How To Optimise Your Google Search Campaigns - Absolute Beginners Guide
If you have little to no experience in managing Google Ads, this post is for you. We will talk you through all the metrics you should track and optimise for when launching your first Google Ads campaign.
Campaign performance. Before you dig into keywords and or ad performance, start by looking at the bigger picture, on campaign level. If you ran a few campaigns for some period of time, make sure you have the correct filters and the right date range. You can choose to analyse campaigns which are currently active or set a combination of filters, such as amount spent, number of clicks or impressions, campaign name and more.
To filter the campaigns you'd like to analyse, click into 'Search Campaigns' on the left hand-side and then select Campaigns. Apply filters to only see the campaigns you'd like to analyse. If some of your campaigns are missing, edit the table rows from the bottom right corner.
Next thing you'd want to do is modify the report columns. We will add all metrics which matter to your campaigns and will help you understand what chunk of the market you're getting, what you need to improve and how to make the most of your Google ads. To modify the report, click Columns > Modify Columns.
Metrics On Campaign Level. We are going to select the metrics we want to analyse. Make sure you have Analytics and Google Ads tracking set up correctly. If you have already ran campaigns without any tracking, that's fine - we could still analyse your performance, but try to have tracking set up for future use.
Using the search feature, make sure you have selected the metrics below. We will discuss common issues with each metric and how to fix them.
Impr. - An impression is counted each time your ad is served on Google's ad networks. If your campaign was enabled but you still got 0 impressions, your bid may be too low or you could have chosen low search volume terms. Usually Google ads serves warnings on campaign, ad and keyword level, stating the reasons why your ad is not showing.
Clicks - How many times your ad was clicked. Clicks themselves are not a valuable metric when analysed without context. However, too many clicks with no conversions is a red flag - you should definitely reconsider your keyword choice or landing page design. Too little clicks with a CTR of less than 1% on Search means you most likely need to revise your ads, keywords or increase your bids.
CTR - Click-through rate (CTR) measures how often people click your ad after it's shown to them. It is calculated by dividing the number of clicks your ad receives by the number of times your ad is shown. A good click through rate varies from industry to industry, but as a rule of thumb CTR over 5% is considered OK.
CTR may be too low if your bids aren't high enough and your ads aren't showing on top as much as your competitors, or they may not even be on page 1. Just like clicks, CTR analysed without context doesn't give us much understanding of performance.
Average CPC - Average cost-per-click (Avg. CPC) is the amount that you've paid for your ad divided by its total clicks. Depending on your bidding strategy and competitor bids, as well as time of the month you started your campaign and time of the day, your average CPC will vary.
This is because the cost per click varies on multiple factors. Some of the factors affecting your keyword CPC are geographical location, time of the day, device, audiences, demographics, and most importantly, competitor bids. PPC competitors might be bidding 300% more on certain keywords, but only for devices or demographics you are not targeting.
Google can charge you more than your Max CPC and spend way over your daily budget, depending on the time of the month you launched your campaigns. This is because Google thinks that by serving your ad to a certain user at a given time, this would lead to benefits for you - you can read their policy and rules on that here.
There are certain things you could do to reduce the cost per click, such as improving quality score and increasing ad rank, as well as adjusting bids for certain times of the day or even demographics. Alternatively, you could also change your bidding strategy once your account has enough data and conversions with good cost per acquisition.
Cost - Cost is the total of your spend during the selected date range.
Impr. (Abs Top) % - Search absolute top impression rate is the percentage of your impressions that are shown as the very first ad above the organic search results.
Impr. Top % - Search top impression rate is the percentage of your impressions that are shown anywhere above the organic search results. This metric would help you understand why you may be paying higher CPC or getting poor CTR.
If your ads show on top, your cost per click would be higher, as advertisers bid for the absolute top position, a.k.a. number 1 on Google. The absolute top position means that most visitors would click your ad and that your website would be the first one they interact with. You should always aim to show your ads on top of the search results.
Absolute Top position almost always means the highest CTR, however it doesn't guarantee conversions, as most users will click more than one result when researching or comparing prices. Absolute Top position .
Conversions - This metric shows the number of conversions you received after ad interactions. This is your most important metric. Remember that whatever you do, optimise for conversions and cost per conversion.
While clicks, impressions and CPC are also an important aspect of the campaign and all metrics affect your performance, conversion related metrics is your top priority when optimizing your Google search campaigns.
Cost/Conv. - Cost per conversion hows the average cost of a conversion. It’s the cost divided by the conversions. If the cost per conversion is too high, you should look at improving your website's conversion rate and reducing the cost per click.
Conv. rate - Shows how often, on average, an ad interaction leads to a conversion. It’s “Conversions” divided by the clicks of your ad. There are different benchmarks for conversion rates in different industries.
If your conversion rate is below 1%, no matter what industry you are in, you should most likely reconsider your landing page or keyword targeting. Things affecting on site conversion rate are irrelevant pages, poor user experience, slow site speed, landing page not being mobile friendly, as well as branding. You might be expecting visitors to commit to your product or service too soon. Consider building sales funnels or lead magnets if your product is expensive or requires big commitments.
