Pete Bowen's site

Putting a little science into AdWords

We AdWords people live and die by the phrase "Always be testing". We test ad copy, try new keywords and tweak bids and budgets looking for improvements. We’re (mad?) scientists tinkering in a lab.

In the past I relied on a combination of the change history in AdWords, some rough notes and my memory to keep track of my testing. It worked but it wasn't great.

It became more difficult as my business grew. I started to feel like I was losing control. I couldn't answer questions about an account without having to root around in Google docs, AdWords and email.

It was even worse on accounts that I worked on with my clients' internal teams. I'd make changes, they'd make changes and we'd get ourselves lost.

I felt like I was being unfair to my clients. I was getting decent results for them, but some of the processes in my agency were, frankly, unprofessional. I'd be ashamed if they looked behind the curtain.

Research scientists in a lab run multiple complex experiments at once. They work in teams and they delegate work to their minions. That sounds a lot like running an AdWords agency.

Researchers use a lab notebook to document their hypotheses and  experiments. The lab notebook records what was done, how it was done and why it was done.

Why not keep a lab notebook for AdWords experiments?

Every experiment starts with a hypothesis - a proposed explanation based on limited knowledge. For instance...

Showing the price in the ad will increase the click through rate and conversion rate compared to the existing ads.

We don’t actually know if this is true. We've made an educated guess based on experience. We’re going to experiment to determine if showing the price will in fact increase CTR and conversions on this campaign.

Next up is recording the method we use to do the experiment. In a lab the method is recorded in enough detail to enable a competent scientist to replicate it. That's a practice worth borrowing.

Here's how I recorded the method for this experiment.

I chose the 5 ad groups with the highest number of impressions over the last 30 days as test candidates. The ad groups are [names removed].

I created a new ad in each ad group by copying the existing ads and changing headline two to "Prices from $450".

I set reminders to check the CTR and conversion rate every week for disasters.

I set a reminder to evaluate the experiment after a month.

We record the outcome of the experiment - positive or negative. Here's my outcome.

The experiment ran for one month from [date removed] to [date removed].

The control ads received 109 876 impressions. The CTR for the control ads was 8.45% and the conversion rate was 6.93%. The ads were shown at an average position of 2.1.

The test ads received 107 456 impressions. The CTR was 6.06% and the conversion rate was 11.85%. The ads were shown at an average position of 1.9.

The conclusion is your initial interpretation of the outcome for example

Adding the price to the headline caused the CTR to decrease even though the ads were shown in a slightly higher position.

The conversion rate increased.

The price headline appears to be acting as a filter to reduce clicks from people who are looking for cheaper services.

I built a tool to record my experiments in this format. The tool shows me an overview of all the experiments we're currently running. It keeps a record of what’s worked and what hasn’t. It allows for notes about what was done and, more importantly, why it was done. It reminds me to check stats and do the regular maintenance work

I don't have to rely on my memory or dig through a spreadsheet. Everything I need to know about a campaign is at my fingertips.

The tool will be open for public use in a month or two. Pop me a note if you'd like an early invitation.

Need some help with this?

I offer 1-to-1 mentoring and consulting. You’ll get help, advice, support and answers without having to commit to a long-term contract. Details here.

Want to increase your conversion rate?
I’ve seen conversion rates double, triple and even 10X after a few quick and easy changes to the enquiry form. Subscribe now, and I'll send you a free copy of my in-depth ebook High-Converting Enquiry Forms.
You're already paying for clicks. Now turn them into conversions. Privacy policy. Unsubscribe at any time.

Related articles

How I track WhatsApp conversations as conversions in Google Ads At the time of writing Google has no way of tracking WhatsApp leads as conversions. I've used a couple of work arounds to solve this.

Most Google Ads advice is wrong for small businesses A small account needs a different setup and different management. You see, something that improves a $50 000 a month account might tank a $500 a month account.

Modernising legacy Google Ads account structure A successful restructure leaves the account easier to understand, easier to optimise and better positioned for the future. Understanding why the account looks like it does is key to getting from sticky mess to well-oiled machine.

