PPC Horror Stories

This week Matt Umbro (@Matt_Umbro) came up with another great question set titled “Pay-Per-Click Horror Stories.” The following is the transcribed Streamcap from the live chat:

Q1: What’s the worst item/feature you’ve seen in an account you’ve inherited? Why?

  • Does one campaign with one ad group and thousands of keywords count. – Matt Umbro
  • Worst has got to be an account where the client cared about the amount of KWs each week. There was no logic to this. – Steve George (@Sjorge3442)
  • An account for a University had keywords targeting “Online programs”. They did not offer any online programs. – Brandon Bednar (@brandon_bednar)
  • Anytime an account has an active campaign named “Campaign #7” I know I’m in trouble. – Amy Hebdon (@amyppc)
  • Targeting on display ads that let in Dubai for a local service. Who needs to spend money wisely? – Mike Crimmins (@mikecrimmins)
  • Mindless dumps of every possible broad keyword from Keyword Planner. – Timothy Jensen (@timothyjjensen)
  • No negative placements with a majority of impressions going to ABC mobile learning apps. – Gil Hong (@gil__hong)
  • 84 ads in one ad group. – Brooke Townsend (@btownsend13)
  • One campaign. One ad group. Thousands of keywords. – Joe Martinez (@MilwaukeePPC)
  • Ginormous list of KWs many of which were completely random…so many SQRs. – Sarah Holder (@SarahAHolder)
  • Broad Matching for terms that are too Broad to run in those adgroups. Impacting CTR and QS. – Juan Restrepo (@juanrrestrepo)
  • Pageview of the Landing page as conversions. – Doug Thomas (@ferkungamoaboobo)
  • Not the worst, but seeing conversions double count because of GA linking to Adwords. – Matt Umbro
  • Christian university was targeting the keyword Religion… broad match… no mod’s. – Brandon Bednar
  • The broad match keyword “next day” (as a broad), shown worldwide. That was a campaign set up by Google for a UK client. – Steve Gibson (@stevegibsonppc)
  • An account with big spend but absolutely no conversion tracking. It wasn’t a branding campaign. – Andrea Fine (@AndreaFine)
  • Mobile bids down 100% with no data to back that up. – Joe Maritnez
  • All of the keywords were broad match, and there were multiple campaigns with the same broad match keywords. – Hannah Johnson (@MarketingHannah)
  • 477 ad groups one campaign. Over 1200 overall – for client selling just one thing. Lots of overlap/bidding against themselves. – Steve Gibson
  • Just hundreds of broad match keywords (not BMM), many as singular words – and no optimizations in history of account. – Kim Thomas (@PPCkimpossible)
  • Search & Display Select enabled, Bidding set to “Adwords selects bids to meet target budget”. 1 year like this…all GDN clicks. – Kurt Henninger (@KurtHenninger)
  • I once took over an account with $3 a day budget. The keywords averaged a $2-3 CPC. Lots of pressure on that click to convert. – James Hebdon (@jphebdon)
  • 1 campaign, 2 ad groups, 1000+ broad match keywords (no BMM, phrase, or exact)….no conversion tracking. Yup. That happened. – Justin Roberts (@phillyjrob)

Q2: Talk about your worst PPC mistake and what you learned from it?

