What to Consider Before Pausing Underperforming Google AdWords Campaigns


You’ve done your competitor and keyword research. You’ve agonized over your ad and landing page copy. You’ve done everything possible to make sure that your PPC campaigns are optimized and ready to start attracting site visitors straight out of the gate. You get the nod from whoever is in charge to go live, and…nothing.

Not exactly nothing, though. You probably generate some modest impressions, clicks, CTRs and ad positions. But after a short time, word comes down from the top to turn off the campaigns because they’re not producing a high enough ROI.

Hold on. Before you click that pause (or remove!) button, take a deep breath and dive into the data you gathered while the campaign was running.

One of the best things about AdWords is the wealth of information. Everything from broad “account-level data” to far more granular insights are just a click away, and all of it is there to help you improve campaigns rather than pause them.

The bird’s eye view

Let’s say you have a campaign with a target ROI of 500%, but at the campaign level you’re getting around 250%. That may seem like reason enough to pause your ads and find a better use for those advertising dollars, but with some guidance on how to analyze your more granular data, we might be able to find some diamonds in the rough.

Checking devices: desktop, mobile, tablets

Under the Settings>Devices menu, you can segment an ad’s performance by device. For example, desktop may have performed just shy of your goal, tablets may have done slightly better and mobile devices were significantly underperforming. Depending on the cost per click for mobile, and what portion of the budget went to those clicks, simply disabling your ads on mobile devices might be all you need to increase ROI and reach your goal.

Ad scheduling

With your ad schedule, you can segment performance by day and by time. Let’s say you start running a campaign 24/7, but after reviewing the data you notice that there are wild fluctuations in your campaigns’ performance. Certain days and times get dreadful results, while others run better than you could ever have imagined.

With ad scheduling, you can adjust bids higher or lower for certain days and times. Or you can take it a step further and completely turn off your campaigns during certain hours or days. For example, if your ads drive people to phone your business ASAP, schedule your ads so they appear only when someone is on shift to take those calls.

Negative keywords

Regardless of whether your ad’s keywords are set to “phrase match,” “broad match modified,” or “plain broad match,” they run the risk of being displayed for searches that are irrelevant to your target audience. You may be bidding on what you believe are highly relevant keywords and generating high impressions and strong clicks…but low or no conversions. To find out if this is due to unrelated searches, review your Search Terms Report to see the exact search queries that triggered your ads.

Take a hard look at those search terms. Are they relevant? If not, mark them as “negative” so they stop prompting your ads. This strategy doesn’t just prevent low quality clicks, it reduces overall spend. The Search Terms Report also shows you which search queries generated conversions, helping you get a clearer picture of what your target audience is searching for and how to increase an underperforming campaign’s ROI.

Search, search partners, and display

Google gives you the two options for displaying your ads in certain networks:

  • The Search Network, other Google sites, and non-Google websites that partner with Google to show ads (aka search partners)
  • The Display Network, a group of more than 2 million websites, videos, and apps

The Search and Display networks are two very different creatures, and although Google will allow you to target both in a single campaign, we recommend creating separate campaigns — one to target search, the other to target display.

Think of the Search network as interactive or engaged marketing. When people see your ads on the search network, it is because they are actively searching for a product or service you offer.
The Display network is more like old-school television advertising. You’re watching your favorite show and suddenly everything comes to a complete stop while a block of commercials tries to sell you something unrelated to what you were watching. On the Display network it is usually easier for users to ignore advertisements, but when they do click, you’re guaranteed a high degree of interest.

Segment these campaigns based on their networks so you can review Search performance and Display performance separately. Suppose that the Search network is outperforming your expectations while the Display network isn’t doing all that well. With this strategy, learning which network is more valuable and turning off the other is a simple affair. This can further improve overall metrics and nudge your ROI up even closer to — and possibly exceeding — the original goal.

Keyword level cost per conversion

AdWords also allows you to analyze conversions by keyword as well as the cost of that conversion and that keyword’s conversion rate. Essentially, how often, on average, an ad interaction triggered by that keyword leads to a conversion. For example, if an ad group generated 10 conversions and 9 of those conversions were at an acceptable cost, you need to know the tenth conversion’s cost before you can call it a win. What if the last conversion cost you more than the total of all others? By removing that keyword you quickly bring the cost per conversion down to an acceptable level.

Just don’t forget to consider how relevant that keyword is. It is possible that, despite the high cost, that keyword’s amazing conversion rate forces you to reconsider your conversion budget. Instead of eliminating that keyword altogether, remove it from the existing ad group and create a new one just for that keyword. Then, you can craft a more specific ad copy that is specifically geared to that search. You could even direct that ad’s traffic to a landing page geared to that search. With enough time, this will drive up conversions and drive down conversion costs for this keyword.

Vary the timelines of your tests

The last recommendation we make for evaluating your Google AdWords Campaigns is reviewing and comparing their data over different time periods. Month-over-month analysis might seem like the sensible option, but consider looking at 3, 6, 9, 12 and even 18 month periods. If your product or service is affected by seasonal demand, you might notice that certain copywriting is more effective heading into, or out of, the busy season.

Digging into the dozens of AdWords reports allows you to pinpoint with 100% accuracy what aspects of your campaigns are holding it back from reaching target goals. And if you can master that, all it takes is a few tweaks here and a few adjustments there to transform a campaign you were ready to turn off into your best ad to date.

If we’re being honest, some campaigns need to be scrapped. But in many if not most cases, tweaking rather than pausing is the way to go. But keep in mind, any Google AdWords Campaigns are going to require a lot of ongoing monitoring and maintenance, which is why Pronto has a service to do it all for you. If you want all of the insight from this article applied to your campaigns on a daily basis, give us a call today!


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