8 Actionable Tips to Optimize Your AdWords Performance Today

Digital Marketing


The fact that Google receives the most global ad revenue every year tells advertisers that AdWords reigns as the ultimate acquisition channel. It also highlights that competition is stiff in search engine marketing.

As marketers, we’re always looking for a way to get ahead of the competition. To boost quality score, reduce cost-per-click (CPC) and, ultimately, increase ROI.

In this blog, I’ll show you 8 actionable AdWords tips you can use to optimize performance from audience targeting to landing page optimization.

Tip #1: Use In-Market Audiences

Google collects a tremendous amount of search data on their users. The question is, where does it go? More importantly, can we marketers use it? The answer is yes, as Google recently released “in-market audiences.” This feature allows advertisers to target users based on behavior that indicates they’re in the market for a particular product or service. At its core, this comes down to search intent. Let’s say someone is researching electric cars. A search for “best electric cars” is considered top-of-funnel to be in the market to buy. However, “Tesla Model X Montreal” indicates not only are they looking to buy, but they plan to do so locally. Google can then cross-reference this search data with conversion rates on similar ads. The industry categories for this data includes apparel, real estate, travel, and telecoms.

To access this new feature, create a new ad group (or edit an existing one), and select the “Interests & remarketing” radio box under “Choose how to target your ads:”

 Choose how to target your ads


In the dialog box that appears, click the “Select category” drop-down. You’ll see in-market audiences is the third option on the list:

Interests and Remarketing

You’ll then see a list of in-market audiences, categorized by industry. For our Tesla example above, we’d choose Autos & Vehicles > Motor Vehicles > Motor Vehicles by Brand > Tesla Motors:

Interests and Remarketing 2

As you can see, this gives us a reach of over 100M impressions. When testing this approach, be sure to layer this data with other targeting options.

Tip #2: Use CRO Principles to Optimize Landing Pages

When it comes to optimizing PPC performance, the impact is made on the other side of the click. If you’re targeting the right audience but not seeing results, then it might be your landing page that needs some conversion rate optimization (CRO) love—something many marketers still forget. Covering this subject would take an entire guide in itself. Instead, I’ll show you three high-impact landing page experiments from two great brands you can learn from.

GIMP: Answer Questions Immediately

GIMP is a free Photoshop alternative, but at first glance, it’s not so obvious. Here, GIMP has answered the question “What is GIMP?” right above the fold. Not only is the copy and imagery bold but it’s also clear and answers a specific question. And it does so in a conversational tone.

Try this out: what would be the biggest question on the mind of someone just arriving at your landing page? Use space above the fold or a subheading to address it as soon as possible.

Evergage: Industry-Specific Personalization


Courtesy of Evergage

Marketing personalization, when done correctly, can be a great conversion booster. However, if a user is arriving at your website for the first time, you’re going to have limited information about them. Web personalization, like Marketo Web Personalization, is a solution to this problem. You serve personalized content based on the user’s organization or industry—using data extracted from the user’s IP.

In the example above, Evergage serves personalized content to a user in the retail space. This personalized copy and social proof focus on the pains and challenges of this specific industry. Test personalization technologies to add industry-specific personalization to your landing pages.

Additionally, another way to optimize your conversion rate is by harnessing the power of social proof. Social proof in the form of numbers (like social shares) and testimonials are key for an effective landing page, but it’s even more powerful when coming from a third party.

 Tip #3: A Different Approach to Location Targeting

When targeting by location, many users head to the Dimensions tab. While this is the quickest and most common way of doing this, there is a better one. Try going to Settings > Locations instead. This method allows you to see which countries your ads appear in, as well as the cities, states, and even universities. More importantly, you can use this method to adjust your bid based on these locations. For example, if you see a higher CTR and conversion rate in a certain city, you can increase your bid there while lowering it for underperforming locations.

To access this feature, head to your campaign and select Settings, followed by Locations:


From here, select the “Set bid adjustment” button and increase by a percentage you deem fitting. As always, use your analytics to measure true ROI to determine where to place your budget.

Tip #4: Customize Ads with Real-Time Updates

If you’re selling several different products with various offers attached to them customizing your AdWords can be a pain. Manually changing ad copy to say “20% off, only 13 days left!” would take forever. Luckily, Google has several scripts you can use to add dynamic text to your campaigns.

In the ad below, the scripted text includes the discount, days left on the sale, and product description:

These scripts provide a scalable approach to urgency, as well as an increased quality score thanks to automated copy-to-landing page matching. To get started, Google needs access to your product data to attribute data to these customizers. It’s a lot more straightforward than it sounds, and I highly recommend reading Google’s documentation on the feature.

Tip #5: Use Ad Previews to See What Your Customer Sees

What you see in the AdWords console and what your customers see are often two different things. Using the Ad Preview Tool bridges this gap by showing you how your ad appears in the SERPs.

To access this feature, head to Tools > Ad Preview and Diagnosis:

Type in a search term used in one of your campaigns and hit “Preview.” You’ll see your ad listed among the organic results in the SERPs:

Bird's Eye Marketing

Courtesy of Bird’s Eye Marketing


This view gives insight on how well positioned your ads are from the organic results. You’ll also be able to see if there are any errors—such as truncated copy or extensions not displaying correctly.

