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Welcome readers! During this week’s PPCChat session, host Julie F Bacchini discussed what experts did when they encountered PPC pitfalls, what did they do when they had issues with their client’s website that messed up their PPC efforts and more

Q1: What are some examples of PPC pitfalls you have encountered over the years? If so, what happened & what did you do?

Inaccurate tracking is a big one. You get bid strategies going and then find out tracking was broken or not measuring the right thing. @beyondthepaid

This can be tough to diagnose! Have to get it righted around and then restart all your bid strategies etc. @beyondthepaid

My favourite to remember is when I set a CPC to be £20 on a competition campaign instead of £0.20. Spend skyrocketed – my manager flipped. I was honest about the mistake, but it so happened that we were underspending on that account & the overspend that day helped. @TheMarketingAnu

So glad automation has made that kind of mistake close to impossible now. @TheMarketingAnu

When the client changes the URLs for the ad destination pages without telling you is a classic. Microsoft Ads used to have a very confusing setting for geography that made it super easy to show ads way outside your target areas. Did that by accident once too. @NeptuneMoon

Honestly pacing. I run a lot of campaign flights rather than always on and just getting it to balance out against planned spend is a CHORE. @JuliaVyse

Generic kws on phrase or broad match resulted in loads of bad leads. Switched these to exact match. Much better quality leads now. Still use phrase and broad for less generic kws. @williamhboggs

The usual – tracking issues, location targeting. One thing that happened to me once was when I did a copy & paste error on a LOT of URL parameters and sent traffic to a 404 page over the weekend. No fun. @BorisBeceric

Web site team nuking all the tagging is a classic too. So, you’re feeling good that you knew that website changes were happening & it still all breaks cause they just don’t put the code on the new pages or put it in the wrong places. Such a headache to sort out! @NeptuneMoon

Site migrations & tagging. They never go as well as you hope, even if you prepare (I have a check sheet). A client migrated on a Thursday, it double-tracked then didn’t track at all & CPCs went through the roof due to bid strategies. I learnt a LOT! @_Mizzle_

A lot. Few of those are: – Data Inaccuracy – Learning Phase Reinitiation after any change – Wrong Integrations – Double Tracking – Wrong LPs – Missed Integrations. @1tagupta

Inaccurate conversion tracking is a big one, especially when first starting/inheriting a project. Ex: new client will say their tracking is good when it’s not, so we trust but verify what they say. Saves us from a lot of hassle & uncomfortable conversations later on. @adclarke10

Where to begin. @revaminkoff

People in the industry claiming to be gurus, screwing over clients and brands, and then having to clean up their mistakes and telling the client they were lied to. @JonKagan

I think a mention needs to be made about default settings that aren’t advertiser-friendly. Like including GDN in new search campaigns. Or bid suggestions. Those are pitfalls that are “recommended” by platforms even. @robert_brady

The biggest pitfall I keep encountering is settings that are clearly not designed for the people actually the platform for advertising. @MichealGumbert

The top pitfalls/frustrations I’ve encountered are 1) URL changes w/o comms (very common) 2) App/plugin installs that effectively break standard tracking, degrade data passed back to GAds 3) Debating over attribution, namely between GAds, GA, & 3rd party platforms. @teabeeshell

Q2: Have you ever encountered issues with your client or brand’s website that messed up your PPC efforts or strategy? If so, what happened & what did you do?

All the time! See my A1. Tracking issues, moving landing pages without telling us, DELETING landing pages without telling us, removing tracking codes… All-cause giant headaches. @beyondthepaid

I work with a lot of websites that change regularly. Forms open and close, microsites open for campaigns and then close. keeping track of it all is quite something. so yes, I have. My best advice: annotate your reports! reminders 6mos from now will help you. @JuliaVyse

Already talked about changing URLs, or domains and nuking tracking. So, how about changing forms and using one that isn’t using conversion tracking code. It can take some time to figure out there is something amiss… @NeptuneMoon

Prolonged server downtime. Changing URL structure without notice. Good one is also human factor – like sales teams refusing to pick up the phone when a lead comes from Google Ads because “these are always bad”. @BorisBeceric

