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6 Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) Tips For Low Traffic Websites



6 Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) Tips For Low Traffic Websites

Website traffic is an essential resource for every online business. Yes, for the obvious reasons – because more traffic can convert to more customers and therefore more money in the till.

But traffic is also essential for data-driven optimization practices like conversion rate optimization (CRO).

Common CRO testing procedures rely heavily on website traffic for data to run conclusive tests.

Deriving insightful data from web traffic is no big deal for established enterprises like Amazon and Microsoft, which get millions of users every day.

But conversion optimization is more challenging for low-traffic websites.

That doesn’t mean these small businesses should give up on conversion optimization and resort to implementing random hypotheses.

The CRO tips and techniques below are proven to work for low-traffic websites.

The Difficulty In Optimizing Low-traffic Websites

We know how critical testing is to ensure that a website runs optimally and generates revenue.

Tests rely on data and to get a significant result, we need lots of data.

Improving a website’s rank to get more traffic can help in data acquisition.

But going this route can be quite expensive and time-consuming for new and small businesses.

You cannot wait for your website to rank organically and then implement CRO best practices.

However, performing CRO when your website barely gets any traffic is also challenging.

Such websites have smaller sample sizes, and it takes an inappropriately long amount of time to reach statistical significance when running tests with small samples.

Additionally, calling a test before it reaches statistical significance runs the risk of implementing a false positive and shooting yourself in the foot, potentially ruining any progress you may have made over time.

This is why A/B testing and optimization for low-traffic websites is challenging for most marketers.

CRO Tips For Low Traffic Websites

If you Google [Proven CRO Tips], you will come across plenty of generic CRO best practices that work well on high-traffic websites.

But what if you’re just getting started with a new website or struggling to build your audience for other reasons?

1. Run Tests With Low Confidence Level

The confidence level is a critical part of statistics that indicates how true your test results are for the entire population.

In simple terms, it tells you how reliable the test findings are and how safe you are from implementing false results.

The higher the confidence level, the higher the likelihood that a test result is true.

For example:

  • A test between the samples A and B runs at 95% confidence.
  • This tells us that sample A is better than B.
  • That means we have a 95% chance of this result being accurate and sample A actually being better than B.
  • And we have only a 5% chance of this result being false, where sample B being better than A.

When running tests on different samples, you are required to choose a confidence level that ultimately decides the sample size.

A 95% confidence level is the industry standard when performing CRO tests. This leaves only a meager 5% or one in 20 chance of the CRO tests results being false.

This is a risk everyone is happy to take.

However, being 95% confident in the accuracy of your test results requires a large sample size and when running tests on low-traffic websites, sample size is a scarce resource.

In this case, it almost makes sense to lower your confidence level to reduce the sample size needed to reach statistical significance.

Reducing confidence level also speeds up your test and helps you achieve results in a smaller time frame than running tests with the industry-standard confidence level.

Be aware though that when you lower your confidence level, you may compromise the accuracy of your test results.

It is up to you to decide whether you are willing to trade the accuracy of your tests with time.

In my opinion, you should not be afraid to test at 85% or even 80% confidence level.

It is better to test different variations in a shorter time frame rather than waiting for a large sample size to run a test with 90% or 95% confidence.

2. Track Micro-conversions

Conversion is a spectrum with lots of micro-conversions leading up to one macro conversion – the ultimate goal of your website.

Micro-conversions are incremental steps that represent a user’s interest in your brand.

Tracking micro-conversions could be a good idea when optimizing low-traffic websites because smaller conversions occur more frequently and hence are larger in number than the one macro conversion.

For example, an ecommerce website may have a higher add-to-cart rate than completed orders.

Or, a SaaS product may have higher free-trial signups than premium signups.

Tracking these smaller conversions will give you a higher baseline conversion to build your test around.

It is common knowledge that increasing baseline conversion decreases the sample size needed to reach statistical significance and run a successful test.

