Double Trouble: How to Avoid PPC Pitfalls


By Martin Jordan, Director of Innovation, Equator.

Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising, alongside its organic sibling, search engine optimisation (SEO) continues to be an effective practice in digital marketing.


Research shows that PPC is in fact twice as effective as SEO, but as we all know, the digital landscape, and how to market products and services effectively within it, is constantly evolving.


As well as Google’s own algorithm changes, there are also developments in third-party cookie regulations that marketers need to be aware of, and the developing capabilities of AI. All of these things can affect PPC performance if they’re misunderstood or under-utilised.

PPC: More than just paying for results

It’s easy to think that the answer to improving PPC results is simply to pump more money into it – after all, the more competitive the keyword, the more it’ll cost.


The impact of increased spending can be analysed using Google Ads’ “Search Impression Share Lost to Budget” metric which shows the average time an ad fails to appear due to insufficient budget being allocated. By working to reduce this metric to 0% through incremental investment, you can gauge the additional volume you could capture if budget constraints were reduced.


But while increasing spend does positively affect results, it can actually decrease your return on ad spend (ROAS) due to more expensive leads if not done carefully. For example, another client of ours saw a 44% increase in leads with a higher spend, but this came at the expense of a higher cost per lead and a reduction in ROAS of 22%.

Implementing this strategy of measured investment can be highly effective.

One hotel client of ours experienced an 18% reduction in search impression share lost to budget by increasing spending by 15%. This contributed to a 55% increase in bookings and a 26% reduction in Cost Per Acquisition (CPA).


Plan, test, rinse, repeat

So, how can you ensure your PPC campaigns are really delivering value for money? The answer is always to test and keep testing. Adopt an experimental mindset and don’t be afraid to learn from mistakes – in fact, evaluating and learning should be a key task after any campaign, so you can build on successes, too.


We all know Google is the first port of call, but don’t write off Microsoft Ads completely. While there’s a smaller audience, tapping into that can be surprisingly worth the effort – one healthcare client saw 7% increase in leads and a 17% higher ROAS through Microsoft Ads compared with Google in Q3 2022.

As mentioned earlier, it’s also a good idea to test new and tangential keywords, or to think about other products and services you or your clients provide that may have untapped, untested audiences out there.


One of our healthcare clients was previously targeting only very specific keywords related to private healthcare, but after transitioning them to a strategy targeting new leads in Q3 2021, we saw lead volume, conversion rate and ROAS rise across the next four quarters.

Embrace new technology

Advancements in PPC technology mean your ads can now be shown based on meaning as well as words, and to audiences on multiple platforms. As Google’s algorithms have become more sophisticated, there has been a resurgence of Broad Match – the tool that allows your ad to show on searches related to the meaning of your keyword, even if they don’t contain the keyword term itself.


Dynamic Search Ads (DSAs) are also a powerful tool, particularly for advertisers with extensive product inventories on their websites. By allowing Google and Microsoft to crawl web pages and match them with relevant search queries, DSAs effectively bridge the gap left by conventional keyword targeting. With headlines dynamically generated using website content, DSAs help you reach a wider audience by targeting web content that can be overlooked by traditional keyword strategies.


Then there’s Performance Max (PMax), Google’s new tool that allows advertisers to target customers across the entire ecosystem, including YouTube, Maps, Search, Gmail, and Discover from a single campaign. Machine learning provides the text, video, and image assets, along with your optimisation goal and target CPA. We tested PMax for one of our hotel client’s locations, resulting in 30 bookings and £3,662 in revenue from a £462 spend.

Final thoughts

Pursuing growth in the competitive PPC landscape requires a commitment to invest and innovate, but an understanding that doubling your spending won’t necessarily double your conversations. To achieve long-term success, you must cultivate and promote a test-and-learn culture within your organisation, allocating additional budget for experimentation.


But remember, patience is key – some strategies may take longer than others, and some tweaking, to yield results.

This article was originally published in Advertising Week in June 2023. 

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