5 Most Common Ways PPC Accounts Get Out Of Shape

When you first build a PPC account, it’s usually well structured, lean, doesn’t have any fat, and hopefully performs well.

As accounts grow, offers change, websites change CMSs, accounts start to get out of shape.

AdWords is now over ten years old. Many accounts have a decade of changes and additions which have grown out of control and lose their focus.

In today’s column, I’m going to address some of the most common ways that accounts get out of control so you can get them back into prime shape.

Old Ad Tests That Are Still Running

So, we all know by now that you should be testing ads. Many people are good at setting up tests and even declaring winners every few months.

However, after a while, other job duties get in the way and those tests keep running indefinitely. This causes Google to eventually pick a winner for you. Optimization means you have control over your account – not Google.

Recently, I was looking at an account and this was how the advertiser did its ad testing:

  • Turn on optimize for clicks
  • Write ads
  • Let Google serve ads
  • Wait 2 months
  • Write more ads
  • Let Google serve ads and pick a winner
  • Repeat

There’s a big step missing: deleting the old ads.

There were search ad groups with more than 40 active ads in them. I thought this was an anomaly, until I ran into another account that averaged 19 ads per ad group. While some display campaigns might have that many because of different image sizes and themes, this is a no-no for search.

Because Google doesn’t serve the winner 100% of the time, the advertiser’s winning ads were were being served 70% to 80% of the time. All the advertiser did was delete the losers (it took a long time to find them all) and its overall clicks and revenue jumped almost 15%.

Ad testing is essential and so is declaring a winner and removing the losers.

Outdated Offers

I recently did a search and saw an ad for a TV that mentioned a Memorial Day special. Memorial day was 5 months ago. Using special offers, pricing, and events in your ads is a great thing to test. But often these ads are short-term ads, and once the special has passed, they need to be paused until next year.

This is often the problem of putting prices in ads. If you use the API AdParamService, it you can easily update prices in ads. However, most accounts don’t use the API.

Therefore, if you are going to put prices and specials in your ads, make sure they are relevant. If someone sees a $99 price point in an ad and a $129 price on your page, your conversion rates will suffer.

Broken Pages

Sites change, pages get updated, 301 redirects get missed, and eventually you will send traffic to pages that don’t exist. I know one large account which is happy if more than 75% of its clicks go to pages that have content on them. Yep, they are happy when only 25% of the clicks are wasted.

It’s not hard to check your PPC accounts for broken links, but most account managers do not regularly go through this exercise unless there is a major site update. You should be checking all your destination URLs (ads, extensions, keywords) for broken links on a regular basis.

Negative Keywords

Some negatives are added to shape an account so the correct ad shows. Some negatives are added because the word doesn’t convert anywhere in the account.

There’s always a reason you added a negative, but can you remember them all?

I often see when ad groups are ‘optimized’ that the negatives are forgotten. Suddenly, you’re trying to determine why a keyword isn’t showing, and its because of the negatives you added.

Other times, you added a negative because you didn’t offer the product, and now you do, but no one bothered to remove the negatives. Unless you are diligent about checking all your keyword stats, you might miss the fact that some aren’t showing.

There’s a simple set of rules to follow with negatives:

  • If you never want the word to show anywhere in your account, add it to a negative keyword list and apply that list to all your campaigns
  • If you don’t want that word to show for a campaign, make it a campaign negative
  • If you don’t want that word to show for just an ad group, then make it an ad group negative

Unfortunately, most negatives are added at the ad group level. This just forces another ad group to display for the bad query instead of removing yourself from the query altogether.

Auditing, organizing, and controlling your negative keywords can drastically make your life better when diagnosing  and fixing ad serving issues.

Negative keyword lists are underappreciated and underused. If you look at your campaigns, and almost all have the exact same number of negatives in them, then you usually have a problem.

This is usually indicative that negative keyword research was done once or twice and abandoned. In these cases, negative keyword lists can save you time, so you are more likely to add negatives when it’s appropriate to all your campaigns by just applying the same list in multiple places.

Duplicate Keywords

This is one of the biggest issues with large accounts which might have five or twenty ad groups that can show for a keyword.

Suddenly, your stats are very polluted because the same queries are going to different pages, the users are seeing different ads, and you try to start adding negatives everywhere. This can sometimes cause even more problems, as suddenly you aren’t showing for some queries at all anymore.

Take your search query data and put it into a pivot table. Then add the ad groups to the table and see how many different ad groups a query has shown from. In this account, the worst offending query has been shown from 140 different ad groups.

Sometimes You Have To Overhaul The Entire Account

Most people will do anything not to restructure the account. It is a lot of work. That’s why when you take your car into the mechanic and a complete engine overhaul is mentioned, many people balk at the price and drive away in a car that doesn’t work well.

However, if you let the mechanic overhaul your engine, when you drive away, your pocket will be lighter, but you will also remember how fun it was to drive your car when it was new.

That’s what a complete overhaul will do. You have lots of data to work from, so you can take all your data to determine your idea structure, match types, ads, extensions, etc.

The advantage of overhauling an account and making a completely new structure is you are doing it from years of data instead of instinct, like you do with a new account. The work is hard, but the results are usually worth the effort.

Tuning Up Your Flabby PPC

My fellow columnist, Matt Van Wager, had a great idea for a sessions at SMX: Pumping Up Your Flabby PPC Pecs. If you’re around SMX East, you will want to attend this session. I’ll be diving very deeply into negative keywords, and my fellow panelists will be giving other tips on how to take your PPC accounts and overhaul them so they work like new once again.

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 the Founder of Certified Knowledge, a company dedicated to PPC education & training; fficial Google AdWords Seminar Leader, and author of Advanced Google AdWords.

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  • Pat Grady

    Many overhauls done here, you’ve pushed my buttons this morning. :-)

  • http://www.esocialmedia.com Jerry Nordstrom

    Well done Brad. A couple items that I often find need tweaking if you have yet to run through all of your campaigns:
    You can now GEO target using Neilsen DMA so your ads match your radio ad coverage.
    Before targeting was robust many campaigns were structured to use keywords with geo keywords within them.If your geo targeting settings do not match the Geo keyword your ad will not trigger. The same is true for zip code keyword campaigns.
    Accounts have been auto opted into Keyword misspellings, plurals etc, this may not match your campaign goals.
    Optimize pages for devices – many companies waste ad spend by running expensive PC targeted ads for users that are mobile and looking for an address or phone number. Mobile PPC tends to be less expensive in our experience. The visitor behavior is very different as well, they produce high bounce rates as they are in and out quickly. Segmenting Mobile campaigns will keep from skewing the analytics for your other PC based campaigns and save you money.
    Publisher targeting/exclusion. Often we create exclusion lists and never look back. Some sites improve over time, or the cause of poor performance in the past may have been corrected. Review top publisher sites.
    We can now target based on URL, if you are targeting based on top level domain, you should run URL reports to exclude poor performing URLs on specific publishers and target high performing URLs.
    Optimizing landing pages – this is regular maintenance, but often we forget to go back and re-optimize our landing pages to align with changes in how Google ranks our ads according to those pages.
    Outdated offers? – Take advantage of time and date targeting.

    Continuously train – Follow Brad and take his courses to stay on top of the most important changes to the Adwords platform.

  • http://www.facebook.com/daniel.owen.7315 Daniel Owen

    Great meeting you today Brad!


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