However, tracking micro-conversions, once again, trades accuracy for the possibility of conducting a successful test.

A micro-conversion may not necessarily contribute to your bottom line, and optimizing your website for these variables may generate misleading results.

Consequently, you can end up doing more damage than good.

So, how can you track micro-conversions while ensuring your efforts will prove profitable in terms of website conversions?

Focus on micro-conversions as a part of the whole user journey and optimize these variables to uplift the entire user experience of your website.

3. Go For Major Changes

When attempting to test a low-traffic website, you don’t have the liberty of testing minute elements and gaining granular insights into your users’ preferences.

And honestly, at this point, you can survive just fine without it.

But this doesn’t mean you can’t A/B test at all.

Going for drastic changes in your variation can lead to an increased lift in your primary variable.

In other words, if you implement a major change in your variation, you are more likely to see a more significant change in baseline conversion.

Let me explain.

If you test minor changes between samples A and B of your website, the difference in conversion would be extremely small.

Sample A may have 5% conversion, while sample B may represent 5.5% conversion.

Image created by author, January 2022

With a lack of a large sample size, the 0.5% lift in conversion is not appreciable enough to conclude that sample B is better than sample A and implement it.

However, if you implement a massive change on your website, you may notice a bigger lift between control and variation.

Sample A (the control) may have the baseline conversion of 5%, while sample B with a considerable change may generate a 45% conversion.

This would show a 40% lift and indicate that sample B is better than A, and you can work your way up from there.

webpage version conversion rates comparisonImage created by author, January 2022

So, in short, if your test variation generates a higher lift in conversion, either positive or negative, it will be easier for you to declare a winner.

4. Use Personalization With Dynamic Data

Almost 66% of customers expect online engagement personalized according to their previous interactions and online behavior.

Website personalization is a critical CRO strategy that can lead to increased conversions, regardless of how much traffic your website gets.

Website personalization entails serving dynamic content to web visitors, as this content is more relevant to their preferences and better resonates with them.

Serving dynamic content is also a data-driven approach that does not rely on web traffic.

It builds on data retrieved from various sources such as a user’s:

  • online behavior,
  • search history,
  • website interaction,
  • location,
  • demographic information,
  • social interactions,
  • CRM data,
  • and more.

Netflix is a prime example of a business serving dynamic content.

It sends push notifications and emails with personalized content recommendations and adjusts the content on the Netflix home page based on your watch history.

Of course, personalization also needs testing and optimization. But tests, in this case, are not as reliant on website traffic as they otherwise are.

Linio, an ecommerce marketplace we’ll use for example, had more than 4 million products. They wanted to optimize their customer journey and better guide the customers to the right items.

For that, Linio employed a personalization engine and created highly personalized experiences.

Their website personalization efforts led to 30% increase in conversions and a 23% boost in revenue per user.

5. Deploy Usability Testing

User or usability testing involves testing a website to reveal its friction points and identify how well it serves its target audience.

It can help discover critical areas for improvements on your website, and enhance the overall user experience.

Usability testing is imperative for websites of all scales.

But it is particularly helpful for low-traffic websites as it only requires a handful of people to carry out tests and still yields meaningful results.

The sole purpose of enhancing UX is to increase conversions. Therefore, improving UX with usability testing should be a critical part of your CRO arsenal.

You cannot (and should not!) rule out usability testing just because it’s a qualitative approach.

Additionally, qualitative data is largely underutilized, so usability testing for optimizing conversions can give you an edge over your competitors.

You do have to be careful when choosing participants for your usability test.

It is ideal if your test participants align with your target buyer persona.

But if that’s not possible, it is important to ensure that these people know a bit about what you are doing to give context to your tests and contribute to meaningful results.

The Polish Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity, to use an example from Torsten Tromm, was struggling to gain donations from their web visitors.

They wanted to figure out the reason why online visitors weren’t making any donations and for that, they deployed usability testing.

