By the end of the campaign, we saw weekly CTR’s of 1.14%-1.25% (comparable to the industry average of 0.47%) and CPC’s of $0.16-0.18 (comparable to the industry average of $0.24).

This is a case where we didn’t have creative control over the ads we were using; we couldn’t change them at all. That’s a heck of a challenge, but not the first time it’s happened. Without being able to modify the ads, you’ve got a very limited ability to improve performance so you need to get creative.

It has to start with audience optimization.

It’s absolutely crucial to make sure that your ads are appearing in front of the right audience. Our tactic with this starts with location targeting and then something pretty labor intensive – manual placement targeting.

You can cut down on the labor necessary by starting to target by interest and larger categories and then cutting down on any placement that has these three factors combined:

  • a large number of impressions
  • a terrible CTR
  • and a low click-to-conversion rate.

That improved our CTR, but not massively. That’s fine, though, because it wasn’t supposed to make a massive difference. We did it to make sure that we weren’t advertising in entirely the wrong places. When you do this, it’ll likely also cut down on some of your costs and make sure you’re not paying for sites that give 0 conversions.

The next step is improving the bid strategy. The main goal as always is to maximize conversions for as little as possible, so start that process by doing manual bidding and playing with max bids. Over time if you continue these two main practices, you will improve your display campaign’s performance a great deal and stabilize/lower CPC while getting more and more conversions. You can further increase performance (especially if you’re local or you’re lucky enough to have conversions occur in predictable bunches) by pinpointing the hours conversions happen and turning ads off when conversions are unlikely.

Once you’ve reached a good number of conversions over a thirty day period, the next step is to switch to a CPA bid strategy. If you’ve properly optimized your campaign and hit conversion goals previously, this should shift your campaign into another gear entirely. In the campaign pictured above, after following through with these steps over a 2 month period, we switched on CPA targeting and saw an immediate and dramatic improvement in CTR along with a slight lowering of CPC that improved over time as we continued to optimize.

Some numbers:

This display campaign went from an average CPC of $0.39 and CTR of 0.09% for the 6 months prior to our handling it to an average CPC of $0.15 and CTR of 1.07% in the 2 months CPA was running. Finally, not only did clicks increase for the same cost, these clicks resulted in a higher conversion rate.

A final note:

Don’t rest on your laurels. It’s important to keep optimizing your campaigns even after you see significant impact. In this case the 2nd month saw a 20% decrease in CPC and a 25% increase in CTR over the first. If we’d said ‘ok, that’s good enough, we doubled the industry average CTR and we’re well under the average CPC’ then we would have missed out on even more improvement. Until you’re 100%, there’s always space to improve.


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