In 2002 when AdWords was still a relatively new phenomenon, Google’s revenue was roughly 400 million dollars (as reported by Statista). Now, thirteen years later, AdWords is practically a household name (if your house happens to be an ad agency). In 2015, Google’s revenue was over 74 billion dollars – and that number will likely increase this year. This revenue is made up largely of ad sales.A
So, since 2002, there are a lot more of you (or your clients) advertising on Google and spending a lot more on AdWords than at the turn of the century.
Thus, even if you started playing the AdWords game late (e.g., 2010 or beyond), it’s very likely you’ve been running ads on Google for years out of the same account, or have been outsourcing the management of your campaign to an agency for years. At some point or another, your account is bound to get stale, which is usually when people call me in to take a look. I’m here to tell you that even though Google keeps adding new features and changing the rules of paid search, there are still a few basic best practices you can do (or delegate), to ensure your account doesn’t suffer from neglect, particularly since it’s easy to forget all about your AdWords account when there are newer, shinier online marketing tactics to play with (I’m looking at YOU paid social).
Your AdWords account may suffer from neglect if:
- You’re not really paying attention to quality score. Are more than half of your ad impressions are coming from keywords with a quality score of 5 or lower? Google determines quality score using a secret sauce of factors including CTR, keyword relevance to ad copy, ad rank (bid amount, expected CTR, landing page experience, the position of the moon on the fourth Thursday of the month, and the proximity of your ad agency to the equator). But, really, it’s mostly about CTR. If your account is serving up a lot of impressions with a 5 or lower quality score, then the CTR for these keywords is likely poor and this is going to have a negative impact on your quality score. Pause anything with a QS of 3 or less. Do it now. Rip off that bandaid. If your agency isn’t doing this – ask them why the hell not. It’s their job to manage quality along with everything else.
- You’re bidding too high on your brand terms. It’s common practice to set bids higher than you really want to spend when you first launch a campaign – and this includes brand terms because you want to establish a high position and a good quality score. However…after a couple of weeks it should be pretty clear that your brand terms have a good quality because 1) the quality score on most brand terms (assuming you own the brand), should be above 6 (and I’ve seen 9 and 10 for brand terms for many of the campaigns I’ve managed) and 2) the first position bid should be pretty low compared to generic terms. If you’ve set that bid to $10.00 and the first position bid is $.35 – then you, my friend, are paying far too much for your own brand term. For the love of all that’s holy, lower that bid. And while we’re talking about brand terms – ONLY terms that have your brand name in them are brand terms. Get everything else the hell away from you brand campaign and add negatives LIBERALLY.
- Nobody’s noticed that 30% or more of traffic is now coming from mobile devices. How can you tell no one’s noticed? There aren’t any mobile-specific bids and/or mobile-optimized ads (or worse, you’ve set your campaigns to bid higher for ads appearing on mobile devices, but you haven’t created any mobile-optimized ads), location extensions haven’t been implemented and the landing page isn’t mobile friendly. If your campaign suffers from any of the above, it’s time to create a mobile strategy. I have to play Pokemon Go now. You’re welcome.
- Your ad copy hasn’t been updated in months, maybe even years. Are your ads turning yellow and curling at the edges? That means it’s time to refresh them. Also take a good hard look at your ad extensions to make sure you’re implementing them as effectively as possible (hint: CUSTOMIZE THEM BY CAMPAIGN, DAMMIT!) Strong ad extensions are particularly helpful on mobile, so it’s really important to keep looking at these and updating them – make sure they play well with your actual copy too – no need to repeat what you’ve already said in your ad.
The account has “set it and forget it syndrome.” Google has a handy report called the “Change History” which shows all changes made to an account during any given time period. Take a look at it once in a while (or ask your agency to pull it for you). If your changes have dwindled down to the occasional landing page update and budget adjustment, then you’re not doing enough to maintain quality score or manage bids and keywords. Even if you have automated bidding rules set up, it’s important to audit the account monthly to ensure that an egomaniacal keyword or two haven’t taken over your campaign (for example).