The tests they performed led them to the realization that people found their website confusing and difficult to navigate through.

The visitors wanted to donate but didn’t know how.

Therefore, they redesigned their website to shift the donation button higher on the side menu and replaced the donation button copy from “Support it” to “Pay Online” to eliminate any confusion.

As a result of these adjustments, their donations increased by 420%.

6. Use Integrated Feedback Forms

The purpose of CRO is to optimize your website for an enhanced user experience.

And understanding your audience is important for good UX and hence should be considered in conversion optimization.

Brands spend millions of dollars trying to understand their audience so they can optimize their customer touchpoints to be more relevant for the users.

Deploying on-site feedback forms help you understand users’ behavior and won’t cost you millions, either.

Using these forms, you can get insights into how your target audience feels about your website and about their needs.

With closer inspection, you may uncover user behavior trends that can then guide your optimization process.

However, you have to make sure that you ask the right questions to ensure that the feedback you collect propels your optimization campaign in the right direction.

Additionally, you have to build and time your feedback forms appropriately so as not to frustrate the user.

Final Words

Conversion rate optimization is a data-driven process that, when done on websites, largely relies on data collected through website visitors.

But with low-traffic websites, this data is limited, which means you have a small sample size to work with, and quantitative tests may seem unreliable.

That’s no reason to give up on CRO entirely.

There are many quantitative and qualitative optimization tips and strategies you can implement to increase conversions, regardless of how much traffic your website gets.

These strategies include statistical approaches like lowering the confidence level or reducing variations.

Even if your traffic is too low for these tips, you can go for usability testing or feedback forms, which offer equally valuable insights.

More resources:

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Google Dials Back AI Overviews In Search Results, Study Finds




Photo of a mobile device in mans hand with generative google AI Overview on the screen.

According to new research, Google’s AI-generated overviews have undergone significant adjustments since the initial rollout.

The study from SE Ranking analyzed 100,000 keywords and found Google has greatly reduced the frequency of AI overviews.

However, when they appear, they’re more detailed than they were previously.

The study digs into which topics and industries are more likely to get an AI overview. It also looks at how the AI snippets interact with other search features like featured snippets and ads.

Here’s an overview of the findings and what they mean for your SEO efforts.

Declining Frequency Of AI Overviews

In contrast to pre-rollout figures, 8% of the examined searches now trigger an AI Overview.

This represents a 52% drop compared to January levels.

Yevheniia Khromova, the study’s author, believes this means Google is taking a more measured approach, stating:

“The sharp decrease in AI Overview presence likely reflects Google’s efforts to boost the accuracy and trustworthiness of AI-generated answers.”

Longer AI Overviews

Although the frequency of AI overviews has decreased, the ones that do appear provide more detailed information.

The average length of the text has grown by nearly 25% to around 4,342 characters.

In another notable change, AI overviews now link to fewer sources on average – usually just four links after expanding the snippet.

However, 84% still include at least one domain from that query’s top 10 organic search results.

Niche Dynamics & Ranking Factors

The chances of getting an AI overview vary across different industries.

Searches related to relationships, food and beverages, and technology were most likely to trigger AI overviews.

Sensitive areas like healthcare, legal, and news had a low rate of showing AI summaries, less than 1%.

Longer search queries with ten words were more likely to generate an AI overview, with a 19% rate indicating that AI summaries are more useful for complex information needs.

Search terms with lower search volumes and lower cost-per-click were more likely to display AI summaries.

Other Characteristics Of AI Overviews

The research reveals that 45% of AI overviews appear alongside featured snippets, often sourced from the exact domains.

Around 87% of AI overviews now coexist with ads, compared to 73% previously, a statistic that could increase competition for advertising space.

What Does This Mean?

