To build successful campaigns, an AdWords optimization calendar that serves as a checklist is vital. You would be surprised by how many PPC managers don’t have an actual process or calendar for their AdWords optimizations, but merely rely on notes or day-to-day management.
At this point, you might think “Well, I’m doing just fine and I don’t have a schedule!” Relying on just bouncing around the AdWords interface is fine when you have 5-10 campaigns. When you start hitting >50 it becomes impossible to keep track of what you’ve done and when you did it.
You’ll end up with outdated ad text, promotions that are no longer viable, run-amok ad groups, and missing ad extensions in one big chaos.
In this blog post, you’ll learn why, when, and how to setup your Google AdWords optimization schedule, along with a complete template you’re free to use to implement the how-to tips.
Why Segmenting Your Campaigns is Crucial for Optimization Success
When I first began optimizing AdWords campaigns, I innately focuses on prioritizing my accounts by performance. I truly believe this focus was instrumental in my early success. Why? Because trying to do it all will scatter your attention and dilute your impact.
When it comes to your optimizations, it’s crucial to sort your campaigns into three different categories:
- Primary: Your highest earners / highest potential campaigns
- Secondary: Your significant, but less-important campaigns
- Marginal: Typically your long-tail, one conversions a week, campaigns
By splitting up your campaigns in three levels of priority you can assign specific optimization frequencies to each, which will allow you to get the most out of your time.
AdWords Optimization Frequency and Statistical Significance
When you’re optimizing your campaigns it’s important to only act on statistically significant data. The challenge is that your various campaigns will take a varying amount of time to provide you with statistically significant data.
This means you can optimize a campaign that’s getting a thousand clicks per day a lot more frequently than a 5-click per day campaign.
If you don’t segment your campaigns, you’ll end up in the either of the following two scenarios:
1) You won’t spend enough time where you make the biggest impact
By spending equal amounts of time across your primary and marginal campaigns you’re missing obvious chances to go deep in your highest-earning campaigns.
Taking your ad writing a step further by writing 20 new ads, choosing the best ones, and start testing is something you can’t do if you have to do it across all your campaigns (remember, we’re talking about bigger accounts).
2) You neglect the “long tail” of your keywords
Often when PPC managers do “random” optimizations without a set frequency, they’ll say “Oh, I’ll get to it next time” for their marginal campaigns. The problem is, next time never comes. They look at weekly or bi-weekly date ranges, which is never enough to judge a marginal campaign.
The marginal campaigns are always left until the end and other priorities take over.
Even though you shouldn’t spend the majority of your time working with marginal or secondary campaigns, you can still get a lot out of keeping them optimized. Don’t ignore them.
The 80-20 Principle to AdWords Optimization
In 2013, I wrote a piece labeled The 80-20 Principle to AdWords Management on SearchEngineJournal.com, which is just as relevant back then as it is today.
The main principle is that by optimizing your biggest earning campaign’s performance by 30 percent you can get 5-10 times more out of your account than if you double the performance of your marginal campaigns.
Let’s do a quick math example (we all work in PPC, right?).
You have 3 campaigns with stats that are listed like this:
- Campaign A: 6,063 clicks, $385,474 in revenue
- Campaign B: 4,036 clicks, $92,710 in revenue
- Campaign C: 798 clicks, $15,982 in revenue
They’re all roughly the same size with the same amounts of complexity.
If you spend equals amount of time in all three campaigns and improve them equally by 10%, the return on your time would differ greatly:
- Campaign A: $38,547 in added revenue
- Campaign B: $9,271 in added revenue
- Campaign C: $1,598 in added revenue
Between Campaign C and Campaign A there is a whopping 24x difference in the return on your time.
This is what I think about all day, every day: Where do I get the biggest return on my time?
And so should you.
If you can improve your highest-revenue generating campaigns by spending more time optimizing them, then this is where your priority should be.
The default frequency I’m recommending in this blog post will allow you to automatically spend 80% of your time optimizing your highest earning AdWords campaigns.
