Director of Client Operations Donna Lagow tells the bone-chilling tale of what can happen when automated rules attack a paid search account.


A big round of applause, talking about paid search, Donna Lagow.

One of our clients—this is actually a recent story—they took their actual ad spend back in-house. They were with an agency for probably four years, that being us (pardon me), and they decided they needed to get more efficient with their spend.

So they brought it back in-house, and with their smaller team, they were looking for ways to get more efficient overall, as well as internally. Hence, scripts.

So scripts were applied for bid optimization, scripts were applied for budget management. What we saw over time and evaluating their account—because they actually ended up coming back to our agency and asking us to do an audit—when performance continued to decline, was there were scripts that were set to turn keywords and ad groups on and off based on performance.

And the performance metrics that they were allowing for, in terms of those thresholds, were pretty liberal. It wasn’t that the rule wasn’t actually fairly sound, it was that there were no periodic checks to go back and review what had been turned off, and evaluate that for things like larger performance swings.

Seasonality, for instance, was that being taken into account? Things weren’t being manually turned back on, so over time what we saw for them was a heavy degradation of their actual keyword volume. The keywords within their accounts that were active, as well as the keywords that were driving traffic overall, and the account continued to have less and less lead volume; less traffic, as you would expect; and results continuing to go down and down and ROI out the door.

So that was a primary recommendation that we’ve put forth to them: if you’re going to implement, you’ve got to make sure that you have the people power to make sure that the decisions that you’re making are the actual right ones.

That, again, points to the fact of doing the work. I think that’s really the primary message here: while scripts are great—we love them, we use them judiciously—it’s the quality and checks that you have to make sure you continue to interwove through your processes as well.