When it comes to pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, efficiency matters.

Heck, that’s probably why you turned to PPC in the first place.

In a world full of flashy marketing solutions that are almost impossible to measure, PPC stands as a rock of metric accountability. I hear every day from marketers who are turning to PPC to save money and time, and almost all of them give positive reports within the first months.

However, as with any other positive change, there’s a learning curve involved. Within the first short period, all these marketers tend to ask me the same question: “How do you structure your account? What’s the perfect model?”

Of course, the answer is that there is none. There is no perfect way to structure your PPC account. There is no secret sauce.

Fortunately, there are ways to monitor your account and make sure that it’s operating efficiently. The most effective PPC accounts are built over time by noticing and correcting irregularities and mistakes. These structural problems act like kinks in a hose – they prevent the traffic and money from getting where they need to go, making your efforts less effective and efficient.

By being aware of your account’s settings and general performance, you can notice these errors quickly and correct them, eventually finding an account structure that is…wait for it…perfect for you.

Here are four indicators that you may have made a mistake while structuring your PPC account, as well as suggestions on how to correct the underlying problems.

1) You Have a Poor Quality Score

Like I said earlier, Adwords is great at keeping metrics to show just how much of an impact your PPC efforts are making. There are a lot of diagnostics you can run, but probably the easiest and most effective is checking your quality score.

Your account’s overall quality score is composed of three primary factors:

      • Expected click-through rate
      • Ad relevance
      • Landing page experience

But there are a few other things it will take into consideration as well:

      • Historical performance
      • Keyword relevancy
      • Negative keyword usage

If Google’s system thinks you’re performing well in these categories, you get a high score. If it thinks you’re performing poorly, well…

You get a low score, obviously, but it can also actually mean that you get hit with a “fee” for having less-relevant ads. Essentially, those accounts that have low quality scores tend to pay more per click that those with high scores.

What if you have this problem? For a long time it was difficult to get past the general score and figure out which specific category was dragging you down, but now you can actually figure out specifically where to make improvements by evaluating score factors in bulk.

The quality test is a great way to check your account’s pulse. If you have a low score, make the changes necessary to bring it back up.

2) You’re Having Trouble Settling On the Right Budget

Budgeting for a PPC account sounds tricky, but it shouldn’t actually be. In fact, if you find that you’re tearing out your hair over ad-spend and budgeting decisions, it’s probably an indicator that something is wrong with the way you’ve structured your account.

The first place I usually look is my overarching strategy. (You have one of those, right?) I want to know how each element of my account is helping me achieve my long-term goals. That way I can prioritize and allocate my budget accordingly.

An easy way to do this is to go through your campaigns and ad groups and give them all clear names, reflecting their purpose and priority. That way you’ll always know immediately where your money needs to go, as well as which issues are pressing and require immediate attention, as opposed to those you can address at a later date.

You can’t treat all campaigns like they’re equal – because they aren’t. Make sure you’re giving proper attention to your most important moving parts. The rest will often take care of itself.

3) Your Keywords Aren’t Converting

There have been whole books written about how to best use keywords in PPC advertising. Without getting into too much crazy detail, keywords are important, but tricky.

Making tiny adjustments to your keyword settings can have massive consequences, both negative and positive.

On a deeper level, keyword performance can actually reveal underlying problems in your account structure. For instance, if your keywords per ad group are performing poorly, it may indicate that your account isn’t granular enough.

If your click distribution isn’t where it’s supposed to be, it’s usually a sign that your keywords aren’t directing traffic very efficiently and that it’s time to hone in deeper on your target market. Another common thing to check for if your keywords are disappointing you is keyword cross-contamination.

You don’t want too many of the same keywords showing up in different ad groups. Keep them specific. Be selective.

Of course, if you’re having keyword problems, you may have just selected bad keywords. I recommend checking around anyway though to make sure that there isn’t a deeper underlying problem.

4) You Have Greedy Ad Groups

I kind of touched on this before, but not all your ad groups will have the same needs. Each should fill a certain role in your overall marketing plan, and some will naturally eat up more budget than others.

However, sometimes you’ll discover an ad group that’s taking significantly more money than the rest. If it isn’t your number one priority group, this is a problem. It might mean that your keywords and settings for that particular group are leading it to outperform the others organically, but it might also mean that your settings are just off.

If these expensive groups aren’t producing the results you’d expect, you’ll want to reign them in a little bit. The easiest solution for these “greedy” ad groups is to segment your account to allow for individual budgeting. That way you can monitor each group and increase or decrease ad spend as necessary.

Basically, PPC advertising should be a very efficient way to increase your business’ exposure and sales. If it isn’t working efficiently, odds are that there are flaws somewhere in your account setup getting in the way.

If you’re the account manager, take the time to monitor your campaigns and ad groups and keep your eyes open for indicators of these problems. None of the ones I listed are fatal, and most have pretty easy fixes if you take the time to understand them.

One of the mistakes I often see PPC people make is moving on to solution-mode before they really understand the problem. In the same way that there is no secret sauce for creative a perfect system, there is no one-size-fits all solution to PPC problems.

Be observant, patient and willing to change your approach and you’ll discover why so many marketers are coming back to PPC – and why it’s so hard to ignore.

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