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Four ways to spot AdWords account trouble early
Catch a decline in performance before it becomes an issue -- with advanced alerts, dashboards and AdWords Scripts.
With a constant stream of new capabilities in AdWords, and with the multitude of settings to manage, it can be daunting to stay on top of it all, especially when managing more than one account, or when your job entails more than just doing AdWords. Luckily, there are some simple ways to spot trouble early on and prevent an account disaster. I’ll share some of my favorites here.
Use the change history in AdWords Alpha to spot a lack of activity
One sure sign that your account may be headed for trouble is that it’s undermanaged and not optimized on a regular basis. AdWords Alpha makes it much easier than the legacy interface to see how actively an account is managed. Unlike the change history in the old version of AdWords, AdWords Alpha highlights the overall number of changes right at the top, broken out by type.
When evaluating changes, be sure to look beyond the totals, and look at the number of changes by type. Bid changes are often automated, so there may be hundreds or thousands every month, whereas ad text changes, which are often done manually, will probably number much lower. If you use highly scalable PPC management tools like Optmyzr to update all your ads with new inventory or promotions, you should expect that even ad text changes could add up. So be sure to consider these numbers in context of the types of tools your account team has access to.
Spot a poorly implemented strategy by counting unimplemented opportunities
An account could still be headed for trouble when there are lots of changes but they are the wrong ones. A good way to gauge the quality of work is to look at the Opportunities section in AdWords to get a feel for how many tasks haven’t been done. Just be sure to always look at the opportunities that match your account strategy.
At Optmyzr, we have some customers who outsource their account management but who still look at our optimization suggestions to get a sense of how many opportunities exist for a strategy they like. For example, if they notice that there are hundreds of queries that our tools indicate are good keywords but haven’t been added, they can contact their account manager to discuss this and prevent it from having an adverse impact on account performance.
A big benefit of using a tool like Optmyzr to do optimizations is that all the prebuilt optimization suggestions are customizable, and there’s even a rule engine to create custom, super-advanced optimizations. Rather than relying on cookie-cutter suggestions, proposed optimizations in Optmyzr match the account strategy, so it’s a more meaningful way to see if they are not implemented as well as they could be.
Spot performance anomalies with a script
Evaluating the amount and quality of work done are great first steps to spot trouble early. But what if it’s too late, the performance is already impacted, and something needs immediate attention? AdWords created a cool AdWords Script for this, the Anomaly Detector. It will send an email if clicks, impressions or cost are unusual compared to typical performance for the day of the week and hour of the day.
If you need to run this across many accounts, Optmyzr’s Enhanced Scripts can be used to set it up for many accounts, each with their own sensitivity levels, while only having to maintain a single version of the code in AdWords. Optmyzr basically handles all the account-level details so that you don’t have to maintain different code for each account.
If you’re interested in getting these types of anomaly alerts at a more granular level than the account (which is what Google’s code does), I wrote a variation of the script called the Granular Anomaly Detector.
We created a few other scripts that can find issues as they happen, like the URL checker and Sitelink URL checker.
Use advanced PPC dashboards for monitoring
So far, I’ve covered ways to find out about account issues that are fairly manual, or those that involve working with AdWords Scripts. If you want something easier and more streamlined, and you have a bit of budget to work with cutting-edge tools, Optmyzr’s newly redesigned MCC dashboard combines several types of alerts in one place. Unlike the AdWords MCC, Optmyzr’s dashboard also includes Bing Ads, and each metric shows a graph of recent trends and their directionality.
Because different accounts may have different targets, the dashboard is flexible, and you can set targets for any metric. For example, one account could have a CPA target, another an ROAS target, and yet another could have a target for cost and CTR. When the target KPI falls outside the expected range, an alert is shown.
One thing we heard from advertisers is that they want to get a predictive alert before a KPI (key performance indicator) is missed. So, in addition to alerting advertisers after the KPI has been missed, we also alert them when the metric starts to head in the wrong direction. That way, advertisers can address any issues before they become significant enough to impact the target performance.
Then we saw that advertisers who have alerts are frustrated when alarms keep triggering even after the underlying cause has been fixed. For example, say you’ve just gotten an alert that CPAs (costs per action) are trending up and you identified the responsible keyword and fixed it. A typical dashboard will continue to show the alert because it will take some time for the metrics to return to normal. That’s why Optmyzr’s alerts have snooze buttons — so that after you fix an issue, you can snooze the alert.
Whether you manage an AdWords account yourself or hired someone to do it for you, it’s useful to have a range of tools at your disposal to check on the quality of work to ensure continuous peak performance. You have many ways to monitor accounts, from native AdWords tools like Change History and the Opportunities tab to free AdWords Scripts and advanced dashboards, reports and custom optimizations from companies like Optmyzr. With the four tactics suggested in this post, I hope you’ll be able to become a better PPC advertiser without having to invest more time.