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During this week’s PPCChat session, host Julie F Bacchini discussed the most common PPC strategy or execution issues experts are facing nowadays and how they address these issues.

Q1: What are the most common PPC strategy or execution issues you run across these days?

The platforms changing policies or setup options etc. @AllyQuilty_MKTG

Even today client education is critical.  I guess it’s not a strategy as much as it’s keeping the ship pointed in the right direction. @runnerkik

Stuff like Search & Display together in a campaign, broad match keywords with no negatives in place, and incorrect conversion tracking setups. @robert_brady

Making sure auto-applied anything is NOT on in accounts. @NeptuneMoon

Love it – For me it’s two things, understanding the importance of a good structure, nicely planned out with specific audiences across each touch point. The other is the default curveballs that Google throws e.g presence/interest, auto-applied recommendations etc. @PPC_Fraser

For me, it’s when clients hyperfocus on single issue/strategy, like Quality Score or with being adamant about automated bidding. @kytaylor88

Not enough attention paid to Google Ads creative demands. It’s lower than say, Meta, where the need for new creative is endless and relentless, but it’s still there. The number of times I inherit a client with no YouTube Channel, for example…now run PMax! @teabeeshell

Weird disapprovals have become more of a thing lately too. @NeptuneMoon

Balancing true performance (quality of leads) with both individual campaign budgets (set by clients) and CPA expectations. @AlliHier

How about knowing what is actually working? With RSAs for example and PMax, we have so much less insight into what, specifically, is resonating with potential customers that moves them from seeing to converting. @NeptuneMoon

Also agree completely on the disapprovals – we’ve been running into capitalization disapprovals on our brand name. Got those all sorted out… just to be hit, almost immediately, with “confusing ad text” (also for capitalization, so that’s a fun loophole from Google). @AlliHier

Feeling guilty when cushions are clearly shaken. @runnerkik

Many want the same or more work for less money because they found someone cheap who didn’t delivery. They anchor the work on that awful price. @duanebrown

@AlliHier The quality vs quantity is something I’ve gotten into with clients a lot, recently. It actually tied into the tCPA issue I was alluding to above. The client had conversions set up incorrectly and were getting both low-quality and not-real conversions. @kytaylor88

Accurate conversion tracking is still a huge issue for us. Issues with importing conversion data from third parties, client policies preventing installation of tracking scripts (yes we have more than one client in this situation), lack of technical know-how, etc. @beyondthepaid

Can’t of course forget the rise of the ever-painful ‘close variant’ or ‘other search terms’. @PPC_Fraser

Can we also add how more and more of Google’s recommendations, best practices, etc. are great for Google and less and less great for advertisers? @NeptuneMoon

Other issues include trying to apply B2C benchmarks to B2B campaigns, trying to go too broad or too narrow in keyword scope, terrible landing pages. @beyondthepaid

All this not to mention Google’s cushion shaking. @beyondthepaid

Dare we even open the DOJ can of worms…@PPC_Fraser

CPCs rising for no discernible reason (which leads to conclusion of cushions being shaken) @NeptuneMoon

Some Twitter people talked about rising CPCs and some mentioned CPCs don’t matter. That was an interesting thing to watch from afar. @duanebrown

CPCs sure matter to advertisers with budget constraints! @NeptuneMoon

Brand safety concerns are also an increasing issue, specifically around the adalytics report/the growing relationship with X @PPC_Fraser

@duanebrown & @NeptuneMoon that’s a riveting debate, a possible future chat theme. That, and CPM. @teabeeshell

God we really don’t have a lot to worry about do we. @PPC_Fraser

I’ve recently taken on a small-budget B2B client, something I’ve not done for a while and it’s much much harder than a) bigger budgets and b) small budgets were a few years ago. Poor matching of search terms with keywords is the biggest issue, and that’s only with the search terms that are actually visible. @Pete_Bowen

@Pete_Bowen Small-budget B2B is definitely tough. The last account I audited was only spending $15k across Google and Bing and allocated nothing to paid social channels. They had automated bidding with no bid limits, just absolutely blowing through budget with poor search terms. @kytaylor88

@Pete_Bowen Smaller budgets are definitely more of a challenge lately than they used to be. Volume is a big one, especially B2B because the ML can’t get rolling without enough conversions happening in 30 day period. @NeptuneMoon

What makes this a little more exciting is that I’m actually spending my own money on this project. I’ve partnered with the business. @Pete_Bowen

Audience targeting has become more complex with increased privacy restrictions and the phase-out of third-party cookies. Also, ad fatigue is a significant concern. @LaurenLelli

@LaurenLelli At what point (time, frequency) would you begin to get concerned about ad fatigue? @kytaylor88

@kytaylor88 It varies. Generally, I start evaluating potential ad fatigue when I see a dip in engagement rates or an increase in cost per acquisition, which could be as early as a few weeks into the campaign for high-frequency ads. @LaurenLelli

One specific execution issue I have is the Google Ad Preview Tool seems to be useless nowadays. When I use it now I rarely get ANY ads at all to appear in the results. @chasdeist

