Diagnosing & Fixing PPC Problems

This week Matt Umbro (@Matt_Umbro) came up with yet another great question set titled “Diagnosing & Fixing PPC Problems.” The following is the transcribed Streamcap from the live chat:

Q1: What immediate actions did you take, both internally and externally, after the AdWords “Not Provided” announcement?

  • Honestly, not much outside of sending a link to clients explaining the ideas and saying, “don’t worry about it.” – Nate Knox (@nateknox)
  • I took a day to read all of the viewpoints and then wrote an email to our client base. – Matt Umbro
  • The impact the change in search queries data had impacted Google Analytics! – Juan Restrepo (@JUANRRESTREPO)
  • Held a personal PPCCussChat. Then deep breath. Then exhaled. Then went right on living my life. – James Svoboda (@Realicity)
  • Thought about it, decided it was no big deal. – Steve Gibson (@stevegibsonppc)
  • Internal- I’m having my intern pull all Matched Search Query reports out of Google Analytics for clients. External- Blog post. – Michael Wiegand (@mwiegand)
  • A lot of reading & research, but no “action” beyond that. – Timothy Jensen (@timothyjjensen)
  • Externally wrote 2 blog posts, internally planning for loss of data that we use regularly in Analytics. – Julie Bacchini (@NeptuneMoon)
  • Panicked. Ate a carton of Ben & Jerrys. – Elizabeth Marsten (@ebkendo)
  • Freaked out a little, researched & informed clients of any changes in their reports. – Cassandra McClure (@imcassy)

Q2: How do you frame your communication to clients when performance is poor?

  • Honesty, Explanation (not Excuse), & Strategy to Move Forward. – Kirk Williams (@PPCKirk)
  • I usually bullet point what’s contributing and suggestions. I’m very transparent. – Susan Wenograd (@SusanEDub)
  • Carefully. 1st analyze reports and data to make sure it’s not a reporting issue. Then adjust plan moving forward. – James Svoboda
  • We have a “What’s Not Working” narrative section in our reports with clear next steps. – Michael Wiegand
  • Generally I like to point to a specific element that is underperforming & talk about how to improve it. In my world, 90% of the time it’s low budget or problems on website. Both tricky areas. – Theresa Zook (@I_Marketer)
  • Explain poor performance theory with a story & actions to be taken to reverse negative trends. – Nicole Mintiens (@Tregesy)
  • Not just PPC – 1) take responsibility 2) explain the situation 3) state what I’m going to do to fix It. – Jason Stinnett (@JasonStinnett)
  • ££ did X. This was caused by changes in metrics Y, Z. We may be able to improve Y by. – Richard Fergie (@RichardFergie)
  • Acknowledge the negative, promote the positive, and explain how we’re going to fix things. – Matt Umbro
  • Even if account-wide performance is good, we always point out the fly in the ointment and look to improve. – Michael Wiegand
  • By making them understand where we were in the past and where we are now, how we’re going to recover. Transparency helps. – Neeraj Thakur (@NeerajT4)
  • Something like here is what we’re seeing, this is why we think it is happening & here is what we plan to do about it. – Julie Bacchini
  • Imperative to highlight the strengths of the campaign.Which/if any of the metrics is performing well & reporting how to proceed. – Juan Restrepo
  • Also, I don’t wait for monthly reporting to communicate problems. Surprirses = bad. – Susan Wenograd
  • Figure out what’s causing it. If I can’t figure that out, is it PPC issue or all their traffic? If it’s PPC, should be fixable. – Steve Gibson
    • Great point about looking beyond PPC. Sometimes larger issues impact PPC performance, i.e. prod recalls, etc. – Julie Bacchini
  • Tactfully. Typically, “Although (insert PPC issue here), we’re working on several changes to help reverse that trend”. Discuss. – Dave Rosborough (@daverosborough)
  • Also, I think too often people search for the solution without accurately defining the problem. Define the problem first! – Matt Umbro
    • Agree. Especially true with clients who micromanage. They try and give you the solution. – Susan Wenograd
  • Always have the “why” ready to go. – Elizabeth Marsten
    • Yup & what you’re doing to fix. – Heather Cooan (@HeatherCooan)
  • Important to note there is a big difference between “something changed” and “I fucked up”. – Richard Fergie
  • Benefit of honesty too (other than being right) is that it builds trust with client so when issue is not PPC-fault, you can communicate the actual problem and not appear like you are blame-shifting to save your hide. – Kirk Williams
  • Also, important to note- not every PPC performance problem is directly tied to what we do. Recognizing external factors is key. – Michael Wiegand
  • And the other aspect is that what I consider a fuck up might be minor for client. But also works the other way (worst!). – Richard Fergie
  • Analyze root cause, report, propose solution / next step. – Peter Thistle (@PeterThistle)
  • I mention this in initial conversations (while on boarding clients). So they expect ups & downs. They learn to expect change. And absolutely know we’re there to help manage change. – Mona Elesseily (@webmona)

Q3: How do you proactively address account issues with clients before they become a big deal?

