A 60+ point checklist to troubleshoot SEM performance dips

Posted on Posted in PPC, SEO, Small Business

That’s a long list to check, right? In our experience, every single one of these items has been the culprit of an SEM performance dip at one time or another, so rather than leave any out, we’ve clumped them into handy buckets to help you navigate to the source of the problem.

Let’s dive in!

 

Unpredictable factors

  1. Check the change history and investigate any suspicious changes

  2. Did the client make any back-end changes?

  3. Are all the pixels and tags functioning properly?

  4. Did the site go down? (We use Uptime Robot to get real-time notifications)

  5. Has your client received any negative/irrelevant news mentions? (I recommend you set up Google News Alerts to stay on top of this)

 

Keywords

  1. Review low-spend, low impression share keywords that have a history of converting and increase bids

  2. Review and negate poor-performing competitor keywords

  3. Review keywords with high avg. pos and high impression share and decrease bids to limit headroom

  4. Review new keywords trends (minimize the keyword gap)

  5. Review top-converting queries from last year

  6. Review top Shopping queries and add them in as keywords

  7. Pause high-spend keywords that have not converted in the last 6 months

  8. Pull a search query report to update your irrelevant negs and to propose keyword expansions

  9. Demote sub-par alphas and clean up low-volume/superfluous betas to improve data density

  10. Consider adding low-ROAS / high-CPA terms to an RLSA campaign

  11. Check whether new URL redirects or tracking were added (possible broken links)

 

Website

  1. Implement a link checker script to see if URLs are active

  2. Test sending URLs to a new landing page to improve CVR

  3. Review highest-CVR landing pages in Google Analytics and use insights to inform ad copy recs

  4. Review highest-CVR landing pages in Google Analytics and use insights to inform landing page recommendations

 

Bidding & Modifiers

  1. If using Smart Bidding, review the bidding report to see if you’re constantly throwing the algorithm into learning mode

  2. Test tCPA or pause tCPA and revert back to manual bidding

  3. Test turning off eCPC to have more bidding control

  4. Review international geo modifiers and cut out bleeding locations

  5. Review device breakdown and adjust bid modifiers

  6. Adjust time-of-day modifiers to make more granular changes

 

Audiences

  1. Review and clean up audiences (campaign level vs. ad group level)

  2. Apply some cross-channel audiences (e.g. Pinterest visitors who haven’t converted)

  3. If non-brand performance is particularly awful, consider only running non-brand with RLSA

 

Shopping

  1. Bulk up your Shopping titles with top-volume queries (and make sure keywords are frontloaded)

  2. Keyword-stuff your shopping descriptions

  3. Make sure you have at least three tiers per product type

  4. Check to make sure Shopping feeds are updating regularly

  5. Review last year’s top-converting products during the same time period

  6. Check for diagnostic errors in Google Merchant Center

  7. Review the search query report for irrelevants and add them to the corresponding negative list

  8. Segment poor-performing high-volume queries into query campaigns

  9. Check whether products are falling into new product groups and impacting performance/causing them to be bid incorrectly

 

GDN

  1. Implement new creative

  2. Test new responsive ads

  3. Test dynamic ads

  4. Do your campaigns need a restructure?

  5. Review settings; make sure you are not set to overly aggressive or conservative targeting

  6. Assess whether high frequency rates on GDN/YouTube are causing ad fatigue

  7. Review/scrub placements

  8. Consider a smart display campaign

 

Ad Copy & Extensions

  1. Check for ad disapprovals

  2. Review ad copy and pause poor-performing variations

  3. Review number of ads per ad group

  4. Review consistency of ad settings between campaigns

  5. Refresh ad extensions (does the site offer new value propositions to use?)

  6. Review the competitive landscape; check competitive promotions

  7. Review bulk actions/scheduling for errors/failures

  8. Check feed source for failures if you’re using dynamic attributes

 

Sanity Checks

  1. Perform some test searches and make sure the ads you want to serve are showing properly

  2. Review query mapping

  3. Assess whether you need a restructure

  4. Review past performance to see comparisons

  5. Ask a non-team member to audit account

 

Other

  1. Review search partners for performance and turn off if they perform worse than the Google search network

  2. Review QS (can be implemented by a script)

  3. Consider launching DSA campaigns (note that these increase query coverage and often can reduce CPL / increase ROAS for non-brand campaigns)

  4. Set up Google alerts so you are aware of potential increases in search volume and can stay on top of new initiatives

  5. Google Analytics – assess whether trends are happening across channels

  6. Ask client about other marketing initiatives happening that could be impacting brand searches

  7. Are there any new betas worth testing?

 

Phew! If you’ve made it this far and need to identify an issue other than those on the list above, please drop a comment.