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  • Writer's pictureRay Cheselka

20 Ways to Minimize Wasted Spend in PPC Campaigns

With PPC there are numerous approaches you could take when starting a campaign.

Maybe you want to ramp up quickly, throw more money and target broad to start, then weed out what isn't delivering ROI.

Perhaps there isn't any urgency, and you want to start narrow with a lot of targeting specifications to keep spend down from the get-go.

Whatever you're doing, it's good to know how you can minimize wasted spend, and maximize ROI potential out of every dollar spent in Google or Bing Ads.

Most references in this post will be to Google Ads, but most components in Google Ads are present in Bing Ads. You can even import a Google campaign into Bing.

1: Narrow Location Targeting

Narrow location targeting = advertising to less people

In certain situations this doesn't sound appealing, however, in others you may want to advertise to less people for profitability and ROI.

For example:

An ecommerce business that offers Free Shipping.

When that ecommerce business ships to a state on the opposite end of the country-it drives up expenses.

When running a PPC campaign, a business like this could target neighboring states and maximize sales there, where you know you'll have a minimal cost.

Location Targeting-Google Ads

2: Set Location option "Target" to "People in or regularly in your targeted locations"

As opposed to "People in, or who show interest in, your targeted locations." This can minimize low-quality clicks from random places that increase cost per conversion.

Location Targeting Options-Google Ads

3: Disable partner and display network

Test the partner and display networks. Look at the data via the segment tool to identify how effective they are in your campaign.

I've found that the partner network and display network typically do not perform well in search text campaign.

Network Targeting-Google Ads

Network Segmentation-Google Ads

4: Utilize exact match rather than broad match

Use the brackets when entering the keyword/search phrase you'd like to bid on, to make it exact match. EX: [keyword]

Exact match is when you can only appear for the keyword/search phrase you typed in, or an extremely similar variant.

You can also do this in the standard interface by going to keywords, and mousing over the keyword, editing (by clicking the pencil).

There is a mass edit option too.

5: Utilize phrase match rather than broad match "phrase"

Use the quotes when entering the keyword/search phrase you'd like to bid on, to make it phrase match.EX: "keyword"

Phrase match is when you can appear for the keyword/search phrase you typed in, or a similar variant.

Also can update in the standard interface.

An additional takeaway from the above 2 items---don't use broad match.

6: Make Household income demographic exclusions

If you know your target audience (from experience and/or research), you'll have an idea of the demographics you should be targeting.

For example:

A CPA that only works with high-net worth clients.

If he or she is going to put out ads, household income percentiles outside of top 20% could be excluded, because services don't apply to those outside of that top 20%.

That being said, you may want to also want to stretch a little beyond the top 20% to test it out. Maybe children are helping their parents look for a CPA, and could fall outside of the 20%.

Google Ads Demographic Setting Options

7: Make age demographic exclusions

Some products/services appeal to all ages, but some only to a more narrow age range.

Let's say there is a company that has developed a product to soothe arthritis pain. This product is geared towards older folks.

Excluding ages 18-34 may help better target the ideal user, who is more likely to follow through and make a purchase.

Again, test a little outside of the older range to start, let the data prove your thought.

8: Try out a dynamic campaign

You type in the descriptions, Google custom tailors a headline based on the specific search, making the ad more likely to resonate with that searcher.

You can set desired interest groups, keywords, or specific pages on your website to help Google's system know when/where to show your ads.

Sometimes these campaigns can significantly reduce average CPC (cost per click). Other times the automation doesn't work quite well. Certainly worth a test, keep an eye on it, let the data guide decision making.

9: Set a bid limit in-part with your bid strategy

In cases where click costs can be high, setting a bid limit can make sure you don't spend your entire budget on one click, and therefore stretch your dollar further.

This can incur a "Limited by bid strategy" or "Campaign Limited" notice when you're looking at the campaign overview. Take all of Google's notices, updates, etc. with a grain of salt.

Bidding Strategy and Limit Settings-Google Ads

10: Utilize extensions

Extensions help you occupy more real estate on SERPs (search engine result pages), and Google favors them.

On top of this, they provide more opportunities to "hit the target" and can entice searchers.

In my recent calls with Google, structured snippets have been mentioned as a key extension that typically improves CTR

I like to use sitelinks because they stand out, and showcase other related pages that may help a prospect click-through or garner more interest. Sitelinks are the additional headline links with a small description that appear below the main headline link + description in the search results.

For certain businesses, a location or call extension that shows the business's local address and phone number can be helpful.

This is just the start! Utilize as many as you can that make sense.

They can be set on the Account, Campaign, or Ad Group level.

