PPC marketers are often tempted to follow platform recommendations as best practices. But we know from practice that too often these approaches do more harm than help in improving the effectiveness of Google advertising.
Advertising platform interfaces bombard PPC advertisers with recommendations. From the text of the recommendations, you might think that these are only tips with best practices. In turn, articles quickly appear on the Internet proclaiming the ideal approach to creating the perfect Google Ads campaign.
Should advertisers rely entirely on advertising platforms, reps, and industry gurus to determine how to create PPC campaigns that convert well?
Our answer: “Not always.”
In this article, you’ll learn eight “best practices” that marketers should avoid using blindly in their campaigns.
1. Using broad match
Especially when you’re just getting started with PPC, simply adding keywords without knowing the match types can lead to non targeted ad clicks.
Broad match promises simplicity and extended reach. Too often, however, Google Ads matches completely unrelated search terms with broad keywords.
While phrase and exact match in their current state can still match a number of close variations, these match types still provide more control than broad match.
With that said, a broad match can take place in the right situation, as well as with a well-chosen list of negative keywords.
Combining RLSA (Remarketing Lists for Search Ads) targeting with broad match can be effective because you already know you’re targeting audiences that have shown some interest in your brand.
Also, when you’ve maxed out your reach with phrases and specific keywords but still have the budget to test, it’s worth trying a broad match to discover new potential queries.
You just need to keep a close eye on search queries, as well as irrelevant words and phrases that need to be excluded as negative keywords.
2. Fully automated trading
As advertising platforms increase the level of automation and reduce the level of advertiser control, automatic bidding at a certain level has become an integral part of every PPC advertiser’s toolkit.
However, we caution against blindly accepting the default recommendation in fully automatic bidding everywhere.
First of all, the automatic bidding that conversion-focused advertising offers in Google Ads (such as maximum conversions and target CPA) depends on getting accurate conversion data imported into the advertising platform.
You need to make sure you’ve set the right goals for your brand, be it purchases or leads, and that the conversion points are properly set to fire when that happens.
If your account has inaccuracies from past conversion tracking settings, you should avoid bidding strategies that optimize conversion performance as they won’t work with the correct data.
Please wait until you have accurate conversion data in your account before testing conversion-based bidding.
Further, a bidding strategy such as “Maximum Clicks” is simply geared towards getting the cheapest clicks and can be detrimental to actually getting qualified traffic (which can come from more expensive keywords).
Our experts say that Max Clicks is useful in some specific cases, such as launching display campaigns, but in general they don’t approve of this bidding strategy for search campaigns.
3. Automatic acceptance of recommendations
With this feature, advertisers can supposedly save time by letting Google do one more piece of the hard work.
By automatically accepting all Google recommendations, you can see in the future:
Added hundreds of unverified keywords.
Consider the example of an advertising campaign for “PROject SEO”. The search engine, after analyzing the keywords in the account, offers to add a CS for website development, although the ad is configured for the SEO service of promoting websites and online stores. Blindly accepting recommendations, we get a non-target audience.
Broad match keywords are added where you didn’t intend to use this match type.
A targeting extension has been added to campaigns where you only intended to reach a specific audience.
And Google ads (like dynamic ad groups) were created that you didn’t create.
While there are some guidelines from Google that might be helpful for your account, it’s best to take the time to research before implementing them to save yourself some headaches down the road.
4. Include a certain number of keywords for each ad group
A frequently asked question from those who are just starting out in PPC is: “How many keywords should I include in an ad set?”
A quick Google search will yield many conflicting answers, ranging from 10 to 20-30.
Like many other questions in this industry, there is no universal answer to this question. Here you have to consider several factors:
- Data Significance: Grouping several similar keywords into a group allows you to quickly get impressions, clicks, and conversions that are significant enough for related ads to make optimization decisions.
- Intention. If keywords imply different intents, such as top-of-the-funnel exploration or immediate need to buy, keep them separate to control bids and messaging.
- close options. As the number of close variants grows, it becomes less efficient to separate keywords with the same meaning but slightly different wording.
5. Use of SKAG (Single Keyword Ad Groups).
The SKAG (Single Keyword Ad Group) strategy was popularized in some circles in the Google contextual advertising industry a few years ago.
The idea behind this approach is that keeping one keyword in one ad set gives you maximum control over the advertising messages that are served for that keyword, and helps you achieve a higher Quality Score and minimize your CPC.
SKAG is a suboptimal tactic for reasons similar to those outlined in the previous paragraph.
Close variations of keywords with exact and phrase matches have virtually eliminated any effectiveness of SKAG in the past.
Even with the best search tracking, you’re unlikely to be able to capture all the potential variations that Google might associate with a keyword, and it’s next to impossible to properly control SKAG campaigns and ad groups with negative keywords.
SKAGs also often do a disservice by sharing ad performance data across many ad sets, where users might actually have the same intent with slightly different keywords.
Especially as Google Ads continues to automate more bids and ad rotation, and creating fewer ad groups with more keywords (as long as they are closely related enough) will give the system more data to optimize.
6. Inclusion of search partners
By default, Google allows campaigns to appear on search sites. These are other sites that have partnered with the platform to include search results.
For example, Ask.com is a Google search partner.
After analyzing dozens of search campaigns, we came to the conclusion that the performance of search partners can vary greatly depending on the account, and sometimes even on an individual campaign, which sometimes leads to unpredictable bursts of traffic.
If you’re on a small budget, you can just go ahead and exclude search partners to begin with.
If you have extra budget, you can test search partners, but you should keep a close eye on the results, looking at both overall conversion rate and cost per conversion, as well as overall lead quality.
Please note that Google allows you to enable or disable all search partners at the same time, without the ability to select specific partners.
7. Combining Google search and display ads
When setting up a search campaign, Google allows you to connect to the Display Network within the same campaign.
While this approach may seem like an easy way to get extra reach with minimal effort, all too often it leads to media placements cannibalizing search reach.
It is best to separate search and display campaigns. These networks differ in their nature in that search focuses on the direct intent to find a product, while Google display ads focus on audience and topic targeting to show an offer to someone who might be searching for a product.
8. Diversify per channel
Google Ads is a far cry from the basic search and display ads of the past. Online advertisers are increasingly spreading spending across the spectrum of search, display, social and native advertising platforms.
While many brands can gain valuable value from launching a new channel, for example by being able to target related Facebook interests beyond those who are directly looking for the product, you shouldn’t split your costs across multiple channels right away without thinking about the “why” first.
Are you willing to invest additional budget into testing a new channel, or will you use the budget of an existing channel that is performing well?
Are you willing to invest enough budget and time to accurately evaluate the performance of a new channel?
While the ideal amount for a test will vary depending on the audience, industry, and ROI goals, you are unlikely to get enough meaningful data with a $500 test, for example.
Also, not every channel is right for every brand.
For example, TikTok is probably not the best advertising channel for targeting B2B corporate executives, and LinkedIn is probably not the best option for selling sportswear.