You’re going to have a budget, keywords you’re certain you should bid on, and you’d be off to the races, right? Google’s smart, it will get you the right people if you just give it a few ideas.
Then you start seeing some issues…maybe your click through rate is low. Maybe it’s high, but you’re not selling anything. You start to get worried maybe you’re not targeting the right users. And, as search has gotten more expensive, it raises the stakes. You have to spend more to figure out what works and what doesn’t, and there are so many tools you’re not sure if you’ll break something by checking a box.
You do what Google says. You add keywords. You test ad copy. You raise your bids. And yet you find you’re still struggling to turn all that potential search volume into customers.
By the time I’m asked for an audit, there’s usually a version of this occurring. Clients get overwhelmed by the data, the options, the settings, the checkboxes….they are just DONE. And this applies even when they have an agency already managing it. They can’t figure out fact from fiction, or understand three-quarters of the numbers and jargon arriving to them in a report every week.
It makes you wonder…when did this get so hard? When did all the cool options become an overwhelming albatross? Doesn’t Google send freebie $100 “try us out” things for AdWords? What is ALL THIS DATA?!
I’ve audited hundreds of paid search accounts, and I find that often, it’s NOT the cool things that are killing the account. It’s the basics that are getting buried, and that applies whether it’s client or agency-managed. These might not be basics that existed when AdWords launched, but they’re the fundamentals relative to the options there are these days.
There are three main areas I almost always see as a huge problem when I audit an account. Today we’re going to review those and look at some solutions to stop issues before they ever really start.
Let’s talk about how to match and how NOT to match to user search queries, and how that even works. If you don’t understand this, you’re already behind the eight ball on winning at AdWords.
Who here is familiar with negative keywords? And match types?
First, let’s do a brief refresher on what match types are. These tell Google how you want your keyword to be matched to a user’s search query.
If you must stick a post-it note to your computer, it should read “Keywords do not equal search queries.” Setting aside Exact Match, you are NOT exactly matched for the keywords you’re bidding on.
You are matched for search queries that CONTAIN those terms.
Keywords are what you BID on. Search queries are the REAL terms used. The two are not the same.
What does that mean? It means you should be managing NOT ONLY your keywords you bid on, but those that you don’t want to show for: your negative keywords.
It does to these guys.
Here are some examples. Highlighted in yellow were costs tied to irrelevant or mis-matched searches that didn’t convert. Ouch. We’ll talk about irrelevant searches here, and mis-matched searching in the next section.
It’s not all bad, because you also FIND great keyword nuggets thanks to match types. But on the whole, if you don’t monitor this, you will lose money.
Learn it, love it. This is where you can see the actual search queries you’re getting matched to, and the performance tied to each. After a Campaign launches, this is where I spend about 30-50% of my time in an account.
Ok so we’ve covered match types and negative keywords, but you can use these together for maximum effectiveness.
For example, steel buildings. I had a client that sold those, and you know what search query they were most-matched for? “Steel.” That’s it. Just “steel.” It spent a ton of money. I DID want them to show for steel-related keywords, but not just “steel” so I added that as a negative keyword, but as an exact match type. That way they still showed in longer queries containing the keyword, but not for that single-keyword query.
In a good case of why you need to continually monitor your search terms, Man of Steel was released. So guess what became a keyword? The phrase “man of” did.
You can apply negative keywords at a Campaign or Ad Group level. I’ll talk more about some strategies around that in the next section.
Since we’re digging around in your search terms, here’s a bonus tip to help you with your content and account build out.
Campaigns and Ad Groups. Big deal, right? They are two levels that exist with some settings, so what does it matter?
This was an account I took over that was a hot mess. It spent over $100k a month, had a ton of campaigns and ad groups, but they weren’t really thought-out.
Then the keyword volume ballooned over time, without any fundamental revisiting of what made SENSE and gave the client the most control with the cleanest results. They were hesitant to let me restructure things the way I was suggesting, so I did it for a couple ad groups and monitored the performance of their highest-selling keyword.
The before shows 6 months prior, and the “after” monitors a month’s worth of data. All that from restructuring.
There was nothing fancy going on here. They didn’t implement fancy conversion rate optimization, or use sophisticated bidding platforms.
We merely looked at the search terms, and saw how they were being matched. Fundamentals. They aren’t sexy, but they work.
I’ll show you how you find out if you have click bleed occurring, but this is really common when you have a lot of terms that are closely related.
For example, a client that sells CPR training will have a LOT of terms that contain the word CPR. But there are a lot of different searches related to that. Are they searching for CPR training in a certain state? Are they searching based on whether it’s certified by the American Heart Association? Those two searchers want different ad copy. The problem is, if you have different ad groups for those and they’re running broad match, those terms can get matched backwards…because they both contain the “cpr” reference. When it matches incorrectly, the user gets less-optimal ad copy for their specific search.
