11 Ways to Get Your PPC Ads in Top Shape for 2014

Now that the holidays are over, there's no better time to give your PPC ads a refresh for the new year than now. Check out this post for 11 items that should be on every post-holiday PPC to-do list.

The holiday season has finally made its exit, and with it has gone the effectiveness of your holiday PPC tactics. But no worries! That just means it's time to dive back into your AdWords account, make some strategic tweaks and get your campaigns in top shape for 2014.

Here are 11 tips that will help your ads ring in the new year with a bang:


1. Pause gift related keywords

Review your keyword lists and pause keywords focused on gifts. These include, but are not limited to, keywords such as "gifts for mom," "gift sets," "gift ideas," etc. With the holiday season over, a majority of this traffic will disappear on its own. However, it’s important to remember that every time someone clicks on your ad, it's coming out of your pocket. Chances are that your targeted audience already knows what they want and how to search for your products. So take your money and spend it on those visitors who know what they want rather than those who may or may not be interested.

Exception: If you sell gift related products like gift baskets or gift boxes, feel free to keep your gift related keywords enabled. These are most likely the keywords your audience is going to use to find you.


2. Review duplicate keywords across ad groups & campaigns

Duplicate keywords can accidentally find their way into your PPC accounts during basic optimization or keyword research. While they often go unnoticed, they can wreak havoc on your advertising budget by reducing Quality Scores, which in turn may drive up your cost per click. (Attack of the Clones much?) So you're going to want to show them the door.

One way to make dealing with duplicate keywords easier is by downloading Google’s free offline editing tool, AdWords Editor. It can help you identify and remove duplicate keywords without you having to manually sift through individual keyword lists, as well as show you statistics for your campaigns and more.


3. Decrease daily budgets

During the holidays, it's common for businesses to increase their advertising budgets in order to compete a piece of the holiday shopper pie. Now that the season is over however, you'll want to reevaluate your spending and see if it’s time to spend less.

After all, although a higher budget does mean your ads will be seen more frequently and by more people, it doesn't guarantee they'll be shown to the right people. Remember: When it comes to the traffic you get from your ads, quality trumps quantity every time. So after the holidays have passed, we recommend decreasing your budget to adjust for the new year. Then, focus on slowly growing your PPC account as your business grows.


4. Review mobile bids

If you adjusted mobile bids in the last few months, now is the time to go back and evaluate how they performed. Did your AdWords account produce any sales from mobile devices? If so, great! If not, consider increasing mobile bid adjustments and creating new mobile-preferred ads with mobile-friendly copy. These simple optimizations can assist in bumping ads to the top of the mobile search page while enticing mobile users to “tap” on your ad or even call you directly.


5. Review ad copy & pause holiday ads

Most advertisers tend to focus on the perfect keyword lists and bidding strategies while leaving their ad copy to collect dust. So learn from their mistakes and review all enabled ads in your account as we begin the New Year. Should you find any holiday themed ads or invalid promotional text, then pause them. Old promotions can deter users from following through to your site and can cause unnecessary spend by users clicking through and not finding the information or sales promised.


6. Analyze holiday ads

Before you start on a new campaign, take a moment to look back on your holiday ad performance. Since they've been shown to many users very quickly, your holiday ads have accrued a ton of great data on what does and doesn't resonate with your audience.

When you're reviewing your ads, look at product performance, but also see if you can find any copy similarities between successful ad groups. Once you've identified some common characteristics of top performing ad copy, you can integrate them into new ad text strategy for the next few months.

And remember: Refresh and test your ad copy on a regular basis. Doing so will make ad copy analysis much easier and result in better ads.


7. Review landing pages

Now that the holidays have come to a close, it's a good time to evaluate landing page performance. See if there are specific categories or product pages that outperformed the rest. We recommend evaluating landing pages individually per ad group. That way, you can make sure that users are being sent to the best pages on your site thanks to tightly themed keyword lists.

Google incorporates landing page value and relevance when calculating Quality Scores, so having high quality landing pages is key. Not only that, but many other factors like cost, impressions and click through rates are impacted by poor quality landing pages.

How do you know you're creating your best landing pages? A/B testing. So don't be afraid to test two landing pages against each other from time to time and see which one does better.


8. Update Sitelinks

Sitelinks are an excellent resource to increase ad real estate on the search results page and drive traffic to other areas of your store without altering ad landing pages. If you have any Sitelinks currently running, be sure to review them for timeliness. Should you find any irrelevant Sitelinks, consider creating new Sitelinks to advertise more timely events such as a clearance or “blow out” sale you're having.


9. Identify top holiday sellers

Find your top-performing holiday products and consider creating new ad groups around them. Doing so can increase focus on that category or product, allowing for more in-depth optimization and greater control over search queries and ad copy testing.


10. Review year over year data

Year over year data is a great way to evaluate yearly performance and account growth. AdWords has a great built-in feature to assist with both year over year and month over month account data analysis. To access it, change the date range to focus on dates you’re interested in and activate the "Compare" function.  Then, use the information you see to evaluate individual campaign or account performance, discover new opportunities or establish performance trends.


11. Utilize (or update) remarketing ads

Remarketing campaigns are a great way to identify and customize advertisements to visitors based on specific pages they viewed on your site. Take advantage of remarketing ads by implementing a custom remarketing tag assigned by Google and building audience lists by creating rules specific to visitors you’d like to capture. For example, one great audience list to build would be those who abandoned their shopping cart. By creating a custom rule to include users who reached the shopping cart or check out page but didn't reach the order finish page, you can customize specific messaging to target them. Try using specific calls to action such as “Don't forget to complete your purchase” to capture the user's attention and encourage them to come back to follow through with their order. Additionally, offering a unique discount to specific audience lists can further engage your customers and promote additional sales.

If you’re already running a remarketing campaign, consider updating your image ads. Refreshing ads and messaging every so often can attract a new audience and pique your loyal customers' interests.


A note about post-holiday traffic and performance

Now that the holiday season has come to an end, you may notice a drop in performance and traffic volume. Don’t panic! This is normal for many advertisers. Right now, there are significantly fewer people shopping than just a few weeks ago. (Imagine how different the mall looks around Christmas versus how it looks right now.) The same is true for online shoppers. Without the holiday pressure, both traffic and conversions volumes tend to fall during the first few weeks of the New Year. With that in mind, focus on the quality of visitors coming to your site instead of the quantity and you’ll begin to find conversions stabilize over the next few weeks.

If you need any help with your PPC, Volusion has a team of specialized, AdWords certified PPC professionals ready to manage and optimize your PPC or conduct an AdWords Audit on your existing account. And, as always, if you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them in the box below.


Happy selling!
-Chelsea Cepeda, Volusion