With new features being added all the time, Google AdWords is becoming more and more powerful and complex. But luckily, the tools for managing AdWords more efficiently are multiplying too.
Here’s our breakdown of the top 10 Google AdWords management tricks to save you time, and improve your advertising in the process.
1. AUTOMATED BIDDING OPTIONS
While hands-on managers usually favor manual bidding, Google’s automated bidding options have gotten much better over the past couple of years thanks to machine learning. They've also added new automated bidding options, like "maximize conversions".
Under Campaign Settings -> Bid strategy, you can set a campaign-level bidding strategy to go from completely manual to completely automated, as well as the Enhanced CPC option which is somewhere in between. (It can change your bids when Google calculates that your chances of converting are higher.)
An automated bidding strategy can easily save you hours of work each week by eliminating the need to manually tune bids at the keyword level. It also takes other factors into account, like time of day and the user's geographic location, to maximize your ad performance without your input.
Just be sure to choose the options that matches your advertising goals.
If you're making ecommerce sales and shooting for ROAS, choose "Target ROAS". While if what you really want is traffic, "Maximize clicks" is the right choice.
You can read about all the different automated bidding options in more detail here.
A word of caution: don’t use automated bidding settings as a "set it and forget it" way to put your account on full auto-pilot... at least, not at first.
You'll still need to continue carefully monitoring your account’s performance, especially in the first week or two after switching to automated bidding.
Tip: To use the conversion-focused automated bidding options for a campaign, it needs to have at least 15 tracked conversions over the past 30 days.
2. Adwords Editor
The grandfather of all AdWords management tricks. Unless your account is small, you can benefit from using AdWords Editor for any wide-scale changes.
Google's free desktop application might be ugly, but it's a much smarter way to get things done than the regular web interface. Between quick find/replace functionality, backup exports, automatic error checking and the ability to copy campaigns between accounts, AdWords Editor makes it easy to make sweeping changes at scale, and it'll also keep you out of trouble if you try to make conflicting changes.
It can also be great for air travel, as it allows you to download your account, work on it offline, and upload the changes the next time you have an internet connection.
3. COPY/PASTE AND MULTIPLE-ROW EDITS IN THE WEB INTERFACE.
With the addition of just these two features, Google vastly improved its AdWords web interface a while back. So much so that you can actually get away with using AdWords Editor a lot less often than you used to have to (though it's still the better tool for bigger changes).
Now you can copy and paste campaigns, ad groups, keywords and ads, as well as make changes in bulk to ad text, bids, display URLs and final URLs.
One great way to use this feature is if you have an ad group with only one keyword match type. You can duplicate all the keywords by copy and pasting them, then change the match type on the new copies.
4. Automated Rules.
Different from automated bidding (where you give Google partial or full control over your bids), you can set up automated rules to take specific actions when you want based on triggers of your choice.
You can set up rules to trigger once at a specific day and time (e.g. to pause some ads and enable others if a promotion is ending over the weekend), or once each week, or every day (for more routine adjustments). Here are some other ideas from Google's support page on how to use automated rules:
Schedule ads for special promotions or events
Pause low-performing ads or keywords
Change keyword bids to control your average position
Raise keyword bids to ensure your ads show on first page (though the automated bidding option "target search page location" is usually better for this)
Send yourself an email if a campaign’s budget is nearly exhausted early in the day
Tip: always use the "preview" function before saving a new rule.
Some of our favorite uses for scripts are to automatically check for broken links, automatically test and report on the performance of different bids, and to automatically refresh prices to be displayed in ads. You can even set up automatic bid adjustments based on the weather.
If you're brave enough to try them, Search Engine Land put together a good primer series on AdWords scripts, starting with how to read them.
Tip: always execute a new script in preview mode first.
6. Focus on the Metrics That Matter.
A much more basic tactic than using scripts: simply remember that at the end of the day, AdWords-specific metrics like CTR, CPC, clicks, impressions and quality score are all secondary to the key performance indicators that directly affect your bottom line.
So above all else, focus on conversions (or revenue) and average cost per conversion (or ROAS: Return On Ad Spend) to save time and make your advertising more effective.
7. Draft New Ads and Make Bulk Edits in Excel.
When you're breaking out new ad groups, building out an account, or trying to test a large number of new ads, writing ads in the web interface is pretty inefficient. Of course, there's a better way.
You can draft new ads or edits in a spreadsheet and then upload it via AdWords Editor, or upload via the web interface.
To make edits (to ad copy, bids or otherwise), first download the spreadsheet, then edit it, then re-upload it (be sure to save the original as a backup). To add new text ads or keywords, add a new row with the pertinent info.
8. Shared Negative Keywords and Budgets.
Did you know that you can set negative keyword lists and budgets to be shared across multiple campaigns, rather than setting them individually for each campaign?
While it's not the right move for every account, for small accounts this simplified structure can save you a significant amount of time.
9. See Google Analytics Data Within AdWords.
Especially if you have conversion tracking (or ecommerce conversion tracking) set up in Google Analytics, you should be importing the data into AdWords so that you can see conversion figures or revenue, and engagement metrics like bounce rate, directly in the AdWords web interface. This will save you time because you won't have to look at Analytics itself nearly as often.
To make that happen, you just need to have at least "Edit" level permissions to the Analytics profile and "Administrative" (or MCC) access to the AdWords account. Assuming you have those, follow these three steps:
A) Follow the instructions here to link your Analytics and AdWords accounts together. This will allow you to see AdWords data such as cost, CPC and CTR in your Analytics account.
B) Then follow these instructions to begin importing in the other direction as well: bringing your Analytics data into AdWords.
C) Finally, follow these steps for importing conversions (goals and/or transactions) from Analytics into AdWords.
Voila! You can now see Analytics data in AdWords -- and AdWords data in Analytics.
10. SET UP AUTOMATED EXPERIMENTS
You can think of AdWords campaign drafts and experiments as a way to automate and help you keep track of the A/B tests you should be running, without having to manually monitor them, activate and deactivate them, or compare performance to decide the winner.
You can test different bids, different ad copy, and even different structures within your campaigns -- and have Google automatically select the winning variant at the end of the test period to become the new default.
This means less time managing your tests, and less chance of forgetting to resolve tests you're running: both saving time and helping you avoid mistakes. And since it makes testing easier, that means you're more likely to run more tests and improve your performance further.
To set up an experiment, first create a campaign draft.
Go to the campaign you'd like to test changes to, then click the "Drafts" button at the top and choose the option "Create new".
In the dialogue box that pops up, name your draft.
Hit "Create" and you'll be taken to your draft campaign. This is an exact copy of your existing campaign, but any changes you make to it will affect this draft copy only, which means they won't really do anything at all until you apply them.
So make the changes you like -- whether to your bid strategy, your ad copy, or otherwise -- and click the blue "Apply..." button at the top.
Then choose the option to run an experiment, and hit Apply.
It will ask for your experiment name (use something descriptive like "[Campaign name] - CPA bidding experiment"), start date, end date and what percentage of traffic you'd like to send to the experimental campaign.
Fill those out, continue and your experiment is now live!
You can view your experiments at any time under "All experiments" in the lefthand navigation menu, and you'll also see any active experiments that are running for a given campaign when you navigate into that campaign.