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4 reasons your PPC programs can fail

None of us set out to have our PPC programs fail. But sometimes they do, despite our best intentions.
Why do these programs fail? There can be many reasons. But sometimes, behind those failures, is some inadvertent self-sabotage — sabotage that will virtually guarantee a failed PPC program.
To help you avoid inadvertently setting your PPC programs up for failure, I’ll use this column to describe four ways to “help” your PPC programs falter or self-destruct.
1. Put too many options on your landing page
I know, I know. I’ve talked before about how landing pages are critical to PPC success and how important it is to keep them focused. But I’m going to repeat myself because it’s that important.
As you know, the purpose of landing pages is to facilitate conversions. You want people who’ve clicked on your ad to take the next step, whether it’s requesting a quote, giving you a call, downloading a package or something else.
Landing pages go astray when they provide too many options for visitors. Ideally, you want to limit the number of actions that landing page visitors can take to just one or two.
When you give visitors too many options, they’re likely to get sidetracked or confused and take no action at all.
Let’s look at this example:
As you can see, this landing page sends visitors in all kinds of directions, taking them down a wandering path that may never lead to a conversion.
In this case, I would narrow the options to a phone number (and use website call tracking to see if it’s getting any traction) and either a download or a contact form (preferably one landing page for each so you can test which option works best in this market).
2. Don’t touch your PPC account for six months or more
Whenever I log into a new client account and find it hasn’t been touched in six months or more, I have to pause. How did this happen?
Sometimes, it’s just one of those things. Maybe the client’s marketing team opened the PPC account and assigned it to a team member. Then that team member left, and the team hasn’t gotten back to it. These things happen. And while it’s not ideal, it’s understandable.
But sometimes we find that accounts haven’t been touched in months when we take them over from an ad agency. (It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen.)
How is it that an agency-monitored account hasn’t been touched in six months? It might be neglect. Or it might be a difference in strategy.
Some agencies make risk management their highest priority. (And, to be fair, sometimes the client is highly risk-adverse.) Some have tight budgets they need to adhere to. Either way, the agency locks down the account settings like Fort Knox. They choose conservative settings — such as exact match, shared or limited budget settings, tight ad schedules and standard ad rotations — so there’s no chance of “wasted” ad spend or overages.
Perhaps coincidentally, these settings also minimize the need to manage the account. If you choose nothing but the most restrictive settings, there’s little to monitor and few decisions to make.
But the problem with this kind of “batten down the hatches” approach is that it’s extremely limiting. You’ll never get awesome results unless you’re willing to experiment, try different strategies and tactics, and, yes, take some risks. And that means putting some money behind your efforts and monitoring daily, even hourly, to see what happens.
Will a “batten down the hatches” approach cause your PPC program to fail? Possibly. If your results remain unimpressive, there might be pressure to move budget and resources to other marketing initiatives with a higher ROI.
More importantly, this kind of approach closes the door on mega-results that could take your PPC marketing program to the next level.
3. Don’t include sitelinks
Most of us can agree that sitelinks are a key component of almost any PPC campaign or account. They offer advertisers many advantages.
As I’ve explained elsewhere, sitelinks are an important way to add additional links to your ad and take up more ad real estate. They’re a great way to send visitors directly to the most relevant page for their needs (a win for everyone).
They can even improve ad rank, as noted in the AdWords blog:

Ad extensions and formats … influence the position of your ad on the search results page. If two competing ads have the same bid and quality, then the ad with the more positive expected impact from extensions will generally appear in a higher position than the other.

But even with all these advantages, clients will occasionally ask us not to include sitelinks in their ads. When we ask why, we get one of these responses:
‘I don’t think they’re necessary.’
Sometimes clients state that they only want to send visitors to their one landing page. And because the ad is sending visitors there already, sitelinks aren’t necessary.
What they don’t realize is that we can use sitelinks with different messaging to capture visitors who might otherwise not have clicked on the ad — all while continuing to get the visitors who are clicking to the main landing page. Having the extra ad real estate is well worth the effort.
‘My competitors aren’t using them.’
If your competitors aren’t using sitelinks, that’s exactly why you should be using them. Sitelinks will help you stand out from the competition and may even help rank your ads higher.
‘I don’t want to draw too much attention to my ad.’
I have to question the logic of this one. As an advertiser, you want to draw attention to your ads.
Will a lack of sitelinks cause your PPC program to sputter and die? Perhaps. If it indicates a general reluctance to explore different AdWords features, then it could be the canary in the coal mine.
4. Focus on the ‘wrong’ metrics
One of our clients likes to test things — and we love that about him! Thanks to his willingness to let us experiment, we’ve been able to discover and deploy some highly effective and profitable strategies in his accounts.
Recently, he read an article that said having a high Quality Score can save money on ad spend due to lower costs per click.
This makes sense. But generally, we don’t focus too much on Quality Score as a metric. In our experience, if you have relevant keywords, which trigger relevant ads, which land on relevant landing pages, then your Quality Score will take care of itself.
In this case, our client’s Quality Score was already good (his lowest was a seven), so we weren’t totally convinced that bumping his score to an eight or nine was going to make much difference. But he was adamant in wanting to try it, so we agreed.
We reviewed his ads and landing pages and bumped up bids to improve his click-through rate. After a month and a half (with an accompanying BIG increase in ad spend), we did see an increase in sales. But at the same time, we saw a decrease in year-over-year ROI and no change in Quality Score.
How helpful was this exercise, ultimately? Not much. True, it might have contributed to the lifetime value of these clients, but it’s hard to say for sure. Thankfully, it didn’t take long to convince our client to change his focus to other, more relevant and informative metrics.
It’s easy to get fixated on one or two PPC metrics, to the detriment of the others. This is especially true when the metric seems to encapsulate everything into one simple number. But if you steer your PPC program based on one metric, and one metric only, you’ll probably end up in the ditch.
No one wants their PPC program to fail
Of course, no one wants their paid search program to fail. And in some cases, you can do everything absolutely right and still struggle.
But at the very least, you can improve your odds of success by not sabotaging your own efforts with these four PPC duds — guaranteed!
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

About The Author

Pauline Jakober is CEO of Group Twenty Seven, a boutique online advertising agency specializing in the Google AdWords and Bing Ads networks. As a Google AdWords Certified Partner, Jakober and her team practice cutting edge paid search strategy and management for clients across many industries.

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