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5 Tough Questions You Must Ask Your Google Ads Agency

Here it is: The article your PPC vendor might not want you to read.

Do you have a suspicion that your Google Ads are not working hard enough for you? Wondering if there should be more optimization happening in your account each month?

Here are some questions you can ask your current digital marketing agency in order to get a feel for how well they’re doing managing your account.

Question #1Which search terms are driving the most traffic and conversions for my website?

You might have noticed we used the word “search terms.” This is different from “keywords,” which is what many Google Ads vendors would prefer to to focus on.

What’s the difference between a search term and a keyword?


The “trigger” words within the query which cause your ad to show. For example, if your keyword is “+restaurant +me,” then your ad can show anytime someone searches in your location and uses the words “restaurant” and “me” in their search. This keyword could fire for any of the following search terms:

  • Pizza restaurant near me
  • Restaurant close to me
  • Restaurant delivery by me

Search term:

The actual words used in the query. For example, “pizza restaurant near me” is considered a search term in our example, while the keyword is “+restaurant +me”

Why you should care:

Often the search terms generating traffic to your website are not actually conversions. For instance, say one of your keywords is “+restaurant +me” and your restaurant serves mostly Italian fare and doesn’t open until 4:00 PM. There’s a good chance your ad is being continuously being clicked for search terms like “Chinese food near me” and “breakfast restaurant close to me,” which are both completely fair game due to the “+restaurant +me” keyword.

This calls into question whether or not “+restaurant +me” should even be one of your keywords. This is why it’s important for your agency to understand which of your keywords are driving positive traffic and conversions, and which ones are wasting budget.

Question #2How often are my negative keywords analyzed?

Negative keywords are a beautiful thing, as they allow an account manager to tell Google when ads should not show. In keeping with the above “+restaurant +me” example, the word “breakfast” should likely be a negative keyword since the Italian restaurant does not open until dinner.

What we often find is that negative keywords are not managed and added anywhere near as often as they should be. Most accounts should have negative keywords added at least once per week and, in the beginning while the account is starting out, once per day.

Why are negative keywords important?

There are multiple reasons for this. First of all, negative keywords help preserve your budget for searches which actually bring you business. Without actively managing negative keywords, you’ll likely blow your entire account on terms that aren’t relevant. Additionally, failure to manage negative keywords means searches will likely land on your page unnecessarily, and they’ll quickly bounce off to look for a different result.

This is a problem, because Google will ultimately penalize you for this. When people have a negative experience on your site and “bounce” off quickly, Google records this information and eventually gives you poor “quality scores.” This causes higher costs per click, poor positioning, and a whole host of other bad news.

Question #3Where is my traffic “landing” when they click my ads?

All too often, paid traffic is directed to a website’s home page which can be highly detrimental to conversion rates. This is why we advise that you quiz your digital marketing agency on this subject. A well run paid search account will have at least one specific landing page where traffic can be driven.

That landing page should refer specifically to the ad the searcher clicked in order to find it. For instance, if your law firm specializes in multiple areas of the law, then your home page likely talks about all of these areas. Therefore, your “personal injury lawyer” Google ads shouldn’t drive traffic to your home page. People will click your ad and quickly become annoyed that they were not brought directly to a page which discusses their specific inquiry. Better to drive paid traffic to a landing page which addresses personal injury front and center.

Question #4What specific actions are being counted as “conversions?”

Google Ads vendors love showing compelling conversion data to clients. The issue? Not all conversions are created equal. In fact, just about anything can be counted as a conversion if it is set up in the backend of Google Ads. For instance, let’s say your business is a hotel. You might assume that the “conversions” figure on the report you receive from your Google Ads vendor represents “Booked Rooms,” but this might be inaccurate.

“Conversions” might mean “spent more than 60 seconds on site,” “clicked ‘Check Availability,’” or any other site metric which has been determined useful. We’re not saying these metrics are unimportant…. But you must ask exactly what the “conversion” data represents and what it’s telling you about your business.

Question #5How much of my budget is being allocated to “branded” terms instead of “competitive” terms?

Some PPC vendors love to boast super high click thru rates (CTR) as a way to make their figures look impressive. However, these metrics often include a high proportion of “branded” terms, which by nature have a high CTR no matter what. A high proportion of branded terms might make you feel great about your PPC vendor, even though the number is inflated by clicks you would likely receive organically.

For example, say your business name is “Mary’s North End Bakery,” and your overall CTR is 45% with a budget of $1,000 per month. If a majority of your budget is being used for competitive keywords (like “bakery near me” and “cookie places near me”), then a 45% CTR is quite impressive! However, if the majority of the budget is being used on branded terms (like “Marys north end bakery”) then the 45% CTR is not impressive at all. Problem is, most vendors and agencies don’t distinguish “branded” and “non-branded” terms on their reports. It’s far more convenient to lump the two together, since doing so gives the vendor ability to manipulate the percentages without having to provide transparency.