Know When It's Time to Delete Your Paused Keywords
April 23, 2013
The unending wisdom of Martha Stewart tells us that “there are few rites of spring more satisfying than the annual clean.” In that spirit, PPC Hero’s April series will cover some aspects of your accounts that are worth a good cleaning. Structure, ads, negatives and more will all be covered.
There are tons of reasons to pause things within our PPC accounts. Poor performance, special offers ending, seasonality. It can go on and on. It’s not uncommon to see a fair number of paused campaigns, ad groups, ads and keywords in an account. It’s part of account management.
However, it’s also not uncommon to see way more paused stuff than there should be in an account. We’re analytical people, but that doesn’t mean we’re unsentimental people. We really cared about those things that we experimented with. Why would we ever want to delete them? Failed experiments and old targeting may hold a special place in your heart, but they shouldn’t clutter up your AdWords and BingAds accounts any longer. At a certain point, it’s not sentimentality. It’s neurosis.
Here are some of the most common reasons for paused targeting in your accounts. See which category your paused stuff falls into and decide whether or not you really want it cluttering up your daily management any longer.
Paused for Poor Performance
I know that in my accounts this is the most common reason for pausing something. It used to work, then it stopped working one month and it was cut out. And you probably turned it on again when the next month started only to pause it again when performance was less than stellar. There are only so many times that you can do this dance before finally coming to terms with the knowledge that it just doesn’t work.
Here’s one way to determine which keywords are worth fighting for and which are worth cutting ties with forever:
Download a report for all of your paused keywords for a relevant time frame. I’m tempted to say all time, but I have accounts that go back longer than five years. If you did an all time report for those, it wouldn’t have much relevant data at all. One to two years would make sense to me, as that’s long enough to still be in the same ballpark of current performance. Over that period, I would recommend downloading a report segmented by month and then running a pivot table to see how CPL changed over time. (It’ll be a big report, so I would recommend focusing on your bigger converting keywords to limit being overwhelmed by all of that pivot table.)
Use that data to investigate the specific periods when each of the keywords stopped working for you. Either fix it, or cut bait. (It’s a bummer that you can’t label deleted stuff, as that would save a lot of mental energy during audits/reviews of deleted things.) That way, three months from now when you’re short on time, you won’t have to stop and double check why that one keyword that used to perform is paused. You’ll know why it was deleted – because you did a thorough audit in late April 2013 and it didn’t make the cut.
Part of being a diligent account manager is trying out new things to see what works. A lot of that stuff doesn’t work, and when we know that we should get rid of it. Unless you have plans on re-testing on a test you already concluded farther on down the road (which doesn’t seem like the greatest strategy in the world), close the door on your experiments once you know how they ended.
Winning Experiments (or the leftovers thereof)
We’ve long advocated on PPC Hero the importance of being cautious in making changes within your accounts. If you’re doing a restructure, do it in stages and pause the original campaign while you check out how the new structure will perform. If you’re doing breakouts to improve quality score or impression share, pause the old stuff to ensure that you don’t do any damage. The good news is that often our changes are effective. We did something right! But then we can get caught up in how great the new stuff is and forget to go back and get rid of what is no longer the structure of choice.
Tactics Have Changed
I’ve had accounts with extensive and complicated geographic strategies scrapped following long-form analysis. That complicated geographic structure, even though it would never be gone back to, has lingered in an account far longer than it ever should have, greyed out and just waiting to confuse account auditors. If that’s the case, whether it be countries that you no longer ship to or states that you’re no longer interested in advertising to, get rid of them.
Enhanced Campaign Wreckage
All of our beautifully device-segmented campaigns will become a thing of the past, whenever it is that we decide to take the plunge and become enhanced. I anticipate that all of us will let our mobile campaigns linger for a while during the transition to PPC’s brave new world. I’m sure all of us love our mobile campaigns in unique ways, but as the title of my high school’s senior play reminds us, you can’t take it with you. First make sure that you’re comfortable with managing the new style of campaign, and once you get to that point make sure that you circle back and clean up the remains.
I’m not anti-sentimentality; I’m pro easy account management. Cleaning up the clutter in our accounts will help make decisions quicker. You can pause stuff and label when and why you paused it, you can post about paused things in your project management systems, you can keep a detailed diary of your account like you’re the world’s most boring Judy Bloom narrator. But I think there are cases where the most definite label of all applies: that of being deleted. It’s springtime, which means the sound of lawnmowers along with people talking about cleaning. Forget houses or apartments. Focus on your accounts.
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