By Jimmy Madden & Stefan Schulz
Insanity is often defined as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
As far as we’re concerned, this is one of the most overused, misleading sayings in the book.
Peak performance is built on refined repetition. Yes, trying something new is exciting and opportunistic, but oftentimes old is reliable and far more efficient over the long haul.
In fact, doing the same thing over and over again can help you create a new and improved you. This is pretty much the whole premise of the $9.9 Billion Personal Development Industry. So maybe sanity is doing more of the same (when the same is tried and true).
Calculated repetition is obviously a precursor to betterment—an hour a day of physical activity, fifteen minutes of meditation, sitting down for dinner with the family every night—is it us, or do these sound like activities of a pretty stable person?
Automation and perseverance are two words that we generally identify with as something positive. It’s likely fair to say that many of the world’s most successful people and organizations would credit these concepts as imperative to their growth and success.
So, is AdWords driving you insane?
If the answer is yes, then there’s a 99.9% chance that you are doing too many different things (wasting time), and not enough of the small, effective things.
One of the biggest challenges advertisers experience with AdWords comes from what makes the platform so powerful: data and control.
Very quickly you can find yourself overwhelmed. Jumping from keywords to ads, to modifying column views, to adjusting your bids—your eyes grow wide and you get the sense that you aren’t making any progress. We call this Swamp Soccer because you’re literally so “swamped” that it feels like you’re trying to kick a ball stuck in the mud.
Follow our lead
Rome wasn’t built in a day.
Aha! — a saying we can actually agree with. If AdWords has you playing Swamp Soccer, your first reaction will be to close out your web browser and come back once things (mainly you) have cooled off.
Realize that you’re not going to double your conversions and slash your cost-per-acquisition (CPA) in one breath. It’s very rare that one barely recognizable intricacy within AdWords caused your budget to bleed. So take a deep breath, and follow our daily routine.
Step 1: Get some coffee and chill out
This is a super underrated part of the daily checklist. If you’re not a coffee drinker, that’s okay — chilling out in some fashion, and getting your mind right first, is what is really important.
AdWords and PPC management can be stressful, especially if a lot of core business is riding on the success of your campaigns. Generating leads and sales is the name of the game, but if you’re lacking focus or stressed out, you’re ultimately setting yourself up for failure.
At Orpical, we typically start off our routine with another practice in zen. It’s important to make a conscious decision every day to not have our pay-per-click campaigns control us. We control them. After all, we’re the PPC managers.
This can be challenging, especially with mobile apps and general ease of access, but blocking out time ahead of the grind is 100% worth it.
Step 2: Choose a campaign, then LOCK IN
Once the mind is right, it’s time to look at all active campaigns from a thousand-foot view. From there, we make a decision on where to focus. Ultimately, all of our energy goes into that SINGLE campaign.
There may be times when dozens of active campaigns exist in our accounts. It can be tempting to alternate back and forth, from campaign to campaign, trying to assuage your nagging feeling that you should be doing more. But you need to fight that temptation — trust us, having a thorough insight into a single campaign is far more valuable than collecting piecemeal information for every campaign.
The same can be said for single-campaign managers. If you don’t have to manage 10+ campaigns, you can hone in on each ad group, taking deeper dives into bidding strategies and keyword allotment.
Successful PPC managers are comfortable locking into one area of focus because they know it leads to positive results. Thinning your attention across campaigns only leads to ineffective, partially-addressed issues scattered throughout your account. These are going to build up, and they’re going to cause you more headaches than if you take each one at a time, and improve each one day-by-day.
“Microfocusing” is valuable for all PPC professionals, and it allows you the presence and clarity necessary to truly diagnose your concerns. Your attention is a critical resource for your campaigns, so avoid creating a scarcity.
Step 3: Get out of AdWords and onto the website
Running ads is a waste of time and money if links are broken, forms don’t work, or your website has some nasty bug on it. Run some general quality assurance on the website; pay close attention to your goal funnels and make sure there are no snags; look at desktop and mobile.
Spend a little time in Analytics to make sure there are not any unusual reportings such as high bounce rates or low average time on site. Quality score is a great indicator of how valuable and effective the landing pages associated with your ads are, and all PPC managers should be consistently conscious of this metric.
It’s always possible that you aren’t in control of all web properties available. If you’re someone who can’t individually improve the website to meet your quality score goals, consider informing whoever administrates the website that they have an opportunity to improve. Are there enough Calls-To-Action on the site? Do your landing pages properly funnel users to a conversion opportunity? Is navigation clean, simple, and obvious to newcomers?