Factors to Help You Categorize Primary, Secondary and Marginal Campaigns
When it comes to categorizing your campaigns, it’s a very individual process. Just telling you it depends comes to mind as my best answer, but seeing that a blog post is a one-way medium, then I don’t think you’ll get much out of that answer.
Below are some of the things you should keep in mind when categorizing your campaigns.
The Faster You Can Test, the Better
The biggest factor you should take into account is how fast you can get statistically significant data. With a thousand clicks a day you can, and should, optimize certain elements of those campaigns once a week.
Consider How Much Time You Have to Optimize
Especially if you’re working on a set amount of hours for your client or if you’re in-house and have a different responsibilities, it’s important to take the actual time you have to optimize into account.
Don’t try to commit to a frequency that you know you can’t follow. On the other hand, frequent optimizations of things like search term mining can be done a lot faster and with more focus in short bursts, rather than marathon sessions.
The frequencies I list here are the default frequencies I use for my clients. They’re based on the principles of how we work and might not work for the amount of time you have to invest yourself.
Important Product Categories Can Be the Exception
Despite the importance of getting statistically significant data, there are campaigns that cover products or categories that are important to your ecommerce business.
They might represent a certain supplier that you’ve committed to selling a specific volume for, or it might be a perishable category that needs constant attention.
Whatever the case, you’ll always find some campaigns that should fall within your marginal campaigns, but that you’d rather have in your primary category. Don’t sweat this. Just apply the primary label.
Data Levels To Determine Primary Campaigns
There is always someone who asks for specific data levels, so here they are. Just keep in mind these levels are not universal—other factors may come into play.
To be selected as Primary your campaigns should be in these ranges:
- Clicks: at least 4,000 clicks per month
- Conversions: at least 40 conversions per month
To be selected as Secondary your campaigns should be in these ranges:
- Clicks: between 1,000-4,000 clicks per month
- Conversions: below 10-40 conversions per month
To be selected as Marginal your campaigns should be in these ranges:
- Clicks: below 1,000 clicks per month
- Conversions: below 10 conversions per month
Again, I just want to say that this really depends on the account you’re running and the time you have available. If you have endless time on your hands you want to add more campaigns in the primary rotation, so you optimize them more frequently, go for it.
If you have less time, then you should add fewer campaigns into the primary rotation, so you have enough time for your most important campaigns.
It’s all about being reactive when you see things not working out for you. Don’t be shy about changing a campaign’s label.
Account Structure: A Messy Account Will Counteract This Process
Your account have to be somewhat structured for this to work. Adding 8 categories in one campaign resulting in hundreds of ad groups doesn’t make it a primary campaign.
One of the sure-fire methods for identifying poorly structured accounts is by looking for outliers. If you have a couple of campaigns that produce 10x the clicks of the rest of your campaigns, then you probably have a structure problem you should look to fix.
Again, this process is about finding campaigns/ad groups that you can optimize with a specific frequency. If you apply a “primary” label to a campaign where all the ad groups are actually marginal when you review them individually, then you can’t optimize them weekly, and your schedule will be shot.
Note: If you find yourself in this situation, you can always edit your labels after you start. There’s no shame in recategorizing your campaigns. I do it all the time.
Schedule in Random Time (or as Tim Ferriss calls it: Blank Space)
When you work in a strict schedule with specific times to do specific tasks, it can be tempting to just follow the tasks and blindly optimize. As much as I highly recommend following the schedule and only optimizing the specific tasks when they’re due, you have to periodically also spend time just bouncing around.
I call this random time. Or blank space.
It’s just time where you don’t have a purpose.
For the longest time I tried to set up a strict process for analyzing accounts. Eventually I’ve come to understand that spending 30-60 minutes just randomly browsing a new account and taking notes, is the most effective way for me to familiarize myself with an account.
Spending 30-60 minutes just randomly browsing is the most effective way to familiarize yourself with an account
I regularly do this with existing accounts as well. This is the time where you don’t have a purpose. You’re just looking and letting the data guide you where to look.
