5 Questions to Tell if Google Ads Is Working for You

Laura Pattison / 22nd February 2019 / Comment

I don’t know the first difference between a catalytic converter and an ignition coil, but I do know that I need them to work properly, and if they don’t work, I need to trust that my mechanic knows the difference.

If you’ve never been trained in Paid Search, finding someone to trust with your Google or Bing ads account is a lot like finding the right mechanic. You know your desired goals, and you are, hopefully, reviewing performance, but it would be refreshing to know if the job is being done well. The checklist below can help build your confidence or diagnose issues.

Answering ‘Yes’ to everything below indicates that your Paid Search program has a solid foundation.

1. Is your account structure segmented with clearly labeled brand and non-brand campaigns?

  • Brand and non-brand traffic should never be mixed in a campaign or ad group. It is essential for bidding purposes to not muddy your brand campaign with non-brand terms or inflate the perceived value of non-brand by matching to brand terms.
  • Because the intent of the user for brand traffic is much higher the engagement with the ad (CTR) should be greater. Brand quality score will also be much higher than non-brand, with a better experience for the user. 
  • Quick disclaimer: if you have a Google Grant account this is going to be different from a standard ad account. Brand and non-brand may need to be combined in order to maintain Google’s required minimum CTR per ad group.

To find #1: In the Google Ads (or Bing Ads) UI, view your campaigns on the left-hand side column. You can easily filter through your search, shopping,display, and video campaign structure in the same column at the top.

2. Do you have device modifiers? Are your device modifiers logical?

  • If you have an account with lower traffic volume your modifiers should be at the campaign level, but if you have an account with higher traffic volume account, appropriate device modifiers should be applied at the ad group level.
  • Your modifiers shouldn’t vary too widely. If modifiers are over +100%, which would double your keyword bid, you may want to separate your traffic into device specific campaigns and bid them separately.
  • If device modifiers are pulling back more than 80%, ask if this is a conversation you’ve had with the marketing team. I’m going to put good money that the reductions are on a mobile (or tablet) device– it may be very intentional that you’re pulling back because you don’t want to serve on mobile. However, a reduction of that value shouldn’t be a surprise!

To find #2: The quickest way to review is in Editor. Simply click on campaign or ad group level and you’ll see it in settings. However, if you don’t have Editor, you can see this in the UI. Navigate to devices in the grey column between your campaign list and data. You can select your Level above the data to either Campaign or Ad Group. You should see the Bid Adj. column (if not select your columns from the right-hand filter). To quick sort click on Bid Adj. to see your highest and lowest device bid adjustments.

3. Have you avoided making any of your campaigns “limited by budget”?

  • This is a pretty big one – you’re missing out on traffic if you’re limited by budget, on both standard and accelerated delivery methods.
  • If you need to make sure you’re staying within a strict spending limit you should take other routes to control spending than our daily budget. Your daily budget should act just as a guardrail on the road –you would never rely on guardrails alone to make sure you’re headed in a specific direction, that would wreak havoc on your car. If you have a strict budget, make reductions to your bids (specific reductions based on performance would be most ideal) or pause keywords/ad groups that are not driving intended performance. Increase your budget if at all possible!

To find #3: Select your campaigns from the middle column in the UI. Beside the campaign name should be the “Budget” column. This one is easy to spot – “Limited by Budget” will stand out in red in this column.

4. Does your account have strategic negative keywords in place?

  • No matter how well we apply keywords or how intentional we are with match types search terms will come through that are irrelevant. Make sure there are negatives in your Negative Keyword Lists and/or negative keywords applied at the campaign or ad group level.
  • A quick check to make sure this is working –look at the search terms in your brand campaign, are non-brand terms coming through? Look at non-brand campaigns, are any brand terms coming through?

To find #4: Select a campaign (hopefully you’ll be able to identify the campaign as either brand or non-brand. Select the campaign from either the left-hand column, then select Keywords from the middle column, then Search Terms from the top (just above the graph). To make it easy, filter (on the far right) where the search term does or does not contain your brand name.

5. Are your audiences set to “Observation”?

  • Audiences, like RLSA and Customer Match, are important for the success of performance and expansion of your account. However, audiences should be applied on the ‘Observation’ setting and not ‘Targeting.’
  • Observation allows you to adjust bids specifically to users in applied audiences, but you’re also still eligible for traffic outside of these groups. ‘Targeting’ means you’re limiting traffic to only users in the audience and cutting traffic off from any other user. This could be intentional if you have a broader set of keywords or ads, or if you’re trying to serve to just a specific audience, but it’s important to be aware that the ‘Targeting’ setting in audiences excludes all other traffic.

To find #5: Select audiences from the middle column. Go to your column selection on the right and select “Targeting Setting” from the Attributes section. (I always move it to the top of the list so it’s easily viewable and no scrolling is required.)

If you have a few “No”s in this checklist, think of these like the warning lights on your dashboard – it’s important to know what you need to investigate further! Also, like your car, there’s not always a quick fix, but you can save time and money by understanding what problems need to be addressed.    

Not sure how to fix your “No”s? Reach out to Wheelhouse DMG and our Digital Advertising analysts and experts can help you figure out how to maximize your investment in Paid Search ads. 

By Laura Pattison