7 Red Flags to Search for in Your Google AdWords Account

7 Red Flags to Search for in Your Google AdWords Account

Your worst fears are coming true. Sam Bradford blew out his third knee. You missed your latest shipment of TB12. Someone put hydraulic fluid on the light pole you wanted to climb. Yet, even worse than all those things, you’ve noticed the performance of your AdWords account has started to flatline, or even regress.

You might be a DIY paid media manager, or you might have hired the local agency. Either way, you need to be able to spot a red flag from a mile away. This post is designed to help you identify a few common signs that indicate a struggling AdWords account and, possibly, poor management.

1. Google AdWords Account Structure is a Mess

Proper account structure and setup is crucial to the success of an AdWords account. Not only does it create clarity for optimizations, it gives Google clear direction on where and when to place your ads. Google is like a small child, it will do exactly what you tell it. Meaning, if you tell Google to run call only ads at midnight when no one is there to answer the phone, it will run call only ads at midnight when no one is there to answer the phone.

  • How is your AdWords account structured?
  • Does each campaign serve a dedicated purpose, or do you have different campaigns competing for the same keyword or audience?
  • How many site extensions do you have?
  • Is auto-tagging setup?
  • Does your AdWords account link to your Analytics account?

A good Paid Media Analyst can spot a poorly structured account within seconds. If you’re uncertain about your accounts structure, consider an audit by a trained professional.

2. There’s a Lack of Testing

If you’ve found that performance hasn’t dipped, but things have flatlined for a while, then you need to move quickly before things start to decline.

AdWords accounts are never complete. Even a perfectly structured account should constantly evolve.

If you’re not running tests and looking to grow your digital footprint, then competitors will slowly chip away at your market share. Eventually, users will find a better experience somewhere else and Google will raise your Cost Per Click (CPC) accordingly.

3. Cost Per Conversion Are Against Industry Benchmarks

Hopefully, you’re measuring a variety of conversions that accurately measure the quality of leads coming in. A simple Google search will reveal benchmarks for the average cost per conversion in your industry. If they look too good to be true, or if you’re nowhere close to related benchmarks, then something may be wrong with your targeting.

Average Cost Per Acquisition (Search)

It’s essential to know how to dive into your account on a very granular level. You’ll want to break down every keyword, search query and landing page.

  • Which keywords are driving quality traffic?
  • Which keywords are not profitable?
  • Is it the keywords or is it the landing page?

4. The Quality of AdWords Leads Doesn’t Add Up

How are your leads performing? You may have noticed an increase in conversions and got excited to see an increase in revenue. Yet, those sales never closed, and revenue never increased. As it turns out, AdWords is the best tool to capture users with the right intent, but it’s also the best at capturing the wrong intent.

If you’re driving conversions but you’re not driving sales, it’s time to dive into your search query report. Organize your data by cost and export the data for every campaign. Which terms are costing you the most? Are they relevant to your business or have you managed to convert a pool of confused internet users?

Believe me, driving the wrong traffic is not hard to do.

If you’ve found that you’re spending on irrelevant terms, then you’ve identified a major red flag. Your keyword strategy sucks. Let’s be real, Google is determined to spend your money. If you don’t know how to fence in your keywords and enhance search term requirements, then Google will rank your keywords for just about anything.

Let’s uncover search terms:

  1. Open your AdWords account and navigate to the campaign where you allocate the most budget.
  2. Click the campaign and find the ‘Keywords’ tab on the left sidebar.
  3. Select the ‘Search Terms’ tabs above the graph.
  4. Open your date range to the past 30 days and apply.

From this view, you should be able to see almost every search term that has generated an impression for your account in the past 30 days. More importantly, you should see exactly which terms are spending your money. Hopefully, you’re not in shock after reading through the list. If you are, you might want to print out that list of terms and bring it to the account manager.


5. Keyword Quality Score is Too Low

The quality score of your keywords is going to dictate a lot of your account’s success. The better the experience you provide a user for a certain search term, then the cheaper your cost and the higher your ad rank.

For each keyword you target, you should be at least sitting 7/10. If not, then you’re not meeting targeting expectations in a few areas.

  • First, users are not clicking through as often as expected.
  • Second, the landing page experience is at or below average.
  • Finally, your ad Is not relevant to your keywords.

6. The Landing Page Sucks

If you read the first five bullet points and you’re frustrated because you know they’re not the answer, then the issue might be separate from the account itself. When your targeting is accurate, but you’re just not converting, then chances are your landing page sucks.

Step into the shoes of your prospect:

  • What are you promising in your ad copy?
  • Does your landing page fulfill those promises?
  • Do you use the real estate on your web page to brag about yourself, or do you talk about how you can benefit your prospect?

CRO, or conversion rate optimization, is truly a mixture of art and science. You must be targeting and speaking to the right pain points, but your numbers should be prompting consistent adjustments.

A good agency doesn’t just think about one channel. Make sure whoever is running your AdWords account is considering the entire customer’s journey and what users see after the click.

Play with our new CRO Calculator to see how conversion rate optimization can drastically improve your account!

CRO Calculator from Vertical Measures

7. Overlap with Paid Media Competition

Everything was working well, until it just stopped. Lucky for you, AdWords makes it easy to identify where you’ve lost ground to any new competitors.

From the Google AdWords Interface, adjust your columns to view impression share. If it’s slowly decreased over time, you may have a competitor buying some of your impression shares. At that point, it’s time to get even more granular and run the Auction Insights report. From here you can identify where you overlap with or lose ad rank to these competitors.

Chances are if there is a new competitor, they’ve also built a new landing page. With that new investment, they probably based their new design and content off competitive research. In short, their offer is probably very competitive. Does your landing page compete with theirs? They may have upped the ante, and if you’re not checking the auction insight at least weekly, then you may never know where you’re failing to compete.

How to Improve Your AdWords Account

Don’t let your AdWords account stay on the decline. One or more of these seven tips should allow you to identify where your account is falling short. If you don’t feel confident in your ability to fix these issues yourself, consider hiring a professional for an audit of your account. This will be well worth the time and cost. After all, you’re spending money every day on these clicks. Make sure spend is optimized to bring in highly qualified leads.


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Tiger Rensch

Tiger has spent the last few years exploring all aspects of digital marketing. His experience is in programming, PPC, SEO, social media and inbound marketing. As a member of the Paid Media team, he's excited to help customers realize their business goals. His analytical mindset and marketing background is an asset to VM. Yet, his greatest contribution to the team is his ability to make the perfect PB & J, a ‘know how’ that was sorely missed before his arrival.