16 Commonly Asked PPC Questions (And Answers)

By , President at Hanapin Marketing


Ask a PPC account manager what’s the best way to do something and I bet 95% of the time the answer is, “it depends on your account/the situation”. The reason for that is that, well… it does.

With this in mind, below are the most common questions I am asked by new account managers, people I speak to at conferences and from here on PPC Hero. I’ve tried to give as concrete answers as I can based on my experience and what seems to consistently (although not always) work best.


What happens when “x” doesn’t work?

This question usually pops up in regards to a tip, trick or best practice that I am talking about at a conference or with a client on the phone. The best answer I can usually come up with is, “revert.” Not everything you do will work so make sure to download a backup of your account before making major changes in case it doesn’t work out.


How many ads should I have in every ad group?

I typically take the top 3-5 ad groups by impressions and put 3 ads in those and then do 2 ads in all other ad groups. Then I test the ads, pick winners and add 2 more ads to the top 3-5 ad groups again and 1 ad to the others. I have found that this balances testing enough with it not taking too long to get statistically significant data.


When do you conclude an ad test?

For a search campaign it is typically 1,000-2,000 impressions or 200 clicks within the ad group. Sometimes at that point the ads are still running neck and neck so I let it ride until statistical significance is reached using the Teasley calculator.


How many keywords should I have per ad group?

This may be the most debated question out of all of these. The keywords that drive 80% of my conversions get one keyword per ad group, the keywords that get conversions but not very many go in ad groups of 3-5 keywords and the keywords that get very little impressions, clicks or conversions go in ad groups of 10-15 keywords. Using this method I have seen QS increase drastically over a 60-day period (27% of impressions coming from QS of 10 to 72% of impressions coming from QS of 10) and have found it incredible easy to manage accounts set up like this.


Should I have different match types in different ad groups, campaigns?

I prefer to do different match types in different ad groups and name the ad groups as such, “productx (exact),” “productx (phrase),” “productx (broad).” I have found the greatest benefit from doing this is that the account is easier to manage.


How do I know if conversion tracking is working correctly?

My favorite tool for this is Tag Assistant for Chrome. It’s not perfect but it does quickly alert you to issues that are worth digging in to further.


Does Google display network work?

I have found that the display network can work but that about half of what you try will not (meaning CPA will be too high or volume too low.) The best types of display I have found are contextual mixed with topics. This means that you have a campaign that targets different topics but with keywords so you show on more specific pages.


How often do you add negative keywords to an account?

I typically monitor Search Query Reports on a weekly basis but typically add negative keywords less frequently.  What I am looking for is trends/themes amongst keywords versus worrying about specific queries. Using those themes I then can add negatives at the campaign or even account level. This reduces the total number of negative keywords in an account making it easier to manage them thus insuring you don’t have negatives that are hurting performance.


What tools do you use for keyword research?

I use Google keyword tool, WordStream’s Niche Finder, WordTracker and Search Query Reports.


Do Product Listing Ads work?

Tremendously well. If you’re not utilizing these and you do ecommerce, you are missing out on a lot of revenue every single day.


Should I bid on competitor’s brand names?

CTR and Quality Score will be low on these terms but they do typically convert pretty well, so my answer is yes. Make sure you don’t use dynamic keyword insertion in your ads on these campaigns or else you could violate trademark policies.


Should I bid on my own brand terms?

The short answer is, always. Kayla Kurtz wrote a great post explaining why.


Does Quality Score matter?

Sometimes. The best way to know is to see if there is a correlation between Quality Score and CPA in your account. You can do this by simply pulling a keyword report including the Quality Score, doing a pivot table with QS at the right and then a column for calculated CPA. Then do a graph with a trend line. That will show you if generally you see better CPA on keywords with better QS.


How do I increase my Quality Score?