SE Ranking’s research on AI overviews has several implications:

  1. Reduced Risk Of Traffic Losses: Fewer searches trigger AI Overviews that directly answer queries, making organic listings less likely to be demoted or receive less traffic.
  2. Most Impacted Niches: AI overviews appear more in relationships, food, and technology niches. Publishers in these sectors should pay closer attention to Google’s AI overview strategy.
  3. Long-form & In-Depth Content Essential: As AI snippets become longer, companies may need to create more comprehensive content beyond what the overviews cover.

Looking Ahead

While the number of AI overviews has decreased recently, we can’t assume this trend will continue.

AI overviews will undoubtedly continue to transform over time.

It’s crucial to monitor developments closely, try different methods of dealing with them, and adjust game plans as needed.

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10 Tips on How to Rock a Small PPC Budget




10 Tips on How to Rock a Small PPC Budget

Many advertisers have a tight budget for pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, making it challenging to maximize results.

One of the first questions that often looms large is, “How much should we spend?” It’s a pivotal question, one that sets the stage for the entire PPC strategy.

Read on for tips to get started or further optimize budgets for your PPC program to maximize every dollar spent.

1. Set Expectations For The Account

With a smaller budget, managing expectations for the size and scope of the account will allow you to keep focus.

A very common question is: How much should our company spend on PPC?

To start, you must balance your company’s PPC budget with the cost, volume, and competition of keyword searches in your industry.

You’ll also want to implement a well-balanced PPC strategy with display and video formats to engage consumers.

First, determine your daily budget. For example, if the monthly budget is $2,000, the daily budget would be set at $66 per day for the entire account.

The daily budget will also determine how many campaigns you can run at the same time in the account because that $66 will be divided up among all campaigns.

Be aware that Google Ads and Microsoft Ads may occasionally exceed the daily budget to maximize results. The overall monthly budget, however, should not exceed the Daily x Number of Days in the Month.

Now that we know our daily budget, we can focus on prioritizing our goals.

2. Prioritize Goals

Advertisers often have multiple goals per account. A limited budget will also limit the number of campaigns – and the number of goals – you should focus on.

Some common goals include:

  • Brand awareness.
  • Leads.
  • Sales.
  • Repeat sales.

In the example below, the advertiser uses a small budget to promote a scholarship program.

They are using a combination of leads (search campaign) and awareness (display campaign) to divide up a daily budget of $82.

Screenshot from author, May 2024

The next several features can help you laser-focus campaigns to allocate your budget to where you need it most.

Remember, these settings will restrict traffic to the campaign. If you aren’t getting enough traffic, loosen up/expand the settings.

3. Location Targeting

Location targeting is a core consideration in reaching the right audience and helps manage a small ad budget.

To maximize a limited budget, you should focus on only the essential target locations where your customers are located.

While that seems obvious, you should also consider how to refine that to direct the limited budget to core locations. For example:

  • You can refine location targeting by states, cities, ZIP codes, or even a radius around your business.
  • Choosing locations to target should be focused on results.
  • The smaller the geographic area, the less traffic you will get, so balance relevance with budget.
  • Consider adding negative locations where you do not do business to prevent irrelevant clicks that use up precious budget.

If the reporting reveals targeted locations where campaigns are ineffective, consider removing targeting to those areas. You can also try a location bid modifier to reduce ad serving in those areas.

managing ppc budget by location interactionScreenshot by author from Google Ads, May 2024

4. Ad Scheduling

Ad scheduling also helps to control budget by only running ads on certain days and at certain hours of the day.

With a smaller budget, it can help to limit ads to serve only during hours of business operation. You can choose to expand that a bit to accommodate time zones and for searchers doing research outside of business hours.

If you sell online, you are always open, but review reporting for hourly results over time to determine if there are hours of the day with a negative return on investment (ROI).

Limit running PPC ads if the reporting reveals hours of the day when campaigns are ineffective.

Manage a small ppc budget by hour of dayScreenshot by author from Google Ads, May 2024

5. Set Negative Keywords

A well-planned negative keyword list is a golden tactic for controlling budgets.

The purpose is to prevent your ad from showing on keyword searches and websites that are not a good match for your business.

