The first 7 things to look at when optimizing paid search marketing campaigns

A paid search marketing campaign can be a big, hairy beast, full of complicated campaign structures, keywords, ads, analytics, extensions, bid adjustments, and so much more.

The trick to optimizing paid search campaigns is to figure out what to tackle first.  There are often a lot of things to dig into when looking at an established campaign, but it can become overwhelming if you try to fix everything at once.

Some would say that the first thing you should look at when optimizing paid search campaigns is the metrics; including impressions, clicks, costs, conversion, return on ad spend, etc. I don’t disagree with that, but I don’t START there for two reasons.

  1. Usually, the reason we’ve been tasked with digging into the campaigns is because the metrics are not looking so great
  2. Those metrics alone, at least at a top level, do not always provide actionable insights, so you need to look at that data within each slice of the campaign to figure out could be causing and how to fix the poor performance.

That’s why, normally, when I’m directing a team to dig into new campaigns, I start with these top 7 areas. They usually provide the best and fastest return, and allow us time to continue digging into the other areas as the improvements from these optimizations start to kick in.

#1 — Optimizing Paid Search Account Structures

Despite what I said just above… literally sentences ago… account structure rarely has anything to do with the overall conversion and return on ad spend metrics, at least not directly. However, a badly organized account can have significant impact on one’s ability to properly target keywords sets and manage campaigns, ads, and more.

Disorganized paid search campaigns can become like a junk drawer.

I have seen accounts where the exact same keyword is in 8 – 10 different campaigns and ad groups, and the people running the campaign didn’t realize it because the account was structured in such a convoluted way. Disorganized paid search campaigns can become like a junk drawer… there are lots of valuable and useful things in there, but they are hard to find.

Not that I’m placing blame. Accounts can start out nice and clean and then get more and more complex as you try to add new products, services, targets, ads, etc. What was once a nicely organized campaign becomes a jumble because the person(s) running it simply haven’t had time to step back, rethink, and reorganize.

The key focus when optimizing paid search account structures is to focus on a few words:

Organized   |   Logical   |  Elegant

The structure must be organized in such a way that it is easy to understand and easy to follow. You need to be able to look a the campaign overview and clearly see how and why campaigns have been created and ad groups have been pulled together. You can do this by keyword theme, by relevance, by importance… however you decide to structure your campaigns and ad groups, just make sure it’s organized, logical, and elegant enough that you can explain it to someone else.

PRO TIP: Because campaign and ad group names can get VERY long, I highly recommend developing a campaign naming shorthand that is easy to understand but can reduce common words down to 1 – 3 characters. If you do this, you need to document it and utilize it consistently so that you don’t just create random short forms that nobody would understand. 

Once an account has been successfully restructured, it makes all of the other search optimization tasks much, much easier.


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