Finding clients with AdWords part four: campaign optimization

March 28, 2018
5 minutes read

We’ve reached the last post in our March #goals series. The hard part is over—you did your keyword research, set up your account and have an awesome landing page. This post will help you dig into what’s working and what’s not, so you can squeeze the last drop of value out of your dollar.

In AdWords, there are several elements that can be modified and changed to optimize your campaign. You can do that by studying a few key metrics in Google AdWords that are designed to help you understand how your ads are performing.

The metrics that matter

Cost Per Click (CPC)

Since your goal is to get clicks and you’re paying money for it, you’ll want to know how much those clicks are costing you. Once you get a few dozen clicks into your campaigns, your next step is to try to lower your CPC. Look for specific keywords, ads and even ad groups with higher CPC than the rest. You can either turn off the low performers and re-adjust your spending, or apply elements of the successful ones to improve them, we go through how below.

Click-Through Rate (CTR)

This refers to the percentage of people who click on your ad after seeing it in search results. The higher this number is, the better. You want to optimize your ads and keywords to maximize your CTR.

Cost Per Acquisition (CPA)

You can use AdWords to track conversion (i.e. the number of customers you get from your ads) by installing a snippet of code on your website.

If you have a checkout system, for example, AdWords can count how many of them successfully ordered your services. If AdWords can track this conversion point, the campaigns can optimize towards finding more users that’ll likely order your service.

Quality Score

Quality score is Google’s measure of how relevant your ad and landing page are to the keywords you’ve chosen to bid on. The highest possible quality score is 10, and any keyword with a score below 5 is something you should consider improving.

When you get into quality scores of 7 or more, you’ll start seeing some pricing benefits for those keywords, so it’s important to continually work on your ads and landing pages to achieve relevancy. Good thing we worked on landing pages in the previous post!

What to optimize

Now that you know how to evaluate your campaign, you’ll want to dig into each of those metrics and look for opportunities to optimize your ads for better results. Here are a few key ways you can do that.


You’ve set up your ads with a targeted audience based on what you know (or a good guess), but you might find that certain geographies, times of day, or devices type perform better than others.

You can adjust these settings in AdWords under the campaign section. Navigate to the campaign you want to optimize, and on the left-hand side you’ll see options for Locations, Ad Schedule and Devices.

AdWords screenshot 1

In each of these sections you can see how each geography, time of day and device are performing and make changes based on what you learn.

Let’s take a look at time of day as an example:

AdWords screenshot 2

We’ve sorted the time groupings by click-through rate to see if there’s a pattern. In this case, Friday and Monday mornings seem to perform the best, so you can adjust your bid by a percentage for that period of time. Google will then adjust your bid for that period of time so you can maximize certain days or time of day.

AdWords screenshot 3

You can also adjust the same way if you see a particular geography you want to focus on. Or if your website isn’t optimized for people using mobile devices, you can adjust your bid down (-100%) to turn off mobile targeting on your campaign.


Keywords can also be adjusted to help your ads perform better. Check the quality score attached to your keywords—if you see keywords with a score lower than 5, you’ll want to find keywords that are more relevant to your ads and landing pages.

You can improve your results a lot by getting rid of ineffective keywords, refining your keyword bidding by adjusting your bid price up and down and adding new keywords that are more relevant.

Negative Keywords

There’s also a lot to be gained from using negative keywords. Regular keywords help show Google what your ad and landing page are about, whereas negative keywords help define what you’re not about. That’s especially helpful when the keywords you’re bidding on could have more than one meaning, and you want to attract the people who are searching for only one of those meanings.

Negative keywords use the same matching system as regular keywords, except they work in the opposite, so you’re telling AdWords not to bid on them. For example, if you’re a graphic designer, you could add the negative keyword ‘free’ because you’re not offering a free service and you will never want to bid on terms that include ‘free’.

In AdWords, you can see the actual searches where your ad is displayed if you navigate to keywords then search terms.

AdWords screenshot 4

Here, you’ll (hopefully) find mostly appropriate search terms, but if there are any search terms that you don’t like or expect, here’s where you can add them to a negative keyword list for your campaign.

For Wave, these two search terms don’t match what we’re trying to bid on, so we can add leatherman and rocketbook to a negative keyword list.

AdWords screenshot 5

Adding new keywords

As the campaign goes on you might have some new keyword ideas to test out. Adding new keywords is a great way to expand the reach and efficiency of your campaign. AdWords will also have keyword suggestions the longer your campaign runs.

Keyword bid adjustments

Keyword bidding works similar to the targeting adjustments, you can adjust the bids of certain keywords up and down if you want to see more traffic through that keyword or if the keyword is not performing.

You’re underbidding on keyword if your average position is too high and you’re not getting many impressions on your keyword, in this case, you should increase your bids.

Conversely, if the CPC for certain keywords are too high for your budget, lower those bids and see if you can find a sweet spot where you can get traffic for a lower cost per click.


If you’re seeing a lot of impressions but very few clicks, then it might be that the ads aren’t working for the set of keywords you’ve bid on.

Each ad will have its own specific performance stats. In this view, you can see how each ad performed in its ad group. Make sure you compare the ads within their respective ad groups so you get apples to apples comparisons.

AdWords screenshot 6

From here, judge the ads by CTR mostly and turn off the ads that are underperforming. Write new ads to test against the existing performing ads.

Landing Page

If you’re getting a lot of clicks but no lead captures, the landing page might be where you need to look to make sure its compelling enough for visitors to follow through.

If you’re using a landing page software like Unbounce or Leadpages then you’re in luck! These tools come with A/B testing software, so you can test different headlines, calls to action and images.

Without software like that, your next best option is to use Google’s free Google Optimize tool to set up A/B testing, there’s a bit of technical know how required to run, but once set up Google Optimize will allow you to test all parts of your landing page.

Resource: Set up Google Optimize

By doing everything we’ve laid out in these four posts, you’ll most definitely have a leg up on your freelance competitors, and, as a result, hopefully a steady stream of affordable leads knocking on your door.

By Raymond Sam

The information and tips shared on this blog are meant to be used as learning and personal development tools as you launch, run and grow your business. While a good place to start, these articles should not take the place of personalized advice from professionals. As our lawyers would say: “All content on Wave’s blog is intended for informational purposes only. It should not be considered legal or financial advice.” Additionally, Wave is the legal copyright holder of all materials on the blog, and others cannot re-use or publish it without our written consent.

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