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The 29 Best WordPress Plugins (Organized by Category)

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WordPress plugins make your life easier by allowing you to add features to your website without learning to code or hire a developer.

However, over 60,000 WordPress plugins are available, and more are released every day. Plus, installing too many plugins can cause slow website loading speeds, so you want to avoid adding too many of these plugins.

To help you limit your installed plugins to only the most worthy, I’ve compiled this list of the 29 best WordPress plugins categorized by what they’re good for. 

This list comes from my more than 12 years of experience building WordPress websites and working closely with my WordPress developer.

Best WordPress plugins for website design

First up, we have some plugins to help you design and add specific functionalities to your WordPress website.

Elementor

Elementor drag-and-drop page builder example

Cost: Free ($59/year for premium)

Useful for:

  • Building a website theme with drag-and-drop editing 
  • Easily creating custom landing pages

Elementor is awesome for anyone who wants a custom-looking website without learning how to code or being limited to a pre-built theme. But it also has pre-built themes you can customize to streamline the process.

Be aware that using any kind of drag-and-drop editor like this will slow down your site.

WooCommerce

WooCommerce product display blocks

Cost: Free

Useful for: Turning your WordPress website into an e-commerce store

WooCommerce is the best plugin to start an e-commerce business on your WordPress website. It allows you to easily create product pages and collections.

You can combine it with WooCommerce Payments to easily collect customer payment information.

Advanced Custom Fields Pro

Advanced Custom Fields Pro WordPress UI

Cost: $49/year for a single site

Useful for: Creating custom widgets to use anywhere on your site 

If you know how to code, Advanced Custom Fields Pro allows you to take full control over your WordPress edit screens and custom field data.

WPCode

WPCode user interface explanation

Cost: Free ($49–$399/year for premium)

Useful for: Inserting code into your headers and footers

Formerly called Insert Headers and Footers, WPCode is the easiest way for non-developers to add code snippets anywhere on their website. 

For example, you may have to add a code snippet to your website’s header to connect it with Google Analytics or to add the Facebook Remarketing Pixel.

WPForms

WPForms form editor UI

Cost: $49.50/year

Useful for:

  • Creating forms for contact pages, newsletter sign-ups, and more
  • Building surveys for your site visitors

WPForms is a drag-and-drop WordPress form editor. It’s super intuitive and easy to use.

TranslatePress

TranslatePress language translation plugin

Cost: €89/year (~USD 95)

Useful for: Translating your website into other languages

TranslatePress makes it easy to create translated versions of your website in other languages. It also automatically adds the hreflang tags for each language, so it’s also good for SEO. 

Formilla

Formilla live chat WordPress plugin

Cost: Free (varying premium plans starting at $19.99/month)

Useful for: Adding a live chat feature to your site

Formilla is a live chat plugin for WordPress. You can offer live chat support or use it to answer visitors’ questions automatically using a bot—although that may annoy them.

Best WordPress plugins for website management & security

Next up, we’ve got a whole suite of plugins that help you make your website more secure and easier to manage. WordPress sites are often vulnerable to hacking, so these are important.

Wordfence

Wordfence dashboard

Cost: Free ($119/year for premium)

Useful for: Keeping your website safe from hackers and malware

Wordfence adds a robust firewall and malware scanner to protect your site from hackers and malicious software. You can also use it to add two-factor login authentication, have rate limiting, and run security diagnostics on your site—to name a few of the features. 

UpdraftPlus

Cost: Free ($119/year for premium)

Useful for: Backing up your WordPress website

It’s important to back up your website every so often to avoid losing your content in the event of a plugin clash, hack, or even accidental deletion. UpdraftPlus makes this easy for you.

Wordable

Cost: Free ($50/month for premium)

Useful for: Uploading content from Google Docs to WordPress at the click of a button

Wordable makes it easy to upload content from Google Docs to your WordPress website (including images, formatting, etc., without any extra hidden code). It’s saved me a lot of time and money not needing to do it myself or having my virtual assistant to do it.

PublishPress

PublishPress role capabilities dashboard

Cost: $129–$399/year (depending on tier)

Useful for: Managing a team of writers and editors on your website

PublishPress makes it easy to manage multiple writers and editors on your site, with the ability to manage their permissions of what they can do and see. It also includes an editorial calendar, new blocks for the Gutenberg editor, and more.

MemberPress

Membership site built using MemberPress WordPress plugin

Cost: $179.50–$399.50/year (depending on tier)

Useful for: Creating a membership website

MemberPress makes it easy to turn your WordPress website into a paid membership site, allowing you to build and sell courses and forums and put them behind a paywall.

Uncanny Automator

Cost: $149–$399/year (depending on tier)

Useful for: Automating tasks on your website

Uncanny Automator is like Zapier but for WordPress. It can automate tasks like sharing a post to social media or in a newsletter when it’s published, track data in a spreadsheet whenever a product is purchased, and a million other things. Its only limit is your own creativity.

WP Simple Pay

WordPress payment forms using WP Simple Pay

Cost: $49.50–$299.50/year (depending on tier)

Useful for: Adding a simple Stripe payment processor to your site

WP Simple Pay makes it easy to accept Stripe payments on your website. This is great if you only sell a few products or services and want to avoid the trouble of setting up the WooCommerce plugin and connecting it with a payment processor and your bank.

WP Mail SMTP

Cost: $49–$399/year (depending on tier)

Useful for: Improving email deliverability

WP Mail SMTP allows you to set up SMTP and PHP mail servers to improve your email deliverability whenever you send customers or visitors an email from your site.

Best WordPress plugins for site speed optimization

A quick-loading site is vital for audience retention, conversions, and SEO. To help you speed up your WordPress site, you can consider using these plugins.

