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Using Little Known AdWords Features to Boost Your CTR and Account Performance

This is part of our "5x5" series, in which we share five tips per week over the course of five weeks. We will share must-have tips about AdWords Editor, account optimization, ad-writing best practices, and much more. Make sure to explore the full series.

AdWords is a powerful tool. With that power comes a certain amount of complexity. Over the years, AdWords has provided a plethora of new targeting and delivery features and as a result, I’ve found that some of the more powerful features tend to get forgotten. Especially the more strategy-specific features.
One of my favourite things about AdWords is that it makes very few assumptions. Not all advertisers enter an auction with a direct return on ad spend in mind. Not all advertisers want (or even track) conversions or the value of those conversions. A digital marketing agency needs to be able to cater for all types of advertiser strategy. Google knows this and provides various tools and automation for various strategic ad spends. Some of the features specifically designed for those advertisers can be utilized by “standard” AdWords users to give themselves an edge against their respective competitors.
Sometimes a highly optimized account can seem like it can be optimized no further. This article will explore some of the less traditional ways that we’ve found to be most effective in squeezing those last small (and not so small!) drops of performance from our clients’ accounts. 


Ad Extensions

Before diving into some of the more advanced features, let’s look at one of the easiest ways to improve your account. Ad Extensions.



Please note that the ad above is fabricated for illustrative purposes only. I'm aware that there are some abnormalities Smiley Happy


In the screenshot above, you can see 3 of the most common ad extensions. These are:

  1. Structured Snippet Extensions
  2. Review Extensions or Callout Extensions.
  3. Sitelink Extensions.


To demonstrate, we took an Ad Group that had no extensions and enabled them. The results we got were typical.




Adding all three extensions, our CTR went from 6.5% to 26% in one day. That's a 400% increase! Below is a chart of of the averages across all of our managed accounts after extension rollout. 




Some caveats. These results are primarily for eCommerce-related accounts, so local extensions are going to do a little better. Holiday extensions (Black Friday, Cyber Monday) are only available at certain times of the year.


Extensions are without a doubt the easiest way to improve the CTR in your campaigns. You can even roll them out across your entire account all at once. Ad Extensions are no longer an option. If you're not using them, your competitors are laughing all the way to the bank.


TV Schedule Bid Coordination

OK, this one is a little tricker than sitelinks. But hey, you should be using sitelinks by default, so if you're reading this, you're probably looking for something a little more advanced. So, let's imagine you sell t-shirts and your Game of Thrones t-shirts are a great seller. How about optimizing your bids for when the show airs or finishes airing so that you can capture the GOT audience right when they’re in peak drama mode? Well, that’s relatively simple with scripts and a spreadsheet that can be created from any TV Guide.


TV Bidding.jpg


This AdWords script allows you to coordinate the use of bid modifiers on your campaign bids with a pre-defined schedule in a spreadsheet. A typical use case would be to coordinate an uplift of bids with TV-based advertising campaigns, but other uses are possible, like coordinating with a series of scheduled sports events.



Target Outranking Share

If you’ve got an established business and your account is chugging along just fine, and if you’ve been using AdWords long enough, you’ll know that new competition is inevitable. It can sometimes be advantageous to make sure that you don’t give this new competitor a foothold in the auction, especially if they’re competing in the auctions that have slim margins for you, or on the other end of the scale, where you own (and rely on) a certain auction. To combat this, we like to use a really cool built-in bidding strategy called the Target Outranking Share bidding strategy. This allows us to pick one of our competitors and choose to deliberately raise our bids, automatically, whenever we're in an auction that they are in too. To enable this, go into your shared library.




Once there, select bid strategies and then select the big red "+BID STRATEGY" button and finally, select the target outranking share option. You'll be presented with the settings page for this particularly sneaky bid strategy.


outranking 2.jpg


Now we get to zero in on our new competitor. First of all, enter the name for this strategy so that you can apply it to any of your campaigns later. Then, select the name of this competitor that you want to completely dominate. Next, select the target outranking share. This is completely up to you and it depends on your budget and how important an auction it is for you. Finally, set the automation and the maximum you're willing to pay per click, click save, and you're good to go. 


There you have it. Any time you want, just apply this bid in your campaign settings or by clicking the "change bid strategy" in the main campaign window. Now, when someone new enters your neck of the woods, you'll know just how to run them out of town. 



