4 Red Flags Of Ineffective PPC Account Structure
February 21, 2017
Whether it’s kicking off with a new client, conducting an audit, or delivering a comprehensive solutions blueprint, analysis of account structure is always a major indicator of account health. A properly groomed PPC account structure both reflects and streamlines every aspect of a marketing strategy.
The intricacies of account structure are unique to every client. An effective PPC account structure will be organized, consistent, and comprehensive. Given the pivotal role in which structure plays, it’s no surprise that it is a reoccurring discussion on this blog. In previous entries we’ve examined best practices in a multitude of areas:
- Goal Alignment: Structure should be dictated by account goals and a full funnel strategy.
- Naming Conventions: Consistent rules for naming campaigns ensure organization and accessibility for those new to the account.
- Match Type Segmentation: Factoring in match type into your structure will improve traffic funneling, ad delivery, and bidding.
- Campaign Building: An effective structure will minimize the time required for new campaign builds and account expansion.
- Reporting: Account structure should make reporting feel natural and intuitive.
Ultimately account structure is an area that has become second nature for many clients and account managers. There has been tremendous improvement within our industry in this regard with nearly every new client we onboard having at least some semblance of a strong and cohesive structure. Despite this, it’s important to keep an eye our for indicators that your structure is not operating as intended. For the remainder of this post, we’ll discuss a couple areas where you can spot these red flags flying: quality score analysis, difficulty with budgeting or reporting, and keyword performance.
Red Flag #1: Quality Score Analysis
A major indication of the success of your account structure is the strength of quality scores across your account. Proper traffic funneling represents the primary function of a successful account structure. Delivering the right ad, to the right audience, at the right time. Structure will clearly define these audiences making it relatively easy to manage ad copy and landing page URLs in high volume. A quick way to diagnose the success of your account structure is through bulk analysis of quality score factors.
The linked article from above provides an excellent walkthrough on how to achieve this analysis. Once conducted, you’ll have complete visuals of quality score distribution along with a priority list of items to address. From a high-level perspective, the analysis above shows that this account has plenty of improvement opportunities within both CTR and ad copy relevance. By referencing the priority list that is generated from the template, we are able to diagnose what structure related issues may exist.
Often times ad copy relevance is the product of poor traffic funneling. Similarly, low click through rate can indicate poor relevance with the current audience. At a structural level, this will determine next steps for expansion. Furthermore, optimizations that redirect traffic such as negative embedding will contribute greatly to improving each aspect of quality scores. As always, follow up analysis should be completed to gauge the impact of these changes over time.
Red Flag #2: Budgeting and Reporting
An effective account structure should make budgeting and reporting an intuitive task. If you find yourself struggling with specific portions of these tasks, it is a clear indicator that account structure could be improved. Budgeting and reporting considerations are often the most important motivation for account structure. Each item requires dissecting a given account into uniquely performing segments so that fluctuations in KPIs can be assessed correctly.
To begin, consistent naming conventions should be utilized throughout the account. These should make it readily apparent as to the strategic goal of each campaign or ad group. At a minimum, this should include engine, network, intent, location, device, and match type(if segmenting at campaign level). Once these naming conventions are in place, it is much easier to filter an account accordingly in either the interface or Excel. Updates in regards to seasonality or specific category promos become extremely efficient.
If you find yourself relying on a largely manual process to address either of these issues, I’d highly suggest updating your structure to streamline this process.
Red Flag #3: Keyword Performance
Another major indicator of ineffective account structure can be revealed via keyword performance data. A couple different segments should be viewed here: keywords per ad group, click distribution by match type, and keywords with zero impressions.
For keywords by ad group, this will help reveal the granularity in which your account has been constructed. Traditionally the more specific you can make your ad groups, the better. Now this does not mean every ad group should be a single keyword ad group. Scaling purposes call only for new ad groups when you plan to speak to the search query differently via ad copy.
Analysis in regards to click distribution by match type will reveal if your keywords are directing properly. If you find broad, broad modified, or phrase match are taking impressions that should be connecting with an exact match query, this is an indication that your structure is not operating optimally. To begin, consider whether it makes sense to segment at the ad group or campaign level. If CPA is drastically different within your vertical based on match type, then segment match type at the campaign level when budget is limited. Otherwise, match type segmentation at the ad group level should be sufficient as long as you are properly applying embedded negatives. For those unfamiliar, an example of embedded negatives would be making your exact match keywords a negative in the sister phrase match ad group. This will eliminate keyword cross contamination.
Lastly, a quick breakdown of keywords in active campaigns receiving zero impressions can help reveal structure based shortcomings. If these are search terms that should yield volume, this an indication that less relevant keywords could be stealing their traffic. Properly addressing these items can lead to improved ad relevance, increased quality scores, decreased CPCs, and a better handle on keyword level bidding.
Red Flag #4: Ad Group Consuming Disproportionate % of Budget
One final item that can trigger structure updates is the existence of a single ad group disproportionately consuming a large percentage of a campaign’s budget. When this occurs, the remaining ad groups and keywords are stripped of their opportunity to show at a sufficient volume. While this may be the product of comparatively lower demand, efficiency can be hampered in budget constrained campaigns. To remedy this issue, simply segment your structure to allow unique budgeting for the high volume ad group in a separate campaign.
Account structure is the backbone of every PPC account. From budgeting to reporting, quality score management to ad delivery, nearly every successful account will boast an organized, consistent, and comprehensive structure. Even when performance remains strong, keep an eye out for these red flags to help identify valuable improvement opportunities.
Cover image courtesy of Thomas Mues.
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