Marketing & Advertising

Google AdWords: 3 Ways to Improve Your ROI

We manage a number of Google AdWord accounts for our clients, and I almost always find the same problems when we take over a new account. So “from the trenches”, here are 3 key principles that will help you have a prosperous new year with your Google AdWords.

Split Test Your Ads

Google has built in an incredibly powerful capability to split test your ads. This means that when you create multiple ads for an Ad Group, Google will display them alternately, and track which one gets the best response rate (measured in click-throughs).

This is important for two reasons. Firstly you pay less for ads with a higher click-through-rate, and secondly, a higher CTR usually means more visitors to your site (and more opportunities to sell).

How to use it:

At the “Ad Group” view level, you’ll see a “New Text Ad” link next to the display of your existing ad. Click this button, and “presto”, you’ll have the fields to complete to create a new ad.

Once you’ve had multiple ads for a period of time, you can scroll to the bottom of the Ad Group page to see the CTR and CPC for each ad. You can also view the percentage of time that these ads were shown. All of this data is for the time period you have selected in the drop-down box above the clicks stats columns. Beware of jumping to hasty decisions – unless you’re getting thousands of visits per day. You probably want to let each ad version run for a week or more before deciding to delete the loser, and make a new competitor.

Use Negative Keywords

Many of the “homemade” accounts that I see, make no use of negative keywords, which is a serious mistake. Here’s the deal– if you type in your keywords without quotation marks for phrase match, or square brackets for specific match, then your keywords are all set for what Google calls “Broad Match”. This means that ANY search phrase containing your keyword phrase (in any order) will return your ad.


Your keyword listing for “ice cream” (without the quotation marks) will display your ad when the following phrases are searched on: ice cream maker, ice cream franchise, ice cream recipe, ice cream flavor, ben and jerry ice cream, ice cream parlor, ice cream fetish (OK, so no-one probably searches on this, but you get the picture). Assuming that you don’t offer all of these products/services on your website, you have a problem because your ad is less relevant, and will get a lower CTR – and that means a higher cost per click. If your site sells ice cream makers, you should use word such as “franchise” and “parlor” as negative keywords, so that your listing would not appear for these search phrases.

How to use it:

Typically I add negative keywords at the Ad Group level, which is very simple. Click the “Edit Keywords” link and simply add your negative keywords to the bottom of your keyword list. They should be formatted with a minus sign and no spacing. Example: “-fetish” (without the quotation marks).

Use Conversion Tracking Always

Here’s my third and final key – always use conversion tracking. Google provides you a code that can be embedded into your “thanks for placing an order” or “thanks for requesting more information” page.

When a Google user then performs a search, clicks your ad, AND places an order on your site, you’ll see which keyword they searched on originally. This is useful because not all visitors are created equal. It’s entirely possible that some people visiting your site never convert into leads or customers. In that case, you should stop spending money to attract them to your site in the first place.

Here’s an example:

Let’s say you offer two widget types on your website, a large one and a small one. Using the Adwords Conversion Tracking, you’ll be able to see which visitors convert into buyers more often (those that search for “widget”, “large widget”, “small widget” etc). Then you can spend more money attracting those visitors, and less on those that don’t convert.

It’s a little complex to fully explain how to set-up conversion tracking, but Google has done a pretty good job of explaining it. Click on the “Conversion Tracking” link in your account, and follow the instructions provided. It’s possible that your web developer will have to be involved briefly.

So there you have it, three keys to dramatically improving the return on investment from your Google Adwords budget. After you’ve implemented these tips, take the money that you’ve saved, or the extra revenue that you’ve earned, and go buy yourself something nice… from me.

Mat Greenfield
Mat Greenfield
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