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4 Common PPC Mistakes That Are Sending Crappy Leads to Your Landing Page

Day 113/365- Late Night Snack
If your landing page and PPC campaign setup don’t go together like peanut butter and jelly, your marketing dollars are going to waste. Image by Sean Kelly via Flickr.

Pairing your PPC campaigns with a landing page is one of the best ways to secure a high conversion rate, but only if they’re working together toward the same goal.

It all boils down to this: If you’re sending poor quality traffic to your landing page, then your conversion rates will suffer. Just as you can’t take back the fact that you just mistook your new girlfriend’s mom for her grandma, it’s pretty critical to get it right on the first impression. (Yeah, that’s a PPC nerd joke.)

Here are four common PPC mistakes that prevent you from running successful campaigns – and how you might go about solving them.

Mistake #1: You’re not ditching poor-performing keywords

Especially on larger accounts where you have less visibility, it’s easy to fall into the habit of adding new keywords to test but neglecting to clean out poor-performing keywords periodically.

Most often, this results in a lose-lose situation:

  • It creates a poor experience for prospects who click on your ads and arrive at a destination that isn’t quite what they were looking for.
  • For you, this ad to landing page mismatch leads to lower conversion rates, higher cost per click and lower Quality Scores across the account.

To avoid this, you have to stop and set some hard rules for yourself around what experience your keywords should be providing and how they connect with the landing pages in terms of the offer, call to action and intent.

Keywords, like Tinder profiles, need to be reviewed and segmented into buckets that you’ll either reject, wink at or contact – and you must do it regularly.

Solution: Only keep keywords that pull their weight

Do yourself a favor and don’t let freeloading keywords take over your budget. Run a simple keyword report at the ad group or campaign level and set rules for yourself around CTR and CPA. The rules you set for yourself will be unique to your account and keyword list, but should all serve the same purpose of achieving your revenue or lead generation goals.

Here are some guidelines to start evaluating your keywords:

  • Click-through rate (CTR) is huge indicator of relevance and if it’s low, you’re most likely also shouldering a low Quality Score (QS), which means you’re paying a higher cost per click (CPC) than you need to.
  • You should have an ideal cost per acquisition (CPA) in mind. How much is too much for that conversion? If you don’t know, you need to do some homework around the cost of doing business in general.
  • If you have a keyword with a CTR of less than 1% and a CPA that’s twice the cost of the product that the keyword matches to, that’s an “expensive” keyword.

Downloading your keywords by ad group or campaign and then filtering by basic rules such as these can help “bubble” up any problem keywords quickly and allow you to either pause or delete them.

Mistake #2: You’re not being strategic about spending your daily budget

Is traffic to your landing page getting cut off in the middle of the day? AdWords budget running out before you even get to 10am?

That’s a PPC issue around volume and cost.

You could have the most wonderful landing page in the universe, but if your first date budget is for McDonald’s, don’t expect a Nobu restaurant-like response. You have to pay to play.

If you don’t have the bucks to go all out, then get creative like a picnic in the park.

Solution: Use ad scheduling to drive traffic when people are ready to convert

To be more responsible with your daily budget, use ad scheduling to make your ads available during peak times:

ad-scheduling-example

By adjusting your bids to be less or even turned off completely during certain times of the day based on performance or peak traffic times, you can stretch a budget much further.

A real world example of using ad scheduling for better ROI

I used to have a wedding invitation client, and I found that her prospects would browse during their lunch hours but never purchase. Because the process required lots of thought (and the opinion of their significant other), people rarely had enough time to purchase during their lunch hour – they’d go home at night and complete the conversion.

Realizing that, I turned the budget up during lunchtime on the east and west coasts (when people liked to browse) then turned it down for the afternoon. I’d turn it back up again after dinnertime (when many people were likely to complete the conversion) and then back down again at bedtime.

In short, the key to saving money was turning down the budget between lunch and dinner ­– since no one was converting.

If you’d like to perform your own stalker-like level of hour-by-hour and day of the week bidding, I highly recommend checking out this Econsultancy case study, where they saw a 69% lift in CPA after implementing ad scheduling. If you’re looking for a solid how to guide, hit up this Wordstream 5 Step Tutorial and you’re off to the races.

