In the last couple of years, I’ve had the chance to work with numerous successful and struggling Google Ad accounts. It was hard not to notice the patterns that made a struggling campaign fail and a successful campaign succeed. It’s crazy how much of a difference fixing a few trouble areas of a campaign can completely turn things around.
Table of Contents
Over the years, I’ve condensed a simple, straightforward strategy to turning around struggling ad campaigns consistently… and it took a lot of trial and error along the way. So today, I wanted to share the common mistakes I’ve seen and how to fix them before they deal a sucker punch to your campaign… so here goes:
Tip #1: Track Your Audiences
Before we even get started with optimizing your Google Ads, let’s get you set up with some of the tracking functionality that isn’t activated out of the box on your Google Ads Account, because of that, almost everyone misses it, or are afraid to mess with it. I’m talking about Audiences. If you haven’t explored every part of your Google Ads dashboard yet, there’s a really good chance that you don’t have your audience tracking set up yet. Audience tracking is incredibly important long-term.
Setting up your audience tracking is super simple and will allow you to start building up your data on which audience groups are most likely to click on your ads and convert. Targeting the right audience groups can increase your return per dollar by 2x, 3x, or even more. If it’s easy to set up, and allows you to make more out of your ad campaigns, why wouldn’t we use it, right? So here’s what you need to do: first, go to your Google Ads dashboard and go to the “all campaigns” page. (If you don’t see what I’m talking about, you’re probably in “simple mode” and need to switch your dashboard to “expert mode” before you will be able to see everything). Now, on the sidebar menu, click the “audiences” drop-down The next step is to click the blue “+” or pencil icon to add new audience groups to your campaigns. Here’s where you can add new audiences to your campaigns and ad groups. For our purposes, we want to select an ad group and set new audiences to “Observation”, because all we want is to track which audiences are converting. We don’t want to start exclusively targeting any of them just yet, and observing audiences at the ad group level will allow us to make more precise decisions for each search intent grouping. You’ll want to click the “browse” tab to get a full list of audiences to choose from. I like to add a lot of relevant audience groups to a campaign. The more data the better, right? But if you like keeping it a little bit tidier, I suggest you add at least 20 of the most relevant audiences to your business that you can find in the list. For example: if you’re in the real estate niche, you’ll definitely want to include in-market audiences related to real estate (people showing signs that they are preparing a purchase.) You should include In-market audiences like residential, commercial, and rental properties, and demographics like homeowners and renters. You will also want to add relevant interest groups like luxury travel and home & gardening. You might find that your best customers have interests you didn’t expect!
After you’ve got your audiences set up for all of your ad groups and campaigns, your account will start tracking a ton of information about who your customers are. Leave your audiences to gather information for a while and once you’ve got enough conversion data to work with, you can start targeting your best audiences, excluding your worst, and significantly increasing your return. Trust me, you’re going to be very happy that you added the audiences to your account now instead of realizing months down the road that you have next to no demographic information to optimize your campaign with. Now that we’ve got the audiences set up to earn you more from your ads in the next few months, let’s talk about how to properly, and quickly, set up your keyword targets for better and faster results.
Tip #2 Condense Your Keywords
A lot of campaigns I inherit contain huge, bloated lists of keywords inside of each of their ad groups. Unlike a single keyword strategy, these keyword lists often contained thousands of specific phrase-match and exact-match keywords. If you’re not sure, “phrase match” keywords match with any query that has the same phrase in it (“yellow socks” -> query: “where do I get yellow socks”), and exact-match keywords match with queries that are exactly the same (“[yellow socks]” -> Query: “yellow socks”). Although this can sometimes be enough to get relevant clicks and conversions to your campaign, depending on how good the keyword research was, There are three huge problems with this approach. Firstly, putting together a long list of keywords to target can be a very time-consuming task, and if you don’t know how to research keywords and search intent correctly, you could be wasting a lot of time needlessly. Secondly, if you have thousands of keyword targets in your ad group, guess what? You’re spreading your ad budget very thin over thousands of keywords. Think about it, which data set are you most likely to take insights from and scale your ad campaign? A campaign with a thousand keywords with 1 click, or a campaign with 10 keywords that have 100 clicks each? 100 clicks each, right? No contest. If you’re spreading your budget over many different keywords, It will take forever to decide if a lot of the keywords are even worth advertising to in your campaign. The third reason is this, the quality score of your ads is incredibly important for the success of your ad campaign. The best way to make sure you have a good quality score is to match your ads perfectly to your target keywords. If you have hundreds, or THOUSANDS, of keywords in an ad group, only a handful of your keywords will be perfectly relevant to your ads, and the rest are going to suffer. This will leave you with a ton of keywords that have mediocre or bad quality scores plummeting your ad positions and raising your costs – sometimes stopping your ads from running entirely. Instead of doing a long list of keywords, here’s how I recommend you set up your campaign to give you the best return on your time, solid keyword coverage, high-quality scores and consolidated, actionable data.
