Top 11 Reasons Why Your PPC Campaigns Aren’t Converting

I am a huge fan of running PPC campaigns to scale your business. There is no faster way to get a huge influx of qualified traffic and start generating leads or revenue today instead of weeks or months from now. If your business needs a shot in the arm, PPC marketing is the right tool for the job.

However, it’s also a double edged sword. Your campaigns will do exactly what you tell them to even if it’s not in your best interest. And this is especially dangerous because you could be hemorrhaging cash without knowing it until it’s too late.

When most businesses find out that they are, they pull the plug, write the whole thing off, and say, “PPC doesn’t work.”

It does, you just need to know why it isn’t working for you right now so you can fix it and generate the ROI you’ve been hoping for.

I’ve audited hundreds of PPC accounts throughout my career and I’ve come across some very common reasons why PPC campaigns don’t convert. I’ll cover my top 11 in this article and hopefully give you some insight on how to fix them.

Reasons why your PPC campaigns are failing

1. You aren’t tracking your KPIs

PPC management is a heavily data driven field of online marketing.

So much so that we won’t take on a new PPC client that A) doesn’t have conversion tracking already in place, or B) won’t work with us to get our closed loop conversion tracking in place.

It’s that important.

If you’re doing paid marketing of any kind, you need to be able to track your leads. And I’m not saying that you just need to know how many raw leads you generated.

You need to know exactly how many leads you generated, exactly where they came from down to which keyword showed the ad that got the click, and if that click resulted in a sale or not.

You need complete end-to-end conversion tracking.

The bottom line is that you can’t properly manage a PPC account if you don’t have the data to make informed decisions. If you aren’t able to track performance data, you don’t need to be running PPC ads, period.

PPC KPIs you should be tracking

  • Search impression share: The visibility of your ads for a given keyword. (More on this in section 6.)
  • Conversions: The number of desired actions you received, i.e. sales, leads, phone calls, video plays, etc.
  • Cost per conversion: How much it costs to get a conversion.
  • Conversion rates: The number of conversions you got divided by the number of clicks to get them.
  • Phone calls: The number of phone calls that lasted longer than a set length. (More on this in section 2.)

While it’s important to have visibility on these stats and to know what they are, you don’t want to get too bogged down in specifically optimizing for them.

This sounds counter-intuitive because we all want cheap leads, but you have to balance the cost of generating these leads with the quality of leads you’re getting. (More on this in section 3.)

Tracking your PPC performance

Now, a lot of this data can be tracked through Google Analytics and the Google Ads dashboard, but you’ll also need to use the Google URL builder to guarantee that Analytics collects accurate data.

Clicks can sometimes be misattributed to other traffic sources so using these query strings in your URLs will help keep your data clean. You can also auto-tag your destination URLs in the Google Ads platform if you’d rather take that route.

Building URLs with the builder

Below is a quick screenshot of what you can expect when building URLs.

Simply fill in the fields with the appropriate data, copy the campaign URL in the bottom box, and then paste that as the destination URL for your ads.

This will guarantee that anyone that clicks that ad will visit your site with those parameters in the URL so Google can use them to properly track that user’s behavior.

google url builder example screenshot

Below is a quick checklist on how you can get your own conversion tracking setup started, though this only handles the front-end. Once the leads or sales hit your system, your dev / IT teams will need to figure out how to handle the back-end tracking.

Configuring standard KPI tracking

  • Install Google Analytics on your site (if you haven’t already)
  • Set up your Google Ads conversion tracking
  • Create goals in Analytics for your desired actions
  • Use a Call Extension on all of your campaigns in Google Ads
  • Ensure that your ERP / CRM is properly collecting and assigning the data to the correct customer account
  • Check that your store is tracking orders and revenue properly (Ecommerce only)
  • Verify that your phone system is properly tracking calls from Google Ads (track the Google generated numbers in the Call Extension)

2. There’s no call tracking in place

If your call tracking ends the moment a sales person takes the call, you’re in trouble.

Being able to collect information about the source of your phone calls is just as, if not more, important as tracking straight conversions. Despite how easy it is to have a call tracking solution in place, many businesses still completely overlook this vital part of PPC marketing.