User experience is critical to lead generation and total ROI, so don’t let the website itself get in the way of your AdWords campaigns. Improving the website is a win-win for all parties involved, and can only benefit your PPC results.
Step 4: Start with yesterday, not today
Did you ever notice that link at the bottom of the AdWords dashboard that says “Reporting is not real-time”? It’s pretty important.
Depending on your attribution model and how conversions are reported, data often doesn’t transfer over to AdWords instantly. This is especially true when sharing information from Google Analytics. This means that the most current data isn’t the full picture, which is why we always recommend starting every morning with a quick trip to yesterday.
Historical data, in general, is far more defined, holistic, and a good reference point to pick up on anomalies. Trends are easier to spot and solutions arise with clarity once the metrics are consistent and true.
We’re usually paying attention to performance with clicks, cost-per-click, conversions, and cost-per-conversion. High volume keywords that are pulling in low conversion totals are red flags. Be sure to check things like quality score and ad relevance, as they too are more reliably reported after some time has passed.
Most modifications that you end up doing will not make a giant impact within the next 12 hours, especially if they’re geared for improving the campaign and not simply halting a process altogether. Progress takes a little bit of time, so you need to embrace the journey and use the time to your advantage. Any anxiety about making a difference is a natural reaction, but it simply isn’t aligned with how AdWords operates.
Step 5: Trust your instincts, then make changes
All of the above steps are crucial, but at some point during the day, you will need to make decisions. What needs to be changed? How can you improve them? What can be done right now, today, to improve your PPC campaigns?
Up until now, our checklist is almost exclusively about creating an environment in which we can begin to answer these questions properly. Every change has a consequence, which is why your AdWords settings need to be managed with a deep sense of purpose and efficiency.
Two of the most common fears that motivate PPC managers are a fear of doing too little and a fear of not doing enough. The former rests on their laurels so as not to upset the almighty target CPA; the latter overcompensates for a single challenge by creating five smaller ones as a solution. Both result in improperly managed campaigns.
So here’s how you strike a middle ground: don’t make changes unless you’re confident.
We know, it’s almost stupidly simple, and a little frustrating. But it’s true.
If you think there is an area for improvement in your campaign, find the evidence to support your solution. You are a professional; you know this stuff, you know what to look for, and you know the signs that something is wrong. If you don’t, do research, check forums, talk to industry peers until you can understand the problem fully.
Is a keyword eating up a third of your daily spend? Pause it, but be sure you know what other keywords can effectively take its place. Are your negative keywords actually excluding valuable opportunities you hadn’t previously recognized? Find the search data to back up the decision, then remove them. Sometimes, not making any changes is the right decision too. Best case scenario, you made all the right calls last week, and the optimal strategy is to wait and collect data for future changes.
Whatever your action is, you need to believe in it, and not do it out of fear. Make your decisions with confidence, supported by evidence, and you will be able to rest easy knowing you’ve done as good a job as you are able to do.
Step 6: Learn from yourself
There is no better teacher than your mistakes. While everyone strives to be perfect, no one bats 1000%.
Whatever you do, diligently and thoroughly document your actions and observations in some form or archive system or log. It can be in AdWords Notes, Evernote, or even a simple Word Doc — whatever it is, just make sure you keep track of your daily activities for future reference. Every mistake you make is one more guideline to follow in the future.
Furthermore, always go through the changelog for the previous day or multi-day period. Review the last changes you made within your campaigns, even if you made them less than 24 hours ago. Fresh eyes can do wonders for concentrating your AdWords efforts. You may catch changes that don’t make sense in hindsight or be able to revise changes based on newly acquired data.
Every line of work benefits from having an editor of some sort and PPC management is no exception. If you don’t have someone who can review your progress and provide feedback or critiques, be that for yourself.
Insanity might be doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
Yet, it’s also said that the more things change, the more they stay the same.
(It’s pretty ironic that these two sayings can exist so peacefully with such clear opposing views).
But enough of the wordplay. It boils down to this:
Changing things up too much with your PPC efforts can actually be an imprudent management practice. Whereas finding a balanced routine and creating good habits is a surefire way to combat advertising stagnancy.
The team at Orpical Group has increased the performance of AdWords campaigns for both product oriented and service based businesses. We’ve managed advertising budgets from as little as $1,000/month, to upwards of $60,000/month.
Our people, processes and experience have helped cut cost per acquisition of paid online advertising by over 66% in some cases. And while it’s true that change can be good, and sometimes unavoidable (e.g. website redesigns), a vast majority of our successes come from within an existing framework.
Borrow ideas from our checklist, or build your own good habits. Whatever you do: deliver constant control, creative resources, and fresh perspective to make AdWords accounts stable and your advertising dollars longer.