Getting to grips with the full AdWords dashboard can be a daunting experience.

A quick count of the number of measurable metrics for one of our clients in AdWords gave over 100 different ways of gauging paid performance. And that’s not considering the customised columns you can create.

Add on top of that the need to think about audience targeting methods, advertising platforms, bidding strategies, ad and site content etc. – it may be difficult to know what to focus on.

So where do you start if you’re new AdWords? What’s the best way to tap into the wealth of knowledge that AdWords can provide and use it to your own advantage? How can you grow your business?

If you’re a small business we know that your time is precious. So we’ve created a series of cheat sheets to make the most out of the time you can give your AdWords account.

It’s our hope these cheat sheets will:

  1. Simplify the AdWords dashboard by helping you to think about your AdWords performance from three distinct perspectives: your reach, your revenue and your return
  1. Guide you through the analysis process, step-by-step, so you don’t miss any big wins to invest more in
  1. Allow you to spot quickly where you are wasting money in AdWords

Today’s post will tackle the first of our three perspectives – analysing your reach. Look out for our following two posts later this week!

N.B. We’ve provided definitions of some of the key AdWords metrics within this post. For the remainder, you can find helpful definitions of the terms from the links to the Google help centre.

Maximising your reach – increasing visitors to your online site

When you first log in to analyse your AdWords performance, a good first thing to consider is how successfully you are promoting your brand. How good a job are you doing of getting people to your website?

Here’s the first cheat sheet. Click on the image to see the full version of the cheat sheet in a new tab that you can print or save


We have 3 key metrics in AdWords to focus on for increasing reach:

  • Impressions
  • Clicks
  • Bounce Rate

1. Impressions

Definition: The number of times within a given time period your ad appeared on a search results page or on a page of a website on the Google Display network.

Your impressions are controlled by:

  • Your targeting options such as keywords, audience lists, demographics, interest categories, placements etc.
  • Your bids (max CPCs) and budgets
  • Your quality score

Is your impression count low?

If your impression count is looking low, it could be down to a number of things:

Blocking negative keywords

Check first to see if there are any negative keywords within your account which could be preventing your ad from showing for relevant terms.

Your Search Lost IS (Impression Share) (budget) is high

If this is high your lack of budget is preventing your ad from being shown to your full target audience. Google predicts that there are more people out there interested in your product but it can’t tell them about you because it doesn’t have enough money to do so. A big opportunity. Increasing your daily budget will solve this.

Your Search Lost IS (rank) is high

If this is high but your Search Lost IS (budget) is low, adding more daily budget won’t help! You may need to increase the maximum you are willing to pay to bid on your keywords. Before doing so check each of the following metrics to diagnose the problem further:

  • Your quality score (should be 5+)
  • Your ad position (ideally needs to be position 1-4 (desktop), or 1-2 (mobile)

If your Search Lost IS (Rank) is high and your quality score for your ads is low, its worth fixing this first before jumping to increase your bids as doing so could save you money.

You can see what is limiting your quality score of your keywords in AdWords by hovering your cursor over the speech bubble in the status column.


Your quality score directly influences your ad position. Increasing your quality score will allow your ad to rank higher on the page for the same cost per click or lower.

Your ad will perform differently in different positions; normally the higher the better but not necessarily; test where your ad performs best for you.

If you’re running display campaigns, consider bidding on just viewable impressions on the display network to avoid wasting your money when your ad is not being seen because its being shown below-the-fold.

Make sure you are aware of two big changes to the way search engine ads are positioned. As of 19th February 2016:

  • An extra ad position (4 in total) has been added to the top of the search results page (SERP) on desktop
  • There are no longer ad positions on the right of the SERP

If your quality score is high but your Search Lost IS (Rank) is still high, you will now need to increase your bids to allow your ads to be shown more often. You can get a feeling for where you bid needs to be by using the AdWords metrics: est. first page bid, est. top page bid, est. first position bid or using keyword planner to find traffic estimates for your keywords such as average monthly impressions, clicks and suggested bids.

Your targeting is too narrow

If both your Search Lost IS (budget) and Search Lost IS (rank) are low but your impression count is still low, then you may simply not be targeting enough people. In this instance you can improve your impression count by adding more targeting criteria such as:

  • New keywords (always put keywords in relevant ad groups rather than adding them to the same one. If an appropriate ad group doesn’t exist, create one)
  • Additional locations
  • Increasing your audience size (remarketing only)
  • New placements, topics, interests or demographics (display only)
  • Experimenting with different match types (use broad match modifier on your best performing keywords (not broad – too imprecise) and phrase match rather than just exact)

2. Clicks

Definition: The number of times someone saw your ad and was interested enough to click on it and visit your website

If you are paying on a cost-per-click basis (CPC) this is where your money goes, so it’s important get them right.