Remember: Google wants to make money. So by default it’s going to match you by what it feels is most relevant, but also weighted with an eye towards what has the better click through rate. Better CTR doesn’t mean better conversion rate.
This is a simple pivot table you can do to see if you have search queries being matched in ways you don’t want. You can break out how it matches down to the keyword level, but I usually pull back a bit and look at Ad Group first.
You can also show something other than the spend, like conversion rate. This can be helpful during cleanup to help you confirm what Ad Group a term should continue to live in, and then where you need to add negative keywords to other Ad Groups.
So is it just an endless process of pulling terms and watching for matching? It doesn’t have to be. Again: fundamentals. Let’s go back to the very way you structure your account out of the gate. There are two main ways you can structure it to cut down on this problem and save you time later.
The first way is to break your Ad Groups apart by match type. House all Broad matches in one group, and all Exact in another.
Then, take it a step further: paste all your keywords as EXACT MATCH negatives in your broad match Campaign. This helps force Google to match your Exact ad group more often.
Beyond performance, this makes maintenance a lot easier. Can you imagine trying to pull search terms that are applying to both broad and exact match keywords, and trying to figure out how to finagle your negative keywords? Forget it. Total pain. This keeps things tidy. You can spot unprofitable exact match keywords really easily, and focus on search term mining in your Broad group.
Another way is to go even crazier, and house match types at a Campaign level. This gives you all the control of the ad group way, but with the added benefit of being able to control how much budget goes towards each Match Type.
The only difference in how you set it up is that you’d paste all your negative exact match keywords at a Campaign level instead of by each individual ad group.
This is a client I recently convinced to do Campaigns by match type.
Since we’re on the subject of cleaning things up, here’s an easy way to make sure you have at least two ad copy versions being tested. I usually do this after restructuring an account to quickly spot any holes in A/B testing since things get moved around a lot in restructure and setup.
Export your ad copy to an Excel sheet. Create a pivot table where you have a report filter set to only those ads that are enabled
Drag an ad field to values and set to “count” to see how many ad copies are actually live in each ad group.
Your fundamental structure should obviously be about getting you the best results. Your best bet for those results is to have CONTROL and insight. Keeping things tidy, organized, and with a core structure from the get-go gives you immense amounts of both those things. You know exactly where your Broad setups are, so you can go right to those to focus on search query reports. You can easily see if there are performance differences based on match types and then adjust bidding accordingly.
This leads me to something else about control, and the third thing I see severely underutilized or used flat-out incorrectly...
Who knows what bid modifiers are?
These are really where you can start to layer on those tweaks that will take your performance quite a few steps further. It’s easy to get entangled in them though. While we talk about these, keep our previous few slides about account structure in mind – you’ll see how helpful that gets later down the line when you start messing with modifiers.
Bid modifiers are ways that you can increase or decrease your bid according to certain data sets. So for example, you can say I want my default bid to be $2, but for mobile users, I’m willing to pay more. Or I’m willing to pay more on this day, or hour, or less for this certain location.
Let’s talk about Device first, since this is the most common. You can see performance by device type by going under “Segment” and then “Device.” I usually do this at an Ad Group level, since you can manage mobile bid modifiers at that level.
Whoa, what do we have here? Check out those mobile users. While their conversion rate is lower than PC & tablet users, look how cheap it is! You could easily bid more aggressively on mobile users and still come in at a lower cost per conversion then PC & tablet.
Here’s another way to check out your data. Go into the “Dimensions” tab and then View “User locations.”
Here’s an example of two sets of metro areas and their performance. The system will drill down to things like town, but if you don’t have a big data sample at that level, it won’t help you much. I tend to stick to metro areas on larger Campaigns.
Here’s where you can really start to see some nuanced differences in how your metro areas perform. Despite a relatively static CPC, there are huge differences in conversion data for these areas.
There are a couple ways you can handle this:
You can exclude specific locations in your Settings under the “Locations” area.
You can modify the bid if you don’t want to exclude the location completely by doing a -% bid modifier.
You can exclude this metro area here, but set it up in its own Campaign.
This also gets into a structural question: Do you want to house high performing and/or underperforming geo locations in their own campaigns over time? Something to consider, and something made easier if you have a clean account structure that you’re using.
Here’s another thing to look at. This is really important for places that focus on lead gen, especially if you find after-hours calls don’t result in sales, or you don’t want them calling at all.
If you go under “Segment” you can see performance by the ways listed here. Like most things, you’ll want to have a healthy data set to really pick out patterns.
Based on what you find there, you can create custom ad schedules. You can elect to not run at all on specified days/hours, or you can apply bid modifiers based on that same criteria.
Think about this for a minute. The exponential number of ways you can combine all these things is dizzying.
And then it gets a little scarier…
We talked about modifying bids by device type, geographical location, and day/time. When you do this, these modifiers stack on top of each other!
