Anyone who has used PPC as a channel for lead generation knows that there are two things that are always at the top of everyone’s mind – lead volume and lead quality. Without the volume, the sales team doesn’t have enough prospects to call. However, if you’re not providing quality leads, then the sales team is spending time calling prospects who aren’t truly interested in their offerings.

I’ve struggled with this notion in many accounts, as volume and quality tend to involve two different strategies, which don’t always work well together. However, I recently made a small account optimization that resulted in a huge change for the advertiser.

To give you some background, for the past year I’ve been generating leads for this client and receiving similar results each month. However, a few months back, we really started to notice a steady drop in the conversion rate of the leads. I didn’t have any immediate answers for the client, as no major changes were made on my end. The same keywords that were generating leads before were generating leads now – they just weren’t converting at the same rate. I thought the drop in conversion rate might have been related to their sales team’s efforts more than anything I was doing on the PPC side. And then I had a revelation that changed everything.

One particular day, I noticed a high amount of leads all coming from the same keyword. That alone made me stop and take notice. I asked the client to give me feedback on those leads after the sales team had contacted them. It turns out they were all bad leads. Using that info, I dug a bit deeper and saw that these leads were all generated from Google’s Search Partner Network, which you’re automatically opted into when creating a search campaign.

With that information, I formulated the following theory: the search partner traffic must be a contributing factor to the poor lead quality the client had been seeing over the past few months. As I went back to look at the past few months, I saw that search partner traffic was continually increasing.

Now it all started to make sense!

As a test, I decided to de-select the search partners box in the settings and see how the account would respond. I was worried that there wouldn’t be enough searches on to accommodate for the loss in traffic that opting out of search partners would bring, but I also realized that if I didn’t start delivering quality leads soon, then PPC would most likely no longer be an advertising channel for them.


Within the first two weeks, we started to see results from this change.

  • Lead volume actually increased a bit. That was a great sign, as one of my concerns was that eliminating the search partners would result in a drop in leads.
  • Then, I started receiving feedback from the client that the lead quality was improving – the sales team was able to easily reach most leads and the leads seemed truly interested in their services.

That in total was a big change from what they were previously experiencing.

The biggest change was that those leads were converting for the client. That, of course, is the end goal and the metric that the client pays the closest attention to when evaluating their PPC performance.

Along with the increase in conversions, was the shortening of their sales cycle. Previously, leads took 60+ days to convert. Presently, that number is less than 30 days. In many cases, we now see leads convert on the same day that they come in. In fact, they have seen a 90% increase in conversion rate since opting out of the search partners. That is something that everyone is excited about.

Taking my learnings from this experience, I have used this technique in other accounts that I manage where I want to increase performance. For example, I wanted to decrease bounce rate on a particular campaign. Opting out of search partners decreased the bounce rate by 10% and led to an increase in overall performance within that campaign.

When I look back on the past few months, I’m amazed that an account’s performance was completely changed by simply de-selecting a checkbox in the AdWords settings. An account that used to be struggling is now thriving and I can’t credit anything other than the three seconds it took me to uncheck the box.

Am I saying that you should always opt out of search partners? Absolutely not. What I am saying is that it’s something that you should definitely test – especially if you have an account that has lead quality issues. Just because it’s an effective technique to use in some accounts certainly doesn’t mean that it will work in all accounts. However, it is certainly worth the test. You may find that it’s the best three seconds you’ve ever spent in the account.