May 29, 2014
Deciding to restructure an account is one of the toughest decisions a paid search manager has to make. We often inherit accounts that were not built employing best practices, making account management an overly cumbersome and hard to manage process that often impedes performance.
In order to achieve long-term success in our accounts, we sometimes have to rebuild our campaigns from the bottom up. This can be an overwhelming, time consuming process.
Today I will share a restructure process that has been successful for me along with the criteria I use for deciding whether or not I should restructure an account in the first place.
My Account Restructuring Process
Throughout my ppc career, I have tried multiple restructuring methods. My most successful account restructures have been the one’s where I segment each product or service into its own campaign. Clear segmentation provides the transparency to measure performance, identify growth opportunities, & perform optimizations more efficiently.
Instead of restructuring an entire account at one time, I focus on restructuring one small area, launching it side by side with the old account structure and closely monitoring performance. I do this for two reasons: 1) Gain an understanding of how the new structure is going to perform in a limited environment and work out any kinks before fully deploying, and 2) Protect against loss of volume. Sometimes new campaigns need time to ramp up, which can hurt lead flow or sales. From my experience, phasing in a new structure has protected against negative short-term performance. Once I am comfortable the new structure is performing soundly, I’ll deploy the restructure to other areas of the account.
The next section of this post is the specific criteria I use for deciding whether or not it’s worthwhile to perform an account restructure. I apply all 5 criteria or combinations of them if I think there will be a significant impact to performance through either volume growth or significant efficiency gains.
Creating a highly segmented account structure can uncover new growth opportunities. Take a look at the two examples below. In the first example, the ad groups are a just a random combination of products and services rolled inside of a campaign. To make matters worse, there are multiple match type variations of this campaign. Combining program offerings in one campaign but spreading out the match types across multiple campaigns hides potential growth opportunities. In this scenario, it’s nearly impossible to figure out what programs are driving growth and what campaign that growth is coming from.
Now let’s look at the 2nd example. Each program offering is housed in its own campaign. Having the entire offering in one place allows me to identify all the key areas to focus on. I can clearly see what ad groups are performing well, what ad copy is driving response, and what match types are leading to conversions. All this data can be leveraged to grow the account by building out new keywords and ads.
Account Optimization & Maintenance
Another criteria for restructuring an account are gaining efficiencies through simplified optimization and maintenance. The main reason most of us do not optimize our accounts as often as we should is because unclean account structures make routine account management tasks difficult and painful.
For example, an account I manage has many duplicate keywords, campaigns, ads, & ad groups. The reason for this is the business has multiple locations with the same product offerings. This has led to plenty of difficulties optimizing and maintaining the account.
Segmenting the account structure by product and location has allowed us to take a very targeted approach towards growth and optimization. We can now deploy an ad test in a few hours as opposed to a few days and because the account structure is now uniform, we can deploy keywords across an entire product offering in a matter of minutes.
Bidding & Budgeting
Bidding and budgeting can be a nightmare in a non-segmented account structure. If you’re trying to advertise multiple products within the same campaign, budgeting constraints can limit the exposure of each of your products. Say you can only afford a $1000 per month budget. With all of your products and services in one campaign, keywords for some products will be more popular than others or maybe the CPC’s for those keywords are very expensive. In this scenario, only part of your campaign will get traffic and others will be shut out due to budgeting limitations and high CPC’s.
This problem multiplies in an automated bidding environment. For example, Google conversion optimizer will optimize a campaign to a pre defined CPA target. In the ‘lumped’ scenario from above, conversion optimizer would position keyword bids of some of your products to get lead volume while others won’t be optimized. Again, segmenting your campaigns gives the best chance for each of your products to compete. The more segmented a campaign is, the more efficient automated bidding tools will work.
Reporting & Analysis
The primary focus of the account my team just restructured was to make reporting and analysis smoother and more efficient. In this particular account, it would take almost 8 hours to complete a standard weekly report! Because the account structure was so unclean, most of this time was spend manipulating data and making it ‘fit’ into a nice neat report. Along with the additional hours it took to review the data and make conclusions, 25% of the workweek was gone, which left us little or no time to act on our conclusions. Restructuring the account has brought reporting from 8 hours to 1.5hrs per week. Pulling ad-hoc reports now only takes minutes instead of hours or days. Performance in this account has increased tremendously because we’re spending more time acting on the data instead of pulling and manipulating it!
If your client or business has multiple brands with different URL’s in the same account, I suggest taking one of the brands and moving them into their own dedicated account. When two different URL’s are in the same account, they both can’t show at the same time. The URL with the highest ad rank will show at the time the query is served up. This reduces the exposure of each brand. Segmenting brands will maximize exposure by increasing impression share and hopefully conversion volume.
If you want to realize long-term success in your paid search program, build a structure that will support it. Carefully evaluate your current structure, apply the criteria above, and determine if your current campaign structure is sufficient. If not, I suggest not putting off the necessary and start planning your restructure today. You’ll thank yourself later to doing the hard work now instead of working through stagnating performance later!