The Keyword, Keyword, Call To action, Keyword Ad Model

Over the years, Google has changed how AdWords works quite significantly. At one point, in a competitive auction, you'd do a search and see 10 virtually identical ads. That's because those businesses found the perfect model for an AdWords ad. Unfortunately, before extensions came along, that turned out to be a bad thing and the only way to differentiate yourself was to go against the grain. Since the era of extensions, though, many advertisers have forgotten to test the old traditional way of writing ads. Let's dissect a previous example.



Above, you can see what we call the Keyword, Keyword, Call to Action, Keyword Ad Model. When we start any new Ad Group, by default, we test four ads minimum. The first one is always this. Universally, our Ad Groups are super focused, usually on a single keyword. In the example above, the keyword is of course AdWords. We make sure that the main keyword, the root of the search, is in the headline and first description line. If we can fit it, in the second description line. However, in the second description line, the call to action takes precedence. If we can fit both, it's a good day. Finally, we place the keyword in the display URL. It's always a good idea to try and test the above formula in rotation with your other ads, preferably in rotation with more than 1 or 2 others. 


When a search triggers your ad, a user sees all instances of the main focus of their search, lit up in bold in your ad so they can't miss that you're a pretty relevant source. This is where your creative writing skills come into play. Now that the basic ad is taken care of, you can use the much more liberal sitelink (extended), structured snippet and, best of all, callout extensions to really sell your offering. 


words that sell.jpg



I'd highly recommend the above books for learning how to get creative in selling the benefits of your products or services through extensions in AdWords. They can be ordered from Amazon and other retailers quite cheaply. I'll be doing a whole series on getting the most out of these books using this strategy so stay tuned.


Scheduled Search Term Report To All Stakeholders

This was something I discovered by accident a few years back. I accidentally sent a search term report to the marketing director of a large client of ours who did not deal with AdWords directly. It turned out, she looked at the report and sent it back with a whole bunch of keywords that needed to be excluded. She wasn't happy that some keywords were triggering ads (inevitable with a broad, or modified broad match campaign). However, because of this, she asked that everyone in the marketing department be CC'd on the weekly report and spend 1-2 minutes looking through it and pulling any keywords that they felt were not a good fit for the business. Everyone got involved and I inadvertently created a mini army of negative keyword list generators. Everyone pulled a few keywords that they didn't think were useful and added them to a Google Spreadsheet. We then automated the pulling of the statistics for each keyword directly into the spreadsheet beside the keyword so that everyone could see if it was good or bad, depending on the metrics that meant the most to them. At the end of the week, we gathered the list and added it to the appropriate account or campaign level negative list.


Try it yourself; you might surprise yourself how interested others within your organization are.


scheduled reports.jpg


To schedule the search term report, simply navigate to keywords tab of the campaign you wish to schedule the report for (you can pick all campaigns if you wish, or filter campaigns by name or label for departments) and click on the "search terms" sub menu. In the submenu, press the small "down" arrow. You can download the report immediately now if you wish. However, if you click on the "Email and Schedule Report" link, you'll get options to send the email to multiple people. Select the users email addresses, the frequency and then save the report and you're good to go! You'll get a weekly email with an attached keyword report and so will everyone else. 



The Classic Countdown Timer

This ALWAYS surprises me. It’s incredible how well this works, especially in the final hours. Many of our clients say that they've never got any sales on to justify using this feature but a quick brainstorming session can lead to all sorts of use cases. Some of our clients even use this for counting down to when their store is closing that day and it gives a seriously impressive boost to CTR in the final hour!





The countdown timer works really well during peak shopping periods. We've seen increases of 500%-600% and those increases usually couldn't come at a better time for the campaign. If you've got something that's in any way time sensitive, or you feel that you can make some element of your business time sensitive, try out the countdown timer. I think it will surprise you as much as it consistently surprises me. 

So those are my spring cleaning/account improvement tips for today. Have you tried any I've mentioned? What are your favourite, lesser known or spoken about ways to squeeze those last drops of performance from your account? Stay tuned for the next in the series tomorrow!




about Dave Davis

Skydiving and travel obsessed. Director of digital marketing agency Redfly, based in Dublin, Ireland. An marketing agency that specializes in AdWords management, Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager.

Nick B
May 2016

Thanks for sharing great article on advanced Adwords. Rare to get in depth info like this. Most articles are a bit shallow!

Dave_Davis Top Contributor
May 2016

Cheers Nick B,

Glad you found it useful. I'm doing a stint on a series this month so if there's anything you'd like me to dive into a bit deeper, I'm happy to consider it. Just let me know. 


Thanks for the comment and kind words, really appreciate it!

wicket 28
August 2016

thanks for everything. i m new here so i need more help