How to Turn PPC Failure Into Success

In the world of PPC marketing, everyone fails at some point. It’s inevitable.

In fact, it will probably happen to you. Many times.

But you can learn a lot from your PPC failures.

Failure is the opposite of success, so when we talk about failure we need to understand what success was going to be.

In the following case study, success was defined as discovering profitable opportunities available in Google Ads.

The Situation

This client is a niche player in the health and beauty industry, which features numerous national brands with large PPC budgets. We knew this going into the engagement.

We were also aware that there would be keywords, products, and categories that just wouldn’t be profitable.

However, we figured that if we could find a handful of profitable areas we would be able to add a profitable channel to their marketing toolbox.

We were focusing on new client acquisition and planned to exclude existing customers. We uploaded a Customer Match list into Google Ads to accomplish this.

Shopping ads were being tested as well as text ads with keyword targeting. The test budget was $1,500 for click charges. The test was scheduled to run during Q4 of 2018 to take advantage of the holiday gift buying season.

What Happened

After completing keyword research, building out the account structure, writing ad copy (and copy for ad extensions) and getting our product feed active in Google Merchant Center we started advertising during the first half of October.

The search volume for our prime keywords and products was large enough that we had more than enough traffic to exhaust our budgets. The issue was more about cherry-picking the best possible keywords so that conversion rates would be high.

TL;DR version: we stopped the experiment after spending $1,000 on clicks and generating about the same in sales.

The 1:1 ROI wasn’t nearly sustainable for the company, even taking into account lifetime value (LTV) of customers.

Postmortem: What Went Wrong

There were several bumps in the road. None by itself was fatal to our efforts, but added together they definitely put a damper on things.

Some issues we ran into:

Google Changed the Policy on Customer Match Lists

The new policy stated that an account had to have $50,000+ in lifetime spend to use Customer Match (basically) so we weren’t able to effectively exclude existing customers like we had planned.

Our Product Feed Expired

The vendor in charge of the product feed didn’t set the feed to automatically pull so we lost a few days of shopping ads traffic during the experiment.

(I fully admit fault here in that I should have double checked the feed settings and also could have caught the impressions and clicks going to zero more quickly.)

Our Credit Card Got Denied

This happens far too frequently with new advertisers. I’m not sure it’s Google or the card issuing companies, but the card was denied and the account stopped running.

(Google’s message that “Automatic payment declined for $XXX. No reason provided by your financial institution” doesn’t help much.)

By the time we jumped through all the hoops, we lost a couple more days on all our efforts.

Also read: 10 Paid Search & PPC Best Practices for 2019


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