Large advertisers have thousands and frequently tens of thousands of ad groups that reflect the diverse and complex nature of their businesses. However, usually only 20% – 25% of these ad groups drive the majority of the activity in an account. As expected, these high-volume ad groups are the focus of a range of efforts to improve SEM ROI through keyword acquisition, bid management and ad copy optimization.
However, most of the other 75% – 80% of ad groups are simply managed by budget and spend – and these are often reviewed only on an annual basis at best. The rationalization is that these ad groups are low volume and there are simply too many of them to manage them cost effectively and they have a small effect on the performance of the overall account. After all, with a large number of ads, it is hard to:
- maintain keyword alignment
- ensure that ad copy is not out of date (e.g. promo copy, seasonal copy, product/model references, company positioning)
- monitor underperforming ads and ad groups
- refresh the ad copy as competitors mimic wording and tone
But the cost of practicing a policy of benign neglect for this large volume of ads is far greater than expected and increases substantially over time. When an ad begins to underperform (CTR), then the ad’s quality score decreases and the ad receives fewer impressions which starts a spiral of more underperformance and fewer impressions. The keyword bid can be increased in order to offset the ad’s decreasing performance but increasing the keyword bid is not effective in the long-term if the underlying issues affecting the ads’ performance are not addressed first. After long periods of minimal management, the performance of these degraded and underperforming ads can significantly affect the overall performance levels of an account. In working with thousands of advertisers over many years, we have found the result to be a degradation in overall account performance in the double digits. Most advertisers expected there was some performance penalty for neglecting these ads, but rarely did they suspect it was this large.
Fortunately, all the main reasons for underperformance (see below) are understood and can be addressed:
- Stale copy that no longer reflects the company’s current positioning, offers, or products
- Excessive number of ads in an ad group usually caused by template propagation
- Underperforming ads continuing to run in the normal rotation schedule
- Too few ads in an ad group
A general approach to remediate these issues consists of the following key steps:
- Determine the criteria for ad review – e.g. minimum and maximum number of ads in an ad group, minimum differential between lowest performing ads and best performing ads, etc.
- Apply these metrics to all ad groups that are not actively being monitored or undergoing testing and identify all ads for review
- Review each selected ad to ensure that it is underperforming on all the defined metrics and prioritize actions to fix
- Depending on the nature of the issues for each ad:
- Pause ads after manual verification or through a bulk upload operation
- Update ad copy to remove stale/dated text and/or to meet minimum metrics
- Add relevant ads to those ad groups that fall below the minimum threshold
Advertisers who have decided to implement this type of approach usually piece together some combination of people, scripting, Excel, Adword/Bing reports, and workflow management tools – which then becomes a challenge just to get all of these components to work together. Unfortunately, even with some or all of these resources, this effort can be time consuming and tedious to implement and of limited success. The sheer volume of ads, the number of details for each ad that must be tracked, and the review/approval/implementation of changes for each ad all combine to make this a difficult task to address even for an advertiser with substantial resources. And for those advertisers that have been able to complete the process once, rarely do they want to undertake the effort again.
However, the approach above is ideally suited to automation which can make the process much quicker and efficient and the benefits (e. g. improved CTR and impressions) easier to realize. Over several years, we have been able to develop and refine a set of automated tools specifically designed to address these issues which we have used with thousands of advertisers. One consistent discovery for many advertisers is the sheer number of ads and ad groups that fail to meet the defined criteria – which, conversely, means the potential for improvement is very large. Another realization is that specially-designed automation tools allow a comprehensive implementation to be completed in a few weeks while the use of the most-scarce resource – internal personnel – is very low. And the best news is that, despite even years of minimal attention, ad performance for these lower volume ads can be significantly improved. In fact, most advertisers conclude that the ROI for such an effort can be realized faster and exceeds the return for almost any other task on their project list.
Here are some of the key data and results from one project remediating minimally-managed ad groups that Boost completed with an advertiser in 2018. The advertiser had estimated that the project would have taken about 6-8 weeks to complete using their internal resources. Boost was able to complete the project in a small fraction of that time.
Total Number of Ad Groups in Account: 21,380
Actively-Managed Ad groups: 4,309
Minimally-Managed Ad groups: 17,071
Minimally-Managed Ad groups were last modified:
- 0-6 months 1,389
- 7-12 months 1,134
- 1-2 years 5,932
- 2+ years 8,616
Ad groups not meeting desired criteria 6,829
Ad groups selected for remediation 3,924
For the entire Minimally -Managed Ad group, the number of clicks in the:
- 30 day period preceding remediation 1,960,954
- 30 day period following remediation 2,843,384
- 180-210 day period following remediation 2,798,541
About Boost Media: Over the last eight years, Boost Media has been working with more than half of the Fortune 1000 to drive significantly enhanced Paid Search performance and ROI. We help our customers by producing highly relevant, creative ad content at scale and employ rigorous data analytics to understand why an ad is working to provide valuable insight to improve all our customers’ ads and other marketing communications.
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