Google AdWords Search Partners: A Silent Killer?

I recently setup and launched a new AdWords account with all the best & standard practices in place. Campaigns opted into the Search Network with Ad Groups consisting of tightly themed keywords, keywords set to modified, phrase & exact match types and targeted ads reinforcing those keyword themes.

I usually like to launch a campaign on the more cautious side rather than opening up match types and running budgets at max. Main reason for this is because AdWords will look at the account history when calculating quality scores across your account so I want to make sure we start off with really good account metrics.

After launching, several campaigns/ad groups had very low (<1%) CTRs. This seemed a bit odd to me so decided to do some digging into why.

After digging into numerous items – double checking match types, ad copy & networks, looking at average positions, device performance, and search query reports – I couldn’t figure out what the issue was. Eventually I applied the ‘Network (with search partners)’ segment and discovered thousands of wasted impressions with little clicks and terrible CTRs on the search partners network.

AdWords Google Search Partners Network

After disabling the search partners network, within a day or two CTR increased and CPC decreased… beautiful!

AdWords Google Search Partners

I’ve seen this in a few other accounts, but not across all. The above case study was for a real estate client. Have you encountered the same issue? Was it in the real estate industry or something different?