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I want to talk about five common PPC mistakes I see, usually when a client first comes on board and I’m doing an initial audit of their account. “PPC” stands for “pay-per-click.” This is the model that Google and some other platforms use for ad placement, and it’s pretty straightforward: You pay every time someone clicks on your ad. So with something that simple, what are the mistakes that I see?

Mistake #1 — Remarketing is too general

In digital marketing, different platforms can be tied together. The technology behind those platforms isn’t perfect, and marketers are human beings with a lot going on, so they may not want to make things more complicated. But not tying the platforms together is a huge mistake.

For example, you can tie in Google Analytics with Adwords and see data from GA that you can’t see in Adwords. Let’s say you have a couple of keywords that are getting clicks. When you tie GA to AdWords you can see on the back end that maybe this keyword is driving people to stay on your site two more minutes than this particular keyword. Front end metrics may tell you you’re getting the same amount of clicks, but once you take a deep dive, you see that this isn’t driving people to stay or engage with the website. Now you can make a decision that makes your dollar go further, or change up your strategy so a particular keyword starts providing value. Without the data, you don’t really know how to strategize.

Mistake #2 — Optimizing for the wrong conversions

The next mistake I see has to do with retargeting or remarketing. What is remarketing? You’ve seen it. You get to a site, you’re looking at, say, shoes or a handbag, and as soon as you leave that site, the product follows you around all across the internet. This is called retargeting.

Tying Google Analytics and AdWords together lets you create audiences you can retarget to, and it’s one of the most underutilized tactics in marketing. Let’s say someone comes in to your site and you’ve identified them from Shopaholics on Facebook. You drive them to your site, but they don’t purchase. Now that you know they have this affinity for your product, you can retarget them when they search for whatever it is you’re selling.

And why is it a mistake not to? Because people are doing searches millions of times a day, and those pay-per-clicks can get expensive; between five and a hundred bucks. (Lawyers and services like that are in the hundred dollar range.) So retailers are serving ads and paying for clicks from people who have never engaged with their brand. The likelihood of actually converting them to a sales is a lot less than if someone were to see your ad on Facebook, see your brand, get to your site and browse around. Those people are getting a sense of who you are and what you offer. They might not be ready to buy, but when they are, they’re going to do a Google search and try and find that product again.

By tying GA and AdWords together, you can put your brand in front of those shoppers and show up for a second wherever the data says you should. It’s a tactic called “remarketing lists for search ads,” and it’s very underutilized. I see so many dollars spent toward first-time users when the conversion rate isn’t there. But people who have been exposed to a brand, when they then find that brand in a search, are 30 to 60 percent more likely to make a purchase. So you’re not not wasting your dollars on search to anyone and everyone, but only to people who have been exposed to your brand who are more likely to buy.

Still, remarketing is just too general. A buyer who’s seeing the same product over and over might not really be interested in that product, but maybe would be interested something similar to it. Agencies don’t necessarily serve other products or services you offer, creating the awareness that, “Hey, we also do this and this and this.” They miss the chance to increase the likelihood of a shopper reaching out to you.

Most agencies use a 30-day look-back window. If a shopper has been to your site, they’ll stay in your audience pool for 30 days. After that, they’re strangers again. Think about it: If you get to a site and you don’t convert, chances are what’s going to get you to convert the next day is going to be a little different than what’s going to convert you in a week, 15 days, 30 days, 60 days. A lot of advertisers use this 30-day look-back window with the same message and it just isn’t resonating.

It’s wasting dollars!

One way to circumvent that is to create different look-back windows. Google, Facebook, all the different platforms allow you to say, if a person goes to this page, put them in an audience pool for only three days. Then you create all these different audiences and can create messaging and allocate different dollar amounts toward each audience.

