#PPCFright2014 Day 12: Paranormal PPC Encounters

The Scariest PPC AccountWhat would Halloween be without sharing ghost stories?  Not just any ghost stories, though.  The most terrifying of all. The ones that are beyond your wildest imagination. The ones that are true.

This, my friends, might just be the most frightful post in our 13 Days of PPC Fright #PPCFright2014 series.

We reached out to some of our friends in the industry and asked them to share the scariest thing that they ever saw in a PPC account.  As a result, we’ve compiled a list of encounters with paranormal PPC activity.

Now, before you continue reading, I must warn you of two things. Firstly, these stories are not for the faint of heart, Secondly, these are true occurrences uncovered and resolved by trained experts. The happenings below should not, under any circumstances, be tried at home.

Now take a deep breath, grab your flashlight and hold it up to your chin because things are about to get real.

“The scariest thing I ever saw was…”

“… hundreds of broken URLs that hadn’t been caught by Google (??) and that had been costing a client TONS of money.” – Joe Kerschbaum, 3QDigital (@JoeKerschbaum)

“… an account with 1 million keywords and every keyword had $0.05 bids, accounts maxing out the keyword limit of 10,000 per ad group… without using {keyword} in ad copy and Bing Ads accounts running for months still using utm_source=google” – John Gagnon, Bing Ads (@JmGagnon)

“… when I made a bunch of optimizations one day, and then logged in the next day to find them all gone. New keywords, new ad copy – gone. Turns out the client had been in poking around and decided to pause all of my work, without even giving any of it a chance!” – Melissa Mackey, gyro (@Mel66)

“… SQRs can be terrifying. Not only the sight of all the money an account has wasted with poor settings, but what some of searches say about humanity. I can’t even repeat the scariest queries I’ve seen.” – Ginny Marvin, Search Engine Land (@GinnyMarvin)

“… a search network campaign built like an ill-conceived contextual targeting campaign. There were a few relevant keywords buried by hundreds of completely irrelevant keywords, including some in very expensive verticals like travel and healthcare. It almost looked like someone had pasted the negative keyword list as targeted keywords. All of the keywords were on broad match and every ad had keyword insertion in the title. Even with terrible quality scores due to the irrelevant keywords, the ads still served enough to use up the budget. The client had spent thousands for no return and had no idea where their money was going. Needless to say that campaign was completely scrapped and I started over from scratch. The results are much better now :)” – Pamela Lund, ThatPamChick.com (@Pamela_Lund)

“… an ad for an IT company triggered by the search query “how long does it take to go from Phoenix to Denver” with bidding set to Google’s auto bidding and the CPC was $35…and there were more like that.” – Frank C, Point It (@FrankGCoyle)

“… a regional business with NO geographic restrictions!” – Julie Bacchini, Neptune Moon (@NeptuneMoon)

“… personal ads that the previous manager (from the company’s internal team) had inserted into the account. Not only is this completely unethical, but it violates Google’s ad policies as the destination URLs went to a different domain. The best part – the person was advertising try-outs for her volleyball team! Wha?!?” – Jenny Anderson, SmallBox  (@j35682)  

“… conflicting negative broad match keywords. Yikes!!! No wonder you’re not getting any traffic!!” – Charlene Veras, iProspect (@Charly_Veras)

“… an account that was spending $300K a month without any conversion tracking!” – Matt Umbro, Hanapin Marketing (@Matt_Umbro)

“… over 50 different sites using the same account with targeting for all broken out by state.” – Amanda West-Bookwalter, Hanapin Marketing (@Amanda_WestBook)

“… “vampire keywords”. Clients unknowingly bidding on very generic keywords that suck up budgets from relevant terms. For example, I found a client was bidding on the city where they are located. No other keywords, just the city name. The scariest of all, however, was discovering a client was bidding on “internet”. That’s it, just “internet”. These generic “vampire keywords” must be stopped. A stake to the heart will end the terror and improve ROI.” – Lisa Raehsler, Big Click Co. (@lisarocksSEM)

