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by Tara West on 9th October 2012
These checks are the day-to-day basics that will ensure your account runs smoothly and performs well. These checks won’t move mountains or see you make huge improvements, but they will help you keep things ticking over for those who are time-poor and don’t have the resources for more detailed optimisation to take place.
The following checks are not in priority order, but hopefully as they are all quick ones you will be able to do them all anyway!
Are you ads running right now? AdWords guidelines are becoming increasingly complex and change on a regular basis. For this reason you may find your ads disapproved on occasion. Check to make sure they’re not by filtering by ad status.
5. Ensure only Disapproved, Approved Limited, and Under Review are ticked
If you then hover over the speech bubble in the status column for each keyword, it will tell you why your ad isn’t running, which should give you an idea of what you need to do to fix them.
Similarly to ads, keywords can become disapproved when they don’t comply with AdWords guidelines. Filter in the same way you would for your Ads but this time in the Keyword tab and select Filter, Create Filter, then choose Status. Make sure only Keyword Disapproved is ticked.
Average position of your keywords
You need to make sure the keywords which are triggering your ads are allowing them to achieve a strong average position on the page, so you are going to be seen and clicked on! To check the average position of your keywords I recommend using a date range of 14 days (change this in the top right-hand corner of the screen), then do the following:
Chose Performance, and then Avg Position from the drop down menu.
Depending on your budget and strategy, it’s best to filter by anything with an average position worse than three. This is because anything below that is moving into the ad space on the right hand side of the search results page which will generally produce a much lower Click through Rate. You should be aiming for as higher CTR as possible because this will increase your Quality Score and may result in a reduction in your Cost per Click.If you have a lot of ads below position three, make sure your ad groups are as targeted as possible (aim for one keyword per ad group) and ensure your ads contain the keywords which are triggering them.
In particular, include the keyword in the ad title and display URL. Also check that the landing pages you are directing your ads to are the most appropriate for the keywords. Lastly you may simply need to bid higher to increase your average position. Increase your bids by a few pence and see if this improves them. Keep checking back regularly as the positions of ads can fluctuate significantly and it’s something you should be keeping an eye on.
Keywords below first page bid
If any of your keywords are below the first page bid recommended by Google, this will affect whether or not they are able to show on the first page of results. This should be done in addition to checking the average position of your keywords because often keywords are picked up here which aren’t when you filter by average position.This can only be done at keyword level so go to the keyword tab and then click Filter, create, then status, and select only the box which says below First Page Bid.
Search Query Analysis
This is about checking the things people are actually typing in to Google which are triggering your keywords and ads. To do this, go to the Keywords tab, and then click Keyword Details, and select all:
You can download this list to CSV if you would like to do some further filtering on it in a spreadsheet, which can make the process much quicker.
Look through the list for any words within the search queries which are not relevant and add these as negative keywords to the relevant ad groups or campaigns. This will stop your ads showing for irrelevant searches and gaining useless impressions which negatively impact your Quality Score. It will also stop you getting irrelevant clicks, saving your budget. To save time when you do this, filter by Added / Excluded and choose ‘None’. This will make sure you only look through the terms that have not already been added or excluded as negative keywords.
You should also look for any new words within the search queries which are relevant to your product or service and can be added as a positive keyword. To help you find these quicker, you should order by terms which have generated conversions (click on the conversions column header), or by those with a good Click through Rate (click on the CTR column header) if you don’t have conversion tracking.
To speed up this process, you can filter within this report in the same way you can in other reports. One filter you might want to use is to only include terms with over 25 impressions. This is ideal if you are short of time and only want to deal with terms that are triggering your keywords enough to impact your account.
Make sure your date range is set over a long enough period of time to get a significant amount of data. I like to do this check on a weekly basis and look at the last seven days.
Keywords with a low CTR
If a keyword has a particularly low CTR it may be damaging the Quality Score for the ad group it’s in, and result in a higher Cost per Click. To briefly check for keywords which have a particularly low CTR you can apply a filter at keyword level. You can apply it at ad group level if your keywords are very well split out with only one or two keywords per ad group. Assuming you apply it at keyword level, click the keywords tab, then Filter, Create Filter. Chose CTR as your first criteria and then select the less than sign in the next box.
I would suggest filtering for anything with a CTR less than 1% as a starting point. To make sure you are only looking at live keywords you can add another filter for the keyword status and ensure only the Eligible and Eligible Limited columns are ticked. This will ensure you don’t waste time looking through keywords which are already paused. You might also want to add a filter to only look at keywords with more than 100 impressions when you do this, so you know you are making decisions based on a decent amount of data. Use a date range of the last 20 days or so to get an idea of this, as keywords may have performed well in the past but are no longer performing well and this can skew the data if you are looking over an all-time date range.
To remedy a particularly low CTR, consider the relevancy of the keyword to the ad text in its ad group. Make sure the ad text contains the keyword within the heading. Is the average position of the keyword lower than three? You could try increasing the bid to counter this. If you have a good average position and the ad text is properly targeted and are still generating a poor CTR it might be that the keyword is simply too generic. In this instance you might want to pause it or at the very least split it into its own ad group so it’s not pulling any other keywords down.
If a keyword is using up a lot of your budget you want to be sure it’s worth it. Go to the keywords tab and click the Cost column heading:
You can then see which keywords have used most of your budget. I recommend looking at this over the course of month or so to make sure you’ve got enough data to draw conclusions from. If a keyword is spending a lot, ask yourself if it has commercial intent and if you think it will be leading to sales or conversions. If the answer is yes, then it’s worth keeping running. Also look to see if it’s every generated conversions and what the cost per conversion has been. Based on the profit margins of your business you should be able to judge whether it’s cost effective to leave that keyword running.
Make sure you are set up to receive all the relevant alerts from the AdWords account so you can easily find out if there are any issues with the account without having to keep checking. To do this go to the My Account green tab, then click Notification Settings. Ensure your email address appears below where it says Notification Method. I recommend at the very minimum having Billing Alerts and Disapproved Ads and Policy Alerts selected for notification emails:
You don’t need to check this every time you look at the account but it’s important to make sure it’s set up to start with so that you can keep track of any issues in the account without having to constantly check it.
These are some quick top level checks that will make sure your account is heading in the right direction, but to make sure you are getting the most out of it you should be conducting regular optimisation. This will ensure your account is as cost effective as possible and is performing to its full potential.
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