Problem keywords waste budget. They are those irritating keywords in your campaign that cost too much, or aren’t converting well. Perhaps they are drawing lots of clicks but aren’t getting conversions. Or maybe the cost per click is high and the conversions are low. Either way, these little boogers can be an enormous detriment to a healthy Adwords campaign.
The great thing about pay-per-click advertising is that Google only charges you when your ad gets a click. Therefore, it is important to refine your Adwords campaign to maximize relevant, useful clicks that lead to conversions.
Refining your campaign also helps you avoid irrelevant clicks that waste your budget. Thus, weeding out your problem keywords is one way to hone your campaign and maximize quality clicks.
How to spot problem keywords.
Follow these steps to find problem keywords in your Adwords account:
1. Log into your account and click into the campaign in question.
2. Click into the Keywords tab across the top of the page, where all of your campaign’s keywords are listed.
3. On the upper right hand corner of the page, set the date range to either the “Last 14 Days” or the “Last 30 Days”, depending on how much data your account pulls. Smaller accounts have less data and often benefit from looking at 30 days of data, while larger accounts will have plenty of data to go on with just 14 days of data.
4. Sort the data by Cost. When you sort by Cost, you will see exactly how much you are spending on each keyword. (If you don’t see Cost as a column, you can add it by clicking into the Columns button near the top of the page, and editing the data you’re viewing.)
Note: some people prefer to sort by Cost/conv. However, the downfall with this method is that if your Cost on a keyword is $200, but the keyword gained no conversions, the Cost/conv will be $0 and will show up at the bottom of the page where it is easy to miss. Sorting by Cost helps ensure you see every problem keyword.
Great! You have now set up the data to find your problem keywords.
When you look at the very top row, it is greyed out with the averages of each column. Although there are several averages here, the only one you care about right now is the average Cost/conv.
Now, look at your first keyword. By comparing the Cost and Cost/conv of that keyword to the average Cost/conv, you can tell if that keyword is producing conversions that cost more than average, average, or less than average than the account-wide average cost for a conversion.
Let’s break this down with an example.
Suppose the top three words in your account cost $200, and the next three words have a smaller spend.
This is where the Cost/conv column comes in. Your average cost/conv is $50, so as long as your Cost and/or your Cost/conv is equal or under $50, you’re happy.
As a rule of thumb, you only need to look closely at the words with a Cost higher than the average Cost/conv (here, that is $50.) Since Keywords D and E have a Cost or Cost/conv under $50 – the average Cost/conv – you have no concerns there. Keyword F has no conversions, but its cost is also quite low so it has not been running long enough to know if it will be productive. Which means only Keywords A, B & C matter to us.
Keyword A has a cost per conversion of $20 ($200 divided by 10 conversions, or cost divided by # conversions). Keyword B has a cost per conversion of $200, and Keyword C has no conversions, therefore a listed cost/conv of $0, while you still spent $200 on it.
Rough, right? No one wants to waste $200 of advertising budget on a keyword that hasn’t gained a single conversion for their business, and $200 per conversion isn’t so hot either (for most industries $200 per conversion is high, but for some industries, such as injury law, a $200 cost per conversion would actually be quite low. Cost per conversion being high or low is relative to the industry you’re advertising in, but for most industries a $200 cost per conversion would be on the high side).
So we’ve concluded that we have only two problem keywords: Keyword B and Keyword C.
How to fix problem keywords.
There are several reasons problem keywords arise, and thus several ways to fix them.
The first reason is that the match type on that keyword may be too broad. Perhaps Keyword B is set to the broad match type – it may be pulling a lot of irrelevant traffic and clicks. Narrowing the broad match keyword down a notch with broad match modifiers or making the keyword phrase or exact match may solve the problem. Using those narrower keyword match types targets a more specific audience and will increase your likelihood of getting relevant clicks and conversions from the keyword in question. Learn more about keyword match types here.
The main point about Keyword B is that it is showing some promise, since it did bring in a conversion, but the cost per conversion is higher than desired, so to try to get that cost per conversion lower, the move here would be to tighten up the keyword match type.
The second reason a keyword is struggling is that perhaps it’s quite simply a lame keyword. Sometimes, seemingly perfectly good keywords flop, and other keywords perform unexpectedly well. A good strategy is to have an open mind, learn the needs of your campaign, don’t be afraid to experiment, and throw out what doesn’t work.
Since Keyword C spent $200 of your advertising budget without bringing in a single conversion, you may want to pause it, thereby redirect that budget towards your more profitable keywords.
Pitfalls To Avoid
Now, before being too quick to make changes on your account, note that some keywords need more data to prove themselves. Looking at a larger date range could show the keyword is pulling its weight, especially on smaller accounts with less data.
Likewise, newer keywords may need more time to run before evaluating their effectiveness. Often, waiting a couple weeks before reevaluating will be enough for a keyword to prove its worth. Don’t give up on keywords too quickly. Likewise, don’t keep a keyword running if it is clearly detrimental to your campaign. Just make sure you have enough time and data to make the right call.
One more precaution you can take is to look at the search terms data for just that one keyword, in order to see what types of searches trigger that keyword. Why? You can double-check whether or not the actual search terms that trigger your keyword are good searches you want to show up on or bad searches you’d rather avoid. Learn more about the differences between keywords and search terms here.
In order to check the search terms for a keyword, first click the checkbox on the far left for the keyword in question. Then, select the “Search Terms” button just above your keyword data. Looking at your search terms when evaluating a problem keyword will help you make the right call.
In the end…
Regularly checking your keyword data is a wise strategy to eliminate problem keywords. That way you can catch problem keywords early and often!
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Success in pay-per-click (PPC) advertising depends on developing a list of strong keywords in your campaign and eliminating the keywords that slow you down. I hope this article helps you to do that.
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