1. SEJ
  2.  ⋅ 
  3. PPC

Paid Search Advertising: Happy Ending or Horror Story?

Do you ever get a sinking feeling as you open your paid search account? You don’t know exactly what you’re going to see, but you have a feeling that something has gone horribly, horribly wrong?

Don’t worry, you’re not alone.

If you’ve managed a paid search account for long enough, you know that sometimes, things just inexplicably go awry. Clicks stop converting…keywords stop performing…campaigns suck your budget dry.

And you don’t know why.

Well, guess what? If you’ve ever felt like your paid search account is being attacked by forces beyond your control, you just might be right…

Is Your Paid Search Account Haunted?

Although it might seem like the monsters you see portrayed in the media are simply works of fiction, the creatures you see on TV have very real counterparts in the digital realm.

Even though you might not be able to see them, they are there in the shadows, waiting for the ideal moment to strike. So, if your paid search account feels like a horror story, you just might be facing one of the following monsters:

Vampiric Keywords

The wrong keywords can quickly suck your marketing budget dry. Unfortunately, most account managers invite vampiric keywords into their campaigns without even realizing it.

Like most vampires, these keywords often look appealing on the surface (they might seem to be a great match for the search intent of your audience), but behind the scenes they are sucking budget from your productive keywords.

PPC Vampire

The biggest problem with these keywords is the fact that they can be hard to separate from your good keywords and search terms. Although holding up a cross to your computer screen might do the trick, it would take quite a while to do that to every keyword.

Instead, the easiest way to identify your vampiric keywords is to track down your wasted ad spend. A good monster hunter might not know where a vampire is hiding, but if he knows a bunch of blood-drained bodies are showing up in a particular area, that’s a pretty good clue that a vampire is nearby.

Same goes for your paid search accounts. If you open your keywords or search terms report and create a filter for “Conversions < 1,” you can quickly see which keywords or search terms are sucking your account dry—those are your vampires.

Then, once you’ve tracked down the blood-suckers, it’s time to pull a Van Helsing and put a stake in them…

Zombified Account Management

Perhaps one of the reasons why so many paid search accounts are filled with budget-sucking keywords is because those accounts are run by zombies.

Of course, those zombies don’t look like your classic brain-hungry undead, but a zombie account manager does a lot of mindless lurching about and seems to be fixated on consuming marketing budgets.

PPC Zombie

Unfortunately, paid search management zombies seem to be very common.

You know how in the movies it always seems like the zombies outnumber the good guys by a considerable margin? Well, you see the same scenario playing out in paid search management. According to Larry Kim, 9 out of every 10 AdWords accounts does not get regular attention on a quarterly basis.

Similarly, at Disruptive, we’ve found that 72% of the accounts we audit haven’t been touched in a month. So, between these two statistics, that means anywhere from 72-90% of paid search account managers are zombies!

Scary, right?

Now, if you happen to work with (or, heaven forbid, happen to be) one of these account management zombies, you might be tempted to handle the problem in classic zombie-slayer style. Luckily, you don’t have to be quite that violent to solve your zombie problem—there is a better way!

Instead of resorting to violence, the key to eliminating zombified account management is fairly simple: regular account maintenance.

In general, if you have a paid search budget of $10,000+ a month, your campaigns need to be reviewed at least once week (although ideally you should be checking on them at least 3x/week). If you’ve just launched a new campaign, you should be checking up on it 3x/day.

For budgets smaller than $10,000/month, you don’t have to be quite as vigilant, but you’ll still want to look at your account at least once or twice a month.

Now, checking on your account on a regular basis isn’t the same thing as making big changes on a regular basis. If your account has been managed by a zombie for a while, it will probably need a lot of TLC to recover, but if it’s running fairly well, you probably only need to make minor adjustments most of the time.

However, just because your account is running smoothly, that doesn’t mean that you can slack on maintenance. That’s a slippery slope into becoming a zombie account manager.

Jekyll and Hyde Messaging

Another common monster lurking in paid search accounts is Jekyll and Hyde. Here’s what happens:

Let’s say you’re running paid search campaigns for a company that certifies pilots (amongst other certifications). You’ve created a great ad (ad #2) and when someone types in “airplane pilot certification near me” they see the following results:

Jekyll and Hyde Messaging in Practice

So far, so good.

Your prospective customer eagerly clicks on your ad and—wait a second—ends up on this page?

Jekyll and Hyde Messaging in Practice Part 2

Screaming in horror, they hit the back button and completely reconsider their pilot certification plans…

Okay, so their response probably isn’t quite that dramatic, but still, this landing page is hardly a good fit for your potential customer.

Even though your headline says “Learn to fly today” (dynamic keyword insertion, perhaps?), nothing about the page confirms to your visitor that they are actually in the right place. The overall messaging is all wrong.

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

PPC Jekyll and Hyde

This example might be a bit more extreme than what you see in your own campaigns, but 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’ve just created an advertising horror story for your potential customers.

To avoid this outcome, you need to create specific landing pages that match the search intent of your audience and messaging of your ads. In other words, if you don’t want to unleash Hyde on your unsuspecting potential customers, you need to take the time to create specific landing pages that match the search intent of your audience.

Ideally, you should have a landing page for each group of closely-related keywords, but if that isn’t feasible, you should at least have a landing page for every marketing campaign. Otherwise, your marketing efforts may end the same way as Jekyll and Hyde’s tragic tale…


So, will your paid search advertising adventure be a happy ending or a horror story? It all depends on whether or not you are willing to track down and eliminate the monsters hiding in your paid search account.

Whether physical or digital, monster hunting certainly isn’t for the faint of heart. But, now that you have the right tools, you should able to put an end to your paid search nightmare.

Have you run into these paid search monsters in your own account? How did you get rid of them? Are there other monsters you’d add to this list? Let me know in the comments!


Image Credits

Featured Image: Rangizzz/
Monster images and mock landing page by Aden Andrus of Disruptive Advertising. Used with permission.
Screen capture taken October 2016.

Category PPC
Jacob Baadsgaard CEO, Founder at Disruptive Advertising

Jacob is passionate entrepreneur on a mission to help businesses achieve online marketing success. As the Founder & CEO of ...

Paid Search Advertising: Happy Ending or Horror Story?

Subscribe To Our Newsletter.

Conquer your day with daily search marketing news.