4 Super-Actionable AdWords Tips to Try Right Now


adwords tips title image

This month, I’ve been working hand-in-hand with Google account managers to review and assess a group of accounts, ultimately coming up with our top three most impactful recommendations for each account. During these conversations, I’ve learned a few new AdWords tips and techniques and different approaches to the “old faithfuls” we’ve been using here at WordStream for years.

Looking for some fresh strategies to implement in your AdWords account? Here are four super-actionable AdWords tips that I’ll definitely be trying in the next few weeks!

AdWords Tip #1: Combine Branded Terms with Modified Broad Keywords

The secret to lowering your CPCs and simultaneously boosting your ad rank lies in Google’s mystery metric—Quality Score. Savvy advertisers are perpetually tweaking their accounts in pursuit of those coveted 10’s, but achieving high scores isn’t an easy feat. In fact, it seems as though the only keywords that consistently score 7-10’s are branded terms.

quality score 

Branded terms are a slam dunk for many reasons. Firstly, it’s easy to create super-relevant ads and landing pages for these keywords, as your brand should appear regularly throughout your ad copy and website. Even better, the people who are searching your branded terms likely have strong intent; they know exactly what company they’re looking for so they’re apt to click on your ads and have high engagement rates on your website.

While these keywords maybe be the holy grail for high Quality Scores, you certainly don’t want to limit your ad visibility to people who already know of and are looking for your brand. That said, you can leverage the power of these branded keywords to impact the Quality Scores of non-branded terms.

Here’s how the hack works – create keywords that are a combination of branded and non-branded terms. Set the non-branded term to modified broad (using + signs), but leave the branded term on broad. Using this technique will allow your ads to show when people search combinations of your non-branded terms—your branded terms do not have to be present.

So, for example, let’s say that your branded term is Havaianas and your non-branded terms are neon flip flops. You’d add the keyword as havaianas +neon +flip +flops, and the ad would be eligible to show for search queries that include the words neon, flip and flops.

Why does this technique yield high Quality Scores? Remember, Google calculates your scores based on exact matches to your keyword term. Because the “official” keyword technically includes your branded terms, it’s likely to yield a stellar Quality Score.

AdWords Tip #2: Take Advantage of Location-Based Bid Modifiers

One of the best ways to fine tune your AdWords account is to identify what’s working and amplify it (or promote your “unicorns”—in Larry Kim speak). One route to do this is through location-based bid modifiers.

Far too many advertisers set their targeting to reflect the areas where their products are sold and neglect to revisit these settings. The problem is, not all geographic locations yield the same performance. For example, if you sell hunting equipment, there’s a good chance that you’ll see more conversions coming from searchers in rural areas where hunting is a popular sport than those in heavily populated urban centers.

 search query report

Rather than guesstimating which regions are the most valuable for your business, head to the Dimensions Tab and set your view to Geographic. This will produce a sortable report that breaks down your performance metrics by country, region, metro area, city and “most specific location.” Organize by conversions to understand the regions that are bringing in the most sales for your business.

 mobile bid adjustment

Once you’ve identified your most valuable locations, revisit your location targeting settings and set a positive bid adjustment for each of these locations. Higher bids will help you to attain better visibility for searchers located in (or searching for products within) your top locations, ushering in even more conversions.

AdWords Tip #3: Reach Beyond Your Current Language Settings

According to a 2013 study by the Center for Immigration Studies, one in five US residents speaks a language other than English in their household. However, just because their preferred language isn’t English does not mean that the vast majority of these people don’t also speak English.

Remember, AdWords bases its language targeting settings on a Google user’s interface language. Users can edit this setting to ensure that Google provides results in their selected language, regardless of their physical location.

adwords settings bilingual 

As you can see, when I change my preferred language settings to Spanish, I’m only served ads that are targeted to Spanish speakers, despite the fact that I am logged into the US version of Google.com.

search spanish profile 

As you can imagine, many of these bilingual Americans set their first language as their primary language on Google, effectively eliminating ads from any companies who do not include Spanish-language targeting in their AdWords campaigns. This is a huge source of missed opportunity for US-based advertisers who absolutely should be advertising to the bilingual consumer-base.

It may sound like a headache to expand your advertising efforts to a completely new market, but it’s actually quite simple. First, identify which languages are most prominent in your target regions.

 map for most commonly spoken language other than english

Source: Slate.com

Then, adjust your language targeting settings to include this new audience.

 language settings adwords

That’s it! There’s no need to add non-English keywords, ads or landing pages. It almost feels too good to be true, right?

