Back in 2000 when it first launched, Google AdWords had a flat CPM (cost per impression model). Ever since Scott Banister, an 18-year-old college dropout came up with the multi-billion-dollar idea of businesses paying for placement on search and display listings, advertising has never looked the same. According to Google Economic Impact Report, businesses generate an average $2 in revenue for every $1 spent on AdWords.

However, there’s always a less shiny side of things. Consumers have become increasingly choosy and a significant percentage of customers are now brand agnostic. While this means that new businesses find it comparatively easier to build a relationship with their users, the flip side is that getting noticed itself is much more a difficult task than before. Rising above the paid search noise is becoming harder.

Boost conversions with 13 advanced adwords strategies 

In this article, I will run you through 13 vital AdWords optimisation steps you can take to significantly better your click through rates (CTR), lower your cost per acquisition (CPA) and ultimately get you a much higher return of investment (ROI) that what you have been seeing.  


1. Consider using accelerated delivery instead of standard

Most entry-level AdWords guides you find online will advise you to stay away from accelerated delivery and for good reasons. If you do not plan your budget allocation judiciously or do not have a solid, data-backed reasoning for using accelerated delivery, you can quickly run out of money or significantly exceed your target CPA. Having said that, accelerated delivery can be incredibly powerful as well:

For increased brand awareness:

By keeping your campaign budget uncapped (leave the overall daily budget intact), you can use accelerated delivery to ensure maximum brand coverage and CTR; something very well suited for early-stage startups or campaigns mainly geared towards raising brand awareness.

For ad scheduling:

Accelerated delivery also works very well with ad scheduling. By looking at your historical data, you may see that your ads get the best CTR between May 3 PM to 6 PM. You can run your ads only for those 3 hours and use accelerated delivery to ensure that your ads show up all through the selected time.

On the other hand, if you are not sure when your ads work the best and if you use accelerated delivery, you might spend all your daily budget before your preferred time sets in. If the first half of the day does not work for you, there might be no more budget left for the second half. This happens because Google inserts your ad’s bid into the eligible auctions as long as you have money left.

For timed services:

If you run a business that is time sensitive or you are running a short-term offer, accelerated ad delivery is the perfect solution. For instance, if you are a cafe serving afternoon tacos, you would want your ads to run specifically from 1 PM to 5 PM and locally.  If you are running a promotional offer right before a festival, accelerated delivery can ensure your ads show for the time-frame of your offer’s duration.

For testing and troubleshooting:

When you have an underperforming campaign, this setting can be a life-saver. Keeping your ad delivery setting to accelerated will give you the opportunity to test out your creative copies, your targeting, bids and other settings as quickly as possible. This, of course, means that you will have to work extra hard by keeping a very keen eye on your bids and how quickly you are depleting your budget.

To enable accelerated delivery, look for the settings tab under the campaign you want to set it for. In the “Bidding and budget” section, enable the option from under the delivery method.

, 13 Advanced AdWords Optimisation Strategies for Better Conversions

2. Use Dynamic Keyword Insertions (carefully)

Dynamic Keyword Insertion (DKI) is an extremely powerful tool little known to beginner and intermediate AdWords users. As the name goes, DKI lets you create dynamic ads by replacing a predefined code in your ad with a search user’s query.

A customer is much more likely to notice and click on an ad which has the exact words used by him while searching than on a generic ad. Let’s see how this works with an example:

You have an an Ad Group for my shoe store that includes keywords like: Shoes, leather shoes, best leather shoes, etc.

With Dynamic Keyword Insertion, you can create an ad that will show a user who searches for “shoes” the word shoes, for those who search for “leather shoes”, the phrase leather shoes, and so on, right in the ad’s text.

This lets you provide users with more relevant ad text by using a single template ad. AdWords inserts individual keywords into the same ad text such that every user sees a customised ad for their keyword search, as long as their query keyword triggers at least one of your ad group keywords.

