Optimizing AdWords Campaigns

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Assuming you are already running AdWords campaigns, you are probably looking for opportunities to improve your Return on Ad Spend (ROAS).  Since AdWords is a mature marketing channel now, you’re going to have to be efficient and run optimized accounts whenever possible, simply to stay profitable with your ads.  Fortunately, there are a few things you can do that will wildly improve your results, without necessarily requiring a great deal of time or effort.


Converison Funnel1. Integrate Analytics Reporting

First and foremost, have you integrated Analytics with your AdWords account yet?  By doing so, you allow data to flow between your AdWords and Analytics accounts, and open up many more opportunities to see helpful data that will drive your optimization efforts.  For example, setup conversion funnels that show precisely where in the conversion flow that users are leaving your site.  You’ll also be able to see certain truths about who is visiting your site, from when, and when and can factor these details back into your account.  The data that Analytics can provide is truly invaluable and should be considered a first step in any optimization effort.  So  get this setup now if you haven’t already done so!

Quality Score2. Mind Your Quality Score

Make sure your Quality Score for each keyword is ranking 7 or higher.  If you’re running ads with lower quality scores, you are undoubtedly paying considerably more than you need to and receiving less traffic for your budget to boot.  Remember that a quality score is multiplied by your CPC to determine your placement (CPC X QS).

To improve your quality score, make sure your AdGroups are tightly themed and kept relatively small.  Have a customized landing page for each AdGroup, and make sure the search phrase appears on that landing page.  In another article I go more in-depth into Quality Score, but this is the basic idea.  Keep your landing pages and ads highly relevant to the keywords you’re bidding for, and optimize your landing pages for conversions.

3. Precision Targeting

Google allows you to filter traffic to your ads by a number of criteria now, including location, language, and device.  Use these wisely to dramatically reduce the number of people who are exposed to your ad that shouldn’t be.  For example, don’t show your ad for local plumbing on a national basis, and don’t display ads for Spanish speaking legal services to a dominantly Mandarin speaking audience.  You may also want to not show ads for B2B services on mobile devices, since mobile is mostly a personal surfing device for off business hours.  But using targeting in a smart way, one could significantly improve their CTR, Quality Score, and consequently their CPC. This is an example of where those Analytics integrated reports can help drive decision making on how best to target your campaigns.

4. Dig Into Your Placements Reports

There are a number of seasoned AdWords professionals who will tell you to outright avoid the Display network.  But I’d also heard from a few people that Display worked exceptionally well for them; I even heard from one guy who specialized in only Display network advertising.  The truth is probably that it has a lot to do with what you’re selling and how you’re using it.  Keep in mind that display traffic is more passive and higher in the funnel than search traffic. You need to bid and message accordingly.

But equally, consider there is a lot of MFA (Made For AdSense) just content floating around out there that wont serve you well.  For this reason, it is imperative to regularly review your Display Network Placement Report, and see where your ads are showing up.  Use Placement exclusion tools to eliminate poor performing or bad-for-brand sites that you’re placing on. And similarly, you may even discover a few real gems that you’d like to do deeper sponsorships for.  You may even consider doing direct placement deals when you find them.

5. Schedule Your Spend (Day parting)

If you’ve setup conversion goals via your integrated Analytics tools in AdWords, then you’re going to be able to product a pretty nifty multi-line graph allowing you to compare visits to conversions on an hourly basis.  If you sift through this data closely enough, patterns are going to emerge.   You’ll begin to see certain hours when clicks convert better into sales.  You can then using a technique called Day Parting, and set different CPC bids based upon the hour, or pause your campaign accordingly.  This is the kind of granular precision you need to really control your custom acquisition costs, and is another example of where Analytics can drive decision making.

Day parting

6. Use Conversion Optimizer

If you have a mature campaign that has been running a while, then you might consider enabling the Conversion Optimizer tool.  Given enough historical data on your account (and assuming conversion tracking is enabled), Google can make predictions about the conversion of your ads in the future, relative to specified CPC, seasonality, etc, and it will adjust your bids accordingly, to maximize your Return on Ad Spend (ROAS).  Note – you need a minimum of 15 conversions in the past 30 days for Conversion Optimizer to be effective.

In summary, optimization is more about diligence with details than anything mysterious.  Use the Integrated Analytics features to expose more data and just spend some time with the data, looking to expose patterns and trends that you can optimize around.  Sometimes this means changing page flow when you expose a bottleneck in user flow, and other times, it simply means sculpting your AdWords bids to eliminate areas of waste.  In both cases, one just needs to get comfortable with the details and take action to improve upon them.  As laborious as it may sound, these steps are often the key to a profitable AdWords campaign.