All That Glitters Isn’t PPC Gold

Estimated Reading Time 8 minutes

Do you ever ask yourself why things don’t always follow the rules in pay per click (PPC) marketing? Why is it that sometimes the best adverts and account structure, don’t always lead to a pot of gold?

So, think of this scenario. You take over a new client account, the campaigns look like a dog’s dinner, it’s been butchered by the previous person who set the AdWords account up.

There are 50 different access logins to Analytics from the past 5 agencies and internal team members who left the company many years ago.

The structure of the account is all wrong. Broad match keywords everywhere, keywords cannibalising each other, the ads are terrible and make no sense and there is only 1 negative keyword in each campaign. It’s a mess.

PPC account in a mess

Logically the account needs more structure, the foundations need breaking down and rebuilding in order to take back control. You know there will be a few days pain and fluctuation of results but in the long term it will be a better platform to increase efficiency and grow revenue. Hours of work are put into unpicking the ball of wool you have inherited. You carefully make sure not to lose anything which is surprisingly working.

You add cross negatives to ensure the right ads are showing for the right searches. You implement better tracking to see what’s working and you enhance the ads to be bigger and better, utilising all the new ad extensions and relevant strategies.ppc fluctuation of results


Once you launch your new kick-ass structure, you can’t stop checking the account every 5 minutes  – although you have plenty of other work to do.

You say to yourself, “It’s a slow start but Google’s reporting does have some delays in updating the data.”

4 hours later whilst your eyes are bleeding and your nails have been bitten short, the data is showing it’s under performing compared to the legacy account structure.

Bottom line is, your shiny new structure just isn’t working as well as the old version.

But give it time you say

One of the most frustrating parts of our job is watching and waiting. Sit on your hands, stop tinkering!

It makes sense. Google has to get familiar again with the new structure and performance. It needs to build momentum and history as well as gauge quality scores, ad relevance, landing pages and bid strategy. The daily budgets have been chopped around so need to bed in.

The most important step of this whole process is communication, make sure you clearly convey this process and likely fluctuation to the client. They will understand but may have a slight worried look on their face.

One week later CTR is up, CPC is down, position is flat and clicks are steady, but conversions are just not following. Your conversion rate has fallen off a cliff.

Why, why, why?

You have polished this beautiful PPC account so it shines and glitters, on the face of it, it could be the best looking account you have ever built out. You could win an award for the structure of this account, it’s so good – if only the results followed!

But it isn’t that simple.

You missed something. Something really important. How are people are actually searching?

PPC can be so transparent that we take things for granted. When reviewing the keywords of the old account you only took those which had converted. But the fundamental structure of this account was based on the broad terms which influence user behaviour!

When you look back, the generic terms on both desktop and mobile had no direct conversions. However on an influence level they were essential for assisting conversions.


Understanding the whole journey

All too often we think PPC is so transparent that the answers should be easy – has it converted or not. Actually, PPC is much more complex and with the evolution of search and digital touch points, we as digital marketers need to understand the whole journey.

By understanding the user journey and each stage it takes to win customer commitment, we can plan and structure an account in the most appropriate way for each client.

Each business is different, a medium sized business in the UK home and garden market may initially have generic searches which influence display clicks then social conversions from peer reviews. However, a large business may start with display, then generic search, then branded search. Google’s customer behaviour visual helps us to demonstrates this:

PPC customer touchpoints

Back to the scenario above, the broad match keywords in the account were possibly influencing other keywords to convert. Those broad terms on mobile which lead to no conversions, were possibly the first step of the buying process.

Once upon a time, all that glittered was PPC gold, meaning we were able to see the transparency of everything which was working or not working. Now we need to dive deeper, to look at PPC attribution in the whole buying cycle before making rash decisions on our PPC account structure.

PPC can still be gold, but mining for it can take more time and patience than the days of simple user behaviour patterns.

Rachel Mepham
With over 15 years’ experience in Digital Marketing, Rachel heads up the team at Digital Clarity. With a deep skill set in the Paid Search, Social Media and Analytics, Rachel is regarded by both clients and peers as one of the most experienced and prolific women in the UK digital space. Her approach and application to digital strategy planning has been used by some of the biggest brands as well as leading advertising and marketing agencies.