  • Generate negative keywords proactively by brainstorming keyword concepts that may trigger ads erroneously.
  • Review query reports to find irrelevant searches that have already led to clicks.
  • Create lists and apply to the campaign.
  • Repeat on a regular basis because ad trends are always evolving!

6. Smart Bidding

Smart Bidding is a game-changer for efficient ad campaigns. Powered by Google AI, it automatically adjusts bids to serve ads to the right audience within budget.

The AI optimizes the bid for each auction, ideally maximizing conversions while staying within your budget constraints.

Smart bidding strategies available include:

  • Maximize Conversions: Automatically adjust bids to generate as many conversions as possible for the budget.
  • Target Return on Ad Spend (ROAS): This method predicts the value of potential conversions and adjusts bids in real time to maximize return.
  • Target Cost Per Action (CPA): Advertisers set a target cost-per-action (CPA), and Google optimizes bids to get the most conversions within budget and the desired cost per action.

7. Try Display Only Campaigns

display ads for small ppc budgetsScreenshot by author from Google Ads, May 2024

For branding and awareness, a display campaign can expand your reach to a wider audience affordably.

Audience targeting is an art in itself, so review the best options for your budget, including topics, placements, demographics, and more.

Remarketing to your website visitors is a smart targeting strategy to include in your display campaigns to re-engage your audience based on their behavior on your website.

Let your ad performance reporting by placements, audiences, and more guide your optimizations toward the best fit for your business.

audience targeting options for small ppc budgetScreenshot by Lisa Raehsler from Google Ads, May 2024

8. Performance Max Campaigns

Performance Max (PMax) campaigns are available in Google Ads and Microsoft Ads.

In short, automation is used to maximize conversion results by serving ads across channels and with automated ad formats.

This campaign type can be useful for limited budgets in that it uses AI to create assets, select channels, and audiences in a single campaign rather than you dividing the budget among multiple campaign types.

Since the success of the PMax campaign depends on the use of conversion data, that data will need to be available and reliable.

9. Target Less Competitive Keywords

Some keywords can have very high cost-per-click (CPC) in a competitive market. Research keywords to compete effectively on a smaller budget.

Use your analytics account to discover organic searches leading to your website, Google autocomplete, and tools like Google Keyword Planner in the Google Ads account to compare and get estimates.

In this example, a keyword such as “business accounting software” potentially has a lower CPC but also lower volume.

Ideally, you would test both keywords to see how they perform in a live campaign scenario.

comparing keywords for small ppc budgetsScreenshot by author from Google Ads, May 2024

10. Manage Costly Keywords

High volume and competitive keywords can get expensive and put a real dent in the budget.

In addition to the tip above, if the keyword is a high volume/high cost, consider restructuring these keywords into their own campaign to monitor and possibly set more restrictive targeting and budget.

Levers that can impact costs on this include experimenting with match types and any of the tips in this article. Explore the opportunity to write more relevant ad copy to these costly keywords to improve quality.

Every Click Counts

As you navigate these strategies, you will see that managing a PPC account with a limited budget isn’t just about monetary constraints.

Rocking your small PPC budgets involves strategic campaign management, data-driven decisions, and ongoing optimizations.

In the dynamic landscape of paid search advertising, every click counts, and with the right approach, every click can translate into meaningful results.

More resources: 

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What Are They Really Costing You?




What Are They Really Costing You?

This post was sponsored by Adpulse. The opinions expressed in this article are the sponsor’s own.

As managers of paid media, one question drives us all: “How do I improve paid ad performance?”. 

Given that our study found close variant search terms perform poorly, yet more than half of the average budget on Google & Microsoft Ads is being spent on them, managing their impact effectively could well be one of your largest optimization levers toward driving significant improvements in ROI. 

“Close variants help you connect with people who are looking for your business, despite slight variations in the way they search.”

Promising idea…but what about the execution?

