With statistics showing that 8% of Internet users account for 85% of display ad clicks and with conflicting reports on the effectiveness of PPC ads, it’s not surprising that many businesses are taking a hard look at their online advertising budgets. One area that we don’t see being considered in those audits is what we call “media management debt,” which is basically the ongoing expense incurred by lazy set-up practices for online advertising programs.
“Media management debt” is a nod to technical debt, a concept we covered in a recent article. Technical debt is when you do something quick and dirty, vowing to do it properly down the road — a dynamic many people within technology industries are familiar with and which industrial companies, which are developing more technological infrastructure to do business and power the future, are bound to run across from time to time.
Bearing the concept of technical debt in mind, let’s develop our idea of media management debt and take a closer look at why you may already be an unknowing victim of it. We’ll end with some tips on how to avoid and/or correct the practices that can lead to unmanageable media management debt, empowering you to get the most out of your online advertising spend.
Situations That Can Cause Media Management Debt
Like technical debt, media management debt is gathered by taking quick-and-dirty approaches to managing online advertising placements, keywords, bids, or strategies that create short-term solutions, but end up sacrificing time, money, and quality in the long-term.
Let’s dive in a bit deeper and examine some ways you might already be experiencing media management debt and ways it manifests for online marketers:
1. Campaign Duplication
So, you’ve built a great campaign in Google AdWords or Bing Ads Editor. You spent time researching keywords, setting the geo-targets, building Ad Groups, creating ad extensions, and writing quality ads. Now, you’re moving onto the other 17 segments of your business that you run online advertising for. The easiest solution always seems to be, “Hey, I’ll just copy and paste this campaign and change a few keywords and ad copy, add a new destination URL and I’m golden!”
While this prospect is enticing, we would highly encourage you to pause that thought and spend the same time researching, building, and preparing each campaign like you did the initial one. Even when verticals and business units are similar, search patterns, keyword bids, and even geo-targets can change dramatically from one to the other.
The danger with this scenario — and where media management debt comes in — is that you won’t necessarily notice how ineffective the duplicated campaigns are until you’ve spend a lot of money over time on keywords that didn’t convert. Then you’ll have to build the campaigns the way you should have initially. Those lost months and rebuild time cost money you wouldn’t have had to spend otherwise.
2. Lack of Landing Page Forethought
This area of media management debt straddles the line between debt and simple “not following best practices.”
It is not uncommon to develop ads and then link them to any old page on your site. While this is not inherently bad, what happens more often than not when landing pages aren’t built with conversions or online advertising in mind is that the ads end up being either restricted to the content that is already on the non-optimized page, or not related enough to garner high Quality Scores from Google.
This lack of attention will cause you slowly to lose money until you realize that you’ve become a victim of media management debt. Many times, marketers will spend time trying to optimize the ads and bids themselves without realizing that the true problem lies with the landing page. By the time the landing page issue is discovered, they’re thousands of dollars down and then have to spend money for an agency or internal resource to build a new page that is set up to convert the traffic coming in from the ads.
3. Keyword Stuffing
Back in the day, it was common practice and often beneficial to consider as many keywords and permutations of those keywords as possible (especially in Google AdWords). But with recent search algorithm updates like Hummingbird focusing more on organic context rather than exact matching and with AdWords increasing the use of close variant keyword matching, the older strategies aren’t as viable and can actually cost you time and money.
In these sorts of situations, media management debt comes into play when you’ve stuffed your campaigns and ad groups with thousands (or millions) of keyword variations and long-tails. In the past, this would ensure that your ads would show up no matter what people searched, but with the updates mentioned above, these extraneous keywords most likely have low quality scores and bring down the effectiveness of your entire online advertising efforts.
Once these debts are in place, the only way to fix them is to go through the keywords one by one, evaluate the quality of each, and delete or replace them as you go. This will end up costing time and money,
How to Avoid Media Management Debt
The thought of losing money unnecessarily is scary for a lot of organizations, especially when budgets are tight and each channel needs to prove its worth. If you find that your online advertising program is suffering from media management debt, here are three approaches you can take to improve your situation:
1. Spend the Time
The most straightforward way to avoid media management debt is to simply spend the time to do things right up front. This usually requires a dedicated internal resource focused on managing your online advertising efforts. Sure, you’ll spend the money on the employee, but if you hire the right person, you’ll save a lot in the long run by avoiding the debt incurred by not managing your online advertising it correctly.
2.Work with an Expert
If you aren’t in the place to hire a dedicated internal resource, or have an internal resource that is still getting their sea legs, another viable strategy is to work with a consultant or agency to guide your team through the process and avoid incurring media management debt. There are plenty of PPC and online media experts out there who would be willing to walk your organization through the necessary steps.
3. Hire an Agency
The final strategy available to you is to hire an agency to manage your online advertising straight out. Specialized agencies exist for every vertical, including the industrial sector, and will be more than willing to take the burden off your hands. Finding a good one with years of experience in managing media placements, bids, keywords and the like can often be the most satisfying strategy.
Getting the Most Out of Your Online Advertising Spend
Like technical debt, media management debt is avoidable if you commit to taking the necessary steps up front to avoid it. Does it take someone spending a lot of time to do it correctly? Yes. Does it take someone with knowledge of online advertising best practices and platforms? Yes. But itis possible and avoidable.