Setting Up Broad Match Modifiers
The answer to getting a high-performance, low-fuss, campaign is “broad match modifier” keywords. If you don’t know what a broad match modifier is in Google Ads, a broad match modifier shows your ad on any query that has the words that you’ve put a “+” in front of [“+example +keyword”]. For comparison, an exact match keyword only shows your ad on queries that are exactly the same as the keyword, and a phrase match keyword only shows your ad on queries which have the same phrase as the keyword.
Exact match, written as: [water bottles] triggers on the query: “water bottles” Phrase Match, written as: “water bottles” triggers on the query: “where can I get water bottles from?” Broad Match Modifier, written as: +water +bottles triggers on the query: “what are the best bottles for water?” Broad Match, written as: water bottles triggers on the query: “spray bottles for watering plants” So here’s what you’ll want to do. Let’s pretend we’re an eCommerce store selling sports shoes only to Vancouver, and we’re making an ad group to target people searching generally for performance footwear: Have Google help you come up with around 3 words or phrases that describe your product or service (even using 1 will give you plenty of targets) Example: shoes, footwear, sneakers Next, we’ll want to list a few very relevant descriptors about our products that people would be searching (customers searching for non-specific sports shoes might also use “performance” or “active” in their search) Example: active, running, sports, performanceOPTIONAL: If you’re a service, or brick and mortar, it can sometimes be beneficial to choose a couple more business-type modifiers to further separate search intents. (company, service, agency, store, etc.):
Example: company, store, brands Finally, if you want to advertise to a specific location, add that in too (if you have geo-targeting set up for your ad group, adding the location is optional.) Example: Vancouver Now, we’re going to put these all together into our final ad group keyword list using each variation of core words, descriptors, business-type modifiers, and location. I’ve created a simple spreadsheet to pump these out for you instantly so you can quickly get them into your campaign. https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1617tRbEfyXeQzVhus-UnoDONTyD6wp4hXfuc5uEWsD4/edit?usp=sharing Remember to make a copy of the sheet for your personal drive. You should end up with a list of 4-20 keywords like this:
+shoes +active +Vancouver +footwear +active +Vancouver +sneakers +active +Vancouver +shoes +running +Vancouver +footwear +running +Vancouver +sneakers +running +Vancouver +shoes +sports +Vancouver +footwear +sports +Vancouver +sneakers +sports +Vancouver +shoes +performance +Vancouver +footwear +performance +Vancouver +sneakers +performance +Vancouver +shoes +athlete +Vancouver +footwear +athlete +Vancouver +sneakers +athlete +Vancouver
Using a broad match modifier strategy like this one will help you collect enough data on your keyword string variations to confidently make decisions on where to best allocate spend, while significantly tidying up clutter, saving you tons of wasted research time, and keeping your ad quality higher across the board.
Once you’ve been running the ad group for a while, check to see if any of your new keywords are marked as “low volume” or have a poor quality score and remove them to hone in on your keywords even more. You can always add more keywords to scale later once you’ve maxed out the spend for your current keywords. Now that we’ve got an awesome list of broad match modifier keywords, you might be thinking “but Linden, aren’t these keywords a bit too broad, dude? Won’t I get a bunch of bad clicks?”
Good question, while it’s true that even with the location modifier, +Shoes +Active +Vancouver could trigger on “which active shoe store is best in Vancouver” or “free active shoes in Vancouver” or even “active shoes repair in Vancouver”. Luckily, There’s a solution. Eliminate all irrelevant phrases from your ad-serving queries using a negative keywords list. Let’s make your ad clicks even more effective by using negative keywords (I’ll make it very easy for you, I promise).