How I reduce wrong-business leads from Google Ads This is for you if you advertise on Google Ads and get leads who think they're contacting a different business. They call or fill in a form looking for someone else.

How I improve lead quality by telling Google which leads are good. By default Google Ads believes every lead is good. But that's not true. You can give Google feedback on lead quality and use that feedback to get better leads.

How's your Chinese? Google shows English adverts to people who searched in Chinese even though the campaign language is set to English. Here's how you can stop this and why you might want to.

Is it safe to use broad match keywords for lead generation campaigns? Google is pushing broad match hard and, some people are reporting good results. But, is it actually best practice now? Or are broad match keywords a waste of money?

Should I split a massive multi-country Google Ads account into separate accounts? At first glance it seems like splitting a big account into smaller accounts will make it easier to manage. But, there are downsides and, there are ways to make big accounts easier to manage.

Why did Google charge me $300 for a $20 click? Every now and again Google would charge an outrageous amount for one click. As much as 15 to 20 times what they normally paid. Here's how to prevent that.

Why I don't just delete fake leads from my inbox If the only thing you do with fake leads from Google Ads is delete the lead delivery email you risk getting swamped by fake leads. Here's why and what to do to improve lead quality.

Getting a lot of junk leads from Google Ads? You can spot conversion fraud because the leads have genuine email addresses and phone numbers but when you call them they don't remember filling in your form.

A love letter to statistics This is for you if you’re interested in making data-driven decisions about your Google Ads. Amy Hebdon, founder at Paid Search Magic, wrote a fantastic article she described a love letter disguised as a how to about PPC data interpretation.

Allocating budget How do you know the best way to split your ad budget between search and display, between Facebook and Google, between one keyword and another?

Does Google rip advertisers off? I'm not saying that everyone who's paid for Google ads has turned a profit. That's definitely not the case. But, when people lose money on Google ads its likely to be because Google Ads was a poor fit for their business, or because of the way they did Google Ads. I can't see Google risking their future to steal your advertising budget

Don’t believe every recommendation from Google. The optimisation score is Google’s newest way of telling you how to run your Google Ads account. Read on to see how following it blindly can hurt your business.

Don't believe my writing I'm not trying to bamboozle you, it's just that my - and everyone else's - writing isn't always right for your circumstances. Read on to find out more...

Google showed your ads to the wrong people today. Google showed your some of your adverts to the wrong people today. You (or someone you hire) must deal with this or your ads are going to start costing more and generating fewer leads. Here's how.

Has Google jumped the gun on mobile? How much commercial activity happens on mobile phones? Is it enough to justify a mobile-first approach to development? Case study with mobile vs desktop AdWords generated leads across 7 industries.

How do you get more leads from Google Ads when you’ve maxed out impression share? How do you get more leads from Google Ads when you’ve maxed out impression share? Here's how we solved this problem...

How to get fast traction on a brand new Google Ads campaign. I worked out a process for getting fast results from new AdWords campaigns so I didn't have to worry as much. You're welcome to copy (and improve) my process.

I’m getting too many B2C leads. I want only B2B. I’ve bumped into this problem with almost every client who sells to other businesses (B2B) not to consumers (B2C). Here are some options ..

I'm scared I'll break my campaign If you don't feel confident making changes to Google Ads campaigns this might help...

Improve conversion rates by adding extra calls to action. Need to improve your conversion rate? Here's a tested approach that takes only a few minutes.

Should you advertise on Search Partners? We check the campaigns we manage regularly to see how much it costs to generate an enquiry on Google search versus search partners. Most of the time it costs more or less the same. Sometimes the difference is huge.

Should you show ads to people on their phones? It is a fact that more people use the internet on their phones than they do on computers these days. But are these glued-to-their-phone types going to buy from you?

The hidden trade-offs of automated bidding I like automated bidding. But, there are some trade offs with automated bidding that are not well documented.

Using the Search Terms Report to find negative keywords. The Search Terms Report is a great place to find negative keywords to add to your AdWords campaign. It shows (some of) the actual words and phrases that triggered your ads.

You don't have enough data to be confident that you're making the right decisions. Here are 3 rules of thumb I use to to help me make more of the right decisions when data is scarce.