Tell me if you recognise the PPC dream: You plug impressions, clicks and conversions into a statistical significance calculator and it spits the answer out. "I am 98.79% certain that pausing this keyword is the right decision."
You pause the keyword and CTR and conversion rate goes up and the CPA goes down. ROI is always better this month than last month, forever. Data tells you exactly what to do, every step of the way. You never make the wrong choice.
But, we’ve been had. Managing Google Ads is never like this, especially if, like me, you use Google Ads to generate leads. The reality for many of the accounts I manage is:
How are you supposed to make data-driven decisions in a data-drought?
Here are 3 rules of thumb I use to to help me. I hope they help you.
Let’s say you were thinking of pausing a keyword because the CTR was much lower than the average CTR in the campaign. The keyword has had 100 impressions and 2 clicks. That's 2% CTR.
Imagine that the next 2 impressions resulted in 2 clicks? Now you’ve gone from 2/100 to 4/102. That's 3.9% CTR.
Would you still feel that the CTR was too low at 3.9%?
For me, 3.9% CTR feels different to 2% CTR. A few extra clicks would change how I feel. That means it’s too early to decide.
Another keyword had 500 impressions and 10 clicks. The same 2% CTR. Again, too low for this campaign.
Imagine that the next 2 impressions resulted in 2 clicks. Now you’ve gone from 10/500 to 12/502. 2.4% CTR.
Would you still feel that the CTR was too low at 2.4%? For me, 2.4% CTR feels about the same as 2% CTR. The two extra clicks don’t change how I feel about it. That means it’s the right time to make the decision.
I use the same approach to decide about ads, landing pages, bidding strategy etc.
Sometimes I get it wrong. Less often now than 10 years ago, but still often enough that the next 2 rules save me at least once a month.
Make the consequence of decisions as small as possible. That way if you're wrong, it’s not a huge disaster.
Do this by making the keyword or campaign in question less critical to the overall account performance.
Let me give you an example.
I follow a defined launch process for every campaign I build. The process ensures that the first leads arrive soon after the launch. Sometimes in the first hour. That makes new clients very excited and helps cement my status as someone who knows what they’re doing. ;)
But, the settings for a successful launch aren't optimal for the longer term. One of the first changes I make is to switch bidding strategy from Maximise Clicks at launch to Target CPA.
I usually get good results from Target CPA but, it’s not 100% guaranteed. I’ve had more than a handful of campaigns where Target CPA results in far fewer leads or hideous CPA. There is some risk in making the change.
If the campaign produces a small portion of the leads, I'll go ahead and change the bidding strategy. One bad campaign won't tank the entire account.
But, if the campaign produces a significant portion of the leads I'll split it into smaller campaigns before making the change. I'll make the change on one of the smaller campaigns. It it works out OK, I'll do the same for the others.
The easiest way to split a campaign is to use the experiment feature in Google Ads. It lets you divert a some of your traffic to the experiment version of your campaign while the rest goes to your original campaign.
I’m a lot more confident making a decision if I'm ready for both positive and negative outcomes. I’ve written on this in more detail but here’s a quick overview.
Before I make the change I write down:
"I’m changing the bidding strategy from Maximise Clicks to Target CPA with a target of $25. I expect to see 75 leads in the next week at a CPA close to $25. If the number of leads plummets, or if the CPA is too high I’ll change back to Maximise Clicks. If the number of leads doesn’t drop and the CPA stays close to $25 I’ll lower the CPA by 15%".
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.
Deleting fake leads leads to more fake leads. 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.
Putting a little science into AdWords 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. Read on to see how I fixed this.
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.