Are you Living in a Paid Search Horror Story?

You know that feeling? The one you get when you’re watching a good horror flick and the main character opens the door and is confronted by something truly horrible?

Well, that feeling might be fun if you’re watching a movie, but when you open up your paid search account and have that same jolt of fear, that’s when things get really scary.

If you’ve worked in paid search for a while, you’ve probably had that moment before when you realize that something is terribly wrong.

Your clicks aren’t converting…your keywords aren’t performing…your budget’s disappeared and you have nothing to show for it…and you don’t know why.

If you’ve ever found yourself in this situation and wondered if your paid search account is being attacked by unseen forces, you just might be right…

Monsters in the Dark

Now, you may have seen monsters on TV and laughed them off as fictional creatures, but those monstrosities have very real counterparts in the digital realm.

These digital counterparts aren’t as obvious as their film incarnations, but they lurk in the shadows, preying on your paid search efforts. With that in mind, if you feel like something is stalking your account, you may be under attack by one of the following monsters:

Keyword Vampires

In the media, vampires are often described as humanity’s deadliest enemy. They are incredibly strong, fast and almost impossible to identify.

Their digital equivalent is no less dangerous.

These days, most paid search accounts seem to be filled with vampiric keywords. On the surface, these keywords are often indistinguishable from your profitable keywords, but in reality they are sucking your account dry.

vampire card

The problem is, because vampiric keywords and search terms don’t look dangerous, they can be hard to track down. Sure, I guess you could try holding up a cross to every keyword to see if it shrinks away in horror, but that’s hardly a practical approach.

An easier way to identify vampiric keywords and search terms is to follow your wasted ad spend. A smart vampire hunter knows that where there are blood-drained bodies, a vampire can’t be far away. The same idea applies to vampiric keywords.

If you open a keywords or search terms report and filter for “Conversions < 1”, it easy to see if a keyword or search term is consuming budget without producing value for your business. If it is, guess what? You’ve just found a vampire!

Now all you have to do is get rid of that keyword. Get a stake and put the monster out of its misery!

Account Management Zombies

In many cases, you have vampiric keywords in your account because your account is being run by a zombie. That zombie may not look like the brain-craving undead portrayed in the movies, but it can be deadly to your account.

zombie card

If you’re not sure whether or not your account is being managed by a zombie, the easiest way to check is to look at your change history.

If you’re spending over $10,000 a month on paid search, you should see at least a few tweaks every week or two. If you’re spending less than $10,000/month, you should still see a few tweaks every 2-4 weeks. Otherwise, there’s a good chance that your account is being managed by a zombie.

Now, if you’ve got a zombie managing your account, you might be tempted to handle the problem in classic zombie-slayer style, but remember, a zombie isn’t aware that it’s a zombie. It’s important to be merciful (especially if the zombie account manager happens to be you). And, in this case, there is a ready cure for the affliction: regular account management.

The easiest way to cure the zombie plague is to set up recurring monthly expectations for account management. We’ve already mentioned a few expectations you can use (for budgets over $10,000/month, you should be working on your account at least 1-3x/week, smaller budgets need attention at least 1-2x/month), but you should schedule out time every month to manage your campaign.

Of course, if your account is running smoothly, you may not need to make a ton of changes every time you check up on the health of your account, but you should still be checking on things on a regular basis. Otherwise, you’re on the road back to zombified account management.

Jekyll and Hyde Landing Pages

In addition to vampires and zombies, the majority of paid search accounts struggle with Jekyll and Hyde syndrome. Here’s how it works:

Suppose you’ve put together a fairly effective keyword and ad strategy for a company’s pilot certification program. As a result, when someone types in “airplane pilot certification near me” they see the following results:

Google Search Results page for airline pilot certification near me

Your ad (ad #2) looks like a great fit for their needs, so they click on it, excited to learn more about becoming a pilot.

But then something goes horribly wrong and they end up on this page:

PPC Landing Page Example

In screaming terror, they claw at their mouse until finally they manage to hit the back button and this abomination disappears.

Admittedly, that’s probably not quite how it goes, but the fact of the matter is, this page is a terrible match for your target customer.

Sure, the headline might say “Learn to fly today,” but set against a page that clearly appears to be about scuba diving, the headline hardly matters. As good of a fit as your ad seemed to be, your landing page was all wrong.

Guess what? You just pulled a Jekyll and Hyde on your audience.

alter ego card

If that was your intent, I suppose some maniacal laughter is probably in order, but odds are that you’re running a paid search campaign to produce conversions, not confusion.

Although this example is a bit extreme, if you’re sending traffic to your home page or a one-size-fits-all landing page (or even a poorly designed landing page), you’re writing an advertising horror story for your target audience.

So, how do you cure Jekyll of Hyde? The answer is simple, your landing pages need to match the search intent of your audience and the messaging of your ads.

The best way to do this is to create landing pages for each group of closely-related keywords. However, if that isn’t practical, you should at a minimum create a separate landing page for each paid search campaign. If not, your paid search campaigns face the same sad ending as Jekyll and Hyde’s tragic tale…

Dearly Departing Words

The next time you open your paid search account and wonder, “Why is this happening to me?”, it might not just be you. Your account may be plagued by supernatural horrors.

Fortunately, with a strong will and the right tools, you can survive your paid search horror story, hunt down the monsters in your account and get your marketing back on track.

Which of these monsters have you encountered before? What did you do? Have you discovered other monsters you’d add to this list? Let me know in the comments!

  • countrycentral

    Nice! I love it! We are killing monsters as we speak. Happy Halloween!

    • AgentSidra

      Go get ’em, countrycentral!

  • Harrison Phillips

    Like it. Thanks.

  • Dave P

    Very good article