Search Impr. Share - The impressions that you’ve received on the Search Network divided by the estimated number of impressions that you were eligible to receive. Eligibility is based on your current ads' targeting settings, approval statuses, bids and quality.
This metric is one of the top ones to look at if your bids are high enough and you're not spending your budget or getting much clicks. While you don't need to aim for 100%, which is sometimes impossible, you still want to serve the highest percentage your budget allows you to serve.
Search IS lost (rank) - "Search lost impression share (rank)" estimates how often your ad didn't show on the Search Network due to poor Ad Rank. Ad Rank determines your ad position and whether your ad is able to show at all.
This metric explains what of impression share you could gain if you improve your ads and increase your bids. Ad rank is not to be confused with ad position on the search page. You can read Google's guidelines on Ad Rank here.
Search lost IS (budget) - "Search lost impression share (budget)" estimates how often your ad didn't show on the Search Network due to low budget. When optimising your Google search campaigns, you don't need to worry about IS due to budget, as long as you are meeting your other goals.
Bounce rate - 'Bounce rate' is the percentage of single-page visits or visits in which the person left your site from the entrance (landing) page. This metric is imported from your Google Analytics accounts and is calculated based only on visits that originated from Google Ads clicks.
This metric is often overlooked by PPC managers - it doesn't really matter for campaigns using a single landing page, but on some occasions it can be an indicator of a poor landing page experience.
% new sessions - new sessions' is the percentage of first-time sessions (sessions from people who had never visited your site before). This metric is imported from your Google Analytics accounts and is calculated based only on sessions that originated from Google Ads clicks.
Depending on your industry and used journey, as well as campaign type, you may want this to be as close to 0 as possible. This is especially true for search campaigns, simply because the cost per click is higher than the CPC of display campaigns. However it's wort nothing that for some industries such as retail or finance, users are more likely to commit to your product or purchase on their next visit.
You can modify your bids for returning users by adding them for observation on campaign level. To do this, click into a campaign, select Audiences on the left hand side menu and click the big blue plus sign. Once you have added them, you can monitor how returning visitors convert and adjust the bids accordingly.
Ad group metrics. Once you're done analysing your ad group metrics, you do more granular analysis on ad group level. It is best practice to set up your campaigns in Single Keyword Ad Groups or SKAGs. This gives you optimal control over your quality metrics, cost and performance.
Keeping in mind you optimise for results, you can take a look at how your ads in a certain ad group perform. What you want to focus on is Impressions, CTR, Cost per conversion and Conversion rate per ad. Check out our blog on How to launch successful PPC campaigns for more tips on account set up.
If an ad has great CTR, lots of clicks and no conversions, this means that it's wasting your budget or that your landing page isn't good enough. When comparing ads to one another, make sure you take into consideration the number of impressions each ad had and compare like for like. The easiest way to do it is by looking at % rather than numbers. Make sure you have enough data too, at least a few hundred impressions each.
If there are no conversions, look at how many clicks this ad got. Interaction is important, so higher CTR is an indicator of ad quality. Conversions, which occur after an ad was clicked, may indicate an issue with your landing page instead of your ads.
Depending on how your account has been set up, you can revise and optimise your ad extensions on ad group or campaign or account level. Once again, keep in mind that Conversion metrics are more important than engagement metrics, unless if there are no conversions.
Keyword level optimisation. Its time to get super granular - by clicking into each ad group, you can optimise it's keywords bids and search terms. Your most important metrics are Cost, Conversions, CTR, CPC, Conversion rate and Impr. (top) %. Apply the principles from above.
Pause your keywords if the cost is too high or you get poor conversion rates on some terms. If your budget allows it, experiment with different landing pages and keyword intent around a certain keyword. If you currently can't afford to waste resources on terms which don't work, pause them and move on.
While you are on keyword level, you want to check what terms triggered your ads, which will vary from the keywords you put when setting the campaign up, depending on the match types you chose and negative keywords. If you see terms you don't want to advertise for, tick the box next to each term and add it as negative.
If you have too many keywords, you can add a filter and analyse keywords per groups, for example look at keywords with over 20 clicks and no conversions.
When optimising Google search campaigns, Negative keywords are crucial to saving resources, especially if you use broad or modified broad match type. There are excellent resources and negative keyword lists online, like this one here. You can choose what terms are irrelevant to your campaigns and add them to your negative keywords list.
Devices, Schedule, Demographics and Audiences. You will quickly establish that different age groups perform differently and that searches taking place on different devices have various intent behind them. Apply the principles from above when optimising those aspects of your campaigns.
Firstly identify big spend with no results, whether that's on campaign, ad group, keyword, demographic, audience or device level. Next, identify what needs improvement and adjust the bids or tweak your ads, website or keywords.
Make sure you check out our other blog posts on finding out who your PPC competitors are, how to set up successful campaigns and Google traps wasting your budget.