You're targeting an audience that hasn't heard of you
You're not using extensions
You're not using negative keywords
You're not bidding on branded keywords
You don't know your customer lifetime value
Your landing page has a poor 'attention ratio'
When was the last time you took a hard look at your Google Ads account? I mean really got under the hood and analyzed what exactly was going on with all those moving parts.
If you are like many businesses, you’re most likely content with the base level predefined reports that Google gives you as well as any recommendations that Google happily offers up as guidance to improving your performance — but you still aren’t seeing the performance uptick you were expecting.
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Google offers this information as a convenience, which is a nice guidance, but at the end of the day it is only you and your internal team who truly knows what is good for your business or your client. Relying on a machine can only go so far. Just ask Sarah Connor.
Well, the good news is that I am here to help those of you who are struggling with understanding what could potentially be causing all this lackluster performance.
By sending searches to your homepage (instead of a page dedicated to a specific paid media campaign), you are creating a poor experience for your paid search visitors.
You are not giving them what they are asking for when they click on your ad.
For example, if you were to search “virtual sales training” and you clicked on an ad that took you to a page all about the many different types of training a company had to offer and not specifically about “virtual sales,” you would rightfully be a bit unsatisfied.
Customers are using the keywords you are bidding on for a reason. They are looking for something specific. If, when they click your ad, they are taken to a general page that does not speak directly to these keywords, they’re likely to bounce and your dollar will be wasted.
When this happens Google understands that searchers are not getting what they want and ultimately your quality score drops, which leads to limited delivery of your ads as well as an increase in your cost-per-click. A real no-win situation.
What to do instead: When a user searches for a topic that you are paying to be seen for, give them exactly what they want.
Design a custom landing page for each paid media campaign you have.
For the above-mentioned search, your landing page should present an offer that provides value directly related to “virtual sales training.”
This may be an eBook or white paper, but the best would be a video or a form to sign up for more information on a training.
Additionally, the ideal landing page will only present two ways the user can be directed away from the landing page: the back button and the call-to-action.
2. You don’t measure ROI
Why it’s a mistake: Failing to measure your return on investment (ROI) is a fundamental mistake that will cause you to waste advertising dollars.
Simply put, without measuring ROI, you will be unable to know whether or not you are making money and at what margin.
Making sure you have an accurate measurement of how much money is worth investing in your paid media efforts is the first step towards making financially significant improvements in your account.
What to do instead: It's all about proper conversion tracking. Install, maintain, and continuously improve a data analytics platform as well as your CRM (customer relationship management system, we happen to love HubSpot) if you are taking advantage of this technology.
For many of our clients, Google Analytics and HubSpot are a great place to start.
Make sure you install your data package in a way that allows you to clearly identify key metrics related to ROI.
At the end of the day, you will want to see how much money you spent versus how many conversions you achieved.
Lowering the price per conversion (also known as your cost-per-acquisition or CPA) is typically where we like to start optimizing within an account. Think of it like this. If you walked into a store and could grab a customer off the shelf, what would you be willing to pay?
This sort of exercise helps a ton because it really makes you think about what is too much and what your ideal CPA benchmark should look like. Having said that all of this cannot be achieved without a proper setup of your valued conversions and goals.
3. You are not using the correct keyword categories
Why it’s a mistake: From a tactical perspective, keyword categories are what decide the size of the impact your ad will have on an audience.
Simply put, if you use a broad keyword category you will reach a broad audience of people; if you use any other type of category, you will be narrowing the audience in some shape, form, or fashion.
Using a broad match categorization when an exact match is necessary would be akin to using the intercom at your office when you only need to speak to a few colleagues.
Both get the job done, but neither is efficient and one will get you on the office’s bad side really quickly.
With a broad match categorization, your message will get seen, but a large number of that audience may not be interested.
Using the same example above, this would look like +virtual +sales +training.
Also, keep in mind that this means your Phrase Match keywords will now act as Broad Match Modified. My recommendation is to keep any eye on these to ensure that they are not budget busting on vague search terms.
What to do instead: Map out your keywords alongside your customer journeys and look for areas where the two do not align.
When you see these areas, reflect on your customer journey to determine what keywords they would be searching for during each stage, and implement those into your content.
Keyword and customer journey alignment ensures your customers are continually getting the answers they need to the questions they ask. Without proper alignment, you threaten your image by being unable to provide answers to customer questions.
4. You're using poor landing page design and copy
Why it’s a mistake: Think of your landing page in the same way you think about your storefront or your office.
Just like signs and offices, a landing page can often be the first impression a potential client has of your business.
Whoever lands on that page will form an instant impression based on what they see, read, and experience.
A poor landing experience usually involves a combination of poor graphics, confusing content, and an experience that leaves visitors wondering what the purpose of the page was in the first place.
In Google Ads, poor landing pages will not see many results because they scare away or frustrate visitors.
What to do instead: Create professional landing pages with great content and a great user experience.
An effective landing page will have a compelling mix of both media (photos or videos) and a strong CTA. Always consider what you yourself expect when jumping into Google to search for a product and service. What is it that you expect to see when you click on a result?
When done correctly, the landing page will be able to accomplish one, and only one, thing very well: convert visitors into leads or customers.
5. You’re targeting an audience that hasn’t heard of you
Why it’s a mistake: Hands down this is perhaps the most important. Creating ads with the purpose of generating customers or leads for your company and putting them in front of people who are not aware enough about your company, brand, or services is a recipe for failure.
I see this a lot: The ad’s purpose simply does not line up with the audience it is being placed in front of. This is often where you see really low clickthrough rates (CTR), which is a big indicator that you are missing the mark on your messaging and/or audience.
