How to Lower The Cost of Adwords From $584 to $45 Per Lead

How to Lower Your Adwords Cost Per Conversion From $584 to $45

We inherited a wildly unprofitable Adwords account from another agency.  The client was a regional real estate appraiser that chose his former agency because they claimed to specialize in marketing home appraisers online.  He reached out to us after receiving a recommendation from a attendee at one of our events and granted 12khz access to look under the hood at the account.

how to lower cost of adwords

Overall metrics from the previous agency’s campaign over roughly 100 days. $584 per lead.


overall numbers from when 12khz managed this ppc account

Metrics after 100 days of having 12khz manage it. Cost down to $45 per lead.




A Massively Mistaken PPC Strategy

I log into the account and as always, go straight for the cost per conversion.  In my view, the most important metric of a marketing campaign is its effect on cost per customer acquisition and its relationship to customer lifetime value.  An ad campaign that costs a client $10 to make an $11 sale is rarely going to profitable once fixed costs are factored in.  I ask the client to estimate how much profit is made on a new home appraisal, and learn that his $584 cost per client contact is nowhere near profitable.

Find Stuff to Cut Out


The first thing that I do is look at the time of day and days of the week that have seen the most conversions:

ppc conversions by time of day and day of week

Conversions by time of day and day of week (over lifetime of the previous campaign)

In most cases, I have found that PPC campaigns perform best during certain times of day and days of the week.  This being the case, it would only make sense to concentrate one’s ad spend during these high-performing times.  One look at the previous campaign and it becomes clear that it makes no sense to run the ads during the weekends, since not one conversion was tracked on a Saturday or Sunday over the lifetime of this account.

I also notice that there were no conversions outside the hours of 7am-7pm, and the highest converting times were between 11am and 2pm.  The previous campaign was running 24/7, despite the fact that no one was clicking on the ads and converting:

There were clicks all times of day

There were clicks all times of day; they just didn’t convert

We limited the ads from 8am-6pm, Monday through Friday.


Often, I log into accounts that have no negative keywords, but that wasn’t the case with this account.  There was a healthy list of negative keywords, but there was one clear thing missing: negative keywords generated from search terms that triggered the ads.

A thoroughly managed Adwords campaign has its search terms monitored constantly.  From the nature of the list that I saw, the keywords were clearly a predetermined list that was simply added to the account:

premade negative keyword lists are not a panacea

Clearly, no account manager would add terms related to Utah for a campaign running in NJ; this was a premade list devoid of any NJ-specific keywords.

You need to look for search terms such as the following:

negative keywords from search terms

Real estate appraisers do not do mass advertising.  If a person is searching for an appraiser by name, he or she is likely already a customer of that appraiser or has already received a recommendation from a friend.  Bidding on branded keywords in this industry does not make sense in this case (this was confirmed by the 0% conversion rate for these search terms).  There were no such negative keywords in this account, so we added them (a lot of them).

This is how you do it.  Click on “keywords” on the left bar, then click on “search terms” across the top:

how to generate negative keywords from search terms

Find the search terms that you don’t want triggering your ads, and add them as negative keywords.  That’s it.


There are thousands of blogs out there that explain how to a/b test (or split test) your ads.  I have little to add to that conversation outside of “you have to do it because it really helps.”  I recommend that you start learning about it here.

Today, Our Real Estate Appraiser Has a Profitable Adwords Account

One does not have to be an expert in the real estate, legal services, or construction industry to make PPC work.  The important thing is to make decisions based on the numbers and common sense.  If a keyword, time of day, specific type of device, ad, or anything else that you can use to adjust your bidding doesn’t work, stop bidding.  Cutting out what doesn’t work is almost always the best approach for accounts that have limited budgets and it is likely the best approach for you.



