Digital Marketing

How To Correct Over-Optimization in Paid Search

In the age of digital marketing, boutique agencies can go head to head with some of the biggest brands in the business thanks to Search Engine Optimization (SEO). It’s a critical aspect of online marketing in addition to strategies like paid search campaigns.

SEO and paid marketing methods are very different from each other and are therefore often treated separately. Paying for each click on your ad may appear like a very expensive marketing endeavor, but if you have a well-optimized campaign, you can earn more than what it cost you to run your ads. Marketers can sometimes be so committed to their SEO strategies that they run the risk of over-optimizing their paid search campaigns unknowingly. For example, running too many campaigns, keywords, and ad groups doesn't necessarily create a better return. If that’s your reality, your campaigns may already be larger than they need to be.

If you are facing this issue, no need to fret! With the right research and a little tweaking, your paid search campaigns can end up being highly beneficial to your business.

What is Over-Optimization?

Whether it is in your ad campaign or on your website, over-optimization happens when on- and off-page optimization measures are used excessively.

But both optimization and a cohesive strategy are critical, right?


However, too many SEO measures may become counterproductive with your ad campaign proving ineffective while resources are wasted.

How do you know if you’re guilty of over-optimization? Below are a few examples of things to avoid along with some tips on best practices. 

1. Using Keywords Incorrectly

Keywords are the make-or-break part of a campaign, so it is important to do research on which keywords are effective and will reach your conversion goals. Of course, you want your ad to contain keywords that are relevant to your landing page or site, but sometimes you can actually overdo it when you pack too many keywords into your content.

This practice is called keyword stuffing. Marketers often think that the more keywords they add to their content, the more likely they are going to end up with a high ranking. Some do this without knowing the repercussions. Other are fully aware, yet they do it anyway in an attempt to manipulate their platform’s search ranking. It might work for a while, right until Google’s algorithm spots trouble. When that happens, your website content could be in big trouble and you could actually end up hurting your ranking. 

High keyword density might have been an SEO technique that worked in the past, but now, it could contribute to your site getting excluded from getting a high Google ranking should they deem that too many keywords were used.

What You Can Do:

Try to review your keywords and make sure to steer clear from general terms, but avoid overcrowding your ad with super-niche keywords as well. These keyword groups deflect clicks from phrase and broad match keywords, which means you won’t be getting enough search volume (and conversion) for your campaign.

Meanwhile, on your website, try not to stuff your content with too many keywords. Use them sparingly across your content. When using keyword links, spread the link across a sentence fragment. By creating a long-phrased anchor text, you lessen the likelihood of being penalized by search engines.

2. Having Too Many Ads

Even in the realm of marketing, too much of a good thing is bad, especially with the number of search ads. Why?

Because having too many ads will make it hard for you to analyze the statistics: all it will garner is diluted data.

Since each ad group will most likely produce very few clicks that won’t have enough statistical significance, you will have a hard time comparing each one’s perceived impact on your conversion.

What You Can Do:

If you want the best of both worlds in terms of testing and analyzing how to optimize, first try just 3-4 distinctly-themed text ads for your paid ad groups. Once each ad group is able to garner around 500 clicks, you can then make a more informed decision as to which ones to re-examine and which ones to boost further.

3. Aimless Bid Adjustments

Bid adjustments are percentage changes to a bid that allow you to have better control of when and where your ads are shown. There are different aspects of how you can apply adjustments including changes to keyword, device, time, location, audience, and others.

Adjustments can significantly optimize a campaign, save ad cost on non-converting users, and put the saved cost into reaching users who do. But if you apply multiple adjustments without understanding their impact on each other, these may not work well collectively.

Marketers sometimes set bid adjustments without analyzing why they need to be made and how their results need to be tracked. Blindly stacking multiple bid adjustments into your ad account might lead to additional costs making it impossible for you to track and review the results.

What You Can Do:

With regards to bid adjustment, it’s best to do it if you understand ‘why’ you are doing it in the first place. Like any other business decisions, it's also ideal to have a plan to track results. It is also advisable to stack adjustments one at a time. Bear in mind that the more variables you add, the greater the risk you run of not knowing which adjustment actually caused a profitable campaign and which decision may have contributed to poor performance. 

So, when you start with a keyword level bid adjustment, gather the necessary data before you add another bid adjustment. The key is to add one variable at a time.

Don’t forget to assess your bid adjustments regularly. Analyze their impact on your business. If you set them up, you also need to make further adjustments to ensure they work.

4. Cutting Back on Budget When Yield is Low

Logically, it would seem that budget allocated to paid search ads is directly tied to their conversion yield. So when the performance is down, just cut the budget, right?

Well, not necessarily.

There may be other variables that are causing a dip in your conversion rates, and it wouldn’t help to immediately connect them with your ads. In fact, if you react too quickly and cut an ad based on initial performance, then you might lose sight of the ad’s full potential.

What You Can Do:

Try to stick with your campaign for a given period. Seasonal trends, increase in competition and other changes may be the reason why your conversion dropped. Don’t cancel the ad without considering the reasons it might not be performing as well as expected.

Moreover, your ads, keywords, and other SEO tactics are only as strong as the landing page and the site they are promoting. Make sure to evaluate the landing page and website quality before giving up on an ad entirely.

5. Limiting Campaigns to RLSA or Customer Match Lists

In terms of optimizing your ad campaign’s budget, you may be tempted to stay within Remarketing Lists for Search Ads (RLSA) and Customer Match users, because these people are your high-value groups who have already demonstrated an affinity to your product or brand.

However, even though you have a higher chance of converting with your RLSA and Customer Match audiences, limiting your paid search ads to them means you’re also missing out on the possibility of reaching new users. And if your high-value groups don’t bring results on some occasions, it could have serious consequences for your business.

What You Can Do:

Even though you have a tight budget, make an effort to bid for non-brand keywords for your ad. You can run a target and bid campaign using generic keywords or different variations of your ad copy. This way, you can still reach audiences who are new to your site, and essentially allow the continued growth of your brand. Put a chunk of your ad budget toward search engine marketing because these channels still generate higher ROI compared to other marketing channels like social media.


Marketers are entitled to make a few mistakes, so don’t beat yourself up if you’re guilty of some of these SEO missteps. All you have to do next is keep learning and be determined to apply best practices to your own campaigns.

Remember to avoid shoving keywords into your content. Don’t run too many ads you can’t handle and don’t make bid adjustments without having a good reason for setting them up. You should also give your ads a chance before canceling them entirely since there could be several reasons for drops in conversions that might not have to do with the ad itself. Finally, feel free to spread your wings and bid on non-brand keywords to reach new audiences.

Hope you enjoyed our guest post from Pyramid Analytics

AdStage Team