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The 10-Minute AdWords Management Workout

adwords-workout-650

As a busy marketer, you don’t have a ton of time to manage your AdWords account.

It’s not that you don’t care, you just have other things to work on. Like actually running a business.

Besides, why should you spend time in your dashboard when your efforts to date haven’t shown much success?

tom-and-jerry
You’re doing work, but are you getting anywhere? GIF source.

Improving your AdWords account is much like building your muscles at the gym. It isn’t about working longer or harder. It’s about working smarter.

Just like your frequency of squats, there’s a point of diminishing returns where your muscles won’t continue to grow bigger or stronger.

But there are certain workouts that will bring you gains, you just have to know how to effectively use your time and how to make the biggest and most positive impacts on your AdWords performance.

Let me introduce you to the weekly 10-minute AdWords management workout.

(Psst. For an overview of the workout, check out the gifographics that KlientBoost has prepared for you over on their blog.)

1. Speed-add negative keywords (3 minutes)

Expected results? Your gluteus maximus of a click-through rate will increase and wasted ad dollars will be spared.

You already know that adding negative keywords on a regular basis helps you reduce wasteful spend (if not, read this super quick post by AdStage).

But did you know you can add negative keywords in just a snap?

You’ll want to look for search terms that don’t have your most common root keyword in them.

For example, let’s say you sell ice cream online and you want to quickly scan if some of your search terms don’t include the word “ice cream.”

To do so, go to your search term report inside your AdWords account, and quickly use the on-page search function of Command + F if you’re on a Mac, or Control + F if you’re on a PC. Then type in “ice cream” in the search bar.

You’ll want to sort your impressions column in descending order so you tackle the biggest performance killers first.

Screen Shot 2015-06-09 at 6.09.09 PM
If something isn’t highlighted yellow, then take a closer look.

Then scan your entire search term report, while paying extra close attention to the non-highlighted search terms. These are usually the ones you will be adding as negative keywords since they fall outside of your root keywords.

As you’re scanning your search term report, add negative keywords to a spreadsheet and keep it on hand for our next workout.

Over time, you’ll start seeing fewer and fewer negative keywords that need to be added because you’re continually pruning and trimming.

Have multiple root keywords? Then use this approach on the different keywords you’re bidding on.

But be careful.

As you do this once a week, you may neglect what I call “search term creepers.”

These are search terms that get such few impressions and clicks week by week that they may go unnoticed as you scan through your search term report, but add up in the long run.

Screen Shot 2015-06-10 at 6.42.12 PM
Search term creepers are usually pretty good at hiding. Image source.

To combat them, change your AdWords date range once in a while to the last 30 days instead of just the last seven days. See if they’re adding up impressions and clicks that you don’t want to pay for.

2. Negative keyword list adding (10 seconds)

Expected results? You’ll be saving time on the AdWords treadmill and saving money on clicks that are wasteful.

If you have multiple AdWords campaigns that share common negative keywords, then a negative keyword list will be your best friend.

Negative keyword lists help you save time by not having to copy and paste your new negative keywords across all your campaigns. Instead, you can keep them all in one hub and apply that negative keyword list to all or just a few of your campaigns.

If you followed my advice from the previous workout and have your spreadsheet filled with new negative keywords, you can now take that list and add it to your negative keyword list.

To find your negative keyword lists, simply go to the “Shared library” on the left hand side of your AdWords interface and then to “Campaign negative keywords.”

all-online-campaigns

Your negative keyword lists are found through here. Specifically right here:

negative-keyword-list-specific

3. Bad ad pausing (1 minute)

Expected results? Better overall account well-being and improved average ad positions, average conversion rates and average cost per conversions. In short, you’ll sleep better at night.

Just like a horrible tasting protein shake, horrible ads have to be dealt with in order to make your workout more enjoyable and your AdWords performance stronger.

The idea here is to pause under-performing ads in the ad groups that have the most clicks and highest costs.

The reason why we want to make changes in the ad groups with the most clicks and highest costs is because it’ll have the biggest positive impact on your account, compared to just randomly making changes in different ad groups.

Think of it as doing bench presses (that can strengthen your entire upper body), compared to just regular dumbbell curls that just strengthen your biceps.

For this workout, you’ll want to go to “All online campaigns” and be on the “Ad groups” tab.

all-online-campaigns2
This is where you’ll find it.

Then, make sure you’ve clicked on the “Clicks” column for descending order (highest to lowest) and that your date range is around two to three months back.

Once you’re there, you’ll want to right-click on the top 10 ad groups with the most clicks and open each of them in new browser tabs.

all-campaigns-new-tab

This also prevents slow browser loading of going back and forth between ad groups.

Now to the fun part.

