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When Should You Pause Keywords?

Published on: December 7 2022 by Paid Media Pros

When Should You Pause Keywords?

When Should You Pause Keywords?

we got a comment on one of our videos
asking when you should pause keywords in
search campaigns now while i would like
to be able to give you a really easy
answer that keeps this video maybe only
30 seconds long that's simply not
possible there are too many factors that
go into deciding if a keyword is worth
fighting for and trying to improve
performance or if you should just cut
your ties and pause it
so in this video i want to go through
some of those considerations and the
things that we think about when we're
analyzing keyword performance some of
the optimizations we might make to
improve it and then tok about how we
might eventually decide to pause
individual keywords that way you can
start applying that framework to your
so because this topic is a little bit
higher level more in the strategy realm
i'm going to spend the entire time in
powerpoint we're not going to be in an
account today i will do my best to try
and use examples to illustrate what
different strategy pieces we're toking
about here but for the most part it
doesn't really make sense to hop into an
account because the numbers are going to
be so different for every account that
you have that it doesn't really make
sense to look at just one of the ones
that we have in place anytime that
you're analyzing performance for
keywords they're really going to kind of
fit into a few different categories
they're either going to be profitable
not profitable or unclear or borderline
this covers pretty much soup to nuts all
the different ways that keywords can
perform and depending on how each
keyword is doing and which category it
falls in there are different actions for
you to take now obviously the first one
being profitable this one's pretty easy
right we're already hitting all the
performance targets that we have we
clearly don't want to pause this so the
only real suggestions that we have here
are going to be to look for ways to
increase the volume can we get more
volume out of this individual keyword
can we look to conduct additional
keyword research and find new phrases
based on this original keyword that can
help extend our account that could also
potentially be profitable or does it
make sense to expand our geography or
reach into a different market to grow
the impact that this keyword is having
on our account obviously profitable
keywords are not the main focus of this
video today but i did want to give just
a little bit of insight because that is
a category of keyword performance that
you could have in your account now the
other two performance categories not
profitable and unclear and borderline
i'm going to treat as one group because
just because something is not profitable
or it's unclear or it's borderline
doesn't mean that categorically every
time you need to pause it or optimize
for it there are a number of different
steps we go to to figure out which
action needs to be taken for any given
keyword so the first thing i want to do
is define the type of keywords that fall
into this group clearly these are
keywords that are falling short of the
performance benchmarks that we have in
place but you might be surprised to see
the different ranges that i have here
for keywords with a cpa target i really
only focus on those that have a cpa that
is two to three times the goal that we
have in the account example if you have
a 100 cost per lead goal and your cpa is
in the 150 range i'm probably not going
to worry about that too terribly much
depending on how much volume you have
because odds are you have some keywords
that are below that 100 target that are
helping to balance out it's really once
keywords start to get up into that 200
to 300 cost per lead range that i start
to worry a little bit and think that it
might be time to pause that keyword
something similar is true for a row as
target again let's say we have a 300
percent row as goal if we're only at 150
or 200 percent i'm probably going to
start paying attention to that a little
bit more closely than something that's
closer to 275 something along those
lines there needs to be some level of
leniency around your cost per lead goal
so usually i give a little bit of a
buffer so this hopefully gives you a
range of kind of what we're normally
looking at we're not going to take an
account that has a 100 cost per lead
goal and a keyword that has a 101 cost
per lead and start thinking about
pausing that keyword it's just too close
to the goal and it doesn't make sense to
turn it off for that one additional
dollar cost per lead the other thing
that you need to keep in mind and this
happens a lot with accounts with low
conversion volume is that each keyword
really needs to have spent enough money
to have converted at least once before
you think about turning it off this
always ends up being a function of the
cost per lead goal for me or in an
e-commerce account you can end up
utilizing your average order value and
trying to back into what your row as
target would be for that sale if you
made that sale with an average order
value in that moment so if an account
has a cost per lead goal of 250
i usually try and give a rough range
that that keyword needs to have spent
