Imagine being able to rank higher and pay less for your Google AdWords advertising.  This is not a pipe dream.  It is possible if you can dramatically improve the click through rate (CTR) of your adverts.

If advertisers can deliver good quality, relevant adverts, then Google rewards them by reducing the cost of their clicks. One of the major things that determines this relevance is your CTR. So it is no wonder that digital marketers spend time trying to improve this figure.

So how do you go about it? Here are 7 tried and tested ways to get a higher CTR, that you can start implementing today.

1) Expanded Text Ads

Announced at the Google Summit Performance in May, Expanded Text Ads (ETA) have been available for the past month. This new ad format allows you to have almost 50% more text in your adverts – and research from Wordstream has shown that click through rates can rise by up to 28%.

ETA’s have two headlines of 30-characters each and an 80-character description. Not surprisingly, these ads often stand out more in the search engine results just on account of them filling more space.

adwords expanded text ads


Rather than just add an extra word here and there, ETA’s give us the opportunity to re-examine our messaging and create text ads that really resonate with users. This cannot be over emphasised. Which leads on nicely to my next point…

2) Better Copy

Be honest.  When was the last time that you changed your ad copy? Sometimes changing things up is the key to getting better results.

Ideally you should be split testing your adverts continuously. Have two adverts running in each ad group and once one is performing significantly better than the other, change out the lower performing one for a new advert. Over time, this will gradually improve your CTR.

Although there are examples of the difference that a full stop can make, sometimes it is better to be bold and go for a complete change of meaning.  For example, instead of focussing on the benefits of your product, highlight what the viewer will be missing out on by not clicking your ad.

Other ideas that you could try include putting an offer in the headline, such as this example.

adwords ad with tv sale

Or you could try non-alphanumeric characters such exclamation and question marks, as long as it does not come off as too gimmicky. They work because they stand out against other bland adverts. So go ahead and try # ? ! and putting words in “inverted commas”. Just be careful with headlines as Google’s rules state that you cannot use some characters such as exclamation marks in the headline.

3) Segmentation

Are your ad groups bloated with dozens or even hundreds of keywords? Yes, I have seen this when I’ve been auditing client accounts.  It is no wonder that these accounts have a low CTR. With so many different keywords, it is impossible to write an advert that is really specific for each of them.

Although Google recommend 15-20 keywords in an ad group, I would see this as being a maximum figure.  If you are serious about increasing your CTR I would be thinking of creating ad groups with around 3-5 tightly focussed keywords in them.  And if you have a high traffic keyword, don’t be afraid of creating a single keyword ad group.

Using this strategy, your adverts will be totally relevant to the keywords that your audience have used.

4) Ad Extensions

Ad extensions allow you to place additional information about your business in the advert.  From the point of view of CTR, ad extensions can make your advert appear larger and therefore more likely to be clicked on.

Just about every business can be using sitelink extensions, call out extensions, and call extensions. There are also other more specialist extensions depending on your type of business.

adwords call extensions

The Ad extensions in the above advert are:

a) Seller rating (automated extension)

b) Call out extensions

c) Sitelink extensions

d) Location extension

Google have said that ad extensions are one of the factors that goes into calculating quality score. This is the way that Google determines how much you pay for your ads, so it is well worth using ad extensions if only for this reason.

5) Dynamic Keyword insertion (DKI)

If you have a number of keywords in your ad group, you can automatically make your adverts more relevant to the keyword triggering it by using DKI.  Let’s say you have a translation services company and you have placed the placed the following words into your ‘legal translation’ ad group.

  • German legal translation
  • Polish legal translation
  • French legal translation
  • Spanish legal translation
  • Italian legal translation

Using DKI, you could show people that have searched on the word ‘German legal translation’ an advert that specifically contains the words they are searching for. The same applies for the other languages. The screenshot below shows how you can set up adverts with DKI.

adwords dki

For a user that has taken the time to specifically search for ‘French legal translation’, do you think that they are more likely to click on your targeted DKI advert or just a general ‘legal translation’ advert?

6) Negative keywords

One of the most important ways of refining and improving your campaigns is to ensure your adverts are only showing for relevant user searches.  This involves regularly reviewing the search query report and adding non-relevant queries to your negative keywords list.

adwords negative keywords

By doing this, you’ll ensure that your ads are not being shown unnecessarily.  As well as improving the CTR, this could also cut down on wasted ad spend from people that are not really interested in your service.

7) Geographic targeting settings

Do you know exactly where people that have clicked your ads are geographically located? If you have chosen to target the UK, you may be surprised to find that you are actually getting traffic from USA, Malaysia, India and Australia.

The reason is simple: if you leave ‘Locations options (advanced)’ as default settings, AdWords could show your ad to people that it thinks ‘show an interest in your targeted location’. Changing this setting to ‘People in my targeted location’ will ensure that only people that are actually in your target geographical location will see your adverts.

adwords geographic targeting

This setting should be approached with some care, as you could inadvertently stop ads showing to potential customers.  But it is good for reducing wasted ad spend, if you know what you are doing.

Following these seven tips should help you improve your AdWords performance. See what works for your site and let us know how you get on.