Go to each of the new browser tabs and pause the ads in each ad group that are performing worse when comparing cost per conversion, conversion rate, and click-through-rate (in that order) between the ads.

competing-ads
Here’s a look at two competing ads in which one got the axe. Can you guess which?

Make sure you have at least two ads running in each ad group for continuous A/B testing purposes. This will help take us to the next AdWords management workout.

4. New champion ad creations (1.5 minutes)

Expected results? You’re taking what’s already working and making it better. Building off your past success only makes you stronger.

Now that you’ve paused lower performing ads in the top 10 ad groups based on click volume and costs, it’s time to make new variations of the champion ads (the better performing ads you left running).

If you don’t, then you’re missing an opportunity to be constantly improving.

If your champion ads have similar ad copy in the top 10 ad groups (or even if they’re wildly different), then I’d recommend isolating one section of the ads (like description line 1) as the part that you’re testing.

isolated-ad-section
Pick an ad section to isolate and test.

When you create multiple ads that share similar ad sections, then it’ll be easier and faster to see if ad performance has improved since you’re now gathering data faster than you would with just one ad test in one ad group.

Once you’ve decided which part of the ad you want to isolate and test, use AdWords labels so you can filter to see those ads later on after they’ve gotten enough data and clicks and compare them to the rest of your campaign or account.

You can highlight the new ads you’ve created and create a new AdWords label called “New Ad Test,” or whatever makes it easier for you to keep things organized.

Depending on your traffic volumes, you can quickly get an ad data snapshot like the one below (the yellow line is from your filtered ads from your AdWords label).

sweet-sweet-numbers
Those are some sweet, sweet numbers :)

To see if your ad testing has statistically significant results, you can jump over to KISSmetrics’ A/B calculator here and type in your clicks and conversions to see your confidence levels.

5. Bad keyword bid lowering (1.5 Minutes)

Expected results? Just as there are 17 different ways you can perform a squat, all keywords perform differently when it comes to CTR, CPC and conversion rates. This’ll help you ditch expensive ones that increase costs and keep you out of shape.

If you have AdWords conversion tracking set up (I sincerely hope you do but if not, read this), then there’s a really good chance you know your average conversion rate and average cost per conversion across your entire AdWords account.

Think of these as your AdWords Body Mass Index (BMI) scores that you’re trying to improve so that you can finally get in that 80s aerobics video you always dreamed about.

80s-workout
Colors and fashion were so on point. Image source.

You have some keywords that are performing great, and then you have some that are, ehh, not so great (maybe the CTR is low, Quality Scores suck or the costs per conversion are higher than your account average).

One of the fastest levers you can pull on lowering your cost per conversion is by lowering your max CPC keyword bid amounts.

Let’s say your average cost per click is $5 and your conversion rate is 10%. This gives you a $50 cost per conversion.

If you lower your bids to be $4 and you’re able to maintain the same click-through and conversion rate, then technically your new cost per conversion should be $40.

But don’t do this on all your keywords. Identify which keywords are the most expensive by their cost per conversion metrics.

To do so, make sure you’re viewing “All online campaigns” and then go to the “Keywords” tab and sort your “Cost / converted click” in descending order.

high-costing-keyword-conversions
Here’s a look at high-costing keyword conversions with at least 30 clicks.

This will show you the highest costing conversions and which keywords are responsible for them.

In the example above, you’ll notice that some keywords are much more expensive than your account average, and as long as you have enough clicks (at least 30), you can start slowly lowering their bids.

Quick workout note: If you lower bids too much, then you may also be lowering your average positions and damaging your CTR. You may find that lowering your bids puts them below “first page bid estimates” or doesn’t allow you to enter in the AdWords auction.

If that happens, then be quick to increase bids back to normal.

Make sure you have enough clicks (at least 30) for a keyword you’re about to lower the bid on. Anything less than that would be premature since the averages might not have had enough time to pan out yet.

With an understanding on how bid adjustments affect average ad positions and click-through-rates, you’ll want to slowly lower bids (5-10% of current bid amount) so that your average cost per conversions go down more smoothly.

6. High performing keyword bid increasing (1.5 minutes)

Expected results? Think of your keyword conversions as the number of leg extension reps you can do each set. Increasing bids is like eating more protein so you can start performing more reps.

Feeling a little winded? Good!

We’re eight minutes and 40 seconds into our 10-minute AdWords campaign management workout.

You’re making quick progress and your AdWords account is starting to look pretty dang sexy.

Screen Shot 2015-06-10 at 7.19.20 PM
That’s a definitive yes Ryan. Thanks for noticing.

Just like we lowered bids on keywords that were too expensive, we’re going to do the exact opposite on keywords that are performing well, to get them to perform even better.

This time, you’ll want to reverse the “Cost / converted click” column in ascending order.

