Ryan Moothart // Apr 19 2013
If you have ever re-organized an inherited AdWords account to get in line with best practices by moving keywords into new campaigns and creating new ad copy, you may have noticed how you don’t immediately get the results you were expecting.
In fact, you may have concluded that all of the work just made your account worse. This is actually a common theme when it comes to Google AdWords – taking a mediocre account and trying to make it into a great account usually comes with some growing pains.
If you have an AdWords account which you don’t optimize often and subsequently leave it be (more or less) without any significant changes to campaign structure for an extended period of time, it has the tendency to “settle in.” The back-end system which runs all of the keyword bidding auctions seems to get used to your account and adapts to it.
In this scenario, you might wind up with an account which gets you click and conversion metrics you’re comfortable with. However, you’re unlikely to see much improvement. Your account just “does its thing” and gets you predictable results.
Let’s say you have an account, like the one above, that you don’t touch very often and have come to realize is in need of some restructuring. For example, there are only a handful of campaigns where each has over 30 ad groups with an average 200 keywords and 15 ads in each one.
So, you re-organize the account into several more campaigns. All of the keywords are the same, but are now in more granular, tightly-themed ad groups with 3 or 4 ads in each ad group.
The account looks much cleaner, better organized, and in-line with AdWords’ best practices – you give yourself a pat on the back.
However, the following week, you check your click and conversion metrics to find your average cost per click has risen by 50%, your click total has decreased by 15%, and your conversion total has decreased by 30%. At this point, your eyes widen past a point that should be physically possible, you attempt to pull out your hair, and you scream obscenities in a midst of confusion and frustration.
On the surface, it doesn’t look like you really changed anything – but in reality, you changed a lot more than you thought. When you move a keyword from one ad group to another, you’re technically deleting it – including deleting all historical data associated with it – and creating a brand new keyword. This means the quality score and history your keyword has attained disappears completely.
Let’s say keyword X has a quality score of 7 and accrues 500 clicks per month at $1 average cost per click. After “moving” keyword X to another ad group and letting it run for a week, you see that it has a quality score of 4 and an average cost per click of $1.50. In this example, Google no longer has the historical data attached to keyword X that gave it a higher quality score and, thus, a lower average cost per click.
Before changing anything, download a full copy of your entire account – campaign structure, ad group taxonomy, keyword statistics, everything. Use this to gauge the performance of your changes over time. Worst case scenario: if you cannot continue with your optimization efforts, you can always re-upload your old account which will, in short order, begin achieving predictable click and conversion metrics again.
Do not change everything at once and upload all new campaigns from AdWords Editor at once. Doing so is the metaphorical equivalent of pushing the big red button – it will cause your click metrics to spike drastically in directions you don’t want them to.
Implement changes methodically and strategically – start re-organizing your poorest campaigns first, then work your way to the ones you consider the best over weeks, months, or as long as it takes to be systematic and effective.
Your initial performance for the first month or two will likely not be as good as the month or two preceding these changes. This dip in performance usually lasts 2-3 months, but can be shorter or longer. For this reason, it’s best to complete a re-organization process like this when your business has hit its point of low seasonality.
But, after this initial dip, you’ll begin to see results which reflect its improved structure:
So don’t get discouraged with the early dip in performance. With the proper planning and enough patience, you can take your mediocre AdWords account and make it great!
Ryan is a PPC strategist at Portent, Inc. He started at Portent as an intern soon after graduating from Willamette University with a BA in Rhetoric & Media Studies. Read More