Check out this handy example that Google gives you. When you do more than one modifier, they start to multiply on top of each other. For this reason, I usually break out metro areas into their own Campaigns. I used to also have Devices broken out into their own Campaigns, but Google doesn’t let us do that anymore as of last year, unfortunately.
It’s a blessing and a curse that we have so many tools in AdWords now. Google fosters this perception that anyone can do AdWords, and then gives you a ridiculous screen with options that can sometimes conflict with one another when it comes to overall strategy.
Your best bet to keeping your AdWords as profitable as possible is to be a complete control freak. The more structured your account, the easier your life will be when you need to quickly spot problems or make adjustments. Having a whole bunch of keywords in a single ad group in a Campaign or two won’t get you there these days with the tools and user types that are out there.
Laziness and “set it and forget it” is the fastest way you’ll burn through cash.
Think through your structure. Even if you’re running something NOW, take a step back and figure out how it SHOULD be set up.
Be obsessive about negative keywords. Check your search term reports at least weekly.
Don’t treat all your users the same. Recognize that mobile users will have different performance than PC users searching at 11pm. Adjust accordingly.
When you make these adjustments, port your setup to a more efficient structure, or any of those things, check in on your account. Again, set it and forget it will kill your results.
State of Search 2014
3 Ways to Improve Your
AdWords (and Become
Amigos with Google)
@SusanEDub #StateofSearch 1
Who Am I, Anyway?
• 10 years in digital marketing
• PPC is my favorite (don’t tell the other
• Client & agency experience
• Brands: CircuitCity.com, General Motors,
and many others
• Based in Dallas, where I claim I hate it
from July through September
@SusanEDub #StateofSearch 2
It All Starts Off So Easy…
We’re going to bid on awesome keywords!
We’re going to get perfectly-qualified clicks!
@SusanEDub #StateofSearch 3
Phase One: Sadness
to increase the
@SusanEDub #StateofSearch 4
Phase Two: Frustration
What am I
@SusanEDub #StateofSearch 5
It looks worse before it looks
(Yes,we’re geeking out right now.)
@SusanEDub #StateofSearch 18
Consolidate terms to one column
• “Remove Duplicates” on each column
• Copy keywords in each column to bottom
of Column A.
@SusanEDub #StateofSearch 19
One list, many insights
Hmm. Consumers care about
the material…ad copy &
Ad Group idea & on-site
content idea win!
Ad Group for B2C Campaign,
negative keyword for this Ad
@SusanEDub #StateofSearch 20
Ouch #2: Poor Account Structure
It’s Campaigns and
@SusanEDub #StateofSearch 21
Good Account Structure vs. Bad
• No new ads
• No change in bids
• No change in landing page
• So, what was it?
@SusanEDub #StateofSearch 22
• Cross-matching (aka) “Click bleed”
= Sub-optimal ad copy being shown
• Broad Match gone wild
@SusanEDub #StateofSearch 24
How to Spot Click Bleed
Ad Groups term appeared in + spend
Ad Groups term appeared in + spend
Ad Groups term appeared in + spend
Ad Groups term appeared in + spend
@SusanEDub #StateofSearch 25
How Do We Fix This?
Go to your Ad
Group! Are you
too good for
your Ad Group?
@SusanEDub #StateofSearch 26
Clear Account Structure: Option 1
Ad Group: Broad
Ad Group: Exact
@SusanEDub #StateofSearch 27
Clear Account Structure: Option 2
Ad Group A
Ad Group B
Ad Group A
Ad Group B
@SusanEDub #StateofSearch 28
Does It Work?
@SusanEDub #StateofSearch 29
Bonus Tip: Ad Copy in Rotation
@SusanEDub #StateofSearch 30
Structure = Control & Time
• Negative keyword analysis
• Negative keyword mirroring
• Bid management
• Budget control
• Ad copy control
• Device control
• Daypart control
@SusanEDub #StateofSearch 31
What are Modifiers?
• Gained prominence & function with
Enhanced Campaign roll-out
• Bid modification by % based on criteria:
– Days & Hours
– Device Types (Mobile only…thanks, Google)
– Geographical location
@SusanEDub #StateofSearch 33
Danger, Will Robinson
@SusanEDub #StateofSearch 43
Bonus Tip: Callout Extensions
• New in September
@SusanEDub #StateofSearch 44
Before & After
Acct Average Month Prior:
CTR of Ads with Callout Added:
@SusanEDub #StateofSearch 45
Let’s Wrap This Up
@SusanEDub #StateofSearch 46
You Can’t Be Lazy
• Campaign & Ad Group Structure
• Negative keyword strategy
– Don’t fall off the wagon, the market changes
• Laser-targeted user behaviors and locations
• Check results frequently after making
changes to catch issues
@SusanEDub #StateofSearch 47