The Ad Performance Phantom

Ari Berdy September 7, 2012 Category Paid Search (PPC)

PPC Ad phantom

When there appears to be a performance dip in one of our client’s online ad initiatives, one of the first things I look at, perhaps the first thing I look at, is outside of AdWords. It’s not in adCenter. And it has nothing to do with major forces like market competition or seasonality.

I’m referring to the client’s website. To be more precise, I look at what’s different about the site: what’s been moved, what’s been rewritten, what’s now non-existent.

In too many cases I’ve seen, clients (or their developers or designers) make modifications to their sites—they “improve” them, add new material, etc.—and never inform anyone involved with their advertising. Sometimes, the changes really are for the better; sometimes, the changes, well, aren’t for the better. Either way, no one knows about them.

When changes are made to a client site, the most frequent negative effect is that the tracking is lost. We use both tracking numbers and conversion tracking to track phone and online leads, respectively. When the site is modified, the relevant graphics and code can disappear.

The most frightening of possibilities, that leads might not occur, fortunately isn’t the case by this byproduct; however, there are two others. The first is more damaging to us as an agency, while the second is more harmful to the client:

Damages to the client and agency

First, if leads aren’t tracked in our systems, they might not be reported to the client. If the client’s not confident with us, they can easily get the impression their ad dollars aren’t going anywhere productive. (“We spent $2,000 for two leads?!”)

Second, because tracking is also used for advertising optimization, any loss of these data makes this work more difficult to do well. Fewer data points equals less reliability. This means we might not be able to provide the max level of efficiency, to drive the greatest volume of leads (or return) for the budget.

If you’re an online ad professional, you might want to pass along to your account executive or clients—I’ve done so. And if you’re an advertising client, please, please tell your agency when your company modifies its website. Even if you mention post-fact, they can eyeball and test.

Reduce aggravation for all—keep the agency in the loop on site changes!

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