A 10-minute account audit to prevent SEM fires during the holidays

We’ve talked about it for weeks, and it’s truly upon us now: holiday crunch time.

Your eyes are probably crossing with all the prep and must-dos, but if you’re short on hours and would like to make sure to avert any ROI disasters before they happen, make sure to check these five items off your SEM list.

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1) Pull a search query report over the last 60-90 days and optimize against it

We’re looking for two specific buckets here:

  • Terms that have spent a significant amount of budget and racked up no (or few) conversions and high CPAs. These are terms you would not want your ad to appear on. You will want to create a shared negative list in your shared library and apply it to all of your campaigns. Then add in any negative terms based on poor performance that you find in the search query report.
  • Terms that are converting and have great CPAs. You will want to ensure you are using exact match to bid on these terms; this will allow you to maximize your control over top performers and push more volume and scale.

2) Check your ad group setup and limit the number of keywords

Ad groups should be limited to 1-10 keywords with close-knit themes; this allows you to tailor your ad copy as much as possible to keep the ad relevant to what the user is searching for.

If there are too many keywords with varying tokens, look into breaking these out into additional ad groups. It should go without saying that if you get more granular with the keywords in your ad groups, you should also be able to tailor your bidding to good effect.

3) Run a placement report over the last 60-90 days and add negatives

If you’re running Google Display Network campaigns, the Placement Report is the GDN version of a search query report. Look for poor-performing placements that have a high number of clicks and plenty of cost – but no conversions.

Equally as important: look for placements that have high CPAs with low conversions. Add all of the placements that match those criteria to a negative placement shared list and apply that list to all of your GDN campaigns. You want to ensure your ads do not appear on these websites.

4) Do device analysis for search and display

If you’re running search and GDN campaigns, you’ll want to run device analyses for them both – and watch for different things.

For search, pull a device analysis on all campaigns to understand how mobile, tablet, and desktop perform. Develop bid modifiers at the campaign level to adjust bids according to performance (for example, if mobile CPAs tend to be 20% higher than desktop CPAs, you will want to apply a negative bid modifier to mobile devices to pay less for mobile CPCs).

For the GDN, keep in mind that 99% of the time, mobile on GDN doesn’t work. Take a quick peek at performance, and if this is borne out, make sure to add in a -100% mobile modifier to turn it off.

5) Check for basic campaign-level best practices

Just to be sure there’s nothing in your account that could cause a four-alarm fire, let’s cover some campaign-level basics. (If you need to fix any one of these, do it now!)

  • Search and the GDN should be separate campaigns. If you are running both within one campaign, build out another and make sure you have your settings for “Search Network Only” or “Display Network”. You want to have the most control over these targeting types as they perform VERY differently from one another.
  • Don’t settle for standard delivery for your best campaigns. Top performing campaigns should be set to “accelerated ad delivery” so you capitalize on as much high-converting traffic as you can.
  • Be smart about budget allocation. If you are budget capping, make sure you are allocating more budget to your top-performing campaigns so that they never run dry.

Now, will taking all of these steps make sure the 2016 holiday season is your best ever? Nope; they’re just scratching the tip of the optimization iceberg. But if you found yourself saying “Oh, I should do that,” to any of the above, make sure those items take top priority, otherwise you’re leaving yourself open to a big ROI leak when the traffic starts flooding in.

Good luck!

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