Pausing a Google Ads campaign lets you keep the bones and historical data without permanently deleting it. Find out how to hit the pause button, why you might want to, and some alternative strategies to try.

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Google Ads is like the hammer of your digital marketing toolbox: it’s the workhorse of your search and display campaigns.

No matter your pay-per-click (PPC) budget or which Google Ads mode you work in, this tool, along with your Google Analytics tape measure, is going to be among the most, if not the most, used tool at your disposal.

Read on to discover everything you need to know about pausing campaigns, featuring expert insights from HawkSEM co-founder and CEO, Sam Yadegar.

When to pause a Google Ad campaign

There are several specific instances in which you may want to consider pausing your campaign. For example, if running your campaign is too expensive, it’s not reaching the right audience, or it’s seasonal in nature, pressing pause may be a good option for you.

According to Yadegar, the core idea is to pause based on statistical significance.

Answer this question:

Have you driven enough conversions to determine that the cost-per-conversion is too expensive and you won’t get a return on marketing spend?
This depends largely on the amount of search traffic and conversion volumes on a company-by-company basis. One organization could need just 10 conversions, while another needs 100.

It boils down to this: If your cost-per-conversion and ad cost outweigh potential profit, pausing is probably the way to go.

What happens when you pause a Google Ad campaign?

Google Ads is intentionally intuitive and user-friendly, so pausing an ad campaign is exactly what it sounds like: simply putting that ad or ad group on hold.

Keep in mind the following while your Google Ads campaign is paused:

  • If you’re running any A/B testing or other experiments, they won’t test
  • Your campaign won’t gather data, therefore not necessarily bringing any actionable insights
  • It won’t generate any leads or sales
  • Your campaign won’t cost you anything because you’re not paying for clicks on that ad

It’s important to note that “pausing” and “removing” a campaign are not the same. If you remove a Google Ad or ad campaign completely, it effectively wipes that campaign from existence, Thanos-style.

Removing a campaign permanently stops ads from showing, and you won’t be able to create new entities or edit removed entities in a removed campaign. For more on how to remove a campaign, we recommend starting with this tutorial video.

When pausing a campaign, however, it’s more like you’re putting construction on hold and taking a step back to look at what you’ve built with your tools rather than bringing out the sledgehammer and the demolition team.

What can I pause with Google Ads?

Just like with the tools in your toolbox, you are in control of your Google Ads — and there are several different approaches to pausing them.
In Google Ads, you have the ability to pause the following:

  • Individual keywords
  • Individual ads
  • Ad groups
  • An entire ad campaign, which is what we’re focusing on in this post

Within Google Ads, you can even use automated rules to pause Google Ads that meet specific conditions. For example, you could use “ad schedule” if your retail company has a swimsuit sale for the summer season, as you probably don’t want to run those ads in the wintertime.

If you’re running things properly, as Yadegar points out, “You’ll likely find yourself pausing mostly on a low-level keyword basis as opposed to throwing out the entire kitchen sink.”

Benefits of pausing a campaign

We’ve gone over what happens when you pause a campaign, and some of those bullet points can be considered benefits under the right circumstances.

Another benefit to pausing a campaign, rather than letting it run inefficiently or removing it completely, is that you can pause it for a period of time without having to rewrite it or send it through the review process again. Pausing will also not affect the historical data of the campaign.

If a pause allows you to find a cheaper, more efficient way to run your campaign, you’ll save what you’ve done and move faster when you restart.

Drawbacks of pausing a campaign

Pausing resets a campaign’s Quality Score and its algorithms, so when you reactivate the campaign, you’ll be essentially starting from zero.

In the same way that pausing an SEO campaign will affect organic site traffic, pausing PPC campaigns, ads, or keywords will undoubtedly affect the overall performance.

Strategies to try instead of pausing campaigns

As a marketing professional, you know the return on investment (ROI) should be the main driver behind every aspect of designing, launching, and monitoring your PPC campaign. So, before you go around pausing willy-nilly, it’s a good idea to do a bit of adjusting before you pause campaigns. Here are some strategies to consider:

Adjust your bidding strategies

Yadegar mentions that after understanding the statistical significance of your campaign, plan A is to start reducing bids to see if you can reach a sweet spot where a return will be generated.

Use the ad schedule tool

As we briefly mentioned above with the swimsuit ads, if your ads are seasonal or promotional in nature, this is a great way to ensure you’re getting the most out of your ads, and that they’re not mucking up your data when they’re no longer relevant.

Use negative keywords

These tell Google when you do not want your ad to show in a Google search. An example we’ve used before is the negative keyword “careers.” If your business is a bakery, for instance, you might add the negative keyword “careers” so that your 20% off a birthday cake ad won’t show in a SERP for the phrase “bakery careers.”

Optimize your keywords and keep them updated

Similar to search campaigns, the more relevant your PPC ad keywords are, the better your overall campaign performance.

Pause underperforming keywords

If your cost-per-click is too high, it’s worth looking into which keywords are giving you the best results and pausing any that are underperforming.

In short, strategizing with your keywords will help minimize any wasted ad spend and ensure that you’re reaching the correct audience.

Optimize landing pages

Once someone clicks on your ad, it’s important that your landing page is effective. Does it match search intent? Is the user experience good? Does it guide the customer to take the action you want them to take? Landing page optimization is a checkbox you’ll want to tick off before pausing.

What happens when you resume Google Ads?

Once you take your campaign off pause, it’ll take at least a few days for it to start gathering data again. Also keep in mind that the campaign may not start running if you’ve also paused ads, ad groups, or keywords, so make sure everything is ready to go before you enable it!

How to pause Google Ads campaigns

If you’ve determined that pausing is the best course of action, here’s a step-by-step guide to pausing campaigns:

1. Sign in to your Google Ads account

2. Navigate to the page menu and click Campaigns

Next to each campaign, you’ll see a colored dot indicating the status of that campaign

  • A green dot means it’s enabled
  • A gray dot means it’s paused

3. To change the campaign’s status, simply click the icon and choose Pause to put the campaign on hold

Google Ads dropdown

Then. choose “Pause.”

Google Ads pause menu

…and you’re done!

As you may have guessed, you’ll take these same steps in Ads Manager whether you want to pause or enable your campaign. These steps apply to all ad formats, including video ads, performance max ads, display ads, shopping ads, etc.

The takeaway

The pause campaigns feature is an excellent tool to use in the right circumstances, but it’s vital that you have a good understanding of just what those circumstances are before you go pausing for the sake of pausing.

As Yadegar points out, “[It’s important to] make sure we have good financial modeling before we set up campaigns to begin with. But if you’re in the midst of running a campaign and it looks like costs will outweigh profits, it’s definitely time to revisit the strategy.”

To hammer it home, be intentional and smart with your tools — and don’t Thanos your ad campaigns.

Need more help with your marketing strategy or ad campaigns? Learn how HawkSEM can help.

This article has been updated and was originally published in February 2023.

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