Paid search campaigns — otherwise known as SEM, PPC or CPC — are often thought of as the workhorses of online advertising. They drive clicks and calls to businesses because they are shown to customers at the perfect time — exactly when the customer is searching for a business or service.

I gathered our team of experts together to talk about these campaigns, what we’ve seen and how to make them better. Here’s what we’ve seen in the most effective campaigns:

• Analyze your keywords

More isn’t always better and the quality of your keywords is super-important to Google. Your SEM campaign isn’t the place to practice the ‘ol “throw it on the wall and see what sticks” methodology. Too many keywords can dilute a campaign and remember you’re paying for those clicks, so make them count.

A dentist has thousands of potential keywords available. Check to make sure they treat children in their office so you’re not wasting money on clicks to pediatric dentistry-related keywords. As a consumer, imagine searching the internet for a child’s dentist and calling the office only to learn they don’t see young patients.

Google will shake a finger at you if you’re using keywords that aren’t relevant to your ad copy or your website. This, in turn, makes your Quality Score go down, which makes your Ad Rank go down. A low Ad Rank leads to lower positioning and higher costs. Nobody wants that.

• Present the best landing page

Websites are made up of many pages, most of which have more valuable information than what’s on the home page. So why are you sending all your traffic to the home page?

The landing page should reflect the keywords and ad copy to get the customer exactly where they want to go.

Let’s step into the consumer’s shoes again. You’re searching the internet for local gymnastics classes for your child and click on an ad for a local youth sports academy. You’re taken to the home page that displays photos indicating swim lessons, martial arts, dance, gymnastics and a variety of other activities. Where does one go for information on gymnastics? If the website isn’t easy to navigate, you’ve just lost a potential customer. Best practice is to point ads using gymnastics-related keywords and ad copy directly to a page about gymnastics classes.

• Don’t forget the ad copy

Keywords and landing pages are just the beginning. Now, bring these components together with your ad copy to form a beautiful campaign.

Pet Food Supply Store
Get Everything You Need for Your Pet in One Stop. We Carry It All!

Does that ad make you want to click?

How about this one:

Dog Food – Nutrient Packed & Flavorful‎
Made with Real, Whole Ingredients to Keep Dogs in Optimal Health. Find in Store!

Much better, right?

You don’t have to settle on one ad, we recommend two to three per ad group. Using the pet store example, you’d have one ad group for dogs, one for cats, one for birds and so on. Each ad should be specific to the campaign, have related keywords and send customers to a specific landing page.

Ad copy notes:

  • There is a character limit. Headlines are 30 characters each (you can have two), and the description is 80 characters max.
  • Google doesn’t allow the following in ad copy: extra punctuation, using all caps, phone numbers, some symbols, repetition of words (Free Free Free!), inappropriate spacing, and you are limited to one exclamation point per ad.
  • DKI (Dynamic Keyword Insertion) is enabled by default. This means the keyword used to find your ad will appear in the ad’s headline. This can be disabled manually, and should be if competitor keywords are being used.

• Location, location, location

The most important thing we can say about geographic targeting is to know your audience. Is someone going to drive 10 miles for a dry cleaner? Probably not. But they will probably go much further than that when car shopping.

Over-extending the geographic targets of a campaign can result in lost budget. That’s money that could be spent elsewhere. In the case of the dry cleaner, target the area immediately around the store. Think about how far you’d drive. Three miles? Maybe four?

Businesses such as car dealerships serve a much more regional audience, making it important to be sure you have the budget in place to keep your client appearing in search results for a larger geographic area.

• Scheduling ads

Much like geography, whether or not to day-part (dividing the day into several parts) your campaign depends on your audience and the needs of your client. If a click on an ad at 2 a.m. will be wasted, don’t spend the money on it.

Take the example of a plumber who doesn’t offer after-hours emergency service. There is no point in generating clicks to the site and subsequently calls to the office when no one is going to answer. Only running their ads during business hours can help conserve budget, spending it more effectively during peak business times.

Day-parting isn’t for every advertiser. Many times, people are surfing the web late at night looking for a business they plan to visit in the future, and if you have a robust e-commerce site there is no reason to not serve ads 24/7. But SEM ads are powerful drivers of calls, so if your client isn’t answering the phone on weekends, should you be spending money on weekend ads?

• Tracking calls — and listening to them

Businesses want to know that their advertising dollars are working and call tracking is an easy way to show that.

Adding a dedicated proxy URL and CTN (customer telephone number) to each tactic of a campaign gives a detailed report of exactly how each tactic performed. But more than that, call tracking data can be used to track call times, lengths and even location of callers. Enable call recording and you’ve got an extremely valuable, multi-purpose tool at your disposal.

Once enabled, clients can log-in to their Tru Measure dashboard to listen to calls at any time. A restaurant owner might listen and learn customers are asking about breakfast hours and decide to add that information to their website. They can also use the recordings as a training tool for employees.

Hopefully you’ve picked up some new knowledge from our tips and it helps in bolstering your current and future paid search campaigns. If you’d like more help, the Tru Measure partner management team can be reached at support@trumeasure.com.

Jamie Butow is a Partner Manager at Tru Measure, specializing in social and online reputation management. She has an undergrad degree in journalism and a Master’s degree in media psychology.