Resurrecting Your PPC Account’s Glory Days

imgresI’ve noticed a trend recently when talking with potential clients. The days of clients coming in with little to no PPC presence seem to be fading. They’re being replaced by companies who have had accounts running for five, six years plus who are looking to bring back the success of the past. They nearly always share some form of the following statement: “My PPC account used to bring in a ton of business, and not it’s not. I relied on that business and now I need to get it back to keep this channel running.”

Yikes, not a short order there. To compound the problem, the client has been through numerous iterations of management. Three different agencies, an in-house person, help from Google, and an occasional contractor in there. All with different management styles, preferred campaign structures, bid strategies, ad writing styles, etc. You know what that makes? A hot freaking mess. So what’s a campaign strategist to do? Assuming many other folks are seeing the same trend I am, I thought I’d share what I’m doing to bring the magic back.

Reliving the Past for Future Success

Each account is different, so one may have a need for one type of analysis where another has a different need, but the list below has given many actionable insights as I’ve employed it. It’s certainly not comprehensive of everything you should look at, but it should get you started.

  1. Search Query Analysis: Keywords are important in an account, but search queries are where I always start. Assuming the account has had proper conversion tracking during the course of it’s lifetime (a gamble in it’s own right at times), I pull an account wide, all time report showing all converting search queries. From there, I’m able to throw the data into a pivot table to remove any duplicate instances across campaigns or ad groups and simply see how each search term behaved individually. From there, I identify terms that I believe need to be active in the account for it’s overall success and make a list. I’ll then compare that list to the active keywords in the account. If it’s already active, it gets crossed off. If it’s not, it gets added. Depending on how many keywords need to be added and what your campaign strategy preferences are, it might make sense to create a campaign only for those newly reactivated terms so you can more easily determine success and manage budgets at a high level. They can then be shifted into regular campaigns once they’ve proven themselves worthy.
  2. Ad Copy Analysis: Same as with search queries, I’ll analyze all variations throughout the course of the account. I work to identify the top variation for each keyword set, then, assuming the offers are still valid, I’ll start a new test with the top performing variation of the past against the top performing variation of the past 6 to 12 months. The idea here is that ad copy has shifted away from what drives conversions and needs to be returned. I’m a huge fan of labeling these 2 variations (Past, Present) and keeping an eye on them in the dimensions tab.
  3. Landing Page Review: Simple enough right? Maybe a major reason for campaign performance slip is that the landing pages have been slowly drifting away from the pieces that make them conversion friendly. Assuming those pages are still active, analyze which pages got the most conversions during the account’s heyday. Sometimes the Wayback Machine can be of assistance.
  4. Geotargeting: Are you still hitting all of the top performing geographies from the past? Are you still hitting them in a competitive way? Might be time for a few modifiers to be added in there.
  5. Conversion Type Changes: Depending on the client’s business, the reasons for past success might not be viable anymore. I’ve noticed many lead generation companies, for example, having gone from a free download as the conversion type in the past to now a request for a demo. Now, this isn’t necessarily a problem, until you understand that users perceive requesting a demo as being further down the funnel than downloading a whitepaper and might be weary of taking that step. Here it might be worth having the discussion about the value of each conversion type and setting some new goals or making a shift in strategy and offering the whitepaper again, at least in some situations.
  6. Device Performance: Over the course of the past 5 years, PPC pros have seen the rise of tablet traffic as well as the reigns being taken away from managing them and mobile phones appropriately. I review mobile and tablet performance over the course of the account and derive strategies around mobile bid modifiers. Additionally, depending on tablet performance, I’ll make sure this is something that’s addressed with the client if it’s exceedingly hindering account success. It might be time to review the table landing page experience.

A Couple Challenges

It’s not a perfect world, so simply reactivating keywords or changing landing pages to their past form isn’t going to create a monstrous shift in your account. There are some complicating factors that you should keep in mind and mention to your clients to make sure you’re setting the right expectations:

  • Competitive Landscape Changes: Almost without exception, every industry is going to have more PPC competitors than it did 5 years ago. That’s just a fact. More people, more competition, equals higher CPCs and a bigger challenge to stand out. Again, raising the bid on that keyword back to what it was in 2010 isn’t going to cut it.
  • Your Tools Are Different: A ton has changed on the advertiser’s end as well. We’re now in a post Enhanced Campaigns world, along with a ton of other changes. Some of the settings that brought past success might not be there anymore. We have ways to work around them (to some degree), but make sure you’re analyzing what tools were used and knowing they might not be available anymore.
  • Client Changes: Businesses need to be flexible to survive. That’s the way the world works now. What, if any, changes have been made to the client’s business that might be driving different performance? These changes could be as simple as no longer offering a previous top product. Or maybe they shifted from wanting phone calls to now wanting online conversions, but their customers don’t seem to be into that.
  • World Changes: Be sure you’re not looking at the account in a microcosm. There’s a bigger picture out there that might inform your strategy for resurrection. For example, if your client was selling Rock Band back in the day and seeing major success, they might be in need of a business offering evolution.

All of that to say, there are certainly ways you can try and bring back the past, but you may be fighting a uphill battle. What strategies do you employ to bring back an account’s glory days? Share with us in the comments!