Google Ads campaigns are known for being unpredictable in the first month due to several reasons:
- Quality scores can be versatile, relying on ad copy and landing page relevance for improvement.
- You have no historical data or performance baseline to make strategic decisions.
- Inflated CPCs that are cannibalizing your budget
- It would be best if you established an ideal bidding strategy to achieve a beneficial ad rank.
The first 30 days of your PPC campaign optimization is a crucial time, and the decision on strategic moves you perform will make or break the outcome. Therefore we have put together a step by step Google Ads optimization checklist to help you get off to a right start in your PPC digital marketing efforts to improve your management efficiency.
When you initially set up Google Ads campaigns, there are plenty of Google Ads optimization best practices you need to consider. The most important of them is to have built a strong account structure to support a solid foundation for launch and to expect stellar PPC performance.
New accounts should go through review and checked before launch for the following:
- Campaigns and ad groups are tightly themed: having grouped ad groups with keywords similar and relevant to each other makes it easier to relay the best message and content through your ad copy. If you offer specific services, it would be wise to segment them in one ad group versus combining them with other services. If you have subcategories of that particular service, it is best to list them under ad groups within a campaign. This segmentation will permit a more straightforward analysis of data and strategy selection for your optimization efforts—especially when applying the 80-20 Rule
- Account and campaign settings: ensuring your campaign settings follow best practices could positively influence how your budget spends.
- Four ad copies per ad group: two responsive search ads, one expanded text ad, one DKI (dynamic keyword insertion); having different formats will allow you to a/b ad test which performs best with your audiences.
- Ad copy relevance: are your keywords in your landing page content and the ad copy itself? Help promote a better quality score by doing so.
- Keywords: making sure you are using the right match type for your keywords will help you control your quality and traffic cost. BMM and broad match are excellent for long-tailed keywords, versus phrase and exact are more purposeful for short keywords. Ensure you either provide a singular or plural version of a keyword to ensure you don’t promote keyword cannibalization.
- Negative keyword list: by adding negative keyword lists relevant to your industry, you can block a lot of unwanted traffic from the get-go.
- Google Analytics and tracking: having a tool handy to analyze and track performance quickly is key to optimization success. Double-check Google Analytics is properly installed for your website and linked to your Google Ads account. Setting up goals and importing them into Google Ads is also imperative to have a birds-eye view on metrics such as conversions, conversion value, ROI, and more that can support decisions made during optimizations and help your business thrive online.
Pro Tip: If you are a small business on a tight budget, consider starting a single campaign with your top services and, with time, begin adding additional ad groups and campaigns as performance and budget permits.
Your main objective in Google Ads should be making it a profitable investment. However, in the first month of running your campaigns, this may differ. If you are working with a new Google Ads account or a new website, then the immediate goal should be to optimize towards quality score to improve ad ranking, and naturally, a profit will follow.
Know Your KPIs (Key Performance Indicators)
To optimize your Google Ads campaigns, you must have a clear understanding of what your KPIs are.
Failing to identify your KPIs and campaign objectives will become one of your PPC campaign management downfalls. By establishing them, you will gain a better perspective and outcome for your optimization strategy.
To give you a benchmark, the following are the most common KPIs:
- CTR (Click-through-rate)
- CPC (Cost-per-click)
- CPA (Cost-per-acquisition)
- CvR (Conversion rate)
- ROAS (Return on ad spend)
Step by Step Guide for Your Google Ads Campaigns’ First Month Strategy and Optimizations
Now that we’ve got the basics down, let’s explore our recommendations after launching your Google Ads campaigns.
Once your campaigns hit the 24-hour mark, you must take time to analyze some key elements to make any swift adjustments so you can best predict your account behavior moving forward. In most cases, traffic quality and quantity, bidding, and budget usage are some areas that stand out most during this time frame.
So, what exactly do you analyze and perform in a 24-hour review?
What Was the First Catch?
Quality of Traffic
Take a close look at the search terms for your traffic-generating keywords. Did they disappoint? At times you will get search queries that are far off from that you expected to bring in. Try going back to analyze a few of these to ensure they are aligned with the type of customers you want to attract.
- Keyword match types
- Use broad match and BMM for long-tailed keywords.
- Keep short or single keywords to an exact match or phrase match type.
- Negative keywords
- Is your negative keyword list more than 300 keywords long? If not, reconsider adding more.
- Location Targeting
- Check your campaign settings in location options to ensure that you are only targeting “people in or regularly in your targeted locations” versus the default setting “people in, or who show interest in, your targeted locations.”