Here’s why: If you’re targeting people who haven’t heard of you with your Google Ads, they likely won’t trust you. Again, think about what you would do. Do you trust a brand right away if you have never heard of them, or do you take other steps to getting better informed and warm to the brand?
Build audience lists in Google Analytics or within Google Ads directly, then retarget them in your Google Ads campaigns.
One highly effective strategy is to create display ads for the purpose of attracting visitors to a website, building an audience list on the website, and then remarketing to that audience.
6. You’re not using extensions
Why it’s a mistake: Extensions are additional bits of copy that can be attached to your ads. When you use them, not only do you offer searchers more options to help fulfill their needs or wants, you also make your ad bigger. Owning more of the SERP (search engine results page) real estate is very beneficial not only to your brand, but also to help push any competition lower in the results page.
This logic dates back to the beginning of advertising, for good reason.
Extensions provide the necessary real estate to allow searchers the longest amount of time possible to see your search ad.
Plus, they bring intended actions to the forefront (like getting in contact) and make them much easier to complete.
What to do instead: Use extensions to give your ad the space it needs to be seen.
For a more advanced strategy, consider which extensions will provide the most value for searchers.
Why it’s a mistake: Negative keywords are the words that you don’t want your ad to be associated with, and they are a great way to help guide Google’s ad platform in how to best display your ads.
Simply put, instead of thinking about where you want your ad to display, think about where you don't want it to display.
For example, let's say that you’re a criminal law lawyer and you wanted to advertise ads on the keyword “criminal law lawyer”. What you don’t want to show ads on are people looking for “what is a criminal law lawyer?” or “criminal law lawyer salary”, so you would make words like “what is” and “salary” your negatives to help prevent ads from showing on these search terms.
So, make sure that you insert keywords that prevent your ad from showing for searches you don't want to associate with your brand.
As you can imagine, there are some negative keywords that every account should use, in addition to industry-specific and campaign specific negative keywords.
Like many PPC professionals, I like to have a working list of negative keywords before any account build. If you don’t know how to choose your keywords, consider working with a professional or use this article as a starting point.
A trick I like to use is simply Google your keywords that you want to buy into and see what comes up on the SERP and what also what Google suggests.
These are often the quickest way to creating your initial negative keyword list until you start getting data within your search term report.
8. You're not bidding on branded keywords
Why it’s a mistake: By not owning keywords like your business’ name, flagship product, or service, and other significant proprietary terms, you are doing your bottom line and your reputation a disservice.
Savvy competitors will likely see that you are not bidding on your own branded keywords, and they will then buy those words themselves.
When competitors cannibalize your brand terms, they show up in search queries where you should be. In other words, when customers search your name, looking for you, they’ll see your competitors’ names first.
What to do instead: Start a branded paid media campaign.
Use the names of your business, flagship products and services, and any trademarked slogans to build out a keyword list.
Once you have a list of branded terms to bid on, create landing pages with ad copy that direct user searches to offers and information that directly applies to your brand image.
For most businesses, branded keywords are super cheap, so these are also great if you are advertising with small budgets.
9. You don’t know your customer lifetime value (CLV)
Why it’s a mistake: Customer lifetime value is the total value, often expressed in revenue or profit metrics, a customer or client represents to your business over the course of your relationship together.
Once you know your target CLV, you can accurately budget for your paid media campaigns, ensuring that you don’t spend more on acquiring a customer than you’ll end up making from them.
Without knowing your CLV, you may have no idea whether or not the price you are paying for your Google Ads conversions is worth the time and capital required to generate them.
This effectively removes any ability to use a data-driven approach, which leaves you guessing at what you should be doing instead of making an informed decision about what you should be doing. This leads to costly errors.
What to do: Calculate target CLV for your business, use it to inform data-driven campaign decisions. There are a variety of different formulas to do this.
I won’t lie. The few times I have been tasked to calculate the true CLV of a business, it has been challenging.
10. Your landing page has a poor ‘attention ratio’
Why it’s a mistake: Attention ratio is the balance between your landing page’s “leaks” and call-to-actions (CTAs).
Leaks are places where the user could click and move off the landing page, away from the desired CTA. You do not want your users moving away from a landing page, which you are paying for them to visit.
The worse the ratio, the harder it is to generate conversions. An ideal ratio is 1:1, but I’ve seen as bad as 75:1 in some cases.
In theory, every campaign should have one goal and every corresponding landing page should only have one call to action.
A poor attention ratio is the number one indicator that the landing page likely has other areas that will need attention.
What to do instead: Fix your leaks. Do you have a header with links? Remove it. Footer? You already know the drill. Any link that doesn’t contribute to a conversion, remove it. Remember, try to keep it to that one goal you are looking for your searchers to convert on.
Something I like to do is take advantage of heat mapping tools to help work with clients in actually seeing the leaks happen via visitor recordings, as well as the hotspots where searchers are clicking the most.
If your ads are failing, get to work!
These are my top 10 reasons why your paid media account is not performing, but they are certainly not the only 10 issues I see.
Unfortunately, there are many ways to potentially mess up an Google Ads account. My strong advice is to help avoid them by staying current with professional best practices, monitoring your account health (I’m talking more than once a month. Yep, I am looking at some of you!), and creating ads that give your searchers value.
If all else fails, remember to keep it simple. Reach out to a Google rep or a paid media professional and ask them questions. Never be afraid to ask questions. You will always learn from them and help make your account that much better.
Remember, as with everything Google, things change quickly. If you are experiencing difficulties achieving the account performance you desire, use these tips to help get back on track.