Here’s why this trick works—if your website doesn’t translate seamlessly or your sales reps aren’t trained to support multiple languages, you really shouldn’t risk going “whole hog” and creating campaigns specifically for non-English speakers. This could actually do more harm than good, as this campaign would likely garner plenty of impressions and clicks, but fewer conversions. Instead, this trick truly helps you to connect with a bilingual audience; people who are using a non-English browser but will still understand and respond to ads written in English.

grubhub bilingual ad example 

As you can see in the example above, GrubHub has adopted this strategy perfectly. This is clearly a bilingual searcher (her Google profile is set to Spanish, but she is searching in English) and GrubHub’s English ad should suit her just fine!

AdWords Tip #4: Salvage Dying Ad Groups with RLSA

Ever have an ad group that you feel really good about but it just isn’t pulling through with strong results? It’s hard to hit the pause button when your gut tells you that these keywords hold unseen potential. It’s also hard to justify running keywords that aren’t yielding many clicks.

Rather than pulling the plug completely, try resurrecting your ad group using Remarketing Lists for Search Ads (RLSA). With this feature, you can restrict its traffic by solely displaying ads to people who have already visited your site. Since they already know who you are and have shown an interested in your offerings, they’re more likely to be further along in the purchase cycle and ready to convert than your standard audience.

rlsa target and bid settings 

If you decide to go this route, it crucial that you execute it properly. With RLSA, your primary targeting criteria is still keywords—your remarketing list is then layered in as a secondary targeting method. When adding your remarketing list, you have the opportunity to set it to “bid only” or “target and bid.” In this scenario, be sure to select “target and bid”, which limits your ads’ visibility to past site visitors.

About the Author

Erin Sagin is a PPC Evangelist and Community Manager at WordStream. She was named the 3rd Most Influential PPC Expert of 2015 by PPC Hero. When she’s able to take a break from paid search, you’ll find her practicing her hula-hooping skills or planning her next trip to Latin America. You can follow Erin on Twitter and Google+.

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jacob wallace
Jul 18, 2016

This is indeed very helpful, very nice!

Erin Sagin
Jul 20, 2016

thanks, jacob!

Jul 19, 2016


Interesting post.

I do not really follow the combine branded terms with non-branded thing, however.
What you are saying is that as long as the "official" keyword includes a particular keyword, in this case the brand term, it is likely to give a higher QS, right? What about broad match keywords, say that you have the term "flowers" in broad match modifier, and get hits on searches such as "buy flowers online". As you most likely will optimize your ad for the "official" keyword, in this case "flowers", you will miss out on "buy" and "online" and therefore receive lower QS.

From what I've seen it's not what the "official" keyword has in it what decides the QS, it's instead the phrases that it matches and the relevance between these and the ad text/landing page. That is why broader keyword match types are often harder to receive better QS with, as you lose control due to not having relevant ad text and landing page.

Back to your example. So my argument is: If someone searches for something that includes "neon", "flip" and "flops", it is the match between these, the ad text and landing page (and ctr of course) that decides the QS. I don't believe the brand term, that hasn't even been triggered, will do anything.

Perhaps I'm wrong, in that case, please clarify :)


Erin Sagin
Jul 20, 2016

hi david! the key thing to remember here is that quality score is only measured by the performance of terms that are exact matches to the keyword, regardless of it's match type settings. that's the beauty of using this branded keyword hack :)

Jul 19, 2016

Also on point #1. I'm trying it out, but when I add the broad brand term with the modified broad service/product term, it returns 'low search volume'. There have been no impressions so my QS is stagnant.

Erin Sagin
Jul 20, 2016

thanks for commenting, andy! sure--it is certainly likely to have low search volume, given that it is a branded term. however, the modified broad setting should help you score a little more traffic (remember, only use the + modifier on the NON branded terms). my recommendation would be to stick with shorter-tail keywords and give it some time :)

Jul 21, 2016

Wow. Thanks Erin! I'm excited to get back to work . . .

Erin Sagin
Jul 22, 2016

ha, glad it inspired you! sometimes it's just nice to hear what other people are doing to jump start ideas for your own account...

Bert LaVey
Jul 21, 2016

This was indeed was of great value to me. I was able to use two of the tips immediately, plus it gave me more insight into Adwords to help me be a an expert on it. Thank you Erin.
-Bert LaVey-Author-"Tales From Hell" at Amazon.com/books

Erin Sagin
Jul 22, 2016

perfect. if there's anything else you want us to cover, just let me know.

