As AdWords advertisers, we tend to obsess over the big wins. Everyone is looking for that special hack that will cut costs and deliver incredible results. So, when someone has a big win, we celebrate it. We write case studies about it. Everyone tries to find a way to make someone else’s breakthrough work for them.

The thing is, though, while many AdWords accounts have fundamental problems that you can fix and get a quick win, what do you do after that? Or, what do you do if your account is already working fairly well and you’re looking to take things to the next level?

That’s when we all start looking for a “hack” or “killer tactic” that will give us our next big win.

Unfortunately, when your account is working right, it’s often hard to create the kinds of “big wins” we all love to talk about. However, if you’re consistently improving your account, it’s fairly easy to create little wins.

Of course, it’s hard to write a case study about a 1,000 micro-wins, but ultimately, the results can be just as important to your business.

The Power Of Consistency

To show you how this works, let me tell you how we tripled lead volume for a client! And, not only were they getting over 3x the leads, their leads were also incredibly high quality!

Do I have your attention?

All of a sudden, you’re probably thinking, Hm, I wonder what they did? Maybe that would work in my account…

But, before you get too excited, it took us 2 years to get these results. Compared with the “we doubled sales with a single test” sorts of claims you see all the time, a 3x in account performance suddenly doesn’t seem so compelling.

Stick with me, though, because how we got to this result is important (and ultimately a much more reliable way of improving account performance than your typical “big win”).

Exploration Phase

This client runs a B2B company and has a pretty significant lifetime value. As a result, they have a big enough profit margin to enable quite a bit of testing.

So, when they started working with Disruptive, we spent the first 10 months exploring a variety of different options. We tried out a whole range of paid search keywords, remarketing campaigns, the Google Display Network, Gmail-sponsored promotions, remarketing lists for search ads (RLSA) audiences…and the list goes on.

Overall, most of our efforts were successful. Altogether, after exploring options for 10 months, AdWords was driving 5.9x more clicks and 3.4x more leads.

AdWords performance

Individually, each of these tactics produced mild wins, but altogether, they added up to a big win for the client.

Refinement Phase

After about 10 months, we hit a plateau. The more we tried to expand their campaigns, the more money we ended up wasting. So, we decided it was time to change gears and look for ways to improve on what we were already doing.

We had months of solid data to work with, so we dug into that data and quickly discovered that while we were driving many clicks and conversions, some of those conversions were worth more than others.

For example, our paid search clicks had a very high conversion rate and tended to produce higher quality leads. Clicks from the Display Network, however, didn’t seem to produce much value for the client.

Over the course of 4 months, we starting cutting budget to campaigns that weren’t delivering great results. This cut click volume by around 20% without significantly affecting lead volume:

Cutting click volume

And, now that we weren’t paying for clicks that weren’t converting, our cost-per-lead was 13% lower.

Overall, compared with where we started, we were now getting over 3x more leads—and paying around 10% less for each lead. Once again, none of our changes were classic “big wins,” but together they made a big difference to the client.

Optimization Phase

While all of this exploration and refinement was great, at a certain point we had narrowed things down to the campaigns and channels that were driving the most value. We couldn’t cut much more without eliminating major sources of leads.

At this point, we took a hard look at the quality of the leads we were generating.

Unfortunately, not all of our keywords were created equal. Some keywords had a high click-to-close rate. Other keywords generated a decent number of clicks and conversions, but most of the leads never turned into paying business.

To fix things, we started testing different ad copy and landing pages with our keywords. If we couldn’t get a keyword to perform, we eliminated it. Using this strategy, we eventually ended up getting rid of 89% of our keywords.

Now, you might think that this strategy would decimate our account performance, but in reality, we only ended up losing about 10% of our lead volume while cutting ad spend by 43%.

Conversions vs. cost

More importantly, since the leads we were eliminating weren’t going to turn into sales anyways, this change increased our return-on-investment by over 30%!

The End Result

It took 2 years of consistent micro-wins, but after exploring the options, refining our strategy, and optimizing our campaigns, the end result was an incredibly effective and productive AdWords account.

Performance metrics

We probably couldn’t have made a case study out of any of our individual wins, but as a whole, they make for a great case study on how to run a successful AdWords account.

Ultimately, if you want to get the most out of your AdWords account, you have to be willing to do a little exploration. There are dozens of possible advertising opportunities out there and you won’t know which ones are right for your business until you give them a try.

Once you know which options seem to be worth investing in, you need to start refining. Some advertising tactics and channels work better than others and you need to decide which ones are actually worth the money.

Finally, as you narrow things down, it’s time to really optimize your top channels. Take a hard look at which ads, keywords, or landing pages deliver the best return-on-investment. If you can’t get something to produce profitable results, don’t be afraid to eliminate it.

Taking this methodical approach to improving your account might not deliver jaw-dropping overnight results, but it will deliver the results that your business needs.


While we all love to talk about the big wins in marketing, the most successful AdWords accounts aren’t the result of big wins—they’re the product of hundreds of micro-wins that add up to big results.

The good new is—unlike most big wins—the steps outlined in this article are something that any account manager can use to consistently improve account performance. It might take a few months to get the results you want, but with time, you’ll get there.