5 SEM Hacks to Improve Your Ad Campaigns
It’s every company’s goal to dominate search engine results pages. The problem is that competitive industries make this easier said than done. That’s why we lean on paid ad campaigns.
However, don’t fall into the trap of burning up your ad budget needlessly. You need to know what will improve your ad quality score and ad relevance to get the best results.
Here are 5 SEM hacks you can use to improve your ad campaigns immediately.
Hack #1 – Perform Better Keyword Research
Keywords are the bedrock of search engine marketing. When a user types your keyword into the search bar, there’s a chance that your page will appear depending on its quality and relevance.
Amateurs will make the mistake of simply targeting high-volume keywords without considering other important factors. This will result in your ads getting ignored even if you technically are outbidding the competitor.
For this reason, you need to rethink your keyword research strategy before publishing your latest advertisements. Consider the following ideas when reviewing a list of recommended terms or phrases with your favorite keyword research tool such as SEMRush, Ahrefs, or Moz Keyword Explorer.
What is the User’s Search Intent?
Every keyword implies a particular search intent. The type of intent generally falls into one of three categories:
- Navigational – The user is looking to go to a website or page. Examples might include “Amazon,” or “DashClicks login.”
- Informational – The user is looking to learn about a topic or acquire information. Examples typically include question words such as “how,” “what,” or “why.”
- Transactional – The user is likely looking to make a purchase. They’re using keywords to target specific products or services such as “best,” “affordable,” or “purchase.”
When researching keywords, think about how a keyword you’re considering fits into one of these categories. Compare this to the type of content you’re including in your ad campaign. If your campaign is to promote an offer for a specific product, transactional keywords better align your ads with user intent and improve ad relevance.
On the other hand, using an informational keyword might get you initial clicks, but it ultimately doesn’t serve the user. This leads to a higher bounce rate and will prompt Google to omit your result even if you’re paying a solid value for that keyword. The clicks you do get will likely do little more than waste your budget as those users simply aren’t ready to buy.
Your ad campaign doesn’t necessarily need to be transactional, however. Promoting informational content about your products or brand is a great way to increase awareness and nurture an audience. Be thoughtful about the keywords you select, even if they do not have the highest search volume.
Don’t Forget About Negative Keywords
Negative keywords are terms you can enter to prevent your ads from displaying to users entering unrelated keywords. This is crucial when the keywords you’re ranking for as just broad enough to inadvertently attract uninterested audiences.
For example, let’s say that a wedding planning business is running ads using the keyword “event planner.” Technically, a wedding planner is an event planner, but “event planner” as a keyword can attract users that have zero interest in wedding planning. People use event planners for all types of gatherings and celebrations.
For this reason, you may want to add negative keywords for “birthday event planning,” “private event planning,” etc. This will ensure that any user who uses those negative terms, or any combination of those words, will not see your ad. It’s simply a more effective way of targeting your campaign and gaining a more qualified audience.
Don’t Forget About Long-Tail Keywords
Long-tail keywords are long, highly-specific keywords that typically have a low search volume. The last attribute is typically a reason that many will avoid using a long-tail keyword. This is a mistake.
While these keywords do generate fewer clicks, the quality of those clicks is typically much higher. “Jewelry” is a very broad, vague keyword, but “affordable wedding anniversary diamond jewelry” targets a highly-specific user. The user that goes out of their way to use that long-tail keyword demonstrates a much higher motivation to engage with your ads and convert.
Long-tail keywords are also highly affordable due to their low volume, meaning that there is little risk. However, when used effectively, that can make a positive impact on your ad campaign results and improve ad quality score.
Hack #2 – Always Research Direct Competitors
Competitor research goes hand-in-hand with keyword research, whether it be for your paid ad campaigns or for organic website content. Even if you curate excellent content that is worthy of a high ad score, your ads still might not get featured if a bidding war ensues.
This is particularly important if you’re a smaller business without much SEO history. You can always expect there to be bigger businesses with much larger ad spend budgets than you can currently afford. The last thing you want to do is overpay for keywords and decimate your marketing budget before it actually generates any results.
Instead of always going head-to-head with direct competitors, research their keyword usage and look for opportunities to exploit their mistakes. Most SEO and keyword research software will allow you to quickly research top keywords used by the domain and page you enter. You can use this to come up with new angles to improve ad rank without facing as much direct competition.
