Paid media success in 2024: A handy checklist

The beginning of a new year is always great for refreshing your outlook and resolving to find new ways to drive results in your PPC campaigns.

As we dive into 2024, a few themes are shaping the way I’m approaching my clients’ campaigns:

  • Remember to ask the bigger questions.
  • Evaluate your options to engage your audience as the search landscape diversifies.
  • Be creative and resourceful in the way you’re engaging your audience.
  • Keep an eye on automation (and make sure those pesky algorithms aren’t enabled to spend where and how they shouldn’t be).

Those themes can be broken down into a list of handy reminders to both keep your campaigns efficient and stay on top of new growth opportunities. 

1. Check with clients and/or executives to lock in business goals for the year

January is a great time to double-check business goals and make sure your marketing campaigns are aligned. 

Often, organizations will reassess goals heading into a new year. There could be major (e.g., prioritizing profit over revenue) or minor (e.g., testing a new audience demographic) goal shifts that marketing needs to support.

2. Do a periodic zoom-out 

Focusing on incremental growth and performance gains in the day-to-day is easy and comfortable. It might take a fresh set of eyes. 

Still, every so often, it’s important to do a re-set to gauge whether:

  • Your strategies align with overall goals.
  • There are big tests (channels, audiences) you should consider running.
  • Things you wrote off a while back might be worth reconsidering.

One good example of a reconsideration: if you wrote off Facebook lead gen a couple of years ago, it’s definitely worth trying again, given its algorithm’s targeting improvements in the last year.

3. Ensure that you’re testing meaningful things

New ad creative, targeting options, platform betas and channels.

There’s always something new to test, particularly as the search landscape expands from traditional search to SGE and emerging channels like TikTok. 

I like to make sure we have at least 2-3 tests going in each platform at a time, not to test for testing’s sake but to find new ways to engage with high-value users.

When you set up a test, make sure you can articulate what you’re looking to learn or gain – if you’re doing things right, every test, even a failed one, can be a valuable source of insight. 

Bonus tip: There will be a ton of AI noise and increasing amounts of AI-generated creative in 2024. Try approaches like humor or heightened empathy with audience challenges to emphasize the humanity behind your brand.

4. Make sure you’re sharing learnings and communicating with all relevant teams

SEO and paid search teams should collaborate, sharing insights and providing mutual support. This includes adjusting paid search budgets for keywords dominated by large domains. Similarly, paid search and paid social teams should update each other on breakthrough messaging.

Marketing teams should prioritize open communication, ensuring that information flows seamlessly between marketing, product, and sales teams to incorporate valuable customer feedback and avoid working in isolation.

In 2024, make sure you have regularly scheduled meetings and/or analyses with other teams whose insights can keep your efforts humming (and vice versa).

Dig deeper: 3 steps for effective PPC reporting and analysis

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5. Check your Google Search Partners settings

This would have been high on my list before Adalytics broke its third major report of 2023 on fishy placements from Google’s ad suite. 

For years, we’ve been advising clients to turn off Search Partners unless they’ve exhausted other options to expand their campaigns profitably. 

Search Partners simply doesn’t carry the same performance as native Google search campaigns, in part because advertisers have limited control of the properties where their ads run.

Shortly after the Adalytics report of ads placed on compromising websites broke, Google (coincidentally!) gave advertisers the option, until March 1, to turn off Search Partners in all types of campaigns, including Performance Max and app campaigns. 

Maybe you’ve seen great results from Search Partners in the past and want to keep those campaigns going. At the very least, assess whether Search Partners campaigns are a good fit for you and ensure you’ve got that decision reflected in your settings.

6. Check network and audience settings on all platforms 

Along with Search and Google Video Partners, which show ads off the YouTube platform, Meta and LinkedIn can show ads on off-platform, third-party sites. 

Just like with Google’s third-party options, I recommend casting a critical eye on those audience expansion options and turning them off as a default. 

They may not have sparked PR snafus like Google’s third-party properties, but they have struggled to match on-platform performance and offer relatively limited placement controls. 

They’re one of the first things I check in new accounts to see if there are immediate ways to save costs.

Google (Display), Meta and LinkedIn also have audience expansion settings that allow them to reach users outside of your set audiences (this is extra-important to check for remarketing campaigns). 

This is another sneaky way for the ad platforms to expand delivery by hitting any user they deem will accomplish the campaign’s goals.

Google is the only platform reporting audience expansion performance (which doesn’t reflect well on Meta and LinkedIn), and performance is always underwhelming. 

Dig deeper: Improve your Google Ads performance: 3 simple setting changes

7. Align budget and creative resources with audience size on Facebook and LinkedIn 

All too often, we take over accounts with ambitious goals for engaging decent-sized audiences on LinkedIn or Facebook – and a budget that doesn’t nearly get us that kind of coverage. 

  • If there’s a relatively limited budget, ensure it goes directly to your highest-priority audience.
  • If your audience size and budget size are aligned, check whether you have enough creative options to keep your ads fresh for your audience.

Bonus tip: Do a separate check to ensure you align your ad frequency with your creative quantity. You need many of the latter to avoid burning out users who see a high frequency of your brand’s ads.

8. Exclude audiences on social that don’t make sense – current customers, current employees, irrelevant audiences, etc.

This is relatively minor in the scheme of things, but if you go too long without doing an audit of your exclusions, you’re almost certain to find new audiences to add to your negative lists. 

Check for audiences like current employees, current customers, and otherwise irrelevant groups to keep your budget going to more viable users.

Focus on these eight areas to drive PPC results

With all that said, I’d be very surprised if this checklist didn’t get some additions and revisions over the next 12 months. Don’t wait until 2025 to re-examine your overarching approach and the resulting action steps. 

If we know one thing, the major platforms will release new features and ways to engage with users, and staying on top of those is in and of itself. Here’s to a great year ahead!

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

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