AdWords Campaign Management – Best Practices for 2014

by Adam McCluskey April 23rd, 2014 

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After a long winter, its time to put the hat and gloves away and take a fresh look at how our campaigns have been trending over the past, er … 3 to 4 months.

As you catch yourself day dreaming of that one particular vacation, it can be easy to fall into the habit of leaving your campaigns on cruise control. To shake things up – and reassess how your campaigns have been progressing – we are going to look at some key campaign influencers and share some tips on how to make sure your campaigns are headed where they should be.

Spend

How much you are willing to invest in your campaign is a key influencer of what you can expect to receive – for our sake, conversions. Without careful distribution and redistribution, one can quickly see their ROI decrease. What follows is an explanation of how to monitor your spend at the campaign, ad group, and keyword level.

By Campaign

Distribute your campaign budgets to achieve as high an impression share as possible. When managing your campaign spends, strive to achieve a 0.00% lost impression share due to budget. This ensures that for the keywords chosen, your ad shows as often as possible to capture your audience. This rule is not without it's exceptions. The inventory of the Google Display Network is huge; don't expect to see a high impression share for Display campaigns. Don't expect to see a high impression share for Competitive campaigns. You're bidding on competitors brand names which tend to be high in CPC, and difficult for your ad to rank.

By Ad Group

Assess the spend of each individual ad group within each campaign. Pay particular attention to CPA values. Identify opportunities where it may be possible to decrease this key metric.

Questions you should keep in mind are:

  • Is this ad group converting?
  • If so, is it converting at an ideal CPA?
  • If not, how much has the ad group spent?
  • And finally, am I making best use of the keywords within this ad group?

By Keyword

This brings us to keyword level spend. When creating your campaign, it is important to – in broad terms – lay the foundation. As your campaign accumulates data, you can zero on in on the keywords driving the strongest ROAS, or, Return on Ad Spend. If necessary, expand upon these top performing keywords with like-terms. Meanwhile pause keywords that are driving poor traffic or driving a weak ROAS.

Match types, aside from the actual terms themselves, will also play a role in how much you pay per keyword. Using different match types to capture more searches at a certain cost, or to enjoy a lower CPC is something to consider when adding or removing keywords.

Bid Management

Closely linked to your spend are your keyword bids. While your ad position strategy may differ from the norm, it is best practice to have your ad show within the first 3 ad placements available, on average. A good rule of thumb is to ensure that your average position remains within the 1.4 – 2.4 range.

To ensure your average position stays within this range, adjusting keyword bids should be a weekly task. For keywords falling below this range, increase their bids by 10% – 15%, using your best judgment. Keywords that fall well below this range – think position 5.0 and lower – may not be worth increasing to achieve a position within the top 3 if they will jeopardize your average CPC; however, it may not hurt to keep them running, either.

For those keywords that maintain a 1.0 average position, try decreasing bids by 5%. This will ensure that these keywords stay within the specified range, but are not unnecessarily increasing your average CPC to maintain a position of 1.0.

Negative Keywords

Depending on how much traffic you receive through PPC, negative keywords should be added on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. This is part and parcel to ensuring that you are receiving quality traffic, getting in front of the right audience, and also ensuring that your ads are not being shown for keywords that they should not be shown for.

Potential negative keywords can be identified by sifting through search term reports at the overall account level, individual campaign level, and ad group level. If your campaign is well-organized from a keyword/ad group perspective, adding negative keywords at the campaign level is the most efficient practice. Sorting by impressions allows you to see the most searched terms in descending order to speed up the process.

Converting Search Terms

Much like identifying negative keywords through examining search term reports, you can also mine for converting search terms. Especially if you are using modified broad match types (which, you should be) you can capture leads through search terms that you have not yet added as exact or phrase match types to your campaign. The next step is to add these terms as exact or phrase match keywords, and to do so on a weekly or bi-weekly basis " a regular practice, like adding negative keywords. The benefits of adding converting search terms is typically an improved conversion rate. Combined with the addition of negative keywords, you should see an increase in quality traffic and less wasted spend.

Testing

One of the objectives of running a Google AdWords campaign is to always be learning. One way to do that is through testing. Two things to always be testing and creating actionable outcomes out of is from ad copy and landing pages.

Ad Copy

As best practice for the number of ads within each ad group, you should have 2 " 3 spaces to display different messaging to prospective customers. Once enough data has been accumulated to obtain statistical significance for a particular message " defined by a confidence level of 95% or greater " a new benchmark should be set and new messaging should be implemented to see if that benchmark can be surpassed. This is an ongoing process that should be underway as long as you are running your campaign; and remember to take into account not only the CTR of each ad, but also the conversion rate of each ad as each message can attract a different type of searcher.

Landing Pages

Much like ad messaging, the value offer reflected on landing pages should also be tested. Keep in mind however that your ad message and what is shown on your landing page should remain consistent " meaning there should be one offer pushed from the initial click to the final conversion. Landing page customization allows you to put your creative skills to work as there are no limitations, which translates to endless possibilities for testing. The same principles as ad copy testing apply to this scenario, however " this means testing 2 to 3 variants, establishing a benchmark once statistical significance has been reached, and continually undergoing further testing in an effort to improve on that benchmark.

There you have it, the necessary steps to managing a successful Google AdWords campaign. Keep in mind that these are best practices, and can be taken into account as long as they coincide with your campaign goals and strategy.

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