3 Reasons to Ditch Your Messy AdWords Account and Start Over

September 5, 2014

Internet Marketing Benefits

One of the biggest obstacles I face with clients is taking control of a messy and hard to manage account. Often times AdWords accounts change hands over time, have an “old school” strategy for setup, or just have too many cooks in the kitchen for a lack of better terminology. This often leads to an account with more campaigns, ad groups, and keywords than you know what to do with.

I speak with many clients who feel like they are drowning in their accounts and don’t even know where to begin. Upon analyzing these accounts, I often have the same sentiments; it can feel impossible to know what the best first step is because there are so many things that can and need to be fixed.

adwords account help

The obvious question is then, “Do we try to fix what currently exists or would it be better to start over?” Either option can feel rather daunting, but in my experience, I’ve had more success and fewer headaches when we have scrapped the mess and started over with a neatly organized account structure and a lot more simplicity.  

Here are 3 reasons why you should consider building out a new AdWords account from scratch and walking away from the current mess of a situation that you are trying to navigate.

Just think about it. If you have 10 campaigns, 100 ad groups, and hundreds of thousands of keywords (this might be a bit dramatic for some, but it’ll get the point across), that means you have to look at each of these elements to decide what optimization steps to take in your account. Daily tactics include questioning which of the hundreds of thousands keyword bids should be changed, which match types are working well, which ads should be optimized, and overall just where to even begin.

With an abundance of campaigns and ad groups, there is often overlap in the account, keywords competing against each other, and a whole lot of keywords that aren’t even seeing any performance and yet are taking up space and cluttering the account.

I often see misspellings, different match types, and even just the plural version of a keyword located in different ad groups. It feels confusing to even try to explain this, so imagine trying to manage an account with a structure that doesn’t allow you to easily locate specific items. Having too much clutter makes it too hard to take action, especially if you have not been deeply involved in the setup and continued growth of the account.

Starting over will most likely allow you to cut down on the number of keywords, ad groups, and campaigns necessary to advertise your specific product or service offering. Often a product/service can be communicated in only a handful of semantically related keywords rather than hundreds of overlapping keywords. If you start from a fresh slate, this will allow you to not only acquire a sense of organization, but you will be able to easily locate keywords and themes within the account, make changes to a smaller number of keywords during a normal workflow for optimization, and gain control in targeting and communicating to your potential searchers.

Along with being able to manage individual aspects of your AdWords account within sifting through a bunch of waste, starting over with a neatly organized account will allow you to track performance much more effectively. Rather than having to look through every nook and cranny of your old messy account in an attempt to see which of the pieces is performing well, you will have fewer places to look and a better understanding of what is working well and what needs improvement. Looking at the performance of 100 or so keywords is certainly a lot more manageable than looking through the performance (or lack thereof) of 100,000+ keywords.

Similarly, when there are too many moving pieces in an account, especially with broad keywords and just general overlap, it can be difficult to truly pinpoint what is working well – there could be 5 or more keywords all competing for the same search queries, and that means having to look at the performance of all 5 of those keywords just to identify if there is success or failure. By cutting down the number of keywords, you can look at just one instance of a keyword and much more quickly identify positive or negative performance.

You might be tempted to take the road of fixing your account rather than starting over because you have the common feeling that you do have some good data, that you can benefit from historical performance, and that a lot of work has gone into the account in the past so it doesn’t make sense to just walk away from it. I get that, I really do, but I can predict that you will run into more obstacles and surprises than you realize when trying to “fix” what’s wrong in your account now.

adwords account

With every pause of a keyword and with every change, you have to worry about the hundreds or thousands of other keywords that weren’t seeing performance previously but could easily be activated as soon as you make a change. In my experience, pausing one keyword meant seeing a performance spike in an unwanted area; keywords that we didn’t even realize were in the account would all of a sudden start seeing performance after even the smallest change. Especially with large, unorganized accounts, there can be numerous unknowns, which can make it very difficult to predict the outcome of a change to the account.

Starting over will allow you to avoid the scenario of being in a sinking ship where plugging one hole just causes a more forceful flow of water through another hole. If you start from scratch you’re building up successfully rather than trying to jump in five different directions just to salvage something that has been doomed from the beginning. You maintain control over what you are putting into your account and can drive forward movement rather than having to simply react to whatever goes wrong next.

When one of my clients joined WordStream, he was new to his company’s AdWords account and yet was tasked with the duty to help them at least break even in paid search. My first look at the account made me realize we had a lot of work ahead of us, as there were close to 50 active campaigns, even more ad groups, and literally hundreds of thousands of keywords. There were so many components to analyze and so many moving pieces that it was quite difficult to determine the best first steps.

For a while we tried to salvage what we had, so we started pausing some obvious keywords that weren’t contributing to the account, started working on some of the keywords that were clearly wasting money, and focused on some of the high CPA areas. Initially, we paused 100,000+ keywords and saw just about zero change in performance; this just goes to show how much junk was sitting in the account making it even more frustrating to manage, but really contributing nothing at all. From here we started making changes to keywords and run into more and more unexpected changes in performance due to keywords in the account that we didn’t even realize existed.

Ultimately the pace of small changes wasn’t helping, and we were still just seeing performance metrics that weren’t in line with goals. Not only that, but the account wasn’t feeling any more manageable. We finally decided to simply ditch everything and completely start over so that we could have full control over every keyword, every bid, every match type, and so on.

We started over in early to mid-May, so it has been about one and a half to two months since we revamped the account. So far performance has been great. We have seen:

149% increase in CTR27% decrease in CPARoughly a 40% decrease in overall cost

Not bad, right?

delete adwords account

Other metrics such as impression share have certainly improved as well:

adwords account data

And seeing a graph where CTR is going up month over month and CPA going down is always a good feeling:

delete my adwords account

As if an improvement in performance isn’t a good enough motivator, I think that the biggest incentive for me in telling clients to consider starting over is that it will make account management that much easier. If your job is to manage even just one AdWords account, you should want it to be as easily executable as possible. It’s not worth it to make your PPC experience miserable just because you’re afraid that starting over could lead to negative results or you don’t want to give up on an account that has existed for quite some time. An easy to navigate account is going to cut down on time spent working in the account and will make overall optimization much more convenient.

I’m also not saying that starting over is for everyone; some accounts certainly just need a bit of a tune-up, but I certainly wouldn’t rule out the option of creating something new for your own sanity as well as overall performance.

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