I click on ads, review weird segments, click on demographics, check out notifications. Anything. I just bounce around. Much is worthless, but the one thing I find or the serendipitous moment that often happens is priceless, and it’s where I come up with my best ideas.
List of All AdWords Optimization Calendar Tasks
Here is a complete list of all the tasks you should complete for each campaign you control. After the list I will dive into what each section means.
- Overall Performance Review:
- Quality Score fluctuations
- Month compared to the year before
- Week/Month compared to the benchmark
- Anomaly Performance Review:
- Review campaigns for anomalies in the last week
- Bid Management:
- Review Bid Management Tool/System: Apply Min or Max as Needed
- Apply manual bids: Holistically on campaign/ad group level
- Review devices and apply new modifiers
- Review: Search Partners
- Review ad schedule and apply new modifiers
- Review geo and apply new modifiers
- Review remarketing bid adjustments
- Review demographics modifiers
- Ad Testing:
- Write new ads
- Review ad tests
- Review promotional ads
- Search Term Mining
- Manual review (expansion + neg. kws)
- Optmyzr: Traffic Sculptor, Negative Keyword Finder, Lasso, etc.
- Shopping Campaign:
- Review campaign structure
- Identify Best Selling + Apply Label
- Bid Management / Product Exclusion
- Shopping Feed:
- Fix feed errors
- Title Optimization: Rule review, new rules, and individual title optimization
- Keyword Mapping: Map search terms from Shopping with keywords from Search to see missed opportunities
- Ad Extensions:
- Review for all ad extensions being active and applicable: Sitelinks, Callouts, Structured Snippets, Seller Ratings
- Write new ad extensions where applicable
- Budget Management:
- If budget is finite, review budget allocation in campaigns
- Keyword Research:
- According to process (SEMRush, Site Search, etc.)
- Expansion Opportunities:
- Review Website vs Account for Uncovered Categories / Selling Products
- Review and add any missing campaign types
- Campaign Segmentation Opportunities (mobile, tablet, desktop)
- Dynamic Search Ads:
- Review specific auto targets
- Review catch all campaign for new targets
- Shared Library:
- Shared Library: Negative Keyword Lists
- Shared Library: Remarketing Lists
- Update Business Data
- Review landing page checker
- Review out of stock checker
- What are we not doing? (betas, new techniques, blog posts, etc.)
Performance Review: Quality Score fluctuations
I rarely optimize for Quality Score specifically. The way I build campaigns already includes the various elements required to obtain a high quality score, so I typically don’t need to optimize for it specifically.
However, there are times that factors outside your direct control will have an impact on your Quality Score. It might be a suddenly slow-loading website or something similar that causes your Quality Score to decrease. Keep an eye on this so you can identify and fix issues quickly.
Performance Review: Month compared to the year before
I like to compare performance in the current month with the same month the year before.
This can sometimes be difficult if you’ve made big changes, increased your budget or expanded your campaigns, but you can always notice trends or inconsistencies. Especially if you start applying segments, for example looking only on specific search campaigns or only the desktop performance of your campaigns, etc.
Performance Review: Week/Month compared to the benchmark
When it comes to optimizing your Google AdWords campaigns it’s important that you always review your performance against two metrics:
- Your benchmark: Make sure you’re not dropping below your performance benchmark
- Your target: Always strive for more
Once you’ve optimized an account for a year or more, it’s rare that you’ll start seeing big performance increases. When this happens it’s important that you figure out what your current performance is (I call this benchmark performance). Your benchmark performance is a lower limit indicator for your performance. If you drop below this for too long, you should start to worry about whether you’re missing out on specific parts of your accounts.
However, you should also have a target. Something to strive after – even if it’s just a 10 percent increase.
I, therefore, compare all accounts in our management up against this number.
Anomaly Review: Review campaigns for anomalies in the last week
This is a bit out of the ordinary, but I look for big changes week-over-week.
