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Don’t Leave Your AdWords Account on Autopilot

Too many buttons

You’ve got an AdWords campaign but you’ve neglected it and left it running on autopilot since day one. You’ve been meaning to get back to it but it’s doing ok and you’re afraid to touch it in case you mess it up because you don’t really know what you’re doing.

Adwords campaigns

Sadly, this scenario is common for us at DSA when taking on new clients who’ve tried the DIY route with AdWords. Setting up the account never seems to be an issue, but optimisation is for some reason; most likely due to the differing quality of support provided by Google on both areas. Imagine if your competitors did no optimisation and you just did a few basic tweaks; beating them would be so easy. Likewise, if you’re not doing anything with your account, don’t go crying to anyone when the competition steals your rankings.

Don’t blindly follow advice

Every AdWords account is unique and needs to be optimised differently. You need to approach your account like a mechanic approaching a car or a doctor approaching a patient; find out what’s wrong before you lift a finger.

Don't Blindly follow adwords advice

What, an article giving advice on Google AdWords is telling me to stop blindly following advice? Yes, but what we mean is don’t follow advice that’s specific to someone else’s account. There are far too many variables that make up the differences between accounts, even if it’s exactly the same business as yours in the next town. Costs per click, clickthrough rates, conversion rates, competition, quality scores are just a fraction of the variables that make even similar business perform wildly differently. You need to figure out what works best for you and make it work even better.

Stop being scared

Get AdWords Editor, download your account and export it to somewhere safe. This will keep the core setup of your account retrievable, but settings that are only changeable from inside the AdWords browser interface won’t be saved.

There is no reason to be afraid of making changes when a simple export/import can revert any damage you’re afraid you might do to your account. At least if you’re afraid then you’re aware that you are capable of impacting your account negatively, which is a lot better than adjusting dials, hitting buttons and throwing switches wantonly.

If it’s not working, SHUT IT DOWN

Pausing is the simplest optimisation method. Keywords with high spend and zero conversions and ad text with appalling click through rates are easy to fix just by pausing. I don’t recommend deleting anything as you have paid for that data, despite the negative performance, and it will help prevent you from repeating that failure. Be wary of starving your account of traffic, however; it’s a little too easy to commit commercial suicide through overzealous keyword pausing.

If it's not working shut it down

If you’ve been neglecting your account optimisation duties it’s almost guaranteed that there’s a rogue keyword or two in there drinking a large portion of your budget at a frightening speed. Get in there and plug the leaks.

We’ve discussed pausing keywords, arguably the most basic and fast method of optimisation, but hardly the most surgical – pausing a keyword can be like trying to fix a microchip with a hammer. Digging deeper is necessary to be certain that it is solely the keyword that is the issue. The true culprit could be a bad ad, bad geographic targeting, a bad landing page or suboptimal bidding – this is why it’s important not to knee-jerk when making optimisation decisions. Drill down into the granular levels of your account with the Dimensions tab and Segment menu and, with experience, logic and common sense, you’ll find out what’s really tanking your account.

What is tanking your adwords account

Whenever possible though, try and replace what you’ve paused/switched off with an alternative for further testing. Instead of just pausing a keyword, explore more variations of that keyword and experiment with different match types and ad group-level negatives. This is especially important when pausing ads – don’t ever have an ad group with just a single ad running; you’ll have to idea how well it’s performing due to lacking a point of reference.

Other stuff to optimise

For the impact it has on your account, Quality Score’s importance isn’t emphasised particularly well in the AdWords interface. Quality Score makes or breaks your account; if you have low QS across the board on your keywords you could be paying six times as much to appear lower than a competitor. On the flipside, if your QS is fantastic you can get a 30% discount but the rewards of a high QS hardly outweigh the penalties.

Adwords quality score

Quality Score is so deep that it deserves its own article, but the gist of it is that as long as there’s a defined, logical trail from your keywords, to your ads, to your landing pages then you should have decent QS. When there are discrepancies, such as bidding on keywords that aren’t included in your landing page, QS is noticeably impacted. Click through rate, ad relevance and landing page experience are the three core contributors to the QS algorithm.

QS problems are found and diagnosed by mousing over the status speech bubble icon in the keyword view of the AdWords browser interface. Check to ensure that there’s no red text and you should be all good. If there is red text, you can click the link and the Google support centre will guide you. Don’t OCD on the 8s and 9s as you’ll be moving mountains to make pennies; focus instead on any super-low scores you have and consider pausing them if you don’t think you’re able to fix them without any reasonable amount of work.

This is not the be-all and end-all guide to optimisation, and don’t believe any article that claims to be, but this will give you some helpful nudges in the right direction. Stay tuned for a future in-depth guide to Quality Score but for now you should be comfortable with making basic tweaks to reap huge rewa

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Jonny Holmes

When it comes to PPC, SEO and CRO, Jonny's skill and attention to detail make for consistently great insights. His work makes a measurable contribution to the business

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