Creating a high-performing Google Ads campaign is no simple task. Adwords has become increasingly competitive across every niche, and even the most skilled digital marketers can end up running unprofitable campaigns.
Despite what Google might tell you, good campaigns are not about getting clicks, but getting clicks that convert. Often, businesses trust too much in Google’s recommendations and metrics and don’t take the time to create the highly-targeted, hyper-efficient campaign structures necessary to actually see a return on paid media spend.
Remember, Google wants to make money off your campaign, and as I’ve written about before, Adwords campaigns can get really expensive. But there are some strategies for maximizing your campaign structure to make sure the clicks you do get are of the highest-quality and are the most likely to convert.
If you’re currently struggling to get a campaign to perform, there’s probably something off about your campaign structure. Here are 5 of the most common reasons I’ve found why your Google Ads campaigns might not be performing well, along with some advice for how to make sure your Adwords budget is only spent on the clicks that really count.
1. You’re Not Using Single Keyword Ad Groups (SKAGs)
When it comes to your campaign structure, you need to use SKAGs. Although it takes more work for your marketing teams, SKAGs are the most effective way to perfect your ad copy and landing pages to match the user’s search query.
Creating one big Ad Group targeting lots of different keywords with only one set of ad copy is the most inefficient way to structure a campaign. In contrast, SKAGs allow you to create ads that match your keyword more closely. It’s far more efficient to target the highest-value keywords in your ad campaigns with hyper-specific ad copy and to send those clicks directly to optimized landing pages on your site.
Besides targeting and messaging, SKAGs also make it easier to determine if the clicks you’re buying will perform well or not. They are the surest way to determine if Google Adwords can be a profitable marketing engine for your business.
I’ve seen SKAGs outperform more simplistic campaign design by 2 to 3 times. The best strategy: Start with singularly focused ad groups and then slowly conquest new keywords via new SKAG campaigns as time goes on.
2. Your Quality Score is too Low
Google’s bidding model combines your max CPC as well as your Quality Score to determine which ad position to fit you in. If your campaigns have a quality score below 5, your performance is going to suffer as your competitors buy more clicks than you for less money. Higher quality scores mean lower CPCs, which improves your overall ROAS (return on ad spend).
In practice, a quality score of 8 or above will reduce your CPCs and make your budget get you more clicks. But if you’re not there yet, here are a few areas to direct your focus to improve your Quality Score.
- Make sure you use the keyword you’re targeting in the ad copy
- Get a higher CTR by maxing out your SERP real estate by using all of the Adwords extensions you can on every ad and taking up the full character limit
- Use the latest Google Ads format with 5 headlines, because more text real estate gets you more clicks and a higher CTR
- Optimize your landing page copy for the keyword you’re bidding on (my landing page optimizer tool is free for anyone)
- Follow my advice about campaign design with SKAGs, as 1-1 ratios between your keywords and the web pages where users land can significantly improve Quality Scores
3. You’re not Geotargeting
Geotargeting lets you target regions where your customers actually are. For local businesses, this is obviously key. But for national brands, it is still a powerful strategy because it allows you to reduce or eliminate bids from parts of the U.S. that are clicking but not converting well, pushing budget allocation towards clicks that will convert.
Be strategic with the geotargeting of your campaigns. One advanced strategy is to export a list of all your customers and use location information you have on them, or use their IP address to geolocate them and to understand where your customers actually are. Try modifying your bids based on those geographical locations to juice up the performance of your campaigns. In ecommerce, this strategy can produce amazing results.
4. You’re the Victim of SaBOTage (aka Click Fraud)
Click fraud and competitors trying to tank your ads is a real problem that unfortunately Google is not doing enough to fight. And not many people are talking about it either. 20-30% of the Adwords traffic I used to buy was from bots. Can you believe that?
I’ve also created bots hosted on EC2 that didn’t get blocked by Google. (Literally, they still haven’t been blocked). And sadly, I’ve watched Hotjar videos of traffic I was buying from Adwords that turned out to be bots destroying my campaigns. It hurt, big time, and cost me over $100K.
The truth is, Google doesn’t do enough to block clicks from VPNs and proxies overseas. That spammy submission from someone in Russia may say it came from Adwords and had a U.S. IP address, but then why did he submit a message in cyrillic and try to sell you something? Regardless, Google charged you for that click. If he clicked multiple times, you probably paid for every one.
Google claims it refunds you for low quality clicks, but do they really? To test this, I’ve built my own bots with Puppeteer and proxies that easily fool Google and let me scrape search ads and search results. I could even click on them if I wanted to.
One of the secrets for protecting yourself from click fraud is to use more specific geofencing. Don’t just target the full United States. Be specific about cities, and avoid targeting geographies the VPNs originate from. If they keep coming from the same IP addresses, add the IP range to your Adwords blacklist.
For these reasons, you need to block IP ranges that are giving you low-quality clicks. If you’re having trouble blocking them, you should also reduce your budget on any campaigns that are bringing these low quality clicks and are hurting your overall performance. There are companies that are paid to do click fraud, so watch out!
5. You Don’t Have Offline Conversion Tracking
If you’re going to fork over the cash to Google to get traffic from paid search ads, you need to make sure you can measure whether it’s worth it. For most B2B companies and many high-end B2C companies, the sales cycle isn’t immediate. Without stronger attribution modeling, it’s difficult to get a clear understanding of ROI and marketing performance with your Google Ads campaigns.
So one very powerful thing you can do to scale up your business and marketing is connecting your revenue data to your marketing campaigns. Google Ads only has basic functionality for tracking conversions, so you need to have some sort of system in place to determine the quality of the clicks, leads, or conversions you receive.
Criteria like budget, company size, or number of units will help you score your clicks and separate high-value leads from low-value ones. Your PPC landers and forms should be designed to get this information for every conversion so you can do lead scoring. Your capture forms also need to convey the source of the traffic that lead to the conversion. Check out the custom GTM tag I created and use it to embed traffic attribution information into your capture forms.
By creating this closed-loop analytics system, you can bring marketing data into your CRM and actually understand the true ROI of your paid media efforts.