Managing AdWords accounts is a painful and slow process. Here’s how we’re making that process better for everyone.

Illustration by Alice Mollon (alicemollon.com)

Although it may seem counterintuitive, one of the biggest obstacles to building and maintaining a profitable AdWords account is the AdWords interface itself. Users experience AdWords through an immensely complex, almost labyrinthine interface, with menus and sub-sections for every option imaginable. Without prior experience and/or AdWords training, creating a well structured campaign can seem like an insurmountable task. Even with years of experience, maintaining a profitable, organised and well optimised account can be unnecessarily difficult and time consuming.

At Opteo, we build products that help AdWords people with AdWords problems. At its core, our product is a smart recommendation engine, designed to analyse accounts for statistically significant patterns and recommend improvements based upon this data. As our product has expanded, users have consistently voiced a need for an application that replaces 80% of their time in AdWords. In most cases, users highlight a few key reasons for this need: a dissatisfaction with the native AdWords interface, a desire to implement Opteo recommendations directly in-app, and a general preference for the Opteo interface and user experience.

User feedback, support questions, and AdWords problems.

In support conversations, we consistently respond to questions about basic AdWords functionality, complex naming conventions, hard-to-find settings, syncing with external services, and so on. A significant amount of the positive feedback we receive focuses on the simple and easy-to-digest experience our product offers. As the Opteo user base grows and we’re exposed to more and more people with concerns similar to ours, it’s becoming increasingly clear that managing accounts inside the native AdWords interface is a painful process and users try to avoid this process wherever possible.

In AdWords, making changes to entities spread across an account requires navigation between pages with little to no contextual information, labelling or spatial coherence. It would seem as though the interface gets in the way more than it helps users understand their accounts. I’d like to be able to take actions quickly and make comparisons between entity types with as little cognitive effort as possible. AdWords manages to make (what should be) a simple set of tasks into something complicated and difficult.

Needless to say, there are problems to be solved here. Across a spectrum of AdWords management tools and the native AdWords experience, account management is broken and disjointed. A successful solution to the “account management problem” should be cohesive, easy-to-understand, and allow users to carry out routine tasks with as little friction as possible.

So what exactly makes a good AdWords management tool? We spent some time discussing the features we’d like our solution to have, whilst also taking time to consider the frustrations Opteo users have voiced regarding the native AdWords experience. To summarise, we outlined a few simple principles that our solution should adhere to:

1. Context should be maintained throughout.

When navigating between entity types (Campaigns, Adgroups, Keywords and Ads) I should not lose context. I should be able to make simple comparisons between a given entity type and its parent (for example, I should be able to see how big a Keyword is, relative to both the Adgroup and Campaign it is contained within).

2. Actions should be quick and frictionless.

When managing an account, I should be able to take quick actions to change bids, budgets and statuses. It should be easy for me to pause Campaigns, Adgroups, Keywords and Ads across an account without being forced to navigate away from the current page.

3. Loading times should be kept to an absolute minimum.

The entire experience should be fast. I shouldn’t be slowed down by frequent page reloads, my data should be available quickly and should be easy to sort and manipulate with standard table functions.

4. Performance metrics should be relevant and consistent.

The metrics I see should be relevant to the task at hand. These metrics should be consistent throughout my experience unless I make an explicit choice to change them. I should also be able to switch between “column presets” that include relevant metrics for CPA analysis, Quality Score analysis, and so on.

5. Data should be easy to manipulate.

I should be able to manipulate data in the table directly. I shouldn’t have to create complicated filters just to display the data I need to see.

Without going into too much detail about the design and development process, we used the above principles as a guideline to plan and prototype a number of solutions to the “account management problem”. Each of the solutions proposed presented a list of pros and cons, whether saving valuable screen space, making relationships between elements more clear, making statistics easier to read, or affecting the experience in a negative way.

All things considered, we’re proud to officially release Manage — one of our most ambitious features to date. Manage is a simple, unified table that allows users to access and modify every single Campaign, Adgroup, Keyword, and Ad in a given AdWords account. Without leaving the page or losing context, users can drill-down into the core components of an account and make comparisons between entities in different Campaigns or Adgroups easily and efficiently. Entities are colour coded so they can be recognised and identified at a glance. Campaigns are blue. Adgroups are purple. Any entities contained within an AdGroup (Keywords, Ads, Topics, Placements, and so on) are green.

“Campaign” view.

At the Campaign level, users can easily adjust the status of individual campaigns, compare statistics, and drill-down to reveal the components within a given campaign. A selection of useful performance metrics are readily available at the Campaign level (including Conversions, Quality Scores, Landing Page Experience Scores, CPA vs. CPA Target, and more).

“Expanded Campaign” view.

When expanding a Campaign row, users can see each of the Adgroups contained within a given Campaign. The expanded Campaign row becomes sticky when scrolling, so you never lose context, or the ability to make quick comparisons between entities in different Campaigns.

“Expanded Adgroup” view.

When expanding Adgroup rows, users can see all of the entities contained within a given Adgroup. Each “entity type” is neatly segmented (for example, Keywords, Placements, Topics and Ads each have their own sub-section, clearly labelled and separated from other entity types).

“Compact” mode.

Here’s a full list of features:

  • Unified Table: Never leave the page, never lose context. Manage’s unified tables allows cross-campaign comparisons and a complete, high-level account overview.
  • Upfront Loading: All data is loaded upfront. No wasting time waiting for things to load. No need to wait for changes to populate.
  • Campaign Groups: Group campaigns by whichever means you see fit.
  • Better Metrics: See metrics like Impression Weighted Quality Score at all levels (not just at the keyword level).
  • Conditional Formatting: Important information is colour coded to make reading, digesting and understanding that information as easy as possible.
  • Compact Mode: For users with smaller screens, Compact Mode reduces row/column sizes, making more data immediately visible.
  • Column Presets: Quickly switch between table columns suited to particular tasks (CPA Analysis, Quality Score Analysis, etc.).
  • Calculated Metrics: Useful quick calculations for easier, more convenient analysis, with metrics like “CPA vs. CPA Target Difference”.
  • Conversion Types as Columns: No more “Segment by > Conversion Name”, understand performance across multiple conversion types.

As this is our first Manage release, we expect to have missed some important functionality and use cases. We have plans to add a bunch of features in the near future (resizable and reorderable columns, quick graph views, built-in recommendations, entity creation) and we’re always looking for ways to improve our product. If there’s anything you’d like to see in Manage (or obvious things you think we’ve missed), please leave a comment or send us a message. We’re always happy to receive feedback and make a concerted effort to read and respond to each and every comment individually.

If you’re not an Opteo user and you’d like to find out more about our product, head over to our website, there’s a bunch of useful information and some more in-depth descriptions of the problems our product helps solve.

If you’d like to submit a feature request, visit our feature requests page.

Otherwise, we hope you find Manage useful!

Thanks for reading.

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