Top Tips For Profitable Google AdWords Campaigns

By Matt Brown,

The power of advertising on Google search is that you can display your adverts to highly targeted audiences at the precise moment they are seeking your product or service. The Google AdWords platform is an amazing technological achievement, but it's easy for a new advertiser to get lost in the detail and quickly waste money.

Here are some top tips that I would offer to any advertiser who is considering using Google AdWords, or who has already got started.

Take the time to plan and think through how your campaign will be structured. If your website navigational structure makes sense to your customers then it is probably sensible to structure your AdWords campaigns around it. A Google AdWords Account has a hierarchy of Campaigns and Ad Groups that sit within Campaigns.

An Ad Group is a collection of similar keywords, plus one to three adverts that are related to the keywords. An Ad Group may contain up to 10 or 15 keyword variations. Any more than that and you should probably group the keywords tighter by splitting some out into new Ad Groups. In a highly targeted set-up, a single keyword will often be used in an Ad Group with a highly relevant advert.

Ad Groups are stored in Campaigns and you can put all of your Ad Groups in one single Campaign. The reason why you might create more than one Campaign is if you wish to control how the budget is shared amongst the Ad Groups. For example you might have one set of Ad Groups that you are targeting 100% of the available Impressions, so you might put those into one Campaign and allocate sufficient budget to that. You might then put the remaining Ad Groups into a separate Campaign on its own budget. Other reasons for creating more than one Campaign might be if you wish to target the Google search and display networks (use a separate Campaign for each), or target each Campaign to different geography or day and time scheduling.

Think Like a Customer
Too often advertisers focus on what they have to sell and forget to think like a customer. When buying a product or service, a customer is often spoilt for choice. They probably have many alternatives to choose from over your product or service, so you have to put your mind-set objectively into that of our customer, and ask:

  1. Why would they choose you over any and all of the alternatives that are available to them?
  2. What criteria will they use to quickly sort through the choices to end up with a shortlist to choose from?
  3. What would they search for if they were looking for a business like yours?

Thinking like a customer should help you with the creation of keyword lists and ideas for advert copy with strong call-to-actions.

When setting up Google AdWords, a key targeting method to avoid budget waste is to pick only the most relevant keywords for your business. But check in your Campaign settings that you are taking advantage of the other powerful targeting methods as well:

  1. Locations – in addition to picking the geography where you wish to display adverts, you can also exclude locations where you wish to avoid showing adverts. For example, you may wish to target England but from experience you know that certain towns or regions are less likely to convert, so you can exclude those. Alternatively, you may find in your AdWords data that certain locations convert at a higher than average rate, so you can use Bid Adjustment to increase the amount that you are prepared to bid for a click if the potential customer is in that location.
  2. Ad Scheduling – you might wish to restrict the display of adverts to specific days of the week or time of day. You use Ad scheduling in Settings to do this. You may also use Bid Adjustment to increase your bid at specific times of day that are more likely to convert.
  3. Devices – you will probably wish to display adverts across desktop and mobile searches but on mobile it is even more important to have a high display position in the search screen, so you may wish to use Bid Adjustment to increase your bid when a potential customer is searching for your business on a mobile device.

Make it easy for the potential customer. The adverts should be focused and relevant to the keyword phrase and should point to the most relevant part of your website that has strong call-to-actions. Don’t drop the potential customer in on the home page and expect them to navigate to the correct page: Take them straight there.

Keyword Matching
Set the Match Type for each keyword based on how closely you want Google to match the actual search made, with your chosen keyword.

  1. Broad match – as its name suggests, this is the broadest form of keyword targeting and your advert may display to a wider range of searches than you would like. E.g. keyword red shoes will display for ‘buy new red shoes’ and may display for ‘second hand shoes’ and ‘buy red socks’.
  2. Broad match modifier – a more targeted version of Broad Match. Just put a plus symbol directly in front of one or more words in a broad match keyword. Each word preceded by a + has to appear in the search query exactly, or as a close variant. E.g. keyword buy +riding +hats will display for ‘women’s riding hats’ and ‘riding hats for men’ but not for ‘women’s riding lessons’.
  3. Phrase match – gives more precise targeting by displaying adverts for searches that are very close to the chosen keyword. E.g. keyword women’s hats will display for ‘buy women’s hats’ but not for ‘women’s riding hats’.
  4. Exact match – gives the most precise targeting by only displaying an advert to searches that exactly match the chosen keyword, or very close variations to it. E.g. keyword buy red shoes will only display to searches of ‘buy red shoes’ and not ‘buy blue shoes’ or ‘buy ladies’ red shoes’.