7 Invaluable Steps to Marketing a Construction Business Online

7 Invaluable Steps to Marketing a Construction Business Online.

Here’s the list:

  1. Build a responsive website
    1. Include calls-to-action, contact forms, and click-to-dials on every page of the site
    2. Make sure that your title tags and headlines include the geographic areas you serve
  2. Claim and verify your Google My Business and Bing Places listings
  3. Claim your local listings. We call these “local citations” and they will help you show up in the Google local 3-pack.
  4. Get some links from local websites
    1. Sponsor a little league team?  Get a link from their website
    2. Get links from partners and vendors.
    3. Join local organizations like the Chamber of Commerce and get links to your site.
  5. Develop a strategy for online paid advertising on Google and/or Facebook.  This strategy will differ based on your business’s particular niche and customers
  6. Develop a plan to get reviews from your customers.
  7. Prepare a plan to deal with any negative reviews.

Need some guidance on how this is all done? Read on.

1. Build a Responsive Website

A responsive website is a website that automatically adjusts itself to the dimensions of the screen that the visitor is viewing the site on.

If he is on a a massive 40-inch monitor, it occupies the entire screen.

If he is on a mobile phone, it rearranges the site so that it all fits and is legible.

Why do I need a responsive website?

It is really important to have a responsive website for a number of reasons.  To start, most people are searching on mobile phones, not desktops.  If you offer repair services, this is even more pronounced.  Let’s think about the process that a typical person goes through when she needs a garage door repaired:

Mary is on her way to the supermarket on a Saturday morning.  She tries to get her car out of the garage, but when she hits the button, the door seems to be stuck.  She needs it to be fixed fast, so she doesn’t go upstairs and boot up her computer; she takes out her phone and Googles “garage door repair guy near me.”  Google knows that she is on a cell phone and will give preference to mobile-friendly websites when picking results.  She clicks on the first result, and gets to a mobile-friendly website.  There is a little green button on the bottom of the screen with a phone icon on it, which she taps and the phone starts ringing.  In a few seconds, she is on the phone booking an appointment.

This scenario probably looks completely familiar.  If the site that she landed on weren’t responsive or mobile-friendly, it would have been hard to read and would not have had the call button at the bottom.  The odds of her actually getting in touch with the garage door repair guy would have tanked.

What is a call-to-action and why do I need them?

People only do what we tell them to do.  Advertisers have known for decades that when you tell people to “call now!” they are much more likely to do so.  If you feel like your site has about 2x more calls-to-action than it needs, you almost have enough of them.  A lot of your visitors are going to simply skim your site and they will miss some percentage of these calls to action.  The more of them you have, the more likely they are to contact you.

What is a title tag and a header tag?

The blue letters in the Google Results usually are set by the person running the website.  They are called a title tag.

rich snippets example

The header tags are all of the headlines to each section of your page.  You set them with an html markup.

It is important to include the keywords that are relevant to your business.  If you want to rank for “plumbers in Vineland, NJ” and the word “Vineland” is nowhere on your site, you’re not as likely to rank as another website that includes it in the title tags and header tags.

2. Claim and verify your Google My Business and Bing Places listings

Go to  Sign up.

Do the same for

Make sure that you keep an eye out for the verification postcard they send you. It is really important that you verify this listing.

3. Claim Your Local Listings

There are a lot of local directories out there.  While listing a site on 150 different sites used to help quite a bit with SEO, that’s not necessarily the case any longer.  However, it is still important that you list your website.

Your NAP is really, really important.

NAP stands for name, address, and phone number.  As I have outlined in other articles, your NAP must be consistent.

In the case of 12khz’s mailing address, there are three different formats that I’ve seen:

  1. NJ-73 North
  2. Route 73 North
  3. RT-73 North

This can be further complicated by forgetting the “North” or abbreviating it with an “N.”

Pick a format and stick with it. 

The same goes for your phone number.  Don’t list your sales department on some listings and your business cell on others.

The search engines are going to compare the NAP that you have on your site with what they are finding on other sites.  If your site does not match with all of the other listings, the search engine may not understand that they are just different formats of your information; they may think that you’ve moved.