“… a multi-million dollar campaign targeting all broad match with few negatives.  Among the few negatives there was a broad match negative for their core product across all campaigns and also a broad match brand negative in the brand campaign. When asked, the previous agency had little to say – probably because the change history was blank for at least a month prior in most of the accounts.” – Amy Bishop, Clix Marketing (@hoffman8)

“… an $865 bid set on a broad match head term that might generate $10 in margin per sale, at best.” – Arielle Jessel, RYB Marketing (@rybmarketing)

“… how quickly and thoroughly novice handling tanked the profits of a previously successful PPC account. It’s like watching a shipwreck before your eyes as you peruse the history of the switchover.” – Kirk Williams, ZATO Marketing (@PPCKirk)

“… an account with no negative keywords and all broad match” – Heather Cooan, InfusionSoft (@HeatherCooan)

“… $412 CPCs in an Asbestos account, in the sense that you had absolute zero room to make even a small mistake. The Scariest acct I got was all broad match w display and search in the same campaign and no conv. tracking. Conversely, the stuff that actually kept me up at night were the perfectly run accounts that needed to grow 50% without increasing CPA.” – Sam Owen, Netflix (@SamOwenPPC)

“… lots of single-word, broad match keywords with no negative keywords to help focus traffic.  The search query report was shocking!” – Theresa Zook , AllAboutClicks.com (@I_Marketer)

“… an account bidding on the keyword phrase “constipation in dogs” for a product that helps prevent constipation in HUMANS.” – Megan Leap, LEAP (@MeganLeap)

“… one campaign, one ad group, one ad, over 1,000 keywords!” – Bethany Bey, Cardinal Path (@Bethany_Bey)

“… in the first few months that I managed PPC. I had a local dentist’s account spending ~$50/day. On the second day I looked at geo-settings… I realized I hadn’t changed targeting the US to targeting their small town. Had a mini-heart attack but luckily caught it early.” – Luke Alley, Avalaunch Media (@LukeAlley)

“… a campaign that was actually called ‘Spray and Pray.’” – Sarah D., Point It

“… during a recent AdWords audit of an account that had 10 years of history, a six figure monthly ad spend and conversion tracking what had only been active for about a month..  It has dozens of “campaigns”, most with only 1 ad group, no negative keywords and all keywords set to broad match.  What a horror-ble waste of budget!” – James Svoboda, WebRanking.com (@Realicity)

“… an empty change history report going back for 18 months.” – Larry Kim, Wordstream (@LarryKim)

“… broad match “vacation” nationally targeted campaign for a recreational sport client.” – Jeff Allen, Hanapin Marketing (@JeffAllenUT)

“… the keyword underwear in a GDN campaign. The placements report was terrifying.” – Ian M., Point It

“… the broad match keyword ‘2’.” – Jessica Ryan, iProspect (@whetherwithjess)

“… an account I once audited that had campaigns labelled simply by month and year. All had mostly the same all broad match keywords with no negatives. Basically, the current manager thought if one campaign wasn’t working well, you should create a new campaign, but never paused the others. Simply created a new one and let them compete amongst themselves.” – Michelle Morehouse, Clix Marketing (@michellemsem)

“… that the client only had read only access to their own account! This was a prospect in our sales process and when we asked for access to do their Solutions Blueprint, they told us they had to ask their agency to get us access. So the client ended up not owning any of their account and had no idea. The other agency wasn’t being malicious necessarily but it was a little strange to see. “ – Kayla Kurtz, Hanapin Marketing (@one800kayla)

“… $194K spent in 1 month on a campaign named ‘Display – Campaign #1′” – Robert Brady, Righteous Marketing (@robert_brady)

“… a fast food company bidding on the term ‘taco’…on broad match.” – Haley Cummings, Hanapin Marketing

“… all keywords bid the same and all campaigns were set to search and display.” – Andrew Bethel, Fibre Glast Developments (@AndrewPPC)

“… over 200 keywords in an ad group, all broad match.” Susan Wenograd, At Home Stores (@SusanEDub)

“ …bidding on the keyword “broad” and “exact.”  Whoops.” – Jaime A., Point It (@JaimeAllyne)

