In this article, I’ll explain the following:
- The strategic features of an effective Google AdWords Search campaign
- The tactical features of an effective Google AdWords Search campaign
- A high-level account optimisation process I follow when optimising Search campaigns for (a) lower cost per conversion and (b) higher conversion volume
AdWords Search campaigns are a critical component of many online sales and lead generation scenarios.
In this article I’ll explain strategic and tactical features inside the Google AdWords Search campaigns I create and optimise, and the high-level process I follow when completing a standard optimisation session (with the goal of decreasing cost per acquisition while increasing conversion volume).
PART ONE: Features of an effective Google AdWords Search campaign
An effective campaign will contain the following strategic elements:
- The campaign will be PRIMARILY engineered to address the unwanted problems and/or desired solutions of the target audience, with a SECONDARY focus on the benefits/features/facts provided by the business. This approach of solving problems or producing desired outcomes should be baked into ad creative, ad extensions, and keyword selection/targeting.
- The business’ Unique Value Statements (the unique facts, features and benefits offered by the business) will also be baked into ad creative, ad extensions, and landing pages. Boring, generic, unsubstantiated, hype-centric copy like “We Provide The Best Value”, “Best In Class Customer Service”, or “Choose The Experts” will never exist inside an effective Search campaign. Why? These statements provide no value to the prospect’s decision making process, and will only add noise around campaign elements that may be working.
- The campaign will be designed to promote tight keyword -> ad -> landing page relevance. In other words, this means a visitor from AdWords traffic will view a landing page that TIGHTLY matches the search term they entered. To reverse this concept, ad groups containing loosely targeted terms will NOT allow create a relevant user experience, because landing pages will be too broad in their messaging. Tight keyword -> ad -> landing page relevance will also contribute to a higher Quality Score (QS), which generally translates into cheaper cost per click.
- Overall campaign Click Through Rate (CTR) will be as high as possible. CTR is a large part of AdWords’ QS equation. The higher the QS, the cheaper the average Cost Per Click will be. The cheaper the Cost Per Click, the cheaper the Cost Per Conversion. The cheaper the Cost Per Conversion, the more conversions the campaign will produce under a set budget.
- The campaign’s ads will strive to create some sort of Search Engine Results Page (SERP) differentiation, so the business’ ads look different and stand apart from their competitors when being evaluated ‘in Google’ by the searcher. This could be through the creative use of ad text or the use of different ad extensions.
- The campaign will be conversion driven. In other words, conversion tracking will be functioning to allow the optimiser to adjust campaign settings to drive conversion growth. No conversion tracking is like driving a sports car with an inch of mud covering the windscreen.
- The campaign will be tested, tweaked, optimised continuously, forever… to eliminate any elements that DON’T produce conversions (prevent marketing waste) and find and amplify components that DO produce conversions. Markets change, and an AdWords campaign MUST change with it, to keep performing as efficiently as possible.
An effective campaign will contain the following tactical elements:
Tightly Targeted Ad Group Structure
- The campaign will feature tightly targeted ad groups, meaning the keywords in an ad group will all be of the same, tightly-organised theme. The number of keywords inside of an ad group isn’t important – it can be one or a hundred, but the keywords need to be VERY similar… so that an ad and landing page displayed after being triggered by each unique keyword is highly relevant to that search term.
- Search and Display networks will be separated into their own campaigns.
- Top performing keywords will be placed in their own ad groups (sometimes their own campaign) so they can be carefully optimised for ad —> landing page relevance and QS.
- The most effective keywords (a) will be commercially motivated, (b) will possess enough search volume to warrant bidding on them, and c) won’t be too competitive, when compared to the business’ available budget. Generally speaking, the stronger the competition surrounding a search term, the higher its bid price will be.
- Appropriate match types (broad, phrase, exact, broad match modified) will be used tactically to achieve the just the widest relevance of search intent, and no more. Too wide = unqualified traffic.
- Search Query Reports will be run regularly to ensure waste is not occurring (waste = non-qualified search terms).
- New keywords will be added regularly, using Search Query Reports and keyword suggestion tools.