Quantity of Traffic
Notice something off with your keywords such as no clicks and few to no impressions? No need to panic; go ahead and review your:
- Daily budget: If your daily budget was far from being utilized on the first day, you should check on your keywords and current bidding; question how competitive your bids are compared to your competitors using the auction insights feature
Pro Tip: Make sure you don’t have keywords below the first-page bid and if you want that competitive edge, try comparing your current bidding to the top of page-bid.
- Negative keywords: Double check your negative keyword list; there could be a possibility that some of your negative keywords are blocking desired traffic for one of your keywords.
Pro Tip: Google has useful scripts that can help you automatically detect negative keyword conflicts and quickly let you identify them to take action.
Bidding and CPC’s
Analyze if your daily budget was spent evenly throughout the day. It is common for budgets to be depleted early due to spiked CPCs from maximized bidding.
Pro Tip: If your bids are too high, you should lower your bidding to a max CPC bid that will allow you to at least achieve an average of 10 clicks per day.
Days 2 to 7: More Data, Better Decisions
Continue the 24-Hour Review Steps
Keep it up by performing the previous review daily until you can reach consistency with the desired qualified traffic, budget utilization yielding at least ten clicks per day, and results are beginning to align with the KPIs you identified before launch.
Now that you are accruing more data, it will be easier to observe patterns in your audience’s behavior and ad rank performance to deduct the best strategy that suits your upcoming optimization efforts.
Pro Tip: Google Ads can be tricky at times; your total daily cost might be up to two times your average daily budget. However, you’ll still only be charged up to two times your average daily budget.
Have You Checked on Keywords and Ads Status?
Forty-eight hours into launch is prime time to detect keyword, ad, and extension disapprovals, all the more reason it’s been added to this checklist. A quick review of status to ensure everything is approved is essential for the account’s initial performance.
When checking on status, consider the following:
- Your ad copy mentions copyrighted content.
- The website is different in the display URL and the destination URL.
- The landing page content is prohibited or has a 404 error.
Pro Tip: If you believe your ad was disapproved incorrectly and qualify for one of the exceptions listed in the Google Advertising Policies, you can request a review to see if your ad can be approved.
- Low search volume
- Find a similar variation to the keyword that has search volume or avoid using too long-tailed keywords (no more than three words).
- Below first page bid
- Increase your bids to at least the top of page bid ; find the “Est. top of page bid” column on the keywords page.
- Conflicting negative keywords
- Remove negative keywords that are blocking particular keywords.
Pro Tip: Get suggested bid estimates and search volume for your keywords as well as suggestions for the right keywords with Google’s Keyword Planner.
Disapproved Ad Extensions
- Call Extensions
- Unverified phone numbers will be disapproved unless ownership is verified.
- Sitelink/Callout Extensions
- Location Extensions
- You have an unverified local business location address.
- Filters are set up incorrectly.
- Your account is not linked with your GMB (Google My Business) account.
Day 8: Time for the First Real Optimization to Take Place
Finally, the day you can start to get your hands dirty has come. For the first time since launch, seven days (week 1) is the accepted time range most PPC managers work with when optimizing Google Ads campaigns for the first time.
If your campaigns still haven’t received much traffic during the initial three days of running, due to a limited budget, give it a little more time. Wait seven days from the initial launch date to begin seeing your campaign marketing efforts’ desired results.
In addition to your initial guide from days 1-7, you continue the journey by fulfilling a complete optimization using these next steps.
Tip: It is instrumental that upon optimizing an account, you take note of the actions taken. This is so that next time you optimize your account, you know what changes you made and can quickly revert what didn’t work out. If you aren’t the best notetaker, then you can refer to your change history for reference.
Measure Your Impression Share
Average position retired about a year ago from Google Ads, so if you were used to seeing reports or columns with this metric, don’t go further looking for it as it will not return. Instead, start getting used to your new metrics: search impression share, search lost IS (Budget), search lost IS (Rank), top impression share, and absolute top impression share.
Google believes that these metrics are more insightful for bidding strategies and transparency in auction performance and SERP (search engine results page) visibility.
Tip: There are different types of impression share metrics depending on the network type and specific for exact match type keywords.
Let’s cut to the chase- what are the acceptable rates you are looking for and why? Impression share metrics can give you a great indication of why a keyword may not be performing. Based on the data and benchmarks, identify the issue and take action:
Awareness Note: An exceeded budget is one of the biggest Google Ads account killers! When increasing bids, be mindful that this possibility dramatically increases. We recommend setting up an automated rule to control budgetand cost by sending email alerts to you once your daily budget has hit your desired threshold. Automated rules become very helpful, especially when Google Ads can spend your total daily cost to as much as twice your average daily budget.