When you don’t have call tracking set up, there’s no way for you to know what happens to the calls you’ve generated after your sales team gets the prospect on the phone.

simplified ppc call tracking workflow example

You won’t have any data on the lead close rate, how much revenue the lead generated, and whether or not your campaigns are actually profitable. And on top of that, your sales team won’t be able to give you good feedback on the quality of leads you’re generating. You could be sinking thousands of dollars a month into garbage leads without knowing it.

Not having this information handy severely handicaps your ability to build profitable lead generation campaigns.

3. You’re too focused on cost

One of the areas that businesses (and professional PPC agencies) place too much importance on is the cost of their pay per click campaigns. This includes metrics like their cost per click (CPC), total cost, cost per action (CPA), and so on.

They end up sabotaging themselves because their tunnel vision gets so bad that these end up being the only numbers that matter to them.

The absolute last thing you need to worry about is your cost.

Shift Your Focus to ROI

You should be spending all of your time and energy on maximizing the profitability of these campaigns so the cost takes care of itself.

I’ll give you an example. If you only looked at the data in the table below when you audit your campaigns, campaign #3 would probably end up being on the proverbial chopping block. It has the highest cost and the highest cost per conversion. So, based on this data set, it’s the “worst” performing.

ppc campaign data table example 2

However, when you shift your criteria from focusing on cost to return on ad spend (ROAS), it paints a completely different picture.

ppc campaign data table example 3
This is why you need end-to-end conversion tracking.

That campaign generated $19,000 with a 342% ROAS. That means for every $1 that was spent, that campaign generated $3.42 of profit. It’s high cost per conversion is now meaningless because the campaign paid for itself multiple times over.

Change How You Think About Your PPC Budget

The simplest way to think about it is that if you optimize your PPC campaigns so that you consistently generate $2 for every $1 you spend, your ad spend is now completely irrelevant. It shouldn’t even be a blip on your radar because you’re doubling your investment.

The question now isn’t “how much should we spend?”, but “how much revenue do we want to generate?”

Now, with all of that said, of course you need to be mindful of your costs, but reducing your costs should never come at the expense of a campaign’s profitability.

Focus on maximizing your ROAS and the cost takes care of itself.

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4. It’s being flat out neglected

During most of our audits for new clients, neglect is usually one of the most pervasive issues. I mentioned this in my PPC stats article already, but it’s a big enough issue to keep bringing it up.

PPC accounts aren’t getting the attention they need. It’s a full time job that requires full-time attention. At the very least, you should never go a week without at least checking in on them to see how they’re doing. That’s just not happening and the stats don’t lie.

PPC Management Stats

  • 65% of small to mid sized businesses have active PPC campaigns.
  • Less than 10% of Google Ads accounts are optimized on a weekly basis.
  • Roughly 20% of Google Ads account managers make no changes to their accounts within a single month.
  • 72% of companies haven’t looked at their ad campaigns in over a month.

As a professional PPC account manager, just reading these stats gives me anxiety. I can’t imagine going more than 2 days without checking my accounts, much less a week or a month.

But we understand the cause of this issue better than most.

Why accounts are being neglected

It’s tough for a business to run its own pay per click campaigns if they don’t have a dedicated person in house to handle this, which most usually don’t. Typically, it’s put on the plate of someone that’s in the marketing, development, or IT departments and they have to fit it into their already packed schedule.

That doesn’t always happen.

This truly is the most common source of the “neglect” we see. It isn’t out of incompetence or apathy or even arrogance. People get busy, they skip a day, that day becomes a week, and a week becomes a month.

It happens, but it doesn’t have to keep happening.

Get in there and do the work. You don’t have to do it all at once. Spending 15 minutes a day or every other day is better than nothing at all.

5. You’re not keeping the scent

A sales funnel is a conversation and the key to a quality sales conversation is clear and consistent messaging, aka keeping the scent.

The reason behind this is that you want your visitors to always know that they’re in the right place and following the right path to get what they want.

Think of keeping the scent like Hansel and Gretel with the breadcrumbs. You’re leaving a trail from your ad to guide your prospects to your conversion page.

When you’re building a sales funnel, you have to keep the intent of the user’s query in mind from beginning to end. This begins with your ad copy.

