To Optimize, or Not To Optimize

There has been some discussion over at Small Business SEM regarding an offer for an automated campaign optimization from Google. I give can give Matt some feedback on this as we have had a handful of clients optimized by our AdWords representatives. Our official stance on optimizations is this: similar tactics are employed for each optimization (so they are not very personalized) and results have varied.

Most optimizations offered by Google employ these standard tactics:

  • Break your campaigns down into more specified campaigns
  • Break these new campaigns, and previously existing campaigns, down into targeted ad groups
  • Insert new ad texts that utilize dynamic keyword insertion (DKI)
  • Aggressively expand your keyword list (and break them down into your targeted ad groups)
  • Activate your keywords and ads within Google’s content network

A few of our optimizations have included some personalized touches but the tactics mentioned above are the usual game plan. With these tactics you will generate more clicks, and generate more revenue for Google (which is Google’s goal with each optimization). An increase in traffic is great as long as it is qualified and enhances your ROI; but this is not always the case with these optimizations.

As I stated earlier: our optimization results have varied. Our three recent optimizations each had unique impacts on their respective accounts.

The first client didn’t see much change post-optimization. Surprisingly, we saw only a slight increase in spend, but we didn’t generate any additional leads.

Our second client performed reasonably well pre-optimization but we are always looking for ways to enhance our performance. We requested an optimization proposal and it included the standard set of tactics. Once the optimization was uploaded, there was an immediate increase in clicks. Our spend and clicks nearly doubled. Unfortunately, leads only increased by 20%. This made our cost-per-lead increase by 60%. Not good. However, one aspect of the optimization was a success: the separation of our search and content network initiatives into their own campaigns.

Since that optimization, we have had to “trim the fat” in large quantities. Many ad groups have been shut off. Nearly all of the keyword bids have been decreased. But the new ads have been left in tact. These perform fairly well. As for the separation of search and content – this was a stroke of genius. It makes account management much easier.

The third client’s optimization was a success. Again, the usual bag of tricks was utilized but they worked well for the client. Our traffic and our spend increased dramatically, but so did our conversions. Similar to client #2, we had to “trim the fat” by deleting keywords and ad texts that didn’t perform well, but we discovered a wide variety of low hanging fruit that we hadn’t yet plucked.

When considering an optimization by Google here a few tips to keep in mind:

Review your optimization proposal carefully. Google will provide an excel spreadsheet of the changes they plan to make to your account. Review this proposal very carefully. Since you know your account best you’ll be able to spot the changes that will not work well. Make your required changes to the proposal and re-send it to Google for a revision. However, if the optimization is way off the mark, then don’t go through with it.

Archive your original account structure. Within AdWords Editor be sure to perform a bulk download of your account before Google uploads the optimization. Trust me, you’ll be thankful you did.

Closely monitor your account for the first three days. If anything in your AdWords account is going to falter due to the optimization you will be able to notice by the third day (possibly even the second day).

Also, here is another quick tip: have your AdWords rep create a ghost account and link it to your existing account. Ask them to upload the optimized campaign into this ghost account, activate it, and pause your established account. This way if the optimization tanks (and you’ll know within three days) then you can just pause the ghost account and re-activate your old one.

OR, you could just take Google’s bag of tricks and implement them yourself.

However, just to change gears, Yahoo has been offering comprehensive account restructuring proposals which are actually quite helpful. These are primarily for accounts that are still suffering from Panama migration woes. We have worked with Yahoo on a few account restructures and they have all gone rather well. If your Yahoo account is having issues (especially since you can not move keywords within Panama), I suggest contacting a Yahoo service rep for assistance.