Have you burned money on Adwords PPC Campaigns without seeing much success?

Spending on Google AdWords PPC campaigns increased 21 percent year over year in Q1 2017, up from 19 percent in Q4 2016 – SearchEngineLand

Search Engines are growing strong (both Google and Bing) and therefore paid search advertising will continue to be one of the most effective channels available for years to come.

However, Google AdWords campaigns aren’t the easiest to manage so you may still be looking for a return on investment (ROI) or looking to further optimize your campaigns.

After auditing hundreds of accounts, we’ve found there are several reasons why your PPC Search campaigns may not be performing, but we narrowed it down to the top 10.


1. Did Your Campaigns Target Only Broad Keywords?

This is not to be confused with the broad keyword type in AdWords, there is definitely a time and place when you should be using them.

We want to know whether your campaign is targeting mostly one or two word keywords? A one-word keyword is definitely way too generic and chances are that even two words keywords would attract a lot of irrelevant clicks.

Here is an example of a leading banking software technology firm looking to generate leads from prospects interested in their software. They wanted to target the following keywords as they thought all of these are relevant to the software they are offering:

“Artificial Intelligence”
“Digital Banking”

While all of these keywords are relevant to Banking Industry, they are likely to be searched by people with other intentions The keywords also don’t speak to the intent behind what someone could be looking for.

The campaign will definitely fail with these broad keywords. The keywords are not aligned with banking software. It’s important to think about what people are actually looking for when typing in a certain keyword. For the terms above, it could just be anyone doing research on different technologies or cryptocurrencies.

Therefore the following longtail keywords specific to their software offering could attract more targeted traffic:

“Banking Software with AI”
“Artificial Intelligence Software for Banks”
“Blockchain Software for Banks”
“Digital Banking Software Solution”
“Innovations in Banking Softwares”
“Technology Trends in Banking Industry”

2. Did Your Campaigns Have Compelling and Relevant Text Ads?

This may sound basic, but we’ve seen plenty of text ads used for  several different, unrelated keywords.
Imagine searching on Google for ‘digital banking’ and seeing a generic ad about banking technology software. Both the ads below appeared for the search term “Digital Banking”:

Compelling and relevant text ad example for adowrds ppc campaigns

Which of these ads sound more relevant for someone searching for “digital banking”? Undoubtedly the second one appears to be more tailored to the keyword.

3. Were The Landing Pages Relevant, Fast Loading, and Easy to Digest?

Users on the web are a distracted lot. It takes us less than 10 seconds to decide whether we found what we were looking for on a particular web page. We have plenty of website options to choose from and hop from website to another to get what we want.

Ideally, there should be a specific landing page about the product or service you advertise with a particular text ad. If the landing page didn’t load within 10 seconds or the landing page had plenty of distractions in the content and layout, visitors would most likely  look elsewhere.

The PageSpeed Insights tool by Google can suggest how well a landing page is setup in terms of page load speed.  Anything below a score of 70 should raise a red flag.

Here are two landing pages that came up for the search “digital banking software provider” on Google:

In the two landing page examples below, notice how the first landing page on the left is full of content, doesn’t specifically address “digital banking software”, and offers multiple call to actions (CTAs) which may confuse users.

The second landing page however does a much better job of offering focused content around digital banking solutions with a clear and single call to action (CTA):

Bad Landing Page Example

Good Landing Page Example

Bad Landing Page Example why Adwords Campaigns failed

 Good Landing Page Example for PPC Campaigns

Did your campaigns send every visitor to the home page of your website, regardless of what was being advertised through the ads?

Imagine yourself searching for a particular model of laptop and the ad by an online retailer took you to their home page. Would you have the patience to search that model or look elsewhere?

To increase the chances of your campaign success, you have to minimize the effort of visitors. They should be able to find what they saw in the ad in the least possible steps or right upfront, which is always the best option. If your landing pages failed to do this, then your PPC campaigns were bound to waste money in advertising if not fail completely.

4. Were Conversions Being Tracked?

Although tracking conversions (be it a form submission or phone call) is pretty much a standard now and any PPC agency should set it up for your campaigns there are still businesses out there not tracking conversions on their Adwords campaigns.

Some of the arguments I have come across is that they do not wish to share their business data with Google.

What these businesses fail to understand that unless the paid search campaigns tracked conversions, there would be no way to know which particular campaign, ad group, ad or keyword resulted in a conversion.

This is critical data that would allow the PPC campaign manager to focus on those particular keywords and ads that converted, leverage CPA (cost per acquisition/conversion) bidding, and bring you more conversions and sales while eventually reducing cost per conversion.

Did you establish your  ideal target cost per conversion? Did your campaigns deliver conversions under that ideal cost per conversion?

5. Did Your Campaigns Track Value of Conversions?

Tracking conversions however paints only half the picture. Knowing the value of these conversions is where you begin to realize the return on investment (ROI).