  • At my first PPC job I didn’t think to check user permissions… old agency still had auto API making changes… for months. – Gil Hong
  • I think I made all of the accounts everyone inherited for A1. Sorry all. I was new. – Mike Crimmins
  • When importing an Adwords account to Bing, Bing defaults to include their display network. Not knowing that cost me $8K once. – Brandon Bednar
  • Leaving geotargeting set to entire USA for a local campaign for a while. Always double check! – Timothy Jensen
  • Thinking that Bing product ads were part of auto-tagging… They’re not. – Brooke Townsend
  • Somehow a modified broad match “+2013” slipped into a campaign. I learned to add a step to check for that to my process. – Michael Fleming (@SEMFlem)
  • Bidding on the word “keyword.” It got tons of clicks and no conversions. It was broad match too. – Melissa Mackey (@Mel66)
  • Leaving the “show ads in other areas” box checked in Bing Ads for a very local account. Lots of imp outside target area. – Julie Bacchini (@NeptuneMoon)
  • I had the incorrect numbers (855 instead of 866) in a call extension. Learned to always triple check before launching. – Francis Shovlin (@fmshovlin)
  • Accidentally adding kw intended as a negative as a kw being bid on. Wasted $$ on high level broad term. – Timothy Jensen
  • Geo targeting a Bing Ads Campaign nationwide not locally. Learned to double-check campaign settings when I import from AdWords. – Jason Sexton (@jasonsexton)
  • I managed 2 different companies in house, accidentally swapped call extension #’s between the two. – Steve George
  • Accidentally added negative kws as positives (discovered $4k later). Refunded client. Learned to triple check work. – Nicole Mintiens (@Tregesy)
  • Missed a decimal point in a bid. Luckily enough, the clicks were still profitable! – Steve Gibson
  • I meant to add a negative keyword, but accidentally added it as a keyword once. Needless to say, that hasn’t happened again. – Hannah Johnson
  • Overlooking that Bing ads does have a language targeting setting except it is done at the adgroup level, unilke Gemini & Adwords. – Juan Restrepo
  • Didn’t realize that changing the case of a KW in the interface (not editor) made it a brand new KW. Deleted some good stuff. – Joe Martinez
  • Spending months over perfecting ad copy, now everything is tested and analyzed. – Sarah Holder
  • Also. Forgetting to properly tag Bing after importing from AdWords. – Brooke Townsend
  • Learned to always ask if the targeted CPA client gives you applies to absolutely ALL products. They might “overlook” stuff. – Roxana Hassel (@RoxanaHassel)
  • A bid I meant to type as 0.15 got entered in as 15, back before AdWords did that “are you sure?” notice for big bid changes. – Amy Hebdon
  • Choosing a tool I thought was right. Learned to ask better questions. – Elizabeth Marsten (@ebkendo)
  • A bid I meant to type as 0.15 got entered in as 15, back before AdWords did that “are you sure?” notice for big bid changes. – Amy Hebdon
  • We had a wall of shame for keywords found on the Search Terms Report. Just don’t let client know about them. – Brandon Bednar
  • Not from the tactical side, but I called a client the wrong name on a call once. I immediately kept talking and moved on like nothing happened. – Matt Umbro
  • Accidentally added some keywords as broad, meant to add them as exact match. – Marina Obsivac (@MarinaObsivac)
  • Always check your remarketing settings. Set your audience, and absolutely make sure to set Target & Bid. – Brian Chausmer (@brianlchaus)
  • Not checking in on a maintenance account that had an expired budget order! – Amy Hebdon
  • I was new, told to make sure to spend full budget.. EoM, $4K to go, took of all the brakes: 45 min later, we’re $6K OVER budget. – James Hebdon
  • Forgot to add proper tracking to URLs and it made the analytics end a nightmare… whoops! Never forget your tracking! – Meisha Bochicchio (@MarketingMeisha)
  • A client wanted to bid on MEAT in broad, I regret not putting up more of a fight, especially when it was SQR time. – Jill Trujillo (@JillTruJillo)
  • Pulled a monthly spend projection…that was actually a week’s projection through the KW planner. – Justin Roberts
  • Launched an ad on a test page not knowing it would only be live for 2 weeks, always double check first. – Sarah Holder
  • Not the worst, but an agency I used; a broad DKI ad ended up with the headline “Buy Kids Online”. Several complaints! – Dan Barker (@danbarker)

Q3: What’s a PPC “life lesson” you’ve learned that has stuck with you throughout your career? Why?