Clients changing titles of pages or pages themselves generating 404s and therefore breaking ad campaigns. The key is to have a good process and line of communication with those making the changes so you hear in advance. @revaminkoff

Educating clients on tracking has helped us keep it top of mind to ideally avoid situations where something is changed and it breaks the tracking. @revaminkoff

I was working with an e-com brand that was constantly testing new offers & products. In the rush phase, I get fewer communications & the ads keep spending. Same with the lead gen. The new form that we might be testing just disappears the 2nd day & I am like. @1tagupta

(A) Clients who insist on headlines w/out keywords. (B) Still gets me that Google wants webp images on sites but that format can’t be used in ads but then they want you to use dynamic image extensions that pull images from your site. @williamhboggs

If you’re tracking is not working. Use Date exclusions on your bid strategies for the days it’s not working, this needs to be done daily as you can’t do future dates (Unless it has changed) AND if they fix it, wait until the first full clean day to stop exclusions. @_Mizzle_

For sure, but luckily not too often. Most recently, a client didn’t renew their security certificate. Ads became disapproved for “Destination not working,” so we paused ad service, waited for them to fix, & then submitted appeals to get everything running again. @adclarke10

Actually quite often. Especially on regulated spaces (i.e. housing, healthcare, finance), these issues are frequent. We usually have to make a super obscure workaround. @JonKagan

Yes, our website has no Google container on it so I am not able to gather audience data to retarget despite my internal partners thinking we can because they hear about retargeting. @MichealGumbert

Multiple! One example was when a brand did a relaunch on a decade’s old domain with 0% #SEO consideration. Unknown to me/their PPC. Auctions got expensive. Prod P’s 404. Still shell shocked from reverbs across the brand. So Stressful. $600K-1mil in lost revenue. @timmhalloran

Common one is weakness of PDPs. Shopping+ PMax rely on their structured data, but they’re not typically optimized for cold conversion, making them poor LPs that hinder CVR. You can create shoppable LPs, but this requires dedicated dev work, rare for most brands. @teabeeshell

Q3: What do you typically do if things go sideways in one of your accounts or campaigns? And if it was something that was your fault, how do you handle it?

1. Acknowledge 2. Investigate 3. Own Up 4. Correct 5. Figure out a plan moving forward so it doesn’t happen again. @revaminkoff

Always more important to look forward than look backwards, and blame never solves anything. @revaminkoff

I start with the most obvious things – tracking, recent change history, try to isolate when things went south. If it’s my fault, I openly communicate that. Usually, if you’re open about it and implement a process so it doesn’t happen again, clients are fine with it. @BorisBeceric

I find communication is the most important step. finding out what happened and coming up with a solution is so important. I really like media onboarding for the client group. everything we do is self-serve, so QA, timing, all of it matters. @JuliaVyse

Start investigating & then tell someone – an internal person. Someone who will help calm down me down/brainstorm. If it’s an issue that the client will definitely notice – I let them know alongside steps i’m taking to ensure the mistake doesn’t happen again. @TheMarketingAnu

Own up to it, explain what happened and what I’m doing to fix it or what I’m researching to figure out how to fix it etc. @dan_patterson

First, figure out what the heck happened/is happening. Is it something I did (or didn’t do), something the client did or a platform issue. Always be proactive in communicating & take responsibility when it’s my fault. Keep them updated as you go. @NeptuneMoon

Got to own it if it’s your fault! Honesty is key to a long-lasting relationship. If you see metrics deteriorating, dig into it. Correlation does not equal causation but correlating metrics can often help you find the cause. @williamhboggs

Honesty and open, timely communication is key in any case. If it’s our fault, we own up to it immediately. The truth is always the best policy.@beyondthepaid

The main thing I do is ensure the ROOT CAUSE is found. It helps nobody by jumping to quick conclusions; credibility gets hurt, etc. @heyglenns

1. Swear, 2. Use inappropriate humour to calm myself, 3. Forensic look back on when and why it went sideways 4. Explain the client we had a learning opportunity. 5. Repeat #2 @JonKagan

When sideways happen: I dig. The dig’s purpose: to convince myself that my hypothesis is correct. Once I’ve convinced myself, it makes me less defensive & more confident when I present my “next steps”. Don’t dig into a data dump & create obfuscation. It’ll bite you. @timmhalloran

There’s *always* a reason. If there’s “not” a reason, showcasing the (dozen) things you’ve checked can go a long way to demonstrate troubleshooting ability & preserve trust. Above all, communication, early and often, is the best path. @teabeeshell

Q4: Is there a particular aspect of PPC that tends to vex you or be difficult or something that is your perpetual blind spot?

