10 Detailed Tips for Managing Adwords Campaigns


#1 Know Your REAL Keywords

If you only look at one report in Google Adwords I would suggest the Search Query Performance report. Recently Google has made it easier to see this data without the hassle of running a report.

Simply navigate to a Campaign or Ad Group and select the Keywords tab. Once selected click “See search terms” and select ALL.

This will show you the actual keywords your Ad is being shown for, their CTR (click through rate) and even conversion rates. For example, if you are bidding on the keyword phrase Gas Grills Google will show your CTR and conversions,  but unless you actually run this report you won’t see all the variations that keyword is actually showing for.

I see this problem all the time as an SEO. Someone will tell me that they make money on the keywordBlue Widget” on Adwords and they want to rank for it organically. I then have them run this report to be sure and they find that “Blue Widget” was set to broad match and their actual conversions were coming from more specific variants of their main keyword.

You typically have to wait 1 day for data to show up but run this report on the last 30 days and you should have plenty of data to review per Ad Group.

#2 Turn a Negative into a Positive

After you run your report, scan the keyword list it gives you for phrases that don’t match your product or business. Add those keywords as a negative search term for that Ad Group or Campaign. Take the time to run your Search Query Performance report at least once a week and sift through it for keywords you can eliminate.

A large list of negative keywords is essential to running a successful Adwords campaign. Keywords set to Broad Match on Google are notorious for showing horribly unrelated searches. By eliminating these you can raise your CTR which will lower your overall cost and stop you from wasting money on customers who will never buy.

Google will not allow some long search phrases to be added as a negative. When this happens try to make some of the most important core words of the search phrase negative and leave the rest out.

While most negative keywords should be inserted at the Ad Group level you can add them at the Campaign level if it makes sense. For example, if you sell high end products Cheap or Free may be a good global negative for you. If you do not want to target customers in the research phrase of the buying cycle you might eliminate review and reviews etc.

#3 Use Tightly Themed Ad Groups

When you start a new Ad Group Do Not Overload it with Keywords! This is a major mistake that many people make. You need to keep your Ad Groups very targeted.

  • Charcoal Grills
  • Gas Grills
  • Electric Grills

Those should be 3 unique Ad Groups. Resist the urge to pile them into one Ad Group because they are all grills.

#4 Divide Important Keywords by Match Type

Let’s say you want to sell Gas Grills. Start an Ad Group with only two keywords, “Gas Grills” & “Gas Grill” both set to phrase match. Go ahead and input at least 10 or 20 negative keywords then let it run for a day or two.

While you are adding negative keywords add [Gas Grills] & [Gas Grill] as negative terms as well. This may seem counter intuitive at first but by doing this your ads will only display for actual phrase searches that use Gas Grills in them versus showing for the exact match keyword.

You can then setup an exact match keyword Ad Group for [Gas Grills] & [Gas Grill]. Once this is done you will be able to truly see how your exact match keywords are performing and how your phrase match keywords are performing. You can use this same type of technique for broad match as well.

#5 Use Broad and Phrase Match to Mine Keyword Gold

Now that your Ad Groups are setup to truly show phrase or exact match terms you can use the phrase and broad matches to find great keywords.

In our case you might find something like this in your “Gas Grills” keyword report.

  • Natural Gas Grills
  • Weber Gas Grills
  • Best Gas Grills
  • Cheap Gas Grills
  • Built in Gas Grills
  • Consumer Reports Gas Grills

The idea here is to ditch the bad stuff and move the good stuff into individual Ad Groups. For instance, you probably don’t sell built in gas grills so why waste the traffic, make it a negative. However, if you do sell Weber grills make Weber gas grills a negative keyword for this Ad group and go create a new Ad group just for Weber grills.

Your phrase match will no longer show for weber gas grills but your new highly targeted ad group will. The keyword phrase “Consumer Reports Gas Grills” could inspire you to research the grills that consumer reports are currently recommending as best buys. Make the keyword a negative and place it in its own Ad Group with a landing page touting the grills you sell that are all so recommended by consumer reports.

You do not have to do this for every keyword, but try it and it’s a great way to eliminate bad keywords and create highly targeted Ad Groups that you can dominate for profitable keywords.

#6 Quality Score Can Destroy Your Campaign

If you do not have Quality Score enabled, click on the Keywords tab and select Columns. Make sure the Quality Score is checked. Try to get 7/10 and above for all your keywords. Try to improve any score lower than a 7 and anything lower than a 5 is a serious issue.

