The overall outlook on pay per click marketing is trending up and to the right. 84% of users feel good about the current PPC market.
From text ads to remarketing, PPC marketers are reporting higher spending than ever before.
Budgets are skyrocketing for one reason: users are making more on PPC now than they were in the past.
Now is the time dive head first into PPC. But not so fast.
When it comes to AdWords, profiting takes more than setting and forgetting your plan and limiting a daily budget.
A single mistake is enough to sink your budget and destroy your campaign.
Here are the DO’s and DON’Ts that can make or break your AdWords management.
Managing AdWords DO’s and DON’Ts: The DO’s
#1 – DO eliminate keywords with negative keyword lists
AdWords is a tricky, confusing platform. When it comes to keywords, you aren’t actually paying for keywords.
While you research keywords and find popular searches in your niche, you aren’t paying for them directly.
Instead, you’re paying for search terms.
For instance, bidding on a broad match term like “low-carb diet plan” will show your ad for dozens of different results:
Anything broadly related to the broad match keyword will show. Meaning most diet plans and low-carb diet plan variations will trigger your ad to show.
So, while you might be paying to bid on “low-carb diet plan,” you aren’t just paying for that term. You’re paying for everything that comes with it.
And that opens the door for potential disaster.
Even with this single example keyword above from Google, you can already see a problem.
Let me show you:
See the problem now?
The broad match keyword of “low-carb diet plan” is pretty specific in nature, focusing on low-carb diets rather than diet plans in general. If it were just about diet plans, it wouldn’t have specified low-carb.
Yet, since it’s using broad match, it’s showing for other terms with “diet plans” rather than just low-carb ones.
Meaning you could be paying tons of money for hundreds of clicks on “Mediterranean diet plans” from searchers who aren’t looking for a low-carb diet, but those are the only plans you sell.
That’s a foolproof way to blow your budget and have zero conversions to show for it.
If someone searches for Mediterranean diet plans and clicks on your site to find low-carb information, they probably won’t buy from you.
And that’s where negative keywords come into play.
For clients in the past, I’ve utilized negative keyword lists to help save ad spend that can instead go toward new campaigns and increased bidding or budgets.
For instance, when analyzing a client’s account, I noticed that tons of search terms for competitors were triggering their ads despite not directly bidding on other branded terms:
While this might seem like an amazing way to bid against other companies on their brand, it’s not.
Not when you’re paying more than $10 per click, racking up dozens of clicks a day that result in immediate bounces and not a single conversion.
Branded searches mean that the user is brand-aware. They know what they’re searching for.
Sure, they might have clicked your ad by accident. But if you don’t use negative keywords, you’ll be paying for those clicks over and over. And they won’t result in many (if any) conversions.
Now, here’s where negative keywords get tricky:
Using the basic AdWords functions to add negative keywords isn’t enough. When you navigate in your dashboard to Keywords – Search Terms, you can select search terms that you’re showing up for and directly add them as negative keywords.
But all that does is add the entire list of keywords as a broad match negative keyword.
And that’s not specific enough.
For instance, adding “free website design packages” as a broad match negative keyword would ensure that Google doesn’t display your add when someone searches those four terms in the same query.
Instead, using modifiers, you can eliminate specific portions of phrases.
For example, using negative phrase match, which involves putting quotations around a specific word, will eliminate that word entirely from searches.
Let’s say that you’re advertising for SEO consultations that aren’t free, but you notice that you get tons of clicks from searches that include the word “free.”
Using negative phrase match, you would add the word “free.” That would eliminate the word “free” from ever showing your ads.
This would ensure that you don’t drive traffic that expects a free consultation.
Before blindly adding keywords to a negative keyword list, consult Google’s match types first.
Now you can use negative keywords to save your budget for more sales and better campaigns.
#2 – DO use automated processes to save time
It’s no secret that AdWords is one of the most time-consuming platforms out there.
First, you analyze reports on your latest campaigns. Then, you check the search terms report and negative keywords.