500 in its lifetime before we think
about pausing it because anything that
it ends up converting even if it's spent
hundred and fifty dollars if it spent
three hundred dollars if it spent four
hundred dollars if it converts once the
cost per lead is still not two times the
target goal that we have in the account
so even if something hasn't converted
and it's spent money it doesn't
necessarily mean that it needs to be
turned off just yet now i recognize that
that's not always something that
business owners or clients want to hear
but that is in my mind the right
objective way to go about evaluating a
keywords long-term performance potential
if you don't have the budget to support
a number of keywords not converting for
a while while they get up to that two
times conversion lead goal then maybe
you pause them for a little bit let some
other keywords run then depending on
their performance maybe pause them
reactivate these other keywords and give
them another shot to perform but i
wouldn't just categorically turn things
off because they have spent some money
and not converted without having that
minimum level of spend in their lifetime
so if your keywords have met these spend
minimums now we need to start thinking
about what next steps are to determine
if they need to be paused or optimized
and when it comes down to it it doesn't
matter if a keyword is highly
unprofitable that's unclear or
borderline but we really need to have
further investigation to figure out what
needs to happen so the first thing i
want you to do is extend your date range
are you looking at only a recent
snapshot of performance or have you
looked over a longer period of time have
you looked at the past seven days 30
days 90 180 what are the different
performance trends that you see here has
that keyword ever been profitable on any
level of spend or has it always been
unprofitable and how unprofitable has it
been has it always been at three times
the cost per lead goal or at one point
was it only at maybe one and a half
times the cost per lead goal where it
was a lot more efficient but it was
still a little bit higher than we wanted
it to be can you determine any of the
factors that have changed since it was
profitable if it was or at least close
to it is there anything that stands out
to you are there any seasonality trends
that we need to keep in mind that you
might be analyzing performance right now
a little bit more harshly than you would
if you looked at a long-term table where
performance might improve because of
those seasonality trends depending on
what you find here there's really two
different paths that we can go for
keywords that are never profitable
there's only one additional thing that i
try and keep in mind before pausing
these keywords and that's to ask if this
keyword is a loss leader in a number of
different accounts there are some
keywords that for whatever reason are
not by themselves profitable but when
you turn them off you notike that the
overall impact on the business is
greater than what the performance
numbers were in the channel let's say
you usually get 10 conversions off of a
keyword a month but you notike when you
turn that keyword off you actually end
up losing 20 30 sales over the course of
a month because that keyword wasn't
active it's not really an exact science
but doing some form of on and off
testing can help you see how this
impacts the business you've had it on
for a little while you're thinking about
turning it off so set a timetable
whether it's one week two weeks a month
turn that keyword off and see how the
business is impacted overall was this a
positive change or a negative change
there are many different ecommerce
accounts that i have run on that have a
marquee product that lots of people come
to them for and that product keyword
itself is not profitable but the number
of returning customers that we get off
of the people who came through that
keyword initially outweighs the original
poor return on ad spend performance of
that keyword on that first customer
acquisition so it really makes sense to
keep it on and we just know that that
keyword needs to have its own different
row as target compared to the rest of
the account now a loss leader is not
something that happens in every account
you might not have something that falls
into the term of a loss leader and if
you don't or if you turn off this
keyword in that on off test and you find
that the impact of the business was
negligible and it didn't hurt you to
have the keyword turned off it's
probably best to make sure that it's
just paused and you don't need to have
an impact in the account moving forward
but if you do have loss leaders or you
find out through this on off testing
that having that keyword paused
negatively impacts the business greater
than what it does when the keyword is on
probably best to leave it on and
readjust your expectations of that
keyword by itself but what if your
keywords are at least sometimes
profitable what can we do to improve the
performance of keywords that have been
profitable in the past or have potential
to improve performance now the first
thing we usually dive into here is going
to be search query analysis are there
negative keywords that you need to add
because they're dragging down the
performance whether they're relevant or
not if they're not performing you
