15 Signs That You Need Help With AdWords

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At Search Scientist, we have noticed that there are some issues that appear over and over again with new accounts that we first review.

Therefore, I thought it might be useful to do a post on 15 telltale signs that your AdWords account needs some work. These are 15 of the most common, fundamental issues that we come across:

1.  No match types enabled on keywords

If you go to the keyword level and notice that many of the keywords have no match types, then you are wasting money.

Unless you otherwise have very tight targeting, keywords should be in either exact, phrase or broad match modifier match types. This means they should have square brackets ([ ]), quotation marks (” “) or a plus sign (+) surrounding the keyword.

See the keywords below in a sample ad group (though bear in mind point 4 below):


2. Click Through Rate (CTR) is less than 1% (for search campaigns only)

If you have a low click-through rate, then it is a sign that users are ignoring your ad in favour of competing ads or organic listings. A general rule of thumb with search campaigns is that if your CTR is less than 1%, then either the ad is appearing on terms that are irrelevant or too broad, or the ad text is not captivating enough to illicit a response, in comparison to other listings on the page.

3. Quality Score is less than 6/10

A keywords quality score is made up of 3 factors:

  • Ad relevance to the keyword
  • Expected Click Through Rate
  • Landing page experience

A Quality Score of 6 out of 10 is considered average.  Anything below this, means that you are paying more to maintain the top 3 positions than you should be. Quality Score, along with your bid, is used in determining the ad rank, so the lower your quality score, the higher your bid will need to be to maintain the same position.

For more information on Quality Score, check out our previous article on, What is Quality Score?

4. Ad Groups containing multiple keyword themes

Each ad group should be very tightly matched to one specific theme, indicated by the ad group title. If you have many different themed keywords all delivering the same ad to users, they will be less effective, for example:


5. There are no conversions being tracked

If there are no conversion being tracked on your account, you will have no idea how to quantify the value of the traffic that you are receiving from AdWords. You will not know how many  of them are resulting in leads or sales for your business.

You can tell if your account is not tracking conversions by clicking Tools> Conversions from the top of the screen:


6. There are no negative keywords

Every campaign and every ad group will need at least some negative keywords. If you click on the keywords tab, the move to negative keywords and see this screen…

screensavescreencapture (25)

…then you have no negative keywords and there are most likely many clicks on irrelevant search terms that are costing you money.

7. Ad Copy is months old

If the text in your ads hasn’t been edited or changed in months, then it is a sign that you aren’t pushing your most up to date messaging to users. If users are seeing the same messaging every time they search, it becomes less effective.

A rule of thumb is to at least change and refresh low performing ad variations once a month.

8. Search Impression Share is below 30%

Search Impression Share is the number of times that your ad was shown, divided by the number of times it was eligible to show. Your Quality Score, bids or budget could be holding back how often your ad is shown. If search impression share is below 30%, then you could be missing out on a huge chunk of traffic, that could lead to a large amount of sales for your products or leads for your service.

9 You have many keywords marked as ‘Rarely Shown’, ‘Below first page’ or ‘Low Search Volume’

If you see any messages like these, then it means that your ads are not reaching as many users as they could.

Rarely Shown’ is an error which means that your quality score is too low to show on the search results regularly.  In order to change this, you need to improve 3 things:

  • Landing page experience (e.g. load time, usability, relevance to keywords)
  • Expected clickthrough rate (e.g. with compelling text, stronger selling points, clear call to action)
  • Ad relevance (e.g. with keyword in title)

‘Below First Page’ means that your bid is too low to consistently appear in the top 3 results. It will give a suggested bid that should enable you to increase your ad position to make your ad more visible, and give you a better chance of driving relevant traffic to your website.

‘Low Search Volume’ means that there is little to no users searching for that query and it is highly unlikely to generate any traffic for your website. These keywords don’t do any harm to campaigns, but if you have entire ad groups with entirely low searched keywords, then it will not produce any sales or leads for your website. It would be better and more productive to focus on other keywords.

10. You have no ad extensions

If you go to the Ad Extensions tab, you will see the existing ad extensions in your campaign or ad group. These are essential for increasing your Click Through Rate (CTR) and setting yourself apart from the competing ads.

The primary ad extensions are:

  • Sitelink extensions
  • Callout extensions
  • Structured Snippets
  • Call extensions (if you want to drive and measure phone calls to your business)

11. No recent changes

You can check this by going to a campaign or ad group and clicking ‘Change History’ to see all of the most recent changes to your ads and keywords. If you have no recent changes, it means your ads and keywords are not being adjusted based on your campaign activity, which leads to stale, unproductive campaigns, with increased costs and less return for your business.

12. Not linked to Google Analytics

Google Analytics gives you vital information about the health of your ads that AdWords data cannot give you alone. In order to receive the tailored information about your AdWords traffic, you need to have the two accounts (AdWords and Analytics) linked.

Three vital stats for any AdWords campaign that you can get from Google Analytics are:

  • Bounce Rate
  • Time on Site
  • Pages per session

13. Targeting Search + Display together in one campaign

There are 5 campaign types that you can choose from in Google AdWords. One of them is ‘Search with Display Select’, which targets both the search and display networks with the same ads.

It is better, especially if you are just starting, to only target one network per campaign. This means the campaign can be fully optimised for the particular network, leading to a better return on the money you invest into AdWords.


14. No Frequency Cap (Display network only)

A frequency cap is unique to display campaigns and means that you are limiting the number of times that an ad is shown to the same person. It prevents situations where the same user is bombarded with the same ad multiple times over the course of their daily browsing of the internet. It can be a good way of preventing users developing negative sentiment about your brand, and limit ineffective impressions (if they haven’t clicked on your ad after 3 times seeing it, they may be unlikely to click and buy the fourth time, therefore it is a wasted impression).

15. Product Groups not filtered properly (Shopping Campaign only)

Within a Shopping Campaign’s ad groups, you chose product groups in order to filter the products that appear in that ad group. A common issue that arises here is that all the products outside of that product group need to be excluded. If it isn’t, all the products will be pulled into the one ad group and warp your metrics and benchmark figures, which can lead to poor targeting and it being harder to identify particularly successful product lines.

See the below example, for a typical Shopping campaign, at ad group level:


If you have any questions or have spotted any of these issues in your AdWords account, drop us a line at info@searchscientist.co.uk, or give us a call at 028 9068 3790.

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