Sadly, not every keyword you attempt to target in your Google Ads (AdWords) accounts will work. The good news is, because PPC offers a fountain of immediate feedback in the way of data points, it’s possible to identify poor choices in your initial targeting and take swift action.
In this post, we’ll walk through the two major examples of keywords you’d be better off pausing, as well as some potential pitfalls to consider in thinking about actually shutting down these keywords.
This is probably the most immediately obvious and intuitive example of a keyword that should be paused: keywords that are costing you money but not converting into a lead or a sale. But even within this classification of keyword, there’s a bit more nuance than meets the eye.
Let’s imagine we sell paid search software and every lead is worth $100 to us based on both the number of those leads that turn into sales, and our company’s margins. Obviously once a keyword spends something like a thousand dollars it seems pretty clear that keyword should be paused, but what if:
Any of the above could mean that you’re leaving money on the table in pausing a keyword, so before you decide that a keyword is something that spends but doesn’t convert, you want to look at:
As you can see there are a lot of moving pieces to analyzing all of the pertinent data points before deciding to “kill” a keyword. This is a lot of work and analysis to perform if you’re looking keyword-by-keyword in even a mid-sized PPC account, so it’s probably more practical to either restrict this type of deep dive to higher-volume terms you’re looking to pause, or to apply automation to the process.
“Hard costs” in a PPC campaign aren’t the only costs – keywords that underperform on other metrics can also have “soft costs” in the way of negative account-wide Quality Score impact.
While it’s true that low Quality Scores don’t mean you can’t advertise profitably on a keyword, there may be keywords that have low Quality Scores and click-through rates, don’t convert well, and slipped through the cracks of our analysis as we attempted to find good candidates for keywords that spend but don’t convert.
Extending the example above, let’s imagine we have a handful of keywords that are all driving very little spend but not converting – call it $10 per keyword over an extended period of time. In theory these keywords probably wouldn’t be “pause ready” as they haven’t yet demonstrated that they aren’t profitable (if conversions are worth $100 to us, they could spend five times the current amount for a conversion and be extremely profitable), but these keywords – particularly in aggregate – may be costing us money indirectly.
Among the factors in determining Quality Score is your historical, account-wide CTR and Quality Score, so having keywords in your account that aren’t helping drive your business directly (via conversions) and also hurt your account-wide CTR has a very real soft cost in that it drives down Quality Scores and subsequently drives up costs and makes it expensive to push out new keywords and ad groups.
But, not unlike with keywords that spend but don’t convert, these terms may also be suffering from low Quality Scores due to factors you could potentially correct, such as poor ad copy and keyword segmentation.
If you’re not sure of whether you should be pausing keywords to help improve Quality Scores, one good approach is to run your account through the AdWords Grader to see how your Quality Scores are in general (you’ll see this as part of your report), and assuming your Quality Scores need work account-wide you can start to home in on keywords that are in groups with otherwise reasonable Quality Scores.
Tom Demers is Co-Founder & Managing Partner at Measured SEM and Cornerstone Content.
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