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Restructuring Google AdWords Accounts and Making Them More Efficient [Case Study]

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Giovanna O'Grady

March 9, 2017

As a consultant, you may find yourself taking over an existing campaign from a previous agency or another marketer. While this situation presents challenges, it’s a great opportunity to take it to the next level and make significant improvements. Fellow EM Marketing consultant Mark Harnett and I recently did just this for a client with a Google AdWords campaign, by decreasing the cost per acquisition (CPA) and improving return on ad spend (ROAS). Here’s how.

The Challenge

Our client, a global business selling 3D virtual experiences, wanted to increase their online acquisition efforts during a short, three-month peak selling season. The goal was to turn Google AdWords (including search, display, retargeting, and app downloads) ROAS positive, i.e., become more efficient and get back more revenue than they spent on the campaign. At the same time, the client wanted to grow the number of paying users (it’s a challenge to achieve both these goals simultaneously!).

We inherited the accounts from a previous agency, and immediately saw opportunities to restructure it to make it more efficient and easier to manage, as it presented us with:

  • Multiple accounts
  • No clear and consistent campaign structure – within each account or across accounts
  • A manual CPC bidding strategy
  • Overlapping campaigns (e.g. audience targeting, keywords)
  • Settings did not align with campaigns’ intents e.g., one campaign was for French-speaking countries but still targeted the English language

The Process We Took

The main questions we started with were, what was performing well and why? We collected data to understand which countries, gender, and age groups were top drivers for acquiring paying users. We also conducted ad and landing page audits to 1) ensure top-converting ones would be used going forward, and 2) identify common themes and hypotheses to guide new creative and landing page testing and development.

The Solution/Strategy

When the goal is to become efficient with your campaign, you can start with the 80/20 rule. In this case, we focused on who was truly driving the paid subscriptions based on gender, age, and country. We decided to focus on countries and developed three tiers based on the number of paying users per country. For top tier countries, the ads were translated into the local language.

We decided to restructure the AdWords accounts based on conversion event (registration vs. app download vs. upsell) and campaigns based on country tiers.

As AdWords only provided registration data, it was important for the client to track the backend data, so that we could optimize towards the paying user. And since we had this data, we could report on multiple conversion rates — registration rate, conversions to paying users, and the number of app downloads.

To simplify the management of campaigns, we changed the strategy from a manual CPC to CPA targets, and let Google Conversion Optimizer adjust the bidding accordingly.

The Results and Lessons Learned

In the end, we reduced the CPA by 73% and the ROAS improved by three times. Success!

One important recommendation that was helpful during the campaign restructuring was to phase out the old campaigns gradually. Adwords uses ad history to give advantage, so we kept pre-existing campaigns on to mitigate risk during their peak season. However, CPA targets on the pre-existing campaigns were reduced to be below those of the new campaigns.

When taking over client campaigns from previous agencies or marketers, immerse yourself in learning what worked and what didn’t, so you can provide a sound strategy to get better results.

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