20 Issues That Could Be Negatively Affecting Your Pay Per Click (PPC) Performance

Pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns are a great way to quickly bring more traffic to your website. Whether you run ads on Google, Bing, Youtube, Facebook, or some other platform, you’ll want to make sure that your campaign is successful so that you don’t waste precious time and money that could be better spent elsewhere on your business.

Customers call on us when they have had trouble succeeding with Google AdWords or other pay per click platforms. Here are the top 20 mistakes clients and businesses make, compiled from reviewing and correcting hundreds of client accounts. Use these suggestions to improve your own campaigns.

1) Not Having a Campaign Strategy

Any successful paid advertising campaign starts with a well defined strategy. You’ll have to define what your final outcome should be and who your target audience is and then work backward from the well defined goals you hope to achieve. Once you have these goals well defined, this will inform the number of campaigns and ad groups you will need. Each ad group should be tightly focused around a specific set of keywords so that the ads are highly relevant to the keywords. You must also take into consideration any geo-targeting that should be done, along with your target demographics, including age and other attributes. Be sure to make ads, keywords and landing pages as closely related as possible to target your intended audience more specifically, which will lead to a higher quality score, greater click through rates and conversions.

2) Using Your Homepage as the Main Landing Page

A common mistake business owners make is driving their PPC traffic to their homepage. You should always develop landing pages to correspond with each ad group. Having highly relevant landing pages for each related group of keywords, can drastically improve your conversion performance and lower your costs. When you drive visitors only to the home page, it  is frustrating for the visitor because your homepage isn’t necessarily the most relevant page which answers the exact questions they have about your products or services. Google in fact will reward you with lower click costs and higher rankings if the quality score of your landing page is very high and corresponds with the keywords you’re targeting. If you don’t have specific landing pages, you will end up paying more for each click and will likely get fewer conversions.

3) Not Tracking Conversion Goals

You cannot evaluate your PPC performance if you don’t set up and actively track conversion goals and this includes tracking both web form leads and calls. You have to know and be able to measure your desired end result so that you can make adjustments, test new approaches and see results. Just like any other goal setting process make sure your goals are SMART – specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely. Then you will be able to evaluate the various ad campaigns to see which ones are meeting your goals, which ones need improvement and which ones are a waste of time and money.

4) Improper Keyword Selection

Selecting the proper keywords for your campaign is critical for campaign success. If you only select the most obvious, broad keywords then you will end up paying too much money, attracting customers too high up the sales funnel and wind up competing with very large companies with vast budgets. It is important to look deeper for keyword opportunities where you can acquire customers at a more reasonable cost and where there is less competition. Using keyword suggestion tools, you can find better keyword phrases that will deliver higher quality results at a lower cost. Any low-performing keywords should be paused or removed so as not to drag down your campaign performance and waste precious resources on ads that won’t convert.

5) Using the Wrong Keyword Match Type

There are four different ways to target your keywords in Google Adwords.

  1. Exact match – Exact match is the most narrow keyword setting. Searchers will only see your ad if they search for the exact keywords you have in your campaign. This can be beneficial when you want to reach an audience that’s looking for an exact thing, such as a specific product, service or brand. If you want to really narrow your keyword focus, exact match will help you do that.
  2. Phrase match – Phrase match requires that your exact search term be present in a user search in the exact order you specify, but allows other words to be present before or after your phrase as well. For example, if your keyword phrase is “web developer” your ad may appear for a search for “best web developer” or “web developer in Florida”. In order to create a phrase match you put quotation marks around the exact phrase that must be included in the search query.
  3. Broad match + modifier – Broad match + modifier allows you to specify that certain keywords must be in the search, as well as close variations of your keyword but not synonyms.  Broad match modifiers allow other keywords within the search query. The order of the search query does not matter, as long as the search query contains the specific words you specify, or close variants. Ads will not be shown for synonym searches but will show for misspelling, singular and plural forms as well as for stemmings (like “floor” and “flooring”). In order to create broad match + modifier, simply add a plus sign to any words that must appear in the search query.
  4. Broad match – Broad match means that your ads will be shown for the keywords you specify but also for any synonyms, and closely related search terms as well as misspelled words. You have to be careful when using broad match because your ads may trigger for keywords that you had not intended. Broad match is the default setting when you add keywords to your campaign. For example,if you use the keyword “web developer”, your ad may also appear for search queries such as “website developer”, “web designer”, “web app developer” as well as misspellings, plural forms and stemmed versions such as (“floor” and “flooring”).

Choosing the correct match type will allow you to more specifically target the keywords you actually want to trigger and avoid triggering certain keyword combinations.

6) Failing to Use Negative Keywords

Negative keywords allow you to block your ads from showing when a user types in a word that is on your negative keyword list. For example, maybe you sell all kinds of computers except for tablet computers. Adding a negative keyword of “tablet” ensures your ads won’t trigger when someone types “tablet computers”. This will save money on your end and improve your PPC performance by increasing your click through rate, quality score and ultimately your conversions.

