Most experienced PPC specialists will recognize the telltale signs of PPC mismanagement.
But if you’re not a PPC professional – maybe you’re a business owner or marketing director – you might overlook those indicators.
This is a problem because now, more than ever, it’s important that your PPC program is managed skillfully.
You have to be careful in interpreting those indicators and not jump to conclusions.
No one practice or setting can tell the whole tale.
And maybe your PPC managers have a good explanation for the small anomalies you see.
But when you see an accumulation of things in your account that are odd or even bizarre, you can start to conclude that the account is being poorly managed, whether due to lack of expertise or indifference.
So what are the signs of mismanagement that you should look for?
Here are seven of the most common ones.
1. Campaigns Have Incorrect (or Absent) Audience Targeting
I’m amazed at how often I’ll come across campaigns with incorrect targeting – or no targeting at all.
For example, I recently audited an account and found Display campaigns that were named “custom intent” but didn’t have custom intent audiences.
I’ve also seen the same problem with remarketing campaigns.
Just because your managers name a campaign “custom intent” or “remarketing” doesn’t make it so.
They have to actually set up the correct audience targeting.
2. Campaigns Have Hundreds of Ad Groups & Duplicate Keywords
Let’s start with the problem of having hundreds of ad groups.
As a general rule, your managers should only have about seven to 10 ad groups per campaign (and only 20 or so keywords per ad group).
Yes, there are exceptions.
But they certainly shouldn’t be creating hundreds of groups within the same campaign.
When they do, the groups become unwieldy and impossible to manage.
Duplicate keywords are also a problem.
Years ago, it was common practice to have plural and singular forms of keywords (“car” and “cars”), but that was a long time ago.
And if you see them in an account now, it’s a major warning sign.
Here’s what Google has to say about duplicate keywords:
“Duplicate keywords happen when one of two or more of your ads are using the same keyword list. It’s best to avoid having duplicate keywords in your account. Google shows only one ad per advertiser for a particular keyword, so there’s no need to include the same keywords in different ad groups or campaigns. It’s okay to have the same keyword in different match types in the same account if you want to use different bids or creatives.”
3. Location-Based Campaigns Have Incorrect Ad Extensions
While some PPC mistakes are only obvious to people who have access to the account, some are obvious to everyone when ads are displayed.
Mismatched locations and ad extensions are one of those errors.
For example, one account I looked at was a law firm with three locations: Boston, Chicago, and New York.
The firm had ads targeted to those three geographic regions, but the extensions weren’t matched correctly.
So ads that impressioned in Chicago, for example, had extensions with information about the Boston office.
4. Reporting Focuses on Unimportant (or Misleading) Metrics
Some signs of mismanagement don’t become obvious until you look beyond the Google Ads account itself and examine what managers are reporting to executives.
Unfortunately, it’s not unusual to see a reliance on less important metrics with misleading conclusions as proof of the program’s success.
For example, I’ve seen reporting that equates number of page visits to number of conversions where the goal is to generate leads.
Obviously, this is misleading.
You could have millions of page visits, but if you’re not getting any conversions (whether that’s making a sale or getting a lead), then you’ve got a problem.
5. Account Strategy Doesn’t Align With Broader Marketing or Business Goals
Sometimes mismanagement isn’t evident until you examine the account in the context of your company and its goals.
When you do, you discover that your goals aren’t supported by the PPC strategy.
For example, I talked to a business owner who told me that an important component of his business was brand awareness and development.
But then I found that 60 percent of his $93,000 budget was going to Shopping campaigns, 37 percent to search and only three percent to remarketing.
Shopping campaigns are great for making sales but not so great for brand awareness.
Remarketing, however, is great for brand awareness.
So what gives?
Shouldn’t these percentages be split more evenly?
Also, I was surprised by the absence of GDN campaigns as they would have been a perfect fit here.
When you see this kind of mismatch, it can be a warning sign that the account managers either don’t know what they are doing, or they’re applying the same strategy to all of the accounts they’re managing.
6. Post-Click Elements Are Ignored
Maybe the PPC account is set up perfectly and the CTR is amazing.
But if post-click elements – such as landing pages – aren’t carefully designed and in place, that’s a problem.
For example, I was recently auditing the PPC accounts of a business that sells an expensive, personalized service.
It’s the kind of service that requires a lot of thought, research and trust before someone will buy.
When I checked out the landing page, I was shocked to discover that it only had some stock photography and a contact form.
It had no contact information, no reviews, and no testimonials.
They didn’t even have a link back to their home page.
If someone had never heard of this company before, and landed on its landing page, would they buy?
I really doubt it.
Instead, they’d keep looking and researching, which is a lost opportunity.
7. Using Google Ads Optimization Score as a Crutch
Google Ads’ optimization score has gotten a lot of attention recently.
Google has been promoting it as an easy way to see how well your account is being managed and get recommendations on how to improve it.
If only it were so simple.
Unfortunately, Google’s assessments and recommendations aren’t always in your best interest.
Your managers should take them with a healthy dose of skepticism.
So when your PPC managers use a high Google Ads optimization score as proof that everything’s going great, that’s a strong indicator that problems lie below.
Most PPC pros (including this one) agree that getting a 100% optimization score shouldn’t be your goal.
Are some of the recommendations helpful?
Should you accept them across the board?
What Should You Do When Your Account Is Being Mismanaged?
The question of what you should do when your PPC account is being mismanaged depends on whether your account is being managed in-house or by an agency.
If your accounts are being managed in house, talk to your account managers and get their perspective.
They may already be aware of the issues and know what they need to correct them.
Maybe you’ll need to invest in more training and/or work with a PPC pro in the short term to bridge the gap.
If an agency is managing your accounts, consider getting a second opinion from another agency via an account audit.
This is common practice in the industry, and your current agency shouldn’t object to it.
However, most agencies appreciate being given a heads up and having the opportunity to respond.
Most of all, recognize that having your accounts managed well (either in-house or through an agency) comes at some expense.
But isn’t it better to put a portion of what you’re currently spending on Google Ads towards better PPC management?
Not only will you get better ROI, but you’ll also miss out on fewer opportunities.
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