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When it comes to paid search, it’s easy to become reactive when looking at search trends and optimization. After all, we make decisions driven by data, which we won’t have until after the fact. However, we can combat this by always looking out for outliers and taking advantage of automated tools at our disposal.

For example, one of our clients in the finance industry saw an 88% increase in revenue per click from May to June because of increased traffic and revenue on just one day. Since we were coming off a holiday weekend, we at first attributed the increase to a shift in traffic from the holiday to that Monday; we assumed people had waited to come back from the holiday to do their searching. We also checked to make sure that the client hadn’t done anything to promote their brand, such as TV placements or other news mentions. We kept digging.

google alerts

A simple search for current events that coincided with the high-volume day turned up the fact that Costco switched from American Express to Visa as their partner. Not only were people wondering about the search, but Costco had made a mistake: many people hadn’t gotten their new Visa Costco credit cards. We found that our client had written a popular blog post about that event, and people had been visiting the client’s website for advice about the Costco card switch. By keeping a close eye on extreme changes in performance and volume, being proactive, and continuously digging to figure out why, we were able to pinpoint the reason. Our team quickly capitalized on this change, which carried over for over a month, to maximize the improvements and capture more volume and revenue.

Although it’s rare that current events like this have a prolonged impact on accounts – as we saw with this client, the Costco-related searches gradually fell down to baseline – it’s important to stay on top of these abnormal fluctuations and keep pushing to figure out why something is happening, especially if performance declines as a result.

Some ways to keep abreast of current events impacting your paid search account:

  • Set up Google alerts at for topics relevant to your product/business.
  • Set up notifications in AdWords to alert you when spend exceeds 20% of your normal daily spend.
  • If spend does change drastically, look for keywords that increased dramatically in spend and then look at Dimensions/Search Terms to pinpoint what types of searches are driving that increase.

Current events, of course, don’t only impact paid search performance; they can have substantial implications for other aspects of your business. However, since we do have so much control over paid search, we can use it as a way to stay on top of these changes because the data reflects them immediately. Not only is it a tool to expand your business and bring in revenue, it can be used as a weather vane of sorts to predict the impact of current events on other initiatives like traditional advertising and organic search. As always, we recommend following the data and testing variables to determine what benefits you the most.