Doing the wrong things right.

I've been lucky enough to consult with several clients who run their own AdWords or have an in-house AdWords team.

I usually get called in because they're not getting the results they anticipated. They’d hoped for a reliable flow of new business but they're paying Google more and more for fewer leads.

I like this work but it's challenging. I’m often talking to people who are smarter than I am. They aren’t AdWords noobs and they know their industry better than I ever will. I've learned a lot from what they've done right and from what they've done wrong.

One mistake crops up all the time: Doing the wrong thing right.

There are loads of tactics - things you can do - for improving AdWords performance:

  • You can group keywords into themed ad groups, or have them on their own in SKAGs.

  • You can add keywords as broad match, exact match, phrase match etc.

  • You can split test ad copy and extensions.
  • You can experiment with automated bidding strategies.

  • You can adjust bids by device, demographic, day and a host of other parameters.
  • Etc …

Most of the people I consult with are executing the individual tactics correctly. They're not making huge glaring mistakes.

When I ask why they chose a particular tactic I get a blank look. They learned the tactic from Brad, Perry or Larry. They read it on Search Engine Land. Or their AdWords rep told them to do it. They find it bizarre that anyone would question something that everyone knows is best practice.

But ...

Tactics don't exist in isolation.

You wield tactics in service of the campaign’s overarching goal.

A campaigns can have one of four goals:

  1. Evaluation. You're testing the market to find out if AdWords is a good fit for a facet of your business.
  2. Efficiency. You're attempting to reduce the cost per acquisition (cost per lead).
  3. Expansion. You're trying to increase the number of clicks because you expect more clicks will mean more conversions.
  4. Equilibrium. You're want to keep the campaign ticking over without major changes.

A campaign can have different goals over it's lifetime. You might start evaluating if AdWords is a good fit. If it is, you'd move on to expanding to reach more potential customers. Some time later you'd work on making the campaign more efficient.

There is no way a campaign can reach two goals at once. The tactics that further one goal often impede the other.

For instance, if you wanted to increase the reach of your ads you might use BMM or phrase match keywords. This is good for keyword discovery but it's unlikely to reduce your CPA.

Target CPA bidding might be a good tactic for maintaining equilibrium but it's terrible for a new campaign with an evaluation goal.

Every tactic has a trade off. It'll favour one goal over others.

But what happens if you have two goals? Say reduce the cost per acquisition (efficiency) and use the savings to increase the number of clicks (expansion)?

The trick is to set up a separate campaign for each goal.

Your increase efficiency campaign might have SKAGs with exact match keywords. You might use manual or target CPA bidding. You’d tighten demographics and location.

Your expansion campaign might have the same keywords, but as BMM or phrase match and you might bid aggressively using maximise clicks. You could explore the search partners network or even the search network.

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