Next, you adjust bids based on performance and tweak budgets accordingly. You inspect landing page performance, write new ads to keep things fresh, and then come back to repeat the process tomorrow.
Managing a single AdWords account can be a full-time job if maximum performance is the goal.
But let’s be honest:
Unless you’ve hired an outside agency to take the reigns, you ain’t got that kinda time.
Not when other deadlines and a flooded email inbox are looming in the distance.
Thankfully, there are a few key tricks you can use on AdWords to slash your work time.
For instance, you can set automated rules in the new AdWords dashboard to change your budgets and bids based on keyword cost fluctuations:
This will help you capitalize on average costs per click when they dip below the norm, and conversely, help you not pay extra when bids skyrocket.
Instead of meticulously monitoring each ad group or keyword bid, set automated rules. That will help you cut down on a huge portion of the time you normally spend on AdWords.
You can repeat this process for almost any metrics or performance action you can think of.
Another amazing tool that AdWords has is automated email reporting.
When creating a new rule, select “Send email” as your rule type:
By selecting “All enabled campaigns,” you can get customized email alerts based on specific conditions that are critical to your account performance:
For instance, if your conversion rate plummets, you can get an email alert and fix the problem ASAP.
It allows you to spend less time on AdWords and only use the platform when critical alerts come into play that need fixing.
Meaning you don’t have to search around your dashboard to find issues. Just let AdWords do it for you.
# 3 – DO focus on metrics that are impacting your bottom line
When logging into the new AdWords dashboard, it’s tempting to gaze and pat yourself on the back.
It’s easy to look at a pile of vanity metrics like clicks and impressions and then start jumping for joy:
6.7 million impressions! 17k clicks!
But the truth is:
Those metrics tell you nothing about your performance or your bottom line.
They can’t tell you if you’re actually adding money to your bank account, which is the only reason you should be using AdWords.
Even if you’re just managing an account for a client, it’s likely they want you to report on vanity metrics.
It’s easy to give yourself credit for a 10% CTR. But a 10% CTR without a high conversion rate means nothing. In fact, it’s a bad sign.
Vanity metrics look great on the surface, but they don’t tell you if you’re making money or not.
Managing AdWords DO’s and DON’Ts: The DONT’s
#1 – DON’T focus on vanity metrics:
Before you panic, let me explain.
While these metrics can help you understand some performance variables, they are generally worthless.
It’s much easier to get someone to click than it is to get them to buy. It’s why conversion rates suck on AdWords while the CTRs aren’t horrible.
Just because you can write compelling ads, that doesn’t mean that you can convert users once they hit your landing page. A CTR can give you insights into your copywriting skills, but not much else.
If you’re driving a 10% CTR and using that as a talking point for reporting without correlating it back to actual sales, you could be missing other great opportunities on your landing pages.
As for impressions, unless your focus for your campaign is brand awareness, you shouldn’t be tracking this metric.
It’s all dependent on which keywords you target.
And getting 1,000 impressions isn’t cool if you have no money to show for it.
For instance, the keyword “seo agency” has a huge search volume:
If you are bidding at the top ad positions for this keyword, you’re going to rack up thousands of impressions every day, week, and month for it.
But that doesn’t mean those people are buying. Tracking impressions looks great on paper, but it gives you virtually no insight unless you’re running a brand awareness campaign that only focuses on total reach.
If you are selling products and services as your primary goal, don’t bother tracking impressions as they all depend on your keyword choices.
When it comes to cost per click, it seems like a no-brainer to track this, right? You have to know what you’re spending for crying out loud!
But when you really think about CPC, it doesn’t matter (yet). CPC doesn’t matter because it’s all relative to your market and what you are willing to bid:
And if you have high lifetime value customers, you can afford to pay more for clicks because you will acquire more users who spend lots of money with you.
CPC only matters once you’ve started tracking lifetime value and total cost of acquisition.
Paying $50 for a single click may seem outrageous, and it might even cause you to wince. But if landing a single client nets you $12,000 a year, that $50 click starts to seem silly.
