A caveat about my Google Ads experience
I should start this post by l stating that I’m not an SEM expert.
In fact, my hands-on experience began only about six months ago when, a few months into my role as SEO marketing manager at Car Next Door, I was approached by our CEO who asked if I could take over managing ‘the paid side of things’.
I was hesitant. I knew from my experience working with SEM colleagues at my previous role in a digital marketing agency that you can waste a lot of cash in a very short amount of time if you don’t know know what you’re doing, and I explained this to the CEO, but he was nevertheless keen for me to take on the responsibility.
Thrown in at the deep end
So there I was, thrown in at the deep end with no idea what I was doing, a fairly sizeable budget, and a very broad brief to ‘bring in as many leads as you can without increasing the CPA too much’.
After completing Google’s training program on Ads get a grasp of the basics, I enlisted the help of my good friend and ex-colleague Brandon to perform an audit of the account. Brandon has a lot of experience in paid search and social and I hoped that he could suggest some areas for improvement, whilst giving me some pointers on how to implement the necessary changes so I could learn ‘on the job’.
The plan worked; Brandon’s audit highlighted a number of issues and opportunities to improve efficiency. After chatting through the audit with my manager, I learned that the account had been set up about four years ago, and that with the exception of some new keywords and ad copy tests, very little had been changed. All the campaigns were set to manual CPC bidding strategies, and many were limited by budget. We weren’t making use of any audiences, bid adjustments, dynamic search ads, and a number of other features.
Armed with this information, I set about implementing the changes. I’d never done any of this stuff before, so everything took a huge amount of time. I found myself googling every step just to navigate around the interface. As I became more proficient with the platform though, a bigger problem became more apparent; the account was huge and basically unmanageable.
Time for a restructure?
The guy that set it up was a fan of building highly granular account structures with single keyword ad groups- and he had convinced my predecessor that this was the way to go. They, in turn, used a tool to create dozens of new ad groups each time they wanted to add one new keyword variation. To add to the complexity, campaigns were also split out by the city that they were targeting.
Here’s a few screenshots which should help to give you an idea of the situation
Although I didn’t know it for certain, I had a hunch that this setup wasn’t ideal for a number of reasons;
- It made managing the account virtually impossible (especially with my lack of expertise)
- The vast majority of ad groups received very few (if any) clicks
- I wanted to test smart bidding algorithms, but because the traffic was being split between so many campaigns, none of them received enough conversions.
- Experiments took forever to run due to traffic being split across multiple campaigns
- Terms like ‘rent car’ and ‘hire car’ were triggering ads from the wrong ad groups as close variants
Confirming my hunch
To find out whether my intuition about the state of the account was correct, I did a lot of reading and caught up with a couple of old colleagues to ask their advice. Everyone agreed; the account was a mess, and a restructure was the only way to fix it.