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Preparing For Takeoff: Three Items from our Pre-Flight Checklist to Scale Paid Search Campaigns

If Paid Search is a fighter jet, and the Google Ads interface is our cockpit, there are several buttons (often seemingly insignificant or unimportant) that can have an outsize impact on the success of our mission…

When we take over management of a new client’s Paid Search programs there are a few growth-inhibiting settings we immediately investigate.  We frequently encounter clients who want to increase their Paid Search budgets but tell us they can’t.  At Merit we’ve developed a pre-flight checklist of the most common reasons a client has trouble scaling their programs.

Ad Delivery

The default method in Adwords is Standard Ad Delivery.  Put simply, when this is enabled Adwords will distribute your budget throughout the day more or less evenly.  This keeps your ads showing at all hours of the day, however advertisers using this setting will miss out on searches early in the day when Adwords holds back to preserve budget for later in the day.

Another option is Accelerated Delivery.  When this setting is enabled Google makes your ads eligible for every auction provided you have budget remaining.  This means your budget will be devoted to every search for which your ads qualify until it is exhausted.

Often clients encountering scale issues don’t realize that Standard Delivery is keeping their ad away from potentially qualified searchers.  More often than not we recommend running on Accelerated Delivery for a short period of time, monitoring which campaigns run out of budget early in the day & after a learning period, re-directing funds accordingly.  Don’t let this setting mask which campaigns can grow!

Shared Budgets

A common issue we see with accounts that have trouble scaling is mis-allocated budgets.  Utilizing Shared Budgets can be an effective way to avoid scale-destroying budget situations.

If two campaigns are given $100 each day & set to optimize for ROAS the following situation is not uncommon: Campaign A is able to spend it’s daily budget by 2 or 3 PM while achieving it’s goals and Campaign B routinely under-spends it’s budget (using say, only $20 of the $100) because it is an under-performer.  Instead of spending the full budget of $200, the marketer can only spend $120.

This situation, admittedly over-simplified, is a tragedy for marketers looking to scale.  Enabling Shared Budgets changes the situation from two separate $100 budgets to one $200 budget.  Campaign A is now able to borrow from Campaign B & will often use the marketer’s previously un-spent budget to generate incremental conversions.

Bloated Ad Groups

Most marketers are loading their Ad Groups with 15-25 keywords.  When we hear about programs that have struggled to scale, believe it or not the solution is almost never injecting hundreds or thousands of new keywords into the mix.

Instead, we preach that clients should “thin-out” their Ad Groups to a low number of keywords each—in some cases we even recommend Single Keyword Ad Groups (or SKAGs).  When Ad Groups become bloated we often find keywords that should be high earners that have low impression counts.  This is because they are “stuck” in an Ad Group with “louder” keywords that are draining the Campaign’s budget & not giving the high-potential Keywords the chance to shine.  Building out more & more Ad Groups with fewer & fewer (even one) Keyword each is a way to avoid this.

Winners are unearthed as winners & losers can no longer hide.  Increasing the number of Ad Groups & lowering the Keywords in each can be a laborious strategy but it is one that pays dividends in illuminating the path to scale.

Click here for Maria Jaime’s ideas on PPC.


Andy Joyce
Senior Vice President, BI + Analytics


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