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PPC Defense: Don't Let These 7 Factors Damage Your Performance

kerschbaum-joe
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Defense

One of the most popular phrases in football is that "defensive wins championships." Same goes for managing PPC campaigns.

On any given day, countless entities are striving to damage your campaign's performance. A strong defensive strategy will help protect your hard work and preserve your positive progress.

Sustained growth and upward trends are the objectives for any PPC manager. However, there are some instances where defending your campaign and holding your ground is just as valuable as your next huge push to the end zone.

Below are seven of the most common factors that can damage your PPC campaign, as well as a defensive strategy for each.

1. PPC Sea Changes

You may remember a little tectonic shift in the PPC world that arrived last week... just a little something called enhanced campaigns. This isn't the first time PPC managers had to significantly adjust their game plan and it certainly won't be the last.

Enhanced campaigns got a lot of attention because it was a lot of changes at once – but there are incremental changes happening all the time. And PPC managers need to stay on top of them all the time.

Your defensive plan:

  • Stay on top of PPC news. Subscribe to all the critical industry publications (including this one) to make sure that you keep a pulse on what is happening in SEM right now.
  • Keep in close contact with your Google and Bing reps. Your reps usually have the inside track on changes coming down the pike that could influence your performance.

2. Fluctuating Performance in Other Channels

PPC doesn't operate in a vacuum. PPC is influenced by other marketing channels, and PPC also influences other channels as well.

We have had accounts that started to suffer from lagging performance due to a change within another channel. For example, we had a client drop off in organic rankings (due to an algorithmic change) and this impacted our PPC performance.

When we see PPC performance fluctuate we always assume we made a change that caused the ruckus (which we'll talk about later). Usually that issue is contained within the account, but sometimes the reason belongs to another channel.

Your defensive plan:

  • Monitor other channels closely. Set up alerts and reports within your web analytics so that you can stay on top of channels as such as organic, direct, referral, and social.
  • Stay on top of industry news. This sounds like a bullet point from the last section; this tip is in regard to news about other channels. You may manage PPC but that doesn't you shouldn't stay on top of developments in the world of SEO, social media, etc.

3. Negative Seasonal Trends

Every business has peaks and valleys. Every SEM campaign also has peaks and valleys.

The high tide and low tide in an account can come hourly, daily, or even monthly. The biggest challenge you need to defend against is a long stretch of decelerated performance.

Your defensive plan:

  • Develop seasonal projections. Hopefully you have historical data that help predict when the low tide in terms of volume/performance will arrive. Utilize that data! If your account is new, then you should refer to Google Trends and other third parties that may help you with these predictions.
  • Accentuate the positive and adjust your budgets. If you know when the account will be at its peak performance, take full advantage of this knowledge! We have seen accounts with annual budgets that were dispersed evenly throughout the year. If you know that Q4 is crazy-great for your account, then spend less during a sluggish period and open the floodgates in Q4.

4. Intensified Competitive Landscape

Fluctuations in competitive aggressiveness are an external factor that can be extremely difficult to predict. You never know when a competitor is going to decrease their budget or double-down on their PPC spend and try to own the landscape. This can significantly impact your campaign's performance.

Your defensive plan:

  • Set performance thresholds. Establish a baseline for your performance and when you fall below a certain watermark, and then it's time to take stock of your stable of competitors. You should keep an eye on click-through rate (CTR), cost-per-click (CPC), impression share, and impression share lost due to ranking (IS lost due to budget doesn't necessarily indicate an increase in competition).
  • Utilize a third party competitive tool. There are a handful of third-party tools that help monitor competitor behavior. To be diplomatic, I won't mention any specific tools here, but if you search for "PPC competitive tool," you'll get a whole SERP full of available options. If you want to monitor your competitive landscape, then you should compare the available tools and select the one that best suits your needs.

5. Broken Tracking and Website Errors

So fare we've reviewed external entities that may damage your PPC performance – but there are a few elements that are self-inflicted (from a certain point-of-view). You need a good defense against yourself. Actually, in this point we're talking about errors that can creep up on your website.

Website tracking is very fragile. One line of code gets deleted, or a page is reverted to an old version, and your tracking disappears – along with your performance and perhaps any automation that may be in place. Also, I've encountered instances where a call-to-action button was broken or a shopping cart had an error.

Your defensive plan:

  • Create alerts in AdWords and Google Analytics. You need to know ASAP if there an issue with your website. There are various tools can monitor the placement of codes on your website and you can check those out. However, if you don't have resources for this kind of tool, you can set alerts within AdWords and Google Analytics. For example, if your campaigns don't generate any conversions for the previous day, you would receive an alert.

6. Failed PPC Initiatives

Let's face it: not everything you launch within an account is going to work. Bids can be too high or low. Ad copy can misfire. I could go on-and-on with all the things that could go wrong in an account, but that list would take days to write. So, how do you develop a game to guard against these issues?

Your defense plan:

  • Set reminders to monitor your new initiatives. This may seem rudimentary, but make sure that if you make any change within your AdWords that you set a calendar for continued analysis. Monitor the change until you receive enough data to be sure that everything is cool.
  • Create an alert for the campaign that received the changes. If you have a specific KPI threshold, then set it within your campaign alerts just so you'll receive a notification if performance should tank.

7. Implementation Errors / Administrative Issues

Aside from failed tests, straight-up errors can creep up in your account. Let's face it, on any given day you may be making dozens or even hundreds of changes within your account. Mistakes are going to happen.

Your defense plan:

  • Have a stringent QA (quality assurance) process. You should have a process to double-check all work completed within your account.
  • Create alerts within your campaigns. I know! This is extremely repetitive but really, alerts can be your savior! Just think if you accidentally upload an incorrect keyword that has a high volume but poor conversion rate. Set alerts for increased impressions or clicks and increased CPA. This is just one example. You can set alerts for any trend that may be alarming.

Summary

These are just a few of the gremlins looking to run amok in your campaigns. Remember, if you as a campaign manager receive feedback that an account didn't see double-digit growth in a particular month, just remind people what it takes to protect and maintain your performance.

Sometimes holding your ground is even more difficult than generating explosive growth. While we'd all prefer to see explosive growth in our campaigns, sometimes the best offense is a good defense.


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