Tip #3 Improve Your Negative Keyword List
If you’ve run Google Ads before and have looked at the “search keywords” that you’ve received clicks for, then you’re probably familiar with the occasional “junk click”. What I mean by junk click is any click that is clearly not a relevant search for the products or services you’re advertising. Here’s an example: If I’m advertising for a “real estate agent” and I get a click from someone searching for a “real estate agent”, that’s pretty spot on. But what if I get a click from the same ad from someone searching for “how to become a real estate agent”? That click is clearly not going to be good for me since it has a completely different search intent. This is what I call a “junk click”, and they can waste a ton of advertising dollars that could otherwise be spent on quality clicks earning you money. So what can you do to fix that? The way you can fix it is by adding keywords like “how to” or “become” to our campaign’s negative keyword list so whenever a query contains that keyword our ad isn’t shown. It’s extremely important to eliminate as many junk clicks as possible by repeating this process for every word or phrase that results in “junk clicks” and adding them to our negative keywords list.
But we don’t want to carelessly throw phrases in there until we see what intent the searches have – the phrase “how to” could easily be a money maker in some niches, and a money sink in others. “How to buy a home”, for example, could be exactly the type of click you’re looking for. So here’s something juicy. Over the past few years I’ve been constantly tweaking and adding to my own negative keyword list I use as a base for each of the campaigns I work on. Every time I see a word or phrase that’s causing junk clicks, I add it to the sheet, and I’ve been doing that for years. Just by uploading the list I eliminate 90%+ of junk clicks right off the bat while leaving 90%+ of the good clicks still enabled. Well, here’s the awesome part. I’m giving you my negative keyword list of over 1,100 keywords for free to use here [you’re welcome :)]:https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1kM41WtlQTh20rX8Nz8oDibknkYvMoU64WtppS1Qis14/edit?usp=sharing I’ve done the majority of the heavy lifting for you so you can copy and paste the file into your campaign and cut out a majority of junk click sources that are killing your campaign, just like that. Now, before you throw my negative keyword list into your campaign, make sure you read the rest of my instructions below and within the spreadsheet, so you can get the most out of it and avoid killing any of your profitable clicks. So which keywords do we want to add to our negative keyword list? Descriptors can have a huge impact on the quality of clicks you’re getting. Depending on the price point of your product or service you may consider eliminating economic or premium keywords. Words like “cheap”, “deal”, “clearance”, and “sale” indicate a searcher who is very conscious about pricing, and may almost never convert at a luxury or premium price point. On the other end of the spectrum, anyone using words like “premium”, “professional”, or “high quality” may rarely convert at an economic price point. Another thing you should consider for your negative keyword list is your competitors. Advertising on your competing brands can be a great way to snatch up business from your competitors but consider who your competitor’s customer is. If you’re advertising a premium sports footwear line, your target audience probably isn’t the people shopping at budget brands like Ardeen, The Shoe Company, or Pay Less Shoes right? Consider which of your competitors have a very different audience than you and put them on your negative keyword list. Are there any classes, certifications, licensing, or information seekers in your niche? Think about some of the main words that would indicate a bad (or good) click: “certification”, “how to”, “course”, or “lesson”. (We added a lot of the common ones in the negative keyword spreadsheet above). Once you’ve given a few minutes to review my list for your big “junk click” keywords and compiled a list for yourself, it’s time to upload the list to your campaign. To update the negative keyword list for your campaign, go to your campaign or ad group, then click the drop-down for “keywords”, then click “negative keywords”. Then, click on the “+” button. Select “add negative keyword list”, add to: campaign (or ad group), select your campaign or ad group, paste your new list into the box, then click “save”. If you would like to use the same list of negative keywords again in the future, click “save to new or existing list” and give the list a name before saving. Finished, you are now filtering your ad from showing to a slew of junk searches. Every niche has a few of its own unique junk keywords to filter. From here on, you will want to consistently check on your “search keywords” inside of your campaign dashboard and add any new “junk click” words that you see until all of your clicks are relevant and on target. For many campaigns, having a robust negative keyword list is extremely important and can completely transform a losing campaign into a winning one.
There are a lot of strategies that can help your campaign perform better, and a lot of those lessons come with making lots of mistakes in how you’re serving your ads. But hopefully, I can help you save a lot of time and money in wasted ad spend by teaching you some of the lessons I’ve learned over the past few years. Debloat your keywords, and add audiences and negative keywords to your campaign. If you follow these three strategies, you’re well on your way to a scalable campaign.
Was your campaign suffering from one of these mistakes? Have a question? Want to let me know how you’re liking the content?
Let me know about it in the comments. — *MORE TIPS UPCOMING* BOOKMARK THIS PAGE TO CHECK BACK REGULARLY