When a PPC campaign doesn’t go to plan, it can be difficult to know why - or where to start in getting it back on track.
You had your ad copy ready, you set a budget, and your creatives were, in your opinion, top notch. You set your ads live and waited for the conversions to pour in. But… nothing. Let's discuss why.
In this article, we highlight common reasons why your PPC campaigns may not be yielding conversions and provide actionable strategies to improve their effectiveness.
Whether display, search, shopping or discovery ads – these tips will be useful to maximise opportunity for any paid campaign – ensuring they are getting you the most value for your money.
Why your PPC campaigns aren’t getting conversions
1. Inadequate keyword research and selection
Effective PPC campaigns rely on thorough keyword research to identify the terms and phrases your target audience is using to search for products or services.
If your campaigns are not generating conversions, it's possible that you're targeting the wrong keywords or using overly generic terms.
Solution: Refine your keyword selection by focusing on a selection of short and long-tail keywords, specific to your offerings, to attract more qualified leads.
2. Lack of negative keywords
Similarly, a lack of negative keywords can result in your budget being wasted on irrelevant or poor performing search terms leaving less budget for high converting keywords/search terms.
Solution: Review keywords that are blowing your budget with little results – and add them to your negative keyword list.
3. Not enough budget or too low bids
Despite Google Ads working to get you results for the lowest cost, the highly competitive nature of paid ads means that a sufficient budget is required to yield clicks and ultimately conversions.
If your bid limit is too low, then you won’t be able to compete against competitors whose bids are higher.
Likewise, if your bid limit is high, but you don’t have enough budget – then you won’t have enough to cover multiple clicks even if you do win the bid.
Solution: Ensure your bid limit is high enough – and that you have enough budget once the bids come through. Calculate how much budget you need by working out how many conversions you need to meet your objectives, and multiplying that by the CPC. Alternatively, some businesses like to assign 10% of their total revenue to their PPC campaigns. Whatever the calculation, just be sure that you are sufficiently investing in the success of your paid marketing activity.
4. Poor ad copy and Call-to-Actions (CTA)
Compelling ad copy plays a crucial role in enticing users to click on your PPC ads. Lacklustre copy or weak CTAs can result in low click-through rates and ultimately hinder conversions.
Solution: Optimize your ad copy by highlighting unique selling propositions, benefits, and value propositions. Include strong and clear CTAs that prompt users to take action, such as "Shop Now," "Get a Quote," or "Sign Up Today". Think hard about who your customer is, what problems they need solving, and the messaging that would most resonate with them. Remember, customers tend to buy the ‘why’ rather than the ‘what’.
5. Landing pages aren’t optimised
One of the most common pitfalls in PPC campaigns is directing users to landing pages that do not align with the ad's messaging or offer, or that don’t take into account user experience when designing the pages.
If users don't find what they expect upon clicking your ad, they are likely to bounce, resulting in wasted ad spend and missed conversions.
Likewise, if it’s unclear exactly what you’re wanting your customer to do – sign up, purchase, fill out a form – then customers aren’t going to spend the time figuring out what to do.
Solution: Make sure that CTAs are consistent, remove unnecessary information to avoid decision fatigue, and present the most important and relevant information first.
Ensure that your landing pages are optimized for relevance, with a clear and seamless transition from the ad to the landing page, matching the user's search intent.
6. No keyword sculpting (+irrelevant landing pages)
Keyword sculpting, also known as keyword funnelling or keyword shaping, refers to the practice of strategically organizing and controlling the flow of traffic in a PPC advertising campaign. It involves selecting and optimizing keywords to direct users towards specific landing pages or segments of a website based on their search intent.
Sculpting ensures the right ads are shown to the right users at the right time.
If your campaigns don’t have relevant landing pages assigned to your ads, then customers are going to be less likely to engage with your pages. Remember - you have less than 15 seconds to convince a user that you can solve their problem.
Solution: Carry out detailed keyword research, and map each stage of the buying funnel – with relevant keywords for each stage. Then group these keywords into targeted ad groups and craft compelling ad copy and landing pages specific to each group's theme.
7. Insufficient location targeting
Setting the correct location targeting is crucial to ensuring an account can generate conversions. If the radius is set too small around a particular location you could limit the number of users who see your ads and therefore the number of clicks.
Solution: Review your targeting settings and try expanding your location radii.
8. Bad timing & seasonality
Similarly, if your ad schedules are set to irrelevant times – for example if they’re running all night, or after service operators are available to answer calls, then this will reduce the number of conversions generated by the campaigns.
If you’re deploying ads during seasonal dips in demand, this will also have an impact on your campaign performance.
