3 Sure Signs Your PPC Campaigns Need Spring Cleaning

There is no mistaking the official arrival of spring in northern climes. I am not talking about the beautiful blossoms of the dogwood, apple and cherry trees, or the distinctive powerful fragrance of purple lilacs, our official state wildflower up here in New Hampshire.

For me, the true sign of spring here in New England is when neighbors you haven’t seen since the fall emerge into the warm sunshine and begin the annual ritual of spring cleaning their garages and basements.

Which brings me to my PPC topic for this week: how to recognize three sure signs your PPC campaigns need a good spring cleaning.

1. Campaign & Ad Group Clutter

The first sure sign your account needs a good overhaul is when you notice that many of your campaign and ad group names contain words like temp, test, new, or hyphens followed by numbers and initials like -1, -2, or -MVW.

While these names may have had some important and recognizable meaning when you first created them, these spur-of-the-moment naming inspirations become confusing over time and it is easy to forget what the heck they meant in the first place. What happened to that pristine, perfectly constructed set of campaign and ad group names that you, or anyone else, could easily recognize and understand?

Another sure sign of clutter in your account is when you start noticing that you have as many seeing more paused and deleted campaigns as active ones. Not only do these inactive elements clutter up your account and cost you time as you scroll through long lists of inactive account, they also can cause problems when you or someone else accidentally re-activates a paused ad group or campaign.

Here’s a simple test to use to figure out if your account is suffering from clutter. Invite another PPC professional to look at your account and give you some feedback. If you spend the first five minutes apologizing and explaining why your half your campaigns are deleted or paused, and how you’ve been meaning to do this or do that with the account, then you are definitely overdue for a major bout of spring cleaning!

2. Keywords Gathering Dust

What’s that show on TV where people are compulsive hoarders? You know, the one where the people can’t bring themselves to throw anything away? Do you have this problem with your keywords? I don’t know about you, but I definitely have that problem. I hate getting rid of brilliant keywords I’ve thought of or discovered and always hate parting with them.

The fact is, though, that keywords with no impressions or clicks are just like the worthless tchotkes we all have hanging around on shelves and bookcases in our houses, which do nothing more than collect dust. Actually, non-performing keywords are worse than worthless because they can drag down the overall performance of your ad groups and accounts, particularly within Microsoft adCenter.

So here’s what to do about all of your dust-collecting keywords. Be brutal and purge them all! Toss out any keyword that has had no impressions or no clicks since the snow started flying last November.

No long-tail excuses, no ‘what-if’ scenarios about increasing bids, changing landing pages or rewriting ad, and definitely no pausing. Pausing is just kicking the problem down the road and avoiding the problem. If you can’t bring yourself to purge your keyword lists, then you may be a serial keyword hoarder and require professional help.

Of course, before you start purging, make backups of your account, so that you can restore any keywords you’ve deleted.

For obsessive keyword hoarders like me, taking backups gives me the courage to hit the delete key with impunity as I do my spring cleaning, because instead of feeling like I am getting rid of keywords, it feels more like I am simply boxing them up and putting them away in storage for a little while until I can find time to do something with them.

3. Ads That Have Passed Their “Freshness” Date

I would be willing to bet some of us with really mature PPC campaigns, that we’ve got ads that are about to see their second, or even third, spring seasons.

For some types of search-only PPC campaigns, where products and services don’t change frequently and customers typically only buy the product or services only once in a blue moon, this may not be a big problem and a lower priority for your spring-cleaning chores.

However, if the performance of your impressions, clicks, conversions, click-through rates or conversion rates look like this chart below, then you may need to quickly do some major spring cleaning and freshening up.


In particular, look at your display network campaigns. More so than in your search campaigns, stale text and image ads in the display campaigns can cause performance to degrade gradually over time because people visiting their favorite websites get bored seeing the same ad over and over again. Take some time this month to really freshen up your display ads.

Spring Cleaning vs. Major Overhaul

Now, these three suggestions are really meant to get you started taking a look at your campaigns and making some easy adjustments to make them easier to manage and maintain. Once you dig in and start cleaning up, I can guarantee you will find all sorts of areas for improvement that will keep you busy this whole week. If you’ve got some favorite PPC spring-cleaning tips of your own, please leave a comment below and share them with your fellow readers.

Next month, we’ll take a look at moving beyond spring cleaning and discuss major campaign overhauls – when to recognize when you need to do them, how to get started, when to hire-outside contractors rather than doing it all yourself, and how to complete an extreme makeover while still keeping clicks and conversions flowing through to your site.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: SEM | Paid Search Column


About The Author: is President and founder of Find Me Faster a search engine marketing firm based in Nashua, NH. He is a member of SEMNE (Search Engine Marketing New England), and SEMPO, the Search Engine Marketing Professionals Organization as a member and contributing courseware developer for the SEMPO Institute. Matt writes occasionally on internet, search engines and technology topics for IMedia, The NH Business Review and other publications.

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  • FernandoGarces

    Thank you for the article, Matt. I, too, struggle with non-performing keywords that show no activity. That poses the question, though: How are those keywords hurting me if they have no impressions, obviously no CTR, and no cost? Does Google lower my overall quality score for having these keywords?

  • http://www.findmefaster.com Matt Van Wagner

    You are welcome, Fernando.
    Interesting question!

    My gut reaction was that there should be no impact on QS, but I wasn’t sure, so I checked with folks at Google, who confirmed that there is no QS impact for zero impression KWs. However, if the keywords aren’t doing anything for you, it is better to go after other, perhaps broader versions of those KWs to try to gain some traction with them.

    I checked in with some folks at Yahoo on the same topic for adCenter and their answer is about the same, too, with a slight twist. If you have so many non-relevant terms that you trip one of their spam/arbitrage filters, your account’s ability to serve ads could be demoted. That’s probably not going to be a problem for most advertisers, but a good spring-cleaning of your keyword lists will ensure it never is.


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