2013 was an exciting, tumultuous year for search marketers. Algorithm changes, the continued rise of mobile and cross-device search activity, and Enhanced Campaigns had us all putting in extra hours just to keep up. More change looms on the horizon – Yahoo Gemini, product listing ads (PLA) changes, and a slew of promised announcements from Google’s upcoming AdWords Performance Forum will impact our campaigns again and cause us to have to devise new strategies and optimizations.
Search marketers should take advantage of the relative quiet of the next few weeks to not only catch up on their sleep, but also to do some “spring cleaning” of their accounts so that they’re ready for the next changes. Here are four tips to help you ensure your campaigns are prepared for the future.
1. Review (and Resolve) Alerts
Both Google and Bing do a great job informing marketers of issues in their accounts – but all too often, marketers don’t pay attention to these warnings.
Log into your Google AdWords and Bing Ads campaigns, look for the red alert icon, and spend a few minutes reviewing the alerts and messages. Take a look at disapproved ads and keywords, fix or delete AdGroups with no ads or keywords, adjust targeting issues, and make sure all the alerts marked with a red icon are taken care of.
2. Review and Fix Your Mobile Strategy
Enhanced Campaigns dramatically altered how mobile search ads are managed in AdWords – and despite many helpful guides and tips from Google and other sources, I regularly see advertisers not following basic best practices for mobile targeting.
To start, flag any campaigns that don’t have a defined mobile bidding strategy. Campaigns that don’t have a mobile bid modifier entered (or have it set to 0 percent) and also don’t have AdGroup-level mobile bid modifiers for every single AdGroup represent a significant opportunity for improvement – these keywords are using the exact same bid for desktop and smartphone traffic, despite dramatically different user behavior and SERP layout on each device. Review mobile performance (and consider separate mobile key performance indicators [KPIs]) and set up a bid modifier strategy – then make sure you’re regularly revisiting it.
If you’re already using mobile modifiers, don’t stop there. Make sure you’re also testing separate mobile-preferred ads and extensions. Review your mobile KPIs once again and create specific creative that speaks to the mobile user’s needs and how your site can address them, and then do the same exercise for ad extensions. A great place to start is call extensions on smartphones, which not only provide mobile users with an incredibly easy way to interact with your ad but also make your ad stand out on the page much more than ads without call extensions.
If you prefer to stick with sitelinks instead of call extensions, make sure your sitelinks are also optimized for mobile devices. While Google’s official character limit for sitelinks is 25 characters regardless of device, the smaller space of mobile screens often causes longer sitelinks to be truncated. You may have to experiment to find the exact cutoff, as it depends on the specific letters in your sitelink, but I like to create separate mobile preferred sitelinks that are a maximum of 19 characters long and then double-check how they appear on smartphones. Don’t forget to test the additional two description lines available for sitelinks in AdWords as well.
3. Spend Some Quality Time With Your Search Queries
Unless you’re only running keywords on Exact Match, you should already be regularly reviewing the queries that trigger your ads.
In AdWords, select a data range going back to the last time you examined your queries (or going back at least a few months if it’s been a while since you looked at this data). Then navigate to the Keyword tab and click the “Details” box, and choose “Search Terms –> All.” You can review these queries in the AdWords UI or download the list for a more in-depth review. The “Added/Excluded” column can help you spot queries you’ve already accounted for in your keyword or negative lists.
I like to sort the data by cost to find the biggest spenders or by impressions to find the largest volume queries, and then go down the list that way. Review and flag the queries as either relevant keywords or indicative of negatives you should add to prevent that query from serving ads. Don’t feel like you have to knock out the entire list at once – focus on the queries with the biggest spend or impression volume and get those taken care of, then make search query analysis an ongoing part of your account optimization.
4. Check Out the Opportunities Tab….No, Really!
The AdWords Opportunities tab used to be marginally useful at best. It served up plenty of keyword suggestions, but their relevance was iffy, and the other recommendations on this tab tended to center on ways the advertiser could spend more money on Google. However, a few months ago Google drastically revamped these suggestions, and I’ve been very impressed by this new, improved Opportunities report.
I’ve written about the new Opportunities report before. Check out this column for more details.
The search marketing world is changing faster than ever. Before we get swept up by the next round of developments and innovations, take the time to make sure your accounts are in top shape so you’ll be ready to get the most out of the upcoming changes.