Solution: Review sales data to identify seasonality and understand the times when conversions are most likely. Avoid running ads all night – customers are unlikely to be purchasing at 3am! – and avoid running ads during low seasonal demand for maximum ROI.
Also keep in mind service times – for example if you’re a business that relies on calls for conversions – ensure customers will be able to phone you after clicking on an ad and be able to speak to someone.
9. Lack of ad testing and optimization
PPC campaigns require continuous testing and optimization to improve performance. A lack of testing can prevent you from identifying underperforming ads or missed opportunities.
Solution: Experiment with different ad formats, variations in ad copy, headlines, visuals, and CTAs to find the winning combinations that resonate with your audience.
Regularly review campaign data, including click-through rates, conversion rates, and cost-per-conversion, to make informed decisions about optimization.
10. Ineffective tracking and measurement
Without proper tracking and measurement, it's challenging to identify what aspects of your PPC campaigns are working and what needs improvement.
Solution: Implement conversion tracking and analytics tools to gain insights into user behaviour, conversion paths, and campaign performance. Analyse the data to identify trends, areas for improvement, and optimize your campaigns accordingly.
11. Outdated account structures
Poor or outdated account structures can impact your campaign performance. For example, the Single Keyword Ad Groups (SKAGs) format is no longer as relevant due to the impact of automated bidding strategies. These use other keywords in the ad group to infer which users/search terms should be targeted.
Solution: Related keywords should be grouped in similar themed ad groups now to ensure they are utilising the full strength of Google’s algorithm and benefiting from ad group specific ad copy.
12. Not closely monitoring account status
It’s possible that policies or changes to Google Ads could be impacting your campaign performance, for example disapproved ads.
Google are renowned for enforcing new policies and product updates, some of which may not always be relevant to your ads but can cause ads to be disapproved, resulting in them being limited or not shown at all. This can normally be resolved through a simple appeal process. If the ads do violate a new policy, ensure that you make the relevant changes to get ads back up and running as soon as possible.
Solution: It is crucial a high level of maintenance is consistently carried out on the account to ensure there are no disapproved ads/ads limited by policy.
Factor in daily campaign and account maintenance activity to ensure you pick up on any account limits and stay on top of industry news to avoid missing key changes.
13. Not testing out broad match keywords
Staying on trend with developments and updates in Google Ads is also important, for example testing out broad match keywords, which have recently become much more effective at generating conversions.
Solution: Test out a limited selection of high-performing core keywords at first to see if these can help catch any missed conversions outside the normal phrase and exact match variations of the keywords. If this is successful it can be slowly expanded (carefully!) to include longer tail keywords if you have the budget to do so.
Broad Match keywords/campaigns should be monitored very closely in their early stages to ensure irrelevant traffic is cut out (there will be lots of it to begin with) and spend is going to relevant search terms.
14. Not tracking micro conversions
If your account has little to no conversions, then tracking micro conversions can be an effective strategy to help increase volume. Whilst they may not result in direct conversions, for an account that has limited data – this can be a good place to start.
With more conversion data to work with you’ll be able to assess where your campaign might be going wrong.
Solution: Ensure your account is taking advantage of as many CTA’s/ conversion opportunities on a website, and track micro conversions – for example, micro conversions such as PDF downloads or video views can help identify relevant traffic that is interested in your offering rather than bouncing straight away. This then provides a good starting point to begin to optimise bids and allows automated bidding strategies to better identify relevant users who are more likely to convert.
15. Poor bidding strategies
Use of poor converting bidding strategies such as Maximise Clicks could be impacting your campaign performance. Maximise Clicks aims to generate as many clicks as possible within a specified budget, and while they may be effective for some, the lack of conversion focus means that it doesn’t prioritise conversions or the quality of traffic.
Solution: Use bidding strategies that are relevant to your overall objectives & campaign types.
For example, if the requirement is to increase conversions, maximise conversions or target cost per conversion are strong bidding strategies for search campaigns. However, if the goal is to raise awareness of a product or offering through display campaigns, consider using target cost per thousand impressions (tCPM) which can help to gain as much unique reach as possible.
16. Lack of extensions
A lack of extensions such as sitelinks, call extensions, structured snippets can also limit your campaigns. A key benefit of ad extensions is that they take up more space on the search results page, giving you more opportunities to grab the attention of users and encouraging them to interact with your business or website in a number of different ways.
Sitelinks for example, can be used to direct users relevant areas of the website that they may be interested in such as a pricing page. Ad extensions can also help to improve ad quality, which increases ad rank and results in a lower cost per click.
Solution: Ensure that you are using as many relevant extensions as possible to encourage users to interact with your business in a variety of ways and provide relevant information quickly and easily.