20 Reasons for PPC Campaign Failure

We see these PPC campaign failure issues regularly on incoming account rebuild projects. Here are 20 common reasons a PPC campaign might fail:

  1. The wrong type of campaign could have been deployed. For example, a search campaign may be used when shopping would be a more effective choice.
  2. The campaign may be configured improperly, for example the wrong type of bidding may have been used.  Or – the campaign may be scheduled to be ‘off’ on Saturday when (e.g. residential solar) the most conversions occur.
  3. Usually just a select few keywords form the backbone of a search campaign.  Some or all may be missing for various reasons.  Or ‘conversion assist’ keywords may have been paused because last-click attribution model doesn’t spread the conversion credit to them, so the role they play isn’t obvious.
  4. The negative keyword base may be faulty, or inadequate. So the ad spend is wasted on irrelevant traffic.
  5. The agency may not have been given enough time to optimize the campaign. It can take from a few weeks to a few months to optimize campaigns running in highly competitive markets.
  6. The wrong images or ad copy may have been used in a Display campaign. In display campaigns, the image is crucial.
  7. TV-style, professionally-produced, slick ads may have been used in a video campaign; they often don’t work online even they are more costly and time-consuming to produce.
  8. The targeted market may have “keyword silo overlap” bidding up clicks to a point where it’s difficult to optimize a campaign into profitability.
  9. Bidding may be too conservative, leaving the best clicks for other campaigns.
  10. The Shopping feed may not have been optimized properly.
  11. The campaign audiences may be setup wrong, or entirely the wrong audiences.
  12. A Shopping campaign’s product taxonomy may not have been setup right.
  13. The ad copy may be weak, and untested.
  14. The site may have major CRO problems.  Many that we see, do.  It’s one of the first things we check.
  15. Ad budget may be inadequate to get over the “success threshold”, a ‘quantum effect’ similar to FM Radio lock.
  16. Ad extensions may be poorly implemented, written, or missing.
  17. The product/service is not in demand, or not competitive, so conversions are light to non-existent.
  18. Inadequate click share in the geographic region targeted; and/or keyword matching may be setup too tight.
  19. The advertiser may be a late market entrant, and there are too many established, high-spending competitors have built up high quality scores, so their ad spend goes farther.
  20. Conversion tracking may be only partial, or they may be exposed email addresses on the site causing conversion tracking leakage. Not all PPC pros place enough emphasis on setting up and testing thorough conversion tracking.  That’s often because it’s many times tricky to get conversion tracking setup and working; other times they just don’t spend the time, or have the skills.  The conversion tracking setup and debug often involves some JavaScript skills, and being able to localize issues in code on the site, and tags firing when they should.  It’s not always an overlapping skill with campaign development.

The are _many_ other reasons that PPC campaigns can fail.

We don’t want to get involved in projects that are destined to fail, disappointing a valued client. So one of the first things we look at before taking a project on, is site CRO quality, and past campaign configuration-history.

If we take a project on, we are confident we can succeed.  It doesn’t always work out that way, but we will have reasons to believe it will, and in the majority of cases, we end up with profitable campaigns. But not usually immediately, and not always 100% of the time.

It is important to recognize that PPC campaigns are a form of digital advertising, and they carry business risk.

Sometimes failed campaigns come in where the client has been “burned” for one reason or another. But we have to see failed campaigns as “water under the bridge”, since Blastoff Labs would be a new party.  Because we are not able to assume baggage from mistakes made in the past, or made by consultants or agencies that may have approached the campaigns in an ineffective or unsuccessful fashion.  Maybe they just lost the battle because the budget was too low, or time too short? PPC can be difficult!

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