PPC is often boasted to be the fastest, surest, safest marketing strategy. And most of the time,it is. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out why: placing ads right in front of people who are already looking to buy is a process almost guaranteed to generate sales.

But in spite of this, many marketers struggle when it comes to PPC. It’s not uncommon for business owners to sink thousands of dollars into their PPC campaigns, only to see a disappointingly meager payoff. The truth is, nothing is a magic fix. It takes time, effort, and money to make a PPC campaign yield a consistent ROI, and there are lots of mistakes that can be made along the way.

If your PPC campaign isn’t getting you the results you want, here are a few of the most common possible causes—and what you can do about them.

1. You’re not paying enough.

PPC is expensive. If you’re not investing a significant amount of money into your campaign, it’s unlikely that your ads will show up in Google search results (for the sake of space, let’s focus on AdWords for now).

To understand why, think back to your most recent Google search. There are only three or four ad spots at the top of each result page, and competition for those spots is fierce. Unless you’re the only company in the world that sells what you sell, you can expect your competitors to be bidding on the very same keywords that you’re coveting. That effectively means that in PPC, like in life, the one who pays the most gets the nicest spot.

If you wanted to see the stage, then you should have had money.

Unless your bid is always the highest, your ad will only show up sometimes, for some searches—not every time without fail. On the bright side, if you’re working with a meager budget, all is not lost. A savvy PPC marketer can still play the game by tracking conversions and selecting long-tailed keywords (we’ll talk more about these below). It also might just be necessary to adjust your budget. If you’re spending $5,000 a month on trade shows, consider how much more of a return you would get for PPC.

2. You have no idea what’s working and what isn’t.

It’s not enough to simply publish your ads and hope for the best. In order to run the most effective PPC campaign possible, you’re going to want to know three things:

  1. How many conversions (phone calls, form submissions, or sales) am I receiving per ad?
  2. Which ads are getting clicks/conversions, and which aren’t?
  3. Is the revenue generated by the ads offsetting their cost?

Even though this is basic stuff, it’s actually one of the most common mistakes companies make with their PPC campaigns. In fact, studies have shown that about 24% of companies using PPC  don’t perform any conversion tracking whatsoever.

If you’re in the 24%, it’s time to start tracking. HubSpot has a great platform you can use, and there are countless other options. Try to choose a platform with a sophisticated attribution model, one that shows you variables like ad groups, keywords, and match type. Once you’ve set up conversion tracking, you’ll be able to analyze your data and determine what changes need to be made.

3. You don’t actually have a strategy.

We’ve already discussed the importance of having money when launching a PPC campaign, and it’s true—you have to spend money to make money. However, with that said, throwing money at the wall is not an effective strategy.

We said that we were going to somehow incorporate Leonardo DiCaprio into this post, and we did it.

Jumping feet-first into the PPC pool and buying up keywords is not the way to an effective campaign. First of all, you’ll use up your budget very quickly. Second of all, if you’re not taking time to understand what your searchers are looking for, you won’t be able to tailor your ads to appeal to your audience.

Before starting your PPC campaign, do a little research. Think about what searchers are looking for and what problem you can solve for them. Think about where you want the click to take them, and what decisions you want them to take once they’re there.

Most importantly, understand how to tailor the ad for its platform. If it’s a Facebook ad, remember that you’re dealing with customers who aren’t looking to buy—so your ads will have to be hyper-targeted. If you’re using Google AdWords, users are already in “buy mode”, so your ads don’t have to be as persuasive.

4. Your keywords are bad, and you should feel bad.

PPC ads are comprised of two basic things: the call to action—the creative aspect of the ad—and the keywords. If you’re relying on your creative team to come up with a brilliant sales slogan, don’t. With only 30 characters, half of them taken up by keywords, even the most gifted copywriter doesn’t have much to work with.

Success comes down, then, to your keywords. There are three basic possible issues when it comes to keyword selection.

  • They’re too broad.
  • There are no negative keywords.
  • There are no keywords at all.

Does the last one even happen? Yes. Plenty of companies launch PPC campaigns with no keyword research whatsoever. Those that commit this embarrassing PPC gaffe are penalized, on AdWords at least, with a low quality score. This is bad because the lower your quality score, the more you will have to pay for your keywords. If you’re guilty as charged, make sure that you learn to use, or hire someone who knows how to use, a keyword research tool that can help you optimize your ads.

Next, let’s talk about keyword broadness. If your keywords are set to “broad match”, you’ll blow through your budget quickly. “Broad match” keywords are, basically, a single word, like “motorcycles”. These are very expensive and very, well, broad. A far better tactic is to focus on long-tailed keywords, like “Cheap motorcycles West Virginia”. Not only do long-tailed keywords cost less per click, they also generally result in more sales, since they’re hyper-targeted to the people most likely to convert.

Finally, make sure to include negative keywords. Negative keywords are keywords which exclude certain searchers from seeing the ad. For instance, if you’re a contractor who works exclusively on residential properties, you would make “commercial contractor” your negative keyword in order to dissuade leads you don’t want, and who won’t want you.

If you’re, say, a professional writer, and you would rather eat a bowl of staples than write a technical manual, you might include “Technical writer” as your negative keyword to make sure that you don’t ever, ever have to do that again.

I don’t care about semiconductors, and I don’t know how to make anyone else care about them.

You might also include “cheap” or “budget” as negative keywords, if that’s not the audience you’re going for. Although you’ll get more initial clicks, they won’t convert once visitors learn more about your prices. (The same goes for everything else—don’t say you’re “sexy Angelina Jolie” if you’re really selling appliances, etc.)

5. You’re getting clicks–bit not converting them.

It doesn’t matter how much you spend on a PPC campaign if your customers bounce once they hit your website. There are hundreds of factors that can cause visitors to exit—we’ve talked about a few—but a few of the most common culprits are:

  • The site is slow to load
  • The navigation isn’t easy to understand
  • There’s too much info on the page
  • The info on the page doesn’t make sense
  • The website requires visitors to download or update Adobe Flash
  • The contact form is broken

There are tons of ways to improve your site’s user experience. You can redo your layout/theme/colors; you can make your copy more persuasive, expansive or minimal; you can make your images more professional; and you can make updates that will improve load speed and cybersecurity. You can also add exit popups—smart, elegant overlays that grab your visitors’ attention—in order to build an email list and stay connected with your visitors. Before doing any of that, however, we recommend running a professional site audit to determine exactly which areas need improvement.

6. You’re not spending enough time on your campaign.

If you want your PPC campaign to succeed, you have to log in and work on it every day. This might sound like unnecessary advice, but apparently, it’s needed: recent studies from SearchEngineJournal have shown that only 1% of advertisers work on their account every week, and over 40% haven’t added a single negative keyword in the past month.

Therefore, even though it should go without saying, we’re saying it: spend time on your PPC accounts. Log in at least once per day to put out any major fires, test copy and headlines, add extensions, and set new keywords/negative keywords. As any PPC pro will tell you, behind every hugely successful PPC campaign is a lot of experimentation.

Convert your clicks with EtailPro

Need help retaining and converting your site visitors? EtailPro can help with custom exit popups and an integrated email marketing campaign that encourages visitors to return again and again. Click here to learn more about how we do it, and when you’re ready to give your ecommerce site a boost, give us a call.