When it comes to PPC, generally clients want me to do two things for them:

  • Increase Conversions
  • Reduce Cost Per Conversion

Achieving these two goals requires more than just good luck. I want to discuss six different approaches you can take to measuring and improving your conversion rate.

1. Set Goals

The first thing I always look at when I start off trying to improve my conversion rate is what I need to achieve to hit my goals. I prefer taking this approach as it helps me to focus in on a path with my conversion rate optimization. For example, if I’m 5% away from my needed conversion rate, I might only need to make a couple of tweaks here or there. If I’m at less than 50% of where I need to be, a site redesign is in order.

As a quick refresher this is the basic formula for calculating your Conversion Rate:

Conversion Rate
We talk about ‘Clicks’ for PPC or ‘Visits’ for landing page testing. Either way, be consistent.

I like to build myself a table in Google Docs as a way to quickly analyze my current and desired metrics and what sort of change I need to achieve my goals.

Here’s an example with CPA as my main KPI:


To work out my target C/R to hit my CPA goal (in this case a figure my boss/client needs to hit) I simply divide my current CPA by my goal CPA and multiply that by the current conversion rate. In the example above you can see that to hit my $45 CPA target, I will need to increase C/R to 2.8%.

We can also do the same thing with total conversions as our goal:


Using the ‘Improvement of’ field gives a feel for how big of a task this will be and helps to direct what kind of measures you need to start out with. How far away from your conversion rate targets are you?

2. CRO Through PPC

The first CRO strategy in any PPC specialist’s back pocket should always be better optimized PPC. Generally in my mind this comes down to 4 things:

  • Using a bidding strategy that optimizes the number of conversions you receive
  • Conducting search query reports and adding negative keywords for irrelevant traffic
  • Organizing your accounts by user intent in order to optimize toward users in the buying cycle
  • Improving your ad copy to convince more people to convert.

For bidding you can turn on AdWords’ Conversion Optimizer, use algorithms from paid tools such as Marin, Acquisio, Kenshoo etc., or try setting up automated rules. Bid optimization is probably the biggest ‘quick win’ any PPC account can have – by diverting wasted spend from low C/R keywords to high C/R keywords, you can make quick progress.

Better usage of negative keywords is just common sense – by reducing the amount of irrelevant clicks you generate, you waste less money, which can be reinvested into keywords that do convert.

Organizing your accounts by user intent is not something everyone likes to do, but can be a successful approach to improving conversion rates. I might have one campaign full of buying phrases such as:

  • Buy television
  • Order television
  • Cheap TV to buy

…and another with research phrases:

  • Which TV is best
  • Is a 70 inch tv worth it
  • Compare Television Prices

By doing this I’m able to allocate budget towards those keywords I predict will have the biggest impact to my conversion rate and tailor my messaging around them. The ads in the buying intent campaign might include special prices for buying today, whereas the research campaign’s ads will focus on offering you help and use CTAs along the line of ‘Find Out More’.

3. Aligning Ad Copy + Offer

As a user of the internet, one of my biggest advertising pet peeves is ads that fail to deliver. Let me give you an example I pulled off my Facebook account this week:

Facebook Sears Ad

Thanks to the wonders of remarketing, Facebook knows that I’m in the process of moving house and that I’ve been shopping around for a new fridge to fill said new house. Now Facebook ads don’t normally intrigue me enough to click them but this one did. Why? Well, the price is nice for a new fridge, Sears is a reputable brand, and they’re promising me ‘Exclusive Facebook Deals’ – I clicked through to see what these deals were.

Here’s the page I landed on:

Sears Page

Apologies if this is too small to read, but there are 2 major issues that completely destroyed any chance I had at converting here.

  1. I wanted to see the $1,099 fridge, not be taken to a random generic page.
  2. I don’t see any mention of Facebook ‘exclusive’ deals – these all look like the regular deals they offer to everyone.

This example holds true with your normal Search ads too. If you promise people something they want to see, you have to back it up on your landing page. Consistency, in this case, is the mother of conversion rate – if you have ad messaging and landing page messaging aligned, then you’re much more likely to see strong conversion rates. If a user is intrigued enough by your ad to click, you better reassure them that you really are selling what they want when they hit your landing page.

4. Testing/Tweaking Your Landing Pages

If you’re happy that your PPC is pretty well optimized for CRO (and you never should be), you should start thinking about doing some basic landing page testing. There are a good number of tools available out there to help you such as:

These tools allow you to to set up A/B test of your landing pages without the hassle of learning web design or development. When I talk about running simple tests, I’m really thinking of the one or two tweaks that might get users to convert at a higher rate. It could be I’m only 10% away from my C/R goal and I know that a more persuasive headline is going to push those extra customers over the edge to buy my product.

To that end here are a few simple things you can get testing with:

  • Change your headlines up to be more compelling. Test emotive vs scientific language.
  • Try a combination of calls to action on your buttons. Do you want a user to ‘submit’ or to ‘learn more’?
  • Do your customers need all that navigation at the top of your page, or do they just get lost and end up leaving? Try setting up with and without.
  • Are your button colors scaring off users or signalling trust? Try out some new things – start with Green if you haven’t been using it.

5. Understand Your Customers

At Hero Conf last year Elizabeth Marsten taught us how to write better ad copy by creating personas for our users before working on our ad copy. The idea was that if we know the motivations of our customers, we will understand what they are looking for and how to sell to them. As you might be thinking, this works equally well for landing pages. If you can figure out what your customers want, and provide a better experience for them on your site, you will improve your conversion rate.

There are several tools you can use to help with this. The first is actively surveying your current users, either by emailing them and asking them to comment (this normally requires an incentive), or by adding a survey / feedback form to your landing page. I recommend you start with Survey Monkey or Qualaroo.

Alternatively you could actively pursue an audience using a tool like usertesting.com which will get people to walk through your website and send you video feedback of the whole process.

The trick here really isn’t how you do it, but that you understand your customers’ needs and objections. If you can cater your ads and site around these points, your C/R will shoot up.

6. Site Redesign

If your target conversion rate is 50% away from where you need it to be and you’ve tried making improvements with the suggestions outlined above, it might be time to think about completely redesigning your site. As I’m not a designer or web developer, this side of things for me is normally all done with Wire frames. You can get hold of some fairly cheap software in Balsamiq or MockFlow that will help you with these.


I like to put 2-3 different options together and send them over to a designer/web developer to build out. A good approach is to try and build pages that are fairly unique from each other. Try designing a short vs long form landing page experiment to begin your site redesign.

Let us know how you approach CRO and share any tips and tricks in the comments below! For more advice check out this list of 54 CRO tips!