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Why are you having problems?

No Negatives

It never ceases to amaze me how many advertisers are swimming in the PPC world without the aid of Negative keywords.

I recently audited a major global account with a spend of approximately $250k per month over 18 countries and the total number of negative keywords was 220! That’s 220 negatives over thousands of adgroups and $250k of spend per month! It’s like sending a capacity cruiseliner with 3000+ guests that is

only fitted with 60 life jackets. I calculated that for one adgroup alone, the spend for irrelevant keywords for a month was close to $600. This was for one adgroup out of thousands. As an example you sell Watermelons. Yes Watermelons, that’s what you do now. You sell the big fresh green ones with the red filling that for some reason stains like nothing else. (how does ‘water’ stain anyway?)

Anyway, where was I. Yes Watermelons.

So you run a campaign adver tising your watermelons. Your keyword list looks something like this:
– watermelons
– water melons
– buy watermelons

Look ok right? Well not really, especially since these are simply broad keywords. So Google will look for synonyms and anything else it deems relevant. What this means is that when someone looks for a honeydew, cantaloupe and possibly even those horrid rockmelons, your ad may show. If you are not selling these other imitation melons then you need to add them as negatives. There are more tools in the Adwords arsenal such as match types etc but get your negatives sorted first and foremost.

What you can do to fix it:

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Put your negative keywords in. If you don’t then you are wasting both money and time chasing your tail.

Too Granular

I like granularity. Love it in fact. However sometimes you may be asking too much of your campaign if you stick primarily to the long tail. Long tail keywords do, on average, perform much better than general terms however the downside to them is that they generate less volume.

The issue with being too specific is that if Google feels the search demand or interest isn’t high enough, it simply won’t show your ads, regardless whether the term is a proven performer or not.

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Another problem with being too granular is that the wrong keywords start triggering the wrong ads.

What you can do to fix it:

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If a broad term from one campaign can trigger multiple adgroups and their associated ads.. well it will. In this case the highest performing bid will win that auction. So you may need to bite that granular bullet and start building out those adgroups to clean up your broken campaign.

Ad Extentions

Since there isn’t enough complexity in Google’s Adwords ranking system, towards the end of 2013, Google decided to change how it calculates its Adrank (Ie the position you appear on the search results page). Yes your bid is important. Yes your quality score is important. But there is now another factor in the mix and this third component is, quoting Google directly, “the expected impact from your ad-extensions and formats”. And yes… it is truly as vague as how it sounds.

So if all things were equal and there are two competing ads with the same bid and quality score, then the ad which is deemed to have the most positive expected impact from extensions will in most cases, appear higher. This all sounds a bit here-say but Google does kind of make it easy in that they will generally show the highest performing combination of ad extensions and formats as it deems appropriate.

What you can do to fix it:

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Use the ad extensions, use them all and try to incorporate them into every one of your campaigns. Don’t do it.. then your competitors are already one step ahead of you (literally!).

Call Extentions

Do you simply need the phone to ring? Are you using call extensions? Are you driving people to a non-mobile friendly website instead of only giving them the option to call? Each business is different, but if you need phone calls, then make sure you are using call extensions.

What you can do to fix it:

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Any business needing phone calls should utilize these and with today’s changing Adrank algorithm, its never been more important.

Sitelinks

If you are generally ranked in the top 1-3 positions and are not using sitelinks via ad extensions then your competitors are doing a better job than you, simple as that. If they are also not using them, please contact me and let me know your industry, I want in! Again, like most ad-extensions, remember to use site links wherever you can (there is very little reason not to use them). Sitelinks allow you to take up more real estate on the front page and enables you to include more information about your business, giving potential customers more choice and more targeted deeplinked options. Use them. Full stop.

What you can do to fix it:

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Use them.

Location Extentions

Are you a local business and need people to find you? Restaurants, Dry Cleaning services, beauty salons, dentists.. pretty much any business which requires someone to physically go to your business and interact, then you should consider using locations extensions.

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What you can do to fix it:

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Depending on the device you are targeting and what other ad extensions you are utilizing you may not be showing in the map 100% of the time. However due to Google’s new Adrank formula, it simply doesn’t make sense to ignore it.

Generic Adcopy

I see this time and time again from advertisers whether it be a lack of time or whether they have specific branding and copy guidelines to stick to. But the truth is: generic adcopy is a killer for campaigns.

