Don’t Let FOMO Ruin Your PPC Strategy

I’ve been reading the stories about Twitter increasing the character limit for tweets beyond their traditional 140 characters with interest. Mainly, my interest is as an active Twitter user – I really don’t want it to change into a place where people can go on and on in a single tweet. But, like many businesses, particularly those who are now public, Twitter is feeling the pressure to grow, grow and grow some more EVERY SINGLE QUARTER for ever and ever more, amen.

I’ve written before about the incredible importance of knowing your audience/customers and making sure that you are not sacrificing your current and loyal customers in pursuit of shiny new ones. It seems like this could be the case with Twitter, we shall see… but it got me thinking about how FOMO (or Fear Of Missing Out) can make otherwise smart businesses do some really dumb things when it comes to their paid search strategies.

How Does FOMO Manifest Itself In PPC Strategy?

In my experience, it almost always shows up in a client’s reluctance to narrow their focus for PPC efforts. When we are in the discovery phase with clients, we always talk to them about exactly what their goals are for both their marketing in general and specifically what role they envision paid search playing in achieving the overall goals. This is an important part of the discovery process because I believe that having the larger picture in mind when designing a PPC strategy is really important. You may not be directly responsible for the whole enchilada, but you should have at least a basic idea of how your part fits in to the landscape.

I’m sure many of you have also dealt with clients who basically want to target “anyone who might possibly, if the stars align properly and there is no wind on that day, could maybe think about becoming a paying customer”… It’s at this point that I usually try to guide the conversation toward what types of potential customers are they willing to pay for on a one to one basis. As we all know, in paid search, every time someone clicks, you pay, whether they convert or not. It is my belief that not all clicks are worth paying for, but that can bump up against serious FOMO concerns with clients. I have actually had a client say something like this in a meeting when I suggested that we consider tightening our geographic focus just a bit to include only the actual areas that the client serves, plus a small margin to account for search engine physical locating fuzziness:

But, someone who lives in Town X *could* be a customer for us if we are having a slow day or slow week. We don’t want to miss out on that potential lead by not targeting them.

Are they absolutely and completely wrong in this statement? I don’t know. What I do know is this, there is no way I would recommend targeting that customer or that geographic area in paid search. I like results. I like to help clients figure out how to better target people who are actually at least somewhat likely to become a lead or a customer. Wasting time chasing outliers due to FOMO is just that, a waste.

How Do You Tamp Down The FOMO To Help Clients Best Focus Resources?

At a most basic level, we need to help clients to be able to prioritize their resources to put them where the are most likely to get the best results. This is another reason I like to know the whole marketing strategy. I find it is often easier to get a client to let go of targeting certain geographies or demographics in their paid search efforts if they know or feel like those categories are being at least somewhat covered via another marketing channel.

As an example, if you’re taking over an existing account, a great strategy can be to look at the location reporting in AdWords. I like to look at User Locations under the Dimensions tab to start to get an idea of where people WHO CLICK are roughly located. The data in this report can be very illuminating when it comes to where your campaigns are working well (or at least have traction) and where they might not be working so well. Armed with this information you can do several things for your clients:

  1. Stop targeting areas that historically have not performed well
  2. Increase budget dollars for areas that historically are performing well
  3. Make adjustments to your messaging for poorer performing areas to see if you can improve their performance

I have yet to work with a client with an unlimited budget. All have a limit on what they can and want to spend in a given month on PPC. If you have one who does not, I’d love to hear about what that is like! For the rest of us though, helping clients to be able to let go of things that don’t work well for them in the paid search space is one of the biggest benefits we as search professionals should bring to the table.

Sometimes we work with clients to scale back their efforts to focus on achieving better performance and then spin out strategies that are working well into other geographies, categories, etc. If they are reluctant to do this, we will focus on a single campaign where we will apply our strategies and tactics. Once we have shown positive results in that pilot campaign, it is generally very easy to move on to all the rest with the client’s trust in our recommendations even if we are telling them to narrow their focus.

Have you run up against PPC FOMO with any of your clients? How did you address it? As always sound off in the comments or hit me up on Twitter (@NeptuneMoon).


  1. Target everyone, but don’t spend too much :). Have definitely run across this. When it comes to keyword intent, Quality Score is usually a Big Flashing Warning to avoid targeting people who just cannot care about your product. But it’s hard to explain that to a newcomer to the mindset of the searcher.

    • Neptune Moon says:

      Ah yes, that is a great example.

      I have also found that when you explain, using actual dollars in the explanation, just how much Quality Score drag from poor targeting (keyword, persona or location) can be costing them, it can make a light bulb go off. Not always though – have still gotten the “but we don’t want to miss X” even after this tactic.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  2. My opinion is to really try to focus on your core market in search if you are in a fairly competitive vertical, and widen your reach using display if you want more action becauase its far cheaper to grab someone in the mid funnel via display than it is with search.

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