5 Signs Your Paid Search Program Needs a Makeover

By Matt Lawson
VP of Marketing, Marin Software

Has your paid search program grown so much that it’s become difficult to continuously manage and optimize every campaign and group?

If you’re fearful that certain optimization strategies have fallen off the table – or that certain campaigns and groups are flying under your radar – well, you’re not alone. This blog post walks through five common signs of a neglected or under-optimized paid search program. If your program suffers from any of these five maladies, it may be time to reevaluate your campaigns to see if there’s any low-hanging fruit to be had.

1.  Groups with No Active Creative

As farfetched as this might appear, groups with no active creative is a common issue that plagues large paid search accounts. To scale campaign management and optimization efforts, most search marketers resort to bulk adds and edits. In many cases, this leads to oversights that go unnoticed within low-volume, less-lucrative campaigns. For example, a site-wide promotion has just ended, forcing you to pause all expired promotional creative and activate all default or non-promotional creative. In executing a multi-edit or bulk-sheet upload to activate default messaging, however, some creative statuses are missed, resulting in groups with no active creative. To combat this, create a filter to look at all active groups with zero impressions over the last 30 days. Drill into each group and determine if the group is suffering from a lack of active creative.

2.  Groups Serving One Creative

Neglected groups are commonly those that are only serving a single creative. By neglected I mean that they are no longer under the experimental microscope. In order to successfully optimize creative and improve account performance, search marketers should continuously test two or more creative within each group.

Keep in mind that groups with more than one active creative can effectively be serving a single creative. This is typically found in groups within campaigns that are set to optimize for clicks (Google’s default rotation setting). Be sure to revisit groups where a single creative receives over 90% of the group’s total impressions. Add a new creative to these groups and, where appropriate, select to rotate creative more evenly under the campaign ad rotation setting.

3.  Campaigns on Standard Delivery Method

Google offers two ad delivery methods: Standard, which attempts to show ads evenly throughout the day, and Accelerated, which shows ads as often as possible. By default, campaigns are opted into the Standard delivery method. These campaigns may miss out on opportunities due to Google incorrectly forecasting available ad inventory. To ensure that your creative are shown as often as possible and that you maximize impression share, enable Accelerated delivery across all of your campaigns.

If you find that your campaigns become limited by budget, and aren’t showing creative later in the day, look to prioritize your spend across groups based on performance. For instance, maximize performance within your budget by bidding down underperforming keywords within a 20% ROI group in favor of better-performing keywords within a 40% ROI group. Expanding your negative keyword list and shifting keywords from broad match to broad match modified are easy ways to maximize a limited budget.

4.  Groups without Negative Keywords

Like groups with no active creative, groups without negative keywords are typically found in large accounts where new groups are created often, using bulk uploads or copy functions. New keywords within these groups frequently come with new, irrelevant search queries that aren’t accounted for by campaign-level negative keywords. As a result, these groups can become a major drain on spend. To improve performance across these groups, introduce appropriate negative keywords. Marin Software has a great white paper on negative keyword strategy that explains more.

5.  All-In-One Campaigns

The differences in user behavior and intent across search and display – as well as desktop, mobile and tablet – calls for strategies that are geared towards each of these audience segments. By default, Google campaigns will target the above audiences without regard to their innate performance differences. In order to effectively manage and optimize each segment, your paid search campaigns should be split out to target each audience individually. At the very least, this means one campaign for desktop search, one campaign for desktop display and one campaign for mobile search. By breaking out your campaigns with this level of granularity, you can manage and optimize your account based on performance and expected user behavior and intent.

Next Steps

Signs of neglect and under-optimization within a paid search account are not limited to these five issues. Often times, it can be fairly difficult to reevaluate search campaigns without an unbiased and experienced third party service. If you do find yourself faced with one or more of the issues above, it may be time to enlist the help of a strategic consulting group, like Amplitude Digital, who specialize in formulating audits and recommending strategies on existing paid search programs. Make a Booking and get on our calendar today.


As Vice President of Marketing for Marin Software, Matt Lawson is responsible for worldwide branding, demand generation, and product marketing. Matt brings over 9 years of digital and product marketing experience to Marin. Prior to Marin, Matt ran marketing and business development for Spock Networks, a venture-backed people search engine, helping launch the company and growing it to over 11 million monthly unique users. Previously, Matt held marketing and product leadership positions at Coremetrics, one of the early innovators in web analytics and paid search marketing. At Coremetrics, Matt oversaw marketing automation solutions which contributed to the company’s growth in revenues from $6 to $45 million over a 4-year period. Matt holds a Computer Science degree from Princeton University and an M.B.A. from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.

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