10 Pillars to Run Top Notch AdWords Campaigns

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10 Pillars to Run Top Notch AdWords Campaigns

It is clear AdWords has become a must for businesses who want to drive relevant traffic to their websites. The increase in AdWords’ demand has consequently increased the price for clicks, and therefore advertisers need to know how to boost their results and not waste their budget.

Here are some of the most important pillars to keep into consideration while working on an AdWords Account:

Do Not Bid On Your Brand

People searching for your brand are people who are probably coming back to purchase after they have already compared your website to other brands. If other brands are bidding on your name, users are likely to ignore them since they already know what they want.

It still makes sense to bid on your own keywords if you have marketing budget left and would like to secure the best placement for your brand name. But if you are running on a limited budget, avoid it.

Strategize The Use Of Keywords Match Types

Google gives you the option to use broad match, broad match modifier, phrase, and exact match keywords. Use them to step up your game and make sure to test complex account structures. Also, do not forget to use broad, phrase, and exact match negative keywords to eliminate irrelevant keywords variations.

Using a “broad match” keyword implies that Google will let your ads run for relevant variations of your keywords, including synonyms and misspellings. Google might show your advertising messages for many irrelevant terms if you do not use a compelling list of negative keywords.

The use of “broad match modifier” keywords allows you to be targeted but at the same time broad enough to find relevant long tail keywords for your campaigns. It basically allows you to show up for any search query that includes all of the terms of your keyword that triggered the ad, independently from their order in the search query.

A “phrase match” keyword tells your account to trigger your ads only if a searcher looks for a search term that equals to your keyword or that has the keywords in the same order as you used them. This match type is really useful for long tail variations of your most successful keywords.

Finally, “exact match” keywords are the ones you use when you want to show your ads exactly for the terms as you have inserted them in the AdGroups. This definitively is the most targeted option you can use.

I strongly recommend using a combination of keyword match types in order to optimize the account for a greater ROI. For example, use broad match modifier and phrase match keywords to find new long tail keywords and focus on exact match in order to generate profitable conversions with terms that already converted once in the past.

Source: https://support.google.com/adwords/answer/2497836

Source: https://support.google.com/adwords/answer/2497836

Group Keywords In Tight, Relevant AdGroups

The best way to reduce costs on AdWords is to work on increasing the CTR and the quality score. The best way to do that is to make sure whenever a user looks for a term he finds an advertising message that is extremely relevant to his search.

It is very common to see accounts that do not group keywords in a proper way. This mistake can cost a lot of money and might cause the account to retrieve a lot of irrelevant terms. Also, the CTR and the quality score will suffer.

While grouping keywords think about how keywords can relate among them. Can you group them by service? Can you maybe group them by call to action? Whatever method you use make sure to avoid duplicates and use custom advertising texts for each AdGroup.

Negative Keywords Are Fundamental To Succeed

You cannot have a good account without ensuring you don’t waste your budget on irrelevant keywords. Negative terms help to tell Google when not to show your ad.

You can add negative keywords at the campaign and AdGroup level. Negative keywords at the campaign level basically apply to all AdGroups and should include terms that you do not want to appear for under any circumstance, such as the word FREE if your service is always pay. AdGroup focused negative keywords refer to terms that should not trigger an ad only for keywords inserted in a given AdGroup. There might be several reasons for this, but the most relevant definitively is to avoid competition among similar ad groups.

There are several ways to find negative keywords. The best way is to constantly monitor the search query report and to look at Google Analytics to find out what you are actually showing up for and use this information to tune the account.

Split Test Advertising Messages For Better Results

Ad copy split testing is fundamental if you want to generate great results long-term. I usually suggest testing one element at a time among headlines, description lines, and display URL. This makes it easier to identify winning variations in all parts of your ads.

Your account should always test at least two ads at the time. You can have many ads testing at once as long as you have enough  data to support it. Your test results should focus on CTR and conversion rates. Do not make the mistake of only focusing on profits! Be sure to look at the long-term benefits of a good CTR.

Being Number One Is Not Always Profitable: Test Ad Positions

Advertising positions can have a big effect on your overall ROI. Generally, users clicking on an advertising message  on top of the page are quick decision makers, while people clicking on ads at the bottom of the page are more likely to be sensitive to price and compare more options before converting.

This might be not true for all industries. Also, at times the first position can be very expensive and therefore it is necessary to find out how you perform at different placements for different keywords.

