Launching an account in the Google or Microsoft ad platforms is fairly simple. But setting it up for success and effective ongoing optimization takes a lot of know-how. And one of the key factors to keep in mind is the website to which you will be driving traffic.
To start, let's ask the following question:
Why does your website matter for PPC?
It’s where your users convert
You can have the most up-to-date, best-practice-following, cleverly strategic campaigns, but if the website isn’t up to snuff, your campaign-building expertise will not have nearly the same effect as if the website is set up to support PPC success.
When managing PPC campaigns, your job is to drive the most relevant website traffic at the lowest possible costs without sacrificing quality. Your website’s job is to take those users and entice them to do whatever it is you want them to do—whether that’s submitting a lead form, buying something, or reading a blog post.
It feeds back valuable data
When you can trust that the website is effective at doing its job, you can treat your campaigns as the variable, making optimization decisions based on how they perform. That is to say, if you know your website can convert without PPC, you can better measure your success by comparing your PPC-driven results to that of the organic or direct channels, helping you judge your own optimizations.
It impacts Quality Score
Quality score is a bit of a black box metric, but one of the three components is “landing page experience,” which takes into account content relevance and ease of site navigation. That means that the quality of your site acts as an external factor on your campaigns’ efficiency—because quality score affects metrics like cost-per-click and impression share. So, a better website could mean lower costs and more visibility for your PPC ads.
Let’s take a look at four things your company should consider when you're running ads. Ultimately, each of these components bolster the performance of your website.
1. Relevant Domain Names
Because advertisers spend so much time writing the perfect ad copy, they can forget that an entire line of the ad text served to the searcher is devoted to the website’s URL—the domain name of which you often have no control over. The most common exception is when you set up a subdomain on the website directly or through a third party landing page tool. But even then, you can set the subdomain name but not the domain name.
Just like the rest of your ad copy, your domain name may help or hinder your chances of getting clicks based on relevance. Here are some examples of how an irrelevant domain name can work against you:
- Brand names: If John makes a Google search for Ram trucks, he might not click on the ad from PaulChryslerJeep.com. Paul does sell Rams there, but appearing in the same results are GeorgeJeepRam.com and RingoTruckDealer.com. “Ram” is actually in the domain for George, and Ringo just left the brand names out to avoid confusion either way.
- Locations: If there was a Liverpool-based lawyer who has expanded to also have a practice in Manchester, users may not click if the domain is still PersonalInjuryLawyersOfLiverpool.com. They may assume the only office is too far away from them and they would rather choose a more apparently local option.
- Subdomains for testing: If you have created multiple variants of a landing page for an A/B test, keep in mind that the subdomain is visible in ad copy. You do not want your display URL to read VariantA.domain.com. Make it something relevant like “eBook” or at least neutral like “info.”
2. Quality Mobile Experience
Google wants its users to have easily-navigable, relevant, quick-loading experiences after clicking an ad—and it rewards or penalizes advertisers with better quality scores depending on how well the site does with that. Also, people that have good experience with your site means they’re more likely to not bounce in general. These points are true for desktop experiences as well, but mobile should be the priority if time or resources are limited, as an ever increasing majority of online activity is mobile. And if you are doing mobile well, your desktop experience is probably good too.
The first items to look for without diving too deep into the world of search engine optimization and website development are responsive pages, site speed, and click-to-call phone numbers:
- Responsive pages adapt and change layouts based on screen size, so that even on a mobile screen, users do not have to enlarge the page and swipe around to find what they are looking for.
- Site speed refers to how quickly page elements load for users. This is important for avoiding bounces, and can sometimes be longer on mobile devices versus desktop.
- Click-to-call phone numbers are those that can be tapped on in a mobile experience to immediately present the user with the option to call, without having to copy and paste or type the number into their phone call app. This can make a huge difference in how many mobile users will actually call your business.
