Do Better Keyword Research
Some keywords drive tons of volume, and are therefore highly competitive and costly to bid on. Other keywords are practically free, but are searched on so infrequently, they won’t deliver a significant number of leads. As a search marketer, your goal is to find the sweet spot in your keyword universe – terms that are specific and targeted to your business, and common enough to drive a healthy traffic volume without being so common that you can’t afford to rank on them.
So if high ROI is what you’re after, you’ll need to diversify your keyword sources and aggregate a large number of keywords, then test, test, test to find your own keyword sweet spot – the terms that give you high click-through and conversion rates for relatively low costs per click and conversion. Some good keyword sources include:
- Free Keyword Tools – Web-based keyword tools will give you a general idea of the opportunity in a given space or niche. Look for tools that provide some information about monthly traffic volume and competitiveness.
- Web Analytics – Mine the keyword reports in your analytics application to find the keywords that are actually driving traffic to your site. This is a great source of personalized data and insights into opportunities you may not be properly capitalizing on.
- Search Query Reports – Mine your search query reports to find relevant terms that are triggering your ads (as well as negative keyword candidates – more on this below). For help with this process, check out Chad Summerhill's recent series on Advanced Search Query Mining .
- Paid Keyword Tools – A paid keyword solution will offer more depth of access and more actionable data, giving your PPC campaigns greater competitive edge. If you're looking to expand your campaigns into thousands or even millions of keywords, you'll probably have to move toward a paid solution.
Quality Score  is a metric that can make a big difference in the profitability of your campaigns – advertisers who achieve high Quality Scores enjoy top rankings for much lower costs. In other words, getting better results doesn’t have to be a matter of continually jacking up your bids.
To set yourself up for better Quality Scores across your account, it’s vital to consider organization. Google likes relatively small and tightly related ad groups, so you need to structure your AdWords campaigns with this in mind. Maintaining good organization will also make everything else you need to do in PPC (including writing targeted ads and creating relevant landing pages) much easier.
Manually sorting keywords into relevant groups can be a chore, so make use of tools to automate the heavy lifting. Of course, we recommend our own Keyword Grouper , a free tool that automatically organizes a keyword list into groups you can use in your pay-per-click campaigns.
Set Negative Keywords
Negative keywords are another lever you can pull to bring down costs and increase ROI. A negative keyword is kind of what it sounds like, the opposite of a keyword – it’s not a keyword you’re bidding on, but a keyword you explicitly don’t want to bid on.
By creating a list of negative keywords, you’re telling Google not to display your ad when someone searches on one of those terms. For example, if you sell kitten calendars, your ads might be broad-matched against the keyword “Hello Kitty.” Since this traffic won’t be relevant to your business, you don’t want to waste money on those clicks that won’t convert. Setting “Hello Kitty” as a negative keyword will prevent that from happening.
You’d be surprised how much of your budget these irrelevant keywords can eat up, especially if you make extensive use of the broad match option in AdWords – Google exercises this option pretty aggressively, meaning your ad could by triggered by a totally irrelevant search query. This is why it’s a good idea to periodically screen your search query reports and look for negative keyword candidates.
A more proactive way to find potential negative keywords is to use a negative keyword tool , which helps you identify negative keywords before they cost you money.
Track and Test Landing Pages
A poorly designed landing page results in fewer conversions, and therefore a higher cost per conversion. An effective landing page needs to:
- Have a clear call to action that incites the visitor to complete a goal, be it filling out a form or making a purchase. This should be above the fold (the visitor shouldn’t have to scroll down to find it.)
- Be clearly related to the keyword and ad that drove the click – be sure there’s no disconnect from point A to point B.
- Load quickly – slow load times create a poor user experience, which Google frowns on.
- Avoid clutter. Too many visual elements on the page distract your visitor from the desired action.
- Be persuasive – both the language on the page and the visual layout can affect this!
You can see how Google AdWords has graded your landing page by signing into your AdWords account and clicking on the button in the status column next to the keyword you want to check. (Remember, the quality of your landing page also affects your Quality Score!) You should be testing different versions of your landing page to find out what combination of ad copy and design work best. Some key items to test include:
- The phrasing of the call to action (for example, “Buy now” versus “Add to cart”)
- The title of the page
- The color, size, and shape of buttons
- Number of fields in forms
- Placement of images
For more tips on improving the long-term effectiveness of your PPC campaigns, see:
- WordStream's Free Keyword Research Kit 
- Understanding Keyword Organization: Why You May Be Wasting Great Campaign Structures 
- AdWords Quality Score FAQ, Part 1 
- AdWords Quality Score FAQ, Part 2 
- Negative Keyword Tips, Tricks & Best Practices 
- 8 Quick & Dirty Tips for Landing Page Optimization