AdWords is complex. We believe that this is by design.
By making the system so complicated, many businesses don’t pay close attention to what’s going on, other than the bill they receive each month. Some even give up entirely on AdWords.
So this is your opportunity to succeed where others have failed and I’m going to show you how to make sense of this confusing mess they call AdWords!
Start by setting up meaningful tracking.
Google choose to keep this quiet, but conversion tracking within AdWords is incredibly flawed. Here’s why.
AdWords tracking relies on a basic browser cookie, and that cookie might not be around at the time of the conversion.
This is because of how we use the internet nowadays. We use multiple devices, we take our time, we’re paranoid about who may be watching us, and it’s not always one person who converts in the end.
AdWords tracking won’t work in those scenarios.
At its most basic, AdWords is about paying for people who are interested in what you’re offering to come to your website.
Effective tracking helps weed out people who aren’t interested and optimize for those who are.
If your tracking has been configured for the goal of a sale, you might not see much data attributed back to AdWords. But without that data, it will be impossible to make any judgement as to how well AdWords is performing.
So take a few steps back from the goal. Ask yourself what the majority of your targeted visitors are most likely to do the first time they come across your website. Then track that type of interaction within AdWords.
It’s also important to remember that whatever you choose to track needs to produce enough data to draw reliable conclusions.
Review your real keywords.
Another one of those items that Google hide within the complexities of the system is the actual keywords that trigger your ads.
The keywords you entered into your AdWords campaigns are effectively more like suggestions to Google. Even if you use exact match keywords, Google can and will manipulate them.
This means that your ads might be displayed to people who will never become customers.
To prevent this from happening, you need to regularly review the actual keywords that trigger your ads.
You can do this by reviewing the search terms report. It can be accessed on the Dimensions tab or the Keyword tab within your account.
But again, remember that you’ll need a large enough data sample, and make sure you have the appropriate columns displayed within the report.
Look for keywords that are off-target or not performing well. Once you find then, you’ll have a few options:
1) You can exclude them by way of negative keywords.
2) You can move them into their own ad groups to try to improve on their performance. This can be done by creating better ads and/or sending clicks to better suited landing pages.
Review your ad performance.
If you’re seeing many impressions and very few clicks (meaning a low clickthrough rate), that’s an indication that something may be wrong.
Remember that Google don’t want to display ads that aren’t being clicked. And while it’s true that your ads won’t always be clicked, if this happens too often, it sends a bad signal to Google. It suggests that your ads aren’t relevant to the keywords that you’re bidding on. Google will then show your ads less often, and the cost per click will almost certainly increase.
This is because Google want people to find what they’re looking for.
Your ads need to make a connection with your keywords, and they need to be enticing enough to click on. Higher clickthrough rates tend to lead to a lower cost per click.
But don’t stop there.
Now you need to understand how things are performing after the click.
If you don’t think Google have data on this, think again. Google know what’s happening on most websites because of Google Analytics.
Google can also tell if someone clicks on your ad and then returns to click on another ad.
Think about it: Google could intentionally be placing your ads above your competitor’s ads to get two clicks for one search! From Google’s perspective, clicks mean revenue.
To prevent this from happening, you’ll need to review your Analytics and also your new and improved conversion data.
If most visitors arrive and then leave, it’s a good indicator that you’re not giving them what they were looking for.
Turning this around will require the following:
1) Restructuring your ad groups into distinct keyword themes. Your keywords need to make a connection to your ads, and your ads need to make a connection with your landing pages. No more of a “one size fits all” approach, meaning no more sending all your clicks to one single landing page.
2) Tweak your landing pages to produce more desirable outcomes. If you want people to download your product or fill out a form, you’ll need to modify your landing pages to get more people to do just that.
You can no longer afford to take the approach of simply letting people click on your ads, and then hoping that they’ll figure it out once they arrive.
You need to steer them directly to your objectives.
Understand who’s clicking on your ads.
I really wish Google would share more data and control, but the items that they do share shouldn’t be overlooked.
Here are just a few items that I would recommend you review to get a better understanding of who’s clicking on your ads.
1) User locations report – found on the dimensions tab. You might be surprised to see locations that are sending you clicks and costing you money, but you never wanted to target in the first place. Use this data to exclude locations that you don’t wish to target, or to understand which areas are producing better results than others.
2) Segment data based on devices – you can access this data at multiple levels across your account. For example from the campaigns tab, click on the segment button and then select device. This will display a breakdown of how each device performs (computer, mobile, or tablet) across all your campaigns.
Depending on what you find, you have some options:
i) You can exclude devices.
ii) You can apply a bid adjustment to each device. For example, increase all bids by 50% on mobile.
iii) You can focus campaigns on specific devices.
But before you do that, be very careful not to misinterpret this data. For example you might find that mobile clicks aren’t performing as well as computer clicks. This could be because people are initially finding your product or service on their mobile device, but only signing up and paying on their desktop computers.
3) Segment data based on time of day or day of the week – this data can also be found across your account using the segment button.
For example it’s possible that you find Sundays cost more than Mondays and they don’t produce great results. In that case, you could setup ad scheduling where you either block your ads from being displayed on Sundays, or you could reduce the bids by 50% on Sundays.
But before you do that, be careful with this setting! Ad scheduling is based on your AdWords account’s time zone. If your account’s time zone is set for London but your campaigns are targeting people across multiple time zones, ad scheduling will be more difficult to configure.
Put it all together – understand what just happened.
My two favorite parts of the AdWords system are as follows:
1) The date range compare feature.
2) The change history.
If you didn’t already know, AdWords is an ongoing experiment. You should constantly try new variations, new ideas, new targeting, see how they all perform. Purge the weaknesses and expand on the good stuff.
The date range compare and change history make interpreting experiment results incredibly easy.
To use the date range compare feature, select a date range, then switch on the compare option. You can either compare the previous period, the same period last year or a custom date range.
What’s great about this feature is that it adds a (+) symbol to each column of data. If you click on the (+) symbol on the clicks column for example, you’ll see a comparison of the clicks for each date range, total change and percentage change. This will make it easy to understand if recent changes made a difference.
Why is this so powerful? As you already know, AdWords has a lot of moving parts. It’s easy to forget when you increased bids on one ad group or when you created new ads in another.
The change history is the perfect way to spot not only when things were changed, but also how they’ve impacted performance.
You can access the change history from various locations throughout your account, and it has some great filtering capabilities that will help you hone in on specific actions and their consequences. I highly recommend that you spend some time there.
I’ve only scratched the surface of AdWords, but understanding these areas of your account will give you a serious advantage over other advertisers, most of whom typically neglect their accounts.
Understanding how AdWords is performing will help you determine how to produce better results.