Once you’ve established a NAP to use, start claiming your local listings.

We have a checklist of websites that you can use to do your local citations.  If you don’t have time to do it, click here and contact us.  Local citations are not expensive and are a one-time fee until you move or change your phone number.  We highly discourage you from paying a monthly fee for this service.  There are companies like Yext Superlistings that will charge you thousands of dollars over the lifetime of your business for what is essentially a couple hours of work.  Just pay it once.

4. Get Some Links From Local Websites

While some of these may coincide with the local citations from the previous section, many won’t.  If you do business with other local vendors, you should try getting links from them.  The same goes for local organizations that you are a member of, as well as others that you sponsor.  All of these links serve as further proof that you operate in the area that you say you serve and that you have an actively maintained website.

5. Develop a Strategy for Online Paid Advertising

This is a blog post in an of itself.  Frankly, it could be a college degree.  Regardless, I will try to give you a rough explanation of how you can go about it.

You are probably best off hiring a local company to do it for you

But before anything, make sure that you check out their online reviews.  Many of the companies that handle digital marketing have the following business model: focus resources on getting new leads and spend the least amount possible on actually delivering results.  As long as you have more coming in than leaving, you’re going to make money.  You can usually tell if this is the case with an organization based on the reviews that you see online.  Just Google the company and see what you find.  Don’t let any of them rope you into a long-term contract.  If you look around enough, someone will handle it for you on a month-to-month basis.

Should I advertise on Facebook or on Google?

It is next to impossible to answer this question well without knowing your business and market.  A rule of thumb is that if your customers are actively out looking for someone to provide your service, Google Adwords may be worth exploring. If your customers are not necessarily out searching for your services, you might whet their appetites by putting an ad in front of them.


If you want to get in front of Mary when she’s looking for someone to fix her garage door, Adwords is definitely worth looking into. 

If you want to get Mary to decide that she wants to redo the tile in her bathroom, showing her a picture or video of a beautiful renovation that you did through Facebook ads may do the trick.

I highly advise against doing Adwords yourself.  Remember that Adwords is an auction and as a result, a sort of competition—you can blow through a lot of money fast and not see any results if you’re going up against a bunch of seasoned professionals that know all of the tricks.

Facebook boosted posts are probably not going to help you much.  Again, FB ads are a competition just as Adwords is, and you are going up against highly trained pros that have sophisticated sales funnels.  Additionally, boosted posts are rarely targeted properly by a non-pro.

6. Develop a Plan to Get Online Reviews

People are busy.  They need a good reason to leave a review for you online.

Either you need to make them really happy or really mad if you want them to review you on their own.  Usually, the really mad people are the ones that take the time.

By offering your customers something in exchange for a review, you greatly increase the chances that your normal happy customer will leave you a review.  But where should you have them review you?

Google is the best place for them to leave your reviews.

By emailing them a link to the search results page with your snippet, they can easily leave a review for you.  The reason that this is the preferred place is that Google will show these stars and reviews before reviews from any other site.  The downside to having your customers review you here is that they have to log into their Google account; if they don’t have a Gmail account, they won’t be able to leave the reviews.

There are other places that your customers can leave you reviews

We have seen reviews from the following websites show up in our contractor clients’ search engine results:

  • Facebook
  • Yelp
  • Homeadvisor
  • Angie’s List

If your customers don’t have a gmail account, have them leave you a review in one of these places.

7. Prepare a plan to deal with any negative reviews.

Even the best contractor gets unhappy customers.  Some of them will be mad enough to leave a negative review and you need to have a plan to deal with it.