It’s also important to see how ads appear on different devices. You can change this view using the “Device” drop-down on the left-hand side:

Most importantly, it’s an easier way of developing your positioning. By seeing how your copy sits in a sea of organic results, you can optimize it effectively.

For example, you could try doing the opposite of what they do. If organic results use language that encourages searchers to “buy instantly,” try and communicate some exclusivity. This approach is great for webinars and luxury items.

Tip #6: Exclude Competitor IPs to Save Wasted Clicks

Let’s face it; your competitors are clicking your ads on a regular basis. You probably even do it yourself. While it’s a fact of the competitive marketing sphere, it doesn’t have to drain your budget. You can use IP exclusion, so these clicks don’t cost you money.

The best way to find a competitor’s IP address is to look at their email header. To do this in Gmail, open up one of their emails, click the drop-down arrow next to “Reply” and select “Show original”:

 Show Original

Now, search for “Received: from” to find the line that includes the IP address. You should see something like this (sensitive data has been blurred out for privacy):

The IP address will sit somewhere on this line. To exclude it, head to your campaign settings and click “Edit” under the IP Exclusions section. The following dialog box will appear:

 IP address exclusion

Paste in your competitor IP addresses and hit save. From now on, these clicks won’t affect your daily budget.

Tip #7: Utilize Machine Learning with Smart Display Campaigns

Machine learning is an emerging technology that is changing the way marketers do their jobs. It’s a nascent industry, but we’re already starting to see it take effect. As it happens, Google has already rolled out some machine learning features that some marketers are not yet aware of. One of these includes in-market audiences, which we covered earlier.

Another feature that may have flown under your radar is smart display campaigns. With them, Google uses machine learning features to monitor ad performance. To get the most out of this feature, you need to give it what it needs and let it do its thing. To get started, create a new display ad campaign and select an option under the “Drive action” list. You’ll then be asked to provide a campaign budget and cost per acquisition (CPA) goal.

With traditional display ads, you would usually upload a full image for Google to display on its network. With smart display ads, you upload individual assets that Google then uses to build responsive ads. This way, it can test different copy and creative combinations (along with other factors) to discover the highest performing ad.

Here are the individual assets you must provide:

  • Headlines (limited to 25 characters)
  • Descriptions (limited to 70 characters)
  • Display URL
  • Final URL
  • Images (these are optional, 1.91: 1 landscape, 600 x 314 px minimum with suggested size of 1200 x 627 px)
  • Logos (also optional, 1:1 square or 4:1 landscape, suggested size of 1200 x 1200 px or 1200 x 300 px)

When you have uploaded all assets, it’s up to Google to do its thing. It will select relevant targeting and optimize all elements to hit a conversion rate that matches your CPA goal.

To see which of your assets perform best, Google will provide you with a report that looks like this:

Marketing land

Courtesy of Marketing Land

While this is useful from a reporting standpoint, it can also help inform the copy of all your AdWords campaigns—as well as your other marketing efforts.

Tip #8: Increase CTR and Quality Score With Headline Optimization

Copy is one of the most important elements of your AdWords campaigns. It’s the gateway between the right targeting and a high-performing landing page. You can drive all the impressions in the world, but if your copy isn’t compelling enough then no one will see your landing page. Higher performing copy means more traffic and a higher quality score and a higher quality score means lower CPC.

Your headline is the first thing your customers will see. To succeed, you need to grab their attention. Let’s take a look at three headline formulas you can test out today:

Ask a Question

While this is a common formula, it still works well in a sea of search results that make statements. Instead of flat-out stating what you’re offering, test questions that get to the core of their pains.

Let’s compare these examples:

  1. “Find the perfect wedding gift”
  2. “Last minute wedding gift shopping?”

The former, while addressing a specific need, doesn’t get to the crux of the issue. Whereas the second elicits an agreement that aligns perfectly with a specific pain.

Overcome Immediate Objections

When shopping for your products or service, customers are already aware of the risk that doing business with you brings. The job of your copy is to reduce that friction while persuading them to buy (or take another action).

Your ad copy can address these objections before they even click-through to your landing page. What hurdles do your customers feel they need to overcome? Let’s see it in action:

  1. Free Website Building Platform
  2. Make a Website For Free—No Technical Experience

In this example, the “thing” being sold immediately addresses the potential concerns of a large cohort of customers. For the non-tech savvy, they’ll feel this brand “gets” them.

Specific Numbers

Utilizing numbers is another way of reducing friction and showing proof. However, there’s a catch. Which of these do you trust more?

  1. “Trusted by 150,000 marketers”
  2. “Trusted by 149,780 marketers”

Oddly enough, specific and accurate numbers are proven to be more trustworthy. Examples include the number of a certain product in stock, pricing and even a specific result. As long as it’s accurate and honest, it’s worth testing.

Get Ahead of Your AdWords Competition

We’ve covered various stages of the AdWords funnel that will give you an edge on your competition—from targeting to landing page optimization. These tips are worth testing to move the needle and optimize your strategy. The key to a good AdWords strategy is having everything aligned. The audience you target as well the copy and messaging you serve them will increase conversions and quality score.

What are your best AdWords tips and “hacks?” Share them with us in the comments below.

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