Pro Tip: In addition to the actions above for each metric, there are additional strategies that can help improve impression share, such as ensuring you have proper conversion tracking, modifying location targeting settings, and working on improving ad copy relevance.
Your Click Volume Reach
When initially exploring your KPIs, benchmarking your click volume should have been one of the first KPIs established. If you haven’t yet, now is still a good time to do so.
How to Calculate Your Benchmark Click Volume
Every business has a different average CPC, affected by several factors such as location, industry, and network you are advertising on. Your CPC will dictate what daily volume of clicks you should be receiving along with your set budget. Consider reviewing that you are not including any CPC outliers such as extremely low or high CPCs.
Tip: As a rule of thumb to ensure you make the most out of your marketing efforts, you should at least be achieving an average of 10 clicks per day with your benchmark. If you are not, you may have to consider increasing your budget.
Click Volume Optimization
Your benchmark is 14 clicks/day, but you are only receiving seven clicks a day while still reaching your daily budget. Of course, the easy fix is to resort to increasing the budget, but wait! Testing these strategies out before opting towards increasing your marketing costs could go a long way.
- Reduce the bids for high CPC keywords
- Pause high CPC keywords if they are underperforming
- Research on existing expensive keywords for new variations and more affordable keywords
- Reduce CPCs by increasing your CTR account-wide
What You Can Do for High CPCs
It may take some time, but taking action now will put your ads on the map without having to struggle with increasing bids all the time. Remember how Ad Rank is calculated? Even in its current complexity, take outbidding, and focus on the remainder of the calculating factors.
Aim towards achieving at least an average 7/10 quality score but if you want to achieve higher positioning and lower CPC for your ads, work harder.
Three areas to work on to improve quality score based on keyword status precisely “below average”:
1. Expected clickthrough rate
- Change your ad for better relations to your top keywords.
- Pause extremely low CTR% keywords, usually 2% or less, or based on your benchmark.
2. Ad relevance
- Review ad groups to make sure they are tightly-themed to its set of keywords.
- Exchange keywords to more relevant ones in your ad copy.
- Change content so that it aligns with your keywords and ad copy.
- Improve page loading time speed.
Pro Tip: Paused keywords will retain the scores they had when they were last active. Therefore, it’s best to focus on active keywords when analyzing Quality Score metrics.
Ad Rank Thresholds
Stay in the game by ensuring that the following are at the best performance possible:
- Maintain high-quality ad experience for audiences
- Achieve top and absolute top of page impression shares that are within benchmark ranges
- Maximize conciseness of location and device type for the service or product you offer
- The relevance of keyword selection to search intent
- Have a variety of synonyms for your keywords
Obtaining a high threshold for the above points will drastically improve your CPC calculation by Ad Rank.
Finding ways to circumvent the Ad Rank race with your dear competitors indeed drives a toll on your CPC and overall marketing costs. Outsmarting the auction by eliminating competition is what needs to become possible in this case. How?
- Use less popular search terms (synonyms) with an equal chance of the same conversion rate.
- Target the right audience demographics and target areas.
- Making sure you have a kick a** website that meets the needs of your users.
- Take a close look at those converting search terms and what keywords you should be adding.
How well do you know your audience persona? Understanding your audience at a 360-degree angle is key to making the adjustments necessary to hit your target audience.
Areas that you must know:
- Search intent: what is the user likely going to write to describe what they need?
- Location: How close is that user?
- Device: Which device are they likely to use
- Schedule: At what time are they likely to need your service/product?
Ad Extension Efficacy
Using 100% of your ad copy, real estate has its perks, and Ad Rank is a firm believer of its added value to your ad relevance.
Here’s your ad extension checklist:
- Let your audiences call you – call extension
- Additional links to your website – sitelinks
- Couldn’t add all your USPs to your ad copy? – callout extension
- Categories of services or products you offer – structured snippets
- Show where you’re located – location extension
- Promote better price visibility – price extension
- Are you a retail chain? – affiliate extension
- Make your business app available – app extension
By now, you may have experienced a few conversions here and there; kudos on this achievement!
If not, then it would be wise to double-check on the basics:
- Have you set up conversion tracking properly?
- Google Analytics goals are importing to Google Ads (recommended conversion tracking method)
- Have you set up goals within Google Ads?
- How compelling are your ads?
