Are You Optimizing Your PPC Campaigns To Death?

Ok ok, now that I’ve gotten all the link bait title out of the way, let’s get down to actual business.

Now, I love my coworkers but they also set pretty high bar. When I inherited a major cosmetics account from my colleague Michael Weigand, I knew I had my work cut out for me, specifically in the holiday season.

Throughout the year I kept track on my progress versus Michael’s results. Call it friendly competition (I must crush him). In September I started doing Holiday season preparations. I found that while we were still producing similar levels of revenue, over time our ROI had started to dip.

Conversion Value
Conversion Value

I'm the dark blue line

ROI Comparison
2. ROI

I'm the dark blue line

When I started examining individual campaigns, I discovered that the most dramatic ROI changes were happening in our branded campaign.

Branded ROI Comparison
Brand ROI

The gap widens

When I looked inside the branded campaign, I found that the major workhorse of the campaign was the exact match version of their brand name. That’s not especially surprising to anyone, I’m sure. What was a little more surprising to me was that the impression share on this keyword was only at around 80%.

My campaign regularly spent under the budget I’d set for it and I’d never received a “limited due to budget” notice from AdWords. So I was a bit puzzled at missing out on 20% of search volume for an exact match keyword set to advanced delivery with what by all accounts should have been a sufficient budget.

What I found was that as I continued to “optimize” the account by adding new keywords, it started to siphon away the impression share that my original keyword was exposed to. The bigger the campaign got, the more confused AdWords became.

Confused is putting it politely, actually. AdWords was straight up dumb in how it chose what keywords to match to searches and how it allocated budget between them.

I’m already a big believer in segmenting campaigns by match type, keeping my exact match keywords in their own campaign separate from broad or phrase. With the impression share issue I was having I decided that this time I would take it a step further.

I separated the exact match brand name keyword into its own campaign with its own budget separate from everything else. I was taking no chances with leaving money on the table for my best keyword during the holidays. When you do this you actually want to move everything else into the new campaign- leave your prize pig alone.

We made the change in October. The results blew my mind.

ROI Comparison
In the previous year during the holidays we saw ROI start to drop as a function of the major increase in holiday traffic. Keep in mind ROI dropped from fan-freaking-tastic to just regular fantastic (official units of measurement).

What we saw as we went into the holidays this year was that our ROI went up at the same time that traffic spiked. When we looked at the holiday season (Nov-Dec) we managed to increase ROI by over 30%. The traffic spike plus the surge in ROI combined for an overall increase in revenue of more than 60%!

Revenue Comparison
Improved Revenue

This is why there is a picture of money at the top

So do the results translate? Will it work for other brands? Will it work for your brand? We wanted to know.

So we tried it again.

My colleague Timothy Johnson and I looked at one of his client’s accounts. They were seeing year over year decreases in PPC after a huge improvement in organic rankings had reclaimed a bit of the online search pie.

The two channels together were cooperatively outperforming last year’s revenue. Sometimes, though, that explanation just isn’t going to get you off the hook with a client who wants to see improvement in every channel, every year.

We noticed a similar trend that our exact match name wasn’t getting quite the exposure that it could, so we followed suit and gave it its own campaign and a budget it couldn’t possibly spend.

Without adding a single keyword to the account, we increased visits by 11%, revenue by 41%, and transactions by 46%.

I’ll say it again; we didn’t add a single keyword and we didn’t take anything away from SEO. Organic revenue actually grew at the same time.

Do you have any high performing keywords that aren’t getting their fair share of impressions? Your brand name is definitely a good place to start looking, but is by no means your only option.

The main thing I want to get across is that if you have a keyword that’s performing well and it’s important that it shows as often as possible, don’t give AdWords any chance to do otherwise, because it will. Because AdWords is dumb.


Photo Courtesy Of: 401(K) 2013

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  1. Same incident here. But why? Where’s the difference? My brand campaign also has a huge budget to make sure I get all brand impressions.

    1. Thanks for the comment RocknRolli. In the case I’m talking about AdWords not delivering my keyword 100% of the time when it shared space with other keywords. I never hit my budget cap on this campaign but still didn’t see 100% exposure.
      That’s the big change I saw when I made a campaign specifically for the one keyword, I’m now at 100% impression share all of the time.

      1. Hey Kiko,
        Thanks for the insight. I’ve seen this before and have always wondered that. I’ll stick around to see what others have to say as well 😀
        Great post!

  2. Thx for your article. I just took a look on my major brand customer with 10,000 impressions for the exact match in this month. When I look the details for this keyword, it is delivered in 98,2% of all cases. I’m sure this is because of the low maxCPC of 2 Cent. I have no own campaign for the keyword, I just have a campaign for all brand keywords. For this I don’t think I’ll get your results. Maybe the adwords account is too small with just 19 campaigns and 7,500 keywords?

    1. Thank you for the comment Nils. If you’re seeing 98.2% impression share then yes you probably won’t see quite as dramatic results. My question to you would be, looking at the conversion rate of that term, would it be worth it to you to put that keyword in it’s own campaign get the extra 2%?
      It might not be, but it’s at least worth thinking about. Also, are there any other keywords that convert well but are missing out on impressions?

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