Some of the prospects we talk to are hesitant to try pay per click advertising with us because they’ve either done it themselves or with another agency and it’s failed. Miserably. Once you’ve had one bad experience, it becomes difficult to imagine PPC as an advertising medium that will work. Does PPC work at all? One of the most rewarding aspects of my job is getting the opportunity to show a new client the potential of PPC marketing after they’ve already deemed it a waste of money. To help others avoid a foregone conclusion, here are several of the most common ways that we see PPC fail.
Sometimes, you’re just so ahead of the game that no one is out there searching for what you offer. They don’t know it’s out there and available yet. The main prerequisite to success through search-based PPC is having an audience that is actively looking for what sells, what you do or, at the bare minimum, what problem your product or service solves.
Google makes it easy to spend money, and that’s just not always in the best interest of those parties advertising on Google. The best examples of this is the default use of broad match and the default campaign type including both search and display networks. Broad match can wreak havoc on your budget by broadly matching your carefully selected keywords with an excess overflow of search. You know you’re going to have a bad time when your keyword is “LASIK eye surgery” and you’re getting charged for clicks on “animal eye surgery” or “eye lash surgery.” Not only will these visits never become a customer, but these types of bad clicks cost advertiser’s money each and every time. The display network, on the other hand, includes anything from the New York Times to Joe Schmoe’s blog, to apps that run on an iPhone or Android device. The quality of these placements runs the full gamut from high-quality articles to downright worthless accidental clicks. The first option Google gives you as you start is to run your campaign with “Search Network with Display Select.” And while Google has made the display network easier to avoid in recent years, we still see many new accounts where the advertiser is opted into the display network only to spend a large portion of their budget on the newest incarnation of Flappy Bird.
It can be challenging to select the right keywords. What’s too general? What’s too specific? It’s difficult for someone with no search experience to select the right combination of keywords that will attract an actual, relevant audience to their offer. It can also be difficult to select the wrong keywords. Negative keywords – the keywords you add to your campaigns to prevent your ad from showing for certain queries – are one of the most powerful ways to ensure you are capturing the right audience. Even once you select your positive and negative keywords, you then need to contend with match types, which can be daunting as well. One piece of advice, regardless of your particular situation – don’t use broad match. I once looked at an account where a retirement community made poor keyword selection and bid on the keyword “aging”. What really compounded the issue was their use of broad match. The company had spent hundreds of dollars on keywords like “aged wine” and “old cheese”.
There are a lot of levers to pull. PPC has only gotten more complex. Do you want to add negative keywords? Where is the Search Query Report? How do I find my Quality Score? How do I set up day parting? How do I adjust my mobile bids? You can find answers to all these things online, with a simple search, but how do you know they are options in the first place? Knowing where to find resources and tools is one thing, but getting the education so that you know which tools to use in which situation takes time. And the learning curve is always getting steeper as new bells, whistles and ad options continue to roll out.
With paid search management, we rely on data to inform future decisions. What should we continue doing? What should we stop doing immediately? The answers to these questions are revealed in reports, but these reports are largely useless if you don’t take the time to set up some conversion goals. Even if the account is wildly successful, it’s going to be difficult to prove it unless we track what is working and what is not working. Want to replicate that success and scale your campaigns? Again, this will be tremendously difficult without data leading the way.
With traditional advertising media, almost all of the work is done up front. You get your writing done, you select your talent, you do your shoot, you edit, and you plan and schedule your media purchase. And then you wait. Due to PPC’s speed to market, flexibility and incredible generation of ongoing data, PPC account managers can affect change in real time. PPC is not a Ronco Showtime Vertical Rotisserie.
PPC simply cannot make a website better. PPC is the marketing that gets someone in the door. The job of the website is like the job of the salesperson; they need to close the deal. The best traffic quality going to a horrible site will not convert well. A similar and unfortunately too common issue has to do with data. If you’re paying for advertising, make sure the back end of your site is set up properly to deliver the leads you’re receiving. There’s nothing like seeing great success from an account perspective only to get your optimism dashed by learning that these leads have been sent to limbo, rendering them entirely ineffective at impacting that bottom line.
This is the most common issue we see and one we that we love to help fix. The most lackadaisical example of poor account structure is when all keywords someone chooses for their business are thrown into one campaign in one ad group with one ad representing the whole lot. Other common examples of this include the following:
The most fun-to-fix example of poor structure, though, comes from not fielding user intent. Through PPC, we are attempting to show users of Google and other search engines that we are the most relevant destination online for what they are looking for. The better this realization of intent is mapped onto account structure, the better the account will perform. I don’t mean to intimidate anyone from starting a PPC account. It’s really a fun way to get out there and affect your business’s bottom line in real time. But like anything worth doing, getting good at it takes time, and time is a luxury a lot of SMBs just don’t have. But the same goes for all of us individuals. For example, this summer I could learn to build a garage, but I think I’m going to hire a contractor to do that instead. It might be a fun and rewarding project. But I simply don’t have time to learn everything I’d need to learn to do it well, let alone safely. I’m too busy managing paid search accounts.