I head up the Adwords business at our agency and have audited hundreds of accounts. Each one has its specific issues, and without seeing yours it's hard to know where the opportunities are.
That said, you got some good answers up above, particularly with regards to Search Query analysis and adding negative keywords like "free", "how to" etc.
What I didn't see mentioned above are common pitfalls that are default Adwords campaign settings and could lead to wasted spend, they are:
Another "tip", which is more of an optimization technique, is to optimize to profit, not to average position/cpc/ctr (or any other vanity metric). Your goal with Adwords is to be profitable - so you should know what your breakeven point is (taking into account COGS) and optimizing to hit that breakeven point on every $1 spent on Adwords. Some keywords will be profitable in Average Position 2, some in Position 5. Make sure you're taking actual profitability into account and not just bidding for position.
Lastly - look at your Quality Scores. Quality Score has a real effect on CPC, and a poor Quality Score will cause you to pay a higher CPC. If your Quality Score is worse than 7 for any keyword then there is room for improvement. Hover over the little speech bubble next to the keyword to find out why it's low.
If the reason is because of Ad Relevance then write a new ad which features your exact keyword within the ad. If the reason is because of Landing Page Experience - take a look at your site and see if there is a better page to drive the user to.
Hope that helps.
You will need to decide how much you can write off in terms of testing to start with, but look for the volume keywords (in google trends and on Google search console), work out your product margin, then work out what the most you can spend per sale is.
I.e. if you're selling shoes at £40+delivery, profit is £20 on a sale, then you should be aiming to spend as much under £20 CPA (cost per acquisition) as possible, else you'll be a "busy fool."
Negative keywords are a must, we sell tenpin bowling equipment so have put negatives on cricket and crown green bowling terms, and on fashion brands who sell 'fashion' bowling bags.
In Google Analytics, look at the landing pages driving sales from organic and best guess what search terms are taking customers there.
Once you start to see some patterns, get the same ads on Bing, smaller volume but usually better conversion.
Plus it doesn't stand still, new ad formats, new competitors coming in, loads changing all the time so need to monitor constantly, especially when stuff goes out of season.
As above, display usually a waste of money.
Great question! Thanks for writing.
Wanted to throw in my $0.02 on this issue…
Always ask your SEM agency or vendor:
Where do you see most incremental opportunities?
Even if your campaigns are already going well, there will always be opportunities to improve. You might think about the following scenario:
If our brand increased our budget 30% tomorrow, what would your agency do with it?
Don’t be afraid to hold your agency’s feet to the fire with such a scenario. And be sure to vet their answer and see if it’s on base with the historical knowledge of your brand. The goal is to figure out if what they’re doing is the right thing.
Anyway, we blogged about this today if you want some additional questions for vetting a digital marketing agency: https://bit.ly/2Ox749u
Hope that helps! See ya
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