- Offer free trials or a bonus
- Use benefit-driven CTAs
- Promote instant gratification
- Urge the fear of missing out
- Make your audience curious
- Bring up the problem and offer a solution
- Incorporate cliffhangers
- What’s the experience of your website?
- Make it user friendly and easy to acquire a service/product from
- Users like fast, check on the speed
That’s a wrap for week 1, go ahead and set your calendar up seven days from now to get ready for that next upcoming optimization!
Day 14: You’re on an Optimization Roll
Week 2 brings in seven days of fresh new data and performance from your digital marketing efforts, and you can’t be any more excited to inspect the results from what you last implemented.
Remember that in addition to the next steps for day 14, you can whip in optimization highlights from days one through eight, which also serves as a review of what was done previously.
Review Your Stats for the Past 14 Days
Since there is no such thing as a one size fits all optimization strategy, use your data as a foundation to what needs to be performed.
Metrics to be reviewed are:
- Search Impression Share: estimated to be at least above 80%, go back to the drawing board in steps of day eight if this is not the case.
- Quality score: should be averaging 7-10, if not work on key optimization points from day eight.
- CTR%: keywords or ads that stand out at less than 1% should be paused and replaced.
- Avg. CPC: high-cost keywords that have zero conversions and low CTR% should be paused.
- CPA: you could be converting, but is the cost to acquire these leads/sales ideal for your business and profit margins? Consider reducing bids for these keywords and keeping a close eye to ensure they are worth keeping long term.
Pro Tip: Label anything you pause given that down the road, you may give them a second chance at performance once you get your current efforts under wraps. For this reason, we do not recommend you delete them.
Now that you have accrued significant data to make strategic decisions onbid adjustments, here are dimensions to take a peek at and make adjustments accordingly:
- Depending on performance, you can adjust your bids at an ad group or campaign level, based on how well they have performed.
- It could be that you set a bid adjustment from the get-go due to the nature of your business and the device more likely to benefit you, now is the time to test other devices if you had opted out of them.
- Range of bid adj. available: -100% to +900%
- Campaign level only for countries, cities, or other geographic areas
- Range of bid adj. available: -100% to +900%
- Ad schedule
- Campaign level only for adjusting days and hours
- Range of bid adj. available: -100% to +900%
- Adgroup or campaign level for a specific gender, age, and incomes
- Range of bid adj. available: -90% to +900%
Pro Tip: To opt-out of showing ads, decrease your bid by 100%. Your campaign bidding supersedes that of the ad group bid.
Analyze Keywords and Match Types
Always do your homework before pausing a keyword. Dig deep to find out exactly why the keyword is not performing well.
Here are a few common scenarios that often seen as to why keywords underperform:
- Max CPC is not high enough, as seen through impression share metrics.
- A low search volume is preventing traffic accrual.
- The keyword may be too long-tailed or merely a term that users seldom search.
- Pause these keywords and try more promising variations.
- The match type is either too broad or too restrictive.
- Use BBM or broad match type to opt into higher traffic volume if the keyword is in “exact” or “phrase match” and not getting much traffic.
- Use “phrase” or “exact match” type if you are experiencing high traffic volume of low-quality.
Dive into Your Search Terms Report
Yes, this is a time-consuming task. However, it is also an essential one. When it comes to mining, your search terms report benefits your account growth just as its performance.
The time frame you look at depends on your optimization frequency and when you last reviewed search terms.
It would help if you stuck to weekly optimizations the first month. However, if you have a budget of less than $100 daily, consider optimizing bi-weekly after the first month of launch.
The search term report’s beauty is that you can assess their worth through metrics such as clicks, CTR%, CPC, conversions, CPA, and ROI (conversion value) to determine whether or not you would consider them as keywords and in what match type.
Pro Tip: When reviewing the search terms, list then from highest to lowest clicks. Do not waste time analyzing search terms that have less than two clicks; it’s just not worth your time. Leave them to see if they accrue additional traffic with time.
You will frequently encounter search terms that leave you asking yourself, “what in the world are they searching for?” or “How could this have been related to my services/products?” and often are not part of your original negative keyword list.
Go ahead and add these search terms to your negative keyword list; you usually would use these two match types for negative keywords:
- Broad match: for one-worded negative keywords.
- Phrase match: for more two worded negative keywords and to avoid blocking other search terms unintentionally.
- Exact match: if there is a keyword in a specific order, you want to block.
Day 21: The Most Substantial Optimization
You’re getting closer to having created and managed stable and successful Google Ads campaigns.
It’s time to apply some steps from weeks 1 and 2 and continue through week 3’s additional steps to complete your most robust optimization yet.