- Short tail AND long tail keywords will be tried and tested.
- Bids will be modified with surgical precision to deliver the right balance between position and cost. Generally speaking, the higher the position, the higher the cost. The lower the position, the weaker the keyword’s conversion strength.
- Negative keywords at both Ad Group and Campaign level will be added via Search Query Reports. General negatives will also exist “jobs”, “careers”, etc. Negative keywords may also be used for complex ad group setups, where exact and phrase terms are being funnelled into a specific ad group.
- As described above, ad copy will be generally engineered to address the unwanted problems and/or desired solutions of the target audience, with a secondary focus on the business’ Unique Value Statements (the unique facts, features and benefits offered by the business).
- Ads will focus on different pain or pleasure points, or emotional triggers, or proof elements, or problem solving, or solution provision, or other psychological tactics designed to generate a high Click Through Rate.
- Ads will feature extensions (app, call, location, review, sitelink, call-out, consumer ratings, previous visits, seller ratings) where possible. Extensions increase SERP visibility and help influence prospects’ decision making processes.
- Ads will be A/B tested inside of Ad Groups all the time, forever. The goal of this continual ad testing is to improve CTR and conversion rate.
- Dynamic Keyword Insertion may be used, depending on keyword selection.
Quality Score Strategy
- Tactical campaign optimisation must incorporate a holistic Quality Score strategy, designed to improve and retain Quality Scores.
- High QS comes from (a) a strong landing page experience, (b) strong keyword -> ad -> landing page relevance, (c) a high overall campaign Click Through Rate, and (d) other smaller factors.
- Time Of Day/Day Of Week settings must be optimised using conversion data. In other words, times of the day or week that do not produce conversions could potentially be deactivated to save budget for times that DO produce conversions.
- Location settings will be optimised (using conversion data and external geographical requirements) to deploy the campaign ONLY in regions where conversions SHOULD and DO occur.
- Automatic bidding and scripts can be used to improve performance, but only where appropriate. At time of writing this, AI or bots can’t handle EVERY angle of campaign optimisation 🙂 Humans are required to inject psychology strategy.
- eCommerce sites should invest in connecting AdWords with sales data from their platform. Doing so will allow the optimiser to gauge how many sales are coming from AdWords traffic.
- Conversion tracking MUST work, period. I can’t stress that enough. Conversion tracking is essential for the optimisation process.
Landing Pages, Thank You Pages
- As mentioned above, strong keyword -> ad -> landing page relevance is important… this means landing pages must be engineered to cater for the specific keywords sending traffic to them. This means headings, bullet points, and supporting paragraphs should be customised according to keyword relevance. It’s not uncommon for an AdWords campaign to have 20-40 unique landing pages (containing text variations), all designed to improve keyword -> ad -> landing page relevance.
- Landing pages should be tested repeatedly, forever, to improve conversion strength. The higher the conversion rate of a landing page, the cheaper the AdWords campaign’s Cost Per Conversion will be. Happy days.
- Thank You Pages are important but often overlooked. A strong Thank You Page will (a) reinforce the value the prospect will receive when they participate in the call-to-action they’ve just requested, (b) suggest the next step in the business’ sales funnel, and (c) demonstrate some additional forms of social proof.
Regular Backup Process
- The AdWords account should be backed up on a regular basis – at least once per month. This insurance policy allows the business to revert to a previous campaign state if an unresolvable performance issue occurs.
PART TWO: High Level Account Optimisation Process
Fundamentally, the campaign optimisation process exists to:
- Remove elements that create waste (unqualified traffic, poor performing ads, quiet times of day/week, locations),
- Amplify performing elements (improve high-performing keywords, ads, ad extensions, times of day/week, locations),
- Find new opportunities,
- Testing new ads/keywords/extension et cetera…
… with the ultimate goal of managing an evolving, responsive, efficient campaign that produces qualified conversions at a cheap cost per conversion.
The campaign optimisation process I follow is systematic, and often follows a set process. Yes, every campaign is different
. I use a checklist to perform this process, sometimes up to three or four times a week (depending on campaign maturity).
