A Former Googler’s Routine For AdWords Management

It’s been seven months since we launched Optmyzr’s first tool  at SMX Advanced in Seattle – the Quality Score Tracker – and we’ve been busy adding tools, reports and optimizations since then. Now, one of the most common questions we get is when to use various optimizations — and, of course, these apply no matter what tools you’re using.

There are plenty of daily tweaks to make in any AdWords account, but what are some of the optimizations we do on a regular schedule? While there’s no one right answer for every account, I’ll share some of my thoughts about what to do and when to do it to keep an account in great shape.

Do These At Least Quarterly

AdWords changes all the time — in the past year, we saw one of the bigger changes in recent memory with the forced migration to Enhanced Campaigns. AdWords also frequently launches new features that are less dramatic than Enhanced Campaigns but that can still have a huge impact on how your ads perform. Make sure you’re not missing out on any of these. Here are a few recent examples:

Mobile Bid Modifiers

Now that mobile and desktop ads are all served from a single campaign, are you using mobile bid modifiers for maximum performance?

Be sure you’re looking at how your ads are performing on different devices so you’re not losing money on mobile devices or tablets. With bid modifiers, you can bid lower for mobile clicks and make sure your ROI is similar to that on desktop. Try to avoid bidding your mobile clicks down 100% because that’s not a viable long-term strategy in most cases.

It reminds me of when we launched the Google Display Network and some advertisers were convinced this was a complete waste of money and turned it off entirely. Smart advertisers figured out how to set the right bids, set the right targeting and make this a very profitable part of their business.

I think there’s no such thing as a bad click, just a click that’s too expensive. So make sure your bids are set correctly to take advantage of the growing number of mobile searches. If you don’t do something with them, your competitors will.

AdWords Scripts

I talk about these ad nauseum, but I believe this is the biggest untapped opportunity for most advertisers. The ability to create custom reports, automate your secret sauce and become a more efficient marketer offers a huge advantage to advertisers that are not afraid of a little code (or copy-and-pasting code written by others).

AdWords Scripts Home

Use AdWords Scripts to automate reports and optimizations you do frequently.

Conversion Tracking

It continues to amaze me how many accounts I come across that spend a lot of money but are not tracking conversions properly. If you’re not yet tracking conversions, figure out a way to start doing this immediately. Either that or go flush some money down the toilet… I’m serious, if you’re advertising online and not tracking conversions, you’ve got a big problem that you need to fix quickly.

If your conversions happen offline, you can now import this with Conversion Import, a tool Google launched in September.

And, thanks to Call Extensions being counted as conversions since November, it’s easier than ever to track calls as conversions without using any third-party tools.

Get A Better Ad Rank With Ad Extensions

The ad ranking formula changed in October: in addition to Quality Score and the bid, the performance of ad extensions is now also a factor. This makes a lot of sense since Quality Score is mostly a measure of CTR, and according to Google, ad extensions like sitelinks improve CTR of ads by 30% on average. So, by factoring the CTR of an extension into the ad ranking formula, advertisers that have added CTR boosting extensions get rewarded with a higher rank for their ads.

New AdWords Ad Rank Formula

Use ad extensions to improve your CTR and get a better rank for your ad.

New ad extensions get launched periodically, so make sure you’ve taken a look at all the ones that are available to you. For example, are you using review extensions yet? They let you enhance your ad with a short snippet from a third-party review of your company. Have you updated your sitelinks with the two additional lines of text you’re now allowed to include? Have you considered setting different sitelinks for different ad groups now that sitelinks are no longer set at just the campaign level?

As you can see, there are always new features in AdWords — so be sure to do at least a quarterly review to ensure you’re not falling behind your competitors.

Do These At Least Monthly

Ad Text Cleanup

Ad text testing may be the most neglected account management task… not surprisingly so, since it’s the hardest to do correctly when using just the AdWords interface. While it’s easy to create new ads (have you tried Ready Ads yet for display ads?), it’s hard to keep track of what you’re testing and how the experiments are going. Even if you set ad rotation to let Google show the best performing ads more often, you end up with a slew of ads that don’t get served much but are still active in your account.

If you’re looking to clean up ads that are not performing well, doing the math to find those ads that are underperforming with at least a 95% confidence is not trivial. We have just launched a preview of a new report in Optmyzr that helps identify underperforming ads. Brad Geddes also has a new tool called adAlysis that helps with ad text optimization. And of course, there’s boostCTR, a company I advise, that’s been in the ad optimization space for several years.

