Ready to Pause Keywords in Your AdWords Campaigns? Not So Fast.

Google AdWords is the biggest search advertising platform on the web today. The pay-per-click technique means that businesses only pay when someone engages with an ad, which is great for businesses with a set budget. Your ads, however, are only as effective as your setup, strategy, and implementation. Far from “set it and forget it,” your AdWords account requires around-the-clock monitoring and maintenance, which includes keyword grooming, or tweaking.

In this Digital Drop-In webinar, I covered some hidden tricks to make the right decisions when pausing or removing keywords.

Reasons you may want to pause or remove a keyword:

  • You’re measuring your own data against personal or industry benchmarks
  • You feel like you’re overpaying
  • The current keywords are not working for your desired goals
  • The keyword is not earning any conversions

But before you do change anything, be sure to look at all of your data.

When grooming your keywords, the most obvious reasons to pause or remove keywords may not serve you the best.

Conversions are the most important metrics concerning your AdWords account. Website conversions can be a form submission, a phone call, newsletter signup, the purchase of a product—basically, any actionable step that you want to track is essentially a conversion. Often, account managers will follow a strict guideline. Perhaps they’ve decided that any time they’ve met a certain number of clicks or impressions with no conversion, they’ll pause those keywords on the spot. Or, if they have spent a certain amount of money with no conversions, then they will pause those keywords. I would argue that this line of thinking can lead to missteps. Let’s go a few levels deeper in this decision making process.

We’re going to look at click-assisted conversions and impression assisted conversions that can help you gain insights to avoid pausing a good keyword.

Click-Assisted Conversions

Click-assisted conversions: Total number of conversions for which a keyword, ad, ad group, or campaign contributed one or more assist clicks. Assist clicks do not include the last click leading to a conversion.

Impression-Assisted Conversions

Impression-assisted conversions: Total number of conversions that this keyword, ad, ad group, or campaign assisted with an impression before the last click.

How it Works

Let’s say you’re searching for something online. If you’re like me, you probably do this dozens of times a day. You google a keyword, then click on an ad on the first page of search results. You read through it—pretty interesting. The landing page you look at answers a question or two, but you don’t click on any calls to action on the site. Fast forward a day or two, you’re still searching on Google on a similar topic with slightly different keywords. You click on another ad (hosted by the same business). Maybe it brings you to another page within the site. This time, when you return to the site, you complete a conversion. Even though the more recent keyword is responsible for the conversion, the other one from a couple days ago is attributed. This has everything to do with the customer journey—the many steps that a person takes with their online experience online before they convert.

For impression-assisted conversions, you didn’t click on the ad the first time, you were just served it in your search results. Then you ended up clicking in an ad in another search from the same host and, this time, made a conversion.

The bottom line: Keywords that assist in conversions are important. To avoid pausing keywords that have been assisting conversions or impressions, make sure you enable the click-assisted conversions and impression-assisted conversions columns for your data in AdWords so you can see what’s happening for yourself. Here’s how!

Once the columns are enabled, you can see which of your keywords have assisted conversions. Here is an example of a campaign that ran for over 90 days. There is a considerable amount of data to look at. Review both columns below. Notice the yellow highlighted numbers, which shows how many impression-assisted conversions a keyword had.

“Car insurance lawyer” had one click-assisted conversion, which means a person clicked on an ad with this keyword, didn’t convert (in this case, didn’t complete a form submission), then searched using another keyword (that appeared in this client’s campaigns), clicked on another one of the client’s ads, and finally converted. Hence, the 0.0 in Conversions and 1 in the Click Assisted Conversions columns. In case you’re curious why “Asheville auto accident lawyer” earned 0.50 Conversions (and not 1) is because of the way we set up the tag settings to time decay. (And this may be more than you want to know!)

Time decay: Gives more credit to clicks that happened closer in time to the conversion. Credit is distributed using a seven-day half-life. In other words, a click eight days before a conversion gets half as much credit as a click one day before a conversion.

All in all, based on this data, I would not pause either keywords (“Car insurance lawyer” and “Asheville auto accident lawyer”) even though they had zero straight conversions. If you see any numbers in “click assisted conversions” or “impression assisted conversions,” resist pausing that keyword.

The keywords within the red circle in the lower left-hand corner all had zeros in the conversion, click-assisted conversion, and impression-assisted columns. These three would be ideal keywords to pause since they have not provided any conversion value whatsoever.

Keywords that are highlighted in yellow are keywords that I would argue against pausing or removing, despite your first impulse (“They have zeros or numbers less than one in the conversion column. They aren’t converting.”). One keyword, for example, “social security disability cases” was attributed three conversions based on impressions. This means that this keyword aided three conversions on the customer journey, although it did not receive any conversions directly.

Search Attribution in the New AdWords

The screenshots above are from an older version of AdWords that you may still be using. If you’d like to view these in the new AdWords, then follow the yellow highlights on the backend.

In the drop-down menu on the left grey panel, click Conversions, then you should be able to see Assisted Conversions. Click that and you should have the ability to toggle between viewing click-assisted conversions and impression-assisted conversions.

Gather all the Data

Before pausing any keywords, one rule of thumb is to review click-assisted conversions and impression-assisted conversions, along with the other metrics. The more data you have, the better informed your decision, and the better your campaign can perform. Grooming is an important part of running a campaign, so make sure you have that technical support.