Secrets of small business PPC marketing revealed: the key metric

Pay Per Click marketing – creating Google ads which charge you when a prospective customer clicks on them - can seem bewildering to the uninitiated. There are common mistakes, and so much data that it can be hard to see the woods for the trees. Here Azzam Sheikh, Digital Marketing Manager for, talks about the key metric you need to be paying attention to.

With the sheer expansion of Google's advertising options - Affinity Groups, Similar Audiences, Review Extensions, Lightbox Ads, Dynamic Product Ads and  Google Shopping, just to name a few - it’s come a long since way the core offering was only a simple text box with a title, description and a URL.

Back in the early days of the web when Tyre Shopper first launched, this was one of the only options for an ecommerce site to brave the new world of digital marketing – and it understood that the consumer was looking for cheaper alternatives by purchasing online. Michael Bourne, Marketing Director of Tyre Shopper’s parent company, had the foresight to see the direction the consumer web was heading. Low barrier to entry websites could be cobbled together in a matter of weeks, and then gain a sizeable market share quickly.

Starting out

At the time of creating the website, none of the corporate executives had an understanding of PPC (Pay Per Click) and were unsure whether the site would generate £1, let alone over £1M, during a peak season month. It made sense to take advantage of our web developers who claimed they could deliver on a PPC strategy. Unfortunately they made a key mistake; not grouping the keywords correctly.

AdWords is set up so you can create campaign ad groups to manage different types of campaigns – so if you have a product campaign and a content campaign, each of them can be managed separately. Within each campaign, you can break down your ads and keywords into ad groups.

Not using ad groups is one of the biggest mistakes you can make. Instead of segmenting the ads into groups based around similar types of keywords, they lumped all of their keywords into one ad group and showed everyone the same ad.

The problem with this approach is that the ad being shown should match the keyword being searched. The closer the ad copy matches the keyword, the more likely people are to click on the ad (and eventually order).

If you don’t break up your keywords into different ad groups, then you’ll lump everything together underneath the same ad copy. This didn't allow us to customise the ad, and it wasn’t a good fit for the terms being searched for. Consequently we didn’t understand the searchers intent well enough to optimise the campaigns; in a nutshell we were unnecessarily burning money.

Fortunately we were quick to learn and enlist the services of those who specialised in PPC. The most refreshing revelation about this new team was their clinical, data-driven approach. They did not like to second-guess things: they measured, tested and analysed everything. Each PPC campaign was scrutinised and optimised for maximum efficiency. If there is one single take-away from this article, then it should be the importance of analysing everything and refining based on your findings.

PPC example

The example above shows us that the majority of our sales continue to come from visitors aged between 35 and 54. Conversion rate is most efficient within the 35 – 44 age bracket. Cost/Rev is more balanced this week when compared to last, but the 35-44 age range continues to generate the most efficient sales.

All this is well and good. But when exploring the PPC metrics of an ecommerce site, we always need to be keeping our eye on the most important end result; the Cost/Revenue ratio.


The first and foremost and the most important metric to ensure that all campaigns are optimised and delivering on performance is the Cost/Rev. It’s calculated by taking the amount spent on the  campaign (cost £) and dividing it by revenue generated.

The Cost/Rev is the premise that drives the budget you spend on PPC and will quickly be able to tell you if you can afford to compete, helping you inform the best ways to approach your campaign. Besides the basics measurements in PPC i.e. impressions, clicks, CTR, etc. some of the additional factors we measure as an ecommerce site include clicks to basket and basket to sale.

Now we use every available option within Google's repository, and have great fun with it – for example, Bid by weather, a really interesting tool. In the tyre industry sales increase when we see wet weather conditions, and we see huge spikes when it is snowing, so when the condition worsened, our ads were set to display during this period and, as predicted, resulting in an increase in sales. However, no matter how exciting these new features and tools appear to be, the underlining principle must always be at the forefront: does it put money in the pot?

Image credit: Flickr Creative Commons