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Troubleshooting Your AdWords Account

Michelle Morehouse

11 years ago



Every account has good days and bad days, and every once in a while a couple terrible days. Like, 0 conversions when you usually have a reasonable amount of conversions.

Whether a few hours or a couple days with 0 conversions, we’ve all had the mild heart attacks and done frantic problem solving trying to figure out what’s gone wrong.

Below is my process for locating problem areas in accounts and getting them back on track.

Search/Display Volume

The first place to check is your accounts overall volume. Has there been a large drop in impressions, clicks, or average position? More often than not, a lack of conversions is due to lack of overall interest in the product/service for one reason or another. If you’ve seen your traffic fall maybe check Google Trends or something similar to see why volumes are down, but don’t fret too much over your campaigns until traffic returns to normal.

Change History

If you’re impressions and clicks are relatively the same, the next place to check is change history. You might not like to admit it, but you’ve made a mistake before. I know I have. Run through all of the changes in the last couple days and see if you (or a member of your team) might have added an incorrect negative keyword, paused your highest performing ad copy, or some other minor mistake that has turned into a bigger problem.

troubleshooting adwords account 1

Highest Volume Keywords

Look back over the last 30 days and find your highest conversion keywords. Now look at their stats over the past couple days. Has there been a drop in traffic and/or conversions? Usually when big changes happen in an account, it falls on the shoulders of the 20% of keywords that make up 80% of your conversions.

Highest Volume Search Queries

As a slight alternative to the previous step, take a look at your search queries rather than keywords. Again, look at the last 30 days of queries to get an idea of what queries drive conversions, then look at the last couple days to find if any have fallen off. If you identify somewhere you’ve lost traffic, add them as keywords in your account and bid up to get those impressions back. If they’ve simply stopped converting, maybe it’s time to add them as negative keywords.

Search Partners

If your traffic has fallen off, take a gander at Search Partners vs. Google Search. Sometimes one Search Partner is driving most of your SP conversions. If and when that Search Partner changes their ad preferences for their site, it could have a big impact on your account performance. (Speaking from experience here.) Sadly, once those conversions are gone, there’s really nothing you can do to get them back. You’ll have to find another way to get your account back to its previous glory.

External Circumstances

This one is a bit ambiguous. External circumstances can really be just about anything not in your account. Have your competitors started a sale? Is your client getting bad press? Have they changed ad messaging in other channels, effectively changing search intent for your terms? Take a look around the web and look for any indicators of why your conversions have fallen off.

Conversion Test

When all else fails, run a conversion test. There’s always a possibility someone was fiddling around with the site and accidentally deleted a part of your conversion code. This is a good, easy way to make sure that hasn’t happened. Choose a low bid, easily found keyword in your account (often times a brand keyword is a good choice). Go to the engine, search for it, click, and convert. More often than not, this conversion will show in your account within 10-15 minutes, but allow up to 3 hours before deciding your code is broken (If a conversion is tracked, don’t forget to exclude it from your month end performance reports!).


If none of these areas are yielding any information, don’t worry. There are still tons of other areas that might be to blame. But once I get to this point, there are a few actions I like to take to limit damage and try to get results back on track.

Contact the Client

Keeping a client in the loop, of good or bad performance, is really important. Let them know you’ve noticed a downturn in the account and are working to fix it. Ask if they’re aware of anything that could be to blame. They might have more insights into changes of ad messaging in other channels or changes being made to the site that might be messing up your conversion numbers.

Lower Budgets

If you’re not converting, you probably shouldn’t spend as much, right? Exactly. Lower budgets on any and all campaigns where conversions are sparse to try and keep CPA under control. If possible, shift those budget dollars to other campaigns that are still converting to try and limit overall damage.

Push the Positive

Look back to the last 7 to 14 days before your conversions went south. What keywords were performing well? If those keywords have a little room to improve average position wise, give them a boost in bids. Even something like a 10% increase can get that good performing keyword a few more impressions and increase chances of a conversion.

Pull Back the Negative

Look at that same week to two-week span from above and find keywords that were spending and not converting. Either lower the bids, or pause depending on the level of performance. This is a very similar change to lowering budgets, but on a more granular level. You’ll reduce spend on keywords not converting and help preserve overall CPA.

This certainly isn’t all of the areas to check when performance goes south. Where do you look? Leave a reply in the comments!

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