With Halloween just behind us and the Christmas trees already rising in the department stores, we’re stepping into the holiday season once again. This is the greatest time of year to make sure your paid search campaigns are running smoothly, especially as you gear up for heavy traffic to your site. To give you an idea of just how important this time of year is for online retailers, according to the National Retail Federation, “In 2012, holiday sales represented 19.3% of total retail industry sales.” With that in mind, let’s jump in to a few simple audits to ensure your PPC accounts are organized and ready for Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
The best place to start is with your ads; Make sure you have at least 2 ads running in each ad group, and no more than 4. You should continuously be testing ad copy to find the sweet spot in both CTR and conversion rate. Whether this means having a different headline, CTA, or destination URL is entirely up to you, but be sure to analyze the results every couple of months to ensure you’re constantly improving. We recommend no more than 4 ads per ad group because once you’re over 4 the data is spread out further, making it more difficult to see which ads are performing the best.
While having between two and four active ads is ideal, you must also check that you have active keywords in every ad group and that your negative keywords are not blocking the positive. All the hard work you’ve put into creating the most effective ad copy is all for naught if the ads will never appear. Luckily, AdWords has a warning at the top of the homepage when you log in and an API such as Kenshoo has a report that will tell you errors upon request.
If you have chosen to segment your campaigns or ad groups down to the keyword match type, ensure your keywords are in the correct match type. While this may sound obvious, it is well worth checking. If you have an exact match campaign with one broad match keyword, the impressions can be blown out of proportion with search queries not nearly as relevant to your ad copy and landing page. Other issues that may occur include too much budget going to one keyword in the ad group and impression share being taken from other keywords.
If, during this process, you notice your CTRs and Quality Scores are low, one quick audit is to make sure the keywords from the ad group are included and prominent within the ad copy. By performing this simple check, you’ll also be able to see if certain keywords within the ad group are so differentiated that they need to be placed in different ad groups.
While you’re in the ad group level checking on match types, take a look at the accuracy of your destination URLs. This is one of the most important audits you can make as nothing is worse than a customer clicking on a seemingly relevant ad and ending up on an irrelevant page. This will not only hurt your conversion rate, it will also heighten your bounce rate.
One final look over will reveal whether or not you have sitelinks in every ad group. New research by Search Engine Watch has revealed that campaigns and ad groups that have relevant sitelinks are likely to experience better ad placement and lower CPCs, especially with the new Google update to the AdWords Ad Rank algorithm. Google’s data shows that when three-line sitelinks display, CTR is significantly higher than when they don’t, 45% higher in certain case studies. So even if the actual links aren’t getting clicks, they are increasing your SERP real estate and leading to more overall clicks on your ads. Stay ahead of the competition and make sure yours are up to date and relevant.
If you have any of your own tips and tricks please include them in the comments below!