Google Ads optimization can feel like a never-ending fight. After all, you’re battling your competition, customer behavior, and changes to the advertising platform. As a result, there’s always something to check or change to prevent your account’s performance from taking a hit.
Seriously, you gotta pay attention.
When it comes to optimizing your search campaigns the list of possible changes goes on forever. Unfortunately, you don’t have forever to get things working. So it’s your job to make the time spent optimizing your account as efficient as possible.
In order to maximize your time and get the best results, you need a solid optimization routine. You must know what to change and when to change it. Moreover, you need to prioritize the changes that will have the biggest impact on your performance.
This article breaks down Google Ads optimization into easy to follow daily, weekly, and monthly routines.
Daily Google Ads Optimization
Okay, so the good news is you don’t actually need to do anything on a daily basis. Instead, you’re going to set up some automated rules that will alert you if there’s a major performance fluctuation. This will keep your blood pressure down and prevent you from checking your Google Ads account every five minutes.
Just try to relax.
When setting up alerts for your Google Ads account you want to focus on drastic performance swings.
Generally speaking daily fluctuations between 15% – 25% can be ignored. However, if a keyword jumps from spending $50 per day to $500 per day then you’ll want an alarm. Even more so if a keyword goes from $500 to only $50 in daily ad spend.
To set up a basic alert in Google Ads open the tools tab, navigate over to the bulk actions column, and click on rules.
Creating rules in Google Ads
Next, you’ll create a new rule and set the type of rule to ‘send email’. Now Google will automatically email you whenever the conditions of your rule are met.
Set up email alerts
Once your rules are in place Google will keep an eye on the most important elements of your account. This should free up your time and let you focus on more important tasks like setting up RLSA campaigns.
Weekly Google Ads Optimization
Weekly optimization work should be performed once per week preferably on the same day.
Spacing your optimization work evenly is crucial to maintaining consistent performance improvements. With this in mind, it is equally important to set the right date range before making changes.
Although this might seem like a no-brainer it’s one of the more common mistakes we’ve seen. So before you do anything be sure to set your date range to ‘Last 7 days’. Then make sure that the dates you’ve selected don’t overlap with prior weekly optimizations.
Set Google Ads to Last 7 days
Keep in mind, your account needs time to run and collect data. Without enough data, it’s impossible to determine what’s working and what isn’t. So follow the steps in this article, make some changes, and then wait at least a week to follow up.
Prioritizing – Choosing Where To Start
Your Google Ads account probably has several campaigns that need your attention. So how do you decide where to start?
Knowing where to start is half the battle…
Thankfully, Google Ads provides a plethora of filtering options to point you in the right direction.
Start with a top-down approach and find the campaign with the highest cost. To do this, you’ll want to head over to the campaigns tab and click on the cost column. This will sort every campaign in your account from highest cost to lowest cost.
Sort campaigns by cost.
Optimizing the campaigns with the highest cost will result in the greatest overall increase in account performance. For this reason, I recommend optimizing the highest cost campaigns first and then moving down the list.
Google Ads optimization requires you to stay on the lookout for negative keywords. These babies can eat up your budget and wreck your performance.
So open up your search terms report and see what kind of junk you’ve been wasting your money on. Then for efficiencies sake sort your search terms by impressions from high to low. This will show you the most common searches that are triggering your ads and help you use your time wisely.
Sort by impressions
Next, you can add the worst offenders to your account level negative keywords list to prevent them from ever triggering your ads again.
However, some search terms may be valuable but belong in a different campaign. You can add these terms as negative keywords on the campaign level, allowing them to still appear in other campaigns.
95% of the time you can add negative keywords as broad match. However, if your working with a short search term (1-2 words) or if it’s closely related to other terms you’ll need to use an exact match negative keyword.
For example, let’s say you’re selling expensive laptops and the search term ‘cheap laptops’ comes through. You can save yourself a lot of time by just adding ‘cheap’ as a broad match negative keyword. If you added the exact match [cheap laptops] as a negative keyword then ‘cheap laptops Utah’, ‘cheap laptops near me’, and thousands of other variations could all still come through.
Pro Tip: Add all search terms you want to exclude as an exact match negative keyword. Even if you’ve already added one of the words as a broad match negative. This will ensure that the term is marked as excluded within the platform and prevent any confusion later on.
Keyword refinement is the process of creating new single keyword ad groups (SKAGs) using keywords from your search terms report.
