Wondering how to improve your Google Adwords (now Google Ads) PPC campaign or even whether to run one at all in order to find more HR consulting clients?

With all the talk of Snapchat, Instagram, or Facebook algorithm changes, people sometimes forget what a powerful channel Google Adwords can be.

However, things can go wrong. Very wrong.

  • Cost Per Click can go through the roof.
  • Visits may not convert.
  • Bad keyword planning may cause havoc with your Google Adwords return on investment.

Don’t believe me?

I once did an audit of a B2B PPC campaign only to discover that one of the search terms costing clicks was something to do with the boy band, One Direction

Now that’s Broad Match gone awry . . .

How To Improve Your Google Adwords PPC Campaign

In order to help you get a better return on investment from your Adwords spend, let’s work through a set of key questions that will help you improve your Google Adwords PPC campaign performance.

Here are the questions: 

  1. Is Google Adwords still worth doing now that LinkedIn and Facebook have improved their advertising platforms?
  2. How to choose the right keywords?
  3. What is the ideal campaign structure? Anything to watch out for?
  4. Should ad extensions be used?
  5. How to fix an expensive, under-performing PPC campaign?
  6. Any special suggestions for HR consultants and HR tech companies? 

Let’s get into it . . . 

Q1. Is Google Adwords still worth doing now that LinkedIn and Facebook have improved their advertising platforms?

The other channels such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter all have nice targeting which can be interesting to test for prospecting purposes. There are other sites too such as Capterra and Quora which also operate on cost per click models.

Of course, in the HR space,  Indeed has copied Google’s model of providing both organic (free) listings and paid listings for job ads.

Whilst these various sites have interesting targeting and audiences, I find they’re not always effective direct response channels.

For example, LinkedIn has fantastic targeting for an HR business that is seeking new customers or clients but it can but hugely expensive. They have definitely been milking their pricing for all it’s worth. That said, of course, it all comes down to ROI – Return on Investment. If you sell enterprise HR tech to Chief People Officers or you have large placement fees to headhunt key executives, then paying $7 per click on LinkedIn could be worth it. You just need to know your numbers.

I tend to take Facebook’s occupation targeting take it with a pinch of salt. People use job titles but they are not always accurate and the volume may not be big enough for you to get decent returns on a prospecting campaign. Of course, there’s other ever-present issue that people are on Facebook to unwind or catch-up with news and updates from their friends – they’re less inclined to respond your call to action for a webinar or industry white paper.

Adwords can give you critical mass – it helps you scale-up and do this quickly.

Q2. How to choose the right keywords?

Keywords are the building blocks of a Google Adwords campaign but it can be hard to know where to start.

Obviously keyword analysis and campaign build-outs can go very in-depth but here’s a simple process to follow . . .

Get a list of 30 keywords relating to what you do or what people look for. Perhaps you offer employee timekeeping software so build it out to include time-tracking software, staff work hours software, and so on.

Use Google Adwords’ free Keyword Planner tool to build-out the list. Do a quick sense-check and then add locations to all the keywords (if locations make sense for your business – a SaaS product probably won’t need them).

It is absolutely vital to have a strong list of negative keywords.

An Adwords agency or consultant can do all the research in the world but only you and your business colleagues will completely understand your service and your industry so you need to be involved.

You can waste half your clicks with the wrong keywords.

For example, an employee engagement consultancy could waste expensive ad clicks thanks to people searching for wedding engagement products. Yes, they are entirely unrelated but many people inadvertently click on these ads by accident or just not reading the ad copy properly, costing you $2 or more pay click. It is imperative that you explicitly define your offer in the ad to try to prevent this from happening.

Q3. What is the ideal campaign structure? Anything to watch out for?

I always tend to say: never bid on Broad Match on its own unless you have a huge negative keyword list.

Note: What is Broad Match? It lets a keyword trigger your ad to show whenever someone searches for that phrase, similar phrases, singular or plural forms, misspellings, synonyms, related searches, and other such variations.

Typically, every keyword will have its own Adgroup. Yes, that can be a lot of Adgroups, hundreds or thousands.

For example, ‘employee engagement consultant’ has its own Adgroup and ‘employee engagement firm’ would have its own Adgroup too.

Start with Exact Match. Then duplicate those campaigns and make them Modified Broad Match (this means putting the + symbol before each keyword).

For example, putting the + symbol in front of ‘employee engagement consultant’ would let your ad appear when someone types in ‘recommended employee engagement consultant’. You’d need to add all your Exact Match keywords as negative keywords in the Modified Broad Match so they don’t double-up.

