You ever meet someone with seriously funky breath?  The kind of person that makes you turn your head whenever they talk to you so you can pretend you’re looking at something to avoid the direct path of their funkiness?  I would bet that person brushes his teeth regularly, that he follows the so-called best practice of personal hygiene, but somehow he’s doing it wrong.  Not paying enough attention to the tongue, buying the wrong kind of toothpaste, using an old toothbrush whose bristles have seen better days.

This person might even read our sister site, ToothBrush Hero (who are hosting a webinar this week about flossing).  But it isn’t enough.  I could talk about teeth, gums and breath funkiness all day, but I think it’s time to wrap up this long and somewhat disgusting intro with my thesis statement for this post: Best practices work.  But only if you follow them correctly.

Earlier this year we took on a new client from an in-house management team.  The account was coming close to hitting CPL goals, but the client just wanted to see what we could get out of it.  Since taking on the account in March, doing mostly the same things as our in-house brethren, we’ve come close to doubling leads with almost the same budget.  And as much as we’d like to say that it was some special magic that we employed, it wasn’t.  We just brushed the account’s teeth every day and did it the right way.

You may have heard them before, but I’m here today to re-affirm these best practices and to show how we deployed them within one specific campaign.  Following the below may seem basic, but brushing your teeth seems basic and people still mess that up.  It took a few months to achieve maximum satisfaction within this campaign, and the way that we got there was by following best practices week-by-week and day-by-day.

We Began Managing the Account in March (The Red Line)

1. Get granular. Instead of managing at the ad group level on your search campaigns, manage on a keyword basis.  Ad group default bids are good for when you are starting a new campaign, but once you have data with which to optimize, use it.  Watch your keywords and if one isn’t working, pause it while letting the rest of the ad group continue onward.  Give as many elements in your campaign a chance to succeed as possible.

2. Perform regular ad reviews.  Ad reviews are a very necessary step to ensuring that your message stays fresh for potential new customers.  Running them month after month and testing out different calls to action over and over may look great in a change history report, but make sure that you’re identifying trends and learning from these reviews.  Testing for testing’s sake isn’t enough.  Use them to find your absolute best call to action (or maybe just start with your best call to action) and deploy that in your account.

3. Conclude landing page tests. PPC and Conversion Rate Optimization go hand in hand.  But once you have enough data, both in terms of what generates conversions and also what generates sales for you on the back end, pick a winner and end the test.  Landing page testing can often drag out for too long.  If you have statistical validity, end the test and watch your conversion rate climb account wide.

4. Review your settings page and make sure everything still applies.  You should probably be segmenting and optimizing your campaigns by device.  Are you targeting all of the countries that you could be? We added a new country to this account’s targeting and it added 100+ conversions to the account in a few short months.  Does your account have day parting? Should it? You could consider adding it or removing it.  We removed day parting in this account thinking that user behavior could have changed since it was originally instituted, and since that change we’ve seen leads grow.

5. Investigate employing automation.  Whether it’s custom rules based on actions you’d use in a manual bid change or CPA bidding, in some cases automation can work wonders.   The campaign in the account that we inherited was already using CPA bidding, but it was at a very low volume.  By modifying both the bidding type (we changed it to target CPA from max CPA) and the bid amount (we gave it a little more headroom) we were able to incrementally grow volume month over month.  Be careful though, in addition to any worries you may have about Big Brother Google wanting to control our accounts for us, sometimes CPA bidding can grow stale and bid you out of success.  Just this week I decided to turn it off for another one of my clients.  Automation isn’t for everyone, so you can best judge if it’ll work for you.

Of course, this list isn’t exhaustive, but it is the roadmap that we followed to get that beautiful picture of performance up above.  These changes seem simple, but done wisely over the course of months they have allowed us to see our campaign move, in the exultant voice of our CEO Patty “Far Out” East, “Up and to the Right!”  It may seem like your account is doing fine, but some of the small things that you may be missing won’t become apparent until months down the road.  Just like our stanky-breathed friend/acquaintance from the intro, you might be missing something totally basic that could really make a big change in your life/account/breath.  Pay best practices some attention, and not just lip service.