This One Simple AdWords Hack… Isn’t So Simple After All

Mika Hutton

We’ve all seen clickbait-y articles promising to quadruple our lead flow overnight, double our conversion rates, and cause pixies to ride unicorns through the sky… all with one simple AdWords hack!

A company I used to work for relied heavily on AdWords for lead generation, and the CEO would send a dozen emails a week to me claiming to ‘solve’ AdWords. The articles would highlight one well-known feature of AdWords and extoll it as the end-all-be-all of digital marketing. Sometimes it’d be mobile ads, sometimes quality score, sometimes ad extensions; but, always, it would be something that most PPC marketers should already be well aware of, and something that I was already doing.

So, to set the record straight, I present to you my one not-so-simple AdWords hack: The Big Picture.

Bob Ross Painting Pretty Pictures

It’s a pretty picture, with friendly mountains and a happy tree!

Tunnel Vision Isn’t a Hack

The key to successful PPC marketing is understanding data; ALL the data. Most of the “One Simple Hack” articles will tell you to focus on a single metric or feature to the exclusion of all else. Unfortunately, it’s not that easy. Sure, quality score is important, but it’s meaningless if nobody’s clicking on your ads. Those sitelinks are pretty, but if they don’t convert, who cares? You need to consider all the information at your disposal, and an account where each feature works with every other, from that first impression down to the remarketing conversion.

Part of the process is time and tiny changes, and this is one aspect that’s usually completely ignored by the clickbaiters and their one-size-fits-all approach. Each new addition should be systematically tested for effectiveness and appropriateness to its particular campaign, and tweaked to find the best possible format, phrasing, and usage. We all know that different audiences respond best to different copy, creatives, and ad formats, and testing is the only way to know what will work best for your product and your audience.

Data Chemistry Cat

“Catnip converts, and I’ve got the data to prove it!”

Understand the Story Behind the Data

Each metric that AdWords measures means something. More importantly, each metric means something specific and quantifiable. Together, they tell a story. In a perfect world, that story would be See Spot Run: simple, predictable, and easy. More often, we’re dealing with Game of Thrones: complicated plots, hundreds (thousands?) of characters, and motivations only revealed through action. So how can we hope to understand the story presented? By ignoring all the simple hacks and fitting multiple pieces together.

When you bring together each part of the puzzle, you can start to construct a narrative to diagnose problems or recommend improvements. Low impression count combined with under budget spending can indicate overly narrow targeting. High click-through rates and no conversions can indicate a problem with the landing page. When data plays together, the story comes to life.

Math in AdWords

Real footage of me deciphering all of the data in an AdWords campaign

So What’s a Marketer To Do?

The unfortunate reality is that there is no “One Simple AdWords Hack” to solve your advertising woes. If there was, everyone would be doing it and marketing would be a dead profession. Now, before you contemplate your career change, there is a light at the end of the tunnel for those of us still brave enough to partake in the PPC game.

  1. Think it though – seriously: Do you think George R.R. Martin started to craft his novels with only the first book in mind? Take the time to do a real comprehensive, long-term strategy that you can iterate on once you’ve collected some data on and not freak out when it doesn’t work exactly the way you thought it would. Here’s a 5 step plan to thinking this AdWords plan through as thoroughly as possible.
  2. Be diligent: We’ve talked about this before on this blog, Laziness will kill your AdWords campaign. You cannot set and forget your ads. Despite what any AdWords hack claims that you can do… like a budding relationship, they require TLC each and every day.
  3. Keep your wallet close: You do not, I repeat, you do NOT need to spend thousands and thousands of dollars to try to hack AdWords. Start with a reasonable budget to get some concepts tried and see what works best and reallocate or add budget as needed. There’s nothing worse than throwing money at a program to see a big ‘ol goose egg in the conversions column.
  4. Don’t go it alone: I know, I know. If you’re anything like the hard-headed marketers I’ve worked with, you just know you can crack this egg alone. Simply put, there is no reason to. We’re all in this together and we can and should learn from each other’s testing and learnings. Give us a shout, we’re happy to help.
  5. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket: Can AdWords provide your company with a wealth of traffic and leads? Maybe. Should it be your own marketing strategy to grow your business? Absolutely not. As we’ve talked about before, a multi-channel marketing approach is critical for company growth.

As it is, we’ll keep testing, keep analyzing, and keep getting ever closer to that elusive perfect ad setup.

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