2013/09/30 10:57

Profit Driven Management of PPC Campaigns

PPC campaigns are usually optimised towards profitability goals, such as target cost per conversion or target ROI (Return On Investment), sometimes called ROAS (Return On Advertising Spending).

However, the formula of ROI, normally used for financial investment profitability analysis, is not optimal for analysing advertising campaigns. The ultimate goal of e-commerce businesses is to maximise profit, not ROI or cost per conversion. Only marginal profit analysis makes it possible to find the optimal level of advertising campaigns.

The formula described in this article makes marginal profit optimisation relatively easy to enforce in campaign management practice: The bids in the campaign should be increased if the current ROI is greater than the reciprocal of the current price elasticity of clicks. Otherwise, the bids should be decreased.

Marginal profit and cost per conversion

An advertiser, who sells their product online, gains $20 profit per transaction (conversion). The advertiser sets a goal of target cost per conversion of, say, $15 for the PPC campaign.

The campaign brings 1000 conversions spending $12,000 monthly, i.e. the cost per conversion is equal to $12. The advertiser decides therefore to increase the bids and gain more traffic from this campaign. As result of higher bids, the campaign brings 1300 conversions, spending $19,500, i.e. the cost per conversion raises to $15. The revenue grows, and the cost per conversion is at the target.

Was the decision to increase the campaign correct? Let’s calculate the cost of additional conversions: Due to increased bids, the campaign acquired 300 more conversions, and its cost increased by $7,500. This means that the additional 300 conversions were acquired at cost of $25 per conversion, and each additional conversion brought $5 loss. The marginal ROI is negative in this case (-20%) and the profit decreases by $1,500.

marginal cost of conversion

This example shows why cost per conversion is not the optimal target for e-commerce campaigns.

ROI of the PCC campaigns normally decreases if the bids, clicks and number of conversions increase; therefore maximisation of ROI usually leads to a significant limitation of the campaign. However, the example campaign after the changes still has a positive ROI = 33.3%, but the marginal ROI is negative (-20%).

The bids should be increased as long as the profit grows, and the optimum point of the campaign is where the marginal profit (or ROI) is equal to zero.

Simple formula

Marginal profit analysis may look complex, especially in day-to-day campaign management. However, a simple formula can help us to find the optimal point using KPI available in typical campaign statistics.

We are looking for an indicator, showing when the increase of bids will not only increase CPC and clicks, but also increase our profit.

We assume that:

1.    The conversion value (Vc) does not change, i.e. regardless of the ad position, a single conversion brings the same income (the value of the shopping basket remains unchanged).
2.    The conversion rate (CR) does not change. i.e. in both cases, of higher and lower ad position, the percentage of visitors who convert is the same.

The increase of bids is profitable if the increased number of conversion compensates the higher cost per conversion. The relative decrease of profit per conversion (Pc) should be smaller than the relative increase of the number of conversions (C):

ROI AdWords Formula

After transformation:


The left-hand side of this inequality is the profit per conversion divided by the cost per conversion, i.e. ROI. The fraction on the right-hand side of the inequality is the relative increase of CPC divided by the relative increase of clicks. It is the reciprocal of the price elasticity of clicks (E). Therefore, the increase of bids should be profitable if:

ROI greater than 1:E

The full article including the step-by-step derivation of the formula is available to downolad here (PDF file).

Practical use

The relation of Click and CPC is a non-linear function. Generally, this function is increasing (the more clicks, the higher CPC) and usually concave (the more clicks, the faster CPC grows). In the limit, higher CPC does not increase the number of clicks anymore. An example chart of Click(CPC) function is shown below:

Function = Clicks(CPC)

After conversion to price elasticity function:

price elasticity in AdWords

The price elasticity can be easily monitored by AdWords experiments:

AdWords Experiment Results

In the example above, the increase of CPC by 15.8% (from $2.02 to $2.34) caused an increase of clicks by 37.8% (from 484 to 667). Price elasticity is equal to 2.39 (i.e. 37.8÷15.8), and its reciprocal number is 0.42. Therefore, in this case, an increase of bids will be profitable if the current ROI is greater than 0.42 (42%).

Also Google AdWords bid simulator indirectly shows price elasticity data:

Google Bid Simulation

In the example above, a bid increase by 100% should result in 7040 – 6060 = 980 additional clicks (+16.7%). The cost should increase from $702.33 to $1048.95 and CPC should change from $702.33/6060 = $0.12 to $1048.95/7040 = $0.15 (change by +25%). The price elasticity is 16.7/25 = 0.67.

If ROI = 1/E, the campaign is on the optimum level, otherwise there is a space for optimisation, because the campaign is under- or overinvested. If the total value of conversions is smaller than total cost of advertising, the campaign generates operational loss, but even with positive profit, the campaign can be overinvested.

Profit vs CPC Optimum Level AdWords

The analysis of marginal profit is the most accurate method of campaign optimisation and brings better results than target cost per conversion or target ROI. The presented formula makes marginal profit analysis relatively easy: the bids in the campaign should be increased if the current ROI is greater than the reciprocal of the current price elasticity of clicks. Otherwise, the bids should be decreased.

ⓒ 2015 Adequate Ineractive Boutique. The full article including the step-by-step derivation of the formula is available to downolad here.

The profit-driven marketing is a new trend in digital advertising campaigns. It approaches marketing as a profit center instead of as a cost center. The optimum is a compromise: advertisers should aim to achieve the best possible balance between volume and profitability:

Volume Efficency Trade Off by Google

Source: Think With Google

Google has produced a number of publications about profit driven marketing.


Witold Wrodarczyk

CEO, Adequate Interactive Boutique Google Ads & Analytics Certified Facebook Blueprint Certified Facebook Marketing Consultant

Adequate - Interactive boutique

ul. Duchnicka 3
01-796 Warszawa
(+48) 22 299 50 28

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