Weeks 1-2 – Optimization Steps
- Promoting quantity and quality of traffic
- Bidding and avg. CPCs
- Keyword, ad, and ad extension status
- Search impression share optimization
- Click volume reach
- Ad Rank optimization
- Conversion review
- Metrics analysis and optimization
- Bid adjustments
- Keyword analysis and match types
- Search term report
Now let’s add the finishing touches to your third-week optimization.
Search Partner Review
It’s recommended to start with search partners to have peace of mind that you did not miss any valuable traffic. However, since they have different behavior patterns from your Google search network, you will have to come to terms with pausing them. Take a look monthly to see if your KPI’s dictate a change in strategy.
You may want to disable if you observe:
- CTR below 1%
- High cost with no conversions
Tip: Benefits for search partners like you include having surprisingly low CPCs. Therefore, if you manage to make it work, start considering injecting a portion of your daily budget to search partners.
Let’s Take a Closer Look at Ad Performance
In addition to just pausing due to poor performance, A/B testing your ads is another impactful way to optimize. It gives you a chance to work with a perfectly good ad, tweak it, and see how it performs without having to reinvent the wheel.
A/B Testing – Small Changes Sometimes Is More
There is no need to rewrite your Ad copy, sometimes making simple changes to a high performing ad is all it takes.
Some subtle changes are:
- Call to Action – Sign Up Now vs. Join Today!
- Keyword variations – Buy vs. Shop
- Improving ad copy to landing page relevance
- Deep linking to a more specific landing page.
Pro Tip: When A/B testing, it is a good idea to put to good use Google Ads drafts, and experiments feature where you can quickly implement ad variation. If you’re old school, you can always create labels for your new ad copy variation so that you can quickly review it next time around.
Day 28 and Beyond
And it’s a wrap for the first month! Now that wasn’t so bad, was it?
You may want to keep this step by step guide handy, for you will be putting it to good use moving forward. Here are the last tips to be shared regarding optimization specifics.
- Weekly Optimizations: first month and accounts with daily budget >$100
- You would look back at a seven-day window when optimizing
- Bi-Weekly Optimizations: accounts with a daily budget <$100
- You would look back at a 14-day window when optimizing
- Daily Optimizations: First three days of account launch and when significant changes are made.
You’ve read a complete step by step guideline on how to optimize in the first month, but have you wondered you how long it should be taking you to optimize your account?
An average and adequate time to spend on a general optimization for your account on any frequency should be 25-30 minutes.
The time given to an account may vary according to what circumstances the account is under; disapprovals, reviews, policy appeals, etc. may take more time given the research and follow up required.
What to Prioritize When Optimizing – Behold the 80-20 Rule
Also known as the Pareto Principle, the 80-20 rule states that 80% of outcomes result from only 20% of input.
So how exactly does this rule apply to Google Ads optimization priorities? Well, Andrew Lolk reveals this perfectly in an SEJ article How the 80-20 Rule Applies To Successful AdWords Management. Here, he says it has been one of the best-kept secrets PPC account managers and advertisers have tucked under their sleeves.
Some key takeaways are:
- Prioritize where you’ll make the most significant impact.
- Most of the allotted time spent on too many ad groups at a time. The best approach focuses on a set of few ad groups producing good results and would benefit from the additional time put into optimizing them.
- Think about conversion output if you were to focus on higher converting ad groups first.
- Your time is better spent A/B testing within ad groups with higher traffic volume.
- What you optimize in a high performing ad group takes just as long for any low performing ad group.
Consider These Core Components in Your Optimization Schedule
- Bid Optimization
- Set up or review automated bidding
- Keyword Optimization
- Negative Keyword Research
- Keyword Expansion
- Ad Optimization
- Campaign Structure Optimization
- Ad Settings, Scheduling & Extensions
- Account Expansion: Shopping, Remarketing, Video, and more
Optimizing Can Now Be Fun!
Your Google Ads campaigns need to be regularly optimized to promote their success. It’s not a setup and forget process; it requires consistent new and competitive strategies to continue growth, especially if you want it to be exponential.
Do you feel like you don’t foresee yourself being able to provide the time it takes to optimize? Well, it certainly doesn’t mean you should put it to a stop. Now could be the moment you begin to delegate and decide to promote efficiency for your business.
White Shark Media is the perfect fit to get you started on pay-per-click advertising or help pick up where you left off. Our team of experts is ready to maximize your efforts and take you by the hand through it all. Contact us online or at [email protected] to begin the onboarding process and walk you through your new online marketing strategies.