  • Email (so they can think before we talk): “I have been analyzing the account and I am concerned….” Stresses that I care. – Theresa Zook
  • Early identification, early communication, early solutions. I never want a client to notice an issue first. – Cassandra McClure
  • As others said, total honesty in all communications. Not waiting for next sched meeting if there is something happening. – Julie Bacchini
  • I give something a few days to see if it’s a pattern or an anomaly. Then email with data – keeps focus on facts. – Susan Wenograd
  • Generally I’d just fix it. Include a note in next communication saying what had happened. – Richard Fergie
  • Address the problem with the client before they bring it up to me/us. Same as the last question. Honesty paired with a plan. – Nate Knox
  • Good ?, in past I’ve made things into bigger deal than needed to be by thinking I had to notify of too many “issues” too quickly. – Kirk Williams
    • YES! You do have to wait to see if a data blip is actually a ‘thing’ or not. Can be stressful. – Theresa Zook
    • If the account is trending downward from last month I’ll ask about seasonality (if I don’t already know). – Matt Umbro
  • Try to set the expectation that I start with best practices then tweak based on your account. There will be issues & adjustments. – Jason Stinnett
  • Not getting too “inside baseball” w clients. They are relying on me to take care of their acct. Don’t need to know all things. – Julie Bacchini
  • Raising an alarm when we start to see the smoke before it becomes worse! Risk highlighting through clear communication. – Neeraj Thakur

Q4: What automated rules/scripts do you run to avoid account issues (ie: high CPAs, low impression count, etc)?

  • The broken link checker script is always a good one to run weekly. – Matt Umbro
  • Scripts for daily budget pacing, QS changes; link checkers for links. – Melissa Mackey (@Mel66)
  • Anything that is out of the norm for a campaigns’ performance. Check broken URL’s, bidding, new ad copy. – Juan Restrepo
  • I’ve got a Low QS housekeeping rule. But it’s set for me to review before pausing, Not an automatic change. – Michael Wiegand
  • If you run PLAs, make sure you set an alert for when impressions are under a certain threshold (or have stopped). – Matt Umbro
  • Automated rules are good for quick CPA optimizations at kwd/ad grp/campaign levels. Just be sure to review your change logs! – Dave Rosborough
  • I use some scripts for housekeeping but allow very few to make changes. – Theresa Zook

Q5: How do you deal with Google reps reaching out to your clients concerning account performance and initiatives?

  • I talk w/clients when we start to help them understand that Google reps = sales reps. Helps a ton. – Susan Wenograd
    • Good point. I’ll say that they sometimes have ideas worth testing, but ultimately they want you to spend more! – Matt Umbro
      • Totally. I do review what they send and will let them know what things I agree with to test. – Susan Wenograd
  • Cuss a lot to myself, then have a chat with the client. We try to be on these calls but not always possible. It’s annoying. – Melissa Mackey
  • I let all of my clients know, from the get go, to take everything that Google says with a big ol’ grain of salt. – Joseph Drury (@drurytheelder)
  • I prefer to have them discuss new strategies w/ me beforehand, but we tend to function more like a team anyway. After all, the client/employer is the one with the wallet. – Dave Rosborough
  • Explain how general their expertise is compared to my own, from time spent working together with the client. – Matt Lukens (@mmlukens)
  • Early on thoroughly reviewing concept that Google’s goals & client’s goals are not completely aligned. – Julie Bacchini
  • If they email my clients and myself with bad optimization recommendations, I’ll shoot down their ideas and explain why. – Matt Umbro
  • Sometimes G does have good suggestions. I just want to vet it first before client sees. – Melissa Mackey
    • Agreed, not all bad”¦helpful for accessing betas as well. – Timothy Jensen
  • Frame every conversation with the client and Google rep in terms of the client’s ROI goal. That curtails 90% of their recs. – Michael Wiegand
  • I am in-house, and Google calls direct to me, but the last few calls they feel like used car-sales people pushing 4 more spend. – Matt Graves (@gravymatt)
  • Once had a Google rep continually talking about increasing revenue. Had to explain that what he called revenue, we called cost. – Jonathan Beeston (@searchbeest)

Q6: How do work with clients who are stuck in the PPC past (ie: want $0.20 clicks, expect certain CPA even with rising costs, etc)?