NitroPack

Cost: $17.50–$146.67/month (depending on tier)

Useful for: An all-in-one tool to speed up your website

NitroPack is my favorite all-in-one speed enhancer, with smart caching, image optimization, a built-in CDN, and more—all without needing developer experience. However, it’s not cheap. If you need a more affordable option, look at the next two plugins.

WP Rocket

Cost: $59–$299/year (depending on tier)

Useful for: Adding website caching

WP Rocket adds caching to your WordPress website, allowing you to improve your loading speeds and Core Web Vitals score. However, it doesn’t have image optimization or a CDN, so it’s missing features compared to NitroPack. That’s where the next plugin comes in.

Autoptimize

Cost: Free

Useful for: Adding website speed optimization features like image compression

Autoptimize fills in the gaps left by WP Rocket. It can aggregate, minify and cache scripts and styles, inject CSS in the page head by default, optimize and lazy-load images, and much more. However, it does require some learning and tweaking, so it’s not very beginner-friendly.

Best WordPress plugins for marketing

Traffic is what makes your website valuable. Here are some of the best WordPress plugins to help you promote your site.

PushEngage

Cost: Free ($9–$49/month for premium)

Useful for: Adding push notifications to your website

PushEngage is the best push notification plugin I’ve found. It lets you easily advertise push notification services to your visitors and sends the notifications in a way that is well designed and easy to use. 

Keep in mind that push notifications can be extremely annoying to visitors if you’re not cautious about them.

RafflePress

Cost: $39.50–$499.50/year (depending on tier)

Useful for: Running viral raffles and giveaways

RafflePress makes running raffles and giveaways on your site easy by giving visitors single-click options to earn entries. They can follow, subscribe, like, and comment just by clicking each button on your giveaway and get extra entries for each task they complete.

OptinMonster

OptinMonster form editor

Cost: $9–$49/month (depending on tier)

Useful for: Creating beautiful opt-in forms and gamified wheels

OptinMonster is a form-builder plugin that helps you optimize conversions to grow your email list. It also has gamified wheels, which I’ve never used. But it seems like a fun thing to test for e-commerce websites.

Thrive Quiz Builder

Cost: $99/year (or $299/year for the entire Thrive Suite)

Useful for: Creating quizzes on your site that are easily shareable

Thrive Quiz Builder makes it easy to, well, build quizzes. You can use it to make one of those viral Facebook quizzes moms love to take and share their results. 

Smash Balloon

Cost: $49–$299/year (depending on which feeds you want)

Useful for: Adding social media feeds to your website

Smash Balloon makes displaying feeds from your social media profiles on your WordPress website easy. This is helpful if you want to showcase your photography or video services or rely heavily on social media for sponsorships. 

Best WordPress plugins for SEO

Search engine optimization (SEO) is an important part of growing your website. In my experience, the following plugins are the best WordPress SEO plugins.

Yoast SEO/Rank Math/SEOPress

Rank Math blog post SEO settings

Cost: Free (various paid options)

Useful for:

  • Basic on-page SEO
  • Creating a robots.txt file and sitemap
  • Easily editing metadata 

These types of plugins are essential for a WordPress website. They allow you to edit important SEO options on your pages and make implementing SEO on your site much easier and more streamlined.

Of these three, my personal favorite is Rank Math. I have used Yoast SEO and SEOPress, but I like the team behind Rank Math the most and find the plugin to be easy to use with a solid UI. They’re all great, however, and do pretty much the same things. Just pick one.

Ahrefs’ WordPress SEO Plugin

Ahrefs' WordPress SEO plugin dashboard

Cost: Free

Useful for: Suggesting ways to better optimize your content to rank higher in search results

Our SEO plugin makes it easy to automate content audits, monitor backlinks, and grow organic traffic to your WordPress website. It’s free, so try it out.

MonsterInsights

MonsterInsights analytics overview dashboard

Cost: $99.50–$399.50/year (depending on tier)

Useful for: Gathering helpful insights into your site traffic 

MonsterInsights is a WordPress analytics plugin that shows you insights into how much traffic you’re getting, which pages people are visiting, and what they’re doing. It also provides e-commerce insights like goal conversions and also integrates with Google Analytics. 

Best WordPress plugins for affiliate marketing

Last but not least, the following plugins are excellent to help you make more money from affiliate marketing.

Lasso

Cost: $39–$299/month (depending on how many sites you want it for)

Useful for: 

  • Tracking, managing, and automating your affiliate links
  • Creating product display boxes and comparison tables
  • Getting suggestions for new affiliate programs

Lasso gets my favorite plugin of the year award. It makes tracking, managing, and automating your affiliate links easy. Plus, you can create conversion-optimized product display boxes and tables, get suggestions for affiliate programs for products you’re mentioning but not affiliated with, and more.

AffiliateWP

AffiliateWP dashboard

Cost: $39–$299/month (depending on how many sites you want it for)

Useful for: Adding an affiliate program to your website

AffiliateWP allows you to create and manage your own affiliate program so you can have affiliates promote your products for you.

AdSanity

Cost: $59–$179/year ($499 for lifetime access)

Useful for: Managing ads on your WordPress website

AdSanity makes it easy to manage ads on your site and add them using widgets, shortcodes, or template tags. It also gives you publishing options to create start and end dates, analytics reporting to see your ads’ effectiveness, and more. 

Final thoughts

There are a lot of WordPress plugins out there. Many are unnecessary, and having too many can add code bloat and drastically slow down your website.

Hopefully, you’ve found the right plugins in this list to install only the ones you really need and avoid others you don’t. 

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Google Dials Back AI Overviews In Search Results, Study Finds

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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

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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?

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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.” support.google.com

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


TL;DR

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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