5 Reasons Your PPC Campaigns Are Failing (and How to Improve Them)

Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising has become a large part of corporate online media spending because it helps brands get more visibility in search engines than organic searches alone can provide. But some campaigns run into trouble due to lack of research and focus. Here are 5 reasons campaigns fail and what you can do to start improving them now…

Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Advertising has become a large part of corporate online media spending because it helps brands get more visibility in search engines than organic searches alone can provide.

Many companies have had great success with PPC ads, allowing them to reach an otherwise untapped audience and get them to convert successfully once they land on the company website.

But other companies…not so much. Where these campaigns tend to run into trouble ultimately stems from lack of research and focus. The following are 5 reasons campaigns fail and what you can do to start improving them now.

1. Lack of Research for Targeted Keywords

Know what’s the largest mistake you can make when starting a new campaign? Assuming that you know the keywords people are using to find your products or services.

Thorough keyword research will open your eyes to new potential phrases. These keywords are usually bought at a lower cost and have less competition, allowing you to jump to the top of the listings more easily and obtain higher visibility.

Several tools can assist you in keyword research. Start with the Google Adwords Keyword Tool. If you have a professional SEOMoz.org account, their Keyword Difficulty Tool is great, too.

2. Lack of Keyword Use in Ads

Though the various advertising networks have different algorithms for deciding where to place your ad on specific keywords, there is always a type of “quality score” that accompanies ads and keywords. Within the Google Adwords platform, the quality score metric plays a large part in deciding your cost per click, your positioning and even whether or not your ad will show.

What’s the key to a higher quality score? Advertising on keywords that are also mentioned in your ad (or related to your ad). For example, if you are advertising for skateboards, you don’t want that keyword to live in an ad group where all the ads talk about ice skates or sporting goods in general. You want it in an ad group that talks about skateboards.

Be as specific as you can when creating ad groups, ads and keyword combinations.

3. Over Promising and Under Delivering

Another major killer of a PPC campaign (or any campaign for that matter) is to promise the viewer an ice cream cone in the ad and then deliver a toothpick once they get to your site.

If you promise potential customers a specified item or reward in your ad, you must deliver on that promise. That means you have to create specific, goal-oriented landing pages.

Use the same headline in both the ad and the landing page. This presents the visitor with an instant connection and lets them know they’re in the right place. Ad copy doesn’t have to be an exact match to what visitors will experience on the landing page, but be sure to deliver a consistent message.

Then make it easy for the visitor to get the promised reward. For that, you need a great Call to Action—important enough to deserve its own discussion. 

4. Boring or Unclear Landing Page CTAs

Clear Calls to Action (CTAs) are a must for successful landing pages. The purpose of running a PPC ad campaign is to deliver a searcher from their search query to your website and through to conversion. But without a solid call to action on your landing page, visitors may be confused about which step to take next.

Each landing page you create should have only one major CTA. This is best located just after the main copy, before the “fold” of the page. After writing a catchy headline and subheadline, use the area immediately below to talk more in-depth about your offering. Then close with an eye-catching, specific and actionable CTA.

What does that look like? Not this: “Click Here for More Information.” While your design may be eye-catching, “click here” just won’t grab the reader’s attention.

Instead, relate it to your product or service and its benefits. If you want someone to sign up for a newsletter, “Sign Up Now” or “Start Getting Updates” is much better than “Click Here.” Be as specific as you can. 

5. Not Tying Back to On-Site Metrics

Continual optimization is key to successful PPC campaigns. Most campaign managers look at the metrics provided by the ad serving software (AdWords, DoubleClick, etc.), to see what they can do to get better click-through rates and potentially lower their cost per click. While that is a valuable and necessary task, the real proof and cost savings is in analyzing on-site performance from your campaigns.

So keep checking the performance of your ads, but also keep checking how visitors are interacting with your site once they click through. Remember that visitors must convert on site to get the full value of your offerings.

Is something stopping them from converting? You won’t find that information within the metrics on the PPC end. Use Google Analytics or another web analytics platform to analyze on-site activity from visitors coming from your campaigns. This will help you to further optimize the landing page—and improvements to the landing page are improvements to your campaign.

There are other reasons campaigns fail, but these 5 are great opportunities to start improving. Wishing you success on your next campaign!


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