PPC Account in a Slump? It Might Be Time to Get Back to the Basics

By — 06.10.15

PPC Downward Trend Chart

Paid search adheres to a simple concept: Win the auction, get the click that leads to the conversion. Repeat. But we all know it’s not that simple. Account optimization has become a beast in its own right over the last decade, with customer targeting capabilities becoming so complex and constantly evolving, it’s easy to miss the forest for the trees. But what happens when you’ve squeezed your data for all it’s worth and your campaigns are still in a slump? Get back to basics, that’s what.

Audit

Audit. It’s a word that makes us all cringe, probably because it implies a lot of work, and usually unearthing some long fossilized mistakes in your account. But nailing the details, returning to the foundations of what keeps an account healthy, is often the boost that your campaigns need to get back in working order again. But where to start?

Brand Terms

Brand terms are the measuring stick of any account. They should, under most circumstances, behave in a predictable and consistent way. If their average position has been falling steadily over time, a few tweaks here and there in the form of negations and ad text testing might be the key to shaving some cost off your CPCs, thus saving you major bucks in the long run. However, if things are in a downtrend on your Brand terms, it’s probably a sign that the rest of your campaigns need more than a cursory glance and some bid changes. Let’s dig deeper.

Ad Extensions

Sitelinks_Effect_On_CTR
Extended sitelink implementation account wide versus sparse coverage and outdated sitelinks

In terms of quick fixes, there’s nothing quite as effective as finding holes in your ad extension coverage. There’s a reason Google has felt the need to solve for dropping CPCs in recent years – it’s because relevant extensions have even surprised them in their efficacy to increase click-through-rate. “But hardly any of my ads are showing in the top position.” We often hear the argument that there’s no need to implement sitelinks on campaigns whose keywords never show in top positions. Why should we bother having them on an ad where they’ll never show? The answer is simple: It’s because they matter to Google. Having your extensions fleshed out across all campaigns, whether they’ll ever show or not, makes your ads more relevant.

Search query mining

Since you’re already in excavation mode and ready to get your account off life support, let’s go ahead and address the much feared topic of search query mining. When was the last time you added new keywords? What about negations? Some keywords are rock stars and bring you money hand over fist, and that’s great. But some keywords exist to keep the embers alive in your account. You have to feed the fire occasionally, or the overall health of your campaigns will suffer. Ask yourself these questions: Are your broad keywords bearing the load of most of your cost? Probably time to mine them. Are your exact keywords slipping in average position and CPCs rising? Check your close variants.

Cutting The Fat

And finally, let’s cut the fat. On any given month for a high-volume Adwords account, it’s not unusual to see the top 10% of Non-Brand keywords drive 80% of Non-Brand revenue and less than 50% of Non-Brand spend. It’s easy as the guardians of an account to think of all our hard work as a monument of efficiency, destined for success. That’s why the word “audit” sounds like a punch in the gut. But the numbers don’t lie, and when you’ve exhausted your optimization capabilities, and they’re still not telling the story you expected, it might be time to cut some keywords. Approach your account with a critical eye for the components that are dragging down performance, and then unflinchingly relieve them of their duties. After all, you’re paying them, and they’re not performing. It’s as simple as that.

Takeaways

The bottom line is you can’t build a sustainable account on a poor foundation. All the bells and whistles, remarketing lists, and geo-targets, can’t help an account that’s starving for routine maintenance. And the word “audit” doesn’t have to be so scary; think of it as tending your garden. It’s far easier to pull a few weeds and water every day than it is to start over every season once everything’s gone to seed. All the shiny appeal of a new beta doesn’t make any sense if it’s relying on bad data. The fundamentals of a successful paid search account actually are really simple, and that’s often why they get overlooked. If you nail the details and stay consistent and proactive, it’s proven that the results will follow.

Are there any basic tips that have proven successful for your paid search account? Share them below!


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