Are You Over Optimizing Your AdWords Account?

Timothy Johnson Mar 10 2017

Over Optimizing Your PPC Account

I’m going to tell you something that’s a little counterintuitive: you may be hurting your AdWords or general PPC performance by trying to do too much, too fast.

This idea doesn’t get a lot of air time because a lot of under-performing AdWords accounts or campaigns trace back to under-optimization or “set it and forget it”, which we all know is the devil.

Requisite PSA: Getting the most out of your Google AdWords account takes time, expertise and diligence. One of the most common mistakes marketers make, especially those new to managing AdWords accounts, is not paying enough attention.

This post gets into problems caused at the opposite end of the spectrum. Here are some common over optimization mistakes that we see even experienced PPC managers make.

Common Optimization Mistakes

Over optimization can mean a variety of different things. Some are small and easy to correct. Others are more foundational and require larger strategy changes.

Making Adjustments Based On Small Sample Sizes

This is the most obvious and common mistake we typically see. It is very easy to see results pouring in, either positive or negative, and make quick optimization decisions before considering whether you have enough data.

Small Sample Size Example PPC

Actionable? Not with this few clicks.

Small amounts of data often do not represent long-term trends and therefore do not warrant snap adjustments. Allow your click data to reach a point of statistical significance before you make changes. It’s not based on feelings, it’s science.

Deleting or Pausing Keywords That Aren’t Performing Well

If a keyword is underperforming, it may seem like a no brainer to throw it out. Why continue to invest budget if you aren’t seeing return? You may be right in thinking this. Or you might be looking at things with too narrow a lens.

Before you give up on a keyword ask yourself why it is struggling. Here are some things to consider:

  • Check the search term reports.
  • Is the match type pulling in irrelevant queries?
  • Is the campaign out of budget restricting reach?
  • Does the ad copy and landing page match up with the keyword?

There may be a reason the keyword isn’t doing well that you could easily fix and improve your overall account strength.

Increasing Bids To Raise Ad Position

When keywords have low average ad position, the first instinct is usually to increase your max CPC bids.

Before you go driving up your CPC, check to make sure there isn’t another reason your keyword is getting pushed down in the rankings. Is the quality score low? Is the campaign ‘limited by budget’? There may be things you can to help improve your ad rank without paying more. Do some research first.

Over Utilizing Bid Modifiers

Bid modifiers for ad scheduling, location targeting, and device targeting are a fantastic optimization tool. However, incorrectly using bid modifiers is a great way to throw off an entire campaign.

It’s important to look at performance holistically before making changes. Increasing or decreasing bid modifiers too aggressively or making decisions off already optimized data can have a wide-ranging effect on campaigns.

Mobile bid adjustments in PPC

Never allow a narrow view to dictate optimization or you can risk cutting out entire aspects of your targeting, and revenue, in the name of improved conversion rate or cost per conversion.

Also, making significant bid modifier adjustments at the same time you are changing max CPC bids is not a clean way to make measurable changes. Changing too many variables at once will make it hard to understand the results of the data and know if your optimizations are working.

Bidding Down to a Specific ROAS

Having a solid Return On Ad Spend KPI and goal is a very good idea. But optimizing your campaign budget and CPC bids down to reach that goal can affect your entire marketing mix.

If you aren’t reaching your ROAS goal it makes sense to cut spending for that campaign. Right? Not necessarily. Cutting those clicks and impressions can seriously throttle revenue, lead volume, or traffic. Paid search often contributes/drives a lot more than last click conversions, so cutting back may hurt other channels.

Cutting AdWords Budget When Performance Is Down

Again, “performance” is down. It only makes sense to cut budget. Right? Wrong again. PPC does not work in a vacuum. There are many things that could be causing a downturn that aren’t a result of poor AdWords management or potential. Seasonal trends, increased competition, and change in organic rankings may be to blame.

Additionally, your keywords, ads, and account optimization are only as strong as the landing page and offering they are promoting. A generally poor landing experience or a need for specific conversion rate optimization may be a good place to look before you give up on an ad group or campaign altogether.

Poor Optimization Strategy Can Hurt You Too

The general theme here so far is that there is often more to the story if you just look a little deeper. Making quick decisions or over-correcting your account is bad. With that said, you still need to make sure you’re not driving blind or under-correcting.

All of your optimization decision-making stems from the data. Take a moment to ask:

  • Are you looking at the right metrics?
  • Is your data accurate?
  • Are you tracking goals/conversions?
  • Have you tested your conversion tracking?
  • Are you using an attribution model that fits your business?

Your optimizations are only as powerful as the data that inform them, so be sure you are tracking correctly.

These are all questions worth asking early on in your PPC strategy. And if you’re already well down the road, it’s never too late.

Be Diligent, Yet Patient in PPC Optimization

We’ve talked a lot in this post about “not doing too much”. Do not take this as an excuse to be passive, lazy, or reactive in managing your AdWords account.

Do not set it and forget it. PPC is a goldmine of actionable. ROI producing data. Use it!

But as you actively work to optimize your paid search results, be patient enough to ask the right questions and understand what’s really happening. Or not happening.

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