Exact match search terms should already be in there own single keyword ad group. So save time by applying a filter to only show broad match and phrase match search terms. This will eliminate exact match terms and make it easier to find new SKAGs.
Filter out exact match search terms
Filter out search terms that are already SKAGs.
See your search terms report isn’t just full of junk, it’s also packed with treasure. You just have to know where to find it.
Start your treasure hunt by sorting all your search terms in descending order by impressions. This will help you find the terms that are triggering your ads most often. Now your goal is to create 3 – 5 new SKAGs each week as part of your Google Ads optimization routine.
Consistently refining your keywords with new SKAGs will increase your average CTR, improve impression share, and lower CPC.
However, it’s important to remember that your ads already appear for these search terms. So creating new SKAGs from your search terms report doesn’t expand your account. In other words, it shouldn’t raise your cost or cause you to appear for new search terms.
Pro Tip: Once you’ve added a search term as SKAG be sure to add it as a negative keyword to the original ad group. This will prevent any unnecessary competition between ad groups in your account.
Keyword expansion is the process of adding brand new keywords that you’re not getting impressions for already.
However, adding new keywords to an account that isn’t doing well may make a bad situation even worse. If your account isn’t performing well with the keywords your already bidding on skip this step and come back to it later. On the other hand, if your account is performing well then keyword expansion is your next move.
Adding brand new keywords that you’re not already bidding on is a surefire way to get more impressions, a higher spend, and increase conversions.
You have a few different options when it comes to keyword expansion. I’ll break down the three methods we’ve found most useful.
Method #1 – Your Own Creativity
The only thing this method requires is that you head over to thesaurus.com and get creative with the synonyms tool.
Let’s say you’re a flight school and you’re already bidding on words like:
- flight school
- flight academy
- flight training
You could expand your keywords by creating the following SKAGs:
- pilot courses
- aviation lessons
- flying classes
Method #2 – Keyword Research Tools
Another way to pick out new keywords is to use a research tool like Google Ads Keyword Planner. Don’t stress about doing too much research either. In our experience, experimenting is the best way to find out what works.
Google Ads Keyword Planner
It’s unlikely that you’ll dig up a magic keyword with your research tools. Which makes testing the quickest and most accurate way to see if a new keyword works. So your goal is to find and test highly relevant keywords that you aren’t already bidding on.
Method #3 – Spy Tools
Spy tools help you see what keywords your competitors are bidding on, find their best keywords, and start stealing away their impression share.
Itching to know what keywords your competitors are using?
Luckily for you, there’s a lot of different third-party tools that can help you spy on your competition. Here are some of the spy tools we recommend:
Unlike your Auction, Insights Report spy tools can help you find ideas your local competition hasn’t even thought of yet. That’s because spy tools pull data from competitors all over the world. This lets you can gather data about other companies that fall outside of your geographic targeting.
In addition to keyword expansion, Spy tools take you past researching new keywords and help you discover brand new advertising channels. You’ve got Google Search Network down, but what about all the other places they could be advertising? What channels are your competitors using that you aren’t?
Bonus Tip: Spy tools can also show you competitors that are spending a lot of money on the Google Display Network, Facebook ads, and other platforms. This is a good sign that those channels are working for them and could work for you. Consider using spy tools to expand where and how you advertise in addition to expanding your keywords.
Assuming you already have at least two ads per ad group, you’ll notice that one will outperform the other. At this point, you’ll want to pause the losing ad and make a new variation from the winning ad. This is called ad split testing and it’s a crucial part of your weekly Google Ads optimization.
You can judge the performance of an ad based on its clicks and conversions using a statistical significance tool or have a script do it for you. Just be sure not to pause anything until you’ve reached at least a 90% confidence level.
Statistical significance tool for ad testing
If you make changes before statistical significance is reached, then you risk unsteady performance fluctuations with your ads. This means an ad that performed great this month could perform much worse next month.
However, swapping your ads out at the right time will lead to steady compounding increases in your ad performance. So even though it’s hard to be patient, the reward is well worth it.
Additionally, you shouldn’t test just for the sake of testing. Create a strategy and hypothesis for each ad test. Brainstorm some different things to test and then work your way down the list until you find what works best.
There are a lot of things you could test, but here are a few testing ideas to get you started:
- Prices vs. Discounts
- Business Credibility vs. Easy-to-Accomplish
- Countdowns vs. Limited Availability
- Geography vs Non-Geography
- Call to Action vs Benefits
Once you decide what to test you’ll have two different ways to go about things.