In the example below, you can see how dynamic search ads will look if the searched query is “business credit cards”; the result on the left is a dynamic ad and the one on the right is a traditional static ad. You can see why a dynamic ad is more likely to generate clicks.

The code format while setting up dynamic keyword insertion looks something like this:

Headline: Buy {KeyWord:Chocolate}

AdWords will try to replace the code inside {} with one of the keywords in your ad group when there is a match with a user’s query. Let’s say they are “dark chocolate”, “sugar free chocolate”, and “gourmet chocolate truffles”. If it finds no matches or if the keyword is too long, AdWords will replace the word with the base, “Chocolate”. Here’s how it will work:

Note that you can control capitalisation by denoting it in how you are writing the code:

keyword=”dark chocolates”

Keyword=”Dark chocolates”

KeyWord=”Dark Chocolates”


Let’s take an example of how dynamic ads would look like if someone used a query like “Red Basketball Sneakers” (notice how Google makes the replaced keyword text bold, making the ads stand out even more):

So, Dynamic Keyword Insertion is really powerful; we get that. What’s the catch? Many them actually. Let’s run through them:


Potential Trademark Violations:

Since you are not using an actual keyword, Google’s trademark violation check does not get activated for DKI. What if you were bidding for a competitor’s brand name? It’s quite common and you should be doing it as well. However, what if the user was searching for “John’s coffee shop”. Your dynamic ad is going to use those exact words.

It is legal to bid on your competitor’s brand keywords. However, it is illegal to display those words in your ads. It can lead you to trademark violation issues and some murky legal hot water.


Typing Errors in DKI Code:

We are all humans and mistakes happen. In case of DKI, keystroke errors can look really bad. An extra or missing space, wrong punctuation or misspellings can mess with how your ad displays. Below are two examples where the advertiser used “DKI:” instead of “keyword:” and missed a space: {keyword:Thinga Majigs} instead of {keyword: Thinga Majigs}



Misspelt search query by user:

Sometimes, the mistake can come from the user’s end, often to hilarious but ultimately painful results for you as the advertiser. While bidding on misspelt keywords is a trick that marketers have been applying for ages, when it comes to DKI, it can get horribly wrong. To avoid this, make sure all misspelt keywords belong to a separate Ad Group and do not use dynamic keywords for this group. Here are some examples of what can go wrong.

, 13 Advanced AdWords Optimisation Strategies for Better Conversions


Broad Match Keywords amounting to Ad Spam:

Never use DKI on broad match keywords. You do not know in what context the user has used the keywords. In most cases, the ads are going to seem either spammy or be completely inappropriate. Furthermore, having single-word headlines is not optimal at all and amounts to yet another type of ad spam.

, 13 Advanced AdWords Optimisation Strategies for Better Conversions


3. Customer Reviews

If your service, product or app has at least 30 unique reviews of minimum four star, you will be eligible to display them as part of your ad using the seller rating extension. The reviews have stars, links to the reviews (which are verified by Google) and text snippets.

Positive customer reviews are a great way to establish trust and increase your CTR. Furthermore, if you are already using quoted text in your ad, using the review extension will free up precious real estate.

A thing to note, though, is that even if you have added reviews, they might not always be displayed and there are many factors which decide this. Some of the common ones are your ad’s relevance score, available space on the search results page, and combining other extensions.


Google does not charge you for clicks on the reviews. However, standard ad click CPC still applies. I have seen CTRs go up by 10% in many cases when reviews have been used.

Good to know information:

  • Reviews are only displayed on desktop and on the search network.
  • Reviews are available in English, German, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese, Dutch, and Italian.
  • Reviews are required to focus on your entire business instead of a specific product or service.

Always ensure that the reviews you are including are distinct from the ad text. Otherwise, you’ll end up having repeated text in the same ad. If you are not seeing the reviews on your ads, it might also be for one or more of the following reasons:

  • Using reviews that are not from a publication or organisation.
  • Your business name is repeated in the review text.
  • You are using a review that is more than a year old.
  • Making changes in the original review text (don’t fix typos or punctuations either. Just choose a better review).

