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Sometimes PPC mistakes can be big. This week’s PPCChat session was all about those big mistakes and how PPCers dealt with them. Here is a screenshot of the entire discussion, hosted by Julie F Bacchini.

Q1: Tell us a PPC horror story (or two or three). You can change the details to protect the innocent (or so clients can’t figure out you’re talking about their account!)

My biggest PPC mistake is a horror story for me, and it still haunts me to this very day, …
I targeted potential students to attend a major university. These specific ads were aimed at people in Georgia to take online classes. The problem was all the money was spent targeting the country of Georgia, not the state. Thousands of dollars were spent before I noticed it. There was no recovery from that. No way to put a good spin on it. I had nothing but, “oops” @johnWEllis

When I was at WordStream, it was a wild west of clients. One of my colleagues had a travel agent client who had a campaign with a $500/day budget that included the keyword ‘travel’ on broad match. No negatives. I looked at the account and was like “Nope.” @kytaylor88

One that comes to mind is a food-based client, whose Google Ads account was a mess. (Normal findings: scattered KWs, all broad match back then, no consolidated KW themes, poor GMC data feed, etc.) We transformed it over the course of 6-7mos to become first-order profitable and a source of new traffic. At that point, they pulled the plug on their contract and moved to another agency to “consolidate services.” That agency tanked the account over the next 2 mos. They came back for help, having overpaid said agency, asking for a cut-rate. We had to decline. @teabeeshell

New client contact asked for a full restructure and outlined how they wanted the account to look/run. Nothing to do with how people search or behave, all semantics on their part. We did it, performance tanked, and they were moved. New client contact came in….asked to revert back to the old structure. @JuliaVyse

I think my own biggest horror show was a Doterra oil reseller who I referred to as my “pyramid scheme client” at WordStream. She was spending $30k/mo on Google and Facebook out of her own pocket but was making like $75k/mo in sales. She was miserable to work with and just seeing the insanity that was MLM reselling was a nightmare. I helped her sell enough that her entire family got a paid trip to Jamaica, from Doterra. I don’t think I ever even got a “thank you” for consulting with her on her accounts. @kytaylor88

Back in the day, Bing Ads had this little checkbox that said something kind of vague like “show ads in other areas.” I was in the process of inputting a bunch of local locations and checked that box…Well, instead of showing their ads to only their actual service area, it showed all across the US. I didn’t realize it for a week either. Client was none too pleased. I apologized and we moved on from there. @NeptuneMoon

Onboarded a new ecom client and found that 2 weeks before we started, he had applied ALLLLL of Google’s recommendations. Both traffic and revenue tanked. OptiScore 100 tho lol @JanineSEM

So my first PPC job was unsure a VP who quite literally thought he knew more than I did which was fine. He would read articles on Search Engine Land or Wordstream in the mornings and then come promptly downstairs to tell me about them and how we should be doing XYZ. The issue, I was managing anywhere between 48 to 63 accounts at that time.. regardless of how much I told him I needed help, he just didn’t believe me but when I left he literally had to hire three people to replace me… But that’s not the horror story. This one particular morning, he looks at me and says that this one client wants to do something very specific that he had suggested. I said no, let’s not do that but this VP would it lesson so I did. It. It. Turns out we end up spending 4,500 on the gaming network with zero conversions and because I’m so swamped with so much work, I didn’t notice it until it was too late. Naturally, he tried to say that it was entirely my fault and the piece of work that I am, I told him otherwise @adwordsgirl

I turned on Max Conversions with a bid cap and the campaign spent the month’s budget in 3 days….this was in 2020 but still…it was a scary time. @navahf

Oh my gosh, these are funny to read! I was on vacation and a girl panic added all the recommended keywords to one of my campaigns. @runnerkik

We had a client go into their account during the holidays last year (while we’re all out) and accept every single Google Ads recommendation. Removed all of our keywords and replaced them with broad match, opted Search campaigns into Display Network, auto-applied ad copy updates, everything. Was quite the mess to clean up when we came back into the office. @adclarke10

How about when a client is hellbent on targeting the wrong audience????Had a client (and this is why I don’t do ecomm) who INSISTED that their target demo was “millennial women.” INSISTED. This was back when you could see detailed demo data in Facebook. You could clearly see “millennial women” bought exactly twice a year, during the gigantic sales. You know who bought the rest of the time? Middle-aged ladies. Could not get them to market to middle-aged ladies though, so performance was only at sale time. Shocking! @NeptuneMoon

A client with a 6-figure monthly ad spend snoozed on account verification, did it at the eleventh hour. His account turned into quite a pumpkin. Google suspended the account for 3 weeks. We did manage to get his account back. but the performance never recovered. @AlexMakarski

Had a client delete their whole GMC feed by the in-house devs as they “wanted to improve the feed quality”. The best-selling product was spending like 20k a day and we lost months worth of data, performance tanked like crazy. Fun times. @arnolditdepends

I definitely overspent on a client budget – like $40k, a LOT for me – I was so nervous, so scared I was getting fired, so sure that it was the absolute end. We dealt with it and figured it out, and when I told my wonderful little brother, he asked who the client was. When I told him, he laughed and congratulated me for screwing a horrible company in a horrible industry. Perspective! @JuliaVyse

Ha @NeptuneMoon this is just question 1. I think you struck a nerve, @johnWEllis

@johnWEllis I only have 3 questions for today cause I knew this one would be full of answers and discussion! @NeptuneMoon

Oh! I almost forgot this one. Had a client go in and change all the match types to broad without telling me. @NeptuneMoon

@NeptuneMoon exact same bing issue with me – for a moving client in social. Spent, thousands on the wrong location. Really helpful for them to be getting leads from the East Coast! @MicheleJaeger1