As with your impressions, the number of clicks you get is controlled by:

  • Your bids (max CPCs) and budgets
  • Your quality score and ad copy

Is your click number low?

If you are getting a low number of clicks, it could be down to a number of things:

Your quality score is low – ad relevancy is below average

To increase your ad relevancy, make sure you are using the keywords you are bidding on within your ad copy. A good extra place to fit keywords in are within your display URLs i.e. for the keyword [red balloons] use the display URL

Your quality score is low – landing page experience is below average

To increase your landing page experience there is a number of great things you can do.

A simple fix is to make sure you are including the keywords you are bidding on on the landing page of your ad and if possible in the headline of the page.

A great example of both is shown for the store Their ad for Green Party Balloons is served for the search query [green party balloons]. This takes you to a specific landing page just for Green Balloons with the terms, ‘green’, ‘party’ and ‘balloons’ appearing in the content of the page.

Screen Shot 2016-03-29 at 13.13.25

Your ad position is low

Keep in mind, to appear above the fold on the SERP you now need to appear in ad positions 1-4 for desktop and 1 (or 2 where there are no shopping results) for mobile. If your ad position is low check, first if you have ad extensions fully enabled.

You’re not making full use of ad extension

Ad extensions are no longer optional for your campaigns as they may have been several years ago. As well as increasing your quality score, hence lowering your average CPC, ad extensions, when displayed, also increase your SERP real estate, making you more viewable (and hence more clickable). Most AdWords users now use sitelinks, call and callout extensions as standard so consider using some of the lesser used extensions:

  • Review extensions
  • Structured snippet – consider speaking to a Google representative who will implement a customised snippet for you

If your quality score is high and you have ad extensions fully enabled on your ads, you can further increase your clicks by constant A/B testing of your ads.

If you’re still not getting a high number of clicks and your impressions number is high make sure you have a look at what your competition is doing. Are you being competitive enough in what you are offering? Does your ad stand out from the rest? There are plenty of great resources out there for improving your ad copy.

A few additional tips are:

  • Use symbols like ® and ™ for registered or trademarked products in your headline
  • Use offers in your ad copy – consider mentioning the price too if competitive
  • Don’t skip punctuation within character limits! It alters the way your ad can be shown on the SERP
  • Finally make sure your bids are competitive for your best performing keywords – don’t miss out for a few pence

3. Bounce rate

Definition: The number of people who landed on your website and then returned to the results page without interacting with your content

 Your bounce rate is less about getting visitors to your site in the first place and more about retaining them. Your bounce rate is almost entirely determined by your landing page.

Is your bounce rate high?

Ask yourself the following things about your landing page:

Is my landing page user friendly?

Is the purpose of your landing page clear to users? Is it quick-to-load and easy to navigate? Is it clear to users what action they should be taking on your page? Do all links on the page work?

Is my landing page mobile friendly?

Mobile friendly landing pages should be built specifically with mobile users in mind and not just an adapted desktop site. Consider the context of mobile users (on-the-go) and the smaller size of screen they are using to view your content. As a result, ensure a simplified navigation, quick-to-load images and large “touch targets” which allow a smoother purchase journey for your customers.

Is their continuity between by ad copy and my landing page?

Don’t advertise a great promotion on a particular set of products in your ad copy and then take users to your home page and force your customer to hunt for the promotion. If the offer is not immediately obvious most customers will give up and jump back to the SERP.

And never advertise something in your ad that a customer cannot get from your site! They’ll see through it and you’ll have wasted your money.

Is all the information my customer needs on one page?

One final reason your bounce rate could be high is if all the information a customer needs is on one page and there is no clear navigation allowing them to go somewhere else on your site. Give your customer other options – this can be as simple as allowing your customer to categorize a group of products on your page by sizes, makes, models using built in filters.

For more great ideas on how to optimise you landing page check out one of my favourite resources on the topic by Kick Off Labs.

And there you have it, a simple checklist to start looking at the key parts of your AdWords campaign. Next time you log in to your account, go through the flow chart and start optimising your account and making more money.

I hope the chart proves useful. If you have any suggestions on how to improve it or questions, please let me know either in the comments below or on Twitter. In our next post we’ll be delving into our next cheat sheet – how to maximise you revenue by increasing on-site purchases.

Image Credits: Header image modified from original image by Sclafani (Flickr creative commons –