Single Ad Group Testing
This is when you test one idea inside one ad group. Even if you are testing ads inside hundreds of ad groups, you’ll evaluate the data within each ad group independently.
Multi-Ad Group Testing
This is when you choose several ad groups and test one idea (ad variation) across all of them. Multi-ad group testing gives you the ability to gather data quickly and make improvements sooner because you can combine the data from multiple ad groups.
Bidding tends to be the greatest cause of frustration for many advertisers.
So let me ease your mind a bit with a few factoids.
First, bidding takes a back seat to all of the optimizations steps we’ve already covered in this article. That means it’s not the most important part of your Google Ads results. So you can ease up a bit on the frantic bid adjustments and sleepless nights.
Second, bidding isn’t any more complex than the other steps in your optimization routine. It just has numbers in it and that’s probably what’s freaking you out.
Numbers Morty… Numbers
The thing is once you get past the numbers part it’s pretty straightforward.
Your goal with bidding is the same as your overall goal with Google Ads, you want to make more money. So forget about coming in first or any of those other metrics and focus on hitting your target cost per conversion (CPA).
The rest of the optimization advice in this section assumes that you’re using the right Google Ads campaign settings including a manual bidding strategy. If your settings are on point then go ahead and follow along with our step by step routine.
- Sort keywords by cost from high to low and make adjustments to the most expensive keywords first. They will have the most significant impact on your account’s performance so it’s best to tend to them first.
- Decrease bids for keywords that exceed your target cost per conversion goal. Continue this process each week until your cost per conversion starts to line up with your goal.
- Increase bids if your cost per conversion is lower than what you’re willing to spend and your average position is lower than 1.5. Raising bids on keywords that already have a high average position won’t necessarily increase your volume.
You were expecting a much longer list, weren’t you? Well, I hate to disappoint, but that’s really all you need to do when it comes to bidding adjustments.
Pro Tip: Use percentage bid adjustments relative to your target cost per conversion goal. For example, if your CPA goal is $50 and your current cost per conversion is $100 then drop bids by 50%. The same method works for raising bids just in the opposite direction.
Monthly Google Ads Optimization
Weekly optimization work focuses on high volume – high threat items, but sometimes it let’s less noticeable problems slip through the cracks. That’s where monthly optimization comes in handy and lets you clean up anything you missed with your weekly routines.
Monthly optimization also lets you focus on the changes that don’t need to happen each week because their performance fluctuates less often.
Pro Tip: Unlike weekly optimization, it can be easy to mix your dates when you only do something once every month. So be sure to mark down the date each time you perform monthly optimizations. This will prevent you from making changes based on data prior to your last monthly routine.
Longer Search Term Reports
Begin your monthly maintenance by opening up your search terms report and looking for low volume search terms. These little monsters are slowly nibbling away at your budget.
You can set up a filter to find these little buggers.
- Once inside your search terms report click to add a filter, click on performance, select clicks, and type in your value (usually 20 clicks is sufficient).
- Next, click to add a second filter, click on conversions, select conversions, and enter a value of less than one.
Find search terms with more than 20 clicks and no conversions
This will show you all the search terms with more than 20 clicks and 0 conversions so you can add them as negative keywords.
If you don’t see any search terms after you apply the filter then set your date range to the past 90 days. This will rule out any super sneaky search terms that are slowly draining your wallet.
As a side note, it’s not a bad thing if your filter comes up blank. That just means you don’t have any sneaky search terms wasting your budget.
You may or may not have repeat customers depending on your industry, product, and service.
Either way, you’ll want to keep an eye on how past converters behave and make adjustments as part of your monthly Google Ads optimization.
To do this, create an audience of all converters and add it to your campaigns. This will give you the option to lower bids or raise bids based on how your past converters perform.
Add an audience of past converters
You may discover that past converters or other audiences your monitoring aren’t worth keeping around. As a result, you’ll want to exclude them completely.
To exclude an audience entirely click on the audience tab then select exclusions from the top menu.
Exclude audiences from your campaigns
Now you’ll follow the same steps as before selecting the campaign or ad group and the audience you want to exclude.
Pro Tip: Audiences can only be applied at the campaign and ad group levels so make sure you don’t forget to add all your audiences in each time you create a new campaign.
Negative Keyword Exclusion
As you go through your weekly maintenance you’ll be creating new SKAGs and eventually grouping some of these into new campaigns. This means your negative keyword lists may need to be updated and applied to new campaigns.
So on a monthly basis, you’ll want to check on your negative keyword lists in your shared library and make sure they are applied to the appropriate campaigns.
