blog > stop wasting your ppc budget on permissive keyword matches

Stop wasting your PPC budget on permissive keyword matches

12th of July 2018 ~ tagged ppc, marketing, adwords

A common mistake for newcomers to PPC is to select very permissive keyword match types in an attempt to get the most traffic to their site. The whole point of doing PPC, they reason, is to generate traffic. So the more traffic I'm getting, the better my PPC is working, right?


Don't forget that you are not aiming for maximum traffic (per dollar of budget), you're aiming for maximum conversions (per dollar of budget). If you simply wanted to max out the traffic to your site you could run ads for some super-obscure (and non-competitive) keyword, and thousand of (confused) people would flood into your website before bouncing right out again.

You want the right people to visit. And who the right people are depends on what you're selling.

To illustrate this we can use a simplified version of Ugli's client offering, ie. web design services in Hong Kong. A person in the market for these might go through the following decision-making process:

  • Stage 1. Identify need. She comes to the conclusion (or are told by her boss) that the organisation requires a new website.
  • Stage 2. Research options. She spends some time on Google searching for "web design" (way to broad), then "web design hong kong" (still broad), then "e-commerce agency hong kong" (bam!). During this time there will be a lot of exploratory clicking around and opening of tabs.
  • Stage 3. Evaluate alternatives. Our buyer will then long-list her favourite options, explore their websites in more detail, and search for reviews. She may well be searching for her favourites by name (e.g. "ugli web design" or "ugli hong kong").
  • Stage 4. Commit. Our buyer will then short-list the best candidates and make contact.

As she moves through the process, the buyer transitions from very general searches to highly specific ones. The way she structures her search queries changes dramatically as she gets closer to making her final decision. You need to work out at which part of this process you wish to interpose your ads, and select the keywords and match types appropriate for that stage.

For example, the keyword [website design] is extremely broad. (Note that the square brackets denote exact matching, so this keyword will trigger only if someone searches for that query, verbatim.) In our Google Adwords campaigns, the average cost per click for [website design] is an eye-watering HK$62.63.

However, if you choose a more specific keyword, like [website design HK], you will find a) that fewer people are searching for it, and b) that fewer competing companies are bidding on it. This should make it cheaper, and sure enough, we've found we pay around HK$31.36 for clicks on our ads when they are triggered by that more specific keyword.

The number of people searching is high which means your daily budget will still be used up even at this more specific level – opting to ignore the more general searches and focus on the more specific ones, can save you a ton of money. As with everything to do with online marketing, the secret to success is experimentation – come up with several hypotheses and let them compete with each other – but unless you want to waste your money, start at the highly specific end of the spectrum and adjust until you hit the sweet spot.