This week, Google pubished an Adwords “best practices white paper” called “Keywords to the Wise”. You can get it here:


However, true to form, it’s full of lousy advice that’s far more likely to cost you money than increase your profits.

Danger - Google Advice!

Danger – Google Advice!

There are 10 “best practices” listed on page 3 (the rest of the report is just an expansion on those 10 points).

I’d group the 10 practices as follows:

Toxic: 4

Poor: 2

Unreliable: 1

Won’t make a difference: 1

‘Well, duh!’: 1

Correct, but made more difficult by Google: 1


Looking At Each ‘Best Practice’

Here’s my review of the “best practices” listed:

#1: “Your keywords should reflect all of the different types of user queries that could help someone find you when they’re looking for something you offer.”

Verdict: Toxic. Your keywords should be the user queries that bring in traffic profitably.

#2: “Different keywords have different purposes, and they should be held accountable to the goal that most aligns with their purpose.”

Verdict: ‘Well, duh!’. This is just “know why you’re bidding on this keyword”.

#3: “Delete your low search volume keywords.”

Verdict: Won’t make a difference. This is reasonably useful housekeeping, but that’s about it.

#4: “Maximize coverage on queries relevant to your business while keeping account
management reasonable.”

Verdict: Toxic – for the same reasons as #1. Focus on profitability. Keywords that are ‘relevant’, but unprofitable are to be avoided.

#5: “Don’t create minute variations of phrase/exact match keywords.”

Verdict: Poor. Small variations in keywords can perform very differently. Phrase and exact often have very different ROI and require very different ads (and, often, landing pages). Same with long tails.

#6: “Use Dynamic Search Ads to streamline account management”

Verdict: Toxic. Dynamic search ads are like handing your wallet over to Google. “Here’s a page on my website, go find some keywords”. Fine in a controlled environment when you’re trying to find extra keywords for a super-profitable campaign. But not something to base your account on.

BTW, in the report, Google’s “success story” for this is a company that “saw a 3% lift in incremental sales and a 12% lift in CTR”.

Unfortunately, Google doesn’t tell us what happened to the number of impressions and the cost per click (or, indeed, profit), but if those 2 things stayed the same, then that’s a 12% increase in cost for 3% extra sales… or, to put it another way, it would have cost 4x to get these “additional” sales.

#7: “Maximize the presence of your keywords by improving their Ad Rank”

Verdict: Toxic. This would be fine if it had said “quality score”, rather than “ad rank”. But it didn’t. It suggests “more agressive bidding”. Bidding should, of course, be driven by ROI.

#8: “Extend your reach to users that aren’t on Google.com by targeting search partners.”

Verdict: Unreliable. Search partners can be a good place to advertise… or a bad place to advertise. Be aware that, in many markets, search partners will mainly be shopping sites, rather than additional search engines. And, as such, will behave very differently than Google search.

#9: “Make negative keyword additions a regular part of account maintenance. Use the
Keyword Planner or your search terms reports to find the most impactful negatives”

Verdict: Correct, but made more difficult by Google. This is absolutely something you should do. Unfortunately, Adwords gives less information in their search query reports than they used to. On top of this, the Keyword Planner has less long tail keyword info than it had 5 years ago.

Thanks, Google…

#10: “Focus negative keyword management on the places that will do the most good.”

Verdict: Poor. Maybe I’m being a little harsh on this one. Yes, if you could only add 50 negatives, then you should add the 50 most impactful negatives. But there’s nothing limiting the number of negatives you can add. This advice is like saying, “Leave only the small leaks in your boat…”.

When Google Gives Adwords Advice…

You may have noticed a theme: 6 of the 7 pieces of bad advice would result in you giving more money to Google.


I have no idea. But remember these 2 things:

Google’s goals are not your goals… except in the sense that both of you are trying to maximise your profit: you by bringing in customers at a profit, them by getting you to pay as much as possible for those customers…

As Perry Marshall once pointed out, “Just because Google built the piano, it doesn’t mean they know how to play it.”

Tread carefully,

Steve Gibson

Categories: google

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