How to Diversify Your PPC Campaigns – and Your Skill Sets at the Same Time

HandsIf you’ve been managing pay-per-click campaigns for a while, you probably know that the “80/20” rule applies to many accounts. The “80/20” rule means that 80 percent of your traffic/sales are generated by 20 percent of your keywords. Even though this happenstance is commonplace, there is an inherent danger lurking in your account if you don’t start diversifying immediately.

Around our office, we call the top-performing 20 percent “Golden Corral” keywords. These keywords provide a solid foundation for your account. However, relying solely on your golden corral keywords is known as putting all your eggs into one basket. If your golden corral keywords’ performance ever slips, your entire account will suffer. Diversification insulates you from these fluctuations – because they will happen.

Diversification serves as a defensive tactic by spreading out your traffic to various campaigns. Also, this strategy is proactive because this is how good account managers provide new strategies and leadership. On the flip side, there is also risk with conducting tests and differentiating your traffic sources.

The campaign diversification process is filled with bumps, potholes, and even landmines. Hopefully, most of the tests you launch will achieve a level of success and they will evolve into long-term tactics. Let’s face it: many of the new ideas you bring will not work, and that’s OK. You need to have a process for launching new ideas, monitoring them closely, and making timely decisions when you have generated enough traffic to make a smart decision. Keep the things that work, and discard the tactics that don’t.

If you push to learn and test new ideas, you will diversify your campaigns, which will help your overall performance. But through this process you will grow as a campaign manager as you expand your knowledge and experience. Everyone wins!

Below is a quick plan to get your diversification process started:

Define and Segment Your Golden Corral Keywords

You need to fully understand which keywords belong in your golden corral; segment those terms into specific ad groups and campaigns; monitor and optimize them precisely. If you utilize loose match types like broad match or broad match modified, you should drill down the exact match variations that are truly driving the most valuable traffic.

Develop Your Keyword List

Many accounts I review suffer from lazy keyword strategies. These accounts rely too heavily on broad match to generate the majority of their traffic. There is risk involved in this strategy because you are not truly in control of your traffic; you’re allowing Google to match queries to your general keywords.

As you discover keywords that are high-value or high-potential, you need to extract those queries and shift them into exact match keywords in order to maintain tight control over your traffic. This is an evergreen process. This process should be ongoing so that you continuously expand your keyword list.

Designate a Testing Budget and Plan

Once you have a process down for regularly expanding your keyword list, then you need to designate a testing plan. As I mentioned earlier, many tests won’t be successful, but you need to test to see what works. However, you don’t want these tests to negatively impact overall performance – or at the very least offset the trends that may cause you to make erroneous corrective actions.

The best way to conduct testing while maintaining your core momentum is to create tests outside of your core campaigns when possible, and establish reporting that segments the performance of your core campaigns against those of your testing initiatives.

Also, you should establish a testing budget for each month or quarter. This way, your core budget is not impacted and you continue to optimize that spend – while you are using a smaller budget to find new sources of high-yield traffic.

Promote New Products/Services

I recently reviewed an e-commerce client that has an extension list of products, however only about half of their products were promoted through PPC. Their current strategy was to focus on the “heavy hitter” products that performed the best. This makes total sense and these are their 20 percent golden corral products (golden corral isn’t just for keywords), but they were missing out on huge opportunities.

The client decided to devise a plan to begin expanding their promote products via AdWords. Sure, we may find that certain products just don’t stack up well and they don’t meet our key performance indicator (KPI) requirements, but we may also find a handful of products that do well if we try them out again – especially since these products hadn’t been promoted in a few years.

Expand Your Geographic Targeting

The 80/20 rule can apply to numerous aspects of your campaigns; geographic location is one of them. I’ve reviewed accounts recently that focused heavily on tight niche of metro areas. This made sense because these geographic locations provided the best ROI. However, this exposed a weakness in the account because if a metro area’s performance weakened this could have a significant negative impact.

You should test new markets, or perhaps re-test markets that didn’t work previously. Also, you may have to establish new KPIs for these expanded markets. As with any expansion, you need to reach beyond your comfort zone, while clearly marketing your point-of-diminishing returns.

Introduce New Distribution Channels

Just within Google’s service offerings you have a few distribution channels: Google Search, Search Partner Network, Google Display Network, YouTube, and Gmail Sponsored Promotions. You should review your traffic mix to see where the majority of clicks reside, and then consider an expansion test.

Each of these channels presents opportunities and challenges. Even though each of these channels can be managed through Google, they all require a unique mindset and skill set. For example, if you currently have minimal experience with the Google Display Network (GDN), then you’re going to have to do some educational investment before launching any GDN campaigns.

You can link your YouTube account directly to your AdWords account and run video ads. This can be very powerful, but the targeting options for YouTube campaigns are different from standard AdWords campaigns. So, this will also require some research and education.

Launch New Ad Formats

The core of most PPC campaigns is text-based ads. You can diversify your campaign by utilizing new ad formats such as image ads via the GDN or App Ads. As with any expansion tactic, some ad formats will work better than others and App Ads are totally different from everything else because you are driving app downloads. How can you make all of this work?

On average, we find that image ads via the GDN have a higher click-through rate (CTR) but a weaker conversion rate. But that doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be in your media mix. There is inventory on the GDN reserved specifically for image ads so you may new pockets of distribution. Similar to any other expansion effort, you should segment these new ad types. For example, if you launch new image ads, you should create individual campaigns or at least ad groups for these ads. You need to mark them with campaign naming conventions or labels – or both!

Enroll in New Beta Products

Google AdWords and Bing Ads launch beta products frequently. You should work with your AdWords or Bing Rep closely to get whitelisted for these betas.

For example, I have a client that tries most betas within Google (that make sense for their campaigns). Many of these betas under-performed and they weren’t a good fit. But many betas have provided supplemental traffic with acceptable results. In fact, just recently we launched a new beta for this client that completely changed how we will manage their account going forward (see graph below). The up-tick in this graph was when we launched the new beta tactic in AdWords.

Google AdWords Beta Clicks Conversions

Once we are able to publicly discuss the details, I’ll share them with you – but your main takeaway for now is that you need to continuously new ideas and betas.


As a PPC manager, you are perpetually surrounded by danger! OK, maybe that’s a bit dramatic. Even though the path forward into diversification is difficult and dangerous, the risk of inaction and complacency is equally as grave.

Remember, these efforts are challenging but they will help your campaigns. And you will grow as a PPC manager in the process.

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