I’m a big believer in keeping up-to-date on all of the inner workings of Google’s Adwords program. Unfortunately, the program has grown so complex that it is nearly impossible to know all of the top Adwords tips and tricks that can help you efficiently optimize your account.
In this post I have started compiling some of the most useful Adwords Tips that I use on a routine basis for my campaigns. As I discover more tips, I plan on adding them here.
Because this list is long. I’ve added some jump links below so that you can navigate easier:
- Utilize Negative Keywords
- Understand and Track Impression Share
- Exploit Sitelink Extensions
- Leverage Modified Broad Match (BMM)
- Learn to Love the Top Movers Report
If you know of any useful tips that I don’t mention, please be sure to let me know in the comments.
Utilize Negative Keywords
Negative keywords are keywords that prevent your PPC ad from being shown for a certain word or phrase. Many Adwords users, both new and experienced, underestimate the importance of negative keywords. The appropriate use of negative keywords will prevent “bad” traffic from reaching your site, lower your overall PPC spend, and improve your Adwords Quality Score.
It’s extremely easy to add negative keywords, simply select the campaign or ad group that you want to add negative keywords for and scroll down to the bottom to the +Negative keywords section. Expand the section by clicking the “+” and add your negative keywords at the Campaign level or Ad group level.
The key to using negative keywords is finding and selecting the best ones. One of the best ways to find good candidates is the Search Terms report. To access the Search Terms report in Adwords, simply choose the Keyword Tab for the ad group you are interested in, and select the Details drop down and the “All” search terms.
From there you will see the actual search queries that triggered your ad. Comb through this list on screen or download to Excel for deeper analysis. You will be looking for either obviously wrong search queries or queries that didn’t lead to the desired result on your site (e.g., low conversions, high bounce rates, low pageviews etc.). Other ways to expand your negative keyword list include:
Google Keyword Tool – Google Adwords’ Keyword Planner Tool (accessed from the Adwords’ Tools dropdown menu) also gives you the opportunity to find and add negative keywords by suggesting related search terms.
Google Analytics – Using the Matched Search Queries report in Google Analytics is one of the most powerful ways to identify negative keywords. With this report you can use many of Analytics’ native metrics (e.g., conversions, pageviews, Adsense etc.) to see which keywords are not performing well.
Universal negative keyword lists – Sometimes it’s useful to look at “universal” negative keyword lists to help you identify negative keywords for your campaigns. Take a look at these lists for additional ideas:
- Engine Ready Negative Keyword List
- Komarketing B2B Negative Keywords
- PPCHero General Negative Keyword List (.doc file)
Google Search – try searching for one or more of your keywords in Google. Pay attention to Google’s suggested search as well as the top results. For example, if you run a niche site on “Pet Doors”, you may want to add a negative keyword for “crossword” to keep out the crossword puzzlers looking for a word for “pet door opener” as shown below.
Understand and Track Impression Share
Impression share is a very useful metric that tells you how your ads are doing compared to the market. Google defines impression share as:
the number of impressions you’ve received divided by the estimated number of impressions you were eligible to receive.
Currently there are 7 impression share metrics that you have access to:
- Search Impression Share – the percent of impressions you received on the Search network out of the estimated total number of impressions you were eligible to share.
- Search Lost IS (budget) – the percent of impressions that you lost on the search network due to insufficient budget.
- Search Lost IS (rank) – the percent of impressions that you lost on the search network because of low rank
- Search Exact match IS – your impression share for exact matches on your keywords.
- Display impression share – your impression share for the display network.
- Display Lost IS (budget) – your lost impressions from budget on the display network.
- Display Lost IS (rank) – your lost impressions due to poor rank on the display network.
Why Impression Share is Important
I have found that Impression Share is a great diagnostic metric to help you understand changes (e.g., spikes in your traffic) in your Adwords performance. Oftentimes monitoring your Impression Share can help you identify competitive threats from new competitors or existing competitors amping up their Adwords presence. Ultimately, tracking impression share will help identify budget or bid related issues.
How to Improve Your Impression Share
- Adjust your budget – if your Search Lost IS (budget) score is high (greater than 50%) than you should consider increasing your budget. If your campaigns have a positive ROI this should be a no brainer.
- Adjust your bids – If your Search Lost IS (rank) is higher than 35% you should consider raising your bid. This is a more complicated decision because it could impact your ROI for that campaign. Use the bid simulator to understand the differences in traffic you will receive for different bids.
- Improve your Quality Score – this is a much longer conversation…but any changes that you make in your Quality Score will result in your ads being shown more frequently and at a lower CPC. To increase your Quality Score you will need to optimize your landing page and ads for your targeted keywords. You should also prune your low Quality Score keywords.
Exploit Sitelink Extensions
Sitelink extensions allow you to place additional links to different landing pages on your website below your standard ad text.