Now you’ll start to see which keywords are your best performers and their associated average ad positions.

sweet-improvements-to-be-made
Some sweet improvements are about to be made here.

If a good performing keyword has an ad position of 1.2 for example, then raising the bid won’t do much to improve CTR or give you more conversion volume.

But…

If it’s 1.7 or worse (your keywords are triggering ads that mostly show in spot #2, but sometimes in spot #1), then increasing bids will help you get more of those type of conversions since an increase in bid can improve the average ad position and therefore increase the click-through rate.

Here you can be a little more aggressive with keyword bids and increase them 10-20% at a time since there’s no fear of having them disappear in the ad auctions.

You may quickly notice that your lowest-conversion-costing keywords are keywords with zero clicks and therefore technically have the lowest cost per conversion of zero dollars.

To prevent this and to make sure you’re changing bids on keywords that actually have traffic, we’re going to save some time and create some custom filters you can use every week moving forward.

Which takes us to our next AdWords management workout…

7. Creating and saving custom filters (35 seconds)

Expected results? AdWords filters are like listening to your favorite songs while working out. They help you get in and out, and on with your life. Creating an AdWords filter will help you move through workouts 3, 4, 5 and 6 even quicker.

You’ll want to use filters to quickly showcase the worst or best performing keywords/ads based on the criteria you choose.

adwords-custom-filters
Think of filters as your personal spotters. Ready and excited to help out.

For the example above, let’s say you only want to decrease bids on keywords that have more than 20 clicks (because anything less than that would be premature) and a cost per conversion greater than $40 (this amount will obviously vary for your AdWords account).

The filter will then only show you those keywords that fit your criteria so you can make your bid adjustments on them.

You can then save the filter for next week’s workout with the goal of having the filtered “bad keywords” and “bad ads” become less and less frequent over time.

8. Checking for alerts (45 seconds)

Expected results? Sometimes it’s easy to forget the small things, like how certain workouts are actually supposed to be done. Think of the AdWords alerts as your own personal trainer that can prevent you from looking silly.

youre-going-places
You’re going places. GIF source.

You’ve hustled through your workout so fast that you’re not even sweating – you’re raining like Shaquille O’Neal. Now it’s time to cool down from the intense AdWords management workout you just went through.

As you sit down to start stretching, thinking about that delicious post-workout chocolate milk, you remember there’s just one thing you forgot: checking for AdWords alerts.

Are there any conflicting negative keywords, disapproved ads or budgets that are hitting a ceiling?

If so, your little right-hand corner bell inside your AdWords interface will tell you.

59-ads-disapproved

No need to change everything it recommends though.

Click on any of the alerts to make the quick adjustment – if they make sense.

I say this because almost everything that Google recommends comes with the idea of having you spend more money, so take it all with a grain of salt.

If nothing strikes your eye, then it’s time to pat yourself on the back and drink that milk. You deserve it.

Good work!

Your workout is now over and you feel amazing. Instead of just running mindlessly on that elliptical, you actually came in and did what needed to be done to bring you closer to your AdWords goals: more conversions, lower costs per conversion and higher conversion rates.

All in record time.

Over to you. When it comes to effective AdWords management, what have you found to make the biggest impacts in the shortest time?


About Johnathan Dane
Johnathan Dane is the founder of KlientBoost, a California-based PPC agency that's on a mission to grow companies. He's been interviewed by Google and has a German Shorthaired Pointer named Tanner. Connect with him on Twitter.
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  • How to get more conversion??

  • JJ Trois

    LOVED this. Thanks for the crash course. One nit pick:

    “you’ll start seeing less and less negative keywords”, should be: “You’ll start seeing fewer and fewer negative keywords”

  • Lee

    Good article! Feels like Wordstream’s 20 minute PPC workout… but shorter.

    Narendra, there’s lots of things to do. Good relevant ads and landing pages, a good proposition, and strong CTAs will help get you more conversions.

  • Ok sir, I will learn more about it

  • Nice article. To make it complete it would be good to mention also the management/optimization of ad extensions.

    (Btw… the comment for is enforcing me to enter a site)

  • K

    Great article. i’m gonna “cheatsheetize” it ASAP.
    I’d gladly know your opinion about those 2 points :
    >> how to deal with your brand’s name KW (since it is positioned as #1 in SEO and has 1-2 competitors buying it in adwords)
    >> how to deal with your competitors’brand names ? (this one is easier…)
    Do you think the #1 position is the best rank, since most people generally click on #2 or #3 position?

    Thank you for your kind help and advice!
    (and sorry for the mistakes Sirs, since I master Frenglish perfectly).

    • I would always recommend you bid on your own brand names (especially if competitors are above you with their ads). This also allows you to test new messaging and landing page designs to improve conversion rates, which isn’t as easy with your organic ranking.