It might be a sudden product that stopped selling, or an ad group that suddenly sells better than before.
It’s not always you’ll catch anything, but the times you do it’ll pay off.
The best way to do this is to look at the last 7 days compared to the previous 7 days.
Bid Management: Review Bid Management Tool/System: Apply Min or Max as Needed
I always recommend using automated bid management. Whether you like the native bid management in Google AdWords or a third party tool, it’s important to manage it.
Part of managing automated bidding is to change your minimum and maximum bids on a regular basis.
I like having rather restrictive min. and max. bids, so I review and change them rather frequently.
Another aspect is changing your target entirely. As your ads, keyword choices, negative keyword lists, etc. becomes better you’ll want to increase the ROAS target you’re using.
Bid Management: Apply manual bids: Holistically on campaign/ad group/keyword level
Manually applying bids can be done through Excel or directly in the interface using filters. Whatever you’re more comfortable with.
You should review your bids over several time frames. If you only review the last 28 days, then your performance will be averaged out and you’ll potentially miss larger fluctuations that you can take advantage of.
On the other hand, always using the last 7 days to review your bids is a recipe for a disaster. A nice mix that matches your customer’s’ buying cycle will work beautifully.
Bid Management: Review devices and apply new modifiers
Unless you’re splitting your campaigns in mobile, tablet, and desktop, then you should review your bid modifiers just as vigorously as you manage the rest of your bids.
Often this element gets overlooked or is managed just once a quarter. Mobile search volume has for many industries exceeded the desktop search volume. Don’t treat it as third-rate any longer.
Bid Management: Review: Search Partners
No bid adjustments to apply here, but you should still review how the search partner network is performing for your campaigns. Turn them off if ROAS is poor.
Bid Management: Review ad schedule and apply new modifiers
Reviewing when your ads actually convert can be a great exercise.
Just don’t get drawn into this as a super get-rich quick scheme. Take all the data with a grain of salt and understand there is more than meets the eye. People might see your ad in the morning and convert at lunch time. Just because there wasn’t a conversion assigned to a specific timeframe doesn’t mean that the click was worthless.
Bid Management: Review geo and apply new modifiers
Especially for larger geographical areas, like the US, reviewing your geographical performance – even as an ecommerce store – and applying bid adjustments or entirely pausing areas can be a powerful AdWords optimization strategy.
Bid Management: Review remarketing bid adjustments
You should now be well-versed enough to know that your bidding should go way past just bidding on keywords.
Strategically using your remarketing audiences to adjusting your bids based on the engagement of a visitor will work wonders to further tweak your ROAS.
Bid Management: Review demographics modifiers
One of the later new items to change your bids based on is demographic bid modifiers such as age and gender. This allows you to see the performance of the various segments and apply bid adjustments based on what you see.
If your store is selling items that don’t appeal to any specific gender or age-group then you will most likely not find any room for improvement here.
But if your store is heavily focused on either gender or age group, then you can tweak your bids towards the target market that you’re interested in.
Budget: If budget is finite, review budget allocation in campaigns
Rookies often overlook budget allocation. It’s not as fancy as many other areas, but it’s one of the most powerful things you can do if you’re working within a set budget.
Getting more of the highly profitable clicks and less of the less profitable clicks always tips the scale in your favor.
Ads: Write new ads
You need to consistently write new ads for your Google AdWords campaigns. It’s one of those things that just never goes away. You can find all the keywords you’ll ever find, but you’ll never run out of things to test in your ads.
I like to have a spreadsheet with all my ideas for ad tests as well as all the benefits, features, awards, specs and other things that I can use in my ads. This ensures I don’t have to rely on simple brainstorming every single time I have to come up with a new ad test.
Ads: Review ad tests
Depending on the volume for the individual advertiser, I can choose to pause losing ads and wait the 3-10 days until I start a new test. Testing 100% of the time can mean you’re losing sales if you’re not coming up with winning ads at least a good chunk of the time.
Letting your champion ads run by themselves for a small timeframe is a hedge against testing 100 percent of the time.
