3 Instances Where Best PPC Practices Might Not Be, Well, Best

Road-less-travelled-624x354Best practices are around for a reason: more often than not they work. It’s almost always a good idea to follow best practices when dealing with PPC campaigns, but that doesn’t mean it’s always going to produce the best results. Depending on your account size, your vertical, and the demand for your product or service, you could be hurting yourself by following best practices. Below are three times that you might want to go against the best practices grain.

Ad Group Level A/B Testing

Best practices tell you that having ads written specifically for each ad group is your best bet at getting someone to convert. You can carefully craft messaging to speak to each individual keyword and maximize each chance to gain a click. Sounds great right? But what about the effort involved in crafting and uploading those custom messages? What about the time it takes for each ad group to have enough traffic to make a decision about a winner? Depending on your vertical, your test run times could be measured in months rather than weeks. Yikes!

To get past these problems, I recommend running aggregate level ad copy testing.  There you can craft unique headlines and appendages for Display URLs for each ad group, but you can also test your features and benefits on a higher level. Data will come in faster allowing you to make your decisions quicker. You can then pause the losing copy for the entire campaign and start a new test. Granted, there will be some instances where one or two ad groups might perform better with the other ad, but in this strategy we’re cutting our loses and focusing on making broader changes faster.

Standard Bidding Structure

It’s widely accepted that the following mathematical relationship is a best practice for your keyword bids:

Exact > Phrase > BMM > Broad

And in many instances, this is a great way to go. But not always. For situations where a search query could potentially trigger multiple keywords in your account, the search engines automatically choose the one with the strictest match type (as well as best keyword fit and highest ad rank). By choosing to keep your non-exact keyword bids below your exact match keywords, you could be hurting your performance. Check out the scenario below:

Screen Shot 2014-08-05 at 8.03.39 AM

Since there’s a version of the keyword on exact match already in the ad group, chances are it will be triggered when the exact keyword is the search query. Here, raising the bid on the phrase match keyword could help improve the average position and make the keyword more competitive. Impression share is already pretty high, but there’s certainly still more room to improve. Keeping your phrase bid purposefully lower than your exact match isn’t going to ensure your exact keyword shows over your phrase, it’s going to limit your phrase keyword’s potential to compete on longer tail search queries and could possibly hurt your performance.

Trying to Maximize CTR

You should always be ad copy testing to increase your CTR and therefore, boost your Quality Score so your CPCs will go down, right? Meh, maybe. I’ve come across the flaws in this strategy a few times with smaller software companies. First of all, since it’s a small company, they want to maximize their clicks with their limited budget. Understandable. But they want to constantly be gaining more click share with the same amount of limited impressions a month (increasing CTR on a set number of impressions). This creates a couple problems.

First, if they continuously increase their CTR, they’re going to get more clicks and therefore, spend their budget faster. Not always a bad thing, but it can present problems. Secondly, and a bigger problem in my mind, not everyone who searches for their keywords are actually qualified to click and buy their software. Instead of choosing ad copy that performs best over all (click and conversion rate) they’re just going for CTR and not looking as much to whether those clicks are converting. A better strategy is to maximize your CTR only after you’ve gotten your ads to a level where they’re profitable and convert consistently. Raising your QS and lowering your CPC is certainly a great thing for your account, but if you’re not converting that traffic, your boss couldn’t get less of a crap what your CPC is.

All this to say, best practices aren’t always in your best interest. So next time you’re in your accounts, take a look and see if you’re missing opportunities to advance. Have you run in to any situations where best practices have hurt you? I’d love to hear about them! Share in the comments.