As PPC experts, we rarely have the luxury of harnessing 100% of our efforts and energy into a single account. When we do, it’s usually substantial, with multiple markets, products, and budgets to consider.

With a plethora of metrics to learn and utilize, optimizing our campaigns can feel overwhelming. Over the years, I’ve narrowed the optimization tasks down to focus on five key metrics and red flags. This will allow you to execute fast and effective boosts to campaign performance and efficiencies.

Here are 5 red flags to look out for on your PPC campaigns and, crucially, how to fix them.

1. A Weak Clickthrough Rate

We all know the importance of CTR (click-through rate) as a metric. It serves as a strong indicator of relevance between our keywords, our ads, and the user’s search terms. While the go-to benchmark used to be 2-3%, the introduction of automated bidding strategies and RSAs has moved this closer to 5-6% in most industries.

A CTR below this level raises considerable red flags. Not only does it indicate weak ad group relevancy, but it’s inefficient; the ‘Expected CTR’ of your ad has an effect on your ad rank, and bid, and will see you falling short at auction time. 

Here are two simple, yet effective, fixes for a weak CTR:

Take your Assets Reports – a breakdown of the effectiveness of each headline and description – and start by swapping those ranked ‘Poor’ or ‘Average’ to new alternatives on your ads. 

The second simple step is to review your ad groups. Over time, your ad groups and your keyword list are both likely to have expanded. Are there any opportunities to separate top-performing keywords from the rest? Do your keywords fit one neat theme, or are multiple themes creeping in? If so, separate them and tailor each ad’s copy to the new themes.

2. Missing or incomplete campaign settings

Back to basics. As someone who has audited 100s of accounts, time and time again I see the same handful of issues. By now, we’re all surely aware of the sneaky default location setting of ‘People interested in your targeted locations’ over ‘People in your targeted locations’. (If not, double-check your campaigns to ensure they’re serving where your target audience is!). There are, however, a few more settings worth checking on, and language settings are one of these. 

On Google, language targeting matches queries “where the keywords match and Google believe that the user understands at least one targeted language”. On Microsoft Ads, the language campaign setting “determines the language that you will use when you write your ads and should be the language of your customers”.

Whether or not your brand has a global reach, your ad copy within each campaign is unlikely to be in all languages (often the default setting). When serving an international audience, best practice is to create unique campaigns and ad copy native to the respective local languages. Regional nuance is critical too. 

Check your Campaign Settings to ensure that the language of your ad copy matches the audience(s) you’re asking your PPC platform to reach.

3. A lack of exclusions

If you’re running your accounts at peak efficiency, you should have plenty of exclusions in place. With the push towards upgrading your keywords to broad match, performance max black boxes, and a substantial rise in automation techniques, we PPC heroes need to be more on top of exclusions than previously. 

Whether you’re running search, performance max, video, or display campaigns, exclusions are likely to apply to your campaigns. 

Such exclusions include:

  • Negative keywords
  • Audience exclusions
  • Content suitability, placement, or topic exclusions
  • Brand exclusion lists
  • Location or country-level exclusions.

If you don’t currently have exclusions applied to your campaigns, that could mean inefficient campaigns: targeting the wrong keywords, showing ads to current customer lists, on irrelevant or harmful content, on competitor content, or even in the wrong country entirely!

As a simple first step, begin by applying negative keywords to your account, campaigns, and/or ad groups and review your basic audience targeting options. If you can exclude current customers, reduce your demographic targeting from 18-65+, and double-check your campaign targeting and exclusion settings, that’s a great start.

4. Sub-par quality scores

One of the easiest ways to create inefficiencies is by failing to monitor quality scores. According to Google Ads, quality score is “a diagnostic tool meant to give you a sense of how well your ad quality compares to other advertisers”. This score is from 1-10, (1 being poor, 10 being excellent), is available at the keyword level, and is a product of the following three factors ranked from “below average” to “average” and “above average”.

  • Expected CTR: Based on historical data, how likely is it that your ad will be clicked?
  • Ad rank: How closely does your ad match the user’s search query and the intent behind it?
  • Landing page experience: How useful is your landing page? Does it answer or support the user’s search query?

Luckily for those of us who struggle with math, the platforms calculate these for us based on the last 90 days of auction insights. In a perfect world, we’d aim for a quality score of 10 – although that may not always be possible. However, 7 or above is indicative of a ‘good’ quality score, with 3 or below being poor.

As with other items mentioned in this list, weak quality scores contribute to inefficient campaigns. To address this, work on optimizing each of the above three factors, starting with any that are ranked “below average”. Remember: the ultimate goal is to ensure that your keywords, ad copy, and landing pages are consistent in content.

5. No conversion data

And finally, one of the biggest red flags is a lack of conversion data. Generating zero conversions is one thing – and may be a red flag, but having no conversion data at all is concerning.

Today, PPC platforms are much stronger – particularly on brand-new accounts – on encouraging conversion setups before creating or publishing a campaign. However, there are plenty of legacy accounts with old, incomplete, or out-of-date conversion tracking, likely leading to millions of dollars in wasted spend annually. If you’ve been putting off the dreaded conversion tracking setup process, don’t delay further. 

The final tip here is to ensure your conversion tracking is up to today’s standards. While conversion tracking for the end-goal of your campaigns is undeniably important, you’ll also want to track ‘lighter’ conversion events to give your PPC platform all the signals it needs to generate conversions – particularly when using smart bidding strategies. 

If you’re using Maximize Conversions, Target CPA, Target ROAS, or Maximize Conversion Value smart bidding strategies and you have multiple conversion methods tracked (such as app downloads, phone calls, lead form fills, and product page views), ensure that each conversion is set up as a ‘Primary’ or ‘Secondary’ conversion goal respective to how important it is. Multiple primary conversion goals will make it difficult to optimize your campaigns.


Whether you’re brand new to PPC or have decades of experience, frequent platform changes often mean adapting what you thought you already knew! The five tips above should give you a great starting point for optimizing, improving, and boosting the efficiency and effectiveness of your accounts. Good luck!

The post 5 Campaign Red Flags And Why They Matter first appeared on PPC Hero.