Usually Quality Scores can be improved simply by doing a better job of grouping your keywords and writing ads with the specific keyword appearing in the ad at least twice.

If you are doing that and still getting a low score it could be that your CTR is too low or your landing page needs to be more relevant for that keyword. As a last resort simply delete the problem keyword. This is much easier to do if it is a low traffic keyword to begin with.

Sometimes Google will give you a low Quality Score for seemingly no reason at all. You may think you are doing just about everything right and still get a lower Quality Score. In these cases you may want to use a high Quality Score broad match or phrase match keyword combined with a HUGE list of negative terms to get Google to mainly only show your ad for the keyword you’re having issues with. Hopefully you will not have to go to that extreme.

#7 Split Testing May Be Hurting You

Don’t get me wrong, you need to be split testing ads against one another. Every Ad Group you have should be running at least two variations of an ad at all times in an effort to find a better performing ad.

However, after you have been split testing ads for a while you will find it harder and harder to beat your best ad. This is where split testing can actually hurt you because 50% of your clicks will be going to an underperforming ad.

The solution is to duplicate your best ad 3 times (or more) and run it against 1 copy of your new ad. This will keep your CTR steady while you test. You can play with the mix to get a percentage you are comfortable with.

Remember to go into your campaign settings and set your ads to rotate more evenly so you can get an accurate split test.

#8 A Simple Way to Write Effective Ad Copy

Headline – Use your main keyword
Line 1 – Use line one to promote a benefit
Line 2 – Use line two to show your USP (unique selling point)
Display URL – Use Capitalization in your domain & add your keyword after the /. You can also remove the www from the Display URL if you need the extra room.

An ad like this should do well because it uses the target keyword “Gas Grills” in the headline and multiple times throughout the ad. It also touts the benefit of free shipping and 50% off combined with the unique selling point on line two of a large selection and fast shipping.

There really is no silver bullet when it comes to writing ad copy. The best thing to do is continuously test. However, if you follow this simplistic formula you will already be ahead of most of your competition.

#9 Optimize Your Campaign Settings.

Make sure you are set to the right countries or states that you wish to market in. If you don’t ship to Canada make sure you’re not advertising there.

However, the settings with the biggest impact are in the Networks and Devices section.

In general I would advise you turn off the search partners, display network and iphones/smart phones. I start almost every campaign with these three options disabled. Once I get the campaign running smoothly I will create a new campaign that just targets the display network.

The display network is a whole different animal and you need to know your market before even trying it. Also, it is much easier to view your data with Search and Display in their own unique campaigns.

Unless you are selling pizza or ringtones I would stay away from advertising on smart phones unless you have a very specific plan of attack.

By eliminating these networks until you are ready to expand into them you can save a ton of wasted money early on.

#10 Google Instant Will Change Search Behaviors

As more people get used to Google instant search it will start to change their search habits. Make sure you are prepared. Go to Google and type in your main money making keywords. See what Google starts suggesting. Make sure you have compelling ads for each of the relevant phrases that Google suggest.

If you do this now you can position yourself with high CTR and Quality Score in anticipation of your customers search behavior.

Closing Thought

Adwords can be a major source of frustration for beginners and even pros. However, if you take the time to set your campaign up the right way and monitor it closely you will limit the headaches and most importantly stop wasting money.

Please feel free to post your favorite Adwords tip in the comments!


17 Responses to “10 Detailed Tips for Managing Adwords Campaigns”
  1. Stephan says:

    Hi AJ, I’d like to share research we have done into AdWords CTR by ad position. We have seen average CTR across the accounts we manage reach 17% for the top ad positions – this is across short and long tail searches. CTR tend to tail off as you scroll down the page.

    Improving your CTR is the best way to lift your Quality Score. When assessing your Quality Score, AdWords looks at your relative CTR, rather than your absolute CTR. In other words, advertisers should focus on exceeding the CTR associated with their average position, through better ad copy and negative keywords.

  2. Chad Walls says:

    In regards to tip #3 how many keywords should you cluster into each ad group? If you have a dozen similar keywords should you break that group into two ad groups? Thanks for the tips!

    • AJ Ghergich says:

      It really just depends but you want them to be tightly grouped. Usually after 10 or so keywords you start to stray but that is not an exact rule at all. Just use a case by case analysis and you should be fine.