As you begin to improve your page rankings and online presence, you can revise your keywords strategies to incorporate more competitive keywords. Always keep an eye on the CPC (cost-per-click) of keywords over time and leap when the opportunity arises.
Hack #3 – Always A/B Test
Never expect the first draft of your ad to be a smashing success. There’s always the possibility, but there’s a greater chance that some aspect of your campaign can be improved. In fact, you should naturally look to create new ads and revise old ones as your campaign gathers valuable data from your targeted audience.
The most effective way to determine what parts of your ad campaign work well is to run A/B tests. This allows you to simultaneously run two versions of a similar ad while experimenting with changes to the design or copy.
Furthermore, Google Ads will automatically divert users to the higher-performing version of your ad and landing page once it gathers enough useful data. You can then use this information to determine what aspects of your campaign are grabbing your audience and what you might be able to do to further refine future ads and improve your ad rank.
A significant part of what makes an ad campaign successful is gathering as much useful data about your audience as possible and making use of it. There’s no real effective way to do this without A/B testing your ads and landing pages. You can set an ad to turn off after a period if it underperforms, and you’ll never need to worry about burning up your budget on a failed experiment.
Hack #4 – Use Automatic Ad Rotation
While setting Google Ads to automatically, you can choose to override this setting to automatically rotate all the ads in a set for equal viewing. While the former strategy can help you focus on the better ad, a regular rotation can potentially provide a better analysis of your entire campaign.
The A/B optimize setting will always display the ad that receives more clicks. More clicks typically mean that Google is going to improve your ad quality score and ad rank. However, as we discussed with keyword intent, more clicks do not always mean that you’re earning high-quality impressions. Let’s look at an example:
- Ad A – 3,000 Clicks – 600 conversions = 20% conversion rate
- Ad B – 1,000 Clicks – 300 conversions = 30% conversion rate
While this is a bit of a crude example, you can see what we’re emphasizing here. While Google might technically give Ad B a lower quality score due to the lower clicks, we can see that it technically was more valuable thanks to its higher conversion rate. More conversions from fewer clicks also mean that we were able to obtain a much better ROI for our campaign efforts.
This creates a dilemma for even experienced paid ads managers. The answer typically lies in the overall goal for the campaign as well as the resources you have available to refine and optimize your ads. Defaulting to the higher click count is a safer bet as it will improve your Quality Score, while still maximizing the use of your ad budget.
However, taking advantage of ad rotation at the right times can be your ticket to establishing a killer marketing campaign. When you obtain more raw data and effectively make use of the knowledge, you have the potential to deliver superior ads than you might otherwise with the alternative method.
Hack #5 – Always Monitor Your Quality Score
As mentioned several times throughout this article, your ad quality score is significant for maximizing your ad campaign efforts.
Google automatically gives every ad you publish an ongoing Quality Score that measures the following:
- Expected clickthrough rate (based upon historical impressions for exact keyword searches)
- Ad relevance (our discussion on keyword and user intent)
- Landing page experience (the value that your landing page brings to the user)
Anyone can access their Quality Score through their Google Ads account and navigate to the Keywords section.
The reason for emphasizing the Quality Score section is that it is your most powerful barometer for gauging the effectiveness of a given advertisement.
Is your ad relevance score low? You likely need to revisit your keyword research and target better keywords with your ads.
Is your landing page experience score low? You may need to A/B test versions of the landing page to determine what’s hurting the user experience. The fix may be as simple as coming up with a better call-to-action or there may be more severe issues with the overall design.
Your Quality Score can improve or degrade with time as Google gathers more information from users and learns more about your campaign. However, it’s in your best interest to use your score to guide your future campaign behaviors. Without effective analytic analysis, you can expect to waste a lot of time and effort, especially in competitive industries.
To learn some effective tips on how to use your Quality Score to improve ad rank and improve ad relevance, check out this excellent article courtesy of Google.
Conclusion – Paid Ads Require Care and Investment
In many ways, running a paid ad campaign has never been easier and more accessible for businesses. Tedious, painstaking tasks are now entirely automated through the digital advertising platform. With that said, amassing all of this valuable consumer data will amount to very little unless you invest the time and care in managing your campaign effectively.
Revisit your keyword research, keep an eye on competitors, and take advantage of the automation tools available within the platform. Finally, keep up-to-date with your ad quality score for suggestions on actions you can take to improve your campaign immediately. Doing so will help you to avoid unnecessary ad spending and help you maximize your ROI.