How to Recover from a PPC Test That Crashed & Burned

plane-crash-and-burnIf you manage PPC campaigns appropriately, then you undoubtedly conduct a lot of tests. Many of these tests probably fail.

One of the most important elements of conducting tests – especially ineffective tests – is communication. You need to make sure that all stake holders understand what was tested; why the test wasn’t successful; most importantly – what was learned.

Testing within the realm of PPC can include launching new keywords, restructuring campaigns and ad groups, trying new or extreme ad messaging, landing page optimization, or experimenting with new tools such as conversion optimizer (CPA bidding) or Google Display Optimizer.

Why Failure is Good

Success and failure are two sides of the same coin. They are both products of innovation.

Sometimes your killer new idea takes off and sometimes it crashes and burns. However, if you never try anything new within your PPC campaign, it will become stagnant and the opportunity for continued growth and optimization will be nonexistent.

Failure is good because it means you’re actively thinking. It means you’re vigorously expanding and refining your campaign. Failure means you’re bringing new ideas to the table – some are good and some are bad.

Hopefully, the majority of the new ideas within your campaign are successful, but you need to be prepared to take fast action if something goes awry.

How to Mitigate Failure

Before you launch a new batch of keywords, or test a new radical ad copy approach, you should think about the possible outcomes.

  • What do you expect to happen during this test? 
  • What does success look like? 
  • What does failure look like? 
  • If a test doesn’t work, how do you mitigate the damage to your performance?

The easiest way to make sure any test doesn’t significantly harm the performance of your PPC account is to monitor it every day. Analyzing the stats everyday allows you to keep a close eye on the testing element. Keeping a watchful eye helps to monitor when enough data has been collected to determine the testing outcome.

Another way to limit the impact of a failed test is establish automated alerts within Google AdWords and Google Analytics. Google recently announced that they will be shutting down the automated alert feature within AdWords, however they will establish a work-around for people who to be notified when performance fluctuations occur within their campaigns. For example, if your conversion rate falls below a certain threshold or if the CPA rises above your goal, you can establish an alert to be triggered by AdWords or Google Analytics.

Also, if you want to test new keyword sets, different ad copy, or even aggressive keyword bid changes, you can split test these elements of your campaign using ACE (AdWords Campaign Experiments). With this tool you can determine how much traffic is dedicated to the control and test variations of an ad group.

How to Learn From Failure

New strategies are developed to enhance the performance of a PPC campaign, as well as to learn. We should learn from our failures and successes.

The important question as during the evaluation period is, “Why?” Why was a new strategy successful? Why did a new strategy fail?

If you have a hypothesis, or an expected outcome, before launching a test the “why” factor is easier to answer. The most important reason for learning from our mistakes is so that we won’t repeat them again.

How to Broadcast Failure

Establishing proper expectations before every test is critical. Let all stakeholders know that a test is being conducted and that results may vary. When announcing the test to the rest of the team, make sure they understand the parameters of test and how you expect this strategy to impact the campaign.

Once the test has been concluded, make sure to let everyone know if it was successful – and just as important, make sure to communicate that the test failed. Don’t sweep failed tests under the rug. Drag them out into the open for discussion and analysis. Honesty truly is the best policy.


Testing every element of your campaign will lead to enhanced performance. But sometimes things won’t work out in your favor. If you keep the boss or client in-the-loop then the chances for misinterpretation run high.

Shout your successes from the mountain top! Declare your failures with conviction and the passion to keep testing and get it right next time.

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