  • I’m going to go with learn from your mistakes and always keep learning. – Mike Crimmins
  • Hard work works when nothing else will work. – Jonathan Ng (@ThankYouJon)
  • Detail Oriented is not just a buzz word. Its very important and can save costly mistakes. – Brandon Bednar
  • “Measure twice, cut once” so to speak. Making mistakes by going too fast creates 2x the amount of work later. – Susan Wenograd (@SusanEDub)
  • Your process is just as important as knowing your stuff. Guards against mistakes like the ones we’re talking about. – Michael Fleming
  • Be honest and forth coming when you make a mistake. Learn from it, and don’t make the same mistake twice! – Christi Olson (@ChristiJOlson)
  • Do not make assumptions – always confirm what you think is correct. Be sure you fully understand what is being asked. – Julie Bacchini
  • Push back & educate when client has either unrealistic expectations or just plain doesn’t understand something. – Meisha Bochicchio
  • Always, always set proper expectations and make sure you know the parameters of a project before moving forward. – Matt Umbro
  • Setting accurate expectations can save you from a world of hurt/awkward down the road. – Gil Hong
  • Launched audiences to collect data & had it set to Target &Bid. Now I always make sure it’s switched to Bid Only. – Steve George
  • Get. Recent. Changes. – Matt Hopson (@matthopson)
  • Have a process that works and stick to it. But also learn to be flexible. PPC-world changes quickly! – Brooke Townsend
  • There is never nothing to do on an account if you look hard enough. – Roxana Hassel
  • Every account is different. Do what’s right for each account, not what you’re used to doing. – Joe Martinez
  • Reward the good, and the good only. Don’t spend money and time on even a good, valid idea that just ain’t workin’. – Doug Thomas
  • Always testing, trying things out whether it be landing pages, creatives, keywords or targeting, the data will tell. – Juan Restrepo
  • There are lots of ways in PPC (and SEO) to tell a positive story from raw data. Tell an honest, real one instead. – Jesse Semchuck (@jessesem)
  • Details count, ask questions and communicate so that everyone is on the same page. – Jill Trujillo
  • Anytime you take an “us vs them” mentality at the workplace, whether it’s with clients or in-house, you’ll never win. – Brian Chausmer
  • Keep reading, stay updated – things are always changing, there are so many resouces outside your direct team to learn from. – Sarah Holder
  • There is no room for subjectivity or bias. – Marina Obsivac
  • Always listen, read and learn. – Nicole Mintiens
  • Work to gain not just a breadth of experience, but depth of it. Learn all the things, but learn it well, understand it, use it. – Kim Thomas
  • Iterate & learn. Reserve your management hours for after a launch, rather than an epic buildout before it goes live. – Amy Hebdon
  • Also, overcommunicate until you are comfortable with the client – better to be safe than sorry. – Marr Umbro
  • Listen. If you listen to your client you’ll understand the business & help them better. And listening is just important in life. – Hannah Johnson
  • Proper account structure is critical. – Marina Obsivac
  • Not bogging down a non-PPC C-level w/PPC KPIs. Instead, speaking to their business goals & how PPC impacts their bottom line. – Justin Roberts
  • Not that long ago – going from contractor to agency, I had to totally relearn how to communicate with a team. It was humbling.

Q4: Talk about a PPC practice totally shunned upon, but you actually saw good results?

  • Not sure how “shunned” DKI is but we use it for a lot of our travel related clients and see good results from it in testing. – Meisha Bochicchio
  • There are people out there…. that actually like…. spammy UX on the LP. – Gil Hong
  • Search Partners has mostly been a good thing for me. Don’t fear lower CTRs without looking at conversions. – Joe Martinez
  • Bidding to lower positions in certain verticals. May not be completely frowned upon (unless you talk to Google reps), but still. – Justin Roberts
  • Broad match can be awesome if you have a solid negative keyword list built out. – Brandon Bednar
  • Client needed thousands of leads, under $2 CPA. All broad keywords, search w/ display select, CO and mobile-only did the trick. – Brian Chausmer
  • Intentional typos in the ad text. – Marina Obsivac
  • I think broad match can work well in some cases with the right negatives or with some + modifiers. – Meisha Bochicchio
  • Maybe not a bad practice, but nothing worked in one campaign but one random GDN site – we got 90% of leads from that site. – Matt Umbro
  • Speaking of “shunned” – We haven’t tried this but has anyone run ads on a direct competitor’s brand name? Results?? – Meisha Bochicchio
    • Really fun from LP and CRO perspective because you can get really nasty with comparisons. Really low ROI. – Doug Thomas
    • I’ve seen it work in some cases and really fail badly in others. Depends on the industry I think. – Brandon Bednar
    • Yes. Don’t expect huge conversion numbers, but can work. At least gets coverage/visibility too. – Julie Bacchini
    • Yeah, having great success in one account by saying “get a comparison quote.” – Michael Fleming
  • Rebuilt a campaign in Spanish ignoring results from english campaign. – Sarah Holder
  • Once removed a boatload of duplicates – the account tanked until I added them back in. Kept trying, kept tanking. – James Hebdon
  • I rarely use 3rd party tools for kwd research. Of all the PPC levers, I find “spying” on competitor kwds is least productive. – Amy Hebdon
  • I had a supplements campaign have 3 campaigns with 1 ad group each of 1000s of keywords at $0.10 bids – it worked though! – Matt Umbro
  • I still want to say moving to Enhanced Campaigns, but it depends on the definition of “good results”. – Christi Olson

Q5: Why is it important to fail?