Ads: Review promotional ads
Because we only manage campaigns for ecommerce stores, we have a task called “review promotional ads” as well as ad tests.
I’ll have regular ad tests running, but often we’ll have promotional ads running as well. These will have specific dates for when they end, so it’s important that these are reviewed consistently on exact days.
Ad Extensions: Review to ensure all ad extensions are active and applicable: Sitelinks, Callouts, Structured Snippets, Seller Ratings
As you work on writing new ads, pausing ads, changing sitelinks, adding new callouts, etc. it’s highly likely that you will end up with a weird mix of ad extensions and ad text.
Nowadays, you can add anything from the brands you carry (structured snippets) to additional benefits (callouts) to better linking to subcategories (ad sitelinks) using ad extensions. Unless you’ve done an audit of your various ad extensions in combination with your ad text live, then it’s likely that you’re repeating yourself a couple of times.
At the current moment (Aug 2017), one of my best tips is to go to Google.com and search for your keywords.
In the new AdWords interface you can actually see your ad text in combination with all your active ad extensions.
Ad Extensions: Write new ad extensions where applicable
Ad Extensions can become outdated, just as regular ad text can. Ensure you update them once a quarter.
Search Terms: Manual review (expansion + neg. kws)
To this day, I’ll manually review search terms reports to find new keywords or negative keywords. I also use tools for this (see below), but the manual process is especially important in the beginning.
It’s one of the more time-consuming elements of AdWords management that I haven’t found a good way to automate yet. Make this time count by maximize the impact of the negative keywords you’re finding. Expand them to plural/singular, similar words, and synonyms. Add the negative keywords to your lists when applicable so they can work across as many campaigns as possible.
At the same time, jot down ideas for expanding your keywords. I tried separated the negative keyword finding and new keyword finding, but it turned out to doing double work.
Search Terms: Optmyzr: Traffic Sculptor, Negative Keyword Finder, Lasso, etc.
I like to use Optmyzr for my basic negative keywords. The Negative Keyword Finder tool is typically the best one to use as it works great and finds individual words in phrases that it recommends as being added to negative keywords.
The only drawback is that it requires significant data before it can make a recommendation to add a word as a negative keyword. That’s why the manual approach is still important – especially in the early stages of a new campaign.
Shopping Campaign: Review campaign structure
It’s not always that your first choice for a campaign structure works out or even makes sense once you start seeing the data. Your first choice might have looked great in theory, but it’s not producing the results that you expected.
Reviewing your campaign structure can be everything from the general framework you’re using (i.e. segmenting brand searches and non-brand searches) to breaking out high-performing products to their own ad groups or campaigns.
These tasks aren’t necessarily supposed to be done every time, but it’s good to keep a reminder for reviewing the possibility regularly.
Shopping Campaign: Identify Best Selling + Apply Label
Reviewing your best selling products in Shopping Ads is a standard task for most PPC managers, but few actually label them.
With all the various performance aspects associated with Shopping Ads, it’s important to keep track of how the various products actually perform.
I like to use one of the custom labels in my feed management tool to highlight products that are selling particularly well. I do this mainly to ensure that I remember them. With most clients having thousands of products, it’s impossible to remember them all.
However, even small differences in price, stock, bids, etc. can have a big impact on the performance of a single product. Having a reminder that a product was performing well once upon a time can be good when it comes to boosting performance.
Shopping Campaign: Bid Management / Product Exclusion
There are two areas that come into play when managing ROAS Shopping Ads:bidding and excluding products (equivalent to pausing keywords).
The bidding part is covered further up, but excluding products is just as important as old-fashioned bid management.
Where keywords attract different audiences, product (and variations of the same product) will often show for the same searches. So, it’s more about poor-performing products taking impressions away from high-performing products than just a poor-performing product.
This can be solved either by excluding the poor-performing products completely, or by moving top-performing products into their own high priority shopping campaign. This can be difficult if you’ve already used all your priority levels which is why you should always review all your options before choosing a campaign framework for Shopping campaigns.