If I could do everything as Exact Match, I would, but you’ll need to add Modified Broad Match keywords to scale-up your campaign otherwise you’ll be waiting a while for your next client.

In recent times, there’s been a new campaign structure being pushed by agencies: Use one AdGroup with Modified Broad, Exact, and Phrase Match for the one keyword all in the one AdGroup. You may get more overall clicks but it’s likely to still default to the Exact Match and, besides, the structure I mentioned above gives you more control.

Q4. Should ad extensions be used?

Absolutely, yes. It’s very important that you expand your ad results otherwise you’ll blend in with the rest of the search results.

Site links, Call-outs, snippet extensions – you’re making your ad bigger and giving it more real estate.

Promotion extension links could be used for offering free HR industry white papers and so on.

Extension links do not cost extra – they are the same cost per click as the ad click. It’s the same for Call Extension where you encourage the person to phone your office. Talking to someone should always convert at a much higher rate than getting the to download a free report.

Not every keyword needs its own site extension but, where you can, it helps as long as you build site link extensions that relate to that keyword. You should be aware that it’s a lot of work and very manual.

How To Improve PPC Campaign To Get More Human Resources Customers

Q5. How to fix an expensive, under-performing PPC campaign?

Most people are probably aware of what I call the ‘Holy Trinity’ of keyword, ad, and landing page. If you’re sending clicks to a broad, generic page, you’ll get fewer clicks and a worse Quality Score.

Beyond Quality Score, you then need to be very wary about what your bidding spend.

Understand what a lead is worth to you and then never pay more than than in your CPC. It may not be the right channel for you. In the legal space, there are companies that turn on a campaign with a set budget and never look at it so it’s hard to compete with them. So you can bid less and go for a lower position or go for long-tail keywords and then work on your QS.

Once you understand your numbers and the targets to work towards, you can focus on making incremental improvements.

Clean-up your negative keywords and definitely make sure that there are no One Direction keywords in there like you found, Ben!

Note: For example, if you sell LMS software (Learning Management Software) and you have the keyword ‘staff training software’ – make sure you add ‘sales’ as a negative keyword otherwise you’ll be bidding against companies that sell sales training.

You’ll also need very clear ad copy – don’t be vague or too clever. Lazy agencies or newbie marketers use general copy with one adgroup with hundreds of keywords all going to one ad and one landing page – this is expensive and subpar.

Furthermore, it is very hard to automate the build-out of multiple keywords and ads so I usually recommend staying away from Dynamic Insertion. Dynamic insertion can be handy to quickly test new ideas but it is often grammatically incorrect and can hurt your ad performance (and hurt your budget).

You might have campaigns with hundreds of thousands of keywords but, if you have different physical office locations, you can craft the ads so that the nearest office shows up in the ad copy.

We’ve taken on accounts where we’ve quickly slashed the Adwords spend (whilst getting the same number of sales) because they’ve been overbidding to always be in first place in the search results and haven’t had enough negative keywords. They could easily be in positions 2 to 4 and still get the same volume of traffic but with better quality visitors to the business website. Aim for what works and brings you the best return on investment. In areas with a small population you may need to be in top place but in large markets like New York, you can even be down in 5th place and still be getting good quality clicks.

Q6. Any special suggestions for HR consultants and HR tech companies?

A Google Adwords campaign should be looked at as an asset or a weapon, not an expense. If you work it right. Instead of spending thousands on radio ads and wondering if they work, your Adwords campaign is trackable, and unlike SEO, it is instant.

Focus on your overall ROI (Return on Investment). What you initially think is expensive may not actually be so if you can achieve a positive return on the spend.

Make use of your special offers such as a download of free guide/white paper for employers, a 30-minute free consultation, or a free trial of your HR SaaS product). Push the ‘free’ angle for trials or downloads. If it’s a free guide, say it explicitly and have it in the ad copy (Note: Not in the headline – that’s reserved for your keyword) and in the site extension links. You could even try testing Price Extension links and offer a paid guide alongside a free one to boost take-up of the free one first.

Finally, make sure you have it all tracked using Goal Tracking in Google Analytics so you can show total spend, number of clicks, downloads, cost per lead (and later look to see who converts and LTV etc) to establish a proof of concept.

Next Step

Google Adwords (now Google Ads) is still a powerful channel for most businesses within the HR industry.

Need Help?

If you’d like some advice on how to improve your Google Adwords PPC campaign, visit our Marketing For HR Companies page.

Post updated on 14 September 2023 Originally posted 2018.