Here’s the checklist:
Step One: Get A High Level “Helicopter” Understanding Of Account Performance
Before you begin any optimisation, it’s important to understand how the campaign is performing at a high level.
Here’s how I do this:
- Go to the Dimensions Tab and sort by Time, Month or Time, Week to get a ‘timeline’ perspective. By doing this, you’ll get a feel for historical account-level performance. Is the campaign improving? If not, what elements are underperforming? Impressions, CTR, Ad Position, Converison Rate? Be careful not to mix up Search and Display campaigns here, because they generally have different acceptable metric parameters (example: CTR is generally much lower for Display campaigns).
- Go to the Campaigns tab and view “All Active” campaigns. Switch on the line graph and view different metrics (Impressions, CTR, Ad Position, et cetera) over different time periods.
Once you’ve got a good lay of the land, you’ll need to prioritise where to focus your Ad and Keyword optimisations.
Step Two: Prioritise Where You’re Going To Focus Your Optimisations
I like to sort the performance of Ad Groups to determine where I’m going to focus my optimisation.
In the Ad Group view, at Campaign level, sort by the following dimensions (and then focus on Ads and Keywords inside each of the Ad Groups):
- Cost to determine where the money is being spent. Focus your Ad and Keyword optimisations here first. Why? Improving performance of the ad groups that spend the most money will give you a greater account-level increase in performance. In other words, improve the performance of the ad groups that spend the most cash, and you’ll get a better campaign ROI, faster.
- Cost Per Conversion (CPA) to identify where expensive conversions may be occurring. Ads or keywords with high cost per conversions are an area to focus on.
- Conversion Volume to identify where conversions are NOT coming from. Ad groups or keywords that spend cash but do not convert are areas to fix.
- Click Through Rate to identify where user experience/ad relevance may be poor. You should improve ads and keywords with poor CTR to improve account Quality Score.
Note: you can apply these four dimensions to the Ad and Keyword view at the Campaign Level, if you want to be EXTRA badass.
When You’re Optimising Keywords:
When you’re optimising keywords, look at the following areas:
- Firstly, check to see keywords are tightly themed inside of the Ad Group. If they’re not, create as many ad groups as required to create tightly themed groups. It’s important to promote a strong keyword -> ad -> landing page relevance.
- Sort by cost, to identify “expensive” keywords. Keywords that spend a lot, but don’t produce conversions, require fixing.
- Sort by conversions, to identify keywords with little or no conversions. Keywords that spend a lot, but don’t produce conversions, require fixing.
- Analyse other metrics to identify areas of waste. Remember: Keywords that spend a lot, but don’t produce conversions, require fixing.
- Examine Search Query Reports and add negative keywords or new keywords.
When You’re Optimising Ads:
When you’re optimising ads, look at the following areas:
- Check the A/B test you have running – compare it against different date ranges… sometimes a different date range will modify the reported strength of an ad. Use your discretion here. Pause the non-performer 🙂
- Ensure your ad creates a strong keyword -> ad -> landing page experience for the user.
- Ensure ad copy is written to address the unwanted problems and/or desired solutions of the target audience, with a secondary focus on the business’ Unique Value Statements (the unique facts, features and benefits offered by the business).
- Strong ads will focus on different pain or pleasure points, or emotional triggers, or proof elements, or problem solving, or solution provision, or other psychological tactics designed to generate a high Click Through Rate.
- Strong ads will feature extensions (app, call, location, review, sitelink, call-out, consumer ratings, previous visits, seller ratings) where possible.
- Consider the use of Dynamic Keyword Insertion, depending on keyword selection.
Step Three: Account-Wide Optimisations
Examine the following campaign components:
- Ad Scheduling (Time Of Day/Day Of Week). Stop showing ads where there’s spend but NO conversions. Increase or decrease bid multipliers based on past performance.
- Location Settings. Stop showing ads where there’s spend but NO conversions.
- Ad Extensions. Tweak and optimise to improve CTR and conversion rate.
I hope the above provides value to you.