More expensive industries like consulting, healthcare, and law will naturally have more expensive keywords. Advertisers in those industries are willing to spend more to acquire customers since their customers typically spend more than casual e-commerce shoppers.
For instance, the average case values for lawyers are in the thousands, making a $25 to $50 CPC seem like nothing.
Average SEO service costs range from hundreds of dollars per hour to thousands a month, too.
Focus on metrics that play a direct role in your bottom line like lifetime value and total acquisition costs.
Improving both of those will lead to more profits from existing sales and room for more spending on acquisition to create a sustainable life cycle of customers.
#2 – DON’T get caught up in testing
Test, test, and test again. You’ve likely heard that advice before, right?
While it’s great in nature to test different factors of your campaigns, it’s not always what you should be focusing on.
Let me explain:
Why? Because, according to Peep Laja, it takes at least 1,000 monthly conversions to see any statistical significance. You need at least 250 conversions per test.
So, what does this mean?
You’ll be spending thousands of dollars to conduct a test that you’ve likely based on your own bias and assumptions.
You think that the button color will make a difference. That’s bias. If you think that it’s your copy and not your image, that’s bias.
And if it fails or doesn’t provide significant changes? You just wasted tons of money, time, and probably conversions in the process testing something that ended up being completely irrelevant.
Heck, it could have even been something as simple as mismatched user intent.
Unless you are generating thousands of conversions monthly (conversions, not clicks), you shouldn’t get caught up in testing.
If conversions aren’t plentiful, you should instead audit your existing setup.
Ask yourself a few questions:
- Have you structured your ad groups well?
- How many ads are you running per ad group?
- What are your quality scores?
- What does your landing page look like? What page elements, value props, and CTAs do you use?
Before diving into any testing, make sure you fine-tune every step of the process — from keyword to ad group to ad to landing page and everything in between.
#3 – DON’T get comfortable
It’s easy to go on AdWords, check off a few boxes, and call it a day.
Campaigns are running smooth. CTR is up. Conversions are up. CPA is down.
It’s quittin’ time, y’all.
If only it were that easy! Once you get comfortable on AdWords, it’s easy to generate a consistent amount of traffic and sales from your budget.
But after you’ve done that, where do you go from there? Do you just sit back, relax, and let the good times roll? Just ride the wave?
One of the biggest DON’Ts of managing an AdWords account is complacency.
In other words, just letting results flow in and expecting it to happen forever.
AdWords is a competition. A bidding war against other advertisers that want and need your traffic to survive.
Meaning you can never sit back and get comfortable. You should always be looking for ways to improve your account, optimize bidding, and researching new keywords.
A surefire way to create new, fresh campaigns to stay ahead of your competitors (who are likely leaching from your strategy) is to use the search terms report to develop new campaigns.
With the search terms report, analyze keyword searches that you aren’t currently targeting with campaigns. Sort by metrics like conversions and cost per acquisition first, seeing which ones convert best:
Chances are, you are showing up and converting users on search terms that differ from your keyword bids.
This will allow you to make new ad groups with these keywords, enhancing your specificity of ad copy and ability to convert users.
It’s a win-win. The search terms report is a virtual goldmine of information and opportunity.
Every week, you should constantly monitor the report to generate new ideas for campaigns to keep content fresh.
When you’re managing an AdWords account, the number of things to take into account is almost infinite.
But the most important ones center around keeping your budget and profits steady.
Don’t waste your time with metrics that don’t impact your bottom line. Vanity metrics may boost your ego, but they don’t boost your profits.
Always use negative keyword lists to ensure that you aren’t wasting money on useless keywords.
Using automated rules and emails, you can get more work done without spending as much time on the platform making tweaks.
Don’t get caught up in testing until you’ve perfected your strategy and your conversions are plentiful. Otherwise, you’re just spinning your wheels.
And whatever you do, don’t get comfortable. Tactics, competitors, and best practices change fast in the digital world.