Write ad copy that matches user intent

First impressions matter. If your ad copy doesn’t reflect what the user is looking for, you aren’t going to get clicks.

Let’s say that a user searches for “how to get out of debt” and they get the ads in the image below. At the very least, the user is going to click on the first ad since it’s an exact match of their query.

how to get out of debt ppc ad copy examples
Only 1 ad is a good match for my query.

The other ads may get clicks, but they’re straight up stinkers; ad #2 is for money habits & credit card debt, ad #3 starts out good with “debt free in 24-60 months”, but ends up failing since it’s for debt consolidation loans (which the user wasn’t looking for), and #4 is for a company reviews article (also not what they were looking for).

Those don’t resonate with the intent behind the query which is “I need information to help me figure out how to get rid of this debt”.

You also want to make sure you fulfill any promises you make in your ad on the subsequent landing page. If you make an ad that leverages a free ebook, there has to be a way for them to get the ebook on that landing page.

Not having it will just end up annoying the user and wasting your PPC budget.

Stay consistent in your messaging

Your ad copy and getting the click is just the first step. You’ve gotten your foot in the door. You have their attention, now you need to keep it.

When it comes to your landing pages, there are two things you want to accomplish to make sure you keep the scent. The first is meeting the expectation you’ve set.

So, let’s say you’re sending traffic from an ad for “outdoor Bluetooth speakers” to a landing page with all different kinds of speakers on it. (Looking at you Bose…)

bad bose ppc landing page example
Message mismatch from ad copy to landing page subject matter.

This is message mismatch. You have mislead the customer into believing there will be outdoor Bluetooth speakers on the following page when there aren’t any.

Most of the clickers are going to abandon the site immediately since it doesn’t feature A) what they’re looking for, or B) what was in the ad copy. The first row of products has an amplifier, computer speakers, and bookshelf speakers for crying out loud. Not a single set of outdoor Bluetooth speakers to be seen.

Now, some users might stick around because of brand loyalty to Bose, but literally no one should be relying on brand loyalty to counteract their terrible (and lazy) marketing practices.

Quote me on this. Bose should 100% know, and be doing, better.

ppc landing page message match example
Staying on message will increase stickiness and boost conversion rates.

A better way for Bose to stay on message and keep the scent is to change the main headline to match, or be a derivation of, their ad’s headline. This tells the user that they are in the correct place. And by having outdoor Bluetooth speakers in the body of the page, it will keep their attention and get them clicking deeper into their site.

It’s all about staying on message and making it easy for the customer to buy from you. Lay those bread crumbs, remove friction and barriers to purchase, and collect your money hand over fist.

So, when you’re building your next PPC campaign, be sure to keep the scent from Keyword -> Ad copy -> Landing page.

An added benefit to keeping the scent is that your Quality Score ratings will skyrocket.

What is Quality Score?

Quality Score is the possibly the single most important metric in Google Ads after your ROI. I’m not even remotely exaggerating.

In a nutshell, Quality Score is a 10 point rating system that tells you how relevant your ads and landing page are for a user’s query. The higher your quality score is, the more relevant they are and vice versa.

You can find out what your Quality Scores are by going into an active ad group, clicking on Columns, going to modify columns, clicking the search icon to open the search box, type in Quality Score, click it, then click Save.

Now you’ll have a quality score showing for each of the keywords you’re actively bidding on.

Here’s why it’s important. It directly affects how much your clicks actually cost.

quality score cpc
How Quality Score affects your CPCs.

A keyword’s Quality Score is a modifier that’s applied to its CPC to calculate its final cost.

Let’s say you have a keyword with a $5 CPC and a quality score of 5/10. The final CPC would be $5 since that’s the standard Google benchmark.

However, if you have a keyword with a $5 CPC and a 10/10 quality score, your CPC is now $2.50 since the ad and landing page are highly relevant for a user’s search query. The reverse is true too. A $5 CPC with a 1/10 score would actually cost you $20.

Do not ignore your quality scores. It can have a major impact on your ad spend.

Keep the scent. Stay on message. Optimize your quality scores.

6. Your budget isn’t high enough

I know this is probably something you don’t want to hear, but sometimes it just boils down to you not spending enough money.

