When Bad PPC Advice Is Good Advice

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A couple months ago, I wrote a post called 6 Ways to Spot Bad PPC Advice, on the heels of a couple of PPC posts that I felt were misguided.

I stand by what I said, but have come to realize that I might have been a bit harsh in my delivery. As with all things PPC, what works for one advertiser (or campaign, even) may not work for another. In fact, what works one week might not work the next in the same campaign!

Sometimes, what is generally considered to be bad PPC advice might be good advice, in the right situation. Here are 6 instances where bad PPC advice might turn out to be good advice.

Sometimes you should spend more on PPC.

I railed against the suggestion to spend more on PPC because it’s usually Google’s first “optimization” suggestion, and all it optimizes is Google’s bottom line. But there are times when it makes a lot of sense to spend more on PPC. Have you ever had a campaign that was converting like crazy, but the client (or your boss) wouldn’t increase the budget? Frustrating, isn’t it?

While increasing the budget isn’t the first thing you should do to optimize a campaign, spending more is good advice for high-performing campaigns that are budget-limited.

Sometimes you should expand your geotargeting.

We had a client whose product appealed mainly to government organizations. They wanted to limit targeting to Washington, DC to reach federal employees. So we tried it for a while.

We found that volume, and conversions, were very low with this approach. When we expanded the campaign to other locations that also had high concentrations of federal workers, performance (and conversions) increased dramatically.

While I stand by my recommendation against targeting the whole world, getting too granular with geotargeting isn’t always the best choice. Sometimes expanding geotargeting is the right thing to do.

Sometimes broad match is necessary.

Ever tried running PPC for an esoteric brand that’s not well-known? Ever tried bidding on keywords that are relevant but low-volume? Ever gotten too long-tail and had that “Low search volume” warning in Google?

In these instances, broad match is a good idea. I’m still a fan of starting out with phrase or exact match and expanding from there, but if you run your entire keyword list through a keyword tool and the volume for every term is 0, you’ll want to try broad match.

Of course, you’ll want to carefully monitor your search query reports and aggressively add negatives. And modified broad match is a safer strategy than expanded broad match. But sometimes broad match is necessary.

Sometimes high-volume keywords will boost conversions.

I actually laid out how to go about adding high-volume terms in my post. It can and often should be done. Using my previous example of “low search volume” keywords, sometimes you have to go a few steps up the funnel to higher-volume terms. With careful monitoring, bidding, and budgeting, along with extensive negative keywords, high-volume terms can boost conversions. We’ve even seen instances where a single-word keyword, usually a no-no in PPC, converts like crazy at a good cost. It’s possible.

Sometimes you need short-tail keywords.

See above. It actually seems as though Google is discouraging very long-tail keywords with the “low search volume” penalty, in fact. I’ve had highly relevant, 5 and 6 word phrases not only get slapped with “low search volume,” but get hit with low quality scores as well. We could debate whether Google is right or wrong here, but the fact is that at this point, it’s their sandbox and we have to play in it or leave.

You should definitely test including appealing promotions.

I actually acknowledged this as a good tactic in my original post, with a caution: Don’t rely too heavily on deep discounts and “all promotions, all the time.” But if you have a deal or special, it’s definitely good advice to promote it via PPC.

What do you think? Are there times when you need to turn PPC best practices on their head and do things you wouldn’t normally do? Do you ever use any of the tactics in this post? Share in the comments!

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  1. I think it depends

  2. The keyword here is Sometimes. 🙂 The good PPC’er will know when those sometimes are.

  3. How about when you inherit an account that is set up completely “wrong” relative to (a) all of your PPC experience and/or (b) established best practices, BUT is is performing really well for the client?!? That can throw all kinds of stuff out the window.

    Great stuff, as always! Appreciate the link to my post too.

    • Martyn Wright says

      Had that situation before, every bit of logic says change the whole account but the more changes you make and the closer you get to best practice, the worse things perform and you end up reverting things back to the mess that it was in previously and basically have to reboot your entire approach to that account. Thankfully, I can only think of one account where virtually the entire account seemed to operate on paradoxes: including the keyword in the ad reduced quality score, sending to the homepage instead of deep pages increased quality score, broad match worked better than exact match as all traffic was on long-tail no-volume phrases where the exact match had silly CPCs and CPAs. Horrible to deal with but one of those where you have to put your hands up and admit despite all your experience, that Google have stumped you.

      • Melissa Mackey says

        I guess that’s why we always say “it depends.” Best practices sometimes don’t apply! Thanks for your comments!

  4. Nice tips. The advice is good/bad only as its results could be. It’s often beneficial to be “brave” while deciding what to do next.

    My favorite tip is about high volume keywords. I’ve encountered few situations where high volume queries, broader when it comes to possible searcher intent, convert even better than long tail, specific queries. It often occurs where transaction value is low as people don’t research too much before buying an item priced $10 or so.
    But again, it depends.


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