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PPC And Digital Marketing Nightmares You Won’t Soon Forget

Urban legends like Bloody Mary have scared people for generations. For those of us in digital marketing, there may be darker forces at work.

Happy Halloween mad PPC scientists and marketing mavens!

From campaigns that hit you like sharks in a tornado to ads that rise from the dead, this year, digital marketing can be a scary place to work.

These PPC and digital Halloween stories may just scare you bad enough that you’ll need to take the week off. (And who doesn’t want one of those?)

Prepare yourself!

PPC Legendary Disasters

The phrase, “This Ad Has Been Rejected” (Amatullah Saifee) can instill dread in even the strongest digital marketer’s heart. We’ve all been there. And we’ve all struggled.

But PPC nightmares can be much, much worse. If you’re unlucky…

I Know What You Did Last Campaign

Do you know what the scariest kind of horror movie is? The one you don’t know you’re in. Bwahaha!

Emmanuel Perez found himself in just such a nightmare…

“I took over an account from a co-worker who I quickly discovered had been buying ads without a clear understanding of how the system worked.

They were Google Ads for dealerships. I found a broad term for cars—nothing else.

CPCs doubled when he took over, and CPA more than tripled after he took over.

There was another campaign targeting local US dealer ads. Another co-worker had “+” modifiers within exact match brackets and was confused as to why no ads had been served for nearly two months.”

It sounds like someone didn’t spend enough time learning about what PPC is and how it works. Terrifying.

Especially if it comes out of your wallet.


We’re glad Emmanuel was able to get it sorted.

Hello PPC Pro. Would You Like To Play A Game?

Hello PPC pro. Or as you’re sometimes called, paid media expert. You need to make a choice. Listen carefully:

You are in a chair, in front of a computer screen. There’s a script running on an account that’s hooked to your unlimited credit card. Try it, and you might be making easy money while looking like a genius to the client.

Or, it could be the worst decision of your now-short career.

Do you want to play a game?

Some new to PPC did. Frederick Vallaeys, co-founder and CEO of Optimyzr, spins this horrific story:

“Google used to provide sample code to illustrate how to make bid changes using Ads Scripts. The code looked for all converting keywords and increased their bids by five percent.

Of course, a lot of advertisers like to run scripts automatically every hour so if left unchecked, this script would raise bids by nearly 50% in 8 hours. It would triple them by the end of the day.

Imagine the horror of the scripting novice who was just testing the code without adding some safeguards first!”

Many new PPC professionals fail to consider these dangers and jump at the chance for an easy win without hesitation.

But not you. Not now.

Game over.

Children Of The Corn: A PPC Nightmare

Jonathan Kagan, VP of Search at 9Rooftops, knows just how much PPC can be a nightmare. His scariest story, however, is more like PPC Newbies of the Corn, where the danger is way too close to home.

“We once had a former employee who knew he was going to get fired. As a last effort, he created hidden bid rules that increased bids and budgets by 1,000% every day.”

And this wasn’t the only horror story Kagan was able to share.

“We audited a YouTube account and discovered the agency handling the account previous to us showed bikini-clad ads for protein shakes on only children’s videos. And once, Google ran a YouTube campaign for us and accidentally confused the negative keyword list with the target list.”

The moral of these stories? Watch over your campaigns and your staff like children in a cornfield!

A Natural Disaster: PPC Style

Sometimes, the dangers of PPC creep up on you like a mysterious mist with giant bugs hiding inside it – you have hours of watching it, burdened with an impending sense of doom.

Other times, it’s more like Sharknado. It’s scary, quick, dangerous, but also sort of weird. And not the good kind of weird.

Amy Bishop (Owner, Cultivative, LLC) had a Sharknado PPC experience once.

“Oooh, I’ve seen some scary sights. A few months ago, I saw a PPC campaign with one ad group targeting over a thousand broad match keywords that were topically relevant, but indicating absolutely no purchase or trial intent.

Many of the keywords were single-term keywords. (I’m anonymizing the industry here so as to protect the organization since it’s a niche industry, but for the purposes of this example let’s say it was a business bookkeeping software.)

The equivalent to the terms in the account would be things like ‘bank,’ ‘payroll,’ and ‘business expense.’ They had spent so much money with no conversions to show for it. Sad, but not surprising.”

