What Shit PPC Agencies Do: Flogging Your Products on Porn Sites

What Shit PPC Agencies Do: Flogging Your Products on Porn Sites

Do you know what your PPC agency is hiding?

In our time here at Dark Horse, we've had some uncomfortable reading when delving into some of our client's accounts.

We've found ads showing on porn sites, sites in Iraq, or even terrorist sites - some shocking PPC "strategies" that were clearly not thought out. No wonder most of the client accounts we take on are not performing well!

Some other horrors we have witnessed are down to unbelievably poor PPC practices from 'respectable' agencies. Bad PPC in any form should not be accepted, porn sites or not - the only one who loses out when it comes to the bank, is you.

Question is, how can you spot these agency bad practices? How can you avoid these mistakes? Our PPC mastermind, Dave Karellen decided to spell it out for us, so that you can keep your PPC strategies in check, have a read below.

 

Incorrect Ad Placements

This is where we got inspiration for this blog post in the first place. Unbelievably, finding our client's ads on a well-known adult site is absolutely true.

It was clear from the get-go that this well-established, large PPC agency had committed one of our most hated crimes, we like to call "the set it and forget it campaign". They simply set up a campaign and left it to run by itself the minute it seemed to be "performing" (mind you, at the bare minimum when we took a look at it.)

The client had no idea that their ads were showing in this unfortunate place and immediately pulled the plug on that agency. Rightly so! This "set and forget" mistake was quite a shock for us PPC experts to see, especially since Google gives PPC managers so many options when it comes to ad placements. To be honest, it's one of the easiest forms of optimisation there is out there.

Here are some useful tips you can follow for optimising ad placements:

 

Tip one: Check where your ads are showing:

Use the 'Where Ads Showed' tab under Placements to see where the display ads have appeared, who knows what you will find when you check in on your PCC agency work.

 

 

Tip two: Sort your placements and put in parameters

Sort by high impressions, low CTR, and zero conversions to find potential placements to exclude when setting up a campaign. Use placement exclusions to remove specific websites which aren't performing well, or sites that you simply don't want to be associated with.

Tip three: Block poor traffic

The majority of poor traffic comes from mobile app placements, getting mobile to work is a whole different PPC science. If you notice that most of your poor traffic comes from mobile apps - you can block them en-masse using the App categories placement exclusions.

 

Tip four: Don't exclude all app placements

Yes, 99% of them will be terrible, but it may be worth checking through the 'Where ads showed' report first to see if there are any nuggets to preserve. For example, a beauty products business may want to keep ads on Tinder, to promote to a style-conscious demographic that wants to look hot on a date.

Use Content Exclusions in the main Settings tab to remove large categories of placements, which don't fit with your brand.

Tip five: Unsavoury sites are a broad topic, so get granular

Parked domains are an obvious exclusion, but 'sexually suggestive' is a very broad category that can range from Pornhub to a site discussing Morecambe & Wise's Breakfast Sketch. Sometimes it's best to mine through the specific placements as above to make granular decisions. It might take time, but hey, that is what you pay your PPC agency for!

 

Not Segmenting Brand vs Non-Brand Properly

This one is one of the biggest bugbears for us when it comes to shit practices. We even wrote a whole article on brand bidding. We seriously can't stress this enough; brand needs to be in its own separate campaign to be reported on separately.

You will always want to use negative brand keywords in your non-brand campaigns to make sure the brand campaign is the only place that brand traffic will come from.

Also, making sure this practice is conducted for Google Shopping too is key. Many forget that, since Google Shopping doesn't use keyword targeting, you can still use negative keywords to segment out a brand campaign.

Brand bidding is such a big and controversial topic for PPC experts. For more on brand bidding, and the pros and cons of it, check out our previous blog post.

 

Agency is Filling Its Own Pockets and Not Google's

This might sound a bit of an odd one but hear us out. In our 7 Signs Your Agency is Taking the Piss webinar we discussed that we have seen countless of agencies "set-up" accounts for their clients. Specifically, if you aren't contributing to Google's ad spend, instead you just pay the agency 10% of the revenue from ad spend and they'll also use this to cover the ad spend.

Sounds great, covered ad spend galore, right?

Dissecting this, what it actually means is that the agency will only make money when the Return On Ad Spend (ROAS) is above 10 to 1 as they have to cover the ad spend. For many businesses, an incremental ROAS of 9 to 1 would be great and would cover other associated costs- but if the agency has this process in place, then it means every pound spent which returns your business nine pounds will lose the agency money as they only get 90p (10% of nine pounds) back.

 

So how does the agency make any money from this?

Simple, they only promote brand as it's the only area which would get well over 10x ROAS. If you're lucky they'll throw in some Remarketing Lists for Search Ads (RLSA) (only long tail) but in reality, it will mostly be coming from brand. Brand is very easy to manage - so, easy money for the agency, and your business doesn't grow.

 

How do they get away with it?

That USP of the agency paying the Google ad spend fee comes with catches! As they control the ad spend, they control the account. This means you won't have access to see what's going on behind the closed doors of the account besides what they choose to report on.

This also means that you won't inherit the account if you choose to move on- it's the agencies IP, and it means that the agency is free to set up whatever conversion tracking and attribution model makes them look best, so they can make the most profit, regardless of what it does to your business.

How fucked is that? If you want to know more about the hideous practices that agencies hide behind, take a look at our '7 Signs Your Agency Is Taking The Piss' Webinar recap.

Attribution Being Misused

 

Attribution is a tool to determine the most effective way to measure in order to improve your bottom-line when you optimise towards that measurement.

Many though, see it as a chance to find the attribution model which paints PPC in the best light, and use that one regardless of how accurate it is.

Even worse is when the chosen attribution model changes over time based on which one paints the prettiest picture on the given day. You aren't fooling anyone with this tactic and it's shameful to even attempt this. Tell the bloody truth!

 

No Testing

 

Yes, really. It's incredible to think that agencies have this "set it and forget it mentality". How can you improve on anything without testing?!

This was more obvious to spot before Responsive Search Ads (RSAs), where it was clear if there were three not best practice ads per ad group. If you saw these then it was obvious your ad copy was not being A/B tested.

With this being automated largely through RSAs now, it is harder to see if any testing is or isn’t occurring, but still if poorly performing assets aren't being regularly replaced then it's clear that the ads are stagnating - so always keep an eye out for your ad copy. Or better yet, ask to see how they’ve changed. Don't be afraid to catch your agency out!

 

Taking Google's Word As Gospel

 

Accepting everything Google says is a shit practice. So many people will focus on Google's Optiscore rather than anything else. Some things Google advocate are in Google's interests and your interests, sometimes they're just in Google's interests, e.g., broads, auto-applied ad suggestions, etc.

What does a higher Optiscore get you? It's not like Quality Score where it has a direct effect on the account's performance.

All it means is that the agency doing it will be seen favourably by Google and might get either a few Google home minis sent to them as a reward, or more frequent calls with Google to discuss how to increase Optiscore even further.

It is more naivety on the agencies part than them trying to be bad here.

 

What Now?

If you feel like a lot of these bad practices are applicable to you then you really need to be questioning your agency. Better yet, if you're still unsure if your agency are absolute charlatans, then watch our webinar '7 Signs Your Agency Are Taking The Piss'.

If you feel that you hit a lot of the red flags raised there, then it may be time to say bye bye to your current agency.

 

Need help? Better yet, let us do the digging for you. With our free PPC audit, we can do a deep dive of your account and check if your agency are up to no good.