I’m sure most of you had thoughts about managing what you would consider being a dream account. You know, a high-spending client that generates tons of sales with CPA inline. Heck, maybe you even access to a full landing page design and backend development team who are awaiting orders. Unfortunately, this just isn’t realistic for those of us who work with smaller accounts that need to make every dollar count.

The fact of the matter is that PPC accounts come in many different shapes and sizes, and your account management strategy should adapt to the amount of budget you have to work with. Today’s article will focus on exactly that; techniques and optimization tips that can help the smaller accounts gain an edge over high-spending competitors. So if you’re strapped for cash, these next 13 optimization tips are for you!

  • Tip #1 – Focus on phrase and exact match. This will allow you to maintain the most control over your keyword and query matching, without sacrificing too much volume. This will also help you cut overall costs and CPA in general since you’re not wasting spend on loosely matching broad keywords. If you’ve already exhausted phrase and exact match, you might consider adding modified broad match variations to enhance the reach of your top-performing keywords.
  • Tip #2 – Avoid having too many campaigns. This is a big no-no for small budget accounts because you run the risk of spreading your daily campaign budgets too thin. You’re much better off focusing your efforts on 1-3 well-structured campaigns, with deeper ad groups if necessary. This will help ensure that you don’t suffocate your top-performing keywords. You might also consider using AdWords shared budgets if you feel like your budget is already spread to thin, but I haven’t had much success with this in any of my smaller accounts.
  • Tip #3 – Segment ad groups by match type. Although opinions surrounding this concept tend to vary, I’ve found that this is a good way to maintain better control over reach and match types. Since we’re dealing with small accounts here, you probably aren’t interested in spending too much time on them, so it will allow you to quickly control poor performing ad groups with excessive CPAs. In addition, this will also create the opportunity for embedded negatives.
  • Tip #4 – Breakout your poor performers. The idea is simple; move your poor performing keywords into their own campaigns or ad groups, and leave your best performing keywords so they remain unaffected. This will allow you to ensure that your best performing terms aren’t limited, while also cutting back on wasted costs from non-converting keywords.
  • Tip #5 – Leverage branded campaigns when possible. If you’re like me, you probably already know that some campaigns perform better than others. Branded campaigns, for example, tend to have higher conversion rates simply because of the brand recognition. If you haven’t established much of a branded presence, it is still worth spending the time to create a campaign for your branded terms. As your impressions grow over time, users can become more likely to recognize and do business with your brand.
  • Tip #6 – Target the most profitable geo locations. If you have access to Analytics or backend reports that reveal geographic information, use them to your advantage. You can target your top performing locations or areas by adjusting your campaign settings. This can be particularly efficient for local businesses that want to advertise and attract customers to specific physical locations. 
  • Tip #7 – Utilize day-parting data. Check out the dimensions tab in the AdWords interface for helpful metrics arranged by times, dates and days of the week. Maybe you have a call center that only operates on weekdays, but your ads offer click-to-call extensions. You can then use this to your advantage by adjusting the ad-scheduling portion on the campaign settings tab. keep your ads showing during weekdays only. This strategy can potentially lower CPA in the long run for small budget accounts and free up extra budget that could be used during the week.
  • Tip #8 – Target lower ad positions. This is a strategy designed to divert unwanted costs from aimless clicking and therefore helps reduce CPA as well. Many agree that positions 1-2 and 2-3 tend to work best for branded and non-branded campaigns, respectively. Simply have a look at your average positions, and then adjust your bids and/or Quality Scores accordingly.
  • Tip #9 – Pay close attention to Quality Scores. This strategy is universal for any account regardless of size because it helps you save money on click costs. Based on what we know about the Ad Rank formula (AdRank = Max CPC x QS), Quality Score becomes the variable that allows us to achieve the same Ad Rank for a lower CPC bid. Be sure to check out our extensive guide for more help on improving Quality Score in your own accounts.
  • Tip #10 – Continually reassess campaign budgets. This tactic should also be used regardless of account size, but can prove to be an effective way to increase conversion volume and reduce CPA for smaller accounts. Simply take a look at your budgets a few times throughout the month and reallocate your budgets based on performance. For example, maybe you have a branded campaign that generates tons of conversions at a good CPA, but is also showing as limited by budget. This would be a good opportunity to take some budget from a lesser performing campaign and put that budget towards your branded campaign so you’re not restricting anything.
  • Tip #11 – Launch new campaigns with negative keywords. This can be a helpful way to avoid unwanted search queries in new campaigns. Depending on the price of your average CPC bids, this could lead to a lot of wasted click costs on any given day. You can also add embedded negatives to help funnel your campaign traffic to the appropriate ad group and keyword match type, which will help reduce cross contamination from the start. Just be careful not to block out anything that you’re unsure about. When in doubt, test it out!
  • Tip #12 – Avoid testing too much. With smaller accounts, your testing strategies should be very controlled and conservative. I would recommend starting small when your CPA is sufficient to handle poor performance after failed test results. This way, you can still be testing things in your account, but performance won’t get too far out of control. Possible areas worth testing include new networks, devices, engines, campaigns, match types and much more.
  • Tip #13 – Maximize your real estate. With a small budget, every little bit counts. This is why it becomes important to maximize your SERP real estate. A quick and easy way to accomplish this is through the use of ad extensions. For example, you might consider adding click-to-call capabilities to successful mobile campaigns or adding a handful of sitelinks to your search campaigns. Regardless, ad extensions will definitely help ensure that your ads stand out from the rest. For more info on ad extensions, check out my posts from October!

Closing Thoughts

PPC accounts come in a variety of shapes and sizes, so it becomes very important to tailor your strategies accordingly. Today we’ve discussed several ways in which can gain an edge over high-spending competitors, but this certainly isn’t an exhaustive list. Having said that, what are some of the techniques you use to optimize your small-budget PPC accounts? Feel free to drop your thoughts in the comments section below, thanks for reading!