PPC Chat Streamcap – Good PPC Gone Bad: Avoiding PPC Mistakes

This week Luke Alley (@LukeAlley) guest hosted an active discussion titled “Good PPC Gone Bad: Avoiding PPC Mistakes.” The following is the transcribed Streamcap from the live chat:

Q1: What are the most common mistakes you see made in PPC accounts? How about the worst mistakes?

  • Worst mistakes – combining content and search, desktop and mobile. – Harris Neifield (@HarrisNeifield)
  • For rookies top mistake is mixing search & display or desktop & mobile in same campaigns. And it’s surprising how many accounts don’t set up conversion tracking — At all! – Robert Brady (@robert_brady)
  • Throwing a bunch of content out there and never optimizing. – Michael Lavrisha (@vrish88)
  • First continues to be overuse of broad match and second is failure to delete kw that don’t produce sales. – Theresa Zook (@I_Marketer)
  • Tons of PPC mistakes I see are related to account structure. People get lazy & forget structure is paramount. – Emily Las (@emlas)
  • No use of match types, typos, no negative keywords. – Luke Alley (@LukeAlley)
  • Search campaigns opted into Display. – Brian Gaspar (@BGaspar)
  • Most common mistakes – no attention to campaign settings like ad delivery, msn search partners, wrong or missing conv. tracking. – Harris Neifield
  • Lack of … or improper use of negative keywords. Makes me cringe! – Cassie Allinger (@CassieAllinger)
  • Also related to structure is breaking out search & display. Rookie mistake BUT Google does make it confusing for ’em. – Emily Las
  • Most common and biggest: Thinking the keywords you are getting traffic from are exact when you are not using [the brackets]. – James Svoboda (@Realicity)
  • The most common / worst PPC mistakes I see are (1)not understanding match types and (2) combining search & display. – John Ellis (@JohnWEllis)
  • Another PPC mistake– forgetting to code URLs & set up tracking properly. Drives me insane! – Emily Las
  • Another one, not utilizing product feed for extension or a PLA campaign. Easy low hanging fruit right there. – Brian Gaspar
  • Most common not having anything other than broad match kws. Worst, not using conversion tracking. – Michelle Morgan (@michellemsem)
  • Only running a single ad, too many broad terms w/ no knowledge of search query, and mixing networks. – Chris Kostecki (@chriskos)
    • To your point, having the ad having no keyword relevance to the term. – Brian Gaspar
  • Annoying when people don’t link AdWords & Analytics, then PPC results show as organic, skewing both PPC and SEO efforts. – Timothy Jensen (@timothyjjensen)
  • Optimization for metrics that don’t support advertisers’ goals. No distinguish between types of search intent. – Bart Schuijt (@BartSchuijt)
  • I laugh when I see auto-tagging and manaully appended GA parameters on AdWords campaign … re-dun-dant. – Harris Neifield
  • Summary: Conversion tracking, broad match, display advertising. – James Svoboda
  • The worst mistake I ever saw was traffic going to the wrong url (disp & dest) – one the client *wished* they had. – Chris Kostecki
  • Honestly I think the worst mistake that people make is assuming PPC is simple or easy or “set & forget” – Cassie Allinger
  • #name as a keyword ow.ly/bwQtj Learn how to use modified broad match and excel worksheets. – Harris Neifield

Q2: What PPC mistakes have the biggest consequences? Why?

  • No conv. tracking is bad, and affects all other efforts too. – Robert BRady
  • No conv tracking. Could be wasting 80+% of budget. – Neil Sorenson (@iNeils)
  • All-broad, no control. – Chris Kostecki
  • Worst mistake is not speaking up/calling Google/communicating issues to client. Consequences, indeed. – Emily Las
  • Conversion tracking, broad match, display advertising… wasteful without the ability to know how wasteful. – James Svoboda
  • Combining search and content kills CTR and QS – Harris Neifield
  • Biggest consequences, I think, come from too much broad match. Your budget depletes like crazy over crap queries. – Michelle Morgan
  • I think Conversion optimizer if not utilized properly. Takes the bidding and control out of your hands. – Brian Gaspar
  • PPC account mgmt is like the airport/subway/train – “if you see something, say something!” Don’t wait. – Emily Las
  • Again, no conversion tracking. Spending money, delivering nothing. – Tracy Henry (@tracy_a_henry)
  • Letting all that beautiful data go to waste! – Eric Farmer (@click_eric)
  • Making recent changes/optimizations and then forgetting them, Then when you come back to them you already spent all the budget. – Lance Wilson (@crestonwave)
  • Lack of conversion tracking or in some cases even basic webstats. – Shone (@xpctechnology)
  • Defining the wrong geo can result in a lot of wasted spend. – Timothy Jensen
  • Leaving all devices turned on. Does your site look good on a phone? Probs not! – Aaron Levy (@bigalittlea)
  • Cookie duration of 540 days → may cause aversion. Plus a bad landing page experience. – Bart Schuijt
  • Leaving default settings…the secret is in the settings. – Heather Cooan (@HeatherCooan)
  • Not dedicating enough time to train newbies or not being thorough. – Emily Las
  • What does everyone do to keep track on changes?
    • Basecamp – James Svoboda & Michelle Morgan &Ryan Campbell (@_ryancampbell)
    • I have always required PPC mgrs to keep optimization logs. And then submit weekly. – Emily Las
    • I track in our time management program with notes. – Heather Cooan

Q3: What systems and/or safeguards do you have in place to avoid mistakes in your PPC accounts?