As you can see below, adding reviews have significant impact on your CTR. This is sample of how an advertiser’s click through rates by 106% since he introduced customer ratings.

, 13 Advanced AdWords Optimisation Strategies for Better Conversions

4. Measure Smart Goals

Consider using behavioural conversions like online sales, leads generated, newsletter subscriptions, downloads, long user sessions and number of pages seen (deep visits). Google calls these “Smart Goals.”

This kind of measurement ensures that you are not cheating yourself with isolated KPIs. Smart Goals help you understand who your high-value customers are and where they are coming from, thereby giving you the opportunity to optimise your website or app for them.

To generate Smart Goals, Google applies machine learning across thousands of websites which use Google Analytics and have opted in to share anonymous conversion data.  Using this information, Google extracts dozens of variables that work together to make a conversion happen; like device, browser, session length and page views per session.

However, Smart Goals are not everyone’s favourite. There are some who prefer using only traditional conversion goals in their analytics. The distrust comes from the fact that an algorithm sets these goals using a scoring mechanism. Every visit is given a score and the highest scoring visits being translated into Smart Goals. The scoring tries to establish a benchmark by analysing the top 5% of the traffic coming from AdWords. Once Google identifies this benchmark, it is applied to all traffic, including visitors from channels apart other than AdWords.

, 13 Advanced AdWords Optimisation Strategies for Better Conversions

5. Use Broad Match to discover new keywords

Here’s a trick that can yield some very favourable results. However, it comes with its set of risks. It is always advised not to use broad match keywords in your campaigns. That is because, with broad matches, it is nearly impossible to gauge the search intent of a user.

Having said that, you can still use broad match campaigns with a highest converting keywords. Often you will discover phrases that were not present in your keyword research. Better still, you have factual data proving that these keywords work.

To avoid obvious bad clicks user negative keywords generously. The challenge with negative keywords remains though; how do you find all the keywords you do not want your ad to show for? Broad match keyword research can help pinpoint the most commonly occurring variations you would want to avoid.

Ensure that you close tab on the search query reports in AdWords to know which searches triggered your ads. These searches can be great long-tail keywords or give ideas for even more potentially useful keyword phrase variations. One of the biggest benefits of using broad match campaigns is to discover misspelt keywords that you can use in your adgroups.

If you wish to play safer but still reap some of the advantages explained above, consider using “Modified Broad” match keywords. These are keywords which sit somewhere between Broad and Phrase match keywords. You can create modified broad keywords by adding a “+” symbol in front of one or more words in your keyword phrase. Example: buy +sports +shoes online.

Apart from using negative keywords to reduce the risk that comes from the unpredictability of broad matching, you should also have a staggered bidding strategy. The one that I recommend is fairly simple:

  • Bid the highest for exact match keywords
  • Bids for phrase match keywords should be reduced by 10-25%
  • Bids for broad match should be reduced a 40-50% from your exact match bid.

By having a low bid on broad match, you can run a low-cost and controlled keyword discovery exercise.


6. Run Keywords Through A Google Suggestion Tool

There are a number of keyword suggestion tools. Apart from Google’s on Keyword Planner tool, try As you type in the Google search box, you are thrown in a number of auto suggestions. Ubersuggest uses these recommendations to create a list of keywords.

The tool predicts the most commonly related search phrases to the keyword you are using. What’s very useful is Ubersuggest alphabetical segmentation of the discovered keywords. It is a great resource to add great long-tail keywords your research might not have yielded.


, 13 Advanced AdWords Optimisation Strategies for Better Conversions


7. More keywords does not equal better performance


When it comes to ad groups, the typical number of keywords it should ideally have is between 20-25, and certainly not more than 30. This is, of course, a guide rather than a rule. The main agenda should be to have closely related keywords in ad group so that it is easy to create ad copies for them.

