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Uncovering the Most Expensive Blunders in PPC Campaigns by Industry Expert Melissa Mackey and Strategies to Rectify Them for Maximum Performance

Conducting regular audits of Google Ads and Microsoft Advertising campaigns is imperative for PPC marketers. Neglecting this crucial practice can lead to substantial financial setbacks for clients, which, more often than not, are entirely preventable.

To steer clear of common pitfalls and maximize spending efficiency in PPC campaigns, Melissa Mackey, the paid search director at Compound Growth Marketing, offers a comprehensive overview of the costliest mistakes she encounters during audits and shares her expert advice on avoiding these pitfalls, as presented at SMX Next.

Below, we provide a summary of the insights and guidance she has imparted.

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1. Always Scrutinize Your Campaign Goal Settings

Mackey recounted a cautionary tale of inheriting accounts with a surplus of clicks but meager conversions. She emphasized the importance of understanding the nuances of Google Ads’ goal settings at both the account and campaign levels.

She explained, “Google Ads provides account-level and campaign-specific goals, which is a fantastic feature. However, it necessitates careful consideration of how you employ it.”

In a specific case, a client desired to track custom goals for demo requests and lead forms. Unfortunately, they had mistakenly selected campaign-specific goals that couldn’t be fulfilled on the landing pages of their active campaigns, resulting in a zero conversion rate.

Mackey advised, “Always verify your campaign goal settings to ensure you’re measuring precisely what you intend to achieve.”

2. Default Settings to Avoid

Mackey suggested steering clear of certain default settings that come pre-configured in your Google Ads campaigns, despite their apparent convenience. These include:

a. Broad Match without Smart Bidding or Audiences

While Google promotes the advantages of broad match keywords, Mackey cautioned, “Broad match requires the support of smart bidding and audience signals to ensure you attract the right customers. Employing broad match without these components is ill-advised.”

She emphasized the importance of “layering on audiences and smart bidding with your broad match campaigns.”

b. Broad Match Campaign Setting

Mackey highlighted a critical aspect: “Be cautious with a specific broad match campaign setting that restricts you to using broad match keywords exclusively. Opting for this setting can hinder your ability to incorporate other match types in the future.”

She advised, “Always choose the ‘Use keyword match types’ setting to maintain flexibility.”

c. All the Networks

Default settings include enabling both Search Partners and Display Network when creating a new campaign. Mackey recommended caution, particularly for B2B clients. “We usually deactivate Search Partners due to less favorable results and limited control,” she explained. Additionally, she stressed the importance of running separate Search and Display campaigns.

Mackey stated, “Ensure you opt out of the Display Network.”

d. Location Targeting Method

The default location targeting method, which targets people showing interest in your chosen locations, often results in unwanted traffic from unexpected places.

Mackey shared an example where a colleague saved a client $1,000 per month simply by deactivating this setting. She advised, “Opt for ‘people in or regularly in your target locations’ to reduce undesired locations and ensure your ads only display where you want them to.”

e. Exclude Locations with Taxes

Mackey emphasized the importance of excluding locations that impose taxes or fees. Certain regions charge taxes for ads displayed there, and failing to exclude them can lead to unexpected costs.

She advised, “If you don’t intend to target these specific countries, exclude them to prevent unwanted charges.”

3. The Conversion Counting Challenge

Mackey pointed out the potential pitfalls related to tracking conversions. She emphasized the need to continually assess what is being tracked as conversions, distinguishing primary from secondary actions, and identifying their sources.

She explained, “Overreporting results can create complications. Ensure you count the correct actions and count them just once.”

4. Exploring Hidden Settings

Mackey delved into the often-overlooked hidden settings in both Google Ads and Microsoft Ads and how to manage them effectively.

a. Automated Extensions

While automated extensions are enabled by default, Mackey noted that they may not always align with your advertising objectives.

For B2B campaigns, she recommended turning them off selectively. She provided a detailed process to deactivate them and suggested reviewing each extension type to determine which ones are suitable for your business.

b. Expanded Audiences

Google’s expanded audiences feature extends the reach of your ads to similar audiences, potentially affecting the efficacy of your remarketing strategy. Mackey emphasized the importance of opting out of expanded audiences during campaign setup to maintain control over your targeting.

She provided step-by-step instructions for disabling this feature to ensure your ads stay within your specified audience segments.

c. Microsoft Ad Group Settings

Mackey highlighted the distinct ad group settings in Microsoft Ads, which can be leveraged for strategic advantage. These settings allow you to schedule ad groups, apply independent website exclusions, make independent bid adjustments, and control ad distribution.

She emphasized the importance of using these settings strategically to enhance your campaign performance.

5. Avoiding Common Pitfalls

Mackey shared additional insights on avoiding common mistakes identified during audits and provided guidance on preventing them.

a. CPCs Still Matter

Despite the prevalence of smart bidding strategies, Mackey reminded marketers that cost per click (CPC) remains the basis for charging. She recommended setting a maximum CPC bid limit, even for campaigns utilizing maximized clicks or portfolio bid strategies.

b. Monitoring CPCs

To monitor CPCs effectively, Mackey suggested using a script developed by Nils Rooijmans. This script alerts you when bids exceed your predefined threshold, providing an opportunity to make necessary adjustments promptly.

Additionally, the script can help monitor account changes made by unauthorized users or external parties.

c. Rules Management

While rules offer automation, Mackey cautioned against setting rules blindly. She stressed that if you are using a Manager Account (MCC), rules set at the MCC level can inadvertently impact multiple clients. To avoid confusion and client dissatisfaction, she advised setting up rules at the client account level when appropriate.

6. The Importance of Regular Auditing

Mackey concluded her SMX Next session by underscoring the significance of conducting regular audits for both new and long-running accounts. She recommended quarterly audits to ensure campaign settings align with your objectives and to detect and rectify any unnoticed issues.

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