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The 6 mistakes we’ll discover in your PPC audit


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Dave Karellen
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Let’s dish on some of the most common issues that we find in prospects’ accounts when we carry out our free PPC audit.

It’s the same problems we find again and again, so we’ll be focussing on those most common ones that we think everyone will find useful. Which is a polite way of saying that if you see anything on here that you’re guilty of, you are not a fuckwit, everyone does it. Don’t take it to heart, but do take note.

1. Structure


Structure is so important. If you don’t get the structure right it’s like building a house with sugar puff foundations. Which is why it’s our starting point in a PPC audit.

When we talk about structure what we’re mainly referring to is the ad-group structure. We see so many accounts during PPC audits with conflated and excessively large ad groups with lots and lots, potentially hundreds in fact, of keywords within. 

The problem with this is it’s not going to be relevant. Relevancy is key to quality score and keeping the costs down. 

If you’ve got hundreds of different keywords within the same ad-group there’s no way that all of those keywords are going to be simultaneously relevant for the same ad copy. Instead, what you need to do is to split those out into Single Keyword Ad Groups (SKAGs). That way you can ensure that they are as relevant as possible.

There is no situation where being irrelevant is a good thing. 


2. Dynamic Search Ads


Dynamic Search Ads have been around for a long time and they used to work particularly poorly. So they got a bad rep and now people have a misconception about them. So, during a PPC audit, we often see them not being used at all, or being used poorly. In the last few years however, Google’s machine learning has improved and DSAs have gotten better. With a DSA, instead of targeting by keyword you target by a landing page instead.

Take heed; it is still possible to get this very very wrong. A lot of people will follow Google’s “best advice” and instead of targeting all the pages in a very structured way they’ll instead focus on just targeting ALL pages. 

You can run into lots of issues with this and we frequently see it in PPC audits. For example, if you’re an e-commerce business and you’ve got Klarna as a payment method then you’ll often have a Klarna payment page with information about how Klarna works.

If you’re targeting All Pages that means that the Klarna info page is targeted too. Essentially, you’ll find yourself actually advertising on behalf of Klarna. Whilst paying them a commission.
It’s best, in the same way you do with the SKAGs, to have Single Landing Page ad groups to get the best from DSAs.

3. Broad keywords


The third problem found repeatedly in PPC audits is issues with lots of broad keywords and, related to that, a lack of negative keywords. This is an age-old problem of listening to Google too much, and a prime example of when a PPC account manager might come in handy. 

Google will always push broad keywords. In fact, to be honest, if anything, they’re getting a lot looser. We found a couple recently where we had a broad keyword for “cat cremation services” and it was matching to search terms of “stop kitten biting”. Too far Google. Too far.

The only way to control this is actually through negative keywords. Unfortunately, they’re often found to be lacking, particularly those keywords and accounts where there’s a lot of broad keywords in there. A good PPC audit will drag all of this into the light.


4. Creative ad copy

A lack of creativity in the ad copy is a common and distressing issue we come across in many PPC audits. People think PPC is all about the data. They forget that you need a fair amount of creativity too. (Content team can pipe down).

At the end of the day it’s advertising and lots of ads are just a bit bland. They can be very descriptive but they lack that engaging and personalised element to be compelling enough to convert. Advertisers forget to put themselves in the shoes of the potential audience, and to focus on the emotions of those people and how to provoke those emotions to incite a sale.

What we should be trying to do is solve a problem that the person has at that time through creative ad copy (aka taking advantage).


5. Lost impression-share by budget


Lost impression-share by budget is the fifth problem we’ll discover in your PPC audit. We often see “limited by budget” coming into campaigns. This is a big warning flag and, perhaps confusingly, budgeting should actually be controlled by bidding rather than the campaign budgets themselves.

If we’re limited by budget then you should either raise budgets or actually lower the bids. Sounds a bit counter-intuitive but let us explain. If you’ve got a ¬£100 campaign budget, and you set all your bids to ¬£100 you could actually only get one click for each of those. If you set your bids down to ¬£1, i.e. you reduce them, then you can actually get up to 100 clicks. Ergo (yes we said ergo) it’s actually better to reduce your competitiveness and your bidding because you’ll end up with increased volume.

6. Tracking and measurements

The sixth and final issue in many a PPC audit is incorrect tracking and measurements. Lots of bidding these days is conducted by automated strategies so it’s more important than ever to have accurate measurements.

A lot of advertisers will put in micro conversions alongside their main conversions. But instead of just being able to track those, which is fine, they put them in to be optimised against the bid strategies as well.

The bid strategies by default will have the micro conversions and your main conversions of the same value, so you may find that you’re optimising towards the wrong data. Skewed data could see you upping your spend when you really don’t need to.

Next steps

There you have it. The 6 most common mistakes we’ll find in your PPC audit are:

  • Structure
  • Dynamic Search Ads
  • Broad Keywords
  • Creative 
  • Lost Impression Share By Budget
  • Tracking & Measurements

You might want to look at 10 Steps To PPC Success now. 

All PPC audits throw out their own problems. If your PPC needs an overhaul, contact Dark Horse.

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