A word about keywords. When we say keywords, we really should be saying ‘keyword phrase’. Single word keywords are rarely used to display adverts as they are too broad and may attract non-relevant searches. The ideal keyword phrase will consist of at least two words and probably no more than four.

Negative Keywords
The keyword types above are used to display adverts when they match Google searches made, but one of the most important keyword types that is often underused is ‘negative keywords’. These keywords prevent an advert from displaying when the negative keyword is included in the search query and are a vital tool in creating and developing a highly targeted campaign. For example we often add ‘how’, ‘what’, and ‘if’ as negative keywords to filter out information-only seekers. The list will vary depending on the business of each advertiser, but we would expect to see a very extensive list of several hundred negative keywords that are being added to regularly, based on the AdWords Search Term report of actual searches that have resulted in clicks on the adverts.

The keyword match types used to display adverts can also be used for negative keywords but the majority of negative keywords will usually be single words set to broad match.
Most AdWords accounts that we analyse have insufficient negative keywords.

Impression Share
An Impression is a single advert display and the Impression Share is simply the percentage of times your advert has been displayed out of the available searches for that Campaign, Ad Group or Keyword.

We see many AdWords accounts where the campaigns are budget-constrained and only achieving an Impression Share of 20% or less. This probably means that the budget is being shared over too many keywords or that the overall keyword performance is poor. You should be aiming for overall Impression Share figures of over 80%. It would be better to focus the budget on fewer, higher performing keywords than spread it over a large number of keywords where only a relatively small percentage of available advert impressions can be skimmed off.

Advert Position
You can’t buy individual spots on the search results page but you should keep a very close eye on where your adverts are displaying on average and take action if the average is too low. For desktop searches we prefer to see the advert averaging at least in the top three positions and for mobile we want to get to as close to position one as possible, as less search results are displayed on a mobile device. To improve your advert display position you need to improve the quality of the overall campaign by looking very closely at targeting and improving the relevance of keywords, adverts and landing pages. Simply raising the keyword bids will probably raise the advert display position but we would be looking at improving the quality first.

Optimise Regularly
Check the campaigns on a regular and methodical basis but don’t micromanage. We check new campaigns daily initially but want to move as quickly as we can to a weekly check and optimisation process. How often you should be checking is all down to the volume of data that your account generates and this is dependent on how many impressions and clicks it receives. The full optimisation process is beyond this particular article but essentially you should be looking to improve what is working and remove what isn’t. If a keyword or advert has had at least 200 impressions and the Click-Through-Rate (CTR) is poor (less than 2%) then you should consider changing or removing it. If the CTR is less than 1% then it probably needs removing. If the keyword of the advert has had at least 200 clicks and the conversion rate is poor, then you should consider changing or removing it.

Be very careful not to micro-manage. You need enough data to make decisions about how to optimise the account and you need to view long-term data to smooth out the day-to-day inconsistencies.

Don't Drown in Data
A final thought: a Google AdWords account can generate huge amounts of data over time and it is easy to get caught up in the detail. Work out what your objectives and priorities are and when checking the account, start at the farthest out view and then drill in.

  1. Check which Campaigns represent the bulk of the spend and focus on those.
  2. Is Click-Through-Rate less than 2%, Impression Share less than 80%, Average Position less than 2, Conversions less than your target?
  3. Then drill into the Campaign to examine it at Ad Group level. Looking at the Ad Groups that represent the bulk of the spend, which ones need the most attention to fix your measures? The answers will probably lie within the targeting and at keyword and advert level.

While you can pick some keywords, write an advert and put a campaign live right now, don’t expect top rate results instantly. Building an efficient and profitable AdWords campaign takes time. You need to build a solid campaign around a tightly focused set of keywords plus relevant adverts and then build enough data to allow you to understand how to develop it. You need to be able to test keywords and adverts, examine the search terms report, work out where your most profitable customers are located and when they are most likely to be seeking your business.

The Author

Matt Brown is a co-founder and Director of One Vision Ltd, has been managing Google AdWords campaigns since 2001 and provides online advertising management and consultancy.

For tips and advice see and @1visionltd

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