Sitelink extensions yield the following benefits:
- Your ad receives more real estate on the results page
- The sitelinks allow you to direct your prospects to different pages on your site
- The sitelinks allow you to provide more copy to differentiate yourself (e.g., one of your sitelinks could be “Moneyback Guarantee” linking to your guarantee page)
- Your click-through rate (CTR) will increase an average of 10-20%.
Important things to note about Sitelinks:
- You are allowed up to 6 active sitelinks for desktop ads
- You are allowed up to 4 active sitelinks for mobile ads
- Keep your sitelinks under 20 characters for desktop and 15 characters for mobile
How to Track Sitelink Performance
It took me a while to understand how to report on Sitelink performance…so I thought I’d share it with you. I find it most useful to pick a single ad group and view how many times the sitelinks were displayed and clicked on by keyword. To do this, select your Keyword Tab for your desired Ad group. Then select the segment drop down and choose Click Type. You will then be presented with how many clicks, impression etc. occur for your headline ad compared to your sitelinks. In my case, most of my sitelinks do not generate many clicks…which is great for me… since I mainly use them to drive up my CTR for my headline ads.
Leverage Modified Broad Match (BMM)
I’m continually surprised by how many PPC marketers that don’t know how to use Google’s Broad Match Modifiers correctly. Google added the broad match modifier match type as a hybrid between a broad match and a phrase match. To create a BMM match type you simply add a”+” symbol in front of your keyword (e.g., +keyword). A BMM keyword will only trigger ads for searches that contain the modified term (or close variations such as plurals) in any order.
Here are some examples of how the different match types work:
|pet feeder||Broad||pet feeder, feeders for cats, dog waterer|
|“pet feeder”||Phrase||pet feeder, automatic pet feeder|
|[pet feeder]||Exact||pet feeder|
|+pet +feeder||BMM||pet feeder, feeder for pets|
|+pet feeder||BMM||pet feeder, pet food dispenser|
|pet +feeder||BMM||pet feeder, cat feeder, feeder for pets|
Using BMM match types has several benefits, including:
Better targeted traffic – In general, the correct use of broad match modifiers should increase the relevancy of your traffic – resulting in improved CTRs and conversions.
Less reliance on negative keywords – if you choose your BMM keywords correctly you will not have to be as diligent in using negative keywords. BMM keywords don’t show searches for synonyms and related searches which is where most of your negative keywords come into play.
Flexibility on targeting – Placing only one modifier in a string of keywords will allow you flexibility in how you want to target your ads. For example, you may could consider the following keywords: pet +doors and +pet +doors for your pet doors niche. The first would include the search for pet doors and dog doors but not pet patio panels. The second term would show for pet doors but not dog doors.
Learn to Love the Top Movers Report
As you grow your Adwords campaigns you also increase the complexity of managing them. When you take a look at your Adwords dashboard, you may start asking yourself the following questions:
- Did I mess up anything with all of my recent changes?
- Why did my clicks suddenly drop?
- Why are my costs skyrocketing?
- Where is all of my growth coming from?
Before I learned about the Top Movers report, I spent way too much time pulling reports, downloading to Excel and pouring through tabs and tabs worth of data. The purpose of the Top Movers report is to identify which ad groups and campaigns have realized the largest changes in costs, clicks and conversions. The Top Mover report will also attempt to identify potential causes for the changes.
You can choose different time periods to compare (i.e., 7, 14, or 28 day periods) within the last 90 days. I recommend that you take a look at the report on a weekly basis or any time you notice an unexplained change in traffic or cost.
The Top Movers report starts with a summary table that highlights the total increases and decreases in costs, clicks and conversions.
What you should look for
In the summary report, you should take a look at the Top Increases and make sure that these are “good” increases (meaning that you welcomed the increased traffic). If these are indeed welcome increases, you should determine whether there is an opportunity to gain even more traffic from these campaigns. Likewise, you should evaluate the top decreases and determine if there is a problem. Perhaps you need to take a deeper look at the Impression Share to determine if there is a new competitive threat.
Below the summary report will be a more in depth set of tables that provide more details on the top increases and decreases for any of the analysis categories (cost, clicks, or conversions).
You can select what the detail section analyzes by selecting the appropriate tab in the summary section. The details section will show you the specific campaign/ad group as well as details for:
- Change amount
- Change percent
- Changes in Impressions, Clicks, CTR, Average Position, and Average CPC.
- Changes made (by selecting “View change history” link)
In addition, the details section may provide some “Possible” causes from Google’s analysis of your recent account changes.
There are three factors that may cause changes in your account:
- Competitive changes – your competition changes their bids, budgets, ads or other attributes
- Traffic changes – search traffic changes due to seasonality, the amount of people searching for a term or other factors
- Account changes – such as changes in keywords, bids or budget
Google’s “Possible” changes only highlights Account changes, not competitive or traffic changes.
As I mentioned above, I plan on adding more Adwords Tips to this post as I come across them.
Do you have any tips to share? If so, let me know in the comments.