PPC Problems Caused by Keyword Status

By Kayla Kurtz | @one800kayla | Senior Digital Advisor at Hanapin Marketing

“My ads are all approved, but I can’t populate my ad using my keywords!”

“I’m not seeing any conversions in one of my highest-performing ad groups!”

“I’ve seen zero impressions in my new ad group!”

Do any of these phrases sound familiar? Remember saying something similar recently and the feeling of despair and desperation that followed? The good news: everyone has these moments. The better news: the three issues above happened to me and were solved very quickly. The best news of all?! I’m going to show you how to prevent or alleviate those problems in your own accounts. Ladies and gentlemen, fasten your seat belts…it’s keyword status time.

Funny Cat In Seat Belt

Problem #1: Can’t find your ads in the search engines when you query your keywords.

Answer: Click ‘Next Page.’ Still nothing? Hit it again. If you get where I’m headed here, what you could be looking at is a lower than first page keyword bid. In my experience, I had decreased bids on a handful of keywords that were converting at too high a CPL in a client’s account. I pulled their bids back and then also wrote new ads for that ad group to help increase click-through and conversion rate. I wanted to populate my ad among my competitors to see how it looked in comparison in the search engine. Unfortunately, when I went to the search box, I queried one of the keywords I had just decreased bids on (probably because it was at the top of my mind). Turns out, I lowered the bid just enough to pull it off first page placement. I had optimized this account to be a position 2 or 3 performer, so the thought didn’t even occur to me to check subsequent SERPs for my ad. As soon as I clicked in to the keywords tab, I saw the ‘Below first page bid’ keyword status on my queried keyword. I had gotten so focused on CPL that I forgot to mind my first-page minimum bids. This can happen to anyone, especially when the client’s KPI is based on leads and lead costs and those metrics are what have your focus. Fortunately, this is a quick 1-2-3 click-fix in the interface. I raised my max CPC bid for the keyword to a little more than the first page bid estimate and my ad began showing, no problem.


Problem #2: Sudden lack of conversions from a typically high-performing ad group.

Answer: When I ran across this problem, I did the first thing most people would do in this situation…immediately checked my conversion codes. When those were all flushing out just fine, I began panicking slightly. Thankfully this panic lasted only a short while once I got back in the interface and clicked one level deeper to the keyword tab, where I saw ‘Paused’ as the status for all my keywords. Immediately I realized I had paused all the keywords in that ad group in some bid changes that same morning. Very simple mistake, easily made in the heat of “I need to pull back spend in the next two days” bid changes. Again, this was a quick fix selecting the keywords that needed to be active and resetting them all to ‘Enabled’ in the interface.


Problem #3: Ad group with no impressions.

Answer: Bid changes got me again! I had an ad group with some keywords that needed to be optimized, so I downloaded a report to Excel and completed my bid changes in a spreadsheet. I made either and increase or decrease to all the keywords in this particular ad group and uploaded the changes via AdWords Editor. Turns out when you download a keyword report for an ad group with all modified broad keywords, Excel automatically adds an apostrophe in front of the plus sign to keep the application from reading the keyword as a formula, like this:

‘+random +keyword

I didn’t notice this little addition, as I try to look at the numbers more than the keywords at the report stage. That way I don’t make decisions based on keywords I’m attached to for whatever reason (“I KNOW I can make this convert!!”). However, the Editor allows this to slip through, sometimes making duplicates and other times disapproving your keywords. My situation was the latter and again, as soon as I saw all my previously just fine keywords with a keyword status of ‘Disapproved,’ I edited the apostrophe out of all the keywords and things were back to normal. This did reset all my keyword level data back to 0, but since I had downloaded the full keyword report just before the reset, I could go back to reference the previous performance of those keywords until they built their performance back up in the interface.

The biggest takeaway from this post should be this: it’s easy to focus on the big picture problem or target KPI when optimizing your accounts. However, as PPC managers we should all be taking the extra few minutes out to double and triple check our work to avoid triggering big time problems with simple keyword level status issues.

Tell us about your experiences! Have you come across what seemed to be a really complicated PPC issue that turned out to be curable once you checked out your keyword statuses? Still looking for more information on varying keyword statuses and strategies for handling them? Share your thoughts and ideas with PPC Hero in the comments section below!