Reality Check: There is a difference between a “conversion rate” dropping and “conversions” dropping. Knowing this difference can help you improve your PPC campaigns. Let’s investigate what to do when your PPC conversion rates start to go in the wrong direction.
When You See Conversion Rates Dropping…
First, you must know there are things which could and should be done to improve your landing pages or business model which will improve your conversion rate from any traffic source, not just from PPC. You must have your basics in place first!
Second, if your conversion rate is dropping and you haven’t made any website or landing page changes, check to see if your competitors have added any new offers (particularly via PPC) that could be undercutting you or otherwise attracting your traffic. This will help you create a better response to the drop.
When a conversion rate drops because of PPC-related issues on your end, it will typically be due to one of the following reasons.
The obvious solution to non-converting traffic is to add negative keywords to filter them out. But we wouldn’t exactly be breaking new ground with a tip like that. And let’s be honest, you’ve probably already added negatives.
So let’s take it a bit further; instead of simply adding the negatives, make sure you are observing the queries themselves for their meaning. By default, AdWords only adds the negative exact match of a specific query. So if you see a query that contains a term that you should be avoiding, you should add a negative for that specific term:
- Example Keyword is: cleaning service
- Possible Query is: cleaning service jobs
- We don’t want the word jobs. Therefore…
- Wrong Way: -[cleaning service jobs]
- Right Way: -jobs
Another instance where bad traffic can sneak into the funnel is when you have a new surge in awareness traffic, usually originating through organic or social campaigns. When this happens, you might be unaware that unqualified visitors are building up in your audience lists because you’re happy to see clicks jumping. But when this audience list bleeds into remarketing campaigns, conversion rates drop and the happiness fades.
Landing Pages Message Inconsistent with Ad Messaging
As far as ad content, the best thing you can do is to make sure what your customers see is what they get. Not after they’ve signed up or checked out, I mean right when they show up at your front door. If you put out an ad for “First 3-Hour Cleaning for $39,” then they need to land on a page that shows exactly that offer.
So, for example, if you changed your slider image because you decided to end your promotion, but you left that same ad running, your conversion rate would definitely be in trouble, and probably your Quality Score as well.
Many advertisers don’t go as far as to match the ad text with landing page copy, but they should. If your ad claims anything that sounds like “Highest Quality,” “X-Year Warranty,” or even “In Business Since 19xx,” you could benefit greatly by having your landing pages reflect that same message.
Main bullet point: You have to recognize that what the customer saw in the ad that made them click is something that’s important to them. Give it to them on the landing page.
One thing PPC managers do every day is move money around from campaign to campaign. Sometimes we add more, sometimes we remove some, but we always do it with the intent to improve ROI.
What we definitely don’t intend are these common side effects of changing budgets. Changing a budget can be beneficial, but it will also cause a drop in conversion rates when:
- Budget is moved to a campaign with a higher conversion value, but with a lower conversion rate.
- Budget is moved to campaigns which tend to drive more phone calls than conversions.
There are also campaign varieties that will cause a drop in conversion rates that you should beware of moving too much money into:
- Campaigns that have higher bids, fewer clicks, and slower conversions.
- Campaigns where the offer is less competitive.
- Campaigns where the offer takes longer to be accepted.
- Campaigns where both conversion value and the conversion rate are low.
It’s important to be aware of what is happening with the clicks you are paying for, and to look to see if they are truly driving value when you get the conversions. Google Shopping is a great example of getting a very high conversion rate but less value per conversion than a text ad. Shopping ads will take a customer directly to a product page, usually the exact one that they were looking for. Because of this, customers are more inclined to simply add the product to their cart and move right to checkout.
On the surface that seems ideal. However, when you take someone through a text ad to a more general offering like a category, the customer might see more products and checkout with multiple items. And that can increase the order value.
The same thing goes for landing pages. If your prospects need to do some research on your site before converting, then sending them to a more general page or a top-of-funnel lander might actually help your conversion rate.
Many advertisers don’t realize they are always competