Completely updated with new format and content on June 26th, 2020.
What you’ll learn
- Separate your campaigns into primary and secondary campaigns to know what campaigns you should optimize weekly vs. monthly. Trying to optimize an entire account at the same frequency results in skipping campaigns.
- The 80/20 principle: Focus most of your time where you can make the biggest performance gains. No matter what.
- Build-in “blank space” where you don’t have a specific purpose but can just analyze your account and run down the rabbit hole
- Get a full list of Google Ads optimization tasks you should be doing on a weekly, monthly, and quarterly basis
Get my Optimization Schedule here
Complete with a list of Google Ads optimization tasks you should do on a weekly, monthly, and quarterly basis.
IntroductionTo build successful campaigns, a Google Ads 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 Google Ads 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 Google Ads interface is fine when you have 5-10 campaigns. When you start hitting >30 campaigns, 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 You’ll end up with outdated ad text, promotions that are no longer viable, run-amok ad groups, and missing ad extensions in one big chaos.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 article, you’ll learn why, when, and how to set up your Google Ads optimization checklist, along with a complete template you’re free to use to implement the how-to tips.
The Big Picture
The 80-20 Principle to Google Ads OptimizationIn 2013, I wrote a piece labeled The 80-20 Principle to Google Ads 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 your marginal campaigns’ performance. 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
- Campaign A: $38,547 in added revenue
- Campaign B: $9,271 in added revenue
- Campaign C: $1,598 in added revenue
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 article will allow you to automatically spend 80% of your time optimizing your highest earning Google Ads campaigns.
Your Most Impactful Optimization ActionsOur own optimization framework includes 38 different areas to optimize, but since first writing this article in 2017, we’ve identified 5 areas that has the highest impact on performance:
- Bid management
- Bid adjustments
- Ad testing
- Keyword harvesting
- Negative keywords
How-To for Your Most Impactful Optimization Actions
Bid Management TipsBidding is complicated, but as you become better at bidding, you will be more comfortable. Initially, it’s important just to stick to the basics:
- Bid higher when ROAS is above your target
- Bid lower when ROAS is below your target
- Always make bid changes on the same day of the week:
- Every Monday, you review your performance and make bid changes.
- This greatly simplifies your bid management and allows you to make bid changes on the same days of the week every week.
- It allows you to understand what effect your bid changes have, which is crucial to being great at PPC (even if you run automated bidding)
- It ensures you don’t change bids a little bit on Mondays, a little bit on Thursdays, and then can’t figure out what actually causes your performance to be where you want it.
- Have a framework for changing bids X% based on X-amount of days
- You always review the last 14-21 days and increase/decrease bids based on:
- >50% higher than your target ROAS = 30% increase in bid
- >20% higher than your target ROAS = 15% increase in bid
- >20% lower than your target ROAS = 15% decrease in bid
- >50% lower than your target ROAS = 30% decrease in bid
- You can take these numbers and adjust them as you see fit
- You always review the last 14-21 days and increase/decrease bids based on:
- Consider lag conversions
- Lag conversions are conversions that happen 1-30 days after the click took place.
- Meaning that if someone clicked on your ad today, they might still make the purchase over the next 30 days, which can be attributed back to your Google Ads campaign
- The more expensive your products are, the longer the buyer’s journey is, and the more important it is to review lag conversions.
- If you have a lot of lag conversions, consider excluding the last 5-7 days of ad spend when reviewing your performance (i.e., instead of reviewing the last 14 days, your review the last 19 days, but disregard the last 5 days).
Bid Adjustment TipsBid adjustments are intended for the following levels:
- Devices (desktop/mobile/tablet)
- Audiences (i.e., remarketing)
- Day of the week (or time of day)
- You don’t necessarily want to have the same ROAS for all devices. The more expensive your product is, the more likely it is that people will make the purchase on a desktop. In some industries, this doesn’t matter, though, and you can’t argue for a lower ROAS for mobile.
- Never put negative bid adjustments on all devices. If all devices are performing below your target, then you need to change your keyword bid. Bid adjustments are solely for leveling out performance amongst your devices – not for managing the overall performance.
Ad Testing TipsAd testing is about creating new ads and measuring the new ads’ performance against the existing ad. The winner stays, the rest are paused, and the cycle repeats itself. Ad testing is one of the only optimization tasks that you will never be done with. You can find all the keywords in the world. You can find the perfect bids (at least for a while). But you will never find the perfect ad that will run forever. You can find ads that you are able to run for a very long time. But not forever. At some point, enough competitors will have copied your ad, and your performance will decrease. For more tips on ad testing, I recommend reading: 3x Your Ad Testing Output with Multi-Ad Group Ad Testing
Keyword Harvesting TipsKeyword harvesting covers looking through what search terms your keywords are triggered and adding relevant search terms as keywords to your existing campaigns. I’ve gone in-depth with this topic in our keyword research article – specifically where I discuss the mining method for finding new keywords. But to summarize:
- Add new keywords in their own ad groups, unless it makes sense to keep them in the same ad group
- Don’t necessarily add very close-related keywords
- Like robot massage chair and robotic massage chair.