Imagine you had a lead generation campaign and your PPC agency kept reporting great numbers. You were getting good number of leads at lower than expected cost per lead. Everything looked great until you took a look at your bottom line.

Were those conversions or leads resulting in actual sales? Did you go a step further and assigned a value for each conversion in conversion tracking code?

Once values are assigned for conversions your PPC campaigns could report return on Ad spends. Subsequently the bidding strategy could be revised for bidding on ROAS (return on ad spend) basis instead of target CPA (cost per acquisition) to maximize your ROI (return on investment).

6. Did Your PPC Agency Optimize Campaigns at Keyword Level?

If you hired a big-ticket PPC agency, chances are that the PPC analyst on your account was overloaded with several other accounts and there wasn’t enough attention given on your campaigns.

These big-ticket PPC agencies also have massive automation at work through Adwords APIs to manage PPC campaigns. They would usually optimize campaigns through automated rules or not look beyond campaigns or at best ad groups to optimize their performance.

However paid search campaigns should be managed at the ad group level as every keyword in your campaigns is the gateway for targeted traffic and therefore every keyword should be optimized to ensure it delivers maximum possible traction.

While I am personally not against automation, bots can only go so far in understanding what works and what doesn’t. Human intervention still makes a big difference in identifying and managing keywords and search terms that could work well for your business.

Boutique PPC agencies like our (99Robots) could make that critical difference in putting their heart and soul in making a campaign work. For every campaign we manage, we look at every single keyword to ensure the following:

  • Only the most relevant and long tail keywords are used within campaigns.
  • Every ad group has a unique theme of closely related keywords.
  • Keyword match types are used effectively (we generally avoid broad match).
  • Negative keywords are in place to minimize irrelevant traffic with new ones being added on a daily basis.
  • Keywords with ideal performance are added as exact match and their impression share is being dominated (more on this aspect later).

For example, we’ve worked with a windows installation and repair company that was showing up for terms for the Windows operating system. Another client repairs air conditioners in cars, but were consistently showing up for those looking to fix their home air conditioners. Analysts can go in and make sure the intent behind all the keywords is clear and on point.

7. Did Your Campaigns Make Use of Actual Search Terms?

The search terms report in Adwords is extremely valuable when identifying terms that are actually converting for your campaign. The search terms report shows actual search terms that your visitors typed in Google when they clicked on your ads.

Were the best performing search terms added as keywords? Were the non-performing terms excluded as negatives in your campaign ad groups?

Think of negatives as the blacklist for keywords you should not be bidding on, ultimately, it’s your safeguard against wasted spend on your account. Following these steps can greatly improve your campaign performance while increasing your ROI for every dollar spent.

8. Which Ad Position Performs Best for Your Text Ads?

Perhaps your agency was boasting about how they’ve achieved #1 ad position. Who doesn’t like to be first?

While top ad rank sounds great, you are paying the highest cost per click. The ‘Top vs Others’ report in Adwords shows the rank where your ads converted the highest with the lowest CPA.

If your terms are converting with an average ad rank of 2 or 3, then why pay top dollar for that first spot?

9. Did You Track Which Day-of-week / Hour-of-Day Your Campaigns Had the Best Performance?

Do you know which day of the week or hour of the day your ads deliver the best results?

Many advertisers schedule their campaigns based on assumptions. You have the opportunity to take a completely data-driven approach. Once you have some more data on your campaigns, you can find out which days of the week and times of day have the highest costs. If you’ve been running the campaigns for some time, it’s likely you already have access to this data.

After conducting a PPC Audit for one of our clients, we discovered that 12 AM to 5 AM had the highest cost per conversion, almost double than what it was during the other hours. However, the campaigns were running all 24 hours without any ad scheduling or bid adjustment in place. Budget can be reallocated to the hours where the cost per conversion was lower.

Adwords PPC campaigns day of week and hour of day dimension

Ideally there should have either been a bid adjustment to bid lower or the campaign could have been scheduled to be paused during those hours. This would have saved thousands of dollars every month.

10. How Much Impression Share Was Lost On Top Performing Keywords?

If you have a keyword that is driving the highest amount of conversions with the lowest cost, you probably want to know how you can increase the traffic on that term.

The Search Impression share in adwords allows you to check if there is additional search volume for the keyword you can be taking advantage of. If you notice there is a percentage of impression share lost for the keywords, then manage your bids to get the maximum impression share.

Getting more impression share from the keywords that are delivering good results (conversions with low CPA), you would be able to get the best out of such keywords.


Analyzing these top 10 aspects could reveal why your Adwords PPC campaigns failed. We usually discover red flags on most of these parameters while auditing Adwords campaigns managed by other PPC agencies.

Have your campaigns not been performing well? Why not let us do a Free Audit of your Adwords PPC Campaigns? We provide gorgeous looking, easy to grasp yet insightful reports.

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