What Not to Do When Managing PPC Campaigns

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A few weeks ago I read a short and sweet article from the Yahoo! Search Marketing Blog about “what not to do” with your PPC account.  They covered some of the basics like not bidding on keywords for which your site doesn’t have content for, don’t write misleading ad copy, don’t submit irrelevant landing page URLs and on top of all of that – don’t send your PPC traffic to low quality or unacceptable landing page content.

While that was a good start to a “what not to do” list, I think that there are plenty of other pitfalls everyone should know to avoid!  Without further ado, here’s four additional “what not to do” statements:

DON’T Use Narrow Minded Match Types

A lot of PPC beginners load their accounts with nothing but Broad Match keywords (or Advanced Match for Yahoo!).  Sure, broad match can give you a jump start on driving traffic.  The issue is you are giving the search engines free license to match user search queries to your keyword.  This can leave you open for unqualified traffic, low click-through rates and low conversion rates.

For Google specifically, you can actually perform keyword research based on Broad, Phrase or Exact match types.  This can give you a pretty good idea of which match types of your keywords to load into your ad groups.  I’m not advocating that you stop using Broad Match altogether, just that you should diversify your match type-ness.

DON’T Employ Auto-Optimization of Ad Texts

Both Google and Yahoo! offer the ability to automatically optimize your ad text testing.  If this isn’t a “what not to do” candidate, I don’t know what is!  In short, allowing the search engines to auto-optimize your ads takes away your ability to perform statistically valid ad text tests (true A/B tests).  When you choose to have G or Y rotate your ads evenly, you ensure that the data presented is a solid comparison of each ad’s performance.

DON’T Write Boring, Generic Ads

Boring ads don’t entice visitors to click-through to your website.  Generic ads typically aren’t all that relevant, and likely don’t include your ad group’s keywords.  This is PPC 101 people!  My advice again and again is write ad texts that are benefit driven, contain a clear call-to-action and CONTAIN YOUR KEYWORD(s)!

DON’T Set It And Forget It

The minutia of PPC is great for nerds like us, but sometimes the simplest ideas are the most important.  Whatever you do, don’t create a splendiferous PPC campaign that rocks, and then assume that it will continue to rock as long as you pay the invoice on time.  This is a poor, naive strategy.  PPC campaigns are living, breathing entities that require care and attention from you – the account’s manager.  If you “set it and forget it,” you will only set yourself up for failure.

DON’T Read This Blog Post and NOT Comment!

There are countless other “what not to do” statements for managing PPC campaigns.  I’d love to hear everyone’s favorite “what not to do” statement.  Leave me a comment!

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20 thoughts on “What Not to Do When Managing PPC Campaigns

  1. James


    Excellent list!

    I love your line towards the end of the post…it’s an instant PPC classic: “PPC campaigns are living, breathing entities that require care and attention from you”. Well said!

    I would add this:

    Don’t forget about the post-click experience (landing pages all the way through to conversion pages). We see campaigns that consistently grow 20-30% every month in conversion volume by simply testing the post-click experience. A button here, a new paragraph there, font size, pictures, illustrations, page position…etc.

  2. JohnJohn Post author

    @ James,

    “Instant PPC classic.” I like the sound of that. I would definitely agree with the post-click experience. It’s the age-old adage – “Test, test and test again.”

  3. Mike

    While I agree with your comments about match types, I also disagree to some extent. I typically launch my campaigns in all broad matches while abusing the negative matching ability. I do this as a means to later run search query reports as a tool to research for keyword expansion. Through the optimization process I will place exact and phrase matches on those terms which bring more untargeted traffic to the site rather than new keywords to the campaign.

    As for what not to do… Let’s not forget never to run search and content campaigns together. And never use the same strategy in search that you do in content (and vice versa).

  4. Ellerton Whitney

    Hi PPC Heroes,

    I have a question somewhat related to your discussion of match type. Have you ever tried organizing ad groups by match type? I have never encountered this, but just started at a new agency, and everybody does it. Each ad group contains only one match type of keyword (their logic being that they behave similarly). The quality scores of the keywords are just OK.

  5. Phil EH

    What not to do? Don’t forget negative keywords which are essential for broad match phrases. Don’t forget you can block sites that send you poor or unqualified traffic.