  • Check, double check, and triple check my work and hope I’m not wrong. Super sophisticated. – Michelle Morgan ++++++++++
  • Client reports. I spot any problems easier & faster than they do. – Robert Brady
  • My #1 way to avoid mistakes. Just have a co-worker look everything over. – Luke Alley
  • Multiple sets of eyes. no amount of automation can replace a fresh perspective. – Harris Neifield
  • To state the obvious, check back often after every major change. – Tracy Henry
  • We all review each others stuff, so there’s never just one set of eyes. Analytics & Acquisio alerts help too. – Aaron Levy
  • I make sure that any new campaigns or breakouts of adgroups into their own campaigns do not take place on Fridays. – Brian Gaspar
  • Reporting schedules, optimization tracking & basically just instilling fear in junior staff so they start checking their work. – Emily Las
  • Another, set the budget lower until you know it’s working right, then up it. – Tracy Henry
  • I write down the most important adjustments in an Excel sheet and sometimes share this w/ team members, clients. – Bart Schuijt
  • Spell Check and peer reviews close monitoring/filtering after a launch…most of my mistakes happen during the builds. – Chris Kostecki
  • I’m lucky to have a full digital intelligence team behind me, so we find a lot of mistakes in the deep digging they do. – Heather Cooan
  • Important that you’re able to trust the Account Managers you work with, but always smart to verify. – adMarketplace.com (@adMarketplace)
  • I’ve been doing more 1 week or 2 week campaigns, to ensure spend doesn’t go haywire. – Eric Bryant (@GnosisArts)
    • Sry, I said that wrong. Not so much 1 or 2 wk campaigns, I meant, setting the end date 1 or 2 wks out at a time. – Eric Bryant
  • I pay attention to the regular metrics and success markers related to revenue and ROAS targets. – Heather Cooan
  • Budget limits can be a simple but effective safeguard. – Martin Rottgerding (@bloomarty)

Q4: How do you avoid typos when writing 100s of ads?

  • AdWords Editor – Heather Cooan
  • Never never never ever write ads in adwords editor or in the interface. F7=your best friend – Rick Galan (@RickGalan)
  • Spell check in excel is helpful. Other than that, I do search & replace for commonly mistyped words. – Michelle Morgan
  • Fortunately, I’m someone who can spell and type w/few typos. 🙂 But I build in Excel columns, sort by column, and proof. – Theresa Zook
  • We have at least 2 sets of eyes on everything + good ol fashioned spell check. Pivots to look in bulk. – Aaron Levy
  • Avoid them with good ole F7, esp w large scale dynamic ads in excel & have notes across the top of my templates to spellcheck. – Chris Kostecki
  • I find the Editor to be just as helpful as Excel, go with what you’re comfortable with but make it easy on yourself..use the tools. – Heather Cooan
  • For 100s of ads we’d use a template approach. What’s not fixed would have to come from somewhere, like a KW list. – Martin Rottgerding
  • Dynamic ads are crucial to think about extra level of check, make sure each keyword in ad group fits grammatically. – Timothy Jensen
  • In general, I think avoiding mistakes can’t be everything. They’re bound to happen. Accept it & look for them. I’d say try to find out what kind of mistakes you make and figure out how to find this kind of mistake. For example, modified broads are a source for mistakes. Go filter for “+ ” (plus and space) in the editor & see what comes up. – Martin Rottgerding
  • Honestly, I’ve never seen any point to making 100s of ads but I’m not a PPC sensei like most of you here. – Eric Bryant
    • Lots of ads are key on LinkedIn, esp. with the new guidelines that say to change them every 30 days. – Harris Neifield

Q5: How do you ensure that all ads are always pointing to live landing pages (ie: not 404 or error pages)?

