Pay-Per-Click (PPC) ads usually run smoothly, without interruption. However, there’s always a chance that problems can wreak havoc with your campaign. Here are some critical issues that will cause your ads to stop and what to do about them.
Note: even though I have worded these examples around AdWords, you can encounter these issues on Bing, LinkedIn and other PPC platforms because they all behave in a similar way.
ISSUE 1: Your website goes down
Everyone has probably had this happen at one time or another: your website goes offline – This can be caused by something you did (like accidentally deleting your site’s files) or by outside forces (you’re on a shared-server hosting package and something takes the server down). When this happens, your PPC providers will automatically stop showing your ads.
How To Fix: To be prepared, ensure a backup of your site exists – your Internet Service Provider (ISP) can do this, or platforms like WordPress and Squarespace have plugins that can do this as well.
AdWords will notify you when ads stop running, but it is best to know the status of your site at all times. You’re better off setting up a free site monitoring service like http://uptimerobot.com, which will alert you immediately if your site goes offline.
Depending on the type of outage, your best bet is usually to wait for your ISP to restore your website. However, in the case of a major outage, you may need to switch to another hosting company (you could even keep an account with one as a contingency). Your ads should resume shortly after the site is restored. As well, you can check the notification area (bell icon in top-right corner of your Adwords dashboard) for confirmation that ads are running again. To get your ads back up as quickly as possible, you can also call the PPC platform you use and inform them that you have fixed the issue.
ISSUE 2: Your credit card is declined
There are a few issues involving your credit card will cause your ads to stop: your card’s spending limit is exceeded, expiry lapses on an old card, or your credit card provider notices suspicious transactions on the card and freezes spending on it.
How To Fix: There are a couple of preventive measures you can take regarding credit limits. One is to have a backup card on the account, in case a payment applied to your main credit card fails. Another is to set up a notification from your financial institution when your card is nearing its limit.
In the case an an expired card, you simply need to watchful – create calendar reminders to apply for a replacement card a few weeks before the current card expires.
In the event your provider freezes your card due to suspicious activity, you may have more serious problems than your ads stopping. Call your card provider immediately and find out what caused them to freeze your credit account. In the event that you cannot use the card due to fraud, try and get another card as quickly as possible (or again, have a backup card ready) so your ads (and leads) can continue uninterrupted.
Accidents will still happen, so to ensure you find out about them quickly, ensure your email (and the email of anyone else associated with the credit card) is listed as a billing contact in AdWords billing settings. When notified, log into your PPC account and look for a “Fix issue” link (that bell icon again) to correct the problem.
ISSUE 3: A page on your site has moved
Sometimes, a page on your site moves, either as a result of a system upgrade, or perhaps due to changes you have made to it, which may cause the URL of the page to change. When the ads associated with that page point to a non-existent URL, visitors will see a “404 – File not found error,” where the ads should be.
How to Fix: If you intend to change the URLs your ads point to, or you’re making significant changes to your website, first pause your PPC campaign. AdWords will not accept URLs that generate a 404 error code or a redirect code other than a 301 status (permanent redirect). Once the changes are made, check each ad to make sure it is correctly directing to the desired page. To guard against website changes that you did not intend, use a website monitoring service that emails you every time something changes. Two good free tools for this are www.changedetection.com and www.versionista.com.
ISSUE 4: Your account is banned
You find out that your account is banned due to behaviour that violates your PPC platform’s Terms of Service. Examples that violate AdWords Guidelines include: use of trademarked keywords; landing pages with only ads or links to other sites; having multiple accounts for the same product; misleading promotions; or submitting ads that repeatedly receive complaints. Even malware that creeps onto your site can bring the ire of the ad platform on you, as they perceive your site to be violating their policies.
How To Fix: Unfortunately, once PPC accounts are banned (even accidentally), the chances of successfully appealing the ban are quite low. The process of reinstating a banned AdWords account can take 2-3 months on average. The best fix for this is to take the time to keep your site clean, and read the fine print, and avoid any practices that have the potential to get your campaigns banned.
While we all diligently try to avoid these issues, they still happen some of the time. If your campaign does stop, don’t panic. Instead, follow the ad platform provider’s description of what’s at fault and take the necessary steps to fix it. Beyond doing that, you can reach out to other PPC professionals and the ad platform, to see if anything else can be done.