Fix Your Foundations – The Case For Account Rebuilds

When we kick off a client at SEER, we do a deep dive into any existing data to make sure we were covering top performers & using insights. As we manage accounts, we constantly A/B test, pause/expand keywords, tweak landing pages and copy and just generally toy around with the account as any good agency would.

What I think most PPC managers don’t do often enough (myself included) is look at the core layout of accounts, the foundation if you will.  Why do we only look at the extremely long term data when we build an account?

The fact of the matter is best practices in PPC change rapidly. Let’s take a quick look at major AdWords since May 1st, 2011:

May 2011 – Display URL added to headlines

July – Tablet Targeting announced, Call extensions cost $1

October – Bid per call

February ‘12 – Crazy enhanced sitelinks

March ‘12 – Contextual targeting is keyword based (again)

April ‘12 – Near-phrase & near-exact, Ad Rotation Fiasco

You get the idea, and that was only a years’ worth of major changes. Obviously there have been many more, all of which have drastically change what an ideally structured account looks like. Needless to say, structure will change even more when Enhanced Campaigns become a forced reality. If we simply pile more and more things onto an old cracked foundation, things could go bad in a hurry.

A frequent complaint we get from prospects is that they feel as though they’ve stalled out, that their account isn’t going anywhere. I often argue that a full campaign refresh can often solve the problem; starting from scratch, but using your own data.

I’d recommend you pour a whiskey or two, and get ready to rebuild. the-never-ending-pour

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Here’s the process that I’d typically take. Full disclosure; make sure you have plenty of RAM, as the files can get huge.

  1. Run a search query report for as long as you or your agency has had the account (or as conversion tracking has been correct).
  2. Pull out all converters into a separate tab (save non-converters for negatives), and categorize into campaigns. Make sure they’ve converted at an acceptable CPA, lest you waste money.
  3. Run estimates for converters on exact. Do they have volume? Good! Create ad groups for these guys on exact match only, and make sure they never go dark. You know they work, so keep them live!
  4. Don’t neglect phrase/broad match! Build out ad groups to coincide with exact match to serve as a clean-up crew and get everything that you or the estimators missed.
  5. Find long term ad copy insights. I’m not talking about if Ad A beat Ad B for the purple kitten factory ad group, I’m talking extremely broad themes like which value propositions tended to work, whether you should put a CTA in the headline or otherwise. Create copy accordingly.
  6. Run long term, rolled up geo and time of day reports. Does Wyoming tend to do terrible across the board? Cut it! Does Arkansas tend to convert great? Boost the bids with Enhanced Bid modifiers. Use these long term insights to guide the campaigns.

The obvious concern here is giving up data and ad/keyword history will create a major drop off. Here’s a before/after for a few campaigns I rebuilt using the above strategy for a client to allay any concerns.

Overall, we did see CTR decrease quite a bit, though that’s something that we’ll likely be able to correct as we update ads. The key metrics are the increases in conversion rate and sharp decreases in CPA. I can’t think of a person in the world who wouldn’t want more leads with a 30% lower CPA



Aaron Levy brings nearly a decade of experience guiding digital marketing and PPC strategies for clients of all shapes and sizes - from internationally recognized brands and institutions to regional spas and local adoption agencies. Aaron prides himself on the ability to transcend digital advertising, instead focusing on using digital tools to develop data driven marketing strategies while always maintaining a customer focus.

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