  • Rely on Adwords to disapprove ads going to error or 404 pages. amidoingitrite? – Neil Sorenson
  • I make a point to click every link in every ad set up. And watch closely for disapproved ads – Google seems to catch. – Timothy Jensen
  • Always test pre-launch for new url’s and url changes. – James Svoboda
  • Double check them before I put them in new ads. Even if they’re in tons of other adgs. Still double check. – Michelle Morgan
  • I like to use Screaming Frog’s URL List crawler to do audits of the account. Every link checked, with all response codes. Best part is that the free version of the tool will crawl as big of a list as you want. It’s an amazing PPC tool – Rick Galan
  • We use Are My Sites Up to check for downtime/site breakage, but doesn’t help with dead urls. Mostly just check check check! – Aaron Levy
  • Always be testing. Keep clicking the ad in AdWords or Editor to ensure the link isn’t broken. – Brian Gaspar
  • I have a small program that fetches urls, checks for 404s and also for text like “not found” on page. – Richard Fergie (@RichardFergie)
  • We use Marin’s link checker and Maxamine software to check for 404s. It’s quite a task on a site with 7 million+ pages. – Tally Keller (@tallykeller)
  • If your client is willing to pay, several 3rd party enterprise tools have URL checkers. – Emily Las
  • Also copy and paste when ever possible. Helps avoid URL typos. – James Svoboda
  • This one’s probably easier for me since I’m in-house. I have my own folder and ppl let me know before they make changes to it. – Michelle Morgan
  • Copy and paste links from a window, make sure tags don’t break them (? vs &) – Chris Kostecki
  • Make sure your web/dev team lets you know before any URL changes go live. – Eric Farmer
  • If you are doing URL coding by keyword, macros are the way to go. Coding URLs manually = higher margin of error. – Emily Las
  • Browser shots and size puppy to identify LP size issues and browser specific problems. – Harris Neifield
  • We have an in house crawler that checks all of our landing pages to see if they’re up. – Michael Lavrisha
  • Microsoft AdCenter is where you especially need to watch this issue and double check links, won’t let you know about 404s. – Timothy Jensen
  • Make sure the site actually returns a 404, so AdWords can alert you. Otherwise you might send traffic to broken pages forever. – Martin Rottgerding
  • I also have a full dev team behind me, we have a proprietary tool that I run on the regular. Checking URL’s on the regular is often the only way I can keep track of client inventory on my ecom accounts. – Heather Cooan
  • Monitor your analytics to see how often your 404 is being hit. – Eric Mobley (@eric_mobley)

Q6: How do you address mistakes with clients (or the boss)?

  • Total transparency and honesty. We are working for free for a client for a month because of a mistake we made We will be more careful to make sure we don’t repeat – Stu Draper (@GetFoundFirst)
  • I ‘fess up, explain how it happened, and how I’m going to watch for similar errors in the future. – Theresa Zook
  • Be honest. Admit to them. Fix them. – James Svoboda
  • Own it. Tell them what happened, why it happened, and that it won’t happen again because {safety net reason}. – Michelle Morgan
  • If they can’t be swept under the rug, address and discuss the future, do not let them hold over head, move on, credit if need be. – Chris Kostecki
  • Own it. Bring it to them before they bring it to you. But when you bring it, have a clear plan for correcting and improving. – Rick Galan
  • Project Management 101: Deliver Bad News Early. – Brian Gaspar
  • Admit mistakes. there’s no better way to destroy trust than to cover stuff up or omit key facts. – Harris Neifield
  • I find that admitting mistakes and telling how it won’t happen again makes me better. I make less mistakes in future. – Luke Alley
  • Also, don’t charge the client the time it takes you to fix your mistake. – James Svoboda
    • Iif costs are already sunk, can issue credits. – Eric Bryant
  • When/if they do happen, come up with a plan to fix and a plan to prevent it from ever happening again. Be honest with both. – Aaron Levy
  • Admitting you made a mistake to a client is not a negative thing, show them you are being open and trustworthy. – Timothy Jensen
  • This is how our proprietary tools get built. We only make mistakes once. – Heather Cooan
  • Not everything has to be pointed out, if adressed quickly (or not caught in a long time), had a low cost impact, fix it & move on. – Chris Kostecki
  • Assess as a whole & how it played into it. What it was like minus the outlier, and how it’s performed since being corrected. – Brian Gaspar
  • Same as any project, fess up, and how you’re working to fix it. Show them you’re not careless. – Eric Mobley

Q7: What does your company do to legally protect itself (if anything)?

  • I think that’s what the legal mumbo jumbo in our contract does. – Robert Brady
  • We have a team of lawyers. – Rick Galan
  • Some sweet tasty lawyerin’. Our clients own their accounts too, so we’re never on the hook for payments to engines. – Aaron Levy
    • Couldn’t agree more. Don’t route the money for search engines through the agency. removes a big liability.
  • For clients in highly regulated industries, we make sure to review guidelines for advertising to know what we can/can’t say. – Timothy Jensen
  • Hasn’t been a problem yet but we do have lawyers to sort out. – Eric Bryant


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This is a guest post by Paul Kragthorpe: Search Manager at Minneapolis Search Marketing Agency: WebRanking, #PPCChat Streamcap Grabber, Internet Marketing Blog Writer. Connect with me @PaulKragthorpe, and Google Plus.

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