7) Choosing the Wrong Bid Setting

There are several bidding strategies that can be selected, from 100% manual to automated strategies with different objectives. While the subject of bidding strategies could be an article all by itself, here’s a quick summary of a few of the more popular bidding strategies. The strategy you choose plays an important role in the performance you will achieve.

  1. Manual Cost-per-Click Bidding: This setting allows you to manually control and make changes to all your bids. Many pay-per-click experts opt for having complete control over their campaigns and choose this setting since they are continually testing different strategies and want to control all aspects of their campaign. This may not be the best strategy unless you can actively manage the account. As you move into the following two automated strategies, you are entrusting more and more to the search engines to have your best interests at heart. Since these are public companies, it might make sense to limit how much control you are giving them. As of 2018, we have routinely gotten better performance and costs using a manual bidding strategy. As the system gets more and more complex and artificial intelligence improves, this may change.
  2. Enhanced Cost-per-Click (ECPC): This setting automatically adjusts your manual bids to help you get more conversions, while trying to achieve the same cost-per-conversion. ECPC is available as an optional feature with Manual CPC bidding. One potential downside is that Google will often aggressively raise your target cost per click in an effort to gain conversions. In late 2017, they removed the 30% cap they had on how high they could raise your bids above your maximum bid, leaving some advertisers concerned. It’s important to be aware that this is the default bidding strategy for new campaigns.
  3. Target Cost-per-Acquisition (CPA) Bidding: In this automated bidding strategy, Google uses algorithms that look at your conversion history and contextual clues at the time of bidding, and then tries to create an optimal cost-per-click (CPC) bid each time your ad is eligible to appear to a user. Sometimes you will pay more for a conversion and sometimes less, but Adwords will seek to keep your average at the target CPA bid you set. Adwords may suggest a target CPA and you can follow their suggestion or set it yourself. Target CPA can be used on keywords within a campaign, the whole campaign, or all of your campaigns.
  4. Target Return on Ad Spending (ROAS) Bidding:  In this strategy Adwords will seek to get you your a targeted return percent you specify on your advertising dollar. Google will use historical conversion information along with how much each conversion is worth to you You set the bar and Google will try to achieve the goal by adjusting bids on the fly to achieve your targeted return. You can use Target ROAS bidding on a single campaign or as part of a portfolio. For more information read About Target ROAS bidding.

8) Failure to Create Compelling Ad Copy

Your ad copy should be engaging, relevant, simple, and to the point. You should include the following in your ad copy:

  • Your keyword
  • Engaging, relevant content
  • A clear, compelling call-to-action

As you create ads, think about how compelling the ad copy is to you, and seek opinions from co-workers, employees or friends as to what you can do to improve it. Create multiple different versions of your ad copy and try each out to compare which gets more clicks and conversions. This is discussed in more detail below under A/B testing.

9) Lack of Ad Extensions

You should also enable ad extensions. These are additional pieces of information that can show with your ads to give searchers more information about your product or service. These may include addresses, phone numbers, snippets of information, extra price information or extra links to other pages on your website. Extensions have the value of making your ad stand out more than the rest, which can improve click-through and conversion rates, as well as moving your ad up in the list of ads shown. Extensions cost nothing to create and you pay only for those ads that are clicked. It is easier to add them to your Adwords account or a whole campaign and then pull them through for use in individual ad groups.

10) Failure to Conduct A/B Testing

Failure to conduct A/B testing could be negatively affecting your PPC performance. A/B testing of ads is simply the process of comparing two versions of an ad (or landing page, etc) to see which one gets better click-through-rates and conversions. This allows you to see which ad is more cost effective and likely to give you a better return on investment. You can then tweak that ad according to the settings described above or run it as is, if it is performing well. To conduct A/B testing you can change one or two elements of an ad such as the headline, fonts, keywords, extensions, or links to see which ad performs better. It would not be uncommon to run 2, 3 or more variations on an ad simultaneously.

11) Failure to Optimize How the Ad Looks on the Results Page

When you create an ad you will want to make sure it looks good when it’s displayed on mobile devices and desktop computers. Review your ad and ask yourself if you would click on the ad if you saw it. You will want to optimize how it looks and is arranged, the order of the headline, text and the wording of the text links involved, and any photos or other information you have included. Make sure everything fits, is easy to read and see, is compelling, and gives the information you want to convey. By doing this you can easily avoid one of the issues that could be negatively affecting your PPC performance.

12) Not Using Dynamic Keyword Insertion

Dynamic keyword insertion is way to insert whatever keyword the user actually searches on, into the ad itself. Only keywords you bid on will be inserted into your ads. The keywords can be inserted into many different places within the ad, thereby increasing your ad’s relevancy and visual appeal to the searcher. Dynamic keyword insertion typically outperforms traditional static ads because when the user searches, they see an ad with their exact keyword in it, as they typed it. Dynamic keyword insertion also allows you to set “default” text, so that if the keyword for example is too long to fit into your ad, they will display your default ad text.

