Best KPIs for PPC, SEM

When you’re building a PPC account, you need to keep your goals in mind. This will affect everything from your bidding strategy to your KPIs.  If you have a trusted PPC partner, make sure they are asking you the right questions to ensure they’re addressing and prioritizing your goals. While it varies some depending on your situation, these are the best KPIs for PPC, SEM.


If your goal is exposure, to get in front of as many eyes as possible, then you’ll pay more attention to impressions. Impressions indicate when your ad is on the screen. Impressions don’t guarantee that your ad was actually seen, and don’t indicate any interaction with your ad, so unless you explicitly just want exposure, this shouldn’t be the end all KPI for your account.

If you’re focused on visibility, you’ll probably use a Viewable CPM or Manual CPM bidding strategy for this goal. Just so we’re clear on terms, CPM means Cost Per Thousand Impressions and Viewable CPM is a bidding strategy where you bid on 1,000 viewable impressions wherein “viewable” means 50% or more of your ad shows on screen for one second or longer for Display ads and two seconds or longer for Video ads. With Manual CPM, you take control of manually setting CPM bids. You can read more about Viewable CPM bidding from Google.


Clicks are a great indicator of how your ads are resonating with your audience. If you have high impressions, but few clicks (low CTR), you should look at doing some A/B testing and try different ads that are more tailored to the adgroup or reorganize your adgroups to be very specific. The connection between keywords, adgroup, ads, and landing page should be very strong – this will increase account performance across all KPIs. Group similar keywords together in adgroups, use the keywords in the ads, and make sure the landing page uses those words as well. You can get more clicks at a lower cost if everything is aligned properly.

For Display ads, set realistic CTR expectations. Your CTR (click through rate) is going to be pretty low. For Search ads, if you follow the practice I just laid out and get your adgroups really specific and target high intent, low funnel keywords, then your CTR can get really high!

If your goal is to get website traffic from your ads, then Clicks will be an important KPI for you, and you might choose a Manual CPC bidding strategy (with or without Enhanced CPC added on). Enhanced CPC can help get you more conversions from manual bidding, using Google automation to help determine when a conversion is more likely. In order to use Enhanced CPC, you’ll need to implement conversion tracking.


If you’re really focused on ROI and post click metrics, you should prioritize conversions. Conversions require more set up, but are really worth the time and effort when it comes to tracking how much potential and real revenue comes from your ads. If you can close the loop between marketing and sales, then you know where your marketing money is going and how many sales it’s bringing in. First things first- use call extensions and message extensions. Phone calls from ad extensions will automatically be pulled into your conversions.

You can also import conversions from Google Analytics to track form fills and other conversion actions. Additionally, you can implement call tracking from your website, so if users go to your website from the ad, then call from the website, that will still count as a conversion.

The more visibility you have into these post-click actions, the smarter you can be about the changes you make to bids in your account. If certain keywords are converting more, and at a low cost (low CPA – cost per acquisition) maybe you bid those up to get a higher position, thus more opportunity for clicks, and then more conversions.

Bounce Rate

While this is not the most important metric, you should take it into consideration. If your bounce rate for a campaign or adgroup is higher than your average bounce rate for your website, try a different or more relevant web page as your landing page. Test it out for a couple weeks and compare the data. Stick with the landing page with the lower bounce rate.

Impression Share

Google calculates impression share like this: impression share = impressions / total eligible impressions. This KPI factors in how many of the total impressions you get. Factors that influence this include bids, budget and competition primarily. On brand campaigns, your impression share should be very high. For more competitive, broad keywords, it will probably be lower. If you have a very low impression share, you are likely spread too thin and should consider some ways to get more focused, whether that be reducing your location targeting to get more precise, implementing day parting, or even pausing high spend and low performance keywords or adgroups.

Average Position

Some people think that you need to have an average position of 1.0 for all of your keywords. That is very foolish. And expensive. Your ROI will plummet. Your CPC and CPA will spike. You’ll be wasting a lot of money. For Brand, aim for about a 1.3 or 1.4 unless you have competition bidding on your name (then you might want to try for a higher position so they don’t take your customers).

For other campaigns, aim for an average position of 1.5 or 1.7. This means you’re hitting the 1 or 2 position, but will keep your CPCs and CPAs at a more reasonable level. You can go into your keywords and bid up keywords that have a very low average position and bid down keywords with a very high average position.

I know it may seem like a lot, so if you’re feeling overwhelmed you may want to get a trusted SEM/PPC partner to set up the account and run it for you or show you how to run it. There are a lot of moving parts, and it takes some attention to detail to see how everything connects. There are specialists for a reason, so don’t be afraid to raise your hand and get some help. As always, EVG can help you with this and with other elements of your marketing plan to help you reach your goals.

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