Throughout the past few years, as a relentless wave of new digital technologies continue to push the boundaries of how brands market their services, PPC advertising has become the most effective tool in a marketer’s arsenal for reaching potential customers at the right moment across multiple channels and devices. A dynamic, successful paid search campaign has the power to generate profit faster than any other traditional marketing outlet being utilized today.
The caveat, though, is that it requires a serious amount of hard work to run and constantly monitor. With so many nuanced opportunities to capitalize on and so many industry developments to stay abreast of, one of the most valuable skills to develop as you grow your career is performing regular PPC program audits across Google Ads, Bing, and Google Analytics et al. It’s a lamentable fact that whether you’ve just inherited PPC accounts at a new company or you’ve been running a single program for an extended period, at some point you’ll experience performance that is somewhat less than stellar and the causes could be numerous. A comprehensive audit will help you understand what is happening throughout your entire paid search program, surface areas that can be optimized more rigorously, and uncover any keywords or campaigns that are simply not moving the needle in your favor.
If your current PPC program is dipping below expected ROI targets the good news is that no account is perfect. This, hopefully, shouldn’t come as a surprise to you. Unexpected declines in PPC performance are perfectly normal and are not cause for alarm just as long as you know what actions to employ to right the metaphorical ship.
The bad news? Pretty much every aspect of your campaigns can have detrimental effects on your business outcomes. Out of the gate you’ll want to ask yourself these questions: Am I using the right keywords? Are my landing pages and ad copy optimized? Have we made any business model changes that could affect ROAS? Could seasonality be a factor?
In our newly released advanced PPC auditing guide, we cover what it takes to determine root causes, identify poorly performing dimensions, and then ensure you’re optimizing to the right metrics. In what can be viewed as an overwhelming process, we break down how to move through the stages into handy, bite-sized snippets that can quickly empower PPC practitioners like you to get back to driving improved advertising investments. #smalldetails #biggains.
To give you a taster of the gold that can be found inside, here we offer a short overview of the troubleshooting steps you need to take to turn your failing PPC program around.
Part I: How to Identify Root Cause
From the outset, the process of rectifying poor PPC performance needs to be measured and systematic. Take a wrong turn at the beginning and you could end up wasting valuable time and resources taking a deep dive into something irrelevant. To begin, you’ll need to identify the root cause of the issue that is skewing your numbers. Your program may well contain hundreds of campaigns, thousands of ad groups, and tens of thousands of keywords or product groups. With so many potential rabbit holes to go down, you might be wondering where on earth you start.
The answer lies in the fact that you’ll want to treat your analysis like you would your PPC account structure. First, identify poorly performing accounts, followed by campaigns, ad groups, and finally keywords and product groups. In most scenarios, you’ll find that your campaign structure adheres to some variation of the 80/20 rule; 80% of spend will come from 20% of campaigns. It goes without saying that it’s not the best use of your time to spend hours exploring poor PPC performance in campaigns that only form small segments of your total spend. Sort them by descending order of dollars spent and handpick those that are not meeting desired levels of expectation. Filtering out these campaigns early on will set you on the right path to diagnosing the underlying problems that are hampering your paid search performance.
Part II: How to Identify Poorly Performing Dimensions
The second part of our PPC auditing guide concerns the tricky business of dimensional analysis. Via part one you should have (hopefully) pinpointed the source(s) of your performance deficiencies, or, alternatively, you may well have discovered that results were dropping everywhere and that includes numerous dimensions.
“What does this guy mean by dimensions?” I hear you ask. Good question. Whenever a user clicks on an ad, the click will come from one of three devices – a computer, a phone, or a tablet. Said click will always come from a dedicated location and happen at a specific time of the day. These categories of device, location, and time of day are subsets of all possible dimensions from where clicks can originate. Naturally, certain categories within dimensions have more weight than others. Figuring out which one is responsible for your poor PPC performance can take a substantial amount of time if you let it, but it’s better to use a methodical strategy to uncover and fix the problem. You can do this by:
1. Following any changes you recently made to your PPC optimization strategy.
2. Taking a look at overall performance for your most important dimension.
3. Flagging and tracking your dimensions through custom dashboards and internal alerts.
Once you have a hunch about which dimension might be dropping PPC performance, be sure to explore the data. Set a pre-post period to visualize the information and get a pulse on what’s actually going on. Ultimately, understanding performance by dimensions is a crucial component of your PPC program audit as it helps to surface areas of immediate opportunity that can promptly get you back on track.
Part III: How to Ensure You’re Optimizing Towards the Correct Metric
If your PPC performance analysis isn’t leading to actionable insights through investigations into simple root causes and dimensional analyses, the issue might be bigger than you first anticipated – your PPC bidding strategy might be focused on the wrong optimization metrics altogether.
So, what is an optimization metric?
Glad you asked. In short, it is a measurement you use in order to determine what bid you would like to place on a keyword, which bid adjustment you would place on a device, etc. PPC optimizations will always, to some degree, be related to your business goals. To give you a tangible example, if you’re looking to achieve a monthly ROAS of 150%, revenue should be factored into your optimization metric – ie. you would increase bids on keywords generating more revenue and decrease bids on keywords generating less revenue. Some examples of optimization metrics to use include:
– Low-Funnel Metrics – revenue and conversions
– Hybrid Metrics – a mix of high-funnel and low-funnel metrics
– Lifetime Value Metrics
Whatever type of metric you optimize toward is, ultimately, dependent on the wealth of data you have at your fingertips, what your click to conversion funnel looks like, the behavior of your users, and a great many more factors. The questions to ask of yourself are:
– What is my overall business goal? (Profit Maximization, CPA, Brand Presence, etc.)
– Do I have enough data directly related to my business goal that I can optimize towards?
Finding answers around these themes will guide you in the direction of the best optimization metric you can utilize to ensure you are anticipating and executing best PPC advertising investments.
Our comprehensive PPC auditing guide presents an in-depth approach to reviewing and identifying areas in your program responsible for poor paid search performance. It’s vitally important to the success of your marketing efforts that you don’t let your accounts simply cruise on autopilot as there’s always more you can be doing to improve campaign efficiency. Follow the systematic steps we outlined in our guide, though, and it’s possible to fix the most problematic performance issues first. Getting better results with less time investment makes it possible to focus on other areas of opportunity that can really drive your business forward.