Don’t write the response with the reviewer in mind; write it with the person reading the review in mind

Your response to the review isn’t going to change the reviewer’s mind, but it will affect the way other potential customers view you.  There are a lot of posts online about the best ways to handle bad online reviews, but here are some pointers for when your construction business gets a negative review:

  1. Mention in the response that you offered to address the reviewer’s issues and give details. Did you try to finish the job the way they wanted but they wouldn’t let you?  Did you offer money back and they were still difficult?
  2. Do not, under any circumstances, become defensive or dismissive.  The readers of the review are going to judge your ability to address problems by your response.  They are going to be asking themselves if they would be happy with the response you gave the negative reviewer if they too have an issue with your work.
Online reviews are going to become more and more important in the construction business as time passes.

My own guess is that eventually, online reviews will become a bigger ranking factor than links, especially in the home services/construction industry.  Contractors and construction companies that actively build their online reputations through a solid review acquisition strategy will reap the benefits down the road.

Adwords Next: A Preview of the New Adwords Interface (w/ Screenshots)

Adwords Next: A Preview of the New Adwords Interface

I am not a fan of the standard Adwords interface and I think that “Adwords Next” is a step in the right direction.  If one compares the current Adwords interface to the interface of Salesforce, Waveapps, or Hubspot, it feels dated and clunky, and some of its most valuable features are somewhat buried.  The new Adwords interface addresses a number of these shortcomings, though the changes are bound to upset more than a few of its veteran users.

Improvement #1: Valuable Features Are Easier to Find.

Adwords Next Example keywords


It can be difficult for a new to Adwords user to learn of the existence of some of Adwords’ most valuable features.  At the top of this list is the “search terms” tab.  The most underutilized tool in the world of PPC is the negative keyword and the “search terms” tab, which can help a PPC manager to identify negative keywords that should be added.  We get to see the work of other agencies all of the time, often because their client is unhappy with the results that they are receiving and want “someone to take a look at what’s going on.”  The most common issue that we see is that the accounts are getting a lot of irrelevant clicks from ads that were triggered by irrelevant search terms. When we dig into these accounts, we see very few negative keywords added, most likely the result of a novice PPC manager that doesn’t ever check the search terms that are triggering the clients’ ads.  Even the most novice of PPC managers would start adding more negative keywords if he realized that his life insurance lawyer client’s ads being triggered by people looking to get their auto insurance claim paid out (believe me, I see it all of the time)

By placing the “negative keywords” and “search terms” tabs so prominently in the interface, this novice PPC manager is more likely to see and click on them in the first place.  Just look at how much more prominent these tabs are now (the difference is even more stark given the smaller sizes of the two images; the negative keywords tab is all but illegible in the “standard” Adwords interface:

Improvement #2: Graphs Are Given More Real Estate on Your Home Screen

Adwords Next Image Overview

The tiny sliver of the standard Adwords interface provided very limited information about the account; so little, that I usually minimized it so that I could focus instead on the numbers in the tables.  The new home screen comes with a larger version of this line graph, as well as:

  • a table for the performance of each ad group
  • a breakdown of ad performance per device
  • a breakdown of ad performance during different times of day and days of the week

In my opinion, the latter of these is the most valuable.


As anyone that has ever talked to me knows, I’m a huge proponent of maximizing performance by cutting out waste.  If you have a limited budget for a campaign (which most clients do) you should focus that limited budget on the highest converting keywords, at the highest converting times of day, on the highest converting days of the week.  A quick glance at this graph to right will tell anyone that this account gets the highest converting clicks around lunchtime on Mondays.  This is valuable info that an Adwords manager may have missed by looking at tables.  The new interface may help managers to see this kind of data.

Hopefully, PPC managers will gain these kinds of insights as far as their ad performance and how it relates to devices as well.

Improvement #3: Loading

The new interface’s loading feels smoother.  Maybe it’s just that I like to see the progression bar that makes it feel like it’s making progress, as opposed to a gear that may just spin around and around.


The new interface’s colors are more similar to what I see on Salesforce, Waveapps, and some other online interfaces that I use regularly.  The new Adwords UI feels as if it is taking a step towards the future.