We analyzed over 4.5 million clicks and 400,000 conversions to answer this question: With the rise in close variants (intent matching) search terms, what impact are they having on budgets and account performance? Spoiler alert, the impact is substantial. 

True Match Vs. Close Variants: How Do They Perform?

To understand close variant (CV) performance, we must first define the difference between a true match and a close variant. 


What Is a True Match? 

We still remember the good-old-days where keyword match types gave you control over the search terms they triggered, so for this study we used the literal match types to define ‘close variant’ vs ‘true match’. 

  • Exact match keyword => search term matches the keyword exactly. 
  • Phrase match keyword => search term must contain the keyword (same word order).
  • Broad match keyword => search term must contain every individual word in the keyword, but the word order does not matter (the way modified broad match keywords used to work).   


What Is a Close Variant? 

If you’re not familiar with close variants (intent matching) search terms, think of them as search terms that are ‘fuzzy matched’ to the keywords you are actually bidding on. 

Some of these close variants are highly relevant and represent a real opportunity to expand your keywords in a positive way. 

Some are close-ish, but the conversions are expensive. 

And (no shocks here) some are truly wasteful. 

….Both Google and Microsoft Ads do this, and you can’t opt-out.

To give an example: if you were a music therapist, you might bid on the phrase match keyword “music therapist”. An example of a true match search term would be ‘music therapist near me’ because it contains the keyword in its true form (phrase match in this case) and a CV might be ‘music and art therapy’.

How Do Close Variants Compare to True Match?

Short answer… poorly, on both Google and Microsoft Ads. Interestingly however, Google showed the worst performance on both metrics assessed, CPA and ROAS. 

Image created by Adpulse, May 2024

1718772963 395 What Are They Really Costing You

Image created by Adpulse, May 2024

Want to see the data – jump to it here…

CVs have been embraced by both platforms with (as earlier stated), on average more than half of your budget being spent on CV variant matches. That’s a lot of expansion to reach searches you’re not directly bidding for, so it’s clearly a major driver of performance in your account and, therefore, deserving of your attention. 

We anticipated a difference in metrics between CVs and true match search terms, since the true match search terms directly align with the keywords you’re bidding on, derived from your intimate knowledge of the business offering. 

True match conversions should therefore be the low-hanging fruit, leaving the rest for the platforms to find via CVs. Depending on the cost and ROI, this isn’t inherently bad, but logically we would assume CVs would perform worse than true matches, which is exactly what we observed. 

How Can You Limit Wastage on Close Variants?

You can’t opt out of them, however, if your goal is to manage their impact on performance, you can use these three steps to move the needle in the right direction. And of course, if you’re relying on CVs to boost volume, you’ll need to take more of a ‘quality-screening’ rather than a hard-line ‘everything-must-go’ approach to your CV clean out!


Step 1: Diagnose Your CV Problem 

We’re a helpful bunch at Adpulse so while we were scoping our in-app solution, we built a simple spreadsheet that you can use to diagnose how healthy your CVs are. Just make a copy, paste in your keyword and search term data then run the analysis for yourself. Then you can start to clean up any wayward CVs identified. Of course, by virtue of technology, it’s both faster and more advanced in the Adpulse Close Variant Manager 😉.


Step 2: Suggested Campaign Structures for Easier CV Management  

Brand Campaigns

If you don’t want competitors or general searches being matched to your brand keywords, this strategy will solve for that. 

Set up one ad group with your exact brand keyword/s, and another ad group with phrase brand keyword/s, then employ the negative keyword strategies in Step 3 below. You might be surprised at how many CVs have nothing to do with your brand, and identifying variants (and adding negative keywords) becomes easy with this structure.

Don’t forget to add your phrase match brand negatives to non-brand campaigns (we love negative lists for this).

