12 Tips for Boosting Your PPC Click Through Rate

Ian O'Rourke Posted by Ian O'Rourke

Your click through rate (CTR) is probably the most important PPC metric you can measure, so what can you do to lift your CTR into double figures?

While planning your PPC campaign, traffic is no doubt at the front of your mind. This measure is of course a critical quantitative indicator of your campaign’s success, but it’s by no means the only one: even the worst PPC campaign can still garner high traffic just by being big.

Your CTR, on the other hand, provides you with qualitative insight into how well your campaign is actually performing. Moreover, a good CTR will translate to a low cost per conversion down the line.

A great CTR is analogous to one programmer and a snappy piece of software doing the job of 100 paper pushers. Your score in this metric, as you’ve already guessed, isn’t something you can improve just by throwing money at it, so let’s take a look at 12 savvy strategies that will actually work.

1. Cull The Worst-Performing Third of Your Ads

Larry Kim, founder of Wordstream, writes on LinkedIn that something akin to the classic 80-20 effect also applies to PPC ads, where 20% of your efforts in a certain area account for 80% of your returns. According to Kim, it’s even more extreme in the PPC realm, where 5% of your ads account on average for 80% of impressions.

His solution? Delete the worst-performing third of your campaigns (or just turn them off if you’re gun-shy). He also suggests diverting the leftover funds to re-marketing those campaigns and ads that have proven successful.

2. Get Emotional


Maria Perilli writes on Acquisio that one of the best ways to get someone to click your ad is to truly move them. For every rational reason that you can name why a customer should buy your product, someone can name a reason why they shouldn’t – it might be a bad reason, but that’s not what matters in the end.

As you probably know, emotions play a huge part in what motivates someone to click on an ad. That’s why Apple’s ads for the iPhone 6 are so great. Bigger than big – that is not a rational statement. You can’t argue with it because, on some level, it doesn’t make sense, but we all know what it means.

3. Comprehensively Test Ads

Both Kim and Justin Croxton (writing for Search Engine Journal) emphasise the importance of testing your ads to find out what works. Kim says that you should create as many ads as you can with slight variations on a workable theme (even commas matter), allowing you to test and test until you nail down the wording that works.

Google gives you the option to let it choose the ads it thinks will work best and then prioritise them in its rotation. Croxton recommends that you opt out of this at first. Doing so will allow you to get a better idea of which ads do and don’t work. Once you’ve got the data, you can dispose of the underperformers and let Google do its thing.

4. Continually Optimise and Change

Kim observes that the top 1% AdWords accounts in terms of performance continually optimise and change up their ads. While it’s tempting to plug in some ads, give AdWords a pot of money, and relax, your competition will always be tweaking to keep up with a constantly changing marketplace.

An ad that looks unique will get old. Keep changing, keep optimising, and stay ahead.

Adthena’s toolset can take this task to the next level, allowing you to see how your competitors are bidding and what their ads look like and even which keywords they use, so that you can optimise accordingly.

5. Max Out Your Quality Score

Remember that your quality score (QS) is not a synonym for your CTR. It’s more like a cycle: your CTR is one of the factors that determines your QS, which in turn contributes to your CTR.

Aside from helping decide the price you pay for clicks, the QS for each one of your ads will determine its rank – also known as the all-important position in the SERP.

How does one improve their QS? According to Wordstream, relevance is the key. The ads you build off the keywords you bid on must be relevant, and the same holds true for your ad copy and landing page.

Think of it from Google’s perspective: if they feature your ad but it has nothing to do with the search query, the user won’t click on it. No click, no cash for Google.

6. Play the Keyword-Game

Kim, this time writing on Optimizely, reminds us that some keywords may seem relevant, but not if you take into account the user’s specific intent. To borrow Kim’s example, someone who searches for dog training is probably looking for a dog trainer, while someone who types in the very similar dog behaviour might actually be interested in animal psychology.

So be as precise as possible!

7. Seek Purchase Intent

Croxton takes it a step further, recommending that you choose keywords that are proven to have a purchase intent behind them. In other words, a customer who searches for software is not as likely to click and buy than someone who searches discounted software or buy software.

8. Optimise Your Landing Pages

This is another one of Croxton’s handy tips. Firstly, ads should almost always point to a specific page with a specific product or service, which is somewhat of a given. But secondly, those pages should be frequently optimised and tweaked, just like your ads.

The heightened relevance of your page, as mentioned above, will contribute to your quality score, in turn passing on more goodness to your CTR.

9. Use the Extensions!

The AdWords Extensions feature, as Croxton explains, allows you to display relevant details about your brand within the ad text. You can add a contact telephone number, location, links within your site, and social media details. Here’s Microsoft’s: you can see how their social and product links make the ad more convincing.


Additionally, telephone contacts and geographic location are great to include if you’re a small or relatively obscure business that needs to build trust or increase in-person exposure.

10. Tighten up Your Mobile PPC

Tim Jensen, writing for Smashing Magazine, observes that there’s a lot of slack to pick up in the mobile PPC sector. And that starts with ensuring that every mobile-optimised ad links to a proper mobile page on your website. This way, you’ll avoid channelling traffic to a broken or awkward desktop page.

Although Google no longer accepts mobile-only ads, you can ask AdWords to prefer mobile devices. And you’d be wise to do so, as Search Engine Land tells us that mobile clicks will account for 50% of all PPC clicks by the end of 2015.

Jensen reports, however, that mobile users spend about half the time that desktop users do on a given website, so the other lesson here is don’t forget about your friend, the click-to-call PPC ad.

11. Use Dynamic Keyword Insertion

Dynamic Keyword Insertion is an AdWords feature that inserts the keyword that the user searched into your ad, thereby increasing its relevance. Done right, this almost always improves performance, Jensen says. However, dynamic insertion won’t work at all if the ad itself isn’t properly targeted to the keywords.

12. Precise Keywords: Turn off Broad Match and Use Three-Word Phrases

Finally, Google’s Broad Match feature allows you to target ads to searches that aren’t rigidly relevant. This is useful, says Jensen, at the start of your campaign to find out what’s hot and what’s not. Once you’ve got a clearer idea of recent trends, however, it’s best to turn it off and focus on a more precise range around your desired keywords.

Moreover, you should try targeting three-word queries, as an ad targeted at a one- or two-word phrase will feature in a wide range of searches, many of them irrelevant to your brand. This way, you’re far more likely to attract people actually looking for your particular type of widget, hence a higher CTR.

Think of it this way: Google will prioritise ads that get clicked to get their dollar, while giving you a discount when this happens with increasing frequency so as to keep their service affordable.

Armed with this knowledge, you might come to see the complexities of PPC as rational, at the very least. But if you’re still overwhelmed and underperforming, Adthena can serve as your PPC eyes and ears to send your CTR skyrocketing.

(Main image credit: NASA Kennedy/flickr)

About the author

Ian O'Rourke
Ian O'Rourke
Ian is the CEO and Founder of Adthena. He has been involved in technology businesses and start-ups for over 22 years and has built businesses across the globe including in Silicon Valley, London, Australia and Taiwan. Ian has grown Adthena since 2012 to its current position as the premier global provider of competitive intelligence. Ian likes to foster a culture of great products, getting things done, responsibility, freedom and continuous improvement.