Additional ways to extend your daily budget:

Or…. get more money. ;)

Mistake #3: Your ad doesn’t match your landing page

When I met my husband on Match.com, his profile picture showed a clean-shaven young man who didn’t look a day over 25. Then we met in person, and a bearded guy that looked closer to his actual age showed up, much to my surprise and honestly, the feeling of a message mismatch.

Target, Amazon and eBay used to be notorious for creating message mismatch because they would use dynamic keyword insertion in their ads and bid on every keyword in the universe, attempting to drive traffic to search results pages for items they may or may not have.

ebay-ad-examples
Two real-world examples of how exploiting DKI can lead to serious message mismatch. I used to spend far too much time trying to get ads like this to appear.

No one likes a less-than-accurate ad and landing page combination and if your CTR is on the higher, healthier side – say north of 5% – but your conversion rate is less than 5%, there is something disconnected between the two.

Solution: Delight your prospects with perfect message match

It’s really quite simple. Your ad text needs to reflect the ad copy on your landing page.

Check out this successful message match example from Oli Gardner:

He searched for “packaging design” and saw the following ad:

custom-packaging-design-ad copy
The ad copy contains a specific call to action and links to an article on Wired for social proof.

Clicking through takes you to a landing page headlined with with the same keyword from the ad: “custom packaging design.” As an added bonus, both ad and landing page appeal to a sense of urgency by using terminology like “today” and “in just hours.”

custom-packaging-design-page
The landing page you’re brought to from the ad pictured above is headlined with the exact same keyword from the ad. Perfect message match. Image source.

Pretty sweet.

Perfect message match like that earn us points in PPC towards a lower CPC, higher conversion rate and better Quality Scores. Best of all, it creates a great experience for your visitors and reassures them that they’ve made a “good click.”

P.S.: If your ad and landing page *do* have proper message match but your conversions rates are still low, then it’s safe to assume that your landing page is scaring away all the nice people who came from your ad. Time to look into some good ol’ landing page optimization.

Mistake #4: Your ads send the wrong message

I love creating personas. I like researching, writing and being imaginative with them, but if you haven’t stopped to smell those roses, you’re going to have a bad time.

PPC keyword lists should be bucketed not just by a type or theme but also thought of in context of the buying cycle (awareness, information gathering or ready to buy). In other words, when selecting keywords, you need to be mindful of user intent.

At the end of the day, you want to make sure that you’ve answered the question that someone searched for.

If you’re not paying attention to user intent and start buying terms accordingly, you’ll see a low CTR because of the mismatch in what appeals to them versus what you’re proposing to them.

And then no one will get to see your beautiful landing page.

Solution: Know your persona and send a message that will resonate

I had a client that sold ready-to-eat dinners made by chefs on a reality TV cooking show. These were not drive-through type meals, but more complex (meals like chicken saltimbocca). My client had been bidding on keywords related to fast food, chain restaurants and frozen foods.

This was problematic for two reasons:

  1. They were going after keywords in the wrong stage of the buying cycle: folks who are looking for a drive through or delivery so they could eat immediately.
  2. They were targeting ads at people looking to pay very little. Because my client was selling fresh, high-quality meals meant to feed a family of four, the average price point of their product was in the $30+ range. Not exactly relevant to someone looking for a $5 pizza meal.

When we sat down to talk about their buyer persona, we found that their demographic was primarily women over 30 who work, have children, a dual income and are looking to feed themselves and their families in a healthier, planned ahead way.

These were not “right now” buyers; these were planners who are willing to spend a little extra, and were likely in the consideration/awareness phase of the buying cycle.

Once we cut all the “right now” keywords and added keywords, ad text and landing page copy to speak directly to these ladies, we started seeing good results. Overall traffic volume went down (there is a lot of search volume around the keyword “Pizza Hut”) but the quality of the traffic went up significantly.

knowing-your-persona-chart
Overall traffic volume drops (blue), but conversions (orange) stay steady, eventually rising with increased budget to the right keywords.

