Seven Ways to Increase CTR Without Even Looking at Ad Text

By ,


Driving up click through rate is one of the most important things that we do in PPC.  Hosting a webinar recently, I discovered that it is a lot of people’s key performance indicator (KPI).  While all of my accounts are based around what happens after the click, I can understand that for many PPC advertisers driving traffic is the name of the game.

While ad text and testing is the most obvious way to go about increasing CTR, sometimes you need more movement in that metric than ongoing testing can allow.  Or sometimes there are limitations to your ad text that can make it difficult for you to update your ads as frequently as you’d like (I know that sometimes I run into approval problems with large corporations that can limit my creativity a bit).  Or maybe you’re just addicted to seeing your metrics increase in any way possible.  If any of these are the case, here are some tips that can give you quick wins for your click through rate.


1. Add in negative keywords

This one is super basic, but super useful.  Google recently added in a keyword column to their SQR, so that can help you make even better decisions.  Beware that you aren’t going to get as much info as you’d like, especially on terms that don’t drive clicks.  But one good negative can go a long way.


2. Make sure your messaging matches the queries you’re driving

In addition to helping generate negative keywords, SQRs can give you insight into user behavior.  Even if the keywords make sense for your brand, if your ad text can’t connect to a user in a substantive way you aren’t going to get clicks.  This mostly applies to accounts with draconian ad approval processes, but for all accounts it’s important to ensure that your targeted terms are being adequately addressed in your ad text.  If the messaging isn’t synching up with the query (and you can’t find a way to make it do so), you should stop targeting those terms.


3. Remove poorly performing match types

Look at your CTR by match type.  Exact is almost always going to be the best, while phrase and broad will lag behind.  If you need a quick win, pause your broad keywords.  Your volume will probably suffer, but your CTR will be the better for it.  An alternate, less drastic strategy would be to replace your broad keywords with modified broad.  This will get rid of variations and synonyms of your keywords, but still allow for close variations of them.  Tighter targeting should translate to higher CTRs (keep an open mind, though, as I’ve seen phrase do way worse than broad – let your data tell you what to do).


4. Change your device targeting strategy

Performance across different devices can be wildly different.  From what I’ve seen, though, mobile and tablet users are more likely to click on ads than desktop people.  If you’re only targeting desktop, consider adding in tablets to your campaigns.  Do this with caution, though.  I’ve had great CTRs in tablet display campaigns but terrible response rates (one example that will hopefully show you why CTR really shouldn’t be your KPI – look beyond the click).   Mobile search usually does better in CTR, but you’re going to be limited in impressions there.  Targeting those clicks could be a small, quick win, but always ensure that your site will be able to handle mobile users once they get there.


5. Consider excluding search partners

Here is another case where performance will really vary based on your account.  Not all partner searches are made equal – some won’t have any ads at the top of their results, which can be deadly to CTR.  Segment out your performance to see how search partners are doing in your account.  If you want to see easy gains in CTR, this might be a place where you can trim some of the fat.


6. Add in some ad extensions

Google wouldn’t make so many of these if they didn’t work.  They’ve been posted about a lot around these parts, and with good reason.  If you have the ability to and haven’t done so already, now’s the time to start.  Ad extensions can really move your account in the right direction.  I’ve seen some really crazy increases with enhanced sitelinks, so do what you can to make the most out of what’s available.


7. Raise your bids

This one can be the most powerful tool, as average position is hugely influential on your CTR.  It can also be a little reckless, though.  It’s akin to buying happiness (which sports, literature and popular culture have told us can be a risky endeavor).  If you bid everything to position 1.2 you’re going to see improvements in your CTR.  But your CPC could also skyrocket.  Segment out your traffic by top vs. other and see for yourself.  Anything on top of the results is going to have a way higher CTR.  I recommend getting to the top of the page where it’s feasible and cost effective to do so, but don’t go overboard.  Get higher visibility on your best keywords and then see what happens with the rest.  Optimize where you can, bid up what keywords are most valuable to you, but always keep an eye on return.


Those are some quick tips that should help move your CTR in the right direction.  I would like to end with a final plea, though.  If your account’s KPI is CTR, you should re-evaluate what you really want from PPC.  Clicks are nice, but if they’re the wrong kind of clicks you’re wasting money.  Look in Google Analytics to see what people are doing once they get to your site, track conversions so you can see if they’re doing what you want them to, look at your bounce rates to ensure that you aren’t way off base with your targeting.  If you aren’t keeping an eye on what becomes of all of those clicks (with your new, wonderful CTR), you won’t be able to get the most from PPC.

Twitter Facebook LinkedIn Google+ Email Print More

9 thoughts on “Seven Ways to Increase CTR Without Even Looking at Ad Text

  1. Tom Wright

    Thank you for this information Sean. In terms of #5, how can you exclude certain search partners from AdWords? I’ve looked around my accounts and can’t seem to find the place to view search partner performance. Do you have suggestions?

    1. Sean QuadlinSean Quadlin

      Hey Tom,

      I don’t believe that there’s a way to exclude certain search partners. It would have to be all of them at one time. It’s pretty much an all or nothing situation.

      It would be a great tool to be able to exclude certain ones, but the engines haven’t given us that ability yet (and they possibly never will). On a broad level, if search partners aren’t working for your campaigns you’ll have to get rid of the entire thing.

      It’s pretty frustrating, but that’s the way they’ve set it up for us.

      Thanks for reading!

  2. Ben

    Hi Sean,

    On #6, I’ve never actually seen an example with Google making use of Enhanced sitelinks. Have you ever seen this work?

    1. Sean QuadlinSean Quadlin

      Hey Ben,

      I have it active in one of my accounts (at least to my knowledge). It only works some of the time and it’s only in my branded campaign, but the CTRs are completely off the charts. It might be happening elsewhere, but it’s something that I don’t think Google gives the ability to track by itself. I happened to notice it during another task, but I’m very glad to have it.

  3. zuccs

    Hey Sean,

    Nice read. Regarding #6 – any evidence as to when Google will show the ad extensions? Especially with lower budget campaigns?

    1. Sean QuadlinSean Quadlin

      Hey Zuccs,

      The evidence for sitelinks is a bit lacking at the moment. Aside from the data that’s available on the ad extensions tab there isn’t a whole lot (you can segment by click type to see how sitelinks are doing). And I don’t know of any way at all to see whether or not embedded sitelinks are occurring. It’s a bit frustrating, but with a lower budget campaign you’ll at least have less to track.

    1. Sean QuadlinSean Quadlin

      Thanks for passing that along! I’m sure that you do it already, but for anyone considering automated rules, make sure that you keep a close watch on them. You can see great results, but you can also make a big mess if you aren’t careful.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *