Over the last 2 years, we’ve audited more than 2,000 AdWords accounts at Disruptive. After that many audits, one fact has become painfully clear: AdWords is a great way to lose money.
Don’t get me wrong, AdWords can do incredible things for your company. I’ve helped clients grow from 25 employees to 250 employees with AdWords. Done right, AdWords can be unbelievably profitable.
Done wrong…AdWords is an easy way to lose a lot of money.
For many companies, it’s obvious that their accounts aren’t performing the way they’d like. There’s a reason they want us to audit their account. Other companies don’t realize how much they’re missing out on. They’re turning an okay profit, so they assume their accounts are working well.
In either case, we usually find that most companies are performing far below their potential. Whether or not they have a positive return-on-investment (ROI), most AdWords accounts suffer from one of the four following problems.
1. Worthless Keywords
After looking at over 2,000 accounts, we made some startling discoveries. One of the most interesting is the fact that—on average—all of the conversions in an account can be attributed to just 6% of that account’s keywords. In other words, 9 out of 10 of the keywords you’re bidding on aren’t creating any value.
To make matters worse, the 94% of your keywords that aren’t producing conversions account for 61% percent of your ad spend. That means over half your budget produces absolutely nothing!
This is a perfect example of the cost of poor keyword strategy. If your keywords and keyword match types are too broad, your ads show up for less relevant searches and produce less relevant clicks that aren’t likely to convert. To make matters worse, low search term relevance kills your quality score, making those non-converting clicks even more expensive.
That’s not a good way to run an AdWords campaign.
So, how do you figure out which search terms are draining your budget? The process is actually fairly simple. Go to the Keywords tab for all campaigns. From there, click on Details and go to “Search Terms All”. Once you are in this report, export it into an Excel file where we can do some simple analysis.
If you filter your data to show you only search terms with zero conversions you can now simply sum the cost data and see how much money was spent on search terms that produced ZERO conversions.
For more details on how to do this, check out this article, which explains how I recently used this technique to save a client $50,000 a month in ad spend.
Once you’ve identified your worthless search terms, get rid of them!
2. Unloved Accounts
Running a good AdWords account is a lot like owning a dog. It takes time, effort and—above all—consistency.
I’ll admit it, I’m a dog lover. I have a beautiful black lab named Jez that I’ve raised from a puppy. She’s fantastic with my kids, well-behaved and a great companion. She didn’t get that way by accident, though.
Raising a puppy is a ton of work. If you want a disciplined dog, you need a ton of self-discipline. I can’t tell you how many hours I’ve spent training Jez to respond to my commands. Jez is a great, cooperative dog because she understands me and I understand her.
Unfortunately, most dog owners don’t realize how much time and effort it takes to own a well-behaved dog. It’s not enough to keep the dog fed and play with it occasionally—you have to spend time every day working with the dog to teach it what behaviors are acceptable.
Same goes for AdWords accounts.
On average, only about 10% of AdWords accounts are optimized even once a week. You’d be surprised how many accounts we audit haven’t been touched in over a month!
Just imagine what would happen if you only paid attention to your dog a couple times a month…
Not surprisingly, without regular love and attention, most AdWords accounts aren’t particularly well-behaved. They irritate people, bid on the wrong search terms and generally waste money.
It isn’t enough simply to set up the account and feed it money—if you want it to perform, you have to give it time and attention.
So, how often should you be optimizing your campaigns? For budgets over $10,000/month—which is where Disruptive specializes—we recommend weekly as the bare minimum! Additionally, your account should have automatic rules set up to catch anomalies and stop poorly performing ads or keywords before things get out of control.
To really get the most out of your account, I recommend reviewing your campaigns at least 3 times per week. If you’re launching a new campaign (the puppy stage), you need to be even more involved and should be logging in 3 or more times per day to stay on top of things.
If your account is well-trained and well-behaved, you may not need to do much to keep things running smoothly, but keeping a close eye on your accounts is the only way to keep your campaigns working properly.
3. Lack of Analytics
Here’s a quick fact: Tracking your campaigns improves your odds of success by 1,700%.
That’s not just my number, either. While Disruptive’s account audits have certainly shown this to be true, this specific number comes from Hubspot’s State of Inbound report.
Of course, if you’re already using analytics, this number isn’t much of a surprise. After all, you can’t measure what you aren’t tracking and you can’t improve what you don’t measure.
What might be a surprise is just how many companies don’t track their AdWords campaigns—over half of AdWords accounts are run on gut instinct!
With a little math and the numbers from Hubspot’s report, that means:
So, if you want to use AdWords to commit financial suicide, avoiding analytics is a pretty good way to do it.
Fortunately, it’s not terribly difficult to implement analytics. AdWords makes it very easy to set up conversion tracking, so there’s really no good excuse for not following your conversion data.
Site-wide analytics are also fairly easy to implement. For example, if your developer knows what they’re doing, you can implement Google Tag Manager (for free) in 15 minutes. Check out this article for the basics you should be tracking.
By the way, Google Analytics and AdWords work together flawlessly. Here’s how to integrate the two.
Setting up analytics is setting yourself up for success. Even if your accounts aren’t performing as well as you like, having analytics on board allows you to learn from your mistakes. You can often learn as much—if not more—from something that didn’t work as you can from something that did.
4. Poor Message Match
It never ceases to amaze me how many of the accounts we audit are sending all their paid traffic to their home page. And, of those who are using a dedicated landing page, less than 40% test their landing pages for improved performance!
It’s not enough to simply get traffic—even the right traffic—to your site. That’s only half of the equation (and it’s the expensive half, too!). Since poor landing page experience kills up to 75% of sales, sending traffic to anything but an optimized landing page is like committing ROI hari kari.
Simply put, your AdWords campaigns need to have a consistent and compelling experience from keyword to ad copy to landing page experience. The key to setting this up is granularity. Your keywords, ad copy and landing pages all need to be tightly focused on a specific search intent.
By setting up ad groups with no more than 5 very similar keywords, you control what searches trigger your ads. That allows you to write ads that are highly relevant to a specific search. If that targeted relevance carries through to the landing page, you’ve just created a very powerful customer experience!
Using this technique, it’s not uncommon for our clients to see a 50% lift to conversion rates on our very first tests.
As great as AdWords can be for a company, when done wrong it can cripple or kill a business. While every business is unique, most seem to struggle in one of these 4 areas.
Fortunately, whether your account struggles with keyword selection, account attention, analytics or message match, it can be fixed! You can get your accounts working smoothly and delivering the results your company needs.
If your AdWords campaigns are struggling and you’re looking for some extra help, let us know! We’d be happy to look through your account and show you where the opportunities lie.
You’ve heard my two cents, now it’s your turn. Where have you seen accounts struggle? Are there any other “fatal” flaws you’ve encountered?
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