Let’s say that you’re new to pay per click marketing and you don’t want to waste a lot of money so you take things slow. You start with a low budget, let’s say $20 a day, and you start showing ads, but your campaign exhausts its budget an hour later.

You’re never going to get anywhere like that and here’s why.

There are two main components running successful PPC campaigns; 1) ad visibility, and 2) click volume. If you solve the first, the second takes care of itself.

The first issue to tackle is your ad’s visibility.

People can’t buy from you if you ad isn’t being shown. It’s that simple.

But, how do you know if your ads are being shown or not? Check your Search Impression Share in Google Ads.

It isn’t active by default, but you can turn it on by going to Columns and selecting the ones you want.

There are 3 different variants of search impression share, but we’ll focus on the base version for the sake of simplicity.

What is Search Impression Share?

In a nutshell, search impression share is a measure of how often your ads were shown when someone searched for the keywords you’re bidding on.

search impression share chart example screenshot
Search impression share reflects your ad’s visibility.

For this particular campaign, it was visible ~50% of the time, and when it wasn’t visible, ~29% was due to rank and ~20% was due to budget. Losing visibility due to rank is because your CPCs were outbid by a competitor. Losing visibility due to budget is because your daily budget was exhausted when those searches were made.

To fix impression share to rank, you’ll need to increase your CPCs. To fix impression share due to budget, you’ll need to increase your budget.

However, it isn’t that simple. There are a few factors which work in concert that affect your impression share.

Factors that Affect Your PPC Ad Visibility

  • Cost per click (CPC): High CPCs will eat through your daily budget very quickly if you aren’t careful. If your CPCs are high enough that you’ll only get a few clicks a day on your daily budget, you either need to increase it or turn off your PPC campaign.
  • Quality Scores: If your Quality Scores are consistently below 5/10, your CPCs are significantly higher than they need to be. Work on boosting your campaign’s relevance to get them into the 5 – 7 out of 10 range. You’ll start paying less per click and your search impression share will go up.
  • Ad schedule: We’ll touch on this more in section 11, but we’ve seen countless campaigns exhaust their budget before the workday begins. Make sure that your ad schedule isn’t sabotaging your visibility.
  • Daily Budget: The lower your budget, the fewer clicks you can buy, and the faster it’s exhausted. While upping your daily budget usually isn’t the answer to your problems, sometimes it is.
  • Bid adjustments: There are a few different places in Google Ads where you can specify CPC bid adjustments. These adjustments can increase or decrease your CPCs based on specific criteria, i.e. mobile device usage, where the user is located, etc.
  • The Competition: Sometimes a new challenger approaches and throws their hat in the ring. This can cause a significant reduction in visibility especially if they consistently outbid you for shared target keywords.

Pay per click is a numbers game. (It is in the the beginning at least.) It’s heavily reliant on collecting data to make informed decisions that optimize your campaigns and make them run more efficiently and profitably.

The only way to get this data is to get clicks and the only way to get clicks is to maximize your visibility.

7. Your audience isn’t ready to convert yet

So many advertisers and businesses get wrapped up in closing sales or generating leads as quickly as possible that they’re going in for the kill on cold prospects that know literally nothing about their brand.

They’re forgetting, or don’t know, that most people need 4.5 interactions with a company on average before they’re comfortable doing business with them. And they’re out there pushing the hard sell. “Buy now! Sign up now! Do this NOW!”

average interactions before converting

The sales process is a conversation. And quality conversations take time. You can’t just go from, “Hi! I’m Impatient, LLC.” to “Buy this widget for $20k. BUY IT NOW!!!” in the blink of an eye.

It doesn’t work like that. Not even a little bit.

You have to work your way through the different stages of the marketing funnel to warm up your leads along the way and then selling becomes effortless. It’s just the next logical step in the conversation.

online marketing funnel stages
The online marketing funnel stages.

The usual cause when PPC campaigns aren’t converting is because advertisers are showing the wrong type of content at the wrong time.

You have to think about your campaign from the customer’s side of the conversation.

  • Is this their first time seeing my brand?
  • Is my product / service commonly known or is an explanation needed?
  • Do I need a granular explanation or will a surface level one do?
  • What are some common objections that I’ll need to defuse?
  • Am I instilling enough value to justify the cost of my goods / service?
  • And much more.

