How to Improve Under Performing PPC Keywords

Every PPC Advertising campaign has under-performing keywords which generally drag down the quality score average for the Ad Group. There are several ways of handling them, including leaving them as they are, moving them someplace else or simply deleting them. Leaving low performing keywords as they are doesn’t make much sense, so the real options are deletion or moving them to another Ad Group or even a different campaign.

Define Under Performing PPC Keywords

The first step is to determine which PPC keywords are indeed under-performing. There are several metrics you can use, including CTR, conversion rates and bounce rates. You can also use Quality Score, which basically encompasses most of these same metrics. In PPC campaigns, a keyword is considered above average if it has a Quality Score of 7 or higher. Conversely, low performing keywords usually score 3 or below. Everything in between is considered average.


A low quality score is simply letting you know that a keyword is not performing well. The reason WHY it’s not performing well is usually a lack of relevance between the keyword, the ad and the landing page. This implies that the keyword is simply grouped inappropriately and by inference, it could improve its performance if grouped correctly.

If you really think about it, any keyword can rank extremely well or extremely poorly, but it’s really subject to its environment. Turning keyword performance around generally requires simply altering its environment and running a mini-campaign to determine success.

Process Summary

  • Define and separate under-performing keywords.
  • Perform a relevancy check within existing Ad Groups to attempt to find a good match.
  • If no good match is found, create a new Ad Group.
  • Verify relevance between keyword, ads and landing pages.
  • Write new ads or landing page content if necessary.
  • Test new Ad Group.
  • Analyze data.

Step by Step

By keeping the strong performers together and pulling out the weak keywords, you are improving the quality score of the PPC Ad Group. This will result in higher ad placements and lower click costs.

Meanwhile, you need to re-distribute your under-performing keywords to better ad group homes. Be sure the new location is more relevant, else you will simply be moving your problem from one location to another. You may need to create new ad groups if no others fit the bill.

It’s easy to check for relevancy:

  • All keywords in an Ad Group must have a common theme.
  • The ads assigned to the Ad Group must have the same theme and must utilize some of the keywords within the ad text.
  • The landing page(s) must extend the same theme and must have the same keywords sprinkled within the content.

Test, Test and Test Again

Once you have all components in place, it’s time to determine if all that work was worthwhile. Include your newly edited or newly created ad groups back into your PPC campaign and let the ball roll for a reasonable period of time. Check your analytics and make small adjustments if necessary.

Be aware that there will always be some keywords that simply won’t work for your site. Once you’ve done everything possible, you need to remove them from your campaigns. Don’t forget to keep a spreadsheet of keywords you’ve removed so you don’t add them as new keywords two years from now.

Although it seems like a lot of work, removing low performing keywords will always strengthen your PPC campaign. Your higher Quality Score will reduce your PPC costs in the long haul, so the effort is always worthwhile. As an added bonus, if you manage to improve a keyword, the benefits will also show up in your ROI.

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Analytics & AdWords certified growth engineer with over a decade experience in making businesses successful. I own and operate AXZM and often speak at top national industry conferences on the topics of strategy, design and marketing technology. Work with me or learn more about me here. Follow me @nawlready

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