At the end of the day, it is all about generating a positive ROI and you should not be afraid of testing – this is the best way to improve your account.

Source: https://support.google.com/adwords/answer/1722122

Source: https://support.google.com/adwords/answer/1722122

Do Not Promise Miracles, But Focus on Realistic Results

Google AdWords is an advertising tool based on data. Data costs money, and therefore the smaller your budget is, the longer it will take to optimize the campaign for great results. The best way to get started is to have a set up that minimizes the budget waste on irrelevant keywords.

You should make a judgement call and decide what topics (AdGroups) to pursue with your budget. I suggest starting on focused keywords and go broader with the successful AdGroups. This will ensure you grow your budget along with results.

Send Users to The Best Landing Pages For The Ad They Clicked On

Many advertisers prefer to send people to the home page of a website rather than taking the time to create a custom landing page. This is a huge mistake. You need to think of AdWords as something that brings the right people to the doorstep. However, if the inside of your store is not appealing or does not make it easy to find a product, people won’t buy.

You need to make sure that each landing page sends users to the page that is most likely to convert. Do you want to create landing pages yourself? There are many tools online that allow you to do that! Take advantage of them!

Know the Lifetime Value (LTV) of Consumers

The Customer Lifetime Value (LTV) should  be at the base of every business decision. Do not look at the immediate earnings from a client to determine your ideal cost per acquisition. Analyze how much you are likely to earn from a client in total and determine how much you are willing to pay to get this earning in your business.

Many companies fail at calculating the LTV and this means they estimate their marketing budget incorrectly. It is difficult to calculate the LTV if you are new in the business. However, you can still estimate it by making some conservative projections and tuning them up along the way.

Outsmart Competitors

Study what your competition is doing and take advantage of their mistakes. This is a very simple principle and also an extremely effective one.

You do not need expensive tools to analyze your competition. Just create a list of your top keywords and look up in the preview tool to find out what ads your competitors are using. Also, look at your auctions insights to find out websites that are sharing the Google Search Page with you. Look at their websites and find out how you can improve your pages!

In Conclusion:

Adwords is a fundamental tool for many businesses but costs are rising every day. As a smart advertiser, you should leverage everything that could give you a competitive advantage. This list includes only the most important pillars you should be looking at, but there are plenty of other factors to consider. What other tricks of the trade do you use to maximize your Adwords budget?


Top graphic created by author with official Google logo.

Rocco Baldassarre
Rocco Baldassarre is a digital marketing consultant and entrepreneur. He is best known for being the founder of the award winning digital marketing agency Zebra... Read Full Bio
Rocco Baldassarre
Rocco Baldassarre
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  • Joe

    I have to disagree with not bidding on your brand. I can’t tell you how many orders I pulled in by advertising on a competitors brand. It’s the cheapest conversion – so there is no reason not to do it. Plus it’s great for branding and controlling more of the SERPs. Otherwise this was a good article.

    • Rocco Baldassarre

      Hi Joe,

      Thank you for your opinion.

      However, you are mentioning your competitor’s brand and not your own, which is a difference. Also, it might rise competitive issues but that’s only for branded terms.

      All the best,

      • Jen

        Hey Rocco, I think Joe touched on both sides of the argument, he said not bidding on your brand terms means someone else can steal traffic like he has. He then said (though not clearly) bidding on your own brand terms is cheap, good for branding and SERP control.

        I have to 100% agree with Joe. Perhaps if you are not sure it’s better to test and monitor for drops on all fronts as perhaps it depends on the strength of the brand.

        I’ve done this many times in the past with the same result – brand bidding always wins hands down. The fact that when we have asked competitors to not bid on us in the past they have admitted it brought them lots of extra traffic and sales says it all!

  • Joe

    I agree with the other Joe who commented. Bid on your brand. I’ve seen time and time again that my clients have lost easy revenue by letting the competitor (who’s bidding on my client’s brand name) claim the true #1 spot. It is also the cheapest cost per conversion. So build up that revenue to fund other non-branded campaigns to gain new customers and build your overall company awareness.

    • Rocco Baldassarre

      Hi Joe,

      Thank you for your comment!

      I think it all depends on your budget and the solidity of your sales funnel.

      My management style is based on constant testing and what I have noticed is that the stronger your sales funnel is the lower the need of a brand campaign is.

      Obviously, if the offering is not strong in one of the forces governing the market, you are at risk of competitors stealing your clients due to a better offer.

