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Critical QA Tips for 3rd-Party Platforms

Published: October 28, 2015

Author: Jaime Sikora

Love them or hate them, if you’re an SEM, you probably use a 3rd-party platform, or have at least toyed with the idea of trying one.  Oftentimes, like all forms of software, they come with some challenges.  Here’s a couple QA tips for working with a new platform.
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Double-Check the Settings

This might sound like a no-brainer, but remember that sometimes during a rollout of updates, default settings may change.  Additionally, sometimes certain setting don’t default to the most useful place.  If you want to generate tracking URLs – which, if you’re using a platform, you most likely do – make sure that is selected.  Additionally, make sure that you are generating tracking URLs for the appropriate level (either keyword or creative, depending on your account structure).

Check the Upload Status

Not all platforms automatically inform you in the easiest, most glaring “Error, Error, Red Alert” format that your recent upload did not get pushed out as expected.  Where in the interface you can confirm the status depends on the platform; however, almost all have a ‘bulksheet’ status page, where it will state if the post didn’t go through, or if there were some errors.

Check the URLs in AdWords/Bing

As a second level of making sure everything pushed out appropriately, get recent changes in either AdWords or Bing and look for the appropriate keyword or ad and make sure the tracking is appropriately applied to the URLs.  If it isn’t – see above – look into where the upload may have gone wrong.

Play by Their Rules

One of the biggest pain points is often that 3rd-party upload sheets are much more complex than a simple AdWords Editor fix.  And, as we know, each and every time an ad is edited, it gets recreated, thus losing tracking.  One of the biggest pain points is making changes in the platform; however, it unfortunately needs to be done for all tracking purposes and best results.  When uploading, make sure your column headings match theirs exactly – this is a common place for things to go wrong and large-scale uploads to get completely rejected.  Secondly, if possible, try to build a blank bulksheet template or perhaps, if you’re skilled enough, a macro to create a bulksheet as a time-saver.

Understand the Limits of the Reps

In search engines and social and software platforms, evolution is constant and little is static.  There are constantly bugs to be worked through and competitors to keep up with.  It’s almost impossible for their own representatives to be completely aware of all changes rolling out and all nuances of new programs.  It might be a frustration, but it’s an industry-wide problem. Two potential pain alleviators:

-Be very specific about your problem and what you’ve tried thus far. Don’t make it easy for them to direct you to a FAQ page & call it done.  Mention the campaign name, account number, specific keyword or ad copy, etc.  Mention every step you’ve taken, why you tried it, and how you’ve ended up where you are.

-Try either searching the site or googling your issue – sometimes this is the quickest way to troubleshoot.

Follow All Steps

Many 3rd-party platforms are working to alleviate their non-intuitive traits; however, some still have a couple bugs of making sure a certain number of steps are taken to be sure a keyword is part of a portfolio and that that portfolio is targeting a certain goal.  Make sure to closely follow the instructions (everything we really need to know we learned in kindergarten) as opposed to going with what simply makes sense, as we have become inclined to do in the online space.

Monitor Closely

Like I mentioned earlier, double-checking is key.  If your keyword is in a portfolio targeting for position 2 or higher and it’s still averaging position 4, investigate it.  If there are URLs without tracking, try to figure out where things went wrong vs. hoping that it’ll resolve itself.  Stay proactive and watch the account like a hawk.
Any other tips for managing 3rd-party platforms? Leave a comment!

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