Limited by your AdWords budget?

Yield Software · April 1, 2010 · Short URL:

How to become unbounded by budget (without raising it)

Out of the Starting GatesIn a world where keyword recommendations are readily available, many advertisers have had the experience of logging into Google’s AdWords and seeing a message next to their campaign budget that says: “Limited by budget.”

I don’t know about you, but I don’t like to be limited by anything… especially by my budget!  Here are some answers to frequently asked questions:

What does it mean to be limited by budget?

Google will not display all your ads all the time for your keywords in order to avoid exceeding your daily budget.  If you’ve ever done a search for one of your keywords in the middle of the day and your ad hasn’t appeared, this may be why.

For those of you who live in a world of unlimited funds, Google will tell you the exact dollar amount to raise your budget to so your ads show 100% of the time.  All you have to do is click on the call-out preceding the “Limited by budget” message, raise your budget to the recommended amount and — viola — you are done!

What’s that you say? Money doesn’t grow on the tree in your office?

So is it okay to leave your campaign running in this limited state?

No!  Assuming that you are advertising because you are getting results, you have some keywords that bring in valuable traffic.  Being limited by your budget means that when a searcher types in these top keywords, your ad will not always appear – definitely not okay!

Think of it this way:  Let’s say you are at the horse races.  While you might identify lots of different horses to place bets on, you don’t have enough cash to be able to make all the bets you desire.    So, you determine the horses that you can afford and are most likely to win and then place bets on those.  AdWords works the same way — you should only bet only on keywords that fit into your budget.

How far has your desire exceeded your budget?

Click on the call-out preceding the “Limited by budget” message to find out the percentage of available impressions you are missing out on and Google’s recommended budget.  If you are missing more than 35 percent of available ad impressions and the recommended budget is more than double your current budget, you’ll need to reset your expectations and do some serious pruning.

While I am normally not a fan of machete-style campaign management (scalpels are much better tools), you’ll likely need a pretty heavy blade in order to trim your campaign and bring in line with your budget. 

Criteria for eliminating keywords unworthy of your budget:

Keywords with impressions, but no clicks. If you have a campaign that’s performing, these keywords should be easy to remove.  They are getting impressions, but searchers have not been compelled to click on your ad for them.  Especially focus on deleting keywords with the highest volume of impressions, but no clicks.

Keywords that have never gotten an impression. If your campaign is performing, these are another easy target for decreasing your keyword volume.  You can use Quality Score as another good second indicator – so if there are no impressions for a keyword and the quality score is less than seven, it’s a great candidate for removal.

High traffic keywords with poor results. You’ll want to tread lightly here, but take a look at keywords that do get a lot of clicks and, therefore, use up a lot of your budget.  Look at the stats for the individual keywords.  If you can identify one or more that have a bounce rate that’s over 60 percent, or a time on site less than 1 minute, and that have never brought you a conversion, such keywords are good candidates to pause.  Be very careful here, though, so as not to turn off keywords that assist in bringing back return visitors to your site–and let stats be your guide.

Keywords with a low CTR. Sort your keywords by their click-through rate (CTR).  If you have some keywords with a very low CTR – for example lower than 0.25 percent – and these keywords also have a high bounce rate, low time on site and / or no conversions, these are also good candidates to pause or remove.

Keywords with a bad quality score.  If you have keywords with a quality score of 4 or less and they have no clicks; or the traffic they bring in has a high bounce rate, low time on site and no conversions; these are good candidates to eliminate from your campaign.

Competing keywords. Campaigns frequently contain keywords that essentially compete with each other.  If you don’t know how to identify these, you can hover over the call-out next to a keyword and Google will let you know if that search term is already associated with another ad from your campaign.  It’s best to only have one keyword entering the auction so you aren’t competing against yourself, so pause the ones that are already covered elsewhere if they have not brought in any valuable traffic or conversions.

Please keep focused on your goal as you go through this exercise.  No one likes to cut back.  For every keyword you will hear a little “but” in your head and be very hesitant to take action.  Just remember: you want your ads to appear for your top keywords all the time, and the foregoing are the necessary steps to get there.

Cut out the lowest-performing keywords then give the campaign a couple days to adjust and see how your budget and performance are doing.  It may take several tries before you can get your campaign in line with your budget without sacrificing results.  We recommend that you go slow, but do not delay starting the process!

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