Why PPC Advertising Doesn't Work for Your Business

Why PPC Advertising Doesn't Work for Your Business

By June 10, 2013PPC

At least once a month, I hear these words uttered from the mouth of a prospective customer: “We tried Adwords and it just doesn’t work for our business.”

Often the statement is said in passing, so I don’t get to investigate. Occasionally, though, I hear it from a customer or a friend who is willing to give me access to their Adwords account so I can dig into it and figure out why it didn’t work for them. I usually find at least one of the following four problems with the campaign that is keeping it from achieving positive results: (1) unorganized adgroups, (2) lame offer or ad copy, (3) too narrow or (4) too broad.

If you think pay-per-click advertising doesn’t work for you, it’s likely due to one of these four reasons.

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1. Unorganized Adgroups

Just because you can add hundreds of keywords to an adgroup doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. You’re much better off to break up your adgroups by similar keywords. In some cases, it makes sense to have only a single keyword in an adgroup. If your entire campaign consists of one adgroup with all of your keywords, you are doing it wrong. That’s why PPC advertising hasn’t worked for you. If your campaign is a jumbled mess, you are best off to pause your current campaign and start over. Create a new campaign that is properly organized from the ground up and you’ll reap the results.

Other important parts of being organized with your campaigns includes proper conversion tracking. Set it up and test the conversion tracking to track leads from your landing page. Consider using tracking phone numbers to track phone calls generated from your campaign–especially if you encourage customers to call rather than fill out your lead forms. Understand your key performance indicators and set goals and track your progress towards those goals.

2. Lame Offer or Ad Copy

A compelling offer is crucial to success with any ad campaign. This is especially true in the cutthroat world of pay-per-click advertising. Your ad is only one of a dozen other offers, so you better give people something worth paying attention to. Pay attention to what others are offering up on the same keywords and come up with something at least as good–if not better.

Some of the worst performing ads I’ve seen were really creative. There can be a place for creativity with PPC ads, but if you get too cute, people will ignore your ad. Your ad should make it clear that you have exactly what they are searching for. Sometimes the best approach to ad copy is to be super obvious. Tell people what they are going to see when they click on your ad. Ads that include the keyword tend to get a lot higher clickthrough rates. Some people love to use the dynamic keyword tool (DKI). If you choose to use it, be careful not to abuse it–the dynamic keyword inclusion tool can get ugly when used indiscriminately. (Remember: with great power comes great responsibility). I rarely use the DKI tool anymore. If you followed step one and broke out your adgroups properly, you can create sweet, customized ads without risking the embarrassment of a poorly inserted dynamic keyword.

Your landing page should match the ad. Don’t send everyone to your homepage. Send them to the page that is most relevant for their search query. You may already have a good landing page for a particular keyword, but often you will need to create a new landing page for each adgroup. You want to make it stupid simple for people to find what they are looking for. If you send them to your homepage or some other irrelevant page, people will get confused and leave.

3. Too Narrow

Another common reason for PPC failure is creating a campaign that is too narrowly focused. I’ve seen people who were bidding on only a handful of keywords. I asked why their campaign was so narrowly focused and they said it was because they knew the keywords people were searching for and those are the only keywords they care about. Really? Every one of the billions of people in the world are going to search on the exact same keyword to find your business. I don’t think so. Reality is that people search a million different ways, just like they think a million different ways. Expand your mind a bit and open up your campaign to include a lot more keywords to give yourself the best chance to succeed. How many keywords is the “right” amount? There’s no right answer, but most businesses should shoot for at least a few hundred keywords to start. If you’re selling hundreds of different products, it might make sense to start with a few thousand keywords. But remember to organize them into logical adgroups. Don’t slap them all into a single adgroup. You know better than that.

4. Too Broad

On the flip side of the not enough keywords camp is the opposite: too many keywords. Don’t bid on every keyword you can think of just because you can. It’s a good idea to test a lot of different keywords but stick to keywords that are actually relevant. A good place to start with keyword selection is common sense. Think to yourself: if I search on this keyword, would I expect to see my site in the results?

Adwords gives you a few different keyword matching options. Be strategic about how you use keyword matching options. If you find that a broadly matched keyword doesn’t convert at the same level as an exact match or phrase match for the same keyword, consider adjusting your bid or removing that particular keyword from your campaign. Don’t be too hasty to shut off keywords, but if you’re getting a lot of traffic and not a lot of sales, something isn’t working. Negative keywords is another sweet tool that lets you bid on broad or phrase matched keywords, but exclude certain keywords that are irrelevant or that you find just don’t convert as well. You can come up with a good starter list of negative keywords to exclude, and then you can add more to it as you see keywords that send traffic but don’t convert.

Geotargeting is another way to focus your campaign. If you have a pizza restaurant in Chicago, it doesn’t make sense to pay for clicks from people in Australia. Set the geotargeting option in Adwords to only show ads to people searching in your local area.

Another way to get too broad with your campaign is with content targeting. When you set up your Adwords campaign, you have the option of advertising in Google search, partner search and the content network. The content network includes those ads you see all over the web, typically on content pages. The ads are often related to the content of the page, but it’s NOT the same thing as a search ad. I like to separate out my contextual or content ads into a completely separate campaign. Then you can customize your bids and the ads for those content ads. The ad copy should be different than your search ads because people who see them are in a different mindset. You can get a ton of impressions on content ads and even a lot of clicks at times, but what usually happens is the content ads throw off the stats for your entire campaign. When you’re starting out, say no to content ads and focus your efforts on the search ads.


PPC advertising is a great way to grow your business. It’s also a valuable tool to gain keyword intelligence that can be applied to your SEO efforts and your content strategy. Don’t hang your head low if you’ve made one or more of the mistakes above. Learn from it and try PPC again for the first time.



About Greg Shuey

Greg is a member of the executive team at Stryde and a seasoned digital marketer who has worked with thousands of businesses, large and small, to generate more revenue via online marketing strategy and execution. Greg has written hundreds of blog posts as well as spoken at many events about online marketing strategy. You can follow Greg on Twitter. Circle him on Google+, and connect with him on LinkedIn

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