SEM Spring Cleaning

Give Your SEM Campaign a Spring Cleaning


Like a good spring clean, sometimes a paid search campaign needs a little TLC.

1. First, Define Goals and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).

Before you do anything, you need to get your campaign benchmarks in place. That way you can measure performance and actually see if your hard work pays off. Review your campaign strategy, target markets, bidding strategy, historical spend, competitors and industry insight. Know your industry benchmarks. Think about specific events coming up that you might need to optimize for – new campaigns, peak season, new website, etc. What conversions are you measuring? Should you be adding any?

2. Export.

When cleaning a closet, the best thing to do is to pull everything out, organize it, get rid of anything that is not adding value and then put it all back into your closet in a clean, organized way. You can do the same for SEM.

Export all relevant information out of AdWords and into a tabbed spreadsheet or AdWords Editor for analysis. Choose a timeframe relevant to your campaign – the past three months, six months or even a year. The important thing is that each tab has a consistent timeframe.

When taking everything out of your SEM closet, make sure to download:

3. Sort and Organize.

Now is the fun part…maybe. The existing ad copy and keywords are a great reference, but the gold is in the search terms. Sift through and identify the search query terms that received a high number of impressions, a high click-through rate, a high conversion rate or anything else that is relevant to your KPIs.

Look for patterns, commonalities and ways to create groups of highly related keywords into ad groups. Only keep terms that are relevant to your goals/KPIs, and avoid duplication. You don’t want to confuse Google AdWords by not knowing where to send the user, so think of ways that you can add negative keywords to counteract those search queries.
For example, let’s say the keywords fall into three ad groups:

  1. Clean Closet
  2. Organize Closet
  3. Clean Garage

Each of my 5-20 keywords for the ad group “clean closet” should be specific to that: clean closet, how to clean my closet, closet cleaning, etc. Likewise for ad groups 2 and 3.

But what if I had a broad match keyword for “clean closet?” According to Google’s match type rules, that keyword could also match for “organize closet” or even “clean garage.” So, the best thing to do is add a negative match word to each ad group.

Ad Group: Negatives

Negative words are an often overlooked but powerful element of your campaign. As you trim your search query terms, you should also be looking for queries that garnered clicks that weren’t relevant to your campaign. Be sure to add those as negatives at either the campaign or ad group level.

4. Get the Right Landing Page.

Now that you have your keywords and negative keywords polished for each ad group, you need to determine where to send users. If a user searches for “how to clean my closet,” that user needs to land on a page that talks about closet cleaning, not garage cleaning. Make sure goals on the page are clear and that you’re tracking conversions through Google Analytics.

5. Write Compelling Copy.

You have 95 characters and six seconds to get a user’s attention. Having a catchy headline, a unique selling benefit and clear call to action are essential in your pay-per-click campaign. Google offers great tips for writing successful text ads. Don’t forget to look at the ad copy you exported to see if any of those were performing well. If so, keep them. If not, toss them out of the closet. Make notes to update copy for seasonal or limited time offers as well. Utilize the different ad customizers such as countdown ads and dynamic keyword insertion.

6. Add Ad Extensions.

One way to get more real estate on the search engine results page (SERP) is through ad extensions. Not only does Google reward you and give you a better ad position, but they are going to give much more information about your business at no added cost. Not using ad extensions would be like not using the floor space in your closet. That’s great space!

Ad extensions have the potential to improve click-through rates by 10-15%. Easy ones to include are sitelink extensions, location extensions, callout extensions, call extensions and structured snippets.

7. Finally, Import.

Once you have everything organized, import it back into Google AdWords. Depending on how much you have restructured, you may want to start with a new, clean campaign. Otherwise, just pause and replace as needed. Don’t worry about getting everything perfect. Google AdWords is flexible and easy to change in real-time.

Be sure to include A/B testing in all levels of your campaign. Never stop testing.

Now that you have a clean campaign that flows from search query to ad copy to landing page to conversion, go reward yourself with a pair of shoes. Toss them in your closet!


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