probably need to get them out of there
but an additional piece to that that is
a little more nuanced is has the query
strength changed over time if your
keyword used to be profitable but no
longer is has there been a trend in the
search queries away from what is more
relevant to your business and maybe this
keyword doesn't quite mean what it used
to mean in the past or the algorithm is
starting to associate it with different
intent there could be some adjustments
you need to make there as well and then
the last thing that accounts that have
been running for a while usually get
overlooked have you added all of the top
converting search queries as target
keywords elsewhere in the account if you
regularly analyze search query reports
and add strong performing queries as
keywords in your account odds are you're
taking those away from this individual
keyword and making it less effective
that's not a bad thing it's just a
change in how this keyword is being
utilized it's no longer matching to
those converting queries because those
are matching to keywords that are now in
your account but that means that the
different available queries this keyword
has to match to are more narrow and they
might not be as highly qualified so
there is a scenario where you've
effectively culled all of the available
performance out of this keyword and now
it needs to be paused because the
remaining queries coming through are not
nearly as targeted but if you can still
add some negative keywords focus on some
higher relevancy queries it could make
more sense for you to just keep this
keyword active for a little bit and see
if you can improve performance through
search query analysis now in the same
vein of trying to
focus on the relevancy of queries i also
want to tok about keyword match types
these have changed quite a bit over the
past few years and again depending on
how long your account's been running
maybe you need to revisit your keyword
match type strategy are you using all
broad phrase and exact match terms or
just a couple have you analyzed the
performance recently with all of those
changes and seeing how each one of them
is performing and do you need to adjust
i'm not going to go too far into this
because we do have a video that covers
the google ads keyword match types that
was launched just in the middle of 2022
so it's still relatively recent
depending on when you're watching this
video so go give that a watch and see if
maybe keyword match types need to be
adjusted to improve the performance and
the query relevancy of your keyword now
beyond the keywords and the queries
themselves if your keyword used to be
profitable in the past but no longer is
have you changed your messaging in your
ad copy or on your landing pages or have
you changed the call to action
associated with that keyword that could
be the cause of declines in performance
in a number of different accounts i've
managed in the past the businesses have
almost refused to look inward and see
that the changes that they made that
were a business decision one way or
another have had a negative impact on
the account in a number of different
areas we've had people try to change the
call to action from maybe a content
download to a demo request and then they
wonder why those keywords aren't
performing as well or in a number of
different areas you've changed your
brand messaging and unfortunately it
happens more often than it should but
brands get less specific with their
brand messaging they end up using maybe
more words maybe bigger words but
somehow saying less we all know what
those are you end up using buzzwords
like synergy and all that sort of thing
and you end up not actually conveying
the main points of your business to your
end customer and making everything from
your keywords to your ad copy to your
landing pages less impactful than they
used to be so if you notike that over
time performance has been declining and
you've notiked that you've made changes
during those periods of time to your
messaging landing pages or calls to
action it might make sense to revisit
those previous strategies and try and
revive the performance or at least
confirm that that change is what caused
the decline in performance if you
reintroduce an old call to action and
performance jumps right back up to where
it used to be odds are that's probably
the issue that you're having it's not a
keyword issue it's not a search query
issue it might be that call to action so
this probably wouldn't be a good keyword
to pause you just need to decide if that
was the right call to action change for
your business overall next is going to
be bidding strategies are you using
manual or automated bidding and
depending on which one you're using
would it make sense to use the other if
you're using manual bidding are there
bid modifiers you can make to impact
performance if your search queries and
your keyword match types are strong and
ads and landing pages and calls to
action are good maybe you need to look
in and see if performance is poor over
the weekend or if certain audiences
aren't doing well or maybe your mobile
experience isn't very good can you
adjust some of those bid modifiers there
or if you're using automated bidding do
you have enough conversions coming
through to support that automated
bidding strategy and are your settings
right for the amount of volume that