Generic adcopy does several things to your campaign. If you are running the same adcopy for all adgroups across all your individual themes then you are not providing a relevant ad for each theme right? And relevancy is at the forefront of great user experience. The generic ads lead to two main problems:

1. The first being your CTR would almost always be lower than it ideally should because your ads are not very relevant to your user. For example if you are a beauty salon and you have a generic headline that says “Local Beauty Salon’, that might be fine if someone searches for ‘local beauty salon’. However what happens when someone searches for ‘pedicure in Camberwell’? They will of course, see the same headline. Is that Relevant? Well kind of. If you were that user, would you prefer to see the headline ‘Pedicures from $39’? That’s relevancy..

Throw in a Geo reference and you are all set.

2. Google understands that your ad is generic and in turn, as seen in the example above, is less relevant to your target audience. Since Google rewards relevancy, such generic adcopy will lead to a low quality score. A low quality score will mean Google will push your Adrank lower, meaning an even lower CTR and much higher CPCs. CTR is an element of quality score so down it goes again, and again, and again. When does this snowball end? When you have 0 impressions and 0 traffic. Put some effort into your adcopy.

What you can do to fix it:

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1. Use Price in your adcopy 2. Use Ad extensions. 3. Base your copy around ‘themes’ 4. Only test one thing at a time so you know what works and what doesn’t. 5. Test test test. Always test new copy and creative.

Mobile Ad Selection

Mobile ads don’t look the same as desktop ones. Ads you want to display on a mobile may not be what you want the desktop users to see. Ads perform differently whether they are on mobile, desktop or tablet… you get it.

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What you can do to fix it:

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Google actually allows you to select which ads you would prefer to show on mobile. If you don’t select anything, then all ads will be treated the same so it may be worth thinking about differentiating mobile and desktop ads.

Only Using Modified Matches

Are you using modified broad matches only to find that you are not generating enough traffic? Many PPC advertisers have started to consider modified broad matches as the new ‘phrase match’. To some of these marketers, the modified broad match has become a crutch. Probably not the best idea. Remember, modified broad matches only allows for plurals and close variants.. no synonyms.

The downside with the modified broad match is that it can possibly hide invaluable data.

What you can do to fix it:

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Sometimes by only using modified broad matches you could be missing out on some valuable traffic or keyword data especially if its a new campaign or an agency digging into a new industry. Modified broad matches only allows for plurals and close variants.. no synonyms.

Not using Search Query Data

Fitting that this comes right after using the broad modifier as a crutch. Search queries can give you some of the most valuable data available to improve your Adwords campaign. Many marketers think the search query report is only really good for finding negative keywords but that is only one part of it. Understanding your search terms is also a great way to find more keyword ideas to flesh out your campaign.

What you can do to fix it:

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The truth is, how you search for a product, may not be how they search for it. Getting the full story will allow you to build a better keyword list, write better ads (more specific to the actual terms coming in) as well as stop those rogue keywords from coming through dragging your quality score down and Avg CPC up.

Combining Search With Display

I still can’t believe how many people and agencies are still doing this. Never run display and search in the same campaign. It makes zero sense to do so as both types of campaigns work completely different and all you end up with is a whole bunch of skewed data, a low CTR and a lot of wasted money.

What you can do to fix it:

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Split them up and keep them separate, search is not display and display is not search. Jimmy says no.

Not Testing Different Ads

Have you decided that your current adcopy is good and simply left it? Or have you tested any new adcopy at all? Often PPC marketers and agencies either don’t test enough adcopy or they don’t test at all. You could have the greatest campaign potential, however have deemed its useless as a result of simply not having good adcopy which can be attributed to not testing variations.

What you can do to fix it:

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Good adcopy will mean not only higher CTR but also may lead to: 1. More impressions 2. Higher Adrank 3. Lower CPCs 4. More conversions. No brainer really, test your adcopy!

Not Using the Long Tail

If you were buying a 2011 second hand Ford Fiesta how would you go about searching for one? Would you type in ‘used cars’? Probably not. Would you type in Used Ford.. possibly not. What about 2011 Ford Fiesta? Bingo. 2011 Blue Ford Fiesta.. even better.

Welcome to the long tail and if your adwords campaign is performing badly then have a look at your long tail keywords, if you have them at all.

Long tail terms do not generate as much traffic as shorter, broader terms, but their conversion rates and effectiveness is a whole world better.

What you can do to fix it:

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This is essential if you are in a competitive, high demand industry. Use your search query data for ideas.

