How to Manage Google Ads Like a Gladiator

I’m a huge fan of intense war movies. They can depict just about any era, or have just about any plot. They can be about Roman warriors clashing with barbaric Celtic tribes, or US special forces raiding Osama bin Laden’s Pakistani hideout. They can be heart wrenching tragedies, or heart pounding quests. Maybe it’s because I watched a lot of G.I. Joe cartoons and wanted to be a sniper when I was little?  I’m not exactly sure…I’m not a psychologist.

Just the other night I convinced my wife–who is not a fan of war movies–to relax, drink a glass of wine, and watch the movie Gladiator with me.  For those who don’t know, the movie starts with the main character, Roman army general Maximus Decimus Meridius, being sentenced to death by the embittered, conniving, parasitical emperor Commodous.

Kneeling down, literally about to lose his head, he tricks his executioners and makes a daring escape, getting wounded in the process. Bleeding and exhausted, he staggers to his home in the Iberian Peninsula only to find that his family has been murdered.  Drained physically and emotionally, he passes out after burying his loved ones, only to be stolen by slave traders. He later regains consciousness in Algeria and discovers that he is now the property of a gladiator trainer named Proximo.

Maximus, like the other gladiators, must ruthlessly compete for a prize. For some, the prize is simply remaining alive. For others, the prize is fame and “winning the crowd.”  For him, the prize is revenge.

What’s That Have to Do With Google Ads?

Similarly, businesses must also ruthlessly compete for a prize. Everyday they wage war against each other to be chosen by a customer to help solve a problem or provide a solution. The winner gets the opportunity to serve that person’s needs. Rewards include monetary treasures, prestige, and the ability to fight another day. And while they may not compete in an arena full of screaming Romans, they do go toe to toe in the SERPS.

The goal of a Google Ads Gladiator is to ferociously win marketing battles, and make the business they serve lots of money. It can be a grueling task, but for those who endure, who have the strategic prowess and mental vigor necessary to succeed, they will win the day.

I’m going to share two complementary strategies through which victory in these marketing battles can be won. If you can properly implement these strategies, you may be remembered in the annals of history as one of the greats.  Sit coortum proelium! (Let the battle begin!)

Imposing Order Through Segmentation

When Maximus was about to enter the arena for the first time, some of the gladiators ahead of him were disoriented and afraid. The small spaces between the slats of wood on the gate leading into the area were filled with sunlight and impossible to peer through. The whooshing sound of swinging flails, mixed with clanging shields and frantic cheers from the crowd, petrified them. The poor souls were seriously disadvantaged.  As the gate opened and they were pushed into the arena, without being able to quickly assess their surroundings some walked into skull crushing weapons and immediate death.

Similarly, managing a chaotic ad-account can make you feel like a disoriented gladiator, which puts you at a disadvantage. Trying to sift through information that is illogically scattered or heaped into one ginormous stew is like trying to look through a hole the size of a penny that’s fifty feet away from you, surrounded by overgrown, stinking warriors, and hoping to catch a glimpse of a battle ground the size of a football field while a centurion is screaming in your ear to “prepare for death.” Your insight into the data of that account will be poor, and your campaigns could be in imminent danger.

Segmenting your campaigns using a logical structure creates order out of chaos and places you on the high ground of the battle field. Sensible categorization of campaigns will allow you to gain fast and valuable intelligence from your data. This elevated vantage point allows you to quickly view your surroundings and better plan your attacks.

A simple example would be to categorize campaigns by subtype. For example, instead of having one large campaign called Weapons, you would have multiple campaigns such as:

  • Swords
  • Spears
  • Arrows

By breaking campaigns into subtype, you can quickly understand which categories are performing well and which need more attention. You may notice that your Swords campaign has a low search impression share, so, with very little digging, you see that your bids are too low.  Or, you may notice that your Arrow’s campaign has really high click-through-rates but really low conversion rates, and again with very little digging you realize that the ads are pointing to a Javelin page…oops. Without proper segmentation, it would have taken you a much longer time to fix those issues.

Segmenting your campaigns using a logical structure creates order out of chaos, and places you on the high ground of the battle field.

Pivotal Segmentation & Allocation

Segmentation is great for optimization, but it can also set the stage for what I call “pivotal segmentation” and allocation. Together, these will set your campaigns on even higher ground. Let’s define them both:

  • Pivotal segmentation is the process of breaking parts of a campaign into new campaigns, based on results.
  • Allocation is the process of distributing funds.

Taken together, pivotal segmentation and allocation is the process of breaking parts of a campaign into new campaigns and distributing more of the budget on the parts that are performing well, and less on parts that are not.

During his first battle, Maximus was chained to Juba, a strong and tall Numidian with a warrior’s heart. It was Juba who helped heal Maximus’ wound and kept him from dying.  Juba fought valiantly in the battle and showed courage. Maximus also noticed Hagen, a large and fierce German fighter who held his own in the arena, slaying many in the battle.  Maximus chose to befriend these two men out of the larger segment of gladiators because they performed well and were trustworthy. The choice paid off because the three won more battles working together as a team.

A Google Ads Gladiator would do well to learn from Maximus. As your campaigns gain data you will be able to see what audiences or device types are performing well. If, as an example, in your Spears campaign you notice that 80 percent of your sales are coming from mobile devices, you can break that campaign into two campaigns: one targeting only mobile devices and the other targeting only desktop. Then you can allocate 80% of the budget to the mobile campaign and 20% to the desktop campaign (assuming you would like to continue optimizing desktop to perform better and win more of a return with the same budget).

Serve Well

In battle, the Gladiator with the best strategy can defeat even the mightiest of foes. The adroit imposing of order, use of pivotal segmentation, and effective allocation will crush your enemies under your feet. You may not win your freedom, but you will have done well for the businesses you serve.

Before they faced off in battle, Commodus mortally wounded Maximus as he was helplessly chained. As thousands of Roman citizens watched the two lifted into the area, Maximus’ vigor started to dissipate. Weak as he was, though, Maximus still rallied and actually slew the emperor Commodus with his own dagger. The Gladiator got his revenge and served the Romans well.


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