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How to Find and Fix Underperforming Keywords in Google Ads

Welcome to the ever-evolving world of Google Ads, where keywords are the linchpins of your advertising success.

In this digital arena, the right keywords can catapult your campaign to stellar heights, while underperforming ones can drain your budget faster than a sinking ship.

But fear not! This guide is your beacon in the murky waters of Google Ads.

We’re diving deep into the art and science of identifying and fixing underperforming keywords.

Whether you’re a seasoned marketer or a newcomer to the Google Ads universe, understanding how to fine-tune your keywords is crucial.

So, buckle up and get ready to transform your Google Ads campaigns from underwhelming to outstanding.

Understanding Keyword Performance

At the core of Google Ads, keyword performance is what pumps life into your campaigns. But what exactly makes a keyword underperform? It’s not just about low clicks; it’s a cocktail of factors that determine whether your keywords are stars or duds.

Key Metrics to Measure Keyword Health

  1. Click-Through Rate (CTR): This is your first checkpoint. A low CTR often signals that your keyword isn’t resonating with your target audience. It’s like casting a fishing line and getting no bites.
  2. Quality Score: Think of this as a health checkup for your keywords. A low Quality Score can be a symptom of deeper issues, such as poor ad relevance or subpar landing page experiences.
  3. Conversion Rate: Ultimately, you want your keywords to be more than just popular; you want them to convert. A keyword with high clicks but low conversions is like a crowded store where no one buys anything.

Decoding the Performance Indicators

  • Understanding CTR: A low CTR could mean your keyword isn’t well-matched with your ad, or it’s not what your audience is looking for. It’s a sign to reevaluate your keyword’s relevance to your ad content and target audience.
  • Demystifying Quality Score: This metric is Google’s way of telling you how well your keyword is expected to perform. It’s based on factors like ad relevance, expected CTR, and landing page experience. A low score here means it’s time to improve these areas.
  • Analyzing Conversion Rate: If people click but don’t convert, the issue might be with your landing page or the offer itself. It’s a nudge to ensure that your landing page aligns well with your ad and the keyword intent.

How to Find Underperforming Keywords

Identifying underperforming keywords in your Google Ads campaign is like being a detective. You need to look for clues and patterns that indicate which keywords aren’t pulling their weight. Here’s how to start your investigation:

Step-by-Step Guide to Spotting Weak Keywords

  1. Dive into Your Google Ads Account: Start by logging into your Google Ads account. Head straight to the ‘Keywords’ tab where all your active keywords live.
  2. Analyze Performance Metrics: Look at the key metrics we discussed earlier – CTR, Quality Score, and Conversion Rate. Filter out keywords with a CTR below your industry average, Quality Scores lower than 5/10, or abysmally low conversion rates.
  3. Use Date Range Comparisons: Compare performance over different time periods. A keyword might be seasonal or could have dipped in performance recently due to market changes.
  4. Segment Data for Better Insights: Break down your data by device, location, or time of day to see if the underperformance is specific to certain segments.

Tools and Features to Aid Identification

  • Google Ads Reports: Utilize the reporting feature in Google Ads to create custom reports focusing on keyword performance.
  • Automated Rules and Alerts: Set up automated rules to flag keywords that fall below certain performance thresholds.

Diagnosing the Causes of Poor Performance

Diagnosing the Causes of Poor Performance of Google Ads Keywords

Once you’ve identified your underperforming keywords, it’s time to figure out why they’re not performing well. This diagnosis is crucial for finding the right remedy.

Common Causes of Keyword Underperformance

  1. Irrelevant Keywords: Sometimes, keywords are too broad or just not relevant enough to your ad content or landing page, leading to poor performance.
  2. Poor Match Type Selection: Using the wrong keyword match type can either restrict your ad visibility or make it too broad, attracting irrelevant clicks.
  3. Competitive Landscape: High competition for certain keywords can also lead to underperformance, especially if your bid strategy isn’t aggressive enough.
  4. Ad and Landing Page Misalignment: If your ad or landing page doesn’t align well with your keyword, it can lead to a low Quality Score and poor conversion rates.

Investigative Actions to Take

  • Conduct Keyword Relevance Check: Review each underperforming keyword and assess its relevance to your ad content and landing page. Are they closely aligned?
  • Review Match Types: Examine the match types of your keywords. Consider switching between broad, phrase, and exact match to find the right balance.
  • Analyze the Competition: Use tools like Google’s Keyword Planner to understand the competitive landscape for your keywords. It might be time to adjust your bidding strategy or look for less competitive alternatives.
  • Audit Your Ads and Landing Pages: Ensure that your ads and landing pages are optimized for the keywords you’re targeting. They should offer a seamless and relevant experience to the user from keyword to conversion.

Strategies to Fix Underperforming Keywords

Now that you’ve pinpointed your underperforming keywords, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and turn things around.

Here are some strategic moves to breathe new life into these keywords.

Refining Match Types

  1. Tighten the Reins with Exact Match: If broad match keywords are draining your budget without conversions, switch to exact match for greater control. This ensures your ads show up for highly specific and relevant searches.
  2. Experiment with Phrase Match: Phrase match offers a balance, ensuring your ads appear for searches that include your exact keyword phrase. It’s a good middle ground for visibility and relevance.

