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How to Maintain and Optimize Alpha Beta Campaigns

Published: October 24, 2017

Author: Caitlin Halpert

In my last post, I talked about best practices of building an Alpha Beta campaign (if you’re not familiar with Alpha Beta, which has been the gold standard in SEM for almost a decade, you can download the introductory guide here.) The basic idea is to identify your top-performing queries (Alphas), isolate them for total control of optimization, and carve out a broader testing ground for potential top performers (Betas) to emerge.
I’ll assume that by now, you have your campaigns built and can move to the maintenance stage. Ultimately, the thresholds used in account maintenance and optimization will vary by business. Some have money to burn and want to maximize traffic and awareness; others will be more frugal and will pace a greater emphasis on efficiency. While performance standards vary, the areas to monitor will remain fairly standard. Let’s take a look at three standard maintenance and optimization tasks that you can expect to complete while launching a client with the Alpha-Beta structure.

Negative Keyword Scrubs & Bleeder rules

Review queries across alpha, beta, and gamma campaigns. The criteria to use for cutting keywords is dependent upon your goals and preferences. All campaigns will require extensive negative keyword scrubs when they get launched; you should look at SQRs and identify irrelevant queries, as well as try to identify bleeder queries, once you’re live. Negative keywords should be added to their appropriate shared negative list; remember that you should always lower bids before pausing keywords.


Keywords flagged with Low Search Volume status should be paused and the respective negative removed from the Alpha Negative List. Alphas with zero conversions should be paused and the negative moved from the Alpha Negative List to the Performance Negative list. The time frame used to decide when to pause non-converting terms will depend on account volume and CPA/ROAS goals but will typically be around six months.

Identifying Alpha Queries

Beta campaigns will also provide you with new Alpha keywords. You’ll want to have a threshold for performance and volume for a query to make the cut before you push everything live. When you do identify queries that perform well enough or have enough volume, add them in a SKAG in the most relevant Alpha campaign, and then subsequently add the corresponding mirror negative to the Alpha Negative List.

Queries should move into Alpha when they have at minimum 3 conversions and 1,000 impressions in 30 days (many accounts will likely require higher criteria). Impression volume is important because low-volume terms won’t serve on exact match.

With these set up on a regular production calendar, your account should be ready to reap the rewards of its tidy new structure. Good luck!

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