Working On Your PPC Fitness

How to bulk and cut your PPC Account

Every year, fitness magazines tell people to get their beach bodies ready, to dust off those gym clothes and start a seasonal diet.

Every true exercise enthusiast knows this is a waste of time, as maintaining a proper level of fitness to reach their desired goals cannot be achieved in one fell swoop at the end of spring.

For many people, a typical fitness program consists of a bulking and cutting cycle:

Bulking consists of eating in excess of your basal metabolic rate while maintaining a strict workout routine.

Cutting is the act of shedding the extra body fat acquired during the previous bulk, which leaves you with a sculpted, tone and most importantly, beach ready bod.

The same concepts from fitness can be applied to your Search Engine Marketing (SEM) accounts, and in this article I will explain some basic fat trimming account exercises that will get your account in shape.

Just as you cannot expect desired fitness results from a few gym visits, you cannot expect massive profitability gains in a short time window. Building actionable data is the SEM equivalent to bulking, and is best done through professional account management. This is because professional management will ensure your account is set up with the right structure, settings, keyword targeting and tracking.

Larger data sets are always best in making decisions within your account, so depending on the size of your market and budget, the time it takes will vary. Some companies may be able to make cutting decisions daily, while most will need to be patient and invest in a long haul strategy.

Six cuts to slim down your AdWords spend:

Keyword Cuts

Keyword removal – A proper account should contain a wide range of relevant keywords for various goods and services. Within any account, there will be a mix of high and low volume keywords which will either perform consistently over long periods of time – or not at all. Keyword removal is easy way to trim wasted spend, which will free up budget for your performing keywords. You should base all keyword cuts off your target Cost Per Acquisition (CPA) or Return On Ad Spend (ROAS). Again, the larger data sets you have the better, because keyword removal is a highly dangerous activity. There is nothing more frightening than removing a keyword because you are effectively throwing in the towel and pulling your chips. It’s the nutritional equivalent of nixing certain foods from your diet because some dude-bro’s blog told you to.

Campaign or Ad Group removal – If individual keywords are low volume and cost, they may run for weeks or even months without exceeding your target CPA or ROAS. In this situation, you can group keywords together by keyword root or even theme and see if together certain categories have exceeded your acceptable KPI. Depending on your account structure, keywords may have the same roots within multiple Ad Groups or campaigns. If this is the case you can group related terms together using labels, filter by those labeled in the UI or Editor and make your cutting decision accordingly. Additionally, you can zoom out to the highest level of the account structure and review historical performance on the campaign level. If you have keywords tightly grouped by campaign, you can may see an entire theme not generating profit overtime and perform the largest cutting decisions; campaign removal.

Settings Cuts

Search Partners – This is one of the easiest account settings for instant gains. Search partners are non-Google sites where your ads can be served, and (depending on the audience of your industry) they might do well, or terribly. You can locate this within the All Campaign view and pulling in a segment for, “Network (with search partners)”. Two additional rows will be added to under each campaign, showing you your performance on search partners. Look at total spend, cost/converted click and conversion rate between networks, and decide if it worth keeping. The only decision to be made here is to either keep it or remove it, which is handled in the all settings tab under “Networks.”

Locations – Location targeting allows you to place positive or negative bid adjustments on specific areas at the campaign level. You can use the Dimensions, “Geographic” report to review data by country, region (state), city or most specific location (zipcode). If you are only targeting the US, it will be easiest to just pull in clicks, impressions, CTR, cost, converted clicks, cost/converted click, click conversion rate and region. If you are Ecommerce you will also need total conversion value and conversion value/cost. This will show you your performance by city, and you can pinpoint the most profitable areas vs. your most unprofitable areas. You place bid adjustments within the locations tab under settings, and add in both your profitable and unprofitable areas as target locations. You place your percentage bid adjustments according here. Bid higher on the profitable locations, bid lower on unprofitable locations – it’s simple!

Ad Schedule – Similar to geographic targeting, ad schedules let you place positive and negative bid adjustments for hours of the day and days of the week. You can locate this data through the Dimensions, “Time” reports. You will want to pull in the same columns used for location settings. Day of the week utilizes military time and is best analyzed using Excel. This is because you want to group hours into chunks of time in an attempt to locate blocks of profitable and unprofitable time periods. A common time to exclude to trim wasted spend will be the early morning and late afternoon because most businesses are not operating. To keep it simple, just use the, “day” report to find your best and worst days of the week. You place ad schedules under the ad schedule tab in settings by clicking, “+ Ad Schedule.”

IP Exclusions – If you have that boss who likes to search for and click his own ads, it might be a good idea to go ahead and exclude your own IP address from serving ads. This is a pretty obscure situation but it can happen. More commonly, if you work for a company with a large staff who go to your site frequently, there is a good chance they will use search engines to get there. In this case you should absolutely exclude your own IP address. This is done at the bottom of the all settings tab under, “IP Exclusions.”

This is just a taste of standard search campaign cutting optimizations, there are many big picture decisions which can be made within your integrated marketing programs.

These can include:

  • Removal entire channels
  • Backing out of direct run of site placements
  • Nixing traditional marketing methods
  • Pulling back account budget

Or (in extreme situations):

  • Cutting losses and performing an account rebuild. 

These are difficult strategic marketing decisions, and should never be informed by feelings or opinions. You need to have a clear picture of your entire digital infrastructure as a whole, because you need to know what channels are affecting and assisting others.

The best way to make these decisions easier is to invest up front in proper tracking so your data is clean down the road, and you can make informed decisions based on said data.

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