@kytaylor88 & @LaurenLelli in my experience, arriving at an impressions number is most often arbitrary. It should be a regression analysis between CPA and frequency, with statistical significance, of course. @teabeeshell

@chasdeist Others have been talking about this lately too. I wonder if it isn’t due to G trying to be so personalized in the ads they show that they broke their own tool? @NeptuneMoon

@LaurenLelli & @teabeeshell I don’t like to look at it from an impression standpoint, either, because frequency is all relative to the audience size and budget. @kytaylor88

@LaurenLelli & @teabeeshell  usually don’t tie ad fatigue together with any drop in CPA for at least the first few weeks, while the frequency is low. But if my ads have been in market for ~30 days and I start to see a drop in CTR/Eng Rate/CVR while the frequency increases, then I’ll take a closer look @kytaylor88

I’ve had clients get concerned with “ad fatigue” after an ad had been in-market for a week with a frequency of like 1.3 for the audience. We had to tell them to cool their expectations, big time. @kytaylor88

@kytaylor88 I would encourage that same analysis between CTR/ER and CPA. So many studies out there indicating little to no correlation between the two. @teabeeshell

@teabeeshell Something with engagement metrics and CPA/CVR is that Meta and LinkedIn each used the conversion-time-based attribution, unlike Google which uses the click-time-based attribution. I’ve had ads paused that later on get a conversion (click or view) because the conversion happened a week or two later. @kytaylor88

@kytaylor88 Attribution is its own seriously hot mess. @NeptuneMoon

The time lag between conversions, especially with paid social channels where you can get influence without a click, is difficult to analyze because there are no metrics on it in-platform. @kytaylor88

@NeptuneMoon Yeppppppp. I currently have the issue of my company’s website using OneTrust, which requires the highest-level of cookie opt-in to get attribution, otherwise, it’s all direct/none or CRM-only. @kytaylor88

@kytaylor88 I think we’re proving the same point, regardless of attribution methodology. Current ML will (always) beat out subjective human decision-making. Leaning into an upstream metric, like CTR, is super risky. @teabeeshell

@teabeeshell I actually prefer Eng. Rate to CTR, overall, but I’m in agreement with you. Those metrics should not be the primary metric when determining whether “this was a good/bad ad”. Audience, timing (seasonality, time in market), frequency, conversions, all need to be factored in. @kytaylor88

Q2: How do you address PPC strategy or execution the issues you find?

Audit audit audit – doing a good in-depth audit can be worth its weight in gold and help to understand priorities. If budget/resource allows this should be carried out by people not directly associated with the account. @PPC_Fraser

Very first thing I do is make sure auto-applied or auto-generated anything is toggled OFF. @NeptuneMoon

Triple-checking conversion tracking is also a high priority. @NeptuneMoon

The amount of time I have to spend going through search terms and adding negatives is astonishing because of Google’s matching right now (and I’m using Adalysis so it could be much worse) @robert_brady

I feel your pain @robert_brady. It’s become a job in and of itself. @PPC_Fraser

Preach it @robert_brady – the loose matching is maddening. The matching of competitors to both brand and nonbrand terms is driving me nuts. Make sure you have a list of competitors with typos to add to negatives! @NeptuneMoon

In my specific example (missing a YouTube Channel, expecting PMax to function), I offer to create one, but draw the line at managing it. I express how it’s been an overlooked aspect of their marketing mix, and now is the time to give it due attention. @teabeeshell

I can’t remember who shared it on X where the Google rep was testing the water about opinions on merging keywords into PMax but I can’t help but feel the end of the keyword is fast coming! @PPC_Fraser

Talk with clients about the issue and see how we can solve it as a business. We spend almost as much time these days on CRO as we do on PPC. Just running the ad account is so 2015. @duanebrown

I have been saying since PMax debuted that it is a matter of when, not if, it becomes the only campaign type…@NeptuneMoon

@PPC_Fraser I agree with you re the end of keywords. I see the progression as keywords with match types -> push broad match hard -> themes. @Pete_Bowen

Google is already priming us for the end of specific keywords with “keyword themes” in PMax @NeptuneMoon

I feel like we’re already at the death of match types, so surely can’t be too much longer now! @PPC_Fraser

I think as soon as they are confident that PMax isn’t going to run afoul of privacy regs they will move hard in that direction of it being the only campaign type. @NeptuneMoon

We address strategy issues with the client. Audits will catch most issues in the accounts themselves.  @beyondthepaid

I think the timeline on the end of keywords has to be pretty short – which is terrifying. Between pmax and demand gen/all-encompassing campaign types…@AlliHier

Having keyword-based search provides cover on the privacy front. @NeptuneMoon

Agree that non-Pmax campaign days are probably numbered, which is really bad for our clients. @beyondthepaid

It just baffles me that with all the DOJ stuff going on and question marks around Googles ethics this can be sold as ‘good for advertisers’. The simulated auction pressure info raised in the trial filled me with the biggest concern. @PPC_Fraser

And Jerry Dischler, everyone’s favourite GML presenter, is out at Google Ads, so we shall see what, if any, impact that has on G Ads roadmap. @NeptuneMoon