“… the careless use of Dynamic Keyword Insertion in ad copy. Not only was this account targeting competitor terms, but they also included misspellings & general typos as keywords (both of which I totally advocate when the data supports it). But mix this with the use of DKI and you are breaking rules and making yourself look mighty foolish. Luckily the oversight of the previous management didn’t get us into an legal trouble, we just looked like idiots for showing ad copy like “Summer WoomenShoes Online.” My warning to the masses: Quadruple check that any ad group utilizing DKI has headline-ready keywords!” – Carrie Albright, Hanapin Marketing (@Albright_C)

“… a campaign named Starter, with all broad matches, no negatives, high bids, text using DKI.  Likely built by a Google intern. A daily campaign budget of $5, when average cpc’s are $4+. An average CPC of $50 and a client who says I’ll pay whatever it takes as long as as they turn into a client. (Lead gen, Million dollar $ervice, long sales cycle.” – Lisa S., Point It (@LisaSanner)

“… when Yahoo switched to Panama in 2007, I opened up an account that was “automatically” transitioned. 300 ad groups, one keyword per ad group, no ads. No editor available either. EVERY single ad group had to be deleted, the keyword moved. It had been structured as a normal account before, with more than one keyword per keyword list in an ad group. I think my eyes bled.” – Elizabeth Marsten, Portent Interactive (@ebkendo)

“… an account with bids unchanged for a year. I’m a minimalist when it comes to bidding, but come ahhhn.” – Aaron Levy (bigalittlea)

“… keywords that were way too broad. Not talking about broad match, I mean terms that are too general to have a positive return. And surprisingly (or not surprisingly) I’ve seen it quite a few times. What do I mean by broad terms? I’ll give you a few examples – a painter bidding on the keyword paint  or a plumber bidding on the word pipes. With no caution for cost or quality, people bid on these terms thinking it will drive traffic (which it will), but don’t realize it won’t result in a positive ROI… and that is really scary.” – Mark Kennedy, SEOM Interactive (@MarkKennedySEM)

“… a YouTube campaign that you noticed in the AW UI, that you didn’t know had been approved by your client directly with your Google rep, and saw it spending $25K in 2 hours.” – Dustin L., Point It (@dustinlws)

“… a 22,000 keyword ad group that was targeting the term “cat” broad match.” – Eric Couch, Hanapin Marketing (@ecouch11)

“… The scariest thing I’ve ever seen in a PPC account is a potential client that had a stronger GDN CTR than their search CTR.” – Jeff Baum, Hanapin Marketing, (@jeffbaum71)

“… someone bidding on “free”, broad match, in a branded keyword ad group, using “Maximize Clicks” as the strategy. “ -Sam J., Point It (@SamuelDJames)

“… Search and display combined into one campaign!” – Abby Woodcock,G/O Digital

“… exact match negatives blocking KWs, all KWs on broad only and terribly outdated sitelinks.” – Azeem Ahmad, iProspect (@AzeemPPC)

“… a $50k/month budget and only one campaign…” – Rachel P., Point It (@Rachel_Paden)

“… a search query report.  While I still don’t exactly understand how we matched for it, we generated for a click for “{colorful word for sex} for money in Toronto”.  I then had to tell my religiously devout, non-cursing team member all of the words she had to add to our negatives. Second: I audited an account that was spending around $50K per month, because they were worried that it wasn’t performing.  Let alone wasn’t it conversion tagged, it wasn’t even being sent to a page with analytics of any sort.  They were doing manual attribution at the call center, and oddly enough not getting great feedback. Third: an extreme excessive use of broad.  One account we inherited literally had 85% of it’s traffic coming from a single broad matched term.  Hundreds, if not thousands of different queries were being matched to this single short phrase.  It took days just to sort out the terms that needed to be negative and those that needed to be added.” – Steve Hammer, Rank Hammer (@armondhammer)  

We had such a strong response (hat tip to the Point It team for sending us more than 20 terrifying tales!), that we weren’t able to publish them all but, fear not! We’ll be sharing the full list, along with other helpful PPC resources in an upcoming ebook!

Have you stumbled upon something mighty frightful? Post it in the comments! Don’t forget to check back tomorrow for the final post in our #PPCFright2014 series!