#PPCFright2014 Day 2 – Identifying Stranger Data Danger In Your PPC Account

You wake up feeling great, have yourself a fantastic morning, then get settled in and ready to look at your PPC account. Something’s off. Maybe conversions have tanked or skyrocketed. Maybe your CTR data is very inconsistent. Your costs may have plummeted or gone through the roof. Whatever the case, something is up. Something strange is messing with your account and you’re the one who needs to figure out what.

So what do you do next? Time to investigate. We need to figure out what type of stranger we’re dealing with here. Gear up and grab your mouse, keyboard, critical thinking skills, and courage. We’re going hunting. And definitely not upstairs.

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“The call is coming from inside the house.”

When a Stranger Calls, 1979

Change History

The first and easiest place you should always check in on weird account behavior is within your own establishment. Have rogue members of your team been making changes that could be hurting performance? Have your clients been making their own decisions and raising bids on your behalf? Give your account change history a quick look see and take advantage of that nifty new undo button if something was done erroneously.

Automated Rules

Automated rules can be really powerful tools, but they can also get you in trouble in some scenarios. Maybe you set the time range to repeats every day rather than every week. Maybe you inherited the account and didn’t know the rules were there in the first place (tisk tisk). Give your automated rules a quick check and see if they’re what’s up with your account. And in the future, be sure to follow these best practices for automated rules.

Tracking/Tag Issues

Whether you use auto tagging or you manually place tracking parameters on the end of your destination URLs, giving them a quick test to make sure they’re firing is usually a good idea. At times, tags can simply get stripped off or the site developer could have accidentally removed a pixel without telling you. One good way to test if your tags have been taken off is to check the Channels report in the Acquisition section of your Analytics account. Look at each individual channel. Do Organic, Referral, or Direct have big increases at the same time your data is a big decrease? If so, odds are you’ve got a tracking issue that needs resolved.

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“Why are you doing this to us?”

“…because you were home.”

The Strangers, 2008


They’re nearly always looking to take over your turf. Perhaps now they’ve finally done it. Whether your in ecom or lead gen, I recommend two places when you think competitors have been creeping in. First, the Auction Insights report. Take a look at your competitors during the point where stats look normal, then when they seem off. Have any new competitors creeped in? Are the usual ones getting more aggressive? Note any changes and determine who’s been moving in. Second, the ad preview tool. This allows you to check and see what your competitors (either new or old) are offering against you. Do they have a better price point, benefits, or call to action? Make sure you’re not getting out done in your 95 character ads.

Search Partners

If your competitor investigation yields nothing of your strange data danger, another good place to check is your Search Partner traffic. Break your campaigns out by Network in Google or take a look at the Publisher website report on the Dimensions tab in Bing and see if anything has changed. Are you getting more or less traffic from the partner networks, and is that change enough to explain the overall account changes?

Luckily in Bing, we’re given access to the individual search partner sites. But for Google a bit more creativity is required. Check out this post to learn how to look up individual Search Partner data in Google Analytics.

Google Trends

Last but not least, if you still can’t figure out your data fluctuations, it’s time to check the big stage. Take a look at Google Trends. Are your top keywords having large changes in overall interest? Maybe check against your competitors and see if they’re seeing an increase. Although not all lower volume keywords will be widely supported here, your higher volume keywords will give you good data on trends over the past few days as well as the past few years so you can see how you compare.

Hopefully through these steps you were able to figure out what kind of strangers you were dealing with and to resolve their issues. If not, I hope the sequel goes your way! Look out for future posts in our Thirteen Days of Fright Series (#PPCFright2014)!