A lot of advertisers also don’t create audiences based on behavior. We have the ability to target not just someone that’s been to your site, but also based on what they’ve done while they’re on it. Google Analytics lets us create events — things people do on the website or actions they take. For example, if you have a live chat function you can tell when someone has clicked on that button or has actually engaged. You can also track if they’ve reached out or if they’ve converted. Did they click on chat and still didn’t convert? Maybe they need an actual human being to talk to. So you can retarget them and say, “We noticed you haven’t purchased that item. How about giving us a call or coming into our office and talking to us?” You’re premessaging and messaging them in a way that gets them to actually take the action that you want them to take, whether it’s fill out this form or give us a call. Retargeting based on consumption of content is a way to be more efficient with your dollars that also brings more value to your prospect, ultimately increasing your conversion rate.

Another thing marketers do wrong is optimizing toward the wrong conversion types. It would be great if every click resulted in a sale, but that’s not what happens. If we’re reaching a first-time user, we’re optimizing toward cost-per-click, just trying to get them to your website — your brand — as cheaply as possible. If they’ve been to the site but don’t convert, what else do they need to see: pricing? More information on the product? Do they need to reach out? We can optimize toward these micro-conversions to identify the path to conversion. We can also retarget off these micro-conversions. So if someone needed more information — seeing an estimate, for example — once they’ve seen it you can retarget with, “Now that you know approximately what it will cost, let’s talk through next steps.” So optimizing for just a sale is not always the best way to spend your dollars.

Mistake #3 — Not thinking about sales cycles

Most marketers don’t think of sales cycles. Think about insurance. If you have a 30-day look-back window, most people aren’t going to switch in the next 30 days. They’re going to switch when their current policy is up for renewal. Some people have month-to-month policies, some have six months, I have a year. So depending on your product, you need to be mindful of these sales cycles and when people are actually going to to convert. With my insurance, I’m only six months into my policy and I have another six months. If you were marketing to me you want to be in the top of my mind when that six months is up. If you’re only capturing people for 30 days you’re wasting your dollars. Sure, they’ve seen it for 30 days, but after the next five months, whenever their policy is up they’re not going to remember who you are because they’ve seen a couple of hundred other insurance agencies. Understanding your sales cycle is will define your look-back windows and help you start messaging differently.

Mistake #4 — Not thinking through attribution

Here’s a puzzle: Someone saw your Facebook ad and didn’t click. But then, because they saw your ad, they searched for your brand and then converted. So what accounts for the sale? The data make it look like they converted because of a search, so some marketers will recommend you cut your Facebook budget and put more money in search. But the customer wouldn’t have done the search without looking seeing your brand on Facebook. Those marketers would be wrong. They’re not attributing the sale to what actually started, assisted and drove the conversion. Attribution takes all those points into account. There are tools that let us identify those them, but marketers have to be mindful of them.

If you’re looking at a branded search but you’re also doing things in another channel and you’re seeing ups and downs there, we would tie the data together, not just focus on one channel or where the last click came from.

Mistake #5 — Not managing exclusions

On Facebook, Google, YouTube and others, you can tell those platforms to not show your ad if a viewer falls within certain parameters.

For example, if someone is searching for bad insurance companies or negative things in your area, you definitely don’t want to associate your brand with that. But let’s say the keyword you’re targeting is “ice cream shop.” Then when someone types in “bad ice cream shop,” you could show up. I see a lot of wasted spending to show up for searches when there’s no intent to buy, or when people are looking from a negative viewpoint. When a shopper sees your brand associated with that search, it doesn’t create good brand awareness.

So there are keywords you don’t want to show up for. And it’s not just keywords you can exclude. You can also exclude devices geographically. This is huge. A lot of people do research on their phone but don’t typically buy from there. This gives you the opportunity to reach first-time users in the research phase. Make sure your dollars are on mobile so that you’re in front of them when they’re out and about. They can engage with who you are and learn who you are, maybe even fill out a form. But the actual conversion might happen on a desktop,

Those are five digital marketing mistakes I see. The tools to prevent them are out there, but making sure you don’t duplicate those mistakes means you have to really think about how you message people throughout the sales funnel. We can help you make sure you’re not not taking budget away from things that are actually generating, or at least starting, conversions.

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