you're getting in the same vein as the
keyword match types i'm not going to go
too far in depth on this because you can
check out this google ads bidding
strategies video that'll tok about all
of these different insights and how to
get the most out of the automated
bidding strategies but again don't think
that a keyword's performance is a result
just of that keyword there could be a
lot of outside factors and the most
outside factor of all are your
competitors have new competitors enter
the market are you losing ground to
other competitors who have been there
over the course of time and maybe
they're just getting more aggressive
what are those trends and do you need to
reset expectations on any given keyword
because that market has just gotten so
much more competitive an example i'll
use here is one that i think everybody
can relate to let's tok about meal kits
you know those things that there's
always ads for on podcasts and all you
have to do is send in your meal
preferences and they'll send you a whole
bunch of groceries and some recipes so
you can make meals for yourself four
people 10 people over the course of a
week those didn't used to exist so at
some point when meal kits were invented
those keywords would have been extremely
cheap whoever first got into the market
with that and i don't know which brand
it was they would have enjoyed a very
low competitive space because they were
the only ones doing what they were doing
but over time there's now 5 10 15 20. it
seems like there's a meal kit company
for every individual diet and geography
out there now those are a lot more
competitive spaces does that mean that
those keywords are not valuable anymore
just because the cost per acquisition is
probably much higher no it just means
that the market is that much more
competitive that your goals and
expectations probably need to change if
you're curious in finding out who your
competitors are and finding longer term
trends we again have another video that
shows you how to use the auction
insights report in google ads to see who
your competitors are which metrics
they're beating you on where you're
beating them and trying to understand
how they're impacting you over time now
assuming that you have gone through all
this and you've decided that rather than
pausing a keyword you want to try and
test improving the performance of it
before you do that it's important for
you to set timelines for your turn
around how long are you going to give
this keyword to perform before you
decide to eventually pause it just like
with the spend metric on a keyword that
has not converted my only caution to you
is to not set a timetable that's too
short you need to have something that
you're comfortable with testing but it
needs to be realistik to gather enough
data if your target cost per lead goal
in your account is one hundred dollars
and that keyword only spends fifty
dollars on average a one week timeline
test is not long enough you need to have
something that's going to be at least
two weeks if not a month or a month and
a half to try and determine if your
optimizations can turn performance
around well enough for you to keep that
keyword active now i know i've spent a
lot of time toking about things you can
do to avoid pausing a keyword and i'm
sure google really really loves that but
when it comes down to it these are all
of the stages that joe and i will go
through to try and determine if a
keyword simply isn't performing or if we
have some additional performance
adjustments we can make whether it's
through search queries keyword match
types if there needs to be a change in
our messaging and how we present
ourselves with ad copy landing pages and
the call to action that we offer or if
we need to understand the market a
little bit better and realize that maybe
we're just in a more competitive space
than we used to be and our expectations
need to change a little bit but if
you've gone through all of those and
your performance can't be improved
through search queries and match types
your messaging is on point and there's
no other call to action you can use for
your brand and maybe your competitors
are just really really competitive
probably time to pause that keyword the
only reason we go through as many steps
as we do before pausing is because you
add that keyword for a reason you think
it's relevant and it can generate
performance for you so it's in your best
interest to at least do your due
diligence and determine if that keyword
can be viable through these different
stages but if you get to the end of this
exercise and you realize that it's just
not the right fit then it's time to turn
it off look elsewhere and put your
efforts into other keywords that can get
you better performance on a more
consistent basis like i said this video
is a lot more high level strategy
focused rather than in the weeds in the
account but hopefully you still found it
helpful to walk through these different
considerations before pausing a keyword
if there's anything that you have a
specific question about pausing keywords
or if you liked this format of higher
level strategy as opposed to the how to
in the account we would love to hear
about either of those in the comments
below thanks for watching our video if
you thought it was useful give us a
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