      And I would also recommend bidding on your competitors names :)

  • Great advice dude! Similar to Wordstream’s 20 Min PPC Workweek

  • Hi Johnathan,
    thanks for publishing these workout! A lot of useful tips to make the adword campaign significant better while not loosing much time!

  • Good tip on the rapid scan for negative KW’s. However, a search term that doesn’t contain your KW doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a negative.

    Example: If I have a KW:

    albuquerque air conditioner repair

    in my broad match adgroup, and I see a search term of:

    albuquerque hvac repair

    do I want to make it a negative? Certainly not! What you want to do is something Perry Marshall coined long ago as ‘peel and stick’.

    Take albuquerque hvac repair and put it in a new adgroup using phrase or exact match and write more targeted ads to get higher CTR’s. Over some time, this will get the same click for less money if you do it right.

    This is one of many techniques Perry uses to help avoid paying the stupid tax as he puts it. :-)

    Broad match is a great way to fish for long tail KW’s, and even get recon about how popular your competition is (yes, you can bid on your competitor’s name!). But if you don’t pay close attention, it can bust your marketing bank as well.

    Steve

    • Great point Steve! And you’re right, that’s just for scanning purposes, but a closer look is need once you’re in the weeds.

      For your specific scenario, I would recommend improving that search term to keyword discrepancy by extracting that search term and putting it into it’s own ad group.

      Agree with using broad match as a keyword miner as well :)

  • Thanks Jonathan, mind blowing tips you just listed out here

  • Thanks for sharing a wonderful article.

  • There is so much value in this article!!

  • This article is really helpful. These are one of the most necessary steps for all the adwords marketers. But one thing I didn’t really like about the article is that you mentioned total time consumption for work. Every time it does not work like you mentioned it. I am not telling that you are completely wrong, I know its an average time to work with the adwords daily in a busy schedule. Anyway you have captured a right points for the busy marketers and mentioned necessary steps to follow in a busy time schedule.
    Thank you for giving your valuable time for writing the article.

    • Hey Sulabh! And thanks for the kind words :)

      When I first started running, I wasn’t fast. But with more practice and time, I got faster and faster.

      Same thing applies to AdWords management :) Keep at it, and use tools like AdWords Editor to speed things up and you’ll get there!

  • Hey Johnathan, No doubt it’s a good read for learners and professionals. Agree-conversions from brand ads not only yield with lower CPA but also prevents customers to lands at competitions.

  • I’ve got a good keyword with 10/10 quality score and a good cost per conversion. The average CPC is $0.30 across 161 clicks. I’m using Conversion Optimizer at $0.93. However, the average position of the keyword is 3.1. I’ve already told Google to bid up to $0.93 with Conversion Optimizer. I have this same scenario with 20-30 other keywords as well (Good Keywords but average position is stuck between 2-4). How do I get the average position up above 1.7 for this keyword and others in this scenario?

    • I assume you’re trying to get a higher volume of conversions?

      If that’s the case, then don’t expect the same CPA that you’re currently getting. You can try increasing the goal CPA to allow Conversion Optimizer to increase bids on your behalf, or you can take it off auto-pilot and do the bidding manually :)

      • Cheers, yeah I want a higher volume of conversions and happy to pay more. I’ll try to change the Conversion Optimizer CPA. It just seems weird if my quality score is 10/10 and CPA Goal is $0.93 why my ad is staying at 3.1 Average Position and $0.30 CPC. The only reason for this could be other competitors with the same 10/10 quality score and CPC or CPA above $0.93 for this keyword right? Do you recommend the use of Conversion Optimizer auto-pilot or manual bidding?

  • How many clicks should each ad variation have before you run them through the KISSmetrics A/B Test Significance Test calculator?

    • However many clicks until you reach a confidence level of 95% or higher. The tool will tell you :)

      • If I have an ad with 5 clicks and 1 conversion and another with 5 clicks and 4 conversions I get statistical significance in the tool, however this doesn’t seem like enough data yet to make a decision on which ad to pause, so I was wondering if there is a certain amount of data (clicks) needed before running the numbers through the A/B Significance Test tool?

        • You’re right, you want to allow the ads to run at least a few weeks.

          My minimum amount of conversions depends on the traffic volumes, but a good rule of thumb is at least 30 conversions for each ad before declaring a winner.

  • I have red this whole post and I applied some tricks for my adwords campaign and find great results so thanks to share this adwords helpful tricks.

  • Very useful and effective article, the obvious way to take in PPC without under-going the large learning curve is usually to find adwords management services that provide a great interface which means you won’t have a tough time to understand.

  • This is a very important lesson. I think we learn many thing read the article.thank you share with us

  • really great article, thanks