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The Case for SEM Cleanliness

Published: March 13, 2014

Author: Gordon Khoo

Simplicity isn’t just for looks. There are huge advantages to cleanliness and simplicity, whether it be in your personal life, home, or what you’re probably here for, advertising program.
Let’s take a look at a clean account structure. There are many ways to build an account, but sometimes we do so without thinking about the consequences, good or bad, because we often fall back on habit. Without intentionally thinking through it, your once straight path to lower CPA’s can turn into a labyrinth. Carefully consider:
Campaigns: What dictates high-level performance differences? Geo, language, product, goals, query intent, query length (I’ve seen an account that gets 50% of its traffic from one head term, so it warranted its own campaign!)?  Your campaigns should generally be built around these, but beware over-segmentation as your volume will be sparse and optimization becomes harder. If it’s a wedding cake, slice away; if it’s a cupcake, keep it whole.
Campaign names: As Adam was charged, so to you. Time to name your creations! Use the least amount of descriptors possible, while still retaining important information. For example, if you’re segmenting Brand from Non-Brand traffic (which you should), include “Brand” in the campaign name and have its absence denote “Non-Brand”, instead of explicitly saying “Non-Brand”. Also consider how you like things grouped visually in UI’s, AWE, etc. For me personally, I like to see things grouped by their high-level similarities when sorted alpha-order, so I generally start with that, e.g.:
Product X – UK – Search
Product X – USA – Search
Product Y – UK – Search
Product Y – USA – Search
But maybe you’d prefer to have them grouped by geo, so use that first:
UK – Product X – Search
UK – Product Y – Search
USA – Product X – Search
USA – Product Y – Search
Whatever you decide, it should be descriptive, consistent, and succinct.
Query mapping: Keywords should generally be exclusive to one campaign, as duplicates can lead to headaches. Imagine a scenario where a keyword (with the same match type) resides in two separate campaigns with varying ad copy.  Someone searches and your ad is eligible to show – which campaign’s keyword and, more importantly, which ad gets that traffic? Why take the chance of a suboptimal ad serving by having duplicates?
But say the ads are the same, so you’re thinking who cares where it goes? Well come time for bid optimizations, you’re now adjusting the bid for the same keyword in two (and hopefully not more) places! You’ve effectively doubled your work for no good reason other than messiness! Not only that, your data may also be skewed, as it is split between the multiple campaigns it lives in. The keyword [red shoes] may have mediocre performance in each campaign, but if pivoted and looked at on the account level, perhaps [red shoes] has phenomenal performance, but you’d miss it!
Reporting: As just mentioned, having a messy account leads to messy data that requires much massaging to be actionable. If you know where things are, you know your data is air-tight, and you can make better decisions faster.
Pause versus delete: This goes for campaigns, ad groups, ads, keywords, etc. Pause if you need to revisit in the future; delete if you’re definitively done with it (e.g. conclusive ad test). Don’t make the mistake of having commitment issues. Paused items just make your UI, AWE, etc. load slower and harder to navigate.
A clean account will lead to clean and actionable data, and a lot less work. Smiles all around!

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