The role of the jester in medieval courts was far more important than merely entertaining the petitioning nobility, it was too keep the king from getting to big for his boots. By savagely criticising his master, a good jester could impart vital perspective which is so easily missed on the lofty heights of power and influence. We as marketers spend altogether too much time convinced what we are doing is right and far too little time playing the fool.

We need to get into the habit of critically analysing our own work. I’m not going to say I have all the answers, rather I’m going to encourage some perspective and describe the kinds of things we look for not only when we audit a client’s legacy activity, but also when we optimise our own work.

It’s time for some tough love.

Your Ads are Terrible

One lousy ad wouldn’t be a problem. After all, that’s kind of the point of split testing and you’ll never know if you’re sitting on a winner until you try it out. No, the issue is that you’re using the same ad all over the place. I’ve seen it time and time again; segmented account architecture, tightly themed keyword sets and the same damn generic ad sprayed everywhere like Stereosonic posters.

Your ads should talk to the keyword, this is how Google calculates the Ad Relevancy component of quality score after all. You can do better. Run more tests; meaningful ones. Get the keyword represented in the ad copy, see what that does to your CPC and CTR. Don’t just review the data, review the test.

Speaking of keywords…

Your Keyword Strategy is Ass-Backwards

So you think you’re pretty fancy, with your neatly segmented account build. You’ve got the perfect blend of components, complimenting each other with the kind of harmony to make Mendelssohn’s ghost squirm with envy. Except, you weren’t supposed to be baking a cake; you’re supposed to be building a search account. Nobody wins with cake*! We want our eggs with our eggs and our flour with our flour. Look at you. You’ve got flour all over your eggs and the vanilla bean extract has gotten into your keywords. That stuff is never coming back out.

Surely there’s a better way. Is there a more logical way to break out that ad group? Are you respecting your match types? What are you doing with your search query reports? How about your geo terms, urgency modifiers, negatives?

You thought we wouldn’t notice your negatives. But we did.

Why are you adding them at the ad group level? Shared campaign negative lists are a thing, use them. If you add a negative exact match keyword to the ad group directly from the SQR there’s absolutely nothing stopping that query from matching in from some other place in your account where you have phrase or broad match enabled. Find the kernel of the search query, the root idea of the search, and add it as a negative phrase keyword to a shared campaign negative list, then share the list across all relevant campaigns. Bam. Call a palaeontologist and clear off a plinth at the museum, this query is extinct.

While you’re at it, why not wall off your account using lists as well? Toss your brand term into a negative keyword list as phrase match and share it across your non-brand campaigns to prevent your generic search from polluting your brand quality score.

*Unless, of course, one is participating in a cake competition. In that case, cake is the only way to win. Also, unless you happen to be a fat kid. Speaking as a former fat kid I can’t think of a single situation where not having cake beats having cake.

Your Extensions are a Disgrace

Structured Snippets have been out of beta for months now. Call-out extensions were introduced in 2014. Why are you still using single-line sitelinks? Google added 2 description lines for sitelinks back in 2012. You know what’s happened since 2012? 4 prime ministers. Curiosity landed on Mars. Facebook had a disastrous stock market debut. Obama won a 2nd term in the oval office. Scotland voted to remain in the EU. Snowden. ISIS. Star Wars: the Force Awakens.

Enhance your damn sitelinks. It’s been long enough.

Why aren’t you tracking click-to-call metrics? Google offers call forwarding tracking for free! That goes for on-site too. Slap those codes on your website and start tracking how your customers engage with you.

Surely there are reviews for your product online; find a good one and use it. Seller ratings are another excellent way to differentiate your ads with star ratings, though you’ll need to engage a 3rd party provider to get you set up.

Why isn’t your Google My Business account linked to AdWords? You’re missing out on location extensions; a vital part of the mobile user experience for bricks-and-mortar advertisers.

Why isn’t your Google+ account linked to AdWords? The searching public needs to know about both of your followers!

Using these doesn’t just drive up your CTR; it makes your ad physically bigger, pushing your competitors away from your brand and sometimes off the first-fold of the page. Do you even want to win?

You’re ignoring all the best bits of AdWords

Some of the best features in the platform have nothing to do with campaigns. AdWords scripts allow some seriously cool functionality and you aren’t doing any of it. You can download free scripts written and debugged by 3rd party developers to scrape your live URLs for 404 pages, track week-on-week changes in metrics like quality score & CTR, swap elements in and out at different times based on labels, change bids based on the weather, dynamically change your ad params to countdown to a specific date/time and more.

In fact, you can do virtually anything with AdWords scripts. If a smart cookie like you can’t write one yourself, chances are someone in your office knows enough JScript to turn your dead, lifeless account into Robocop.

Your Display Activity is the Burst Water Main of the Internet

Okay, so about a year ago I was in North Sydney, sitting on a bench in the sun on my lunch break. I was reading a book at the time, which I was quite engrossed in, when a dreadlocked backpacker in a polo shirt holding a clipboard demands to know how my day is going. I told him politely that I would prefer to be left alone, whereupon he said, “that’s great!”, and launched into a 5 minute spiel about, I dunno, the sick kid whales in Tibet.

Your display campaigns are that guy.

Your remarketing audiences are unqualified, spraying ads at every poor soul who happened to pass by your website and glance vaguely in its direction. The impression frequency cap setting sits alone and ignored, gathering digital cobwebs in the stuffy attic of your account.

Rethink the way you use keywords, topic targeting, managed placements and interest categories. Use them in combination in the one campaign to create extremely targeted activity. Duplicate your activity and target each of the 21 combinations of age and gender targeting options.

Do something clever with remarketing audience segmentation. Here’s my recipe for a simple lead-reclamation campaign: find out how long users take to engage with you on average, let’s say 11 days. Create an audience for all site visitors for 11 days. Create an audience for qualified users, let’s say users who’ve visited your product page. Combine these two with an exclusion for all users who’ve converted and something magical happens. People see ads for the product they were looking at for precisely as long as it should take them to convert. If they convert early, they see no more ads. If 11 days go by, they don’t see any more ads. If they haven’t converted by now, your ads won’t help.

Try it. Change it. See if you can find something better.

A little bit of self-awareness goes a long way.

 

About Phil O'Connor

Phil O’Connor (Searchinae Peculiaris).Mammal: Digital Performance Manager for indago digital in Sydney, Australia; has been at the forefront of technological & tactical innovation of the search industry since 2007.Natural habitat: Reddit. Can be found occasionally in whisky bars. Hibernates in winter.Diet: Steady intake of marketing industry content. Crippling dependency on ham & cheese croissants.
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