Quick! Perform a persona check on your PPC campaigns:

  • Are your ads and landing page talking to awareness, consideration or purchase? Is that matching up with appropriate keywords? For example, “can you buy a wife” is a keyword people search for when they’re in the awareness phase, while “where to buy a wife” is for prospects in the purchase phase.
  • Do a Google search for your keywords – do the ads and articles that appear match up with your goals of your PPC campaign?
  • Ask someone. If you know someone in your desired persona range, show them the ad or landing page and see if it appeals to them.

Is it your landing page or is it your PPC?

When it comes to PPC, there are rarely any one-size-fits-all solutions, but my hope is that these examples will provide you with a checklist so you can assess the current state of your campaigns.

Checking for these mistakes should help you determine whether your PPC is sending poor quality traffic to your landing pages… or whether you should hit the landing page optimization books.

Are there any other common PPC blunders that you’ve seen? Let’s nerd out in the comments.

— Elizabeth Marsten

Listen to Elizabeth on the Call to Action podcast:


Day 113/365- Late Night Snack

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About Elizabeth Marsten
Elizabeth Marsten is the Vice President of Search Marketing at Portent, Inc. a full-service internet marketing agency in Seattle, WA. She oversees the paid search, SEO, social, analytics and content teams, has spoken at Search Marketing Expo and MozCon, and is an author on lynda.com.
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  • Good article, Elizabeth!

    Test, test, test, and pay attention. But then you have to actually make changes based on your testing, that’s where people seem to hesitate for some reason.

    • Thanks, Jeff! Yes, unfortunately that seems to be a pattern with testing.

  • Dez

    good article as aways from Unbounce, good advice.

    One question, we are a real estate business that use pic to drive incoming sales leads. Where potential income from each lead is in the thousands I am always somewhat reluctant to ditch some lower qs or ctr keywords as “it only takes one” for a large slice of revenue. It’s my belief that qs is a secondary to the needs/benefits of the bio version/business, would you agree?

    • Hi Dez-
      Cutting keywords or pausing them is scary, especially in the volume you are describing. I would recommend then a scaled experiment, using labels and yes, QS is a bit secondary. If you check out the link for Larry Kim’s article on QS and low CTR, I use that a “north star” for when to keep vs. when to cut: http://searchengineland.com/ppc-low-ctr-low-profits-196531

  • Thanks for this, very solid ideas. I have four unbounce pages running for one client, with conversion rates of between 8.5% and 13.5%. I have just culled all the non-performing keywords for each page. This has immediately made it easier to see clearly what’s remaining, and think afresh as to how i can segment those into more pages for a better message connect on each page.

    • Awesome! “I love it when a plan comes together.” -John “Hannibal” Smith

  • Shannon Starr

    Great info. Marsten! Thanks for the post.

    Sell Children on eBay ?

    • Shannon-
      You can find anything on eBay.

  • Hi Elizabeth,
    Great examples. Have sent this around internally to our PPC team.
    We use ad scheduling a lot for our clients as we can measure a big difference in conversion cost depending on time of the day.

    Best regards
    Simon Salomonsson

    • Awesome! Glad to hear it Simon. Thanks for commenting.

  • Matt

    Nice article. My comment may be a little off-topic but I think it’s important to front-load the campaign with trust-building, content-marketing. CR can be greatly influenced by attracting a new website visitor that already has a level of perceived trust in your brand.

  • Thanks Elizabeth! Nicely written article and thanks for the tips. I think ad copy and landing page mismatch is the biggest PPC mistake. I’ve had success with thanking the platform user (ie… Thanks for clicking on our AdWords Ad, here’s a special promo code). This seems to help with conversion rates and lead quality.

  • please visit it here more about it….http://smashinghub.com/10-best-free-website-pla…

  • Thanks Elizabeth!

  • Very Informative article. However, Some of the firms are prepared to pay out huge amount of money on Search Engine Promotion, but scarcely invest any budget needed to decide on most effective key phrases and also to remove useless key phrases of their marketing campaigns whether on Search engine marketing or Paid Advertising channels such as Adwords.

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