What to do when paid search tanks

I have plenty of tips for optimising paid search campaigns. Putting your focus on the actions that will incrementally improve performance…

…and that’s all great when your campaigns are running reasonably smoothly. But sometimes, things can tank.

Your stats are down; people are relying on you (sometimes quite vocally) and you don’t know why the same setup that was working well last week has suddenly taken a massive dive!

‘Optimisation’ isn’t quite the right word for what you need at that point. (‘gin’ is more like it…)

If you’ve worked in PPC for a while, then you’ll be familiar with some version of this situation. Knowing how to get back out of it is crucial to a long and happy PPC life!

As I set out in my unit on what to do when things go wrong (going live in my course in February), there is a set of key questions to ask when trying to pinpoint the reason for a performance dip.

What – specifically – has deteriorated?
When did the decline start?
Where – to the most specific segment/s of traffic – can we see the drop?
How has performance been influenced by its contributing factors?… tracing the causal chain back to the root metric, or the root change

This diagnostic process can lead down several paths, but one key branch is whether the ‘where’ question leads you to a specific campaign (ad group/ad/keyword) responsible for the decline… or whether the answer is ‘everywhere’.

If it is ‘everywhere’, you’ll then want to check the state of other traffic sources in GA, and see whether or not they have declined along a similar pattern.

If they have… You and your campaign are acquitted (and the root cause lies either within the site, or a change in the broad behaviour patterns of its user base).

But if it’s universal to Google Ads, yet not affecting other channels… then it’s head-scratching time.

When that is the case, here are some of the most common symptoms and potential causes to check off:

click for a version with working hyperlinks

There are (of course) many potential causes of performance decline in PPC…

But these are some of the most fruitful avenues to check, when you find yourself facing a multi-campaign decline that needs a deeper look.

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