5 Quick Ways to Increase Paid Search CTR without Breaking a Sweat

By January 28th, 2013

Mouse ClickBefore writing this post, I performed a few web searches to scout out my competition. Based on that research, there appears to be one thing that everyone agrees upon about increasing paid search click-through-rate (CTR), the benefits:

  • Increased Quality Score
  • Increased ad position
  • Lower cost-per-click

However, given the title of this post, I figured just about everyone has their quick ways for increasing CTR—and I was right. There’s about 20 “quick” ways to increase your CTR, but not all of them are quick. Create granular keyword groupings? Restructuring campaigns and resetting Quality Score is a long term strategy. Give something away for free? Let’s choose to ignore that one. Look for assisted conversions? I personally don’t enjoy swimming in an ocean of data. Include pricing? And if prices change, it’ll be a fun week. Though all of these tactics and more do plenty to increase CTR, my goal today is to present five ways search marketers can increase CTR without breaking a sweat.

1. Implement Ad Sitelinks

This is unanimously the number one way to quickly increase CTR. Sitelinks provides up to six additional deep links to specific and highly relevant content on your site. These links not only expand your search engine results page (SERP) real estate, but they also enable search marketers to point users towards high-value landing pages, such as form fills and store locators. Keep in mind that up to six links can be added per campaign, which was increased from four in 2011. So if you haven’t touched your sitelinks in a while, it’s time to go back and ensure you have six updated links available.

Google Ad Sitelinks Example

For more information on sitelinks and how to enable them, click here.

2. Pause Poor Performing Creative

Remember that creative test you were running way back when? Well it’s still running, and one or more of those creative is hurting the entire ad group. As you prioritize ad groups for CTR optimization, be sure to evaluate the performance of existing creative. Though some poor performing creative will be easier to spot than others, be sure to reach some level of statistical significance before cutting ties and pausing those creative. It’s important to remember that poor performing creative represent an opportunity cost. By weeding them out of your account, you can drive more traffic through more relevant and engaging creative.

For additional best practices on creative testing and optimization, click here.

3. Leverage Differentiating Text

There are so many elements search marketers can test when it comes to differentiating their creative from their competitors. Let’s use a short list with simple explanations:

  • Call-to-Action: a staple for all advertisers, a simple, yet strong call-to-action encourages users to engage with a purpose. For example, “Register for free today!” or “Shop early and save”.
  • Unique Selling Point: incorporating free shipping, price match guarantees, promotions, and other unique selling points into creative not only sets you apart from competitors, but makes your creative that much more compelling.
  • Numbers and Figures: to break the repetitiveness of words and sentences, use numbers and figures (i.e. &, ®, ™) as an effective way to bring attention to creative.
  • Display URLs: there are a number of ways to arrange your display URL and incorporate keywords into them to increase relevance. For example, “keyword.example.com” or “example.com/category/keyword”. However, keep in mind that some users copy and paste display URLs into the navigation bar, so be prepared with a redirect or an effective 404 page.

4. Mine for Negative Keywords

Most search marketers know how to mine for negative keywords, but the tune changes when discussing how often. Generating a search query report is simple; with some enterprise class solutions generating them automatically. Identify keywords that have received impressions, but very few clicks. But also take note of irrelevant tokens that appear often in queries. For example, tokens like “free”, “reviews”, and “used” often appear alongside relevant keywords. Add these and those irrelevant keywords to eliminate unwanted impressions and clicks.

Negative Keywords Create A Virtuous Cycle

For more information on developing an effective negative keyword strategy, click here.

5. Use High Volume Tokens

Keyword tokens within creative will appear in bold whenever they match or closely match a user’s search query. To improve the relevancy of your creative to the keywords within an ad group, include tokens with high impression share within creative text. For example, if users are more likely to include “clothing” in their query, rather than “apparel”, generate creative that includes the token “clothing”, even if both tokens appear in multiple keywords within the same ad group. Using the most relevant tokens within your creative will increase the relevance for a larger share of impressions and help increase CTR.
Incrementally increasing CTR takes testing and continuous optimization of keywords and creative. This involves using both short term and long term strategies. Hopefully, with the tactics I’ve imparted, you can begin increasing your CTR today…quickly and sweatband-free.

Will Ferrell Sweatband

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