When I first took over a large Pay Per Click account (managing both Google Adwords and Bing Ads), the goals were fairly modest in terms of Return on Ad Spend (ROAS) -- how much revenue was generated for every dollar spent. And the agency managing the account successfully ran things at or above that goal each month.
At first blush, that sounds like a happy situation for the client, but hidden behind that story are two mistakes that you can avoid by knowing about them and what to do about them:
Most PPC agencies charge based on a percentage of what you're spending each month. That means they have an incentive to build as much volume as possible. Since you're setting the goals, and you WANT to ramp up while meeting those goals, this can be a good thing.
But unless you're overseeing things closely, they could be throwing a lot of money out the window simply because they have no incentive (unless you've built one in!) to exceed your basic goals. This almost certainly isn't malicious, but it sure doesn't help you out. Some examples I saw included:
* Product-specific keywords sending visitors not to the product page, but to the home page.
* Keywords / ads sending visitors to pages that no longer existed.
* Keywords / ads that had run for a long time and were proven not to convert well, so every click averaged a financial loss. Yes, you have to continually test ads and keywords, and there are often short-term losses; that is part of marketing. But these weren't getting bid down or turned off.
What to do #1: At least spot check product-specific keywords and make sure you can see that they're pointing to product pages. (If your account is small enough, check them all.) Then as new keywords are added into new groups, review them before they go live. If you don't know how to do these things, have your PPC agency walk you through the process. They should gladly be transparent, and if they're not, this is a red flag.
What to do #2: There are complex methods for seeing which specific ads are sending people to dead pages, but you can easily check to see if this is happening in general. 1) Go to a made up page on your site and get an error response. Copy the name of that PAGE (not the entire URL, just the page) from your browser address bar. 2) Go to Google Analytics for your site and click on Behavior --> Site Content --> Landing Pages and look for the search box. Search for the page name you copied. 3) See if there is any traffic to that page from your "Paid Traffic" channel. If so, you know your PPC agency has some cleanup work to do. Ask them to do so, then run this simple test from time to time.
What to do #3: Ask your PPC agency for all campaigns, groups, and keywords that have had enough exposure (time, impressions, clicks, or costs -- something that makes sense in your business) at or below a goal threshold that you would consider to be a concern. Review this with them, and do this on a regular basis (again, whatever makes sense for your business) so you can make sure they're bidding down or turning off non-performers. This helps the overall ROAS of the account, and gives you more money to focus on the best performing Campaigns, Groups, and Keywords. Or if everything else has already been pushed to its best performance, it allows you to keep that money in the business for other things.
Don't underestimate the importance of these steps. I was able to save my client many thousands of dollars per month and more than double their ROAS by refining the account and now they would never consider going back to their old approach.
If no one knows your brand and will never search for it, this won't be an issue for you. But if people know and trust your brand, and they search for it before buying, then brand keywords could have an extremely high ROAS. This is partly because your cost per click is likely to be very low, and your conversion rate very high. Those familiar with your brand may also spend more with you than a first-time buyer.
This is the result of branding work done by your company and has nothing to do with the success of your PPC management agency. Yet the agency can use that high ROAS to skew the overall ROAS of the account. So if you wanted to make $4 for every $1 spent (a 4.0 ROAS), but 25% of your sales come from people searching for your brand (only 5% of your spend), then an overall ROAS of 4.0 isn't really 4.0 -- it might be a really high number for your brand keywords and a lower number -- like 3.0 -- for your non-brand keywords.
Again, this wouldn't necessarily be an intentional deception or anything, but if your agency doesn't think to point this out and break these numbers out separately for you, you may not get the return you're really looking for on your non-branded keywords. (And you'll be missing an opportunity to measure some of the value of your brand.)
What to do: Make sure your PPC agency runs branded keywords in their own campaign so you can look at their ROAS separately and set separate goals for your agency to pursue. This doesn't mean you won't pay the agency for the cost of those branded keywords, and it doesn't mean you're dissuading them from expanding the account. It just means you have more meaningful information to make decisions from as you work together as a team.
Of course it's a separate topic as to whether you should pay to run ads for your brand if you're already the #1 organic search result for that term. But most brands seem to have found that it's more profitable for them to do so -- especially given the low cost and high ROAS -- and this is only truer as search engines place more ads ahead of organic search results. (You don't want your competition stealing your brand searches!)
In any case, now you're armed for better overseeing those who oversee your PPC ads. May this save you cash and headaches while leading to more of the sales you're looking for.
Did I miss something important on this topic? Do you have insights to add or questions to ask? Feel free to comment below!