  • Just have to work with them to set realistic goals & expectations. – Timothy Jensen
  • Tell them good luck and let me know how they do it. – Nate Knox
  • A CPC of $0.20 does not mean any relevant traffic is reaching your site! – Juan Restrepo
  • Those are not the clients I want to work with, so I don’t. If their expectations aren’t realistic, nobody can help them. – Matt Lukens
  • Ultimately, you try and reset expectations. If you can’t the fit may not be right. – Matt Umbro
  • If we can’t get them into proper mindset for today’s reality, sometimes recommend stopping PPC for a bit. – Julie Bacchini
    • Have actually had a point well proven when PPC was turned off and leads noticeably dropped. – Timothy Jensen
      • We have had that happen too. Can motivate to want to improve even more too. – Julie Bacchini
  • Help them understand their own business goals. Normally, they don’t actually want $0.05 CPC – they want to be reassured that you are working hard. – Richard Fergie
  • It’s kind of the same argument from an internal perspective. For example, in ecomm accounts PLAs should be prioritized first while text ads after – it wasn’t always this way. – Matt Umbro
  • I mention likely CPC range very early in the relationship. – Peter Thistle
  • Change the conversation & start framing thins as acceptable Cost-Per-Conversion rates. Not all traffic is equal. – James Svoboda
  • I point out that ads on left get 10-20x ctr of ads on right. If visitor is worth £1, would you bid 20p & be on right? or 50p to be on left? Answer is 50p. And your competitors know that, too. It’s your competitors that set bid levels. – Steve Gibson
  • Shoot it straight while being diplomatic. Explaining cost trends across other verticals tends to help. – George Gilmer (@GeorgeGilmer)
  • What I’ve seen is that it was never really that way for them, they just thought it was because of aggregate numbers. – Jason Stinnett
  • It’s more a matter of education about meaningful metrics as opposed to tracking something they heard in a conference once. – Doug Thomas (@ferkungamaboobo)

Q7: How do you go about solving PPC problems that you DON’T know the answer to?

  • Search for specific blog posts, small scale testing. – Sam Turner (@turnersam000)
  • Research, ask colleagues. If all else fails start with a hypothesis and run a test. – Jason Stinnett
  • Duh – ask PPCChat peeps for their thoughts, insights & experiences. Amazing minds and talent here! – Julie Bacchini
  • As a side note answer, it’s OK to tell clients that you don’t have the answer, but that you will research and find out. – Matt Umbro
  • Research, creative thinking & keeping client informed throughout the discovery process. – Nicole Mintiens
  • If it’s a PPC problem (rather than a marketing problem), then the Adwords help pages would be the first place to look. – Steve Gibson
  • Also research & reading, but taking a step back and/or trying a different approach – don’t get stuck in PPC mode only. – Julie Bacchini


More PPCChats

Don’t forget to stay tuned for the next #PPCchat on Tuesday at 12 noon Eastern, 9 am Pacific and 5pm in the UK. Same Chat time, same Chat channel.


Check out the PPCChat Twitter list to see and connect with all current and prior participants.

• Matt Umbro (@Matt_Umbro)
• James Svoboda (@Realicity)
• Paul Kragthorpe (@PaulKragthorpe)
• Cassandra McClure (@imcassy)
• Dave Rosborough (@daverosborough)
• Doug Thomas (@ferkungamaboobo)
• Elizabeth Marsten (@ebkendo)
• George Gilmer (@GeorgeGilmer)
• Heather Cooan (@HeatherCooan)
• Jason Stinnett (@JasonStinnett)
• Jonathan Beeston (@searchbeest)
• Joseph Drury (@drurytheelder)
• Juan Restrepo (@JUANRRESTREPO)
• Julie Bacchini (@NeptuneMoon)
• Kirk Williams (@PPCKirk)
• Matt Graves (@gravymatt)
• Matt Lukens (@mmlukens)
• Melissa Mackey (@Mel66)
• Michael Wiegand (@mwiegand)
• Mona Elesseily (@webmona)
• Nate Knox (@nateknox)
• Neeraj Thakur (@NeerajT4)
• Nicole Mintiens (@Tregesy)
• Peter Thistle (@PeterThistle)
• Richard Fergie (@RichardFergie)
• Sam Turner (@turnersam000)
• Steve Gibson (@stevegibsonppc)
• Susan Wenograd (@SusanEDub)
• Theresa Zook (@I_Marketer)
• Timothy Jensen (@timothyjjensen)

Diagnosing and Realizing All Steamcaps Are Already Perfect

This is a guest post by Paul Kragthorpe; WebRanking SEM Manager in Minneapolis, Minnesota, #PPCChat Streamcap Grabber, SEO Blog Author. Connect with me @PaulKragthorpe, and Google Plus.

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