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How Important is History in AdWords?

adwords-history

A lot of people are afraid of deleting or even changing elements of their PPC campaigns for one simple reason:

They don’t want to lose their history.

It’s such a common concern that people are guided by it without even thinking about it.
In this article, we’re going to think about it.

Just how important is history? What do we even mean when we refer to history?

Within PPC accounts, history is often used interchangeably to mean 1 of 3 things:

  • Age:  How long something’s been around. This is an indicator of credibility, and has a moderate impact on account performance. Think: We’ve been in business for 20 years!
  • Track record: How well something’s doing, especially recently. This is an indicator of future performance, and has a significant impact on account performance. Think: #1 salesperson of the year, 4 years running!
  • Historical data: Past metrics and performance. This lets you compare your current performance to last month, last year, or further back. Think: Cost per click has risen 58% over the past 5 years.

Let’s look at how AdWords evaluates each of these meanings of history.

AdWords Rewards Age

Age and longevity are important to AdWords, and the fear of losing history is real.

Every time a keyword is deleted, or even moved to a new ad group or campaign, a new instance of the keyword is created.

The clock is “reset.”

You no longer benefit from the months or years of performance history associated with it.

Sometimes, “older” campaigns and keywords are handled differently than new ones. This can be easily seen with the performance of broad keywords.

Let’s say you have an older campaign where the broad match keyword pet hay has been matching against relevant pet hay terms, and you want to try it in a new ad group. The new broad match version begins pulling in terms such as buy annual zoo membership and weed killer for lawns — not exactly the results you were expecting.

AdWords doesn’t give you a warning when making changes might cause your performance to suffer. If you’re grandfathered into a certain rule, that’s something you might not be able to get back.

This is not to say you should never make account changes, just know there may be an impact. You don’t want to go around deleting high-performing assets for no reason.

AdWords Rewards a Strong Track Record Even More

Length of history matters, but it’s not all that matters.

When you introduce a new keyword or ad to your account, it has no history and no record of performance. It’s somewhat of a risk compared to what’s already serving. As the search engines try to figure out its potential value, it might get served less frequently and in less-desirable situations.

But once it’s running, a better performing ad can outweigh any benefits of a long history of average performance.

You may need to give it a few days or even a few weeks to pick up speed, but a search engine isn’t going to turn down the chance to get more clicks for very long.

History is useful in the absence of more important information.
Performance is more important information. 

Once you’ve got better performance, you can pause older keywords and ads. Until you see improvement — such as better quality score, average position, or click through rate — it may be better to keep multiple versions live so traffic isn’t reduced in the mean time.

Assuming your optimizations were successful, you can then pause (or remove) the older items.

Historical Data is Not Something You Need to Worry About

Some people hear the warning about losing keyword history and assume it’s about historical data.

People sometimes mistakenly think that if you delete a keyword (or ad group, ad, or campaign…), it’s gone for good.

If only deleting were that easy!

Every mistake you’ve ever made in AdWords – every misspelled ad or wrong domain or keyword that got uploaded to the wrong ad group and was deleted before it went live… all of that just might outlive you.

When you delete / remove / move keywords, not only do they stay in the account, so do all their metrics. The attributes go away, but performance metrics stay in your account, and you can always view them:

all-keywords

removed_keywords

You should only delete things that you’re sure you don’t want, since you can’t reactivate them. But you can safely delete old, under-performing assets without worrying about losing historical data.

Does history matter?
Yes.

Don’t randomly delete what’s working in your account, keep optimizing for better performance, and remove what’s dragging your account down. History will take care of itself.