My Three Biggest Mistakes in PPC

I just got some great advice from another staffer, when asking him what I should write about today. He says to me, write about “the worst mistake you made in PPC and how you fixed it.” My response, “I’m flawless, baby.” Seriously though, I sat here at my desk thinking about all my screw-ups and how they affected the growth of my accounts and also how they affected my growth as an SEM and it truly is a great topic to reflect on. I think in PPC, much like in life, you learn more from the mistakes than you do from your successes. Here are three of mine:

  1. Not building better relationships at the start of my career: I think this was my biggest mistake. When I first got into paid search, worked along side a great team of experienced SEMs who were more than willing to help me but I tended to keep my distance and work in my own space on my own things. I wasn’t as concerned with building relationships as I was learning on my own. Even worse, when I did seek the help of others, I was lazy about it. I would ask the easy questions that could be researched in a minute on my own. Luckily, I had great coworkers who pushed me when I needed it and were patient when I they knew I was struggling or was in the weeds. It took a mediocre performance review and some direct feedback from my supervisor before I really started working on being a better team player and it was a rewarding experience once that happened. Collaborating and learning collectively got me further than anything I did on my own.
  2. Not making the desktop editors my friend: This is a simple one. The AdWords and AdCenter editors will make you a million times more efficient and will also get you looking at the big picture. Early on, I had a strange obsession with seeing the data and making a change directly in the interface. I wasn’t setting up tests, I just knew it was the right thing to do and I did it. I was thinking small potatoes instead of big picture strategy. It also made it terribly hard to truly test because I wasn’t benchmarking or documenting changes, I was just doing them as I went. My accounts typically improved so there wasn’t a huge incentive to changing I thought. But really there was. Once I started looking at big picture strategy and mass changes that were setup as proper tests, the frequency of my changes were fewer and the results I was able to generate amplified. Getting out of the interfaces and batching tasks that can be sorted through the editors was huge, not to mention the ease in creating and uploading new campaigns/accounts via editors.
  3. Speaking of uploading campaigns and accounts, NOT checking campaign settings: Seriously, triple-check your settings. It can be so easy to opt into something, add a zero, or any number of other simple mistakes that can cost big money. I once downloaded a desktop campaign that I was duplicating into a mobile campaign. I pulled it directly from editor, changed the campaign name to include the mobile qualifier, uploaded it and then changed my device settings to mobile only. When I came in the next morning, it had spent about 10x faster than what I had expected it to. The reason? I set a big budget and put it on accelerated because I had a good feel for the search campaign and wanted every possible impression/click. What I didn’t realize is that I was opted into display. I figured the setting was right because I downloaded a campaign that was search only but apparently that didn’t transfer. Needless to say, the spend potential on display was much higher than the spend potential on search and it ate up the budget headroom I created, creating an unexpected cost that I wasn’t in control of. I did learn something from the data and luckily that night drove a lot sales but the campaign wasn’t intended for display so it could have been a disaster. Depending on your keyword potential and budget, a mistake like that could cost tens of thousands of dollars. Check your settings and you won’t have to explain it to your boss and/or client.

So there you have it. When I reflect back upon my paid search career to this point, I’ve made more mistakes than I care to admit but mistakes are just part of PPC. The three pointed out here are the one’s that I constantly remind myself of. The first two were early in my career, within the first 6 months of working in paid search. The last one was something I did recently (doh!). I think it goes to show you that no matter what your experience or skill level is, if you aren’t thorough, you’re going to make some simple mistakes that have a big impact. Avoiding them and properly utilizing the tools (both human and technology) you have around you will be extremely rewarding and will mitigate the errors you’ll inevitably make.