Each month you’ll want to check in on your user locations report to see how your ads are performing in different geographical areas.
You can find this report by opening your locations tab, selecting the geographic report dropdown, and clicking on ‘User location report’.
User Location Report
This will show you a breakdown of your performance based on country, state, city, zip codes and more.
Add any underperforming locations to your targeted locations even if you’re already targeting that location. For example, if you’re targeting the United States, but want to lower bids for people in Utah, then you have to add Utah to your targeted locations. This will allow you to add bid modifiers to Utah while still targeting the United States as a whole.
If you find that a specific location is performing drastically worse than others then you can add it to your excluded locations.
Time of Day/Day of Week Modifiers/Exclusion
If you’ve followed along so far then you’ve probably noticed that Google Ads optimization follows the same basic pattern across all elements.
Find what’s working and increase or add it – Find what’s not working and decrease or exclude it.
Well, the same pattern applies to your ad scheduling so you’ll need to jump into your time of day and day of week reports. These reports show you how your ads performed during different days of the week and times of the day.
You can find them in your campaign settings under ad schedule. Then you can navigate between the two reports using the tabs at the top of the page.
Day of Week Report
Time of Day Report
If you find days of the week or hours of the day that perform much worse than others you can remove them from your ad schedule.
However, you may want to lower bids without entirely removing the day or time. That means you’ll need to add those times of day to your ad schedule. Even if your ads already run all day you’ll need to plug in hours individually if you want to add bid modifiers.
Pro Tip: You can save a lot of money by removing times of day with high costs and no conversions. Set up a filter to show you times of the day with a cost greater than $1 and less than 1 conversion in the past 90 days. Then remove those times of day from your ad schedule.
Your devices report shows you how your ads perform across mobile phones, desktop computers, and tablets.
So each month I recommend opening your devices tab to see what’s working best and make the appropriate optimizations.
In the example (above) you can see that mobile phones are absolutely crushing it in comparison to desktop computers. In this case, you could drastically improve your Google Ads performance by lowering bids for computers.
Your ads might perform way better on desktop computers or maybe tablets are your jam. Whatever the case might be you can optimize for the devices that are working best using the devices report.
I always recommend including search partners when creating new campaigns, but you should keep an eye on your networks report each month to make sure it’s behaving.
So open up your reporting tab and see how Search partners perform in comparison to Google search.
Google Search vs. Search Partners
If search partners are really terrible compared to Google search then head over to your campaign settings and turn it off.
Turn search partners off
Since you can’t lower bids on search partners turning it off or on is your only option. So make sure you have enough data to make a decision before giving search partners the boot.
*Bonus* – Quarterly Google Ads Optimization
Using the above routines to optimize your account will steadily improve your performance, but don’t get too comfortable. If you fall into the same routines week after week and month after month you’ll eventually hit a plateau.
Quarterly account reviews are necessary to break through plateaus and keep things moving forward.
Every 90 days or so you need to reevaluate your strategy and look for new opportunities. This includes checking your Search Lost IS to see impressions that you’re missing out on. If you’re losing out on a ton of impressions then it might be time to increase your budget.
Additionally, you can take a deeper look at your best and worst performing campaigns, ad groups, and keywords. Certain ad groups might benefit from having their own campaign with a larger budget while others should be paused.
So how do you know when it’s time to give something the ax?
There’s not a hard and fast rule, but I recommend pausing anything that’s exceeding your CPA goal by 300%. For instance, if your CPA goal is $100 and a keyword, ad group, or campaign is converting at $300 despite months of optimization, you may want to pause them. Just be sure to start at the keyword level and work your way up over time. Otherwise, you’ll end up killing an entire campaign over one crappy keyword.
And finally, don’t let a few keywords kill your accounts click through rate and tank your quality scores.
Run a filter to find any keyword with greater than 1000 impressions, no conversions, and less than 10 clicks.
Hunting down keywords with low CTR
This will get rid of keywords that are hurting your quality score and help to improve your accounts overall performance.
There is no end to Google Ads optimization, it’s always changing and evolving. As a result, there will always be something you can improve upon. The keys to continued performance are consistency, patience, and a holistic approach.
Taking a holistic approach means improving aspects of your funnel outside of your Google Ads account.
Consider strengthening your sales process so you can close more deals. Then work to optimize your landing pages for better conversions.
Alright, time to wrap things up and hand the mic over to you. What does your Google Ads optimization routine look like? Let us know if we missed something and we’ll add it to future articles.