All accounts have their ups and downs. This week, we’re all about how we troubleshoot the “downs,” offering the practical application of PPC know-how to solve major mysteries plaguing your account’s performance. Eric has already given a few tips on how to address the source of bad lead quality, Carrie showed you how to double your conv. Rate with Display, then Sam talked about why you should know CRO, and now we’ll help you increase your PLA ROAS.

The problem

I started PLAs for an account that had a high ROAS goal late last year. They had a goal of $8 ROAS. For anyone not familiar with the term, that means they wanted to get $8 for every $1 spent on advertising.

Their ROAS goal made it difficult for me to get their campaigns profitable, let alone their PLA campaign. All keywords in the account had to be very targeted. For example, any general keyword describing their product would need to have a qualifier for the brand or specific type of product. If the keyword were boot, I’d have to qualify exactly what kind of boot, as most people looking for boots wouldn’t be looking for their specific kind of boot.

This is what made PLAs a little tricky for this client. The descriptions for the products would obviously have to include the generic words. The product description is where AdWords will pick up the keywords to serve your PLAs to. So, if you have keywords like “boots”, “shoes”, etc. –someone searching on those keywords will get served your ads. This means people who may not be really looking for your boots could get served your ad, and click to check them out even though they know they aren’t likely to buy. This is great if you’re dealing with lower ROAS goals and manage higher conversion rates. However, that wasn’t what this particular client is working with.

The Solution

My initial strategy was to perform weekly SQRs to block all the irrelevant search queries in my PLA campaign. Each new search query that came up without a qualifying brand to specific type would be blocked if it didn’t convert. But, this strategy was leaving me with slowly increasing ROAS results with months at a time of unprofitability.

This is where having interns comes in really handy, because I had a super tedious task in mind to help speed things along. I decided to have an intern go through the website and data feed and make a list of negatives for every possible general term for each product. Of course, this didn’t end up catching every single generic word in existence. However, it was a very extensive list that ended up bringing our ROAS campaign from a $5.58 ROAS for the last month without the negative keywords enabled to a $11.57  ROAS for the first month it was enabled. This also allowed me to increase budgets and bids, to gain a 159% higher revenue.

Future of PLAs

While it would be super swell if PLAs had keyword targeting options like Search & Display, Google has just announced a huge break-through for PLA management. So, if you suffer from a different problem than needing extensive negative keywords, this announcement could be huge for you. According to this article, you’ll now have access to the information about the data feed inside of AdWords as well as have some actual competitive metrics. Ever since they took the avg. position scoring away, it’s been pretty difficult to compare what you’re doing to competitors.

If you run PLA campaigns, I’d suggest you fill out your information here to get on the bandwagon as soon as you can for this “enhanced” PLA campaigns!