It never helps to fill your ad groups with too many keywords. Let me explain why. Say you are running a campaign with a daily budget of $30 and it has 30 keywords with an average CPC of $1. Hence, this campaign is likely to get 30 clicks per day. Next, you discover a few more keywords that you’d like to bid for. You add another 20 keywords to the list. Now, the campaign has 50 keywords, still getting an average $1 CPC, all of them trying to fit into the $30 budget.

As you can see, your daily budget cannot fit the demand that your keyword list is generating. It is always a good idea to remove underperforming keywords whenever you are adding new ones. This maintains a balance and saves you from increasing your budget if you do not want to.


8. Strive to be in the top three spots on a mobile device


Mobile traffic continues to increase every year and this trend will continue. With over 50% of search traffic originating from mobile devices, your ad rank becomes more important than ever before.

There is less advertising real estate available on a mobile device, and the competition to get the ads served in that tiny space is driving the costs high. As more and more advertisers move into the bidding game, your ad’s position becomes synonymous with its success.  If you are not in the top three spots on the SERPs on a mobile device, it is doubtful that customers will ever see your ads.

It is important to check your mobile ad’s position regularly. Go to settings > select device and review your average position on mobile devices. It is advisable to have a separate ad campaign specifically for mobile placements and apply as many of the previously mentioned tactics. Be ready to bid higher than what you are used to paying in the desktop world.


9. Use Dimensions and “Day of the week” reports


Optimise for your campaigns for different days of the week. One of the most simple and yet power features of AdWords reporting is the dimensions view which displays your account’s performance under several different sets of specific criteria.

Under dimensions, select “Day of the week” to understand how your ads are performing on different days of the week. In all probability, you will notice that your ads’ performance metrics improve during the middle of the week, and then wear off towards the weekend. While this is a trend I have seen, depending on your industry and product type, it might be the opposite. The key is to identify when your ads are performing well and optimise your budget and bidding for those days.

Note that within the report, you can break the data into different time frames like month and quarter. This can be immensely helpful if you run seasonal ads and forecast when you start a campaign or end it. For example, if you sell warm clothes, you might notice that your ads peak between October and February.


, 13 Advanced AdWords Optimisation Strategies for Better Conversions


10. Add “Bounce Rate” and “Average Time On Site” to your report

Bounce rates and average session length are two key parameters that show how well your keywords are converting and whether or not your landing pages are delivering the goods.

High average time on site and low bounce rate indicate that these are the keywords you certainly be investing your money in.  It shows that the people landing on your pages from these keywords are highly engaged. This happens when there is a combination of great keyword selection, a click-worthy ad copy and an effective landing page.  

Many marketers prefer to associate a keyword’s quality only by conversion numbers. However, conversion is not always the golden metric to run after. For instance, you might be working on a remarketing strategy for your conversions.

If your keywords are generating high session length but also high bounce rates, it indicates that while people are consuming the content on your pages, they are not moving down the conversion funnel. This often happens if your landing pages and your conversion CTAs are aligned.

Low session length but low bounce rate might indicate people are already convinced of your services and are moving through your site fast, looking for the offer or service you are selling. This group might convert well or at least move far into the conversion funnel.



11. Combining Ads and Organic Ranking


If you are concerned that ads on search result pages where you already rank well might eat into your free organic clicks, make sure you substantiate your hunch with solid reports.

Filter for queries that have comparable organic and paid clicks and check how your listings perform when there are organic results, only ads, or both a mix of the two.

You can also validate this by turning ads on and off and using analytics to measure the impact on total traffic. More often than not, what you will see that running ads on pages where you already rank actually increases your traffic by many folds.

Alternatively, you might notice that you rank on the first page for both organic and paid results for certain queries. In these cases, you should experiment by lowering the bid on AdWords or altogether stopping the ads for a while.

