This is a guest post by Elisa Gabbert, the Content Development Manager at WordStream. Enjoy! -Ryan



Earlier this year, WordStream released a free tool that AdWords advertisers can use to get a quick audit of their accounts. Now that we’ve graded thousands of accounts representing over $180 million in AdWords spend, we decided to dig into some of the data (all anonymized of course) and see what trends we could find.


Some of those trends were pretty scary:


  • If your AdWords account was a kid, a lot of you could be arrested for neglect: A full 17% of advertisers who used the AdWords Performance Grader showed zero account activity over the previous 30 days. This is especially scary because if you’re grading your account, you’re already in a self-selected group of people who care how well they’re performing. If we could look at all AdWords accounts, I’m sure the number would be much, much higher.
  • You’re wasting money on irrelevant terms: A surprisingly high number (one in five, or 20%) of AdWords advertisers are not using negative keywords at all. Advertisers who don’t use negative keywords are almost certainly wasting a lot of money on questionable broad matches and other irrelevant keywords.
  • Your landing page strategy needs a full reboot: We found that 25% of accounts are only using two landing pages or fewer (as in one, or zero – just, you know, to be absolutely clear) across their entire account. Very few business models can reasonably get by with just a couple of unique landing pages.
  • You don’t even know what’s working: Less than half of AdWords advertisers have conversion tracking enabled. Um, guys? If you don’t turn on conversion tracking, you won’t know what is working in a meaningful sense – what is driving conversions, not just clicks.


Surprised? We were too.


In an attempt to put a positive spin on this data, I’ll talk about some of the positive connections we found:


  • Account activity is a strong predictor of success: We found a strong correlation between account activity and successful campaigns. In other words, the advertisers who logged in more often to make changes were doing far better on average than those that left their accounts on auto-pilot. Even if you log in just once per week to do some optimization work and put out any fires, you’ll be doing better than the majority of competing advertisers.
  • Quality Score matters: We also found a strong correlation between average Quality Score and performance. This speaks to the importance of relevance – high average Quality Scores are an indication that Google sees your campaigns as relevant. That means your ads are being matched to the right queries and you’re getting a high rate of clicks.
  • Don’t “buy and hold” your keywords: Advertisers that actively paused, fixed or killed poorly performing keywords using negative keywords or more restrictive keyword match types far outperform those who keep reporting on the same keywords month after month.


Our main takeaway from looking at this data? You get what you put in. You don’t have to spend all day every day working on your AdWords account, but can’t let it collect dust either. You have to actually get in there and work on it on a regular basis.


Curious if your own AdWords account is keeping up with the Joneses? Try out our AdWords Performance Grader – it grades your account against the thousands of other accounts we’ve checked so you can see how your performance compares against similar advertisers, including where you excel and where you need help, in terms of Quality Score, CTR and other key performance indicators.


Elisa GabbertAbout the Author: Elisa Gabbert is the Content Development Manager at WordStream Inc., a provider of PPC management software, managed services, and free keyword tools. She also manages the WordStream Internet Marketing Blog. You can follow her on Twitter at @egabbert.