Underperforming keywords: pause or delete after peel and stick?

A reader asks: "If I want to improve my click through rate of underperforming keywords in a certain adgroup by peeling those keywords and sticking them into a new adgroup… should I delete or pause the low CTR keywords in the old adgroup?  How do I do it so my quality score isn’t affected?"

I write back: "What are the quality scores of the underperforming keywords right now?"

Reader responds that one keyword is great, others are OK or Poor.

I procrastinate for four days by playing with Google Desktop for Mac and rereading the amazon reviews for AdWords For Dummies (hey, there’s two new ones, and I don’t even know these people!) before sitting down to respond.

My eventual response:

You want your quality score to be affected, if it isn’t great. One of the reasons to peel and stick is to improve keyword quality by increasing relevance between keyword, ad and landing page. I would probably delete the offending keyword, and recreate it in a new ad group, either in the same or a different campaign.

If Google tells you to delete it, then it’s probably a good idea not to tick off Mama Google – just do what she says, until she turns her attention elsewhere. Then sneak the keyword into a better ad group. (That’s actually what Mama Google wants, anyway.)

How do you know what Mama Google wants? She now tells you, with a little icon right next to your quality score in the keywords tab. Mouse over it to see what Google thinks:

Click the "Details and recommendations >>" link to bring up, amazingly enough, details and recommendations:

Then mouse over the question marks to see Google’s general advice about your "little quality problem":

To repeat: deleting poor quality keywords can only improve your overall campaign quality score. That’s an important metric, because when you try a new keyword or ad, one that Google doesn’t have prior experience with, they’ll set your default quality at the average level for your account. It’s just like when the good kids in school don’t get in trouble for doing stuff that would get the bad kids suspended in about two seconds. (I was one of those good kids – I just tell you this so you can hate me now.)

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