I once mistook a client’s monthly $5,000 budget for a daily $5,000 budget. Chaos ensued when I didn’t check on my newly launched campaign until a few weeks later. @brettwesterman

My first week at a new job when I was first starting out, I accidentally had search + display on, and the client spent a LOT of money over the weekend unintentionally on the wrong stuff. @revaminkoff

Ooohh! How about when they change all the URLs and don’t bother telling you… that’s always super fun. @NeptuneMoon

Took on a client a couple of years ago who fired a very well-known agency (I personally despise the founder as he steals content from companies frequently). His agency was supposed to set a $20/day campaign budget in Meta and set it as $20,000! They refused to compensate the client for their mistake. Somehow, the client convinced Meta to refund them. A couple of days later, the agency does the exact same thing and costs them another $20k. lol @Austin_Dillman

Chose the wrong currency by accident and thinking I was spending in South African Rands but actually spending in pounds which were about 10x at the time. Client was very happy at the number of leads they were getting. But, we paid the bills up front and charged the clients later. Had to eat the mistake. @Pete_Bowen

I’m currently looking at an account for a past client. I’ve not been involved for a few years. I just ran the numbers and last month they made 1 sale per 475 leads.@Pete_Bowen

Q2: How did you deal with the horror story situation? What was the final outcome? Do you wish you’d done anything differently?

Talk about them behind their back. @runnerkik

For times when it was a mistake I made, I always own it and apologize. They might still be mad or upset, but at least we are clear on what happened. Most times, clients are reasonable and understand mistakes can happen. I will also tell them what I will do to make sure the same mistake does not happen twice. In rare cases, you sometimes have to eat some cost. If the client is really upset and you don’t want to lose them, you may have to offer to cover some or all of the cost of your mistake. This seems like a great place to mention carrying Errors and omissions insurance! It covers you for stuff like this – if your client tries to say you cost them $100,000 you will want this insurance in place. @NeptuneMoon

In cases where I make a mistake, we own it, review it and take appropriate steps. In cases where there’s an I told you so element, we try to bring forward documentation to create a plan to come back from major dips. @JuliaVyse

It’s always a delicate situation, pointing fingers. It’s important to simply state what was “legacy” build, work, strategy…and how this is a deviation from that…because X, Y, Z. This saves face for those still employed at the company to avoid backlash. It’s also a way to avoid placing the previous account manager/agency as merely a scapegoat for performance. @teabeeshell

I don’t know what the resolution to all of it was. I don’t know if the VP refunded the 4,500 or not, but I do remember him bringing me into a room with one of his directors, one of his managers and then another employee just so he could yell at me for it and I did not allow that to happen so I was pretty happy with the outcome, he was not. @adwordsgirl

@adwordsgirl Good for you @NeptuneMoon

@NeptuneMoon my dad is an incredibly flawed human being and somewhat miserable, but the one thing that he gave me that I am so proud of is the fact that I will not stand down when I am not wrong. He always taught me to fight for myself because nobody else is going to do it. I appreciate that so much.@adwordsgirl

Q3: What is something you wish you knew then that you know now that could save someone else from a PPC horror story?

At some point, you are going to feel pressure to rush and to skip QA. Please don’t. And document everything. @JuliaVyse

Triple-check all of your settings! Especially budget and location targeting. @NeptuneMoon

Copy and paste your URLs! Have a document with them and test them before you start adding them to ads. @NeptuneMoon

I agree the qa is so important so advocating the need there. @runnerkik

When a client insists that you do something you think is the wrong move, make sure you send an email stating that you will be implementing x, y and z at the clients request. It will cover your butt later when things end up going how you thought they probably would and the client is upset about performance. @NeptuneMoon

Align on the goalpost/Northstar/source of truth from day one, and document it in a mutually accessible location. I’ve seen relationships crumble because of a miscommunication or misunderstanding on what the goal was (or lack of clarity on the goal) or moving goalposts. @justinhoffman

A few bits of advice: @teabeeshell

  • Document all change history.
  • Secure client-side buy-in before implementing desired changes.
  • Document “current state” for easier future comparisons.
  • To the best of one’s ability, “predict” the future changes, even if they are (optically) worse. Clients need to know what to expect.
  • Establish measurement. Ensure everyone marches to the beat of the same drummer.
  • Celebrate wins, predicted or otherwise. Cement your future in the relationship.

And it can be hard! during Covid lockdowns, our client and us found a real sense of urgency around our vax campaigns, and it turned into an end-of-day Friday dance every week. We came together and agreed that they didn’t want that, and neither did we, and we came up with a process for emergencies that wouldn’t overburden everyone. It’s tough, but if we can QA during lockdowns about lockdowns, we can QA anything. @JuliaVyse

You are the expert. That is why they hired you. Do not let someone else dictate your strategy unless you agree with it 100%. @adwordsgirl

Not all clients are worth the hassle. Learning to walk away from the really problematic ones is a huge lesson I wish I had learned sooner. It doesn’t even have to be anything super dramatic either. If you don’t mesh well or if you feel like you’re constantly fighting battles to do your best work, that is enough. And certainly, if you are anxious every time your phone or email pings cause you don’t want to deal with that client, it’s well past time to get out. @NeptuneMoon

Someone mentioned this in the first question, but making sure you’re clear with the client on the goals for the work you’re doing for them AND for how you will measure success. The second part gets glossed over a lot and it turns out to be quite important! @NeptuneMoon

Check your work – have extra eyes check it if necessary. It’s so easy to forget to check a box and then something will go haywire. @revaminkoff

Agreed @revaminkoff Do this even if you are copying an existing campaign. Everything should port over, but sometimes it does not! @NeptuneMoon

PPCChat Participants

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