You can get an idea of the state of some of these manually, but there are many free or paid online tools available to help specifically with checking your site’s mobile friendliness and speed. These are a couple of Google’s free options: Mobile-Friendly Test and PageSpeed Insights. Even if the results do not mean much to you, you can pass them along to the website’s dev team and see if they can make any adjustments.
3. Conversion Tracking Friendliness
Whether your website’s goals are tied to sales, leads, pageviews (or anything else measurable) you need a way to count and attribute those events appropriately. The data about those conversion actions are incredibly valuable when you can tie them to specific campaigns, ads, keywords, and audiences. That’s what will allow you and Google’s smart bidding algorithms to optimize and drive the best paid traffic. It’s also what will prove the value of your campaigns to your stakeholders.
To do this, Google Analytics must be set up and linked with your Google Ads account. Google Tag Manager (GTM) is also incredibly helpful for tracking, and Google Analytics can even be installed through it. For Microsoft Ads you need to install the Universal Event Tracking (UET) tag on the site either directly or through GTM.
The importance here rests in whether or not such tracking is possible or simple. It will be a large barrier to success if the website cannot (or cannot easily) support you in getting conversion data attributed to your campaigns.
Here are some examples of what to look for:
- Thank-you pages: If you’re counting form completions as a conversion, the simplest, most reliable way to track them are via thank you pages that are unique to each type of form. You know that anyone who reaches domain.com/sign-up/thank-you has successfully completed the form, so you can track pageviews of that URL as conversions. If there are not clean thank you pages, you can still reliably track that action using other elements of the form and button through GTM—but it is not as simple.
- Off-site links: If a part of a checkout or sign-up process takes users off site to a different domain, you may lose tracking on them. Cross-domain tracking can be set up, but it’s not a process that all PPC account managers may be as comfortable with.
- Phone call tracking: If phone calls are important to your business, you want to track and attribute those to campaigns. Check first if you have a third party tool already installed to do this that can integrate with Google Ads. Another way to do this is through Google’s call tracking service. Alternatively, you can set up click tracking on the numbers via GTM if the phone numbers are click-to-call, although that will be less accurate than using Google’s or a third-party option, as it doesn’t take into account users who type the number into their phone if they’re seeing it on a desktop, for example.
4. Conversion Rate Optimization Best Practices
Once you are tracking conversions and attributing them to your campaigns, you need the website to do its best at generating them. Like we said at the top, you can do everything right to drive traffic and track it, but if the website does not convert then it is all for naught. That’s where conversion rate optimization (CRO) steps in.
CRO is the process of optimizing a website to generate desired actions at an increasingly higher rate. We’ve written before about the intersection of CRO and PPC, but in the end it all comes down to this: as a user, would you be enticed to convert, and is it clear how to do so? If either (or both) don’t ring true (or the data is indicating as such), then there is work to be done. Let’s look at just a few examples of CRO opportunities to look for on the website (some of which can be implemented through a Google tool called Optimize):
- Clear calls to action (CTAs): This could mean having the contact us button or phone number in the header of all pages, or having an above-the-fold form with a submit button with text that is a little more enticing than just “submit.”
- Effective forms: Effective forms usually have as few fields as possible while still capturing what’s absolutely necessary. They also make it clear to the user why they should fill it out and what they can expect after submitting.
- Compelling content: This often means answering the questions users have in mind—or providing a solution to the user’s problem or desire when they made the search that led them to your site in the first place. It also means conveying that information concisely, which could mean through the use of lists, tables, infographics, a video, etc.
- High-quality design: Websites should look modern and clean, with colors that compliments and contrast in aesthetically pleasing ways. And site navigation should be simple. For example, dropdown menus should be easy to find and have intuitive organization of topics.
Ultimately, the success of your PPC campaigns is greatly impacted by your website. Keep that in mind that, when you run your ads, it’s important to investigate your website for these components—and make changes where you can. Need help analyzing your own website? Workshop Digital is here to help. Contact us today to get started.