Look out for these 7 underhand PPC attribution tricks

Look out for these 7 underhand PPC attribution tricks

SEO Brisbane

This post focuses on repairing the damage that occurs when obfuscating has drained the effectiveness of strategy that once had genuine strength in terms of customer acquisition.

Websites are always at their best when their performance statistics are clearly visible. In today’s world there are seven ways that once successful Pay Per Click accounts can gradually be diluted down, resulting in their reporting on conversion rates becoming much more lax.

Trick #1 – Creeping navigational queries

If navigational queries are not properly specified and controlled, they can intermingle with navigational queries from other campaigns and create misleading information. In these instances, instead of being directed at a particular product, the amalgamation is easily misinterpreted as being one specific, larger demand. It’s something you need to watch out for, identify if it is happening, and correct.

Trick #2 – Manipulating the bidding process

Followers of Remarketing Lists for Search Ads (RLSAs) can now be inserted into standard groups. These can become extremely sophisticated by customizing with patterns of user behavior etc. It also enables the possibility of using a similar audience feature to locate other user groups.

It is widely accepted that returning visitors offer the potential of better conversion rates; but even so, there is a ceiling as to how high your should let these groups build up to. If you are not careful, you’ll find that you’re simply changing bids on queries that are already in the auction in the first place.

In terms of boosting the bids by say 5%, 10% or even 35%, this is not really a problem. What is a problem however, is when the wrong groups of bidders, who are interested in other products etc. are increased by as much as 85%. This simply creates nonsensical inflation. 

Trick #3 – Overspending or inefficient remarketing campaigns

A lot of PPC account managers tend to spend huge amounts of time and effort creating a variety of marketing campaigns; so much so that they can easily become unmanageable. They get hacked around, are given similarly confusing names, and get lost in the overall mix.

When this happens, the campaign's return on investment simply dwindles away. The problem is that the ROI report doesn’t get flagged because other marketing initiatives attract credit from sources exterior to the PPC campaign under scrutiny. This is a typical scenario in businesses that have natural followers through other initiatives, and/or that have been in the business a while.

We came across one large PPC campaign that was allowing 24% of the total spend to be used in this way. By getting rid of the various overlapping campaigns that had been allowed to accumulate over months and years, we were successful in reducing this spend to just 9%. The lesson to be learnt here is not to confuse remarketing with marketing.

Trick #4 – How to avoid over-counting

It’s all too easy to unwittingly copy conversion actions when setting up conversion tracking. The difficulty arises when you add them all up. It means that you can’t see the forest for the trees. What you will see instead, is an unlikely CPA count.

You need to ensure that you are comparing like-for-like. The best way of achieving this when using Google Adwords, is by enabling only one type of conversion. You can then take a look at the performance of other key performance indicators by using a platform such as Google Analytics.

Trick #5 – Misleading attribution models

A trend we have recently come across is when attribution models are used that don’t actually relate to real conversions, but that report credit created by estimates.

There is a difference in standard PPC procedure in terms of counting a conversion related to a keyword, as against multiple conversions. Take as an example a situation whereby one buyer makes repeat purchases in the conversion window. There are times when it is useful to include that revenue in calculations. However, the counting of multiple conversions often becomes confusing when dealing with lesser quantities of data.

We believe that cost per acquisition is best appreciated when you apply simply one conversion to one user.

Trick #6 – Isolating inferior quality leads

A while ago, various publishers within networks such as GDN, realized that they could use "bots" to complete forms on websites that had lead generators that didn’t employ CAPTCHAs.

It’s important that businesses that offer lead generation packages are astute about the quality of their leads. Say for example there is a really cheap click source via generic display adverts. If it appears to be too good to be true – then it probably is.

In a perfect world, each lead should be monitored through to revenue generation using some form of customer relationship management program. In the meantime you can inspect and verify the data on the forms you receive.

The fact of the matter is that when you sell say a key software package for $25,000 for example, you might be surprised to find how simple it would be to isolate inferior quality leads. 

Trick #7 - Filtering campaign duplication

Although duplicating campaigns may not be an attribution concern, it is a component of the overall problem. Take for example working through a big account and coming across campaigns that you are not sure exactly what they were created for, and that are only just about performing. .

If you are not sure about their purpose and they are under-performing when compared to various other campaigns, why not add a little to the marginal cost curve to try and encourage a little more growth?

Too many businesses worry about closing down complex named campaigns for fear of terminating campaigns that were created to deliver incremental growth. In the course of our research, we have taken a look at a few of these types of campaigns.

In many instances we discovered that they are variations of exactly the same thing, that haphazardly carry the same impressions over several campaigns. In fact they cannibalize other sections of the campaign. Boiling these down to one single version creates a clearer view of its purpose and can improve ROI without adversely affecting sales.


The larger the account, the more concerning it can be to instigate an operation to clean it up. You need to be sure in your own mind that the drivers of this fresh customer growth are in reality only an illusion.

By expertly re apportioning your budget to real growth drivers, the parts of the campaign that collect attributions can be prompted to restart growth. Our advice is to do this a little at a time, and if you do, you should find that your long-term chances of business success will improve.

Category Search Engine Marketing