Account expansion can be a messy business.  No matter your methods, whether it’s adding keywords via Google’s Keyword Tool, utilizing templates, or good old-fashioned Keyword Research, you’ll occasionally run in to scenarios where your new additions to the keyword family act like divas and decide to steal the limelight from your more-established terms.

This can be especially dangerous with established accounts, as the hope with any account expansion initiative is to grow conversion volume, rather than send it careening off a cliff.  While keyword research and expansion should always take care to examine existing account data and top-converting keywords, some of us out here have been known to be a bit…  well, overly exuberant when it comes to generating new keywords.

Luckily for us, we have the means at our disposal to deal with those upstart broad match terms that could potentially tank your conversion volume.  In AdWords, that tool is the Keyword Diagnosis test.

The Keyword Diagnosis tool.
Handier than you might think. Give it a shot!

The gist behind this quick and dirty PPC trick is to examine whether or not your top all-time converting keywords are still showing.  In the hustle and bustle of expanding an account, you can sometimes lose track of your best keywords in the pursuit of an ever-cheaper conversion.

This can be especially important when, as has been a common occurrence around these parts recently, you take over accounts that may not be following best practices.  In some cases, these accounts are carried by one to two large campaigns with no segmentation in terms of search and display, poor ad group structure, no device targeting, and may be making use of the Conversion Optimizer and CPA bidding.    While these kinds of campaigns scream “We desperately need a breakout!” to you and me, doing so carries the risk of potentially disrupting performance – which can be problematic in the best of times, and catastrophic in others.

For these delicate situations, the solution is often to work your way around such campaigns by expanding your keyword list, utilizing best practices, and to hopefully wean yourself off of the need for the poorly optimized campaign.

But until that day comes, you can avoid the above mentioned account growing pains through the judicious use of the Keyword Diagnosis tool.

Examining your top-converting keywords, whether it’s for the lifetime of the account or the just past year, can give you an idea of how your account expansion efforts have impacted the performance of your entrenched terms.  You may not be aware of this, but the Keyword Diagnosis tool now comes with a handy tooltip blurb giving you the specific Campaign, Ad Group, and Keyword that’s smothering your top converters.

An example of conflicting keywords.
They’ll pop up like weeds if you’re not careful.

With this tool, you have another potential avenue of analysis should you find your conversion volume slipping.  But now that you’ve discovered the offending keyword, what are your options?  It’s not always an easy call, particularly when the newer keyword has better performance metrics.  Here are some possibilities:

  1. Pause one of the keywords in conflict:  The simplest answer, cutting straight to the heart of the matter.  If conversion volume matters to you above all else, consider pausing the newer addition.  This goes doubly so should the older keyword be on the Conversion Optimizer.  If you’re more focused on overall CPA and stringently follow best practices, it may be time to retire the older keyword.  It all depends on your priorities.
  2. Utilize bids to pit the two against one another:  If it’s too close to call, consider letting it ride and bidding in your usual style.  Consider it an opportunity to test out which keyword comes out on top in a Darwinian PPC Thunderdome.
  3. Resolve the conflict peacefully with negative keywords:  Quite possibly the ideal, neutral solution to a keyword conflict is to make use of negative keywords at an ad group level to resolve the issue.  It won’t be effective if you have two exact match keywords fighting it out – but if you find yourself with an overly aggressive broad match keyword encroaching on another keyword’s territory, a tactical negative keyword can make everyone play nice.

This is just one potential use of the Keyword Diagnosis tool – it can also help you resolve geotargeting and device targeting issues, making it a great place to start for all of your keyword troubleshooting needs.

So what about you?  Do you often find yourself struggling against the poorly-optimized campaigns of the past, dreaming of a tightly structured future?  What are your tips for handling keyword slap fights?  Let us know in the comments, and thanks for reading!