How to Improve Your AdWords ROI in 20 Minutes a Week

April 26, 2012 by

AdWords Tips to Save TimeSince launching our AdWords PPC auditing tool eight months ago, we’ve reviewed thousands of Google AdWords accounts, many of them belonging to small or medium-sized business (SMBs), and we’ve found some pretty scary statistics in the process:

  • Over half of AdWords users haven’t checked their account in the past month
  • Another 25% haven’t logged in once in over 90 days

That means most AdWords users are leaving their accounts on autopilot, not even checking in weekly to put out any fires. (And these are just the advertisers that chose to audit their accounts!)

From looking at all these paid search accounts, we’ve discovered a strong correlation between account activity and performance. In other words, advertisers who do active work in their accounts on a regular basis almost always see better results.

The problem, obviously, is that marketers and business owners at smaller companies tend to be short on time, working on a tight budget, and often juggling multiple roles. But we believe that you don’t have to spend days or even hours per week working on PPC to make a noticeable difference. In fact, we think you can make a significant impact on your PPC performance in just 20 minutes per week.

If you can spare 20 minutes a week for PPC, you can see improvement week over week. The below workflow is a good place to start.

Minutes 0 – 1: Check Bids and Budget

Focus the first couple of minutes of your weekly routine on bid management. The key here is to base bid changes on keyword performance. At a basic level, you’ll want to:

  • Raise bids on keywords that are performing well (converting at a profitable rate)
  • Lower bids on keywords that are depleting your budget without delivering ROI

Of course, it’s a little more complicated than that! And the more keywords you have, the more complex it gets. You might find that AdWords automated bidding helps you, and there are also a number of third-party bid management tools available. (Check out our recent PPC Bid Management Guide for great bidding tips from 18 PPC experts.)

Keep in mind that, while it’s not a one-time, set-it-and-forget-it thing, bid optimization isn’t a task you need to complete every day. You’ll need longer timeframes to gather enough data so you can make informed bidding decisions.

Minutes 2 – 4: Review Underperforming Keywords

Look for keyword outliers with below average ROI and/or Quality Scores – these are the terms that are costing you money and hurting your results. By pausing those keywords, you can stop the damage for now – think of it as a “Band-Aid solution.” As time permits, you can work on optimizing those keywords or simply dumping them from your account.

Minutes 5 – 9: Keyword Research

The quality of your keyword research can pretty much make or break your campaigns – if you’re not bidding on the right terms, your ads won’t reach the right audience.

Your keyword research tasks should include:

  • Expanding your keyword research to increase your reach.
  • Identifying negative keywords that are wasting your budget and aren’t relevant to your account.
  • Trying new keyword match types, such as modified broad, phrase and exact match.

The goal is to develop a keyword database that is both deep and broad, while still highly targeted.

Minutes 10 – 13: Ad Text Optimization

The best way to determine what messaging works best with your audience is to test your ads continuously. Make sure your ads include the keyword you’re bidding on, a benefit statement and a strong call to action.

On a weekly basis, throw out your worst two ads and replace them with new text. You’ll end up with higher click-through rates and Quality Scores over time (meaning you can get better rankings at lower costs).

Minutes 15 – 18: Improve Campaign Relevancy

The more relevant your keywords, ad groups and campaigns, the more successful they’ll be. To improve relevance, here are some of the things you can do:

  • Split your largest ad group into two smaller, more targeted groups. Tightly knit ad groups tend to earn higher Quality Scores.
  • Create a new, more targeted landing page. Too few landing pages is a good way to water down your relevance and lower your conversion rate. Your text ads should align closely with your landing pages.

Set a goal to develop at least one more targeted ad group or landing page offer every month.

Minutes 19 – 20: PPC Reporting

The final step is reporting. Ooh and ahh over your results, stick some charts on the fridge, and set goals for next month.

The above steps can be completed in about 20 minutes per week – but the reality is, it’s pretty hard to get this all done in the AdWords interface alone. You’ll find this workflow much faster and easier to follow if you incorporate some outside tools. You might need to venture outside of AdWords and leverage third-party tools and software such as:

  • Keyword research tools
  • Bid management tools
  • Conversion rate optimization tools
  • Analytics software
  • Etc.

Dedicated software tools offer the benefit of automation (which equate to time savings for you) and, compared to AdWords, more control over how your money is spent.

About the Author: Elisa Gabbert manages and contributes to the WordStream Internet Marketing Blog at WordStream Inc., a provider of PPC management software and services, free keyword tools, and the AdWords Performance Grader, a PPC auditing tool.

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