Tricks and Treats to Survive PPC Horror Stories

Halloween is the perfect time for sharing some hair-raising tales of pay-per-click (PPC) horrors and the solutions that can help you overcome them. In performance marketing, there are plenty of eerie scenarios that can send shivers down the spine of even the most experienced PPC experts. So, grab your flashlight, because we’re about to dive into some truly frightening PPC nightmares and how to escape them.

GA4 Migration
The first story in our haunted PPC house involves the migration to Google Analytics 4 (GA4). With the old version of Google Analytics being retired, the transition to GA4 has been a challenging journey. Advertisers have had to adapt to new ways of reporting and performance measurement. To turn this thriller into a love story in 2024, marketers need to invest time in learning the ropes of GA4 and explore its capabilities fully.

Push this SKU
While this might seem odd to anyone working outside of the PPC bubble, it is almost impossible to push an individual SKU while your campaign is optimised through smart bidding. Smart bidding optimises at campaign level and, because PLA and Pmax campaigns contain multiple SKUs, it is very difficult to concentrate spend on a specific item ID. Instead, we recommend creating a separate top products campaign where you can add several priority SKUs that can be optimised separately and pushed more aggressively.

Pmax Reporting
At Summit we are big believers in the power of Pmax. In fact, we have seen some fantastic performance improvements across several clients, especially in the last 6 months. While Google have provided some reassurances that this smart bidding native campaign type can help advertisers achieve their goals and drive stronger performance, many of us have struggled with reporting on the more granular aspects of Pmax. There is, however, a light at the end of the tunnel it seems, as Google are starting to offer a bit more visibility behind the curtain of Pmax and how it works. For example, we have implemented a script across all of our accounts that reports on the percentage of spend across different ad types for Pmax campaigns. This has given our teams and our clients more clarity, visibility and reassurance as we head into Peak.

Limited by Budget
Image this scenario: it’s the week before Black Friday, things are going great and your client is getting a lot of conversions. But then, all of a sudden, your top performing campaigns stop serving before the end of the day. You log in the next day, blissfully unaware, only to see the dreaded “Limited by Budget” status. You ran out of budget because you didn’t account for the increase in demand! Avoid this horror scenario by making sure your campaign budgets are increased before Peak to avoid missing out on conversions towards the end of the day.

Automated Rules
Automated rules are a great way to perform certain tasks outside of normal working hours. One of the most common uses of this feature is to enable or pause ad copy – something that happens a lot in the run up to Peak. While rules are absolute lifesavers when you have an offer due to go live at Midnight or very early in the morning, they can misfire sometimes. Our top tip is to always perform a manual check first thing in the morning, just in case!

No ads in ad group
Don’t be fooled by how common this horror story is: it’s still one of the most haunting messages you can be greeted with first thing in the morning when you were supposed to have a new promo go live the night before. The most common cause for this nightmareish scenario is that something went wrong with an automated rule or ad copy was not added across all ad groups. Avoid this by carefully labelling your ads and doing extra checks during the busy period.

Zombie SKUs
With a name like this, Zombie SKUs are the perfect addition to this year’s PPC Horror Stories. Zombie SKUs is a term used to refer to SKUs within your product feed that are available to serve but have not received any impressions over a period of time (usually in the last 30 days). There could be several reasons for this, however the most common one is that if your campaigns are optimised by a smart bidding strategy there might not be enough budget to push all the SKUs within that campaign AND achieve your desired ROAS target. The cure for this is to set up a Zombie campaign. We recommend ringfencing between 5%-10% of your overall monthly PPC budget to give these inactive SKUs a more aggressive push, giving them a chance to drive some incremental sales and revenue.

Ad Status Pending
It’s a well-known fact that approval times become longer the closer we get to Peak. This is mainly because more ad copy is activated during this time of the year, putting additional pressure on Google’s policy approval systems. This can result in ads being stuck in the dreaded “pending” mode for much longer than usual, leaving you and your client without ad copy for extended periods of time. To avoid this nightmare, we recommend uploading ad copy at least 48 hours before it is due to go live. The ad copy does not need to be enabled for it to go through the approval process, so adding it to the account ahead of time is the best way to ensure there is no unnecessary delay for you and your clients.

These PPC horror stories may send shivers down your spine, but our Summit team is armed with the right knowledge and solutions, to overcome the scariest scenarios. Don’t let the ghosts of PPC past haunt your campaigns. We are here to ensure your peak season is filled with treats rather than tricks.

Happy Halloween, and may your PPC campaigns be spook-tacular!

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