The Alternating Stairway Of PPC (ASOP), Or How To Progressively Eat Up Your PPC Competitors, One Step At a Time

Winning at Microsoft & Google Ads or other PPC platforms is plain and simply a matter of “progressive specificity.” The closer you get to your perfect customer that is ready to take action, the more you can leave the bad leads to your PPC competitors and bid only on the good ones. That’s what smart bidding is (often clumsily) all about, that’s what manual bidding aims for, it’s the holy grail we’re all after.

And I’d like to share a technique we use to achieve just that — and coin a term in the process: the “Alternating Stairway Of PPC” or ASOP. ASOP is a simple recurring 2-step routine that gets you all the way to PPC heaven — it’s a stairway to heaven. The steps? 1- Add negative keywords & ad extensions to make your ads more specific, 2- Raise your bids slightly to open up to new search terms. Then wait a little and do it again until you get to the top… where you are alone.

But you’ve done negative keywords already, right? You added one of those universal lists when you started a campaign and you checked the search terms a few times afterwards? Well, that’s not enough. Climbing an ASOP is about consistency and regularity.

The whole process can last up to a year, often more. And it’s amazing how many new negative keywords and potential callouts one can find in their search terms even after 6, 9 or 12 months. And if you commit to do it (and helping you do it easily and regularly is what UltraGranular is all about), you’re in luck, because most campaign managers couldn’t care less. They are busy signing up new clients. Little do they know, however, that if they persisted in fine tuning their campaign (climbing the ASOP), they would leave their PPC competitors in the dust and end up alone at the top.

Interested? Let’s look at the steps more closely.

Step 1- Explore your search terms to find negative keywords and ad extension ideas

Auditing search terms is crucial, all pros agree. But there is more to search terms than just potential negative keywords and we will look into it in a moment.

So, as part of the first step, make sure you add any new negative keyword that you don’t cover yet. Always add the smallest word, the common denominator.

And as you explore your search terms, look for specifics users added to the keywords they found you with. They hint to potential callout extensions. So, if you promote a law practice and you target the keyword “injury lawyer in Orlando,” web users may search things like “injury lawyer in Orlando for pedestrian” or “injury lawyer in Orlando for bicycle rider.” They absolutely are callout ideas! If you specialize in those, immediately create callouts out of them: “We help injured pedestrians” and “Experienced with bike riders.”

Not only will they confirm to searchers that you do cover what they are looking for, but they will also please your PPC platform. Google, for example, will typically favor your ad because they know that if they show an ad that has a callout with “pedestrian” in it to someone searching for “pedestrian,” it is more likely that they will click. That, alone, will help you climb your ASOP.

Of course, the topics that you don’t cover should become negative keywords, because there is no point in paying for a click from someone who is looking for something you don’t offer.

So, this step will help you save on irrelevant clicks and will help increase your click-through rate, by making your ads increasingly relevant. Once you’ve scanned your search terms, move to step 2.

Step 2- Raise your bids slightly to open up to new search terms & wait

Raising your bids will get you more of the traffic you already like, but stopping the thinking there is a common misconception. Raising your bids will also give you access to new search terms… to which you didn’t have access before. Why? Because, now that you pay more, you become eligible to appear on more auctions for more search terms.

And just like the search terms you analyzed before, some will be good and some will be bad. This will generate new negative keywords and perhaps new ad extension ideas, such as callouts. Of course, depending on how much traffic your campaign gets, you will have to wait a week or two before you can get enough new search terms to analyze, and that’s when you start the two steps again.

Repeat Until You Reach The Top Of The Stairway, Where There’s Fewer Bidders

On the alternating stairway of PPC, the crowd is at the bottom and the few are at the top. And, by the crowd, we do mean these big competitors that pay big bucks for those big agencies that do not care as much as you could care if you just decide so. And if you are part of the good agencies and campaign managers, you know already that fine tuning your campaigns the ASOP way will improve your results and make your client happy. And if you are paid by the result or as a percentage of ad spend, you will also earn more, because a client who benefits more from their ads wants more of it…

And, no, smart bidding alone won’t be enough to rule out bad search terms quickly enough. Maybe after a year and tons of wasted spend as Google or Microsoft tries to guess what keywords convert best, but if you take matters in your own hands, you can speed up the learning phase tremendously and become profitable much faster.

Also, here’s why it’s important to keep doing it repeatedly: Months after having started to apply the ASOP technique to some campaigns, we still find optimization opportunities and negative keywords.

Typically, between a year and a year and half after starting an ASOP, you will start finding significantly less stuff in your search terms. You will also be bidding much more than other advertisers — but at no real additional cost to you, for you’ll be bidding on the crème de la crème keywords only — and likely beating them in Google’s auction insights, a sub-menu in campaigns and ad groups that tells you how much impression share you get compared to other participants of the auction.

What Metrics To Look At After Climbing The ASOP For a While

Here’s what you should expect and how you can measure the results of an ASOP:

  • Look for a higher CTR: Your Click-through rate (the percentage of ad viewers who decided to click) will increase, because as you exclude non-relevant search terms with negative keywords, what remains is more relevant ones. And if you show up for queries that are more relevant to what you offer… people will naturally click on your ads more consistently, therefore raising your CTR.
  • Look for a higher conversion rate: Similarly, if you get clicks from more relevant users, they will more likely convert more often. Climbing an ASOP typically improves your conversion rate.
  • Look for other improvements all around: Of course, if you improve your click-through and conversion rates, your cost per click will go down (a feature that’s part of Google’s ad auction process), your return on ad spend (ROAS) will improve, you will save money and you will get more clicks for the same budget.

That’s what’s at the top of an Alternating Stairway Of PPC (ASOP).

Ready to try? If you like the hard way, you can always scan your search term in Google’s boring interface or look at them in a dull spreadsheet, but you should definitely try UltraGranular because it just makes it so much easier and it helps you see more things in your search terms. And you can try it for free without signing up and without even having to give access to your PPC account.