Here is one that is sneakier – if you’re creating a new campaign and using another as the basis (either in UI or Editor) double check that all the parts are as you want them. Sometimes they are not… I used to kinda assume it all came across, but now I do not. @NeptuneMoon

Confirm the budgets. Confirm them again. Check mid-month that they haven’t changed. @revaminkoff

Negative Keywords – Find the winning angles for an impatient client – While duplicating the campaigns, you can miss the changes. – Updating tracking template for custom tracking utms – Removing any automation rules/ scripts while duplicating the campaign. @1tagupta

Tracking has been a pain more recently. GA4, Google Tag changes, attribution model updates, privacy regulations, etc. have created a perfect storm that can be tough to navigate on top of all the other platform/industry changes. @adclarke10

Scripts. As 18 years deep in the space, and scripts still evade me. @JonKagan

Tag managers. I struggle mightily with these. @beyondthepaid

My personal biggest issue with PPC, in general, is the idea that somehow because the technology we use is new/different doesn’t mean we aren’t building on a hundred years of marketing practices. @MichealGumbert

Right now, my usage of the campaign objectives is in flux. I used to have a few hard & fast rules. This use case = Max clicks. This = Max Conv. If this, then this = TCPA. But lately, it’s difficult to predict. So my opinion is waffling & I don’t like feeling that. @timmhalloran

Given that Google Ads exists in an auction-based ecosystem, sometimes the “cost to participate” is much higher than we can forecast/survive. This puts brands in a predicament. Do we A) continue searching for lower cost traffic, or B) allocate budget elsewhere? @teabeeshell

Q5: What do you think is the biggest potential pitfall in PPC these days?

It’s all self-serve, automation that can’t be turned off or controlled, and the usual: flood/drought campaigns “Please run EVERYTHING right now for 8 weeks. then turn it all off and explain the results.” @JuliaVyse

People taking Google’s word as gospel – applying recommendations, having display mixed in with their search campaigns etc. @BorisBeceric

I think the biggest pitfalls these days are in things that are being done “for us” by the platforms – like auto-creating assets and how automated bidding can go wonky and get you a $75 click (that doesn’t convert), etc. @NeptuneMoon

Lack of visibility is a big pitfall. As is a lack of control with automation. @beyondthepaid

Automation, especially for smaller or more niche accounts. It should be tested intentionally – don’t set and forget, give the machines guardrails (like negatives), and expect some bumps that you’ll have to correct along the way. @adclarke10

Lack of transparency (looking at you GA4 and #pmax) @JonKagan

Things that the brands do in the name of “Marketers’ Needs” to fill their pockets. #ppcchat It would be great if we can have more brand representatives like.@1tagupta

Thinking Automation/AI will always get it right. It’ll always be the pitfall since automation started being a thing – having full trust & assuming it will never break/it has all the data it needs to make the right decisions. Watch it work [like a hawk]..then decide! @TheMarketingAnu

Missing the forest for the trees. All or nothing mindset. Making decisions on anecdotal sample sizes. Trusting someone on Twitter or at a conf w/o proving it yourself. Following the herd instead of experimentation. Risk-averse. IDK just named a bunch of stuff. @timmhalloran

The current issue for a while now is moving away from the idea of “perfect” attribution of our campaigns & confusing quantity with quality. Having a data point for something doesn’t make it important. @MichealGumbert

In demand capture (search), many brands are price takers. In demand gen…through brute force of creative, offers & LPs…some can engineer lower cost traffic. Few appreciate this & Google Ads gets a rep for being “too expensive.” Can’t compare apples to oranges. @timmhalloran

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