Crafting the Perfect PPC Recipe with the Food Pyramid

Lorna Rose Gill Posted by Lorna Rose Gill

graphic of a pyramid with differently labelled levels

You may remember the food pyramid, probably from its spot on the wall of your school’s cafeteria. Well, now it’s making a comeback as the perfect analogy for successful PPC.

Taking inspiration from Social Media Today, which used the food pyramid as an analogy for online marketing as a whole, we’re going to narrow the focus to PPC and the most indispensable parts of any campaign.

The food pyramid will guide us as to how much attention and effort we should spend on each specific aspect of PPC, so that each element of paid search gets the attention it needs and you attain a balance in your strategy.

Please note: every brand’s strategy will differ, and I’m not going to make any precise claims– rather, I’m offering an heuristic to guide your overall strategy.

Quality Score

This is the absolute base of the pyramid. Focussing on your quality score (QS) should be your categorical imperative – it is, essentially, a measure of how good you are at your job.

Your QS depends on a variety of factors, important among them your click-through rate and your prior Adwords performance, the rest of the score’s weighting comes from the relevance, but we’ll come onto that shortly.

Your QS is so important because it, along with your bids, is a factor of your rank on the SERP – you want to rank high, this is one place to do it – make good ads that perform well and use the right keywords, and your QS will improve.

Meanwhile, if your quality score is poor, Google will make you pay big, meaning that you have both a financial and performance incentive. As such, your QS should be labelled Start Here, the bottom floor of your PPC Pyramid.


Alongside your QS, relevance should make up the bulk of your work. Is your ad relevant to the users and search strings for which you’re optimising it?

The answer to this question has to be an unambiguous yes, otherwise you’ll be atrophying money, both through clicks from people who don’t want your widgets and through a super-high CPC that Google ratchets up because of their irrelevance.

Your ads, ad copy and landing pages must be relevant, or your campaign and QS will suffer. You may want to charge out there and start using clever keyword tools and bid management software, but before you get at those goodies, you have to get a basic sense of how useful your campaign is to its target audience.


Keywords are the fruit and vegetables of your campaign – there’s loads of them, but handling them correctly is what will really pay off. This means actively monitoring your keyword portfolio to ensure that you’re not wasting your money on terms that are no longer useful to you, or missing out on hot new ones.

You’d also do well to remember the 80:20 rule: do a small number of terms (20%) generate the bulk of your returns (80%)? If so, do you need all of those other keywords? Your search will drastically improve if you regularly flush out redundant bids. It may seem tedious to continuously cycle through your portfolio, but your PPC will grow much stronger as a result.

A solid keyword foundation also requires judicious use of negative keywords: to extend the metaphor, bad keywords that are irrelevant to your campaign (or worse) are like gaps or weak points in your foundation. Seek them out and deal with them before you build on your keyword base.

There are some toys to play with here, however – this is where you get to experiment with wild-card keywords, close variants, and even Adthena’s missing keyword tool, which analyses your portfolio as well as your competitors and tells you which terms would boost your campaign.

Ad Copy

With your remaining time, you’ll need to research and create knockout ad copy. This is a fundamental part of your campaign, but don’t get pulled into spending hours and hours crafting ad copy that’s worthy of a Dickens novel.

If your keywords are in order and your Quality Score is solid, the user wants what you’re marketing, but that doesn’t mean your ad copy doesn’t matter. If your keywords are out and your ads are irrelevant, it doesn’t matter if your copy is perfect – Google will be showing it to the wrong people.

Ad Extensions

Ad extensions are another excellent way of encouraging people to click and helping them to get to the right place in your site. They also help to increase your ‘real estate’ on the SERP driving further attention to your ad and away from whatever your competitors are offering.

Offer extensions leverage the time element by allowing users to make use of a discount that will expire after a certain point, location extensions are great for local businesses to help customers to find them, with maps and other help.

However, all of this cleverness is dependent on efficient ad copy, relevance and keywords – a user won’t care about your offer, no matter how juicy, if they don’t want your product in the first place.

Display URL

If you aren’t optimising your display URLs, you need to start now. Display URLs should be closely related to the keywords you’re marketing so the user is well aware of their destination should they choose to click on the ad.

Google doesn’t insist the display URL has to point to the exact landing page URL, but it’s a good idea to make sure they are closely related to prevent your bounce rate soaring. To boost your reputation, create landing pages at the display URL site to make them more relevant to your audience.

Though this is a savvy way to boost your click through rate, it is, just like ad copy, dependent on the sound foundation provided by the campaign elements below.


The excitement and interest of the bidding process make it a tempting focus. Like your ad copy, it’s vital, and an excellent bidding strategy can turn a great PPC campaign into an amazing one. That said, it can’t rescue a faltering campaign.

Adthena is the perfect tool to help you create a powerful bidding strategy without absorbing all your time. Our Competitive Intelligence suite will tell you how much your competitors are bidding, what they’re bidding on, and when, so your next move becomes perfectly obvious.

Competitive Intelligence

Competitive Intelligence from Adthena is right at the peak of the pyramid, but not because it is less fundamental, like the other higher layers, but because it is so efficient. Adthena’s algorithm monitors search queries, bids and traffic, so you can get the knowledge on how your campaigns and the competition’s are working and why.

Please allow me some poetic license here: strictly speaking, Competitive Intelligence, given that it applies to keywords, bids and pretty much all aspects of PPC, should be a whole pyramid unto itself, but we think that it deserves to sit here at the top of the stack. Competitive Intelligence belongs up here because it allows you to do a great deal with only a little effort.

Because PPC is so complex, it can be hard to know where among this apparently limitless field of interest and work you should spend your precious time. Using the PPC food-pyramid won’t plan your campaign for you, but it will certainly act as a rough guide to help you distribute your valuable resources effectively.

About the author

Lorna Rose Gill
Lorna Rose Gill
Lorna is responsible for acquisition marketing at Adthena, communicating their award-winning product and generating demand. She has developed her career in fast-paced, start-up environments, including two tech track 100 companies. She is curious and passionate and likes to find stories in data and technology.