When To Pause Pay-Per-Click Keywords

Some people don’t know when to break up a relationship. The same is sometimes true for search engine marketers with under-performing keywords.

Listen, maybe you had some good times in the past with a certain keyword; maybe it was one of the first keywords you used and you can’t imagine your campaign without it. The truth may be that it’s time to move on. Listen to your friends’ advice (that’s us): It’s time to let go; it’s time to move on; go ahead, pause that under-performing keyword.

When working with a limited or scrutinized budget, you want each advertising dollar spent as judiciously as possible. Allowing certain keywords to run and run, spend and spend, without ever returning a conversion is like saying “Yes” to a fifth date when you were bored on date one.

Keywords that spend money without returning conversions steal money from other keywords that can – or would – turn into conversions if they were able to run more often. Each click on an ineffective keyword is one less click on a more proven keyword – which is one less chance at having someone call, purchase, or visit your store.

A caveat: some campaigns or strategies rely on certain keywords to provide brand exposure. Those keywords aren’t intended to turn into customers today, they’re intended to help people know your company’s name for tomorrow and purchases to come. That represents a legitimate strategy for some businesses at certain times. This post focuses on advertisers with smaller budgets or those companies focusing on more immediate customer acquisition.

Finding PPC keywords to pause

How can you tell when it’s time to say goodbye to a keyword that stopped pulling its weight long ago or doesn’t contribute to conversion tallies like other keywords? Here are two reliable guidelines:

  1. It’s been a long time since you could attribute a conversion to that keyword, but it consistently spends against your budget. You can’t be certain after a week; we wouldn’t suggest making that decision even after two. But if it’s been more than a month and you’re seeing other keywords with regular, strong conversions, don’t be afraid to pause that keyword.
  2. If your keyword represents a query made earlier in the purchase funnel, consider pausing in favor of a keyword representing a customer closer to the end of the funnel (looking to make a purchase soon).
    • Keywords that include words like “ideas” or “tips” or “reviews” indicate a user early in the decision-making process. Keywords using purchase terms (“buy,” “purchase,” “prices”) or identifying terms (“contractor in ___,” “companies,” “near me”) indicate a user looking to make a decision soon or immediately between you and your competitors.
    • It’s great to build brand awareness by appearing early and often in the sales funnel, but many businesses need their advertising dollars to turn into sales quickly (i.e. need to spend money on the customers most likely to buy now).

Does your PPC campaign have too many keywords?

Many campaigns begin with tens of hundreds of keywords. Sometimes many of those keywords are hyper specific to brands and models and include part numbers. Other times, those keyword lists include hundreds of generic, pseudo-related keywords that dance around your main service but don’t quite indicate you’ve found a search query of an eager customer. Don’t be afraid to let those keywords go. Remember: You need to find the core keywords that turn your search marketing spend into revenue. Don’t be scared to let a keyword go if the data shows it doesn’t turn into customers.

There are other fish in the sea. And those fish are likely specific and/or longer-tailed keywords that include statements of intent or geographically specific language. Sure, the keyword “home remodeling” might look good under the hazy light of a neighborhood bar, but here comes “home addition contractor in Houston” to sweep you off your feet and impress your friends at the next company cookout.

Put those underperforming keywords on notice that you deserve better. Transfer your valuable budget to the keywords that are bringing in conversions and get the most out of your campaign.