- When adding the new keywords, make sure that your bids are the same
Negative Keywords TipsFor the negative keyword side, it’s a lot of the same steps as with keyword harvesting – it’s just the opposite. Instead of adding the search terms, you’re excluding them using negative keywords. A great tip is to have a filter in place to quickly find negative keywords: That way, you can easily find any new search terms that fall within a set list of criteria. It’s super-efficient. Other tips are:
- Use the filter Added/Excluded to only see search terms that you haven’t already gone through
- Routinely look back 90 days or longer to get search terms with little data on your radar
- Don’t exclude search terms based on too little data unless you are 100% sure.
- Expand negative keywords: If you sell leather recliners, and you see the search term fabric recliners, you should exclude all other materials you can think of
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 accountI 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.
Why Segmenting Your Campaigns is Crucial for Optimization SuccessWhen I first began optimizing Google Ads 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
Google Ads Optimization Frequency and Statistical SignificanceWhen 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 impactBy 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 keywordsOften 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.
Factors to Help You Categorize Primary, Secondary and Marginal CampaignsWhen 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 BetterThe 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 OptimizeEspecially if you’re working on a set amount of hours for your client or if you’re in-house and have 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 ExceptionDespite 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 CampaignsThere 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
- Clicks: between 1,000-4,000 clicks per month
- Conversions: below 10-40 conversions per month
- Clicks: below 1,000 clicks per month
- Conversions: below 10 conversions per month
38 Google Ads Optimization TasksHere 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
- Add New Keywords from Shopping Campaigns
- 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 the 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)
- What are we not doing? (betas, new techniques, blog posts, etc.)
- Dynamic Search Ads:
- Review auto targets
- Shared Library:
- Shared Library: Negative Keyword Lists
- Shared Library: Remarketing Lists
- Update Business Data
- Review landing page checker
- Review out of stock checker
Quality Score FluctuationsI 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.
Month compared to the year beforeI 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 at specific search campaigns or only the desktop performance of your campaigns, etc.
Week/Month compared to the benchmarkWhen it comes to optimizing your Google Ads 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
Review campaigns for anomalies in the last weekThis 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.
Review Bid Management Tool/System: Apply Min or Max Bid Limits as NeededI always recommend using automated bid management. Whether you like the native smart bidding in Google Ads 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., become better, and you’ll want to increase the ROAS target you’re using.
Apply manual bids: Holistically on campaign/ad group/keyword levelManually 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 and always considering lag conversions (conversions that might come from clicks you received in the last 7-14-28 days). 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 disaster. A nice mix that matches your customer’s’ buying cycle will work beautifully.
Review devices and apply bid adjustmentsUnless you’re splitting your campaigns in mobile, tablet, and desktop, then you should review your bid adjustments 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.
Review: Search PartnersNo 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.
Review ad schedule and apply new bid adjustmentsReviewing the time of day and day of the week 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 lunchtime. Just because there wasn’t a conversion assigned to a specific timeframe doesn’t mean that the click was worthless.
Review locations and apply new adjustmentsEspecially 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 Google Ads optimization strategy.
Review audience (remarketing) bid adjustmentsYou should now be well-versed enough to know that your bidding should go 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.
Review demographics adjustmentsOne of the later new items to change your bids based on is demographic bid adjustments 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.
If the budget is finite, review budget allocation in campaignsRookies 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.
Write new adsYou need to consistently write new ads for your Google Ads 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.
Review ad testsRoutinely checking ad tests for statistical significance using a tool like Adalysis or Optmyzr (or Excel) should be a standard for all PPC managers. 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.
Review promotional adsBecause 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.
Review to ensure all ad extensions are active and applicable
- Structured Snippets
- Seller Ratings
- Price Extension
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 Google Ads management that I haven’t found a good way to automate yet. Make this time count by maximizing 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 separating the negative keyword finding and new keyword finding, but it turned out to do double work.
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.
Review campaign structure:It’s not always that your first choice for a Google Shopping 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.
Identify Best Selling + Apply Labels: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.
Bid Management / Product ExclusionThere 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, products (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.
Fix feed errorsYou 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.
+ Negative keywordsSame idea as in the section above.
Title Optimization: Rule review, new rules, and individual title optimizationConsistently 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. Add New Keywords from Shopping Campaigns 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.
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.
Review Website vs. Account for Uncovered Categories / Selling ProductsThis should be an ongoing practice that you have a spreadsheet managing. It’s impossible to keep track of it all manually, but it 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 Google Ads or not.
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 you 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).
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 Google Ads 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.
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?
Dynamic Search Ads
Review specific auto targets and catch allYou 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. Again, negative keyword work applies here as well.
Negative Keyword Lists and Remarketing ListsThis task is infrequent, but it requires a place on the schedule. 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 review once in a while.
Scheduling Optimization Tasks is The Holy Grail of Google Ads ManagementCreating a schedule for optimizing your PPC accounts will be what takes you from an average PPC manager to a 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.
Get my Optimization Schedule here
Complete with a list of Google Ads optimization tasks you should do on a weekly, monthly, and quarterly basis.