Not Using Trends To Anticipate Dips

If your organic sun screen business did really well in December, chances are April or May will be a big shock. Not all products are ‘evergreen’ and some are affected (sometimes significantly) by cyclical or seasonal trends. Understand where the trends are an anticipate the ups and downs. Just because your campaign was working well last month, doesn’t necessarily mean it will work well in 2 months times. Find the trends and adjust accordingly. Some interesting trends we have noted (dog fleas, Gutter and Window cleaning, Dating over Christmas)

What you can do to fix it:

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Apart from search queries you could try using Google’s trend tool – http://www.google.com.au/trends/

Using Automated Rules

Automated rules can be great and can save you lots of time but its important to know what you are doing when you use them.

A thing to note about automated rules is that they are exactly that, automated. I have seen people run automated scripts daily, trying to stay within the top 2 Adrank. This can be a true disaster if your competitor is doing the same or you have a quality score issue. A common script to run is trying to keep a high adrank by increasing bids automatically if the average position is consistently below a certain number. The script does not know that your profit margins are at $8 so it will happily bid $15 a click. Ensure you set your limits with automated rules. Even if yo are reluctant, set a max CPC ceiling so its doesn’t go over board.

What you can do to fix it:

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Add Quality score in your automated bid. Ensure you dont increase bids where the quality score is under 5, There are other factors you need to address and simply upping bids with your automated rules won’t solve the issue.

Not Testing Dynamic Insertion

Getting really bad CTR’s but are convinced that your keywords are driving in the right market? Well then maybe your ads are simply not good enough or not relevant enough. Using dynamic keyword insertion into your adcopy is one super easy way to make your ads more relevant to the user.

What you can do to fix it:

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Simply add this to your Headline: {KEYWORD:Default Headline}. In the section where it says ‘Default Headline’ put in your default headline (please don’t leave it as is!). This essentially tells Google that if the search term typed in by the user is too long (over 25 characters) then replace it with the default headline. Easy? Now go give it a shot.

Relying on Dynamic Insertion

Word of warning. Don’t rely on dynamic keyword insertion. I have seen this reliance many times over ,and in many cases, caused many issues for that advertiser. The risk with running dynamic insertion ads is that it will mimic what the person has typed in, which in some cases may be irrelevant.

Lets say you install solar systems and solar panels for companies looking to save money on their energy bills.

Naturally you bid on terms such as ‘Solar systems’ and are also using dynamic insertion. So you are happy and satisfied that this is going to work brilliantly.

Enter the inquisitive 9yr old who visits Google and searches the term ‘Solar System Map’. Guess who’s ad shows up? Guess what the ad headline said? You have not disappointed the 9yr old, you have paid a fortune for that useless click and not one got what they wanted. If on the other hand your ad said ‘Solar Panel Installer’, would the child have bothered to click your ad? Probably not.

What you can do to fix it:

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Don’t use dynamic keyword insertion as your crutch, but a great testing tool.

Geo Targeting

For example mixing countries into your targeting may mean you pay too much for some country traffic and not enough for others. For example if you are selling software solutions globally, does it make sense to bid $2 worldwide? $2 will see you at position 1 all day for many countries and 9+ for others.

What you can do to fix it:

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A single bid will often lead to skewed country data and if you don’t believe me, check your Dimensions tab in your previous or current multi country campaign. Grouping countries into ‘segments’ is a way to avoid this and will allow you vary your bid across multiple countries to ensure you get traffic and data from all the applicable regions to determine what areas are profitable, and which ones are not.

Ad Rotation Setting

Did you just let Google ‘look after’ this one? Bad choice. Google’s default setting is to optimise for clicks. Its probably the best option if you are only running one ad :). But since you are reading this, you are probably testing more than one ad and therefore should move on from this default setting. You should always ‘evenly’ test your ads because it is wrong to think an Ad simply is a way to draw more clicks.

What you can do to fix it:

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An ad starts the conversion process and different ads have different conversion rates so choosing the ad that simply generates more clicks means leaving conversions on table without you even knowing it! In June 2012, Google forced all advertisers to show ads evenly for 30 days (sometimes 90 days) for whatever reason I’m not sure… might have something to do with wanting more click$. Anyway, Google then backtracked in October 2012 giving advertisers and ad managers the option to rotate ads indefinitely. Google doesn’t usually backtrack and is evidence that ‘default settings’ need to be discarded in favour of a more measurable approach.

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