The rule of thumb here is that you should take an informed data-driven call as there is no universally validated rule which decides how each of the above combinations behave.


12. Try out Enhanced CPC (ECPC)

Enhanced CPC, or ECPC, was designed to improve campaign ROI by increasing your bid for clicks that AdWords determines are more likely to convert. As I have explained with Conversion Optimizer below, ECPC decides on the bids by looking at historical conversion data. It uses this data to tweak your maximum CPC bids when it thinks a conversion to be likely.

In Google’s own words…

“Imagine that your job is to stand outside a barber shop and bring in new customers. If a businessman with shaggy hair comes walking by, you give him a big wave and a hello. If a bald man walks by, not so much…ECPC does a similar job for your AdWords ads…”

If an ad auction looks to go your way, ECPC will increase your bid by up to 30% and adjust less relevant auctions (those less likely to attract conversions) to have lower bids.

The bid strategy options can be found under the settings tab of your campaign:

, 13 Advanced AdWords Optimisation Strategies for Better Conversions

Good to know:

  • ECPC is also going to optimise your Ad Rotation settings.
  • ECPC can increase your bids by up to 30%
  • ECPC needs you to have conversion tracking to be set up.

ECPC’s Conversion Optimizer looks at your historical conversion data and uses it to take over all ad bids for you. You need to have at least 15 conversions in the last one month for ECPC to work.


13. Rethink your PPC Optimization Formula

One of the most common maximum CPC formulae is: Max CPC = CPA target x Conversion Rate

Filipe Reis, a PPC expert, created a very interesting and often accurate version of the above formula.

If you use the original formula written above, you should do so only after splitting the keywords into separate campaigns according to their roles as “Supporters” or “Converters”. Supporter campaign should contain the keywords that don´t necessarily convert but assist in conversions. The Converter campaign, on the other hand, includes keywords that convert.

Let’s look at a sample 30-day data from a Converter campaign:

Here, Keyword 1 is declining in performance over time while Keyword 2 is improving. If we were to base our calculations on the entire duration of 30 days, we would be using a uniform conversion rate. However, you can see how that will fail as CR is changing.

To fix this issue, Filipe designed the following formula to find effective conversion rate or eCR:

eCR = 25% * CR3 + 35% * CR2 + 40% * CR1

Where, CR3 = conversion rate 3 and 4 weeks ago,
CR2 = conversion rate 2 weeks ago,
and CR1 = conversion rate of the last 7 days.

Note: The keywords must have 3 or more conversions in each period for this formula to work.

If we used the older Max CPC = Target CPA x Conversion Rate formula, the amount obtained for Max CPC would the value that our Average CPC can achieve for the selected CPA target.

Ideally, we’d want a deviation in Max CPC where the value is higher for low competition keywords and lesser for high competition keywords. To take this deviation into account, we create a variable called Bid Adjustment (BA) that is the ratio between the Max CPC and Average CPC.

Note: To use the BA, it is necessary that the keyword has at least 3 clicks in the analysis period.

Here’s the final formula:

Max CPC = CPA target x (CR3 x 25% + CR2 * 35% + CR1 x 40%) x BA

The most important thing we should take care of is not to use data for long periods of time. In fact, Max CPC should be calculated every 7 days.


There you go, 13 incredibly powerful steps you can take to turn your AdWords campaigns into a conversion generating machine! As you can see, managing an efficient and effective PPC campaign is a complex and recurring task. If done well, AdWords can yield extremely meaningful results for your business. If not, well, it is a trip down the rabbit hole. Depending on the size of your business and what kind of team setup you have, you might want to consider hiring a qualified agency to do your work.

While you crank up your outbound marketing efforts, you should also focus on driving a consistent Inbound Marketing strategy. This is going to help you discover your target audience better and generate a leads funnel which can work in tandem with your paid acquisitions.

Check out my free white paper on how to create content to target your personas and buyer cycles so as to understand how Inbound Marketing can work for you