And, all of these questions are affected by where you are in the marketing funnel.

In the Awareness phase, an explanation of your product / service should probably be rather broad and general. It should have just enough detail so they can understand the general concept of what you do.

But, if you’re further down in the Evaluation or Intent phases, you’ll need to be more specific so they start understanding the nuts and bolts as well as the full value of it.

Examples of Content in the Marketing Funnel

  1. Awareness – Blog articles, paid ads, webinars, podcasts, etc.
  2. Interest – Web content, email newsletters, social media posts, etc.
  3. Evaluation – Case studies, free trials, email campaigns, etc.
  4. Intent – Demos, free trials, walkthroughs, webinars, etc.
  5. Convert – Case studies, testimonials, video reviews, strategy session, phone consultation, etc.

Now, there are some industries where the time between Awareness and Convert is measured in hours, sometimes minutes, but if you’re in one of those industries, you wouldn’t be here.

Don’t get locked into the Always Be Closing style of doing business. Trying to bulldoze customers through the sales cycle isn’t going to work. You’ll lose far more customers than you convert and waste a ton of cash along the way.

8. Your keywords are too broad

Broad keywords are a great way to cast the widest net for your PPC campaigns. They’ll reach the largest amount of people and get you the most exposure possible.

They’re also the best way to waste your budget if you aren’t careful.

Quick crash course on pay per click keywords. There are three types of keywords:

  • Broad match: Not having any modifying characters, these keywords trigger ads for any and all variations of your target keywords.
  • Phrase match: Notated by being surrounded by quotation marks, i.e. “keyword”. These keywords trigger ads when a user’s query contains the keywords in a specific order. For example, “debt relief programs” could trigger on searches for “what are debt relief programs?”, “best debt relief programs”, or “debt relief programs nearby”.
  • Exact match: Notated by being surrounded by brackets, i.e. [keyword]. These keywords trigger ads when a user’s query only contains the specified keywords in the specified order. However, Google will match them with close variations.

You can read more about keyword match types here.

Don’t confuse keywords with being too broad with broad match. There is a difference. And the difference boils down to short tail vs. long tail keywords.

  • Short tail keywords: Phrases that are < 3 words in length.
  • Long tail keywords: Phrases that are >3 words in length.

Long tail keywords are where you want to spend your time, especially if you’re focusing on PPC ads for BOFU content. Potential customers that search using long tail keywords 1) are more educated, 2) are further along in the marketing funnel, 3) know what they want, and 4) are more likely to convert.

It all boils down to specificity. The more specific you can be with your keywords, the more targeted your ads will be, which is the whole point of PPC campaigns. You only want to show your ads to the people that want to see them.

One of our PPC clients runs a piano moving company and they were almost exclusively using broad match keywords before they reached out to us. (You can learn more about this client in our PPC case study for their account.) This caused their ads to show for all sorts of different keywords that weren’t relevant to their business.

poor targeting with broad keywords example

They were losing thousands of dollars every month. Unrelated queries were showing their ads ads to people that weren’t looking for them in the first place.

Be specific. Use long tail keywords. Narrow your keyword targeting.

The more targeted your ads are, the more likely you are to convert prospects into customers.

9. Bland creative / ad copy is being ignored

Ads are absolutely everywhere. They are so common that many users’ eyes have adjusted to simply slide ride past them if there isn’t anything that sticks out or is relevant to their interests.

To put it into perspective, we see between 4,000 – 10,000 ads per day while we’re online. That’s an insane amount of ads! You need to think twice about pushing out that half-baked graphic or ad copy. It isn’t going to move the needle in that ocean of white noise out there.

One of the things we consistently see is ads that are a carbon copy of a competitor’s ad. There’s nothing wrong with taking inspiration from the competition to get the creative juices flowing. (And you should absolutely build yourself a morguefile made of ads or graphics that you like.)

advertising morguefile example blurred
A sneaky peeky at my personal advertising graphic morguefile.

However, following someone else’s lead isn’t a good way to separate your business from the pack. If anything, it makes you indistinguishable from the competition. Basically just another brick in the wall.

To attract attention and get clicks, you need to stand out.