      I believe that a strong sales funnel qualifies customers so much that they would look for your name only because they are convinced about their intentions.

      Unfortunately, I cannot share the numbers of my study but I can tell you that split testing it for sales funnel my team and I managed turned into a difference in results of $0.02 dollars.

      However, as I mention in the post, if you have enough budget i still recommend doing it due to the fact that some companies might have a stronger differentiator than you and therefore might end up “stealing” customers.

      I really like the inputs that are being generated by this article and the engagement of you all. This is what helps businesses take great decisions.

      All the best,

  • Joe

    Hey Rocco,

    What I meant was… if you don’t bid on your own brand someone else will and steal orders from you.

  • David Rothwell

    Some good advice, some very misguided.

    Absolutely you bid on your brand, crazy not to. You take over more SERP space, get more links, and can test stuff out. Conversions are cheap, bids low, and you get authority positioning.

    “Do not make the mistake of only focusing on profits!” No way.

    My clients all have unlimited budgets because the campaigns are doing what they should – creating profit.

    “CTR is for show, Conversions are for dough”

    • Rocco Baldassarre

      Hi David,

      thank you for your comments, they are very appreciated.

      Conversions on branded terms seem to be a very interesting topic. I guess it all depends whether testing the campaign with and without creates a real difference in profit. In my experience, the majority of times brand keywords are good if the product is not different enough. Again, it depends on many factors, and it should be tested.

      As mentioned in the article: It still makes sense to bid on your own keywords if you have marketing budget left and would like to secure the best placement for your brand name. But if you are running on a limited budget, avoid it.

      Some clients should rather test their competitiveness on other keywords if they have a limited budget because everybody is good enough to convert on their own brand name. If a new business cannot convert on non branded keywords it means that there is something serious that could harm long term profitability that needs to be fixed.

      On limitless budgets, you are totally right. I agree with your point!

      Thank you for your valuable input and enjoy your day,

  • Mike Peters

    I’ll avoid the whole brand keyword thing but instead mention that when testing your ad copy don’t forget to set your ad rotation to “Rotate Indefinitely”. Google defaults to optimize your ads so the “better” performing one gets more ad serves which skews your test to whatever ad starts to get better results. By using rotate indefinitely your ads run an almost even 50/50 split test and you get much more accurate results.

    • Rocco Baldassarre

      Great Point Mike. This way you can test distributing ads evenly!

  • EY Phua

    I also disagree on not bidding on your own brand keyword. Even on a limited budget, your own brand will give you a if not the highest click through rate, and can help improve the QS for the entire account. Own brand keywords are too cheap not to bid on (likely with QS of 10) and should not be dependent on budget.

    On the ad rotation setting “Rotate Indefinitely”, a note is that Adwords will default back to optimize on clicks or conversions if the ads are not updated over the 90 days!

    • Rocco Baldassarre

      Hi EY,

      Thank you for your comments!

      As to your last point, Google added one rotation option: Rotate indefinitely: Show lower performing ads more evenly with higher performing ads, and do not optimize

      This is a pretty cool option for testing purposes!

      Have a lucky week,

  • Zach Hoffman

    I would have to agree with the people that commented here regarding brand keywords, that they are a must for bidding on. Not a nice to have, if you have extra budget. Your quality scores are so high on brand terms, if you are the brand that these clicks cost you pennies and typically are only about 2%-5% of a brands budget allocation and have very minimal cost and extreme upside.

    Regarding negative keywords, we would also mention that people should utilize “Shared Library > Campaign Negative Keywords”, as well note you should avoid negative keywords on broad match as well.

    A key pillar not mentioned as well is isolate search targeting versus display.

    • Rocco Baldassarre

      Hi Zach,

      Thank you for your comments!

      As to your last point, Google added one rotation option: Rotate indefinitely: Show lower performing ads more evenly with higher performing ads, and do not optimize

      This is a pretty cool option for testing purposes!

      Have a lucky week,

      • Rocco Baldassarre

        Hi Zach,

        The previous comment should have been for the conversation above.

        Thank you for adding value with your shared library part.


  • Ashok

    You can quickly figure out whether to bid on your brand or not by testing it for a month or so. The new adwords organic & paid search report(http://adwords.blogspot.com/2013/08/analyze-and-optimize-your-search.html) will help you solve this dilemna. This will tell you quickly how you are performing by bidding on the brand

    If there is not much difference in CTR between the two scenarios, you probably shouldn’t bid on your brand.