As far as addressing issues, we always say, “If something looks weird… it probably is.” (very technical, right? lol) There’s almost always a reason – just a matter of finding it through an audit, comparing to the setup of a similar campaign, looking back at changes, etc. Extra/fresh eyes always help, too! @AlliHier

For audience targeting, I prioritize building robust first-party data strategies, fostering direct customer relationships, and exploring platform-specific targeting options that comply with new privacy standards. To combat ad fatigue, I ensure a schedule of regular creative refreshes and A/B testing to identify high-performing variants. It’s about striking a balance between consistency in messaging and the novelty to catch the audience’s attention. @LaurenLelli

I feel like I am spending more of my time figuring out how to work around Google than with it and it’s super frustrating. For example, they suggest adding conversion steps to accounts with low conversion volume to help the ML. This flies directly in the face of EVERYTHING we actually work toward and want to have happen. I do not want the machines optimizing toward the easier step “conversion” – I want to optimize for the actual conversion action. Drives me bananas. @NeptuneMoon

Q3: What are the most common client or stakeholder issues you run across these days? How do you address or deal with client or stakeholder issues you encounter?

So much has changed in the PPC world in the last few years, and definitely in the last year that clients’s ideas about how things work are outdated. So, I spend a lot of time these days explaining how things work now, limitations we are encountering, etc. and my thoughts on how we can best reach their market and get them to convert. @NeptuneMoon

Outdated ideas that they’ve picked up from other people. “My cousin told me at Thanksgiving…” @Pete_Bowen

@NeptuneMoon You type faster than me but I agree with you 100%. @Pete_Bowen

Brand safety is genuinely a growing one from me! PMax remains a black box, which rather than being prioritised from a fix standpoint, is put on the back-burner whilst Google rolls out new products. Until Google tidies up advertisers in its networks and partner networks, brand safety and effectively managing where ads can and can’t be seen remains an issue. @PPC_Fraser

As Julie said, educating clients on outdated tactics and ideas. Convincing them that PPC can only do so much and a good website/landing pages are critical.  @beyondthepaid

I wouldn’t have thought landing pages would still be a problem as we head into 2024, but here we are. @beyondthepaid

@PPC_Fraser Brand safety is huge. @NeptuneMoon

Helping clients understand that PPC doesn’t provide instant gratification. You have to give it time and clean data to make it work. @robert_brady

Honestly, it’s the lack of desire to learn new things, as pessimistic as that sounds. Being stuck in legacy thinking, fear-based decision-making, and falling back on the excuse of “I don’t have time to learn that” are all huge leadership risks. This is usually a red flag for me. If I see this as persistent/unchanging, candidate for parting ways. I’m always happy to educate, point to 3rd party opinions/resources, and dive deep into data. But the “want to” has to be there. @teabeeshell

@beyondthepaid I’m fighting the same battle about websites I’ve fought twice before with one client. He’s having a “refresh” from yet another website agency and they’re trying to break my landing pages by adding carousels, massive images etc. @Pete_Bowen

@robert_brady But PPC is quick win. @PPC_Fraser

@beyondthepaid Your point that “PPC can only do so much” is a big one in my opinion/experience. PPC accounts for a large percentage of our clients’ leads so we spend a lot of time educating/reminding that there are other important pieces to the mix (which will, ultimately, also benefit PPC). @AlliHier

And, landing pages are only going to become more important @beyondthepaid Between the before the click side of the equation flattening due to automation and the platforms wanting to use LPs to auto-generate assets and/or validate their ideas about what your ads should trigger for, that piece matters SO MUCH. @NeptuneMoon

@robert_brady It is definitely a huge shift away from the historical selling point of PPC being “get it running and get actionable data right away.” Because it just does not work like that today. @NeptuneMoon

So many good points here. The time it takes for campaigns to learn is new and clients have a hard time grasping the concept. We even have clients who like to go in and make changes to campaigns within 1-2 days – yikes. @beyondthepaid

I think another thing we are dealing with is the clash of the legacy of “everything on the web is cheap and easy and fast” and the fact that ad platforms are mature ecosystems now. Digital advertising is on par with traditional cable tv advertising in a lot more ways than it is dissimilar today. @NeptuneMoon

In terms of addressing issues – genuinely staying involved in communities (like this) is so important to ensure you can fight the good fight against Google and stay on top of changes from an advertiser perspective. @PPC_Fraser

Platforms want us providers to trust the AI but that’s not something you can just say to a stakeholder when they have questions. @revaminkoff

@revaminkoff SPECIALLY when we used to be able to answer nearly all questions and now we just can’t sometimes. @NeptuneMoon

@NeptuneMoon I hate how that is now with not being able to answer questions like we used to. It used to be much easier to dig into the why of performance shifts than it is now. @beyondthepaid

Agreed @beyondthepaid And for clients who have been doing digital advertising for a while, it can erode their confidence in us as providers when we can no longer answer questions either at all or definitively that we used to. @NeptuneMoon

Some random thing they heard on Twitter and they wanted to talk about. Even though they never took our advice as a client…. just talking about one client here but we all been here. @duanebrown

And we are just getting started with the AI train and all the headaches that will bring…@NeptuneMoon

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