Fail Fast, Learn Fast

Last week, I read a fascinating article on MediaPost about Google’s “planned failures.” The great gift of the internet and digital world, according to the Googlers quoted in the article, is the ability to fail fast. “The price of failing slow is high,” it says.

Google has had tons of failures. Some, like Froogle, morphed into something else over time. Some, like Google Reader, became outdated. Some, like Knol, just died. Many would say that other projects should die, such as self-driving cars or Google+.

Probably Google’s biggest, or at least most well-known, recent failure is Glass. I wrote about why it failed in MediaPost a while back.

Coming up with crazy projects is in Google’s DNA. Some of them work, some don’t – but most failed quickly. Fail fast, learn fast is their motto.

I like to apply the same principle to PPC. Not that I plan to fail, but we all know that not everything we try in PPC is going to work. Some keywords will drive hundreds of clicks without a single conversion. An ad copy variation isn’t going to convert. Some landing pages are less than ideal. Or you forgot to exclude mobile apps in a display campaign (don’t ask).

With even the most egregious PPC failures, though, we should always learn something – just like Google does. Google learned that people aren’t ready to wear weird glasses to take pictures and search for stuff. But you can bet they’ll take the best aspects of that technology and roll out with something else.

That’s what you need to do in PPC. Find the losers and pause them – but then study them to figure out why they were losers.

Found an ad that performed terribly? Why? Was the headline weak? Did it include ambiguous phrases? Was there an unfortunate instance of DKI in there somewhere? Did it lead to the wrong landing page? Use these learnings to fix what’s broken.

I always tell new PPC hires that almost nothing is permanent in PPC. That bad ad, keyword, or display placement can almost always be spotted very quickly – within a day or two if you’re doing your job well – and paused with (usually) minimal ill effects.

I’ll even report on bad stuff – clients need to know why things didn’t work. I don’t generally call attention to outright mistakes, but I do point out keywords that didn’t work or ad copy that didn’t resonate. One such conversation with a client recently led to the decision to create a new landing page that’s more relevant for a subset of client keywords. That’s a good thing! We failed fast and learned fast.

It’s also good to start strong to learn fast. We’ve all had clients who launch in the middle of the month, even though they may have assigned a full month’s budget. I almost never pro-rate the spend. For instance, if the budget is $10,000 and we launch on the 15th, I don’t aim to spend $5,000. I aim to spend $10,000. Fail fast, learn fast. That way, month 2 hits the ground with a fine-tuned campaign, instead of waiting 2 more weeks to learn stuff.

What about you? Do you fail fast and learn fast? Or are you more conservative? Share in the comments!

Related Posts:

4 Unconventional Ways To Do PPC Keyword Research

semrush

Ah, keyword research. It’s probably the most fundamental element of PPC, and one of the first things we all learned how to do. When I started doing PPC in 2002, keyword research tools were few and far between. I’m not sure Google even had a tool – or … [Continue reading]

Supercharge Your PPC Workflow

There are a never-ending number of tasks needed for successful PPC workflow. Sometimes it feels like there is too much to do and too little time to do it. Establishing a routine for PPC optimization helps calm the chaos. Supercharge your PPC workflow … [Continue reading]

5 Challenges for PPC Lead Generation

One of the great things about PPC is it can be used for nearly every business: those selling products online via ecommerce, and those trying to drive leads. Each type of marketing has its own challenges. Here are 5 challenges for lead generation … [Continue reading]

Social PPC For B2B: Who Does It Best?

social PPC performance

Earlier this week, I read a thought-provoking article over at FBPPC, written by Robert Brady. In a nutshell, he says that while everyone thinks of LinkedIn as the place to run social PPC for B2B, it doesn't perform as well as Facebook - which is … [Continue reading]

3 Google Shopping Options You Need To Consider

checkmark

Note from Melissa: I'm so pleased to bring you the first guest post on my blog, written by none other than Matt Umbro, founder of PPCChat! And it's a good one, so read on... As someone who primarily works with ecommerce PPC accounts, I’ve found … [Continue reading]

3 Signs That Google Hates B2B Advertisers

other interests

As you probably know, I work for an agency that deals strictly with B2B clients. B2B offers unique challenges for PPC, including lead tracking and pricey CPCs due to competition. For years, Google Adwords has been our bread and butter. Their sheer … [Continue reading]

Ideas Are Not Strategy

iconic coke ad

I’ve noticed over the years that a lot of advertisers, and even advertising professionals, don’t know what strategy is. So often “strategy” is defined as a list of tactics, like this: •    Increase our Facebook followers •    Start using PPC •   … [Continue reading]

3 PPC Features That Aren’t Ready For Prime Time

There’s an old adage in the car-buying world that advises people never to buy a new model car in its first year. Why? The manufacturer hasn’t worked all of the bugs out yet, so you’re likely to encounter down time while the car is in the shop. The … [Continue reading]

3 Sneaky Ways To Bid On Competitor Keywords

misspellings

In the advertising world, most businesses have to deal with competitors. In traditional media, many publishers offer competitive separation, where your ads will be separated by physical space (in print) or time (in broadcast) from your … [Continue reading]