the premise that your Adwords account was set up effectively and that you don’t have rogue groups everywhere. If you were getting ready for enhanced or have long been a fan of an organised account that mirrors the structure of your website, then this is a very easy fix.

Make sure that you tag your Ads so that you can track those additional sales otherwise your SEO department will be taking all the credit from that extra Bing traffic 🙂 – I still use manual tagging for Bing – I tried some tools but they actually didn’t show up in the account but the manual tags were fine!

Platforms to consider for additional Advertising

  • Bing Ads
  • Facebook Ads
  • Twitter Ads
  • LinkedIn – doesn’t work for everyone but at least give it a try!
  • Other re-marketing platforms such as Adroll – be warned you may need to spend a LOT more
  • Dare I say re-visit traditional advertising such as local papers to drive traffic to your site? Yes I do Dare!

NewsJacking Is Not Just For SEO

Introduced by David Meerman, you can pretty much jack any sort of news. Local, national, competitor…

Set up Google Alerts and Social Alerts for anything and everything. If anything comes up, make sure your Ad is visible when the searches start. Set up another campaign so that high impressions and low clicks does not affect other successful campaigns. Stories are also likely to have a short life span so you need to be quick to set these up and take them down when the story is old.

A Word of Warning: Don’t fall foul to negative stories that could adversely affect your brand – not even just for the fun of it as it is not cool (*ahem* but may get you listed as a bad example so I guess there is some link win).

There are many posts on Newsjacking and how to use your brand content alongside news but the main rule is – try to connect, don’t just shoehorn in your product to the Britney Spears World Tour. This may not be as powerful as Newsjacking with articles for SEO purposes but if you don’t think this way – how are you going to find the potential gaps in your market?

Find New Opportunities

You know those keywords that when we first started we ignored or added to negative because they were not as relevant as the main keywords? Now maybe a time to test some of those for marginal relevance.

Keyword Crunching
Back to good old fashioned searching for keywords and variants and seeing who is advertising. Search in the AdPreview Tool though so that you don’t ‘taint’ the searches with personalisation due to being logged in.

If there are areas of less competition, it may be worth testing some Ads.

Negative Keywords
Now I’m not suggesting you un-negative everything as negative keywords help reduce unnecessary costs but think about it. When did you set up those negative lists? Have you reviewed them or tested them since you first set up the campaign?

Product Reviews
Anyone searching for a review is probably interested in buying the product. There will be other marginal areas that may be worth re-visiting now you are an established advertiser. It may even be worth setting up some dedicated review landing pages. This is something that Amazon and Ebay have been dining out on for years!

Local, Local and did I mention Local?
Even though customers can buy online from anywhere, there is still merit in targeting local terms outside of Pizza Delivery and local stores. You may also deliver next day. Local and next day go together. Check your Analytics – I’ll bet there is at least one location based term. Start trialling local terms.

I have kept this as a new opportunity as if you are starting out – chucking a few videos together is probably not going to get you 100% more business advertising your product videos in a pre-roll, but if clients are looking for reviews, give them what they want with your videos not other peoples.

Conversion Improvement

Of course, the best way to make more money is to spend some time on your conversion improvement. You would be surprised how many advertisers scale up without testing how to make more money on site with their current spend. Improving the site for higher Quality Score can also help your Ads to appear higher up for the same or less Ad spend.

Of course, switching the site and working on pages is always going to be more time consuming than adding a few more Ad groups but there are quick and easy tools to help you test pages without you having to alter your site.

Software for landing page testing without having to change your site:

End Bit

Every one of these areas warrants an individual blog post or even a series, but it’s a start at least to get you thinking differently or re-visiting old campaigns that may have been set up and optimized without anything being changed because if it aint broke don’t fix it.

I think if it aint broke, it doesn’t mean things can’t improve!


Written By
Jackie Hole is an Award Winning Search Marketing consultant specialising in Paid Search, Conversion Improvement and Organic Search / SEO for the USA, Canada and European markets. Starting out in Multimedia & Interface Design, Jackie has over 15 years experience in online marketing and was recently awarded European Search Personality...
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