Pruning an Overgrown PPC Campaign

Spring is nearly here. Spring is the time to clean up after winter’s mess: we clear out last year’s weeds and leaves from our flower beds, and prune the shrubs so they’re ready to look great when the weather warms up for good.

Pruning isn’t limited to the garden, though. Overgrowth in PPC can take many forms. Let’s look at how you can prune your overgrown PPC campaigns.

Overgrown Ad Groups

You should create small, tightly-themed ad groups with 10-15 keywords. This isn’t a hard and fast rule, by any means, but it’s a good goal to strive for.

When your campaigns have ad groups with 200-300 keywords, it’s time to get out the proverbial pruning shears. Divide those ad groups into smaller groups like you would with tulips or hostas. Your PPC garden will thank you with healthier growth.

Sickly Keywords

Sometimes the goal of shrub pruning is to remove dead or diseased growth. Often you can save a sickly shrub just by getting rid of old branches that are dragging it down.

Low quality score keywords are like dead branches in your PPC campaign. Unless they’re converting well, it’s time to pause or delete these keywords.

Hanging onto low QS terms is like allowing dead wood to build up on a bush. Eventually it will kill the whole thing.

Unproductive Keywords


Have you ever planted flower or vegetable seeds and watched half of them fail to sprout? In all likelihood, the seeds were no good to begin with – either they weren’t ready to germinate, or they were past their prime, or diseased in some way. This is nature’s way of producing only the best plants – survival of the fittest, if you will.

Keywords that never earn clicks are kind of like these seeds. While these keywords may have acceptable quality scores, they’re not helping your campaign. They’re dead weight sitting there forcing you to look at them every day, yet they aren’t bearing any fruit.

Nobody wants a bunch of strawberry plants in their garden patch that don’t produce strawberries – they’re ugly and take up space! Dig those up and toss them out of your campaigns.

Overgrown Ad Tests

Do you have ad copy tests that you’ve been running forever because a clear winner never emerges? While this won’t kill your campaign, sometimes you have to shake things up a bit. Even if performance is acceptable, if you don’t test new copy you’ll never know if the ad group could do better.

Good farmers and gardeners rotate their crops every so often to boost production. Good PPC managers do the same thing with ad copy. Sometimes you have to shake things up.

Remember, in PPC nothing’s permanent – that’s what the pause button is for! Try some crazy new copy and see what happens.

Failure to Thrive

Some gardeners have tried for years to grow a particular crop without success. Maybe they’ve always wanted to grow watermelons, or apples, or prize roses – and they just can’t get them to produce no matter how hard they try. At some point, it’s time to throw in the towel.

Same thing goes for PPC. Some of your clients may insist on advertising a particular product or service without success. Despite your collective best efforts, you just can’t get the campaign to convert.

Eventually, you just have to call it quits. PPC doesn’t work for every product or every company; and if it isn’t working for you, then try something else.

Maybe Facebook or LinkedIn PPC would be better. Maybe a display campaign will do the trick. And maybe not.

A good PPC manager, like a good gardener, needs to know when it’s time to give up.

A Confession

I’ve done a miserable job of pruning the trees and shrubs in my own yard recently. The warmer weather has made me take a long, hard look at my pathetic-looking plants and shrubs.

This year, I’ve resolved to get things pruned into shape. And I’m doing the same thing with my PPC campaigns.

How about you?

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