Most AdWords accounts are not set up to maximize results for the advertiser. Of the dozens and possibly hundreds I have personally evaluated, most could be quickly and easily optimized to decrease spending and greatly increase traffic and revenue by following the strategies laid out below.
NOTE: Be sure to also check out these two highly recommended posts:
- You Missed the Golden Days of Internet Pay Per Click Advertising for specific AdWords issues to be avoided
- AimClear Search Marketing‘s 6 minute audit for evaluating the performance of your AdWords account
ADWORDS OPTIMIZATION OBJECTIVES:
- Maximize Traffic
- Minimize Cost Per Click (CPC)
- Increase Click Through Rate (CTR)
- Maximize Return on Investment (ROI)
EVALUATION and SETTINGS at CAMPAIGN LEVEL:
- RECOMMENDED BUDGET: Ensure the Daily Budget is sufficient to buy all available quality traffic by using Google’s Recommended Budget Function so your ads will show as consistently as possible. If you wish to limit spending it is better to selectively pause some Ad Groups so that ads for your most important keywords display consistently. Many potential buyers will look for you the same way they originally found you when they’re ready to buy. If they can not find your ad you may lose their business. [WARNING: Raising or setting your budget significantly higher than necessary can result in increased spending and VERY POOR QUALITY traffic! Keep your budgets just high enough to prevent your ads from being limited.]
- BUDGET DELIVERY METHOD: Standard or Accelerated? I recommend always setting it to Accelerated to ensure your ads are running consistently and the recommended budget is adequate.
- BUDGET OPTIMIZER: It is not advisable to use budgeting functions to limit spending because they cause ads to appear inconsistently.
- AD SCHEDULING: Not recommended. Best results are obtained by having ads running consistently. Your buyers use the Internet 24×7 and your ads should run all the time. The only exception is for a business that only sells live via telephone during their business hours – and if you are doing that you really need a better business model and improved Web site.
- POSITION PREFERENCE: This function did not work as advertised the last time I tested it. IF it works now it would be worth using. Testing to verify that would be necessary.
- AD SERVING: Optimize or Rotate. It is best to leave this set to optimize except when testing new ads or landing pages.
- SEARCH NETWORKS: I recommend running ads on the search network and NOT the content network (more detail below). You can run your ads on Google.com only or on Google.com and the Google Search Partners Network. You can not choose to run them on the search partner sites unless you run them at Google.com. While logically one would think that Google search would convert best, I have tested and found that often the search partner network converts better. Unfortunately you can not usually opt out of poor quality search partners so you either accept all qualities or get none of them.
- CONTENT NETWORK / CONTENT BIDS: Content ads almost always convert far less than search ads because someone specifically looking for something is more likely to take action soon than someone clicking out of curiosity. For most advertisers, I advise only considering content or display ads if they are already buying ALL available SEARCH trtaffic. The exception can be carefully targeted ads on hand-chosen content sites with the results tested. Content can occassionally convert higher than search in some niches on some sites.
- LANGUAGE: If your site is in English you would normally only run ads in English.
- LOCATIONS: If you sell across your entire country select that country. If you ship outside your country location select those countries IF you meet the language requirements. If you sell regionally you should start with ads running in your desired location and then expand to running national ads with two types of Ad Groups: 1) that contain general keyword phrases and contain locations in the titles of the ads and 2) that use phrase or exact match keyword phrases that include locations.
AD GROUP SETTINGS:
- BROAD, PHRASE or EXACT MATCH? Broad match keywords or phrases are entered without quotes or brackets around them. Those new to AdWords will often be using only broad match without realizing the danger. Phrase match keywords are within parenthesis: “phrase match keyword” and Exact match keywords are within brackets: [exact match keyword]. Exact match is the safest and should be used to test new keywords. Your ads will be displayed when that exact phrase without any other words is searched. Phrase match can be fairly safe if you use at least two words. Your ad will display for any searches that include that phrase in the exact word order plus any other words before or after it. Although broad match is responsible for sending at least half of sales and traffic in most accounts, it is now so broad that it can be dangerous to use. Before adding any broad match keywords ensure you have as many negative keywords as possible and watch carefully for high traffic and dismal conversions that indicate poor targeting of your ads.