For ad copy, you need to focus on the problem your potential customers are facing and craft copy that shows them that you have the answers they’re looking for. Putting the problem itself in the headline is an excellent way to get their attention.

acne ppc search query ad copy
This is good example for quality ad copy.

This ad clearly identifies the pain point (struggling with acne) and offers a solution on how to fix it (changing the treatment) all in the headline. Having this level of resonance from the intent of the keyword to the ad headline is an excellent way to boost your ad’s click through rate (CTR), or how many users that see your ad actually click on it.

For ad creative, that’s a mixed bag. Visual media is such a subjective, nuanced topic. It varies so widely from audience to audience that there isn’t one definitive way to do it.

However, the one piece of advice I can give is that your graphics need to be eye catching.

That doesn’t mean that they need to be bright and colorful, but that they do need to stand out. They need to draw the eye and not blend in with its surroundings. Even the ugliest, most garish ad can be effective if it gets the user’s attention.

At the end of the day, don’t blend in. Blending in gets you left behind.

Be bold. Take chances. Don’t be afraid to get in your customers’ faces. You need to get their attention and that’s how you get it.

10. You aren’t using negative keywords

Negative keywords are without a doubt the unsung heroes of the PPC world.

Where keywords let you target specific phrases you want your ads to show for, negative keywords let you designate which ones you don’t want to trigger your ads.

It doesn’t matter how narrow you get your keyword targeting, you’re still going to show up search phrases that are unrelated to your business. And when you think you’ve got it dialed in, more unrelated terms will pile in.

That’s why using negative keywords is so important.

You’re able to A) mitigate wasted ad spend, and B) improves your targeting which in turn C) optimizes your account to run more efficiently and profitably.

What does this look like in practice?

To find out which negative keywords need to be added:

  • Go to an active Campaign
  • Select the desired Ad Group
  • Click on Keywords
  • Click on Search Terms

This will let you see all of the different search queries that triggered your ads. Go through the list and mark any that need to be added. They can be entire phrases or just a single word in that phrase, since the can be edited before you add them.

For example, let’s say you’re running some ads for a local plumbing business. However, this particular business isn’t certified to work on commercial plumbing. All of the clicks for commercial or office related keywords would be wasted since you can’t take on the jobs.

plumbing ppc keyword search terms example

If you add “commercial” and “office” as negative keywords, your ads will stop being shown for those terms. This lets your daily budget be put towards keywords that actually matter to you.

It’s a very common solution to a very simple problem.

Personally, I don’t go a week without doing a full negative keyword check on all of my campaigns and I recommend you to the same.

11. You’re showing ads around the clock

Let’s be honest real quick. There are exceedingly few businesses that need to have PPC ads running around the clock.

There are also very few things that you need to buy at 2 in the morning.

Do you really need to be paying for clicks then?

No, you don’t, but tons of businesses are still buying clicks 24 hours a day even when their business relies on speaking to their prospects on the phone…and no one’s there to man the phones!

That being said, there is one acceptable time for your ads to be running all day and that’s when you spin up a new campaign. The reason for this is so you can find out when your audience is the most responsive and most likely to convert so you can focus your budget on those times of day.

Remember, PPC is data driven and the only way to collect that data is to get those clicks.

Recap

Just because your PPC isn’t working doesn’t mean that PPC doesn’t work.

We hope you picked up some nuggets of wisdom that can help you figure out why your PPC campaigns aren’t converting.

Quick refresher.

Reasons why your PPC campaigns are failing

  1. You aren’t tracking your KPIs
  2. There’s no call tracking in place
  3. You’re too focused on cost
  4. It’s being flat out neglected
  5. You’re not keeping the scent
  6. Your budget isn’t high enough
  7. Your audience isn’t ready to convert yet
  8. Your keywords are too broad
  9. Bland creative / ad copy is being ignored
  10. You aren’t using negative keywords
  11. You’re showing ads around the clock

Now I want to hear from you!

Let me know in the comments section below about what you’re struggling with in your PPC campaigns and any questions you might have about them.

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Kenny is a digital marketing specialist with over 10 years of online marketing experience, and Founder of Rank Boss Digital Marketing Agency. With 1M+ leads and countless dollars generated through his targeted strategies, he'll help unlock new traffic and revenue streams that take your business to the next level.

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