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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:


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.


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

What you can do to fix it:


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.

Day of the Week

Have you studied user behaviour for different days of the week? I guarantee you that most of the time there will be a correlation and a skew towards cer tain days performing better than others.

As an example, we have found for products selling physical items that need to be shipped, Thursdays – Saturdays were the worst performing days with CPA almost triple compared to a Sunday -Wednesday. Why? Well.. people didn’t like to wait 4 days to receive the item because generally no one delivers or ships on the weekend. Makes sense right? There is a good chance a lot of advertisers may not understand user behavior and be spending top dollar on days where a decent CPA was achievable. This will vary from Display to Search, with display’s impulsive users less likely to care when they get their product… as long as they get it.

What you can do to fix it:


Understand your day of the week reports and get yourself thinking ‘why’ the behaviour varies as it does. Understanding and asking yourself these questions is a great step towards improving your campaign.

Ad Delivery

Ad delivery is usually set to spread evenly over a day by default. Check it and ensure you have the right settings.

What you can do to fix it:


Spending too quick? Then if could mean that you have it set to accelerated’. Bit simple? You’d be surprised.

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:


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:


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:


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

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:


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

Not Remarketing

What do you do with the traffic that has not converted on your website? I’m concerned about that blank look your are giving me which usually means ‘err.. nothing’. If you are advertising on Adwords then there is no question about it, not everyone will convert. You will most likely be losing potential leads, new business, qualified traffic and sales at some point, so why not try and bring these people back? You’ve done all the hard work already.

Think of it this way. You have spent a small fortune to get the traffic to your site and paid a premium CPC. We know not everyone will convert that should have (ie those that will benefit from your product.) This may not be your fault, some people, depending on where they are on the buying cycle need several touch points to take action, so don’t take offense.

So why not pay a fraction of that CPC to bring them back again?

What you can do to fix it:


The conversion rates I have seen and the acquisition costs from remarketing is truly remarkable in some instances. Try it at least and forget the concern that ‘display doesn’t work’. Trust me, try it.

Not Remarketing Properly

Are you selling products and simply remarketing by sending people back to your website? Then you are most likely not remarketing properly and should be using some really cool tools that Google gives you at your disposal.

What you can do to fix it:


You can remarket with product ads so if someone was looking at that stunning black dress on your website, then you can show them more stunning black dresses as they browse the net. What could be more relevant?! Were they searching for accommodation in Bali? Then chances are they are still considering going to Bali so use your cookie pools effectively to target the right people and most importantly, send them to the right place.

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:


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.

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:


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:


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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