AB Testing For Ads

The ad on the left has a 99% probability of beating the ad on the right. Go through your account periodically to look for the losers and delete them.

The next challenge with ad text optimization is finding winning ad text elements. You’re probably using similar lines across many ad groups; but, AdWords doesn’t provide any reporting that aggregates the performance of all headlines, description lines and display URLs.

For that, I wrote an AdWords Script that spits out a Google Sheet with aggregated performance data for every line I use in my ads. I can easily see if the line “Free Shipping” or “Next Day Delivery” has a better CTR. Armed with that data, I can quickly generate a bunch of new ad variations using the better performing text; then, next month, I can use one of the tools to clean up ads that are underperforming and do another round of tests.

Keyword Cleanup

While we are all buying keywords from Google, we should really be thinking about managing queries rather than managing keywords. The reason is that most keywords are not exact matches, so they are getting clicks and impressions from a variety of related queries.

I wrote last month that broad match keywords are liars. What you ideally want to do is take tight control over queries that you know convert or are critical to your business. By adding these as exact match keywords, you’ll have more certainty over their rank, cost and messaging.

One of the issues with broad match keywords is that they tend to rank worse for a query than another keyword that is an exact match to the query. That’s because in the case where the query and keyword exactly match, the advertiser has told Google they definitely want to have their ad show — when the keyword is a broad match, there is some uncertainty, and Google typically will rank that lower due to the uncertainty factor.

Add New Keywords From The Search Terms Report

At least once a month, check the search terms report and add converting queries as keywords to the account. You can add them to the ad group that generated the impression or you can add them to a new ad group, or even a special campaign for converting keywords.

When you put the new keyword by itself as an exact match into a new ad group, you’re tightly controlling the messaging in your ad for that one query. When you place the new ad group into a campaign with other converting keywords, you’re able to allocate a separate budget to converting keywords and ideally set that budget to be unconstrained.

Find Negative Keywords In The Long Tail Of Queries

At the same time, find negative themes from your search terms report. Do this by taking the keyword list and running it through a word cloud tool. That way, terms that appear more frequently will be more noticeable and you’ll have a better way to see what words from the long-tail represent a potentially significant volume of irrelevant clicks.

Deduplicate Keywords

When you’re actively adding new keywords to the account, you may find yourself accidentally creating duplicates. This is not a terrible thing, but it does complicate account management. So be sure to clean up duplicate keywords at least monthly. The AdWords Editor will help you find these, and we have a tool that takes it a step further and suggests the best one to keep based on QS, Conversions, CTR and other metrics.

Sculpt Your Account To Drive Queries To The Right Ad Group

One optimization we really like is to look through the search terms report for situations where Google shows a different ad than the one we had written for a particular query. This happens quite frequently in most accounts and reduces our control over the landing page, ad messaging and bids; so, we add negative exact match keywords to limit this behavior at least once a month.

Bid Cleanup

Make sure bids are sensible and your bid management strategy hasn’t just killed off your best keyword without telling you.

If you’re managing bids manually, look for converting keywords where you may be bidding slightly below the first page bid estimate or where your impression share is too low.

Clean up keywords that have spent too much and aren’t converting, especially if they aren’t exact matches.

Do These At Least Daily

There are plenty of tweaks to make in accounts every day. How do you know what tweaks to make? It’s best to have a clear set of reports and metrics by which you’re judging things and give yourself a big enough time window for the analysis. That way, you can steer your account in a consistent direction without making too many changes too fast. It’s like steering a car, you want to look far enough ahead and steer to the middle of the lane you want to be in rather than bouncing from one line to the other by looking just in front of the car’s hood.

For example, if you take too short a view on conversions, you may be missing the fact that some conversions take several days to happen (you can check this in Search Funnels in your AdWords account) and your bid adjustments could set bids lower than ideal.

Look For Anomalies

What I do look for are daily anomalies, or items in the account that are completely off track. For example, are there keywords that are suddenly spending way more than usual and converting poorly? Are there ad groups that show consistently declining CTR? The AdWords engineers wrote some AdWords Scripts that will notify you when some of these things happen.

Analyze Y-O-Y Data

I also like to compare last year’s top-performers to the top-performers now. If there are differences, try to understand why so that you can react appropriately.


So, those are some thoughts on how to manage an AdWords account for success. Stay on top of the performance every day and get into the routine of doing some of the standard optimizations on a weekly or monthly schedule, and do at least a quarterly audit to make sure you’re taking advantage of all the latest capabilities of the system.