There are many reasons why a PPC Campaign might fail.

From incorrect campaign deployment to a shopping feed being improperly optimized. Here are some of the most common that we see.

Website Implementation Mistakes

  • The site may have major CRO problems. It’s one of the most common and often the first thing we check.
  • The campaign is configured improperly. For example, the wrong type of bidding was used or the campaign is off on the wrong days.
  • Bidding is too conservative, leaving the best clicks for other campaigns.
  • Conversion tracking may be only partial, or there may be exposed email addresses on the site causing conversion tracking leakage.
  • Ad extensions may be poorly implemented, written, or missing.
  • The wrong images or ad copy have been used in a Display campaign. In display campaigns the image is crucial.
  • TV-style, professionally-produced ads may have been used in a video campaign. These ads often don’t work online given they are more costly and time-consuming to produce.

Account & Campaign Mistakes

  • Suitability of business model, targeting for paid search vs paid social media channels.
  • The wrong type of campaign may have been deployed. For example, a search campaign was used when a shopping campaign would have been more suitable.
  • Neglecting account and campaign-level “auto-apply” settings.

Keyword Targeting Mistakes

  • Inadequate market and keyword research, leading to only partial keyword coverage.
  • Keyword change and pause decisions are made without adequate statistical power being present (impression and click volume over time).
  • The targeted market has “keyword silo overlap” i.e. which leads to keyword mispricing. This can make it difficult to optimize some campaigns into profitability.
  • 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.
  • The negative keyword base is faulty or inadequate. So ad spend is wasted on irrelevant traffic.
  • Utilizing keywords with too low of related search query volume relative to the geographic area targeted by the campaign.

Bidding Mistakes

  • Failing to lay down a baseline with manual or semi-automated manual bidding, so there is no way to measure whether automated bidding delivers performance gains.
  • Switching to automated bidding without generating an adequate volume of conversions, for the machine learning to adapt to. Usually about 30 conv/mo Microsoft, 15/mo Google.
  • Running a campaign on “Maximize Conversion Volume” (MCV) for anything other than a bidding method transition strategy.
  • Not running Target return on ad spend (T-ROAS) bidding in an eCommerce/Shopping campaign, where the margin varies considerably between products.

Geographic Targeting Mistakes

  • Failing to refine Geographic Targeting for efficiency resulting in utilizing too much ad spend in areas that are expensive to convert.
  • Failure to optimize dense geo areas (such as the US major metros) down to the Zip Code level.
  • Targeting multiple countries that are not culturally and economically similar, with one campaign.
  • Targeting too large of geographic area versus the ad spend available.

Product Feed Mistakes

  • A Shopping campaign’s product taxonomy was not set up with search query volume in mind
  • The Shopping feed was not optimized skillfully.
  • Too many SKUs are advertised versus the daily spend level.
  • A few SKUs consume the majority of ad spend due to poor campaign partitioning.

Conversion Tracking Mistakes

  • Conversion tracking is not fully implemented, leading to an inability to measure success, sales close rates, and – worst of all – the campaign runs “open loop” with no benefit of bid automation, semi-automation, or machine learning.
  • Conversion tracking is not fully tested periodically, leading to non-operational conversion actions over time.
  • Conversion tracking is not tested in popular browsers as part of CRO testing, so form issues are missed.
  • Lead generation volumes are not assigned a meaningful value that relates back to the value of an average conversion over time, to the advertiser.
  • Last-click attribution of conversions is used, so it fails to spread the conversion credit across multiple keywords. The role some keywords play never becomes apparent.
  • Failure to utilize 3rd party call tracking in campaigns where over 20% of the conversion value is generated by phone leads.

Audience Targeting Mistakes

  • The campaign audiences selected are wrong for the targeted product/service; or were ‘set and forget’ without adequate audience split-testing.
  • Using poorly engineered audiences that don’t actually correlate well to your target market and buyer personas.
  • Not experimenting with different types of audiences for targeting (in market, affinity, placement, similar to lists, demographic, etc) adequately to find those that perform well.
  • Failing to measure and utilize audience Demographics such as age, income level, and

Advertising Copy Mistakes

  • Ad copy quality is “average”, leading to subpar average click-thru rates (CTR) and quality scores.
  • Failing to split-test ad copy in pairs.
  • Failure to lay down a split test using two ETA ads, leading to confusion when an RSA ad is put into the ad group. RSA’s cannibalize ETAs so you need a baseline.
  • Ad extensions may be poorly conceived messages, display poor grammar, or they may be missing altogether.
  • The wrong images or ad copy have been used in a Display campaign. In display advertising, images are a central, crucial element in pulling engagement to the ad since there is lack of search intent.
  • TV-style, professionally-produced ads may have been used in a video campaign. These ads often don’t work online given they are more costly and time-consuming to produce.

Commitment Mistakes

  • The agency has not been given enough time to optimize the campaign. It can sometimes take months to optimize campaigns running in highly competitive markets.
  • Ad budget may be inadequate to get over the “success threshold”.
  • The product/service is not in demand, or not competitive. Leading to light conversions if any at all.

It is important to recognize that PPC campaigns are a form of digital advertising, and they carry business risk. 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 the site’s CRO quality and campaign configuration history.

If we take a project on, we are confident we can succeed. It doesn’t always work out that way, but there are reasons to believe it will; in the majority of cases we end up with profitable campaigns. Sometimes failed campaigns occur because the client has been “burned” or a previous agency has approached them in ineffective manners. But it’s important to see failed campaigns as “water under the bridge” because at Blastoff Labs we can take those old failures and turn them into new successful campaigns.

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