Increase your CTR by writing better ads, keep the number of keywords per ad group down to the ranges mentioned earlier in this post, ensure that the ad has the keywords you are bidding on in it (I am not recommending keyword stuffing, but it has to be in there somewhere to be seen as relevant),


The CPC on my best keywords continues to go up. Why?

This is typically caused by an increase in competition, reduction in search volume or decreasing Quality Scores. To determine if it is competition compare the Auction Insights results to a when CPC’s were lower and see if new competitors are on the list or if your metrics there have dropped. Use Google Trends to see if search volume has dropped and do a Quality Score analysis to see if that is the issue.


What’s the best way to decide what ad wins in a test? (What’s the best metric to use?)

I wrote on PPC Hero a few months ago about my favorite metric and it is still the one I use. It is impressions until conversions. To calculate you simply divide the number of impressions by the number of conversions. You’ll end up with some like 627. The lower the number the better the combined CTR and CR of that ad is.

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10 thoughts on “16 Commonly Asked PPC Questions (And Answers)

  1. Spencer

    Hey Jeff,

    I’m a constant reader of PPC Hero and I love your articles. I have a couple questions about ad copy testing & ad rotation.

    If you’re always testing new ad copy, are you actually hurting your overall statistics if you can’t beat your number one ad copy? Is there a time when you have to stop being greedy and settle on an ad? I’m not saying stick with that ad forever but for at least a month or two. What do you do when the same ad consistently beats out your new ad copies?

    Also, are you hurting yourself by not using the ad rotation option, “Optimize for conversions?” The majority of tests I’ve run with this rotation option have improved results. If you always have, “Rotate evenly” or “Rotate indefinitely” selected for ad copy testing, you’re not allowing your best ad to show the bulk of the time. What’s your thoughts on this?


    1. Jeff AllenJeffreyAllen

      Thanks for the questions! I do think that there are times where you are focused on other initiatives and therefore you are better off using the optimize for conversions setting or simply only allowing the best ad to run.

      I would say that in PPC there never really is a “settle” option. Things change so quickly and there are always seasonal things that you can be doing that what worked for the past 6 months might not work for the next.

      As for the second part, I don’t like to let the rotation option dictate my ad performance because it doesn’t give the ads an even shake. What Google decides is best for conversions may not be the case but because it always gets the bulk of the impressions you never find out!

  2. Brian Molloy

    Hey Jeff!

    Sweeeeeeet article! Very inspiring and actionable!! Thanks!!!

    I am new to PPC and running a campaign for my painting business. I understand the Impressions to conversion metric, having knocked on a LOT of doors in my day, and I know that model extremely well. For example, I know that for every 30 doors I knock on, 10 will answer, one will want a quote and one in three will buy, and average sale is $2000. So every door I know on is worth about $22 in revenue. It is creepy how solid this model is BTW!!

    What I would like to know is what is an average click through rate for a good, but general campaign? I have started a campaign trying to capture people looking to get their house painted, but they don’t know what company they are going to choose.

    Right now, after two days 4,626 impressions, 9 clicked, and 1 converted to a lead (and ultimately sold! woohoo!). The Click Through Rate (0.19%) seems really low and statistically significant at this point. The Conversion Rate (11%) probably isn’t, but I am not worried about that at this point.

    This campaign is NOT using any of the techniques you are mentioning in this article but WILL BE SOON!

    What Click Through Rate should I be shooting for as a realistic goal? Compared with the door knocking above, I how many people should be “answering the door”?

    Thanks a million!!!


    1. PPC Hero AllyPPC Hero

      Hey Brian,

      Welcome to the wonderful world of PPC! Congrats on the sale.

      A CTR that we like to shoot for coming out of the gate with a new account is 1%. It’s an achievable goal, and it’s something to aspire to out of the gate. If you have keywords well below that line you should be able to learn something either about your ads’ messaging or the keywords that you’re targeting.

      Once you get there you should be able to see more and more gains, but that’s a great first goal.

      Good luck and thanks for reading!


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