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Let Go of Outdated Google Search Best Practices



Late last year, I lost the confidence of a client when I advocated for a restructuring of an account that focused on campaign consolidation. This person used a PPC Hero Blog post from 2014 as fuel for their counter-argument that advocated for the opposite of my recommendation. I did the math and 2014 is the equivalent to 20 PPC years ago. The pace at which Google products advance and iterate exceeds our ability to keep up with best practices.  The discussion that proceeded to earn back this client’s trust, as well as comms straight from Google, are the basis for the following recommendations.  

Simplified Account Structures are The New Black

Hyper-segmentation of account structures, think Match-type campaigns and SKAGs, helped us at a time when we needed tight control to maintain efficiency in a landscape that permitted for a lot of erroneous clicks. It looked something like this: we created match-type specific campaigns or ad groups, then we duplicated keywords across all match types. Next, we had to create a complicated, tiered list of negative keywords based on the match types. Then, we had to monitor search queries to mine for any new terms to add as exact match keywords, then proceed to update our negative lists in the phrase and broad match campaigns or ad groups. 

This cycle was common for PPC practitioners and created complex structures that took a great deal of time, diligence and mental acuity to maintain. I’m here to tell you there’s a better way (this is the part in the infomercial where the video switches from black and white to color).  There has been a paradigm shift in how to effectively manage accounts and it does not involve complexity. Here’s what to do if you’re operating on this outdated methodology:

  1. Condense Match Type campaigns/ad groups 
    1. Take your broad and phrase match keywords and stuff them into your exact match campaigns/ad groups. You might feel scared at first – because you might be under the impression that your keywords will lose their historical data. Fear not – Google “remembers” them and it will not be like starting from scratch.
    2.   A good rule of thumb when consolidating traffic is to avoid duplicating your landing pages. 1 URL = 1 ad group
    3. The goal is to maximize the number of impressions/ad group
  2. Use RSAs to align ad copy and keyword congruency  
    1. Have at least 3 ETAs and 1 RSA/ ad group
    2. Provide at least 5 headlines that are distinct in your RSAs
  3. Optimize Ad Rotation – if you don’t have settings ticked to show the top performing ads, then your ads will rotate indefinitely regardless of their performance potential
  4. Segment campaigns by intent or business objective 
    1. use conversion action sets to drive the right outcomes – check out my blog, How A Conversion Action Sets Funnel Drove A 160% Increase In Revenue for more info on that.
  5. Use Automated Bidding – For more info on that, read Three Basic Categories of Google Ads Bidding
  6. Use a data-driven attribution model –If your account allows for it
  7. Remove unnecessary traffic segmentations – the algorithms already take into account physical location, time of day, and a host of other signals so you can remove these:
    1. Device
    2. Time of day
    3. Location
  8. Refine keyword lists– remove misspellings, plurals & stemmings – match type variation accounts for these as well as synonyms
  9. Layer in the largest audience lists you can across campaigns- from Google: “audiences are like food for smart bidding and provide important user signals to the algorithm.”
  10. Don’t fret about quality score – your auction performance is determined in real-time based on the alignment from search query, ad copy, and landing pages regardless of QS.
  11. Follow Opti-score recommendations I’ve written about this metric before – go in once a week and select a few recommendations to implement. Aim for at least 80% score. It’s good to know also that if you make the recommendations not from the opti score menu, say in the Editor instead, Google will still recognize that you implemented and increase your score accordingly.

Expected outcomes of a simplified account structure

  • Improved performance through machine learning – ad groups with larger keyword volume will learn faster and will help deliver better performance
  • Spend more time on high-impact strategy-based work over tedious manual adjustments
  • Speed up time to insight from data and make better decisions
  • Less margin of error

As with all best practices, they’re not a blanket approach and there are caveats to consider:

  • These recommendations will not be helpful if you are not tracking meaningful actions in your account.
  • Roll out the restructure on a few campaigns at first to monitor performance and validate learnings– expect that it can take a few weeks for the campaigns to recalibrate and for the algorithms to hit their stride.
  • If you are using offline conversion data to optimize performance, monitor closely to make sure your platform changes are not negatively impacting the bottom line.

  What you take a moment to consider what Google knows about its users:

  • where they’re going and where they’ve been (Google Maps)
  • what they’re searching (Google),
  • what they’re watching (YouTube)
  • what’s in their email (Gmail)

It’s not unreasonable to assume that they are utilizing this info to inform the signals that fuel the algorithms to help you reach your target consumer and meet your business objectives. Google wants your dough, and it stands to reason that they will use every tool at their disposal to help you get in front of your ideal audience. So don’t be afraid to loosen your grip on manual optimizations and let automation take the driver’s seat.



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