Jul 21, 2016

Thanks Erin. Good post.

For RLSA on existing ad groups, I prefer to start with "Bid Only" in order to segment out the remarketing list vs the standard audience. That way I'm able to see the impact it has on the ad group before switching to "Target & Bid". At times its better to bid up on the remarketing list rather than to restrict traffic, especially when the list has limited reach.

Erin Sagin
Jul 22, 2016

totally fair--that strategy would work too (maybe even better). honestly, i think the key with using the "target&bid" or "bid only" settings is all about understanding the difference. far too many people don't recognize the distinction which is huge and could wreak havoc on their accounts!

Jul 21, 2016

I never even thought of trying #1 or #3 but both of them make a lot of sense. #1 should help for high CPC keywords when struggling with Quality Scores. I'm about to implement #3 because I need more volume in one of my high-budget campaigns so this should be interesting to test. Thanks for the great article and helpful tips!

Erin Sagin
Jul 22, 2016

my pleasure. i wish i could say #1 was my idea, but that was all goog! when my contact shared it i was like OMG--THIS IS BRILLIANT--WHY THE HECK HAVE I NEVER THOUGHT OF IT!?!

figured it was worth sharing with the rest of the world, too :)

Jul 21, 2016

Location-based bid modifiers won't work with conversion optimizer. Do you guys prefer not to use conversion optimizer? Works very well for us, but maybe I'm missing out?

Erin Sagin
Jul 22, 2016

totally up to you. wordstream has it's own bidding tools, so we don't do much with conv optimizer. if definitely annoying that you can't set location-based modifiers with it, but if you're confident with google's performance so far, doesn't hurt to stick with it. you could always experiment with different settings in one of your smaller campaigns!

Dan Pizzolato
Jul 21, 2016

Hi Erin, I really loved your tip #3 on showing English ads to those people with non-English preferred browsers. I have just implemented Spanish and French as we target US and Canada customers.

I have a question...as there is no way to segment by language, how would you go about determining the impressions, clicks and conversions by language? I'd like to be able to see results to determine if showing ads in these other languages yields results or simply spends more money.

Also is there a way to adjust bids based on language?

Erin Sagin
Jul 22, 2016

ooh-- this is a tricky one. there's definitely no way to adjust bids by language (i suppose you could segment by campaign, etc. but that opens a new can of worms).

as for assessing the performance, if you're mainly using english keywords, it's going to be nearly impossible to segment performance by users' language settings. the best approach i can think of would be to isolate the change (ie add one language at a time) and assess the overall change in performance.

would love to hear others' two cents on this, too!!

Ashish Khadke
Jul 22, 2016

Really damn awesome post man.
Thanks alot.

Erin Sagin
Jul 22, 2016

ha! my pleasure :) glad ya liked!

Tahir Marfani
Jul 23, 2016

Hello, I am new in google adwords, This tips help a lot. Thanks for sharing

John James
Jul 23, 2016

Thank you!

Jul 27, 2016

Amazing Adwords tips! I found lot of depth ideas after read this topic. Your ideas are very helpful especially if we talk about reduce CPC cost and want to increase conversion or marketing goal. Thanks a lot for your post!

Daniel Joseph
Aug 05, 2016

Such a great post with great information for small business owners! Thanks so much!

Jo mardan
Aug 23, 2016

Thank you!

Oct 27, 2016

Great article... Nice tips for Adwords

Nov 16, 2016

Hi Erin,

Great article!

I'm really interested in the point you made in #3.

My client is targeting English only but when looking into GA data, we can see that some of our traffic is coming from other languages as well as English. I have tested my own language settings in Spanish and i have yet to see my ads show for this.

When looking into the description of the setting within the Adword interface it's worded "To decide where to show your ads, AdWords looks at a user's Google language setting or the language of the user’s search query, currently viewed page, or recently viewed pages on the Google Display Network (GDN)" therefore, this suggests that if the search term is in English that my clients ads would be eligible to show.

Do you have any more insight into this? Be great to get some feedback.


Nov 22, 2016

Really helpful. Thank you sop much for these tips.

Feb 25, 2017

The first tip is extremely valuable! It's not easy to find good tips these days on adwords as most of the people repeat the same old story of QS in most of the tips. I wonder what other such tips you have got. A big Thank You!

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