Managing paid search is great. It’s deeply rooted in data, and this data comes in quickly after launching a new campaign. Paid search is also one of the few channels where you get so much data at times you’re not sure what to look at to make decisions…or at least what to look at first.
According to former Googler Frederick Vallaeys, the secret to AdWords success is “All about developing a great management methodology and sticking to it rigorously.” In other words, it’s regularly optimizing the most important aspects of your campaigns towards your number one goal. Therefore, before you start optimizing your campaigns, you should have a very good understanding of what your number one goal from your paid search campaigns is.
How Many Ways Are There to Optimize Your Paid Search Campaigns?
Channel & Campaign
When you are advertising in multiple channels or campaigns, it’s important to see which channel is performing best for your primary KPI (key performance indicator). After you have an understanding as to which channels and campaigns are performing best, you can allocate your budget accordingly.
Budget and Impression Share
Another aspect to optimize towards is your budget and search impression share. It’s important your top performing campaigns are getting the majority of your budget. Therefore, review your search impression share (especially those top performing campaigns losing impression share due to budget).
Bid adjustments can be done at several different levels. The traditional bid adjustment is done at the keyword level. This is where companies like Marin, Kenshoo, and others are making their money through automated bid adjustments based on how a keyword (or several keywords in a portfolio) are performing versus their goal. However, there are many different aspects of a paid search campaign where you could and should apply bid adjustments. This includes bid adjustments by device, hour of day, location, audiences (i.e. RLSA), and so much more. This makes one wonder, are bid adjustments based on just keyword performance enough? Most likely not.
Hour of Day & Day of Week
Adjusting bids by hour of day is one aspect you can optimize for. Another is to consider actually excluding certain times of day or days of the week based on performance to ensure you are maximizing results. The example below shows a much higher cost per conversion during early morning hours. To optimize toward your number one goal of lowering cost per conversion, you may consider only showing ads during top performing hours, and excluding midnight until 6 am.
Performance by location is extremely important. Some locations simply perform differently than others. By continually reviewing and making adjustments toward your number one goal, you can make your campaigns more efficient. Similar to hour of day optimization, you can either bid down on poorer performing locations or even consider excluding them completely.
Search Query Analysis & Negative Keywords
Looking at what users are actually searching for to be matched with your keywords brings a lot of light as to how paid search match type logic works, but also helps you identify queries or parts of queries you do not want to appear for (as they are less relevant or not relevant at all). This is where negative keywords come into play and are crucial to preventing wasted spend.
Search Partner Exclusion
Google Search Partners are unfortunately one of the few elements of paid search that you cannot apply bid adjustments. You either include Google Search Partners or you exclude them. Regardless, it’s important to look at performance between Google Search and Search Partners on a campaign by campaign basis. I’m hoping one day; Google will implement some bid adjustments at this level.
Keyword bid adjustments were already mentioned. The other aspect of keywords to review is simply performance against the goal. Are there certain keywords that simply are not performing despite reviewing search queries, making bid adjustments, and testing in different match types? If so, perhaps these keywords need to be removed from your campaign.
Landing pages are perhaps the most overlooked aspect of optimization when it comes to performance, but perhaps the most important. Why are these overlooked? Well, for one, landing pages cannot as easily be adjusted as the other elements. Sometimes despite our best efforts, clients are unwilling to invest in landing pages, which is really a shame. Why are landing pages perhaps the most important? Landing pages tend to be most responsible for converting users. Keywords and ads get users to your website. But landing pages close the deal.
Ad copy is another aspect within paid search that should be tested and optimized. Which ads have the highest click-through rate? Which have the lowest cost-per-conversion? Leveraging a tool like adAlysis will help understand the different ways to optimize campaigns.
Device performance is also an important aspect to review. Are your pages and landing pages even mobile-friendly? How are your campaigns performing on mobile vs. computer vs. tablet? Do adjustments need to be made to a particular device or even excluded from a campaign?
Lastly, review how your remarketing lists are performing within search and make adjustments to those as well. Or, if you are using demographics for search, how is a particular demographic (i.e. age range) performing vs. others?
Which Areas Should You Optimize First to See the Best Chances for Success From Paid Search?
This is a pretty loaded question and one that we frequently see on RFPs that goes something like “Rank the following paid search elements from 1-12 in order of importance.”
First off, it will really depend on your overall goal. Secondly, it would then depend on the current situation of your campaigns are and how they are performing.
For example, are your campaigns getting a lot of clicks with a high click-through rate but very few conversions? I would then look at search queries to make sure they are relevant. I’d then take a look at your landing pages to make sure they are following best practices. I would also recommend looking at performance by device to see if there’s a major difference depending on the device a user is using.
Bottom line, there are several different aspects of paid search that need to be reviewed, analyzed, and optimized regularly.
Screenshots by Joe Castro. Taken December 2016