Audit on Agency Management of Paid Marketing at Appcues

This is an audit I wrote up on our current paid program and agency’s management of it when I stepped into the role at Appcues.

Meg Gowell
Director, Growth Marketing at Appcues Previously Discount Lots, Brand Distillers,

Audit on Agency Management of Paid Marketing at Appcues

Facebook Ads


  1. Incorrect conversion action Three campaigns (all other than course-focused) optimized for an old URL of Free Trial conversion for over 2 months. We created a new conversion and provided it to the agency to change the campaigns. After further investigation, these campaigns are all using ad copy and landing pages for the demo, NOT the free trial. So we have been (and continue to) optimize for the wrong action but at least now we are optimizing for an action that is active on the website.
  2. No dynamic creative being used Is this an agency decision or an Appcues decision? Ideally dynamic (either multiple text with a single image or fully dynamic with multiple images and text) would be used to faster split test and identify winning ad copy/imagery as well as make the Facebook system “happy”.
  3. Ad sets are all very limited in size and specific (ie Mobile and Desktop plus audiences) This is leading to small target pools which we cannot afford with such little conversion activity. In order to generate more conversions, we need to consolidate ad sets and targeting as much as possible to try and boost conversions. Potentially want to expand the age range as well. Once we have conversions at a higher rate, we can try breaking things out a bit more.
  4. No LAL audiences based on a pixel event Generally LAL based on a pixel event are the most effective (not in all cases but often). Not sure if there is a reason for this or not.
  5. New ideas for ad copy and creative Hard to know exactly what is or is not working due to the lack of consistent conversions in the account. There are a number of other things I would try. Images mostly have a lot of text in them, can we try some that are very, very simple? I’d be interested in trialing some video (want to wait for conversions if possible as video can eat budget without results). Ad copy is fine but would like to see shorter sentences plus emojis if possible.

Questions for KB:

  1. Can you give me an overall run down on the high level strategy for the account as a whole?
  2. What is going on with optimizing for the wrong conversion for 3 out of 4 campaigns? What do we need to do in order to get better eyes on these?
  3. Why are we separating mobile and desktop traffic in ad sets? Ad set size is quite small and can’t support the volume that we need.
  4. Why are we using manual ad placements? (I assume this is just due to separating mobile vs desktop, but is there more that we are trying to filter out?)
  5. Why aren’t we using any LAL based on a pixel event (ie LAL to free trial conversion)?
  6. Is there a reason or block to creating and using dynamic ad creative?
  7. What’s going on with the “page engagement” targeting? Not sure if the setup here as changed since I’ve been on platform but it looks like we aren’t targeting anything specific?

Notes for me:

Facebook course conversion is just clicking a single button (can we improve this conversion?? ie create an account to follow through the course using LearnDash or similar for Webflows, alternative to deliver course via email)

We have age range limited but I’m seeing a wider range in GA (what info do we have on conversions here and rationale for limiting?)

Google Ads


1. Low Search Impression Share

For Branded, we are around 48%. I think this number needs to increase. We seem to perform decently well in terms of all search campaigns but we just don't have any volume. Ideally we figure out how to spend more and do it effectively.

2. Sending Traffic to Homepage

Our homepage is really not optimized for ad traffic. Even in the case of branded traffic, I think it makes sense to test creating a Branded specific landing page that pushes to demo/free trial as well as giving a few other options to users. Overall the campaign performs well in terms of quality and poorly in terms of sign ups. I’m thinking that maybe the homepage is too distracting. Other possibility that everyone clicking on it is already a customer/looking for other information from us.

3. Bid Adjustments

We are bid adjusting by device (mobile -20% and desktop +20%). I’m interested in the thinking here. I agree that desktop has a much higher rate/likelihood of converting just not sure why we would disadvantage mobile to that extent (wondering how much that decision is effecting out overall mobile vs desktop split).

Thoughts on bid adjusting certain search campaigns by past website visitors? Idea here to pay more for someone searching for “Pendo” if they have already visited our website. Same idea for other search campaigns. If we know someone has looked at us and/or looked at our blog, let’s try and get in front of them when it looks like they might be ready to buy or evaluate product options.