13) Not Spending Enough

In order to determine your PPC campaign budget you need to look at three areas:

  • Determine Your Goals – How much traffic do you need to drive to your site in order to create the number of conversions to sales that you need/want. You can check your conversion rates through Google Analytics or your own analytics software. Then use a formula such as

Visitors Needed = Conversions / Conversion Rate

So if you want 300 new conversions and your conversion rate is 3% from your ads, you take 300/3% = 10,000 visitors to achieve your goal.

  • Estimate the Costs-per-Click (CPC) – To do this you can check your current PPC account or the Google Adwords Keyword Planner and come up with an estimated cost per click. Then use a formula such as

Total Budget = Visitors Needed * CPC

  • Determine the Value/Worth of Each Customer – You can do this by examining the average value of each sale and then determining what the lifetime value of that customer might be, accounting for future repeat purchases you might expect. Then use a formula such as

Customer Value = Revenues per Sale * Number of Sales * Number of Expected Future Purchases

This gives you a better idea of the amount of revenue expected from each customer over their expected lifetime. Compare that to the amount you plan to spend on your PPC campaign to determine your net gain and the expected ROI of your campaign.

By going through these steps you will get a better feel for what to expect and what it will take to accomplish your goals. You’ll also avoid unrealistic expectations.

14) Not Bidding on Branded Keywords

Branded keywords are those that include the name of your brand. You may already rank #1 for your brand in organic search but it’s always better to have more listings on the search results page, creating a dominating brand image. This also helps counteract competitors who might be bidding on your brand name to steal away customers. Branded keywords can include your company or brand name plus your brand name + another search word or phrase such as a city, state, coupon, review, product or service that you offer. Even though most PPC campaigns target new visitors, you should also target those who have already heard of your brand as well.

15) Not Targeting Demographics

Another issue that could be negatively affecting your PPC performance is not targeting particular demographics. This allows you to narrow your campaign to certain ages, genders, devices and locations. Some platforms allow even more granular demographic targeting such as interests, marital status, parental status, household income, location, app usage, and more. Use demographic targeting to narrow your campaign to a certain demographic that you know will be more likely to purchase your products or services.

16) Bids Too Low or Too High

There is a fine line between wasting your ad budget and setting bids too low so that they are no longer competitive. Your bids have to be competitive enough to get you into the mix and allow you to acquire high quality traffic. Bidding too low will produce very little volume and you may attract lower quality clicks. Bidding too high will leave you burning through your budget and not getting enough conversions for the money you’ve spent. There’s a delicate balance that is constantly changing in the online ad auction and so you must stay on top of this and monitor your ad positions and quality score, and adjust bids accordingly. Also, you may find that certain user characteristics produce a higher quality lead, while others lead to lower quality leads. You can dynamically adjust your bids up for these characteristics and down for the others.

17)  Not Using Remarketing

When a visitor comes to your site through organic search traffic or because of an ad, they may leave your site without taking action. These are valuable visitors because they’ve already come to your site once, and are more likely to take action if they visit another time or a number of times. Therefore you want to “remarket” these customers by displaying ads to them while they browse the web and are on other websites. You can set up remarketing groups with ads that particularly appeal to users who visit a certain page or section of your website. Using enticing tactics such as a special sale, free shipping, a discount coupon code, or percentage off your first order coupons, you can draw these visitors back to your business site and likely convert them into customers.

18)  Not Using Schedules To Target Hour Of Day & Days Of Week

Not scheduling your ads for certain hours of the day or days of the week is another issue that could be negatively affecting your PPC performance. This is because your ads might do best for a certain number of hours each day or on certain days, and by not scheduling them you may be wasting clicks during times when your target audience isn’t seeking your services. If your target audience is business to business type customers, focusing your hours during normal business hours may return higher quality leads. It’s something you have to test because there may be advantages to targeting outside normal business hours as well.

19)  Relying Solely On Automated Bidding

Although automated bidding can be helpful under certain circumstances, companies should not rely on it 100% to create and manage their PPC budgets and bids. By doing so, you may end up paying a lot more for your advertising than you should. There’s no replacement for proactive account and bid management which can usually achieve better PPC performance. This does require time and attention but the extra time and effort is worth it in the end.

20) Paying for Keywords that Don’t Bring in Business

When you look over your keyword reports you may see that particular keywords are bringing visitors and you’re incurring costs, but the create few or no conversions. In this case it would be wise to pause that campaign. This is why it is so important to routinely examine your account data and analyze your keyword performance. Poor performing keywords need to be changed or deleted to create space for high-performing ones so that your budget is focused around achieving your goals and getting results.

Would You Like Help Improving Your PPC Performance?

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