PPC Campaigns…It’s Child’s Play

Sometimes, the sweetest and most innocent things are hiding a much deeper evil. This campaign started out looking like the ideal situation. Unfortunately, like a Chucky doll fresh out of the box on Halloween Eve, things went bad very quickly for our Director of Marketing Heather Campbell:

“This is not a story for the faint of heart. This terrible tale involves a campaign structure (or lack thereof) for a niche B2B widget maker.

Sit back. Close your eyes. Envision the best campaign structure you’ve ever put together: Geographic targeting. Time scheduling. Ad extensions. Multiple ad groups. Negative keywords. All the right things you’re supposed to do…

It’s beautiful. Almost angelic!

When I gained access to this new account and took a glimpse behind the open door, I gasped in dismay. My blood ran cold. I shook my head to clear the cobwebs…

There’s no way I just saw that.

There was one campaign—no ad groups. No targeting. No day parting. No negative keywords.

And worst of all, they ran on the broad keyword of ‘widget’ instead of long tail keywords to better define and qualify inbound leads! Not to mention the waste in ad spend on bad, irrelevant traffic and leads.”

(Author’s note: She still winces when you mention widgets. To this day, we have to make sure her emotional support beast is nearby before having those kinds of delicate conversations.)

Urban Marketing Legends

From Bloody Mary to the Slender Man, urban legends have always been around, being whispered from generation to generation with a raised eyebrow.

For those of us in marketing, however, there are some much darker, scarier, and more common legends we should be wary of.

The Number 11

6+5= 11… 4+7=11…

Is the number 11 a blessing or a curse? What does it all mean? Turns out it means different things to different people.

Matt Snodgrass, Director of Community at MarketingProfs, tells the tale of a fantastic idea that turned into a PR nightmare –one that has haunted him to this day:

“Many years ago, in 2011, some marketing members thought an 11/11/11 campaign promo would be amazing. Because when is the next time we’re going to see *that* date, right?

Unfortunately, what these clever marketing professionals failed to realize at the time was the global audience.

While Armistice Day isn’t as widely celebrated in the US market, it is a significant event for colleagues in Europe.

They didn’t realize it until our email inboxes began filling with unhappy emails from the international community.”

Sadly, this marketing team wasn’t the only one to make a mistake like this. If you’re planning to do any holiday marketing, make sure you’re familiar with these 14 holiday marketing mistakes.

Tradeshow: The Conjuring

You move in and set up your signage. Things go ok.

When the tradeshow is over, you get rid of all the extra MarCom material and pack up as you dream of a nice long bubble bath and some Michael Bublé.

That’s when things go horribly wrong.

Suddenly, you have to make things you thought were gone for good rise from the dead.

Or, at least, that’s what happened to our Project Manager Christina Robichaux.

“Back in my event days for a leading technical company, we were responsible for all the MarCom material for the entire event.

As we were cleaning up, the client told us we no longer needed the signage, so we should recycle it.

About an hour later, the same client came running, searching franticly for some of the signage. She needed it for an event at the home of the CEO that evening.

After some questionable dumpster-diving, we found the sign. It was sandwiched between other signage, and somehow, it was unharmed from its time spent in the dumpster. The CEO never knew the difference.”

Yikes. Nothing like a little moonlighting in signage necromancy to bring life to the boss’s party?

(Author’s note: We’re really glad she’s on our side. And that she likes us.)

The Marketer’s Sixth Sense

Now, dear friends, we have to prepare for this last marketing horror story. Hug your loved ones, grab a blanket to hide under, and prepare yourself for the scariest story of all.

This one haunts marketing professional Adam Riemer to this day. He says, “I almost had to talk to people in person at an event once. Oy! That was terrifying. Leaving the safety of my computer for real-life interactions. No, thank you!”

Yes, after well over a year out of the real-world workforce and conference scene for many of us, that’s a terrifying thought indeed.

We hope you aren’t too traumatized! Bwahaha…

Happy Halloween everyone!

More resources:

Featured image: Shutterstock/Romolo Tavani

SEJ STAFF Angie Nikoleychuk Content Marketing Manager at Search Engine Journal

Angie Nikoleychuk is the Content Marketing Manager at Search Engine Journal. Along with social media, copy, and marketing, she has ...

PPC And Digital Marketing Nightmares You Won’t Soon Forget

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