The Dangers of Putting PPC in a Silo

Tim Johnson

PPC in a silo

One of the seemingly wonderful things about PPC is that in many cases it can be an almost stand-alone channel. Ready to go at a moment’s notice, self-contained between ad and landing page, with immediate feedback and optimization through built-in analytics. That said, putting PPC in a silo is tempting, but dangerous.

As someone who manages PPC strategy, I have to admit that I really enjoy the freedom to jump into an account and immediately produce results on a promotion, where groups like SEO, content, social, and others need to be heavily coordinated in advance from messaging to distribution.

Be careful though: you can achieve so much more, both now and in the future, by coordinating PPC with other departments.

Where are you missing out?

Collaboration breeds success, and if you are leaving PPC out of the conversation, you are certainly leaving money on the table. Here are some commonly overlooked opportunities to include PPC into your marketing efforts that could benefit your business.

PR Wins

Getting your brand in the news or receiving any extra attention online is opportunity smacking you in the face. Sometimes PR wins fall into your lap, but more often, they are the result of countless hours of work and outreach. Regardless, the halo effect of any sort of positive PR will have wide-reaching effects on search habits and volume. You should absolutely capitalize on it.

RedBull PR example - PPC in a silo - Portent
RedBull PR example - PPC in a silo - Portent

[Dramatic re-enactment] In an incredibly planned and executed PR and digital campaign, Red Bull helped Felix Baumgartner jump from a helium balloon in the stratosphere…an event talked about by just about everyone on the entire internet.

In this case, coordinating PPC to fully capitalize on the PR win could have meant bidding on new, “stratosphere jump”-related keywords to ensure the top search results included the well-coordinated campaign message or call-to-action that you wanted searchers to see, bolstered by virtue of other surrounding positive articles and mentions. Other strategies to evaluate based on the specific situation:

  • Include banners on display networks targeted at sites that are talking about your brand’s PR win
  • Use geo-bid modifiers to increase bids in regions that are most relevant
  • Update your ad copy to speak more directly to the news

Another side of the coin might be looking to capitalize on the missteps of your competition. If your competition falls short in a prominent review or something larger, you can bet that prospective customers will be searching online about what’s being said. This is a huge moment to be highly visible as a better alternative. (Play it safe here depending on the type of bad PR they experience. Use some tact to avoid any negative backlash for your own brand.)

Taco Bell PR Example - PPC in a silo - Portent

Offline media buys

Depending on the scale of the buy or campaign, it might surprise some marketers to think of this not being shared with all staff. If your business is investing in a major TV ad spot for instance, you’d expect it to be widely discussed throughout the entire marketing department at the very least. But depending on how siloed folks are, that’s not always the case.

I’ve seen major campaigns fly completely under the radar and not make it back to the PPC team until the last minute…or not at all. There’s nothing like scrambling last minute to pull something together when the commercials have been in the works for months. Why not make PPC a part of the strategy from the get-go?

Print and outdoor media buys can have a significant impact on awareness, and by extension, search volume. Much like a PR or other earned-media win, PPC can and should help you harvest the awareness and potential goodwill that a big media buy creates.

The primary difference between earned and owned media (PR vs. media buying for example) is that you control the “buzz” and the timing to a greater degree. You can plan ahead of time with banners, search ads, and keywords that speak directly to the promise made by offline ads. You can be proactive instead of reactive.

Promotions

Utilizing PPC is likely already a part of your plan when a special promotion is approaching. Including information about the promotion in ad copy seems obvious. That said, it is still worth noting.

If your business is running any seasonal promotions, giveaways, or other special offers like free shipping, your PPC results can benefit massively. Tying promotional copy or info into text and banner ads will boost click-through rate and drive more traffic to the site.

Again, just make sure to include your PPC manager in the plans early on so you have the time to produce the new ads and build out campaigns.

You can also use your retargeting lists to bring back past visitors who’ve expressed interest in promotions like the one you’re about to run. They may have been on the fence before and just need an extra nudge or reminder to come back and convert.

Using PPC to help other channels

So far we have talked about ways PPC can benefit from other channels. It’s a two way street though. Lessons learned through PPC can be used throughout your marketing efforts.

PPC can and should be treated as a testing ground for things like messaging and keyword research. A good example of this is testing ad copy to find the overarching message or specific phrasing that is getting best engagement. You can then use that information to influence meta descriptions for organic listings, print media campaigns, or any other channel where direct feedback and analytics aren’t quite as automatic.

Don’t shoot yourself in the foot

  • Mismatched messaging that conflicts, or confuses
  • Killing your analytics, leaving you blind to problems or opportunities
  • Sending traffic to the wrong landing page or offer
  • Sending traffic to a completely broken URL
  • Killing your Quality Score

Leaving opportunities on the table is one thing. It’s another to make changes to the site, content, or analytics that have a direct negative effect on PPC. Everything you do to your site has an effect on other channels. Siloing can make it hard to see what those changes might be.

Here are some examples of ways marketers shoot themselves in the foot by not including PPC in the larger strategy and plans for the site.

Site infrastructure

If you’re making major updates to your site layout and structure, chances are good that if your PPC manager is in house, that person will be aware of that in plenty of time to plan and react. However, if you’re outsourcing PPC management, or if the site updates that you’re making are small enough to stay under the radar, that may not always be the case. Oftentimes PPC platforms like AdWords are structured in specific ways to align logically with the way the overall site is organized. “Surprise” updates to that master layout can negatively affect performance.

Additionally, if you were to change something like page URLs, that can have drastic effects on PPC. Too many times I’ve uncovered ads pushing traffic to 404 pages because someone made a tiny, last minute tweak to all their landing page URLs, and didn’t share that insight with the full team.

Content or information changes

Updates to on-page messaging, branding, or even promotional offers also can have a negative effect if not properly planned. It may not be quite as direct as broken URLs and disapproved ads, but changing the wording used on the site will affect your PPC quality scores and conversion rates.

It is important that keywords, ad copy, and landing page/site content all align well to provide a quality user experience. It’s called message match and even small changes can negatively affect it and your account’s performance.

Analytics configured incorrectly

Remember the bit about built-in analytics and clear, actionable feedback that’s unique to PPC? Without taking the time to set up and troubleshoot some basic tagging, you’re at risk of optimizing with missing or even wrong data. Proper analytics and goal tracking is crucial for PPC and your entire online marketing strategy.


Beyond getting it right when you’re first starting out, if you are making any sort of site updates it is critical to involve both your analytics and PPC teams to ensure that you’re getting clean data and clear insights. There are many moving pieces with web analytics, which means lots of opportunity to break things. Fixing it after there’s been a problem is always worse. Trust me on this.

Also, any time you make changes (copywriting, structure, page-speed, etc.), it is very likely that users will interact with the site differently, which affects year-over-year data. You don’t want your team members making optimization decisions without a clear understanding of what actually happened.

Tying it all together
As much as I love being the S.W.A.T. team for immediate marketing ROI, the moral of the story is that your online marketing strategy can’t be about just one tactic at a time. To maximize the potential for every channel you employ, they’ve got to work together. Start to finish, top to bottom, impression to conversion.

Tim Johnson
SMB Solutions Lead

Tim has been with Portent since September 2012. Currently, he manages the Small Business Solutions department at Portent. Additionally, he carries full Google AdWords, Bing Ads and Google Analytics certifications and has experience managing paid social account on a variety of platforms including Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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