Why Google AdWords Isn‰Ûªt Working for You

Google AdWords can be a very difficult program to optimize for and even understand at times. It centers around buying keyword clicks in real time and, if you don’t have a savvy industry professional to help you, it can be daunting and exhausting. It can also be difficult for people who are just getting into the AdWords game because of all the information out there (both true and false). It’s not surprising that AdWords has such a large failure rate.

There are many different reasons that people end up quitting on AdWords. Many brush it off as not working for their business, but that’s probably not exactly true. I would venture to say it is very likely that your competitors are using AdWords. It must be working for them at some level, if they keep investing in it. So perhaps it’s not that AdWords doesn’t work for your business — perhaps it’s because you aren’t using the tool correctly.

Here are the main reasons I have found that people tend to brush off AdWords and claim “it doesn’t work for me”.

Focused on the Short Tail

This is by far the biggest reason people quit AdWords. They focus on the short-tail keywords when those often aren’t the most efficient nor profitable.

This graph shows why most people fail at AdWords. They buy the “high cost and risk” and “low probability of conversion” keywords. Generically broad keywords, like “men’s shoes.”

Instead, they could be buying “low cost and risk” and “high probability of conversion” keywords. These keywords focus more on descriptive phrases. This is what we call long-tailed keywords, like “red Nike men’s running shoes.”

Because long tailed keywords are more descriptive and more narrowly defined, you have less competition and a better chance of converting your audience. Instead of buying “men’s shoes”, and hoping for the best by linking to a generically broad landing page, really take your time to build more targeted and narrowly defined campaigns. Focus on phrase matches and exact matches.

No Actual Strategy

Another big issue, common with agencies, is that marketers just jump into AdWords feet first and start greedily buying up keywords. When that doesn’t produce results, they don’t understand why. Before you ever go into AdWords, you need to do your research and put thought into your campaigns. Spend time really getting to know the searcher, what they are searching for, and how you can solve their “problem” with an ad and a landing page.

Before executing AdWords, put a game plan together of the categories/products/services you want to focus on, the keywords you want to buy, and how you will convert or provide value to these searchers when they are searching.

Always think how to solve the searcher’s intent. If they search for “Cheap Men’s Socks,” you better have some cheap men’s socks on your landing page, and they better be better cheap men’s socks than everyone else. Or, if you are currently running AdWords, auditing your campaign is always a good idea.

ROI Focus Goals Are Off

Sometimes, there is a disconnect between your ROI goals and what is actually attainable. AdWords is a great tool because you can track all of your sales/leads through Google Analytics or Google AdWords. However, this can also create a lot more measurability and the lack of measurable results.

Traditional offline marketing such as billboards or radio ads, are much less measurable. It’s hard to determine attribution for sales and leads via those channels. It’s the ubiquitous “Rule of 50%”: 50% of my advertising works, but I don’t know which 50%.

People can have the wrong idea of AdWords ROI. For example, let’s say that you sell baseball gear online. One of the best ways to acquire customers is by search marketing — buying keywords such as “baseball shirts” and other related keywords. However, you need a 4 to 1 return on your advertising spend, and AdWords produces a 2 to 1 return. Does this mean you should abandon AdWords?

Answer: Maybe. You should be including all post-sale activity in your return calculations. Look for follow-on sales by the same customer, or social sharing by the customer that leads to more purchases. It could be that the total value is actually more than the one initial purchase triggered by an AdWords campaign.

In order to calculate your ROI effectively, you need to look at the full customer journey. Typically, AdWords has been considered a “top of the funnel” customer acquisition strategy. It has the lower return, but it is one of the easiest and cost-effective ways to acquire customers.

Landing Pages Do Not Convert

If you are sending someone to your site from AdWords, your goal should always be to convert them into a customer. However, sometimes marketers can get in their own way here. We give visitors reasons to bounce: too much information on the page, hard to find call to actions, or not highlighting the information the searcher wants.

The first thing that you want to do is to focus the keywords you are buying on the searcher intent. After that, you want to make sure that the landing pages are clear in their intent, and your product offering is something the searcher wants. Otherwise, you are wasting your money buying keywords that are never going to convert into customers.

A good exercise is to critique your landing page in comparison to your competitors — and be honest with yourself:

  • Does it fully explain what I am offering in the first three seconds?
  • Does what I am offering truly match with what they are searching for?
  • Do I give the the visitor the next steps to converting into a customer quickly?

If you follow these fundamentals, you should be on your way to converting AdWords traffic to customers.

Price/Other Factors

Over time, your competitors can gain traction on you through better product offerings, price decreases, value propositions, and more. Just because you are converting less than you used to, it doesn’t mean that it is an AdWords problem or — my favorite — “Google doesn’t work for me anymore.”

There could be other factors at work and, sometimes, this goes beyond looking at your landing pages or the traffic you are buying on AdWords.

Make sure you constantly keep your finger on the pulse of your competitors on a monthly or even weekly basis, survey/request feedback from your customers to gain insights into your industry, and make sure you stay ahead of the game with your value proposition.

No Optimization of Account

This can be a very big problem, and it happens because most marketers “didn’t know you could do that” in AdWords. There are thousands of techniques, bidding strategies, or general AdWords strategies you could be using to save money and make your campaigns more effective.

For instance, if you have an e-commerce site, and you are not optimizing the product feed data for Google Shopping (titles and descriptions) in your product feed, you are very behind.

Keep up with the industry on the regular with posts like this and other PPC-related blogs. No time to keep up? Get a professional to help manage your campaign and keep up with the latest trends.

No Retargeting

The average AdWords campaign conversion rate is between a .05% and 5%. This means you will be wasting a lot of clicks. Running retargeting campaigns can increase your return significantly.

If you are an e-commerce business, you have the ability to run dynamic retargeting which is very powerful, especially if you have a lot of SKUs. Running dynamic retargeting allows you to serve ads on the product level, which increases your chance to convert the customer.

For example, let’s imagine this customer journey: a potential customer searches for a particular product on Google Shopping, visits your page, but then decides not to buy and leaves. You just wasted that click, right? With dynamic retargeting, you have a chance to not lose the click.

Regular retargeting using one message will increase the chances of the visitor buying that particular product. With dynamic retargeting, you can show them the product as a retargeting ad and have a much higher chance to convert it to a purchase.

If you have a lead generation business, you should create retargeting ads for different segments of your website. For instance if you have different landing pages, you want to create customized retargeting ads for each. You can also try an advertisement to lead them into a funnel to try to convert on a different path. If you have blog content, you can retarget your blog visitors with new future content.

Overall, there are a thousand ways to use retargeting ads for lead generation but those are my two favorites. Just offer multiple retargeting ads to your website audience, and you will see better performance, generally.

Make sure you are running comprehensive retargeting campaigns to capture the traffic and turn it into customers.

AdWords is not impossible, and will always be a great customer acquisition channel. With the right strategy, anyone can be successful with Google AdWords. It just takes a little work.

Celia Deverell

A driven digital marketer who is passionate about education. Trained in Community Rural Development and skilled specifically in Project Management. A team player with a common-sense approach to coordinating team activities.