Non-Brand Campaigns with Larger Budgets

We suggest a campaign structure with one ad group per match type:

Example Ad Groups:

    • General Plumbers – Exact
    • General Plumbers – Phrase
    • General Plumbers – Broad
    • Emergency Plumbers – Exact
    • Emergency Plumbers – Phrase
    • Emergency Plumbers – Broad

This allows you to more easily identify variants so you can eliminate them quickly. This also allows you to find new keyword themes based on good quality CVs, and add them easily to the campaign. 

Non-Brand Campaigns with Smaller Budgets

Smaller budgets mean the upside of having more data per ad group outweighs the upside of making it easier to trim unwanted CVs, so go for a simpler theme-based ad group structure:

Example Ad Groups:

    • General Plumbers
    • Emergency Plumbers


Step 3: Ongoing Actions to Tame Close Variants

Adding great CVs as keywords and poor CVs as negatives on a regular basis is the only way to control their impact.

For exact match ad groups we suggest adding mainly root negative keywords. For example, if you were bidding on [buy mens walking shoes] and a CV appeared for ‘mens joggers’, you could add the single word “joggers” as a phrase/broad match negative keyword, which would prevent all future searches that contain joggers. If you added mens joggers as a negative keyword, other searches that contain the word joggers would still be eligible to trigger. 

In ad groups that contain phrase or broad match keywords you shouldn’t use root negatives unless you’re REALLY sure that the root negative should never appear in any search term. You’ll probably find that you use the whole search term added as an exact match negative much more often than using root negs.

The Proof: What (and Why) We Analyzed

We know CVs are part of the conversations marketers frequently have, and by virtue of the number of conversations we have with agencies each week, we’ve witnessed the increase of CV driven frustration amongst marketers. 

Internally we reached a tipping point and decided to data dive to see if it just felt like a large problem, or if it actually IS a large enough problem that we should devote resources to solving it in-app. First stop…data. 

Our study of CV performance started with thousands of Google and Microsoft Ads accounts, using last 30-day data to May 2024, filtered to exclude:

  • Shopping or DSA campaigns/Ad Groups.
  • Accounts with less than 10 conversions.
  • Accounts with a conversion rate above 50%.
  • For ROAS comparisons, any accounts with a ROAS below 200% or above 2500%.

Search terms in the study are therefore from keyword-based search campaigns where those accounts appear to have a reliable conversion tracking setup and have enough conversion data to be individually meaningful.

The cleaned data set comprised over 4.5 million clicks and 400,000 conversions (over 30 days) across Google and Microsoft Ads; a large enough data set to answer questions about CV performance with confidence.

Interestingly, each platform appears to have a different driver for their lower CV performance. 

CPA Results:

Google Ads was able to maintain its conversion rate, but it chased more expensive clicks to achieve it…in fact, clicks at almost double the average CPC of true match! Result: their CPA of CVs worked out roughly double the CPA of true match.                 

Microsoft Ads only saw slightly poorer CPA performance within CVs; their conversion rate was much lower compared to true match, but their saving grace was that they had significantly lower CPCs, and you can afford to have a lower conversion rate if your click costs are also lower. End outcome? Microsoft Ads CPA on CVs was only slightly more expensive when compared to their CPA on true matches; a pleasant surprise 🙂.

What Are They Really Costing You

Image created by Adpulse, May 2024

ROAS Results:

Both platforms showed a similar story; CVs delivered roughly half the ROAS of their true match cousins, with Microsoft Ads again being stronger overall. 


1718772963 395 What Are They Really Costing You

Image created by Adpulse, May 2024

Underlying Data:

For the data nerds amongst us (at Adpulse we self-identify here !) 

1718772963 88 What Are They Really Costing You

Image created by Adpulse, May 2024


Close variant search terms consume, on average, more than half an advertiser’s budget whilst in most cases, performing significantly worse than search terms that actually match the keywords. How much worse? Read above for details ^. Enough that managing their impact effectively could well be one of your largest optimization levers toward driving significant improvements in account ROI. 

Image Credits

Featured Image: Image by Adpulse. Used with permission.

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