4. Ad copy - Grammar and Spelling + Quality

Overall this needs some work/an audit. I’m seeing misspelling plus general grammar issues that don’t make us look good. Several cases where I don’t love the copy overall either “Create Target & Grow” doesn’t make a ton of sense to me but maybe there is a reason we are leaning so heavily on it. I think we may need to make sure ads are reflecting keywords a bit more as well (I’m seeing low quality scores in a number of cases). Ex Competitor ads need to make it a bit clearly that we are an alternative that is better for X reason (I’m not sure the advisability/possibility of whether or not we can use competitor names in copy).

5. Landing Pages

Are these limited due to us or KB? What needs to be done in order to expand the type of landing pages and the number? We need landing pages that are specific to the ads/keywords that they backstop. Right now low quality scores are not helped by having non-relevant landing pages.

6. Keywords

I think we need to expand the keyword universe here. Overall limited on what we are bidding against which is leading to low search volume. Need to figure out expanding and finding new ideas.

7/. Competitor Research

From what I can tell our competitors are outbidding, outspending and writing better copy. We need to do a better job of knowing what the competition is doing and adjusting our ads/campaigns as a result. If our results were great then this would be less of a focus but until we are in a better place in terms of results, we need to think about taking some cues from other folks in the space.

Questions for KB:

  1. Why are our search impression shares so low? What can we do in order to improve this metric? Or is there a reason that this metric is not important to the account?
  2. What can we do to expand the keywords we are bidding against? It seems like we do decently in terms of quality leads on Search and yet are very limited in terms of volume and reach.
  3. What is best practice in terms of sending traffic to the homepage or a lander specifically for branded traffic?
  4. In terms of landing pages, what needs to be done in order to expand this? I think we need to personalize pages more to improve quality scores. Are there blockers on our end that are keeping your team from doing this? What do you consider best practice in terms of landing pages for campaigns? Should we be using Mutiny to do dynamic keyword insertion?
  5. What is the strategy in terms of bid adjustments? I’d love to know the plan with the device bid adjustments as well as what potential for other bid adjustments there are (not sure if we have tested other adjustments or not and/or best practices here — bid by audience)
  6. What internal process do you have for reviewing ad copy? I’m seeing grammar and spelling mistakes. Can you all do an audit? Additionally, what is your process for writing and testing new ad copy? I’m not thrilled with the quality as it stands.
  7. What is the overall plan on display? I know the waters have been muddied a bit by our internal team creating campaigns as well as your team. What in your mind is the ideal campaign structure for display and what can we do to optimize this campaign type?
  8. What are your thoughts on the new Performance Max campaign type?
  9. What kind of attribution model are we using? What can we do to better optimize for and account for the different levels of quality in our conversions?
  10. I saw a call out in the account for image extensions. Thoughts on these, their viability and process to implement?
  11. What can we do to better convert and optimize that high amount of organic traffic and blog traffic that we have?
  12. What competitor research/comparisons have you done? It seems like we are being outspent by others and potentially others have better ad copy. What can we do to better understand the competition and figure out how to compete at a higher level?
  13. We have a disapproved ad in a Display campaign that was created internally. It is disapproved for being “free software” and needing to certify. What tips/tricks do you have here to fix this ad and not need to certify?
  14. Have you used value-based bidding before and do you think it would be valuable to us to help prioritize or increase the value of a HubSpot 2/3/4 vs a Product Sign up?

Notes for me:

  • We are essentially double counting conversions by optimizing for things that have overlap (ie if we are optimizing for both lead rating 2/3/4 and lead rating 3/4 and product sign up (those all overlap one another so I believe we would technically have a 1 in each group for a single sign up that was rotated as a 3 or a 4). Pros and cons to this. We are giving extra strength to folks we like (ie counting them multiple times); however, it also is inflating overall lead counts. — Google rep said this isn’t necessarily a big issue but we do need to think about weighting conversions differently so that the system can optimize for what we want ie 2/3/4
  • Re above - in May we essentially stopped counting overall product signups and thus optimized for only quality leads. Helped us in the short terms because lower intent conversions were taken out of the mix. Hard to know what the long term effect of doing that would be, but I think we have too little volume in terms of quality leads to optimize long term that way, especially since that lead event takes place offline essentially.
  • Overall I see a fairly low rate of conversion to quality lead. This is tricky since we are double/triple counting.

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