  6. JohnJohn Post author

    @ Mike,

    You make a good point – using broad match as a form of keyword research. I’ve been known to do this from time to time myself. Expanded broad match can be tricky, but sometimes (the key here is **sometimes**) Google will match you to a great search query that you’d have never found otherwise!

    @ Ellerton,

    Joe recently wrote on that subject – at first puzzled. Then after the flurry of reader comments, posted a follow up “how to.” You can check out those posts here http://bit.ly/4mI8Be and here http://bit.ly/Bvdb6 !

    @ David and Phil,

    Thanks for the input!

  7. Matt LeVeque

    Good bits of advice. I would also add:

    1. Do not make your campaign structure and naming conventions complicated. All campaigns and ad groups should be clearly named in order to make management easier.

    2. Do not run 20 active ads on 10 keywords in 1 ad group. When not ad creative testing 3-4 highly targeted ads is more than efficient. 10 ads for ad creative testing is typically required.

    3. Do not mix in your brand terms with generic terms. Both types of keywords behave differently and should be reported on individually.

  8. JohnJohn Post author

    @ Matt,

    I really like #1. It’s really a common sense thing. I’ve inherited accounts where it was literally Campaign 1, Campaign 2, Ad Group A, Ad Group B. Who does that??? Giving them “real” names allows for quick navigation and reporting – and a lot less headaches.

    Thanks for commenting!

  9. Chris

    Hi guys,

    With regards to writing boring ads – many of my clients would get upset if I started getting too creative, so I often find myself limited to just writing solid – benefit rich adverts (that can be a little boring). Any advice for writing non-boring adverts that won’t upset my clients?

    I would like to add that a lot of my clients have random time scheduling on their campaigns when I first see them (like 8am – 11pm Mon – Fri, 10am – midnight Sat & Sun) – I think unless there is conversion tracking data that suggests there are no sales outside these times – this is a DON’T!


  10. JohnJohn Post author

    @ Chris,

    Nice – poorly researched day-parting is definitely a don’t! Any time you limit your ad’s exposure, you should have a pretty good reason (i.e. conversion data) for doing so.

    As for writing boring ads – your first priority is to the basics: benefits, calls-to-action and keywords (relevancy). Beyond that, especially in a creative-squashing environment, you will need to think outside the box. Review what your competitors are doing – and be different. What about your client’s services/products makes them stand out – write that into your ads. It’s the little things that will help your ads to become exciting and extraordinary!

  11. Kalin

    Another issue with allowing Google to Optimize ad copy for your account is that they base a better performing ad on CTR rates, not Conversion Rates. Thus, the ad that is possibly filtering out unqualified traffic through the ad copy and leading to better results will get less impression share because of the lower CTR…..

  12. JohnJohn Post author

    @ Kalin,

    You’re exactly right. Auto-optimization does not take into account your conversion rates. So if you are testing ads for conversions, you absolutely need to have your ads set to rotate evenly.

    Thanks for commenting!

  13. PPC For Hire

    Don’t take your Google campaigns and push the same account live on Yahoo and MSN. Tailor your campaigns to each engine and do keyword research seperately for each engine.

    I would also say don’t ‘auto-optimize’ your ads. It prevents a true A/B test from occuring.

  14. Nathan

    Don’t ignore the outside world. Things may happen that makes your keywords lose relevance.

    A real life example was when the film Bruno came out, I had to add in many negatives to a campaign that targeted a brand term. If I hadn’t of added in negative keywords then we may have spent money on irrelevant clicks.


    I would like to see some articles on “What’s a Newbie to do.” Instead of what NOT to do. It always appears to us Non Techies that are business people in the sense of running a day to day business as opposed to just surfing the Internet contually. I had an IT guy who was a complete screwup and has left me with a web page just started and I have asked for someone to evlauate it and give me some advice and it just seems like a vicious circle of rambling on and on and link after link to everything except what needs to be done. See http://www.cunninghamwindows.net for further proof of what I am referring to. I am not a computer nerd, but I do have some 30 plus years of business experience and am somewhat computer literate, but not wanting to spend my life doing computer learning, it is frustrating to try to comprehend this and I keep finding the rotten apples in the barrel. I am not trying to attract this group, but they seem to be very rampant. It has almost

  16. JT

    Here’s another one – Don’t bid on your own URL as a keyword. You would usually rank top in organic results and if your adrank is top 2, users will click on the ad instead of the organic result resulting in a waste of budget!


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