  • Failing makes you realize what was important in the first place. – Matt Luken (@tunadonut)
  • I don’t know that it’s important to fail, it’s just one potential outcome of trying and learning – both of those are important. – Amy Hebdon
  • Failing forces you to learn and to subsequently do things better. – Julie Bacchini
  • You gain experience on what works and what doesn’t & can find boundaries between the two. – Kurt Henninger
  • Someone mentioned this earlier, but you (almost) always remember better and failing is more likely to drive you to action. – Michael Fleming
  • “And why do we fall, Bruce? So we can learn to pick ourselves up.” – Alfred Pennyworth. Experience builds expertise. – Joe Martinez
  • Plus lessons stick better when you learn the hard way (fail), so maybe that’s something. – Amy Hebdon
  • Failing gives you a good idea of what doesn’t, but it is important to fail smart and learn from it. – Sarah Holder
  • The entire industry is predicated on failure, i.e., testing, and if you can’t handle that, you shouldn’t be in the space. – Brian Chausmer
  • Failure isn’t important – it is just a mechanism for learning. – Richard Fergie (@RichardFergie)
  • I think it’s not just important to fail, but you need to learn from your failures. If not, then it’s a vicious cycle. – Hannah Johnson
  • Learning to fail better is important for succeeding better. – Marina Obsivac
  • If failure itself was the important thing we wouldn’t train novices – we’d just let them get on with it. – Richard Fergie
  • PPC is not an industry where you can be rigid in your thinking & be successful. Must be comfortable w/ try>fail>try again>succeed. – Julie Bacchini
  • Because no matter how smart you are, there are some lessons you will never learn until the pain of failure sears them into you. – James Hebdon
  • I think that is true in many industries. “Failing” or hitting a wall, etc. makes you think differently. – Julie Bacchini
  • Have a 10% conversion rate? Then you’re failing at 90%. If you can’t figure out why you’re failing, you cant make it better! – Paul Kragthorpe (@PaulKragthorpe)

PPCChat Sponsored by

CallRail is a call tracking platform that brings enterprise-level call analytics to businesses and agencies. CallRail makes it easy to track which marketing sources and keywords make your phone ring. We provide call tracking, recording, and analytics for PPC, SEO, web, and offline marketing campaigns. With CallRail, you can create tracking phone numbers instantly, get reports in real time, and increase your advertising ROI by learning which campaigns and keywords deliver valuable phone leads.



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)
• Paul Kragthorpe (@PaulKragthorpe)
• Amy Hebdon (@amyppc)
• Andrea Fine (@AndreaFine)
• Brandon Bednar (@brandon_bednar)
• Brian Chausmer (@brianlchaus)
• Brooke Townsend (@btownsend13)
• Christi Olson (@ChristiJOlson)
• Dan Barker (@danbarker)
• Doug Thomas (@ferkungamoaboobo)
• Elizabeth Marsten (@ebkendo)
• Francis Shovlin (@fmshovlin)
• Gil Hong (@gil__hong)
• Hannah Johnson (@MarketingHannah)
• James Hebdon (@jphebdon)
• Jason Sexton (@jasonsexton)
• Jesse Semchuck (@jessesem)
• Jill Trujillo (@JillTruJillo)
• Joe Martinez (@MilwaukeePPC)
• Jonathan Ng (@ThankYouJon)
• Juan Restrepo (@juanrrestrepo)
• Julie Bacchini (@NeptuneMoon)
• Justin Roberts (@phillyjrob)
• Kim Thomas (@PPCkimpossible)
• Kurt Henninger (@KurtHenninger)
• Marina Obsivac (@MarinaObsivac)
• Matt Hopson (@matthopson)
• Matt Luken (@tunadonut)
• Meisha Bochicchio (@MarketingMeisha)
• Melissa Mackey (@Mel66)
• Michael Fleming (@SEMFlem)
• Mike Crimmins (@mikecrimmins)
• Nicole Mintiens (@Tregesy)
• Richard Fergie (@RichardFergie)
• Roxana Hassel (@RoxanaHassel)
• Sarah Holder (@SarahAHolder)
• Steve George (@Sjorge3442)
• Steve Gibson (@stevegibsonppc)
• Susan Wenograd (@SusanEDub)
• Timothy Jensen (@timothyjjensen)

Horror Storycaps by this guy

This is a guest post by Paul Kragthorpe; works at WebRanking in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Connect with Paul @PaulKragthorpe, and Google Plus.

Be Sociable, Share!

Tags: , , ,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Sponsored By

Recent Tweets

I am speaking at SMX East
PPCChat.co was rated one of the Best PPC Blogs by Boost CTR