Extensions-Google Ads

Types of Google Ads Extensions

11: Make bid adjustments on anything showing High ROI/value

If you're aware that most users will be coming in on mobile, but desktop will have prospective customers too, you can put a positive bid adjustment on mobile to increase your competitive bid on mobile, knowing it's the priority.

If you put a 10% bid adjustment, it will enable Google to bid 10% higher for those who are seeing your ad on mobile.

Over time data can guide future adjustments.

12: Negative bid adjustment costly, 0 or low conversion devices

Based on our experience, users on tablet do not seem to convert as often. If this trend emerges, it's worth setting a negative bid adjustment so ad spend can be focused on the devices that count.

This could also apply to locations that are performing better, certain segments of your ad schedule, etc.

In this image below our negative adjustment prevents tablets from appearing completely. However, you can also negative a smaller percentage to specify you don't want to bid as much where it hasn't been successful, rather than completely eliminate presence.

Device Bid Adjustments-Google Ads

13: Adjust bid strategy from maximize clicks to maximize conversions, to Target CPA that is continually lowered

This is in reference more specifically to a search text campaign focused on generating conversions.

The progression will enable Google to learn what works best, help you generate more conversions, and work to get the cost per conversion down over time.

14: Utilize relevant audience groups-targeting vs observation

Audiences can be used to observe how certain audiences interact with your ads OR as a target.

If you're selling pet food online, perhaps you want to observe audience groups such as "animal lovers" "dog lovers" etc. Anything Google has that's somewhat relevant. You could run ads to gather data and identify trends that could enhance ROI.

Let's say there are 2 interest groups/audiences in particular that ads have clearly resonated with. You make those a target, and then the ads go to those targets. You'll know who is seeing the ads, and can be confident your money is being well-spent.

Always analyze and leverage data!!

Google Ads Audiences

15: Set placements

Frequently used with display ad campaigns, you can select certain websites in Google's display network to place your ads.

This is another way you can be meticulous with the placement of your ads in order to minimize wasted spend.

If you're selling flowers online and Valentine's Day is around the corner, you can place ads on websites in the display network that married, middle-aged men frequently visit. This could encourage more flower orders over Valentine's Day.

16: Set an ad schedule

Ex: If a restaurant was open Monday through Saturday from 11-11, Closed on Sunday.

You could set an ad schedule that prevented ads to show on Sunday, and from 11-11 otherwise when you're trying to drive customers to the restaurant.

I would personally set the schedule from around 9 or 10am to 10/10:30pm so the ramp up for the day could come faster. Then stop a bit early when the team will be focused on closing down and cleaning up.

Furthermore, you can put bid adjustments on these schedules, and gather valuable data from them.

Ad Schedule in Google Ads

17: Break out costly phrases into their own campaign

This will isolate the high cost so it isn't bringing down the rest of the campaign, which will enable you to become more focused with the ad copy to better resonate with prospective customers.

18: Do detailed research ahead of starting the account

Performing SERP, Search Phrase, and Competitor research will help you know what your target audience is searching for, and with tools like semrush (keyword gap-specifically) you can generate a ton of content + targeting ideas.

This research will not only benefit your PPC campaign, but can assist with SEO, and other marketing decision making.

19: Continuously review data to gather compelling evidence for specific improvements

Outside of research, setting up tracking is probably the other most important part of ramping up a digital marketing campaign.

I personally like to utilize Google Tag Manager to fire Google Analytics, setup event tracking, and then add those as Goals in Google Analytics. Those goals can be imported into your Google Ads campaign.

More data and information will help you make informed decisions. Over time you can work to find consistency and know that if you increase budget, you'll increase revenue.

For general digital marketing it can help you attribute conversions back to what is successful, and guide investment there.

Of course, this is dependent on the product/service and campaign type.

20: Add negative keywords as they arise in the search terms report

When utilizing phrase match or broad match (hopefully you just don't utilize broad match and this will be much easier to manage), you'll be able to see a "search terms report" accessible under keywords in that second tier left-hand side navigation.

This is where the phrases you didn't directly target, populate. You can add them to your list of targets, or set them as negative if they're irrelevant.

This will ensure your money isn't wasted on those irrelevant phrases in the future.

For example: If you're bidding on "dentist office" and your office only serves adults. You may appear for "dentist office for kids" and not want that business. In that case, you could negative that keyword/search phrase, and prevent appearing for it in the future.

More to come

Surely more will come up as google releases more tools and features within Google Ads. I'll update + add to this post periodically with the latest, and give more specific tips to minimize wasted spend!

Looking to enhance your current PPC setup or start a new campaign?

If you have any questions or are interested in getting a PPC campaign setup, please contact me!

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