- KEYWORD SELECTION: The best keywords and keyword phrases are specific to what you are offering. ALL keywords in an Ad Group should be similar and appear in the ads – preferably in the Title if they will fit – and on the selected landing page. DO NOT put unrelated keywords in the same Ad Group. Using separate Ad Groups for each set of similar keyword phrases works best; however, you must balance increased effectiveness with additional management from having hundreds or thousands of Ad Groups.
- USE OF GENERAL KEYWORDS: Never use keywords that are so general that they are not specific to what you’re offering. They can be used as part of a phrase that DOES relate to what you advertise.
- USE OF SPECIFIC KEYWORDS: Good use of specific keywords targeting specific products produces the highest conversion rate. Consider adding as many low volume, low cost keyword phrases (commonly referred to as “long-tail” keywords) as possible. Targeting additional specific products by brand, model, model number, color maximizes profits. [NOTE: Most keyword tools only show search phrases that have been used more than a set number of times in a month – usually 10-12. Logical choice of phrases that do not appear in these tools can generate sales especially for high dollar products.]
- NEGATIVE KEYWORDS: Negative keywords are essential for targeting your ads and elminating clicks for products and services you do not offer. They lower your impressions for unrelated searches which increases CTRs which in turn can greatly lower your CPC. Both can reduce ad spend and increase ROI. [WARNING: Running ppc advertising without thoroughly researching and adding negative keywords has been accurately referred to as financial suicide.]
- NEGATIVE EMBEDDED KEYWORDS: These are exact match negative keywords used to block specific phrases from triggering your ads without blocking ads that use those words but not that exact phrase. See how to use Negative Embedded Keywords.
- BID AMOUNTS: There is a tactical advantage in bidding odd amounts. Because most advertisers will end their bids in 0 or 5 and use similar amounts ($0.25, $0.50, $0.75, $1.00, $2, $5) you can easily move in front of many ads for only pennies per click. If more than one person manages your AdWords account each can choose a different odd number to end their bids. That way they know who last changed each bid.
- BIDDING STRATEGY: For maximum traffic at minimum cost, select a target ad position range and adjust bids to display within that range. For most advertisers I recommend third to fifth position as providing the best Return on Investment (ROI) and fifth through eighth for maximum traffic at least cost. There are only rare exceptions that make bidding into first or second position necessary or advisable.
- KEYWORD MATCH ADS: Make sure your Ads and ideally your Ad Titles match your keywords in each Ad Group. If they don’t they should be split out into additional Ad Groups running matching ads which use a landing page specifically optimized for that product.
- ADD TESTING and EFFECTIVENESS: Review all ads and delete any with poor CTRs. Test additional new ads to improve CTR, increase traffic, lower CPC, and increase ROI. [NOTE: For best results always leave one ad unchanged, add new ads, and then delete the existing ad later if desired. Deleting or editing the only existing ad can cause your ads to disappear temporarily. Google manually reviews new ads. Existing ads also have a historical advantage which is lost if they are edited or deleted. Editing ads in AdWords equals deleting and adding a new ad!]
- URLS in ADS: Google allows the capitalization of words within URLs. Use this to make your domain name easier to read. For example, instead of http://growmap.com I would use http://GrowMap.com.
- KEYWORD RESEARCH: Use keyword research tools and review your site logs to find new and negative keyword phrases to add.
Anyone buying Google advertising needs to understand all of the above to ensure they are not overspending – and this isn’t all you need to know. Really understanding AdWords can greatly increase your ROI. Although the systems are different, these concepts can also be applied to other pay per click search engines.
Some may not agree with all of my recommendations and they are welcome to leave comments if they do not. Remember that being Google Certified in AdWords means they passed training designed by Google to benefit Google. I believe in managing AdWords accounts in the manner that most benefits the advertiser – not the search engine.
While I once made a living managing AdWords and other ppc accounts I have been away from doing it full time for a couple of years and systems do change. I believe all the above is still accurate and will ask other consultants who are still full-time AdWords consultants to review it and make suggestions.
Do also read my post You Missed the Golden Days of Internet Pay Per Click Advertising for specific AdWords issues to be avoided. We also recommend using AimClear Search Marketing‘s 6 minute audit for evaluating the performance of your AdWords account.
We have recently come across a brilliant PPC management company and highly recommend their blog posts:
- PPC: The Wrong Way to Improve Efficiency
- PPC: Holiday Bid Management Tips
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