Yesterday, I wrote about the two primary reasons why your paid search program performs below expectations. If you’re also spending at a ratio of 92:1 to attract search traffic versus convert it, read on for the two off- and on-site tactics you should implement to improve your paid search in 2012.

But First, What You Shouldn’t Do

Time, money, and resources are finite, so what you do to improve your paid search program’s performance is as important as what you don’t do. If your organization is like most, then none of the following are likely to yield any benefits for you in 2012:

  • Increasing your paid search budget
  • Increasing your Max Cost-Per-Click bids
  • Expanding the number of keywords on which you bid
  • Passing the Google Certification Program exam

Each of these tactics, for reasons beyond the scope of this post, is rooted in antiquated thinking about how best to run a paid search account. Instead, read on.

What You Should Do

1. Block and Tackle to Optimize Quality Score: Dozens of factors influence each keyword’s Quality Score, many of which Google doesn’t even disclose. Still, your click-through rates (driven by the relationship between your Keyword, Query, and Ad) matter more than any other. Improve them by:

  • Separating brand and non-brand keywords into different campaigns
  • Writing hyper-focused ads first, then choosing the keywords to pair with them
  • Query mining religiously in order to reduce reliance on Broad Match terms
  • Pausing keywords whose Quality Score you can’t raise above six

Note: In place of Quality Score benchmarks, you can consider other KPI thresholds such as ROI. The goal is ultimately to have a standard of performance that protects the paid search program from poor budgeting decisions.

2. Think Beyond the Landing Page—Way Beyond: I’m still surprised by the extent to which companies focus on building the perfect landing page. It doesn’t exist, but its mythical persistence can be attributed to the constraints of legacy technology (and how those constraints influence our thinking), overemphasis of the landing page’s effect on Quality Score, and other factors.

Overemphasis of landing page optimization usually just drives high second-page bounce rates (i.e., the rate at which visitors abandon the site on the second page) due to what can be perceived as a disruptive, bait-and-switch experience.

Most likely (unless you’re in the lead generation business), your conversion doesn’t take place on the landing page anyway, so you’ll need to consider additional pages. Focus on eliminating bait-and-switch experiences by running a consistent, site-wide campaign that echoes the offer that attracted visitors to you in the first place.

For example, for visitors clicking on ads related to a “20% Off” sale, consider inserting a banner that reinforces this offer at the top, or side, of every page (including checkout). This multipage campaign provides message uniformity, reminding visitors of why they clicked on your ad. The result? Visitors enjoy a consistent site experience from click to conversion, driving improvements in everything from your add to cart rate down to the total number of conversions.

In our third and final installment in the “Turbocharging your Paid Search” series, we’ll focus tomorrow on how to handle objections to the above tactics.