Tune Your Google Ad Campaign

Two of the least-used methods of PPC (define) search campaign optimization, particularly in Google’s AdWords system, are campaign recategorization and campaign structural tuning. Most marketers I meet at conferences and seminars still use the same campaign structures run on Google they did when they launched those campaigns. Sometimes, that was years ago. Some marketers don’t want to touch or modify their current campaign structures for fear of “losing their history.”

History is the way Google, agencies, and marketers describe the good (or bad) quality score your ads and AdGroups build up over time. Marketers experienced the results of histories both positive (ads in high positions at reasonable costs) and negative (AdGroups for which even aggressive bidding can revive entrenched listings). In the past, history loss was more of a concern, but Google has been addressing history-related issues. Many concerns regarding history loss in AdWords are likely unfounded, particularly when there may be significant benefits to revisiting a campaign structure.

When you tune or adjust campaign structures in AdWords, you review the following changes:

  • Match types within each AdGroup. Do you run the right mix of broad match, phrase match, and exact match? By taking some phrases and breaking them into separate AdGroups with separate creative, you’ll likely improve your Google quality score. That’s very good.
  • Landing pages. When you review keywords in an AdGroup to determine whether to move them to a new AdGroup, bear in mind the landing pages you use. Some phrases within an AdGroup, even those you break into separate AdGroups, might benefit from a different landing page — one that better addresses the searcher’s needs. You’ll therefore increases conversion, ROI (define), and net search profit.
  • PowerPosting. Do you use PowerPosting? Many marketers don’t set CPCs (define) and landing page URLs by keyword. Instead, they assign a CPC and landing page to an entire AdGroup. Google’s PowerPosting makes separate bidding and unique landing pages easy. It’s a powerful combination of two control types.
  • Negative keyword use in AdGroups. I see it every day: phrase search brings up advertisers with dubious relevance due to broad match use without appropriate negative keywords.
  • Keywords by AdGroup. Do your AdGroups contain keywords and keyword phrases that aren’t highly similar in meaning? By grouping similar keywords, you can tune creative, and Google can assign quality scores more accurately.
  • Default CPC bids at an AdGroup level. Do you have a default set appropriately?
  • Engine syndication settings. Do you really want all your keywords running on all engines? If Google traffic converts better than AOL, Ask Jeeves, EarthLink, and others, consider running separate campaigns. For example, create one campaign that opts in to Google’s network with one set of bids and a second, Google-only campaign you’re willing to bid more for.

    Unfortunately, you can’t run this trick backwards. If AOL and other search engine traffic convert better than Google, you’re forced to opt in equally for all search sources, Google, and the network. There’s no way to bid more for AOL traffic. Yet pay attention to average position if this is the case, because lower average positions are less likely to be syndicated to AOL, Jeeves, and the other network partners.

  • Contextual distribution settings at campaign level. Do you have contextual syndication turned on or off? See below for how to tune a campaign to allow for less expensive contextual traffic.
  • Geographical distribution settings at campaign level. Some marketers achieve objectives more efficiently by using ad geotargeting. Think about your target audience and whether geo-optimization makes sense for you.
  • Implementation of the Google Dynamic Keyword Insertion (DKI). If the phrases often used to find your core keyword for an AdGroup are short, consider using the DKI to automatically tune ad creative to the search.
  • Daily spending or budget caps at campaign level. Spending caps can kill ROI. Google doesn’t know your best- and worst-performing keywords — but you do (at least, you should). Manage based on ROI, and make sure you aren’t losing clicks from your best keywords.

There are many reasons to take a fresh look at your campaign structure. Each has an accompanying benefit:

  • Because MSN is running a hybrid auction where good creative and high CTR (define) also matter, take advantage of testing the best possible campaign structure in preparation for the MSN adCenter launch. AdCenter will be available to new MSN advertisers before you know it (existing MSN advertisers and selected beta test clients are live in adCenter on launch).
  • By improving your CTR on an ad-by-ad and keyword-by-keyword basis, several things happen, often simultaneously:
    • You get a higher average position without raising your bid.
    • You get more clicks per thousand impressions in the engine, providing more opportunities to sell highly qualified visitors.
    • You get some relevance discounts. The CPC you actually pay (usually less than the bid price, due to Google’s Auto Discounter) may drop, meaning you pay less on a CPC basis than you used to.
    • You get a higher ROI on the campaign as a whole.

  • Better campaign structures lend themselves to running more effective contextual programs in Google. If you’re considering running contextual traffic (AdSense) in Google, a better structured set of AdGroups improves targeting and ROI. Sometimes, if you want the additional reach of the contextual traffic but aren’t comfortable paying similar CPCs (Google often discounts contextual traffic automatically based on “smart pricing”), then there’s a hack of sorts you can do. Clone a portion of your search-only campaign, then turn on contextual distribution but keep bids lower on the contextual campaign. Your search campaign will run against search due to higher bids. The cloned campaign will be mostly contextual inventory billed at the lower CPC.

Don’t let an antiquated campaign structure result in missed opportunities and waste (overpaying for clicks). Take a fresh look at all your campaigns’ elements and structures, to maximize your opportunity in Google and provide a stronger foundation with which to run in MSN’s adCenter. MSN won’t use editorial policies identical to Google’s, but a good campaign structure will be equally important — perhaps more so.

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