✏️ Use our free keyword wrapper tool to wrap your keywords in wanted match types.

Revamping Keyword Lists

  1. Prune the List: Sometimes, less is more. Remove keywords that consistently underperform despite optimizations. It’s better to focus on keywords that have the potential to convert.
  2. Embrace Negative Keywords: Regularly update your negative keyword list to filter out irrelevant traffic. This step is crucial for improving the overall health of your campaign.

✏️ Easily find negative keyword ideas with our AI negative keyword generator.

Optimizing Ad Copy and Landing Pages

  1. Align Ad Copy with Keywords: Ensure your ad copy resonates with your target keywords. Tailor your message to address the specific needs and interests that your keywords imply.
  2. Landing Page Relevance: Your landing page should deliver on the promises made in your ad copy. Ensure it’s relevant, user-friendly, and optimized for conversions.

✏️ Get fast actionable tips on where to improve your landing pages with our AI landing page CRO audit tool.

Improving Keyword Quality Score

Improving Keyword Quality Score

Quality Score is like the pulse of your keywords – a vital sign of their health. Improving it can lead to better ad positions and lower costs. Here’s how to give your Quality Score a much-needed boost.

Enhancing Ad Relevance

  1. Keyword-Ad Alignment: Your ads should closely align with your target keywords. This alignment increases the likelihood that your ads will meet the searcher’s intent, improving CTR and Quality Score.
  2. Compelling Ad Copy: Write ad copy that’s not only relevant but also compelling. Use strong calls-to-action and highlight unique selling points to grab attention.

Improving Expected CTR

  1. Use High-Performance Keywords: Focus on keywords that historically have high CTRs. Incorporate them into your ad copy to make your ads more clickable.
  2. Ad Extensions: Utilize ad extensions to make your ads more informative and appealing. Extensions like sitelinks, callouts, and structured snippets can improve your ad’s visibility and CTR.

Enhancing Landing Page Experience

  1. Relevance is Key: Ensure your landing page directly relates to your ad’s offer. A mismatch here can lead to a poor user experience and a low Quality Score.
  2. Optimize for User Experience: Your landing page should be easy to navigate, load quickly, and be mobile-friendly. A positive user experience on your landing page can significantly boost your Quality Score.

Continuous Monitoring and Adjustment

In the dynamic landscape of Google Ads, resting on your laurels is not an option. Continuous monitoring and adjustment of your keywords are akin to steering a ship through ever-changing seas. Here’s how to stay vigilant and responsive:

Establishing a Routine for Regular Check-Ins

  1. Schedule Regular Audits: Mark your calendar for regular keyword performance reviews. Whether it’s weekly or monthly, consistent check-ins are crucial for catching and addressing issues early.
  2. Utilize Alerts and Automated Rules: Set up alerts in Google Ads for significant changes in performance metrics like CTR, Quality Score, or conversion rates. This proactive approach keeps you informed of any sudden shifts.

Adapting to Performance Data

  1. Be Ready to Pivot: If certain keywords consistently underperform despite optimizations, don’t hesitate to pause them and redirect your focus to more promising ones.
  2. Test and Learn: Continuously experiment with new keywords, ad copy variations, and bidding strategies. Use the data from these tests to inform your ongoing strategy.

Advanced Techniques and Tools

In the age of AI and machine learning, there are advanced techniques and tools at your disposal that can take your keyword management to the next level. Here’s a glimpse into some of these resources:

AI and Machine Learning Tools

  1. Predictive Analytics: Utilize AI tools that offer predictive analytics to forecast keyword performance trends. This can help you stay ahead of the curve in your keyword strategy.
  2. Automated Bidding Solutions: Consider using automated bidding tools that adjust bids in real-time based on the likelihood of conversion. This can optimize your spend and improve ROI.

Utilizing Google Ads Advanced Features

  1. Explore Google Ads Scripts: Google Ads Scripts allow you to automate common procedures or interact with external data. For instance, you can write a script to adjust bids based on weather conditions or stock levels.
  2. Keyword Planner and Other Google Tools: Make full use of Google’s own suite of tools like the Keyword Planner for keyword research and the Recommendations page for tailored suggestions to improve your campaigns.


Mastering the art of keyword optimization in Google Ads is a journey of continuous learning and adaptation.

By identifying and fixing underperforming keywords, you not only enhance the efficiency of your campaigns but also pave the way for greater ROI and success.

Remember, the key to triumph in Google Ads lies in your ability to stay agile, monitor meticulously, and adapt swiftly.

Embrace the power of regular audits, advanced tools, and a mindset of ongoing optimization. With these strategies in your arsenal, you’re well-equipped to navigate the ever-changing tides of digital advertising and steer your campaigns towards uncharted territories of success.

To further your knowledge, we suggest to learn how to find the best keywords in Google Ads.

Michael Schroder

Michael Schroder

Michael Schroder is a Google Ads and SaaS marketing consultant. He has been managing $200k-$300k monthly ad spend and has worked with 200+ SaaS companies. The thing that makes him unique is his data-led approach and his focus on SaaS businesses.