Improving Google AdWords

Google AdWords is an amazing advertising platform but, like most things, there is always room for improvement.  I will take a look at various AdWords features and voice my concerns while explaining why improvements are necessary.  As a precursor, I have spoken with my Google representative about my concerns and she has assured me that they are being taken into consideration.

Improvement 1: Better segmentation within the Search Partners Network

Whenever you set up a new Search Network campaign, by default you “opt in” to the Search Partners Network.  This means that your ads have the ability to show on Google’s partner sites such as Amazon and AOL.  Within the subset of the Partners network your ads will still show alongside or above the search results””as would a regular search in Google.

Unlike a Content Network campaign where you can exclude your ads from showing on certain sites, you cannot exclude your ads form showing on individual Search Partner sites. In fact, until October 2008, you could not separate metrics from the Search Partner Network in the Adwords interface.  Even then you could not view stats from individual sites.  Luckily, there is a filter in Google Analytics you can use.  You either opt into the Search Partner Network or you do not, there is no in between.

By not being able to exclude sites you cannot capitalize on what is working.  You may have a site that is bringing in conversions, but another one that is eating your budget.  You have to determine if the benefit of opting into the Search Partner Network is worth the cost that the ineffective site is incurring.

Improvement 2: More granular conversion tracking

Within the AdWords interface you are able to see conversion metrics by 1-per-click and many-per-click.  In other words, you can see if a keyword accounted for one conversion per a click or if the user converted more than once per that one click. For example, a user may click an ad and just download a whitepaper accounting for one conversion per that one click. Another user might click an ad and download a whitepaper, but also fill out the contact us form for two conversions per that one click.  Many-per-click conversions were introduced in April 2009 and are a great feature.

You are able to segment 1-per-click and many-per-click conversions by keyword, text ad, ad group, and campaign, but you cannot decipher by type of conversion.  When you click on the conversions option under the reporting tab you see a screen that breaks out conversions by type of lead (ex: purchase, webinar download, contact us form submission, etc.).  The issue is that you can only view the lead breakdown by many-per-click conversions.  I often want to break down the leads by 1-per-click conversions, but cannot.  I use analytics and review the leads, but this extra layer of tracking in AdWords would be much appreciated.

Improvement 3: Target Ad Sitelinks at an ad group level

I previously wrote about my affinity for Ad Sitelinks. Though I still value this feature I believe it would be better utilized at an ad group level instead of campaign. As currently constituted, sitelinks can only be added at the campaign level. Let’s say I have a golf-themed campaign consisting of three ad groups:

Men’s Golf Shoes
Women’s Golf Shoes
Kid’s Golf Shoes

If a user searches for men’s golf shoes I want these additional links to show up:

Premium Men’s Golf Shoes
Men’s Golf Shoes for Under $100
Black Men’s Golf Shoes
White Men’s Golf Shoes

However, because I can only target these sitelinks at the campaign level, the link for “Premium Men’s Golf Shoes” has the potential to show up for a search for women’s golf shoes.  In this case the link does not relate to the user’s search and I have lessened my chance for a click. By allowing sitelinks at the ad group level you can target your ads that much better.

Improvement 4: Make session-based broad match optional

Google explains the keyword match type, session-based broad, like this:

“When determining which ads to show on a Google search result page, the AdWords system evaluates some of the user’s previous queries during their search session as well as the current search query. If the system detects a relationship, it will show ads related to these other queries, too.”

*Full Google explanation can be found here

In theory, session-based broad match sounds like a good system, but it is essentially taking control out of the advertiser’s hands.  Google is using its best judgment to show additional ads, not yours.  This may lead to less targeted ads for user queries. Currently, you cannot turn off session-based broad match.  You can run search query reports and add negative keywords to combat this match type, but the feature is always on.  For further reading, John A. Lee does an excellent job of explaining session-based broach match and its ramifications.


My hopes are that improvements are made to these features in order to better target ads and utilize budget.  In the end the more effective the advertising platform the better Google is as a paid search engine.

Are there features that you believe can be improved?  I encourage you to share your thoughts.

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2 Responses to Improving Google AdWords

  1. Great post Matt.

    I’d like to add one more to the list, a ‘Destination URL Checker’.

    Often when managing a large PPC account for an ecommerce client with hundreds of categories and thousands of products we rely too much on the client passing PPC managers information with regard to site category changes or products being deleted, that doesn’t always happen.

    Too many times I have inherited adwords accounts which contain several destination url’s directing traffic to 404 pages where categories have been moved or changed along with product pages that no longer exist. This is no fault of the PPC manager but a breakdown in communication between the manager and the client.

    Why doesn’t Google add a ‘Destination URL Checker’ that periodically checks what header status a destination url is returning. So if a 404 ‘page not found’ status is being returned for an ad destination url, a custom alert appears in your adwords account to make the necessary updates to the ad, in a similar way that you are alerted of a trademark violation.

    Seems quite simple really although would depend on correct header statuses being implemented across client sites but would result in a great improvement of the end user and PPC managers experience of the Google adwords platform.


    Paul Broomfield

  2. Hi Paul,

    Appreciate the feedback. I certainly agree with your note on destination URLs and the communication between PPC managers and clients. It is just too difficult for PPC managers to know whenever a product or category is removed from the site, especially with the potential for 1000’s of destination URLs.

    However, I have seen ads disapproved when the destination URL was not working. It doesn’t happen in every instance, but I get an alert that the ad was disapproved and I have to see why. I then see that the destination URL is not working.

    Regardless, I would greatly appreciate a “Destination URL Checker” tool.


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