Most PPC campaigns are subject to the 80-20 rule (aka the Pareto principle) which states that approximately 80% of any given effect comes from 20% of the causes. Applied to a PPC campaign, 80% of the conversions probably come from 20% of the keywords. Most likely, you correctly focus most of your analysis and efforts on that 20%, but what about that other 80% of your keywords? They probably convert every so often but clearly, they are underperforming. Since they are relevant to your business, pausing or deleting them is not a good idea. The only real option is to improve them.
How to define an underperforming keyword
Before improving a keyword, you must first define it. Luckily, keyword performance can be easily measured by examining three specific metrics, those being:
. Keyword quality score (QS).
. Keyword conversion rate.
. Keyword click-through rate (CTR).
Keyword quality score
The Quality Score assigned to a keyword by Google is rated on a scale from 1 to 10, where 1 is poor and 10 is best. The rating is generated by an algorithm which mostly takes into account CTR, but also considers other factors such as landing page quality and overall relevance. A keyword Quality Score of 7 or more is considered above average. Anything below a 7 is underperforming. The Quality Score can be seen within your AdWords campaign, under the Keywords tab, under a column labeled “Qual. score”.
Keyword conversion rate
The conversion rate of a keyword tells you what percentage of the time a keyword converts. The formula is very simple, divide the number of conversions by the number of impressions and you get the conversion rate. The number of impressions, conversions as well as the conversion rate can all be found under the “Keywords” tab in your Google AdWords campaign. The often quoted average for e-commerce sites is a conversion rate of 2%.
Keyword click-through rate
CTR is an indication of relevance between the keyword and the user search, as well as relevance between the keyword and the ad. A low CTR generally indicates that the ad associated with the keyword has low relevance or is poorly written. Keywords with a CTR of less than 1.5% are considered poor performers and are therefore great candidates for improvement efforts.
Identifying the underperforming keywords
Your keywords are all listed under the “keywords” tab in the Ad Group section of your campaign. Be sure to view your keywords under the Ad Group view, as opposed to seeing them grouped together under the campaign view. Part of the work that will need to be done involves moving keywords from one Ad Group to another, so be sure you know what Ad Group a keyword came out of. Identifying the underperforming keywords is easy; simply look at the columns with the three metrics listed above and look for the worst performers.
Keyword Improvement Strategy
Underperforming keywords typically have a low Quality Score as well as a low conversion rate. This is because the low Quality Score causes the ad to show too low on the search engine results page (SERP) to generate sufficient clicks to yield a conversion.
A low Quality Score is usually a result of two major factors:
. Low CTR.
. Low relevancy between the keyword and the user’s search query or low relevancy between the keyword and the ad.
To address these two issues and raise the keyword’s quality score requires:
. Moving the keyword from the current Ad Group to another Ad Group which has keywords that are more closely linked to your underperforming keyword. If a relevant Ad Group does not exist, a new one needs to be created.
. Creating a new, more relevant ad. The ad should include the underperforming keyword in the title, the text and the display URL. A new landing page with more relevance should also be chosen, or a new one created if it does not exist.
By grouping together tightly linked keywords under an Ad Group, you are able to create very relevant ads specifically for those keywords. You are also able to choose landing pages which are specific to that group of keywords. This is why Ad Groups should contain only a small set of very similar keywords. When a keyword is incorrectly placed within a particular Ad Group you will eventually see low CTRs and low quality scores for that keyword.
Although underperforming keywords are part of every AdWords campaign, they always have the potential of becoming top performers. Underperformance is generally an indication that the keyword has been grouped incorrectly and is suffering from a lack of relevance. You can avoid this problem by creating small Ad Groups and carefully adding new keywords based on relevancy. Conversely, by deleting or pausing a keyword you may find yourself unwittingly burying a diamond in the rough.