Why You Need an AdWords Optimization Calendar and How to Create One
A paid search campaign left in cruise mode without regular interventions is akin to trusting your investments to a broker who’s not bounded by regulations and oversight. Sooner or later, you’ll find yourself with a gaping hole in your pocket with less than when you started.
Timing is also a big part of the picture during these campaign reviews, as you want to have enough data points to guide your decisions properly. This is why regular and timely optimizations are key for PPC success.
Optimization Calendar Basics
It’s critical to note that the first weeks are always an exception as you will be performing more frequent bid reviews and optimizations than you would on your 2nd month and further. Once you have the intervals dialed in, stay faithful to the schedule to prevent skewed period-to-period comparisons and maintain similar amounts of information gathered.
You should also evaluate the size of your AdWords efforts in comparison to other advertisers in your same space and beyond. Bigger accounts spew out more data that you can crunch and act upon on a more frequent basis. You can easily take a peek at your competitors’ online marketing efforts by using free online portals like Raven Tools, SpyFu and SEMRush.
I’m an Advertiser for an SMB – What to do?
A huge segment of AdWords advertiser are small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs). These companies are usually below the $10k range in total ad spend per month.
So if you’re advertising for an SMB, you should sneak in at least one optimization every two weeks minimum. You open yourself up to too many surprises beyond that – we want to nip any unproductive trends in the bud rather than putting fires out when your metrics are on their way to the bin.
A weekly optimization setup is ideal for you if your account drives a lot of traffic or leads. Some examples are e-commerce sites, national/international lead gen campaigns, highly-competitive local service providers like plumbers, HVAC crews, and cab companies.
Ongoing Optimizations Matter
Once you’re clear of the first 30 days, feel free to transition into the bi-weekly frequency, if applicable, to allow your prior changes to take root first before any new ones are done. In times of crises (i.e. sudden drop in performance, higher CPAs, falling quality scores), it is a good idea to revert to optimizing weekly until your campaign’s health normalizes.
Beyond the First Shaky Thirty
Following the spirit of focused and very deliberate optimizations, I personally utilize the following setup to correlate frequency and the sample size you are analyzing because each metric behaves differently. Some require close and frequent adjustments while others need a lot more time for you to have enough sample size.
For weekly optimizations, it’s a must to optimize the most time-sensitive components like:
- Keyword bids
- Mobile and location bids
- Budget allocation
- Resolve keywords or ad conflicts
For Bi-weekly optimizations, I make it a point to hone in on keyword expansions, search terms review and keyword issues like those below 1st-page bids or with low search volume. Ad scheduling may also be tweaked at this point.
When the Monthly mark arrives, I take a good look at critical KPIs that make or break PPC efforts. I will possibly end up pausing:
- High cost, high CPA keywords
- Low CTR keywords
- High average CPC keywords
With the goal of increasing conversions efficiently. Do take the months prior in context as you may well end up re-enabling some inactive elements. In addition, check up on the health of Search Partners, Auction Insights, Bounce rate and act accordingly.
I also make it a point to perform ad copy split testing. At this point, you will have enough data to start pausing the weaker versions and rehashing new ones. The ads you have running for your top spending ad groups should be your focus. In fact, if your business gets a significant amount of visitors and has a quick turn around on selections and promotions, a more frequent yet controlled A/B Ad Copy testing should be the norm every 2 weeks.
On a Quarterly basis, I revisit all the usual performance metrics I periodically look at to do a temperature check, to make sure I’m still on track with my marketing objectives.
It has also been beneficial to take this opportunity to do research on prevailing industry trends. This way I can test the suitability of new AdWords campaign types or ad offerings on our existing efforts and sniff out any shifts in strategies from our competitors. I also go through User locations demographics, Analytics attribution models and assisted conversions to hunt for useful insights.
Optimization Scheduling Missteps
There Is Such a Thing as Optimizing Too Frequently
Adhering to a schedule is meant to prevent you from making knee-jerk and often disastrous campaign adjustments before seeing the big picture. You will find yourself at a loss on what particular action/s to blame for performance dips and revert in the change history.
That next optimization reminder you forgot to set can lead to a lengthy chain. Next thing you know, you’re 5 weeks late and your client is wondering why no changes have been done on the account for an unacceptable duration. Go ahead and use your computer calendar or internal CRM to automatically remind you of that task for pre-defined intervals.
Don’t Try to Do Everything at Once
Focus on one or just a few aspects that you want to improve in the account for a particular optimization. It could be to increase traffic this week, split test ad copies the next, and to lower CPAs after that. If things suddenly break, it will be hard to pinpoint which step you took caused it.
Summing it All Up
A properly spaced out top-to-bottom review allows your creation to breathe and to settle. Optimizations that are done too often are counter-productive as your past changes have probably not taken full effect yet. This is not too different from a dog chasing its tail.
On the other hand, performing spotty optimizations is a guaranteed way of losing touch of the Hows and the Whys of your PPC campaign. Any PPC Manager worth their salt has a rigid optimization schedule that they follow and customize based on the demands of a particular client and/or ongoing industry trend.