Shopping Feed: Fix feed errors
You should clear out your data feed errors in the Merchants Center on a consistent basis. Sometimes the errors are big and can have a massive impact, while often it’s just minor issues with a couple of products.
Prioritize your time as you see fit here. The only thing I recommend not doing is not checking feed errors at all.
Shopping Feed: Title Optimization: Rule review, new rules and individual title optimization
Consistently reviewing your rules for optimizing your feed (mainly your titles) is a great practice to get into to up your PPC game.
Writing new rules, writing individual titles for high-potential products, and generally reviewing your current rules can pay off well over time if you do it consistently.
Shopping Feed: Keyword Mapping: Map search terms from Shopping with keywords from Search to see missed opportunities
I love this practice for larger advertisers. There frequently seem to be inspiration for new keywords in the search terms from shopping campaigns that can be used for search campaigns.
Keyword Research: According to process (SEMRush, Site Search, etc.)
At least once a quarter should be spent researching new keywords “from scratch”. This means that you should review your favorite tools, site search, search console and all the other various places to find new keywords.
Expansion Opportunities: Review Website vs Account for Uncovered Categories / Selling Products
This should be an ongoing practice that you have a spreadsheet managing. It’s impossible to keep track of it all manually, but can easily be managed in a spreadsheet. Just “download” all categories and brands from the Shopping campaign and you’ll have a list of everything (granted your data feed contains all the products in your inventory and use product types to categorize your products well).
Otherwise, spending time to set it all up directly from the website shouldn’t take more than 30 minutes. It’s boring, but quick.
It’ll save you a lot of time wondering whether something isn’t covered with AdWords or not.
Expansion Opportunities: Review and add any missing campaign types
Google comes with new audiences, campaign types, and new features quite frequently these days. Reviewing your account and ensuring your have all relevant campaign types running should be done regularly, though occasionally.
You never want to get caught having not implemented a new feature by your boss (or client).
Expansion Opportunities: Campaign Segmentation Opportunities (mobile, tablet, desktop)
I’m a fan of splitting campaigns into mobile, tablet, and desktop whenever it makes sense. I don’t like needlessly complex AdWords accounts, but whenever it’s worth my while I’ll do it.
As your account accrues data or as shifts occur in the competitive landscape, you will need to review campaigns and split them up.
Dynamic Search Ads: Review specific auto targets
You want to review the auto targets (i.e. Categories) you have running in your Dynamic Search Ads campaigns to look for opportunities for improvement.. Maybe a new category has come up you want to bid for separately or a category has stopped accruing any meaningful clicks because you’ve covered the search terms with a regular search campaign.
Dynamic Search Ads: Review catch all campaign for new targets
Same as above.
Shared Library: Negative Keyword Lists and Remarketing Lists
This task is infrequent, but it requires a place on the calendar.
Ensuring that your negative keyword lists are applied to all the relevant campaigns is something most miss, and it’s reckless. I do it myself. The workflow with adding negative keyword lists to new campaigns just don’t seem to stick with me.
Similarly, reviewing and updating your remarketing lists should be done around once a quarter. There are not always changes that need to be made, but it’s good to a review once in awhile.
Expansion Opportunities: What are we not doing? (betas, new techniques, blog posts, etc.)
I like to take a breather and just look at an account while asking “What are we not doing?”. This isn’t set up as a structured process, but just a look-around. What are we not doing? Any ideas that come up? Have we missed anything?
Scheduling Optimization Tasks is The Holy Grail of AdWords Management
Creating a calendar for optimizing your PPC accounts will be what takes you from an average PPC manager to top-notch manager.
Much of the work you do in accounts is chipping away at the regular tasks one by one. With a calendar you can be sure that you’re not going to forget anything or randomly optimize parts of accounts again and again.
I highly recommend that you grab the free Google Sheet with all the tasks set up in a way that you can see in what frequency you need to perform each optimization task. You can then easily import them to your favorite task management tool.