All accounts have their ups and downs. This week  we’re all about how we troubleshoot the “downs,” offering the practical application of PPC know-how to solve major mysteries plaguing your account’s performance. Eric has already given a few tips on how to address the source of bad lead quality and now we’ll help you expand your reach in a way that pays off!

Wouldn’t it be nice to have all the budget and all the customers and all the traffic for your client? You could target to your heart’s delight, build efficiency around every corner and eat ice cream for dinner every night! Well forget it, kid. Most accounts are not so lucky, and there are times that you’d do about anything to get more traffic- especially qualified visitors!

We were confronted with this very issue when a client who had very, very specific geo-targeting found themself up against a traffic wall. How do you bring in more customers when you only have a highly specific radius to whom you can actually provide your service? There are ways to not only work with the campaign structures as the currently exist, but also how to safely test what expansion lies just within your grasp.

Expand what ya got

Looking at an account that’s working at near-maximum capacity, there are still tiny morsels of expansion tucked away.

Match types: Review what you’ve got. Are you allowing broad modified matches to bring in related traffic? What about broad match? Pure broad match keywords can be dangerous if you don’t have the right negatives or limits on your campaign, but used in moderation or in short bursts, you can gain insight into those searching related content.

Keyword expansion: Following up to broad match keywords is the faithful search term/query report. What language has popped up in your SQRs as of late? When working with a low volume account, it’s imperative that you never shut the door on keyword expansion, especially if it’s been awhile since you’ve found some real treasures.

Bids: Another possible enemy to volume is that you’re just not keeping up with the competition. Sure, the AdWords interface will tell you when you’re below first page bid, but it’s also important to keep an eye on words that have carried some of your conversion volume in the past and ensure that they’re getting the attention (and bids and QS maintenance that they need).

Break out the New New: Our Case Study

We took the ball out of the user’s court and put it in our own with some clever Display usage.

In a 90 day trial, we established a campaign based around individuals who needs the service (by Interest categories), were looking for the service (Contextual Keywords), and who fell into our designated region (very specific radius targeting).

The goal here was to see how many people were going to sources beyond the search network. Did they already have sites they frequented for these types of services? The answer was resounding “Yes.” As we build and modified the Display efforts, we worked to go after these users and these sites.

In uploading the 90 Day display campaign, we saw the following results:

Impression Volume

Here we can see what we expected- impression volume lifted. The area of interest is that while the Display campaign got its footing, our remarketing list expanded like  a delicious pan of cinnamon rolls!  Those who visisted our sites in the 90 day trial were then added to our remarketing list, thus causing our remarketing impressions to skyrocket. And the search volume also increased as we more aggresively bid on the keywords that brought in Display traffic, and as users saw our ads then searched that same content later down the road. (And yes, Remarketing for Search is making its way into this post…)

Click Volume CTR

Similarly we can look at our click volume to see that not only was our impression volume positively affected, but so was actual interaction! Click-through-rate, which often suffers when opening into the display network, only saw a slight decrease for the Remarketing and Search campaigns. After the 90 days, these CTRs lifted up to a net improvement for both types. This is continuing to achieve the goal of not only increasing reach but also user engagement. They don’t just see the ad, they’re finding it relevant enough to give us a click and potentially convert.

Speaking of conversions, we can’t just pretend that this is all about clicks, right? Sure there are some clients out there that truly believe that bringing visitors to their site is all they need from PPC; they can take care of the rest themselves. But it has been this author’s experience that the majority of our clients would really like to see conversions at the end of the rainbow.

For this we examine the change in conversion rate that occurred as we expanded our reach. Were the folks who saw and clicked for the first time the right target audience? Did we just spend a chunk of our budget on visitors who never intended to convert, but just wanted to check out that classy-looking ad?


What we saw was a slight decrease in the conversion rate for the 3 months that we ran the display campaign. We saw traffic pick up, but didn’t necessarily see a huge shift in conversion rate. What we did see occurred a bit further down the pipeline. Over the coming weeks and months, our CR actually increased significantly, rising like a tide from 3.6% to 6.4% from beginning to end. The increased conversion rates came across the boards from search and remarketing campaigns, with an emphasis on pushing the highest converting trends, including top performing keywords and placements. While we only allowed the Display campaign to run for the 90 day period, we were able to get more data on where our customers were browsing and how we could better catch them down the road of remarketing.

Where do we go from here?

We took the aspects of the display campaigns that performed well and pushed them even further. Those that weren’t as fruitful, we pulled back on or even removed. But what we found was that as we expanded our reach, there was a trickle down in behavior that continued to benefit us into Q3 and beyond. The next step in improving our remarketing efforts is Remarketing’s hot new though Remarketing Lists for Search ads. We can take all those past visitors that were scooped up through Display and find them next time they search.

What did we learn?

  • You don’t have to settle for minimal volume. It is possible that there are still customers out there that have yet to be exposed to you.
  • You don’t have to commits huge amounts of your budget to expansion. We created a 90 days trial that included a pre-trial and post-trial evaluation. Although we continued to conduct regular optimizations all the while, we wanted to get an idea of what big picture effect would be seen were we to do this regularly. We may revisit the process with a different type of Display, such as Similar Audiences, Search Companions, or Affinity Targeting.
  • We were able to take advantage of an increased reach to bulk up our Remarketing lists. This was one of the primary goals to the expansion. If there is a potential customer who’s not yet been to our site, we want every opportunity to 1) bring them in and 2) to remind them they can’t live without us (until they convert). As traffic, budget, and overall account success allow, reopening our expansion can let us continue to boost our Remarketing lists from time to time.

What experiences do you have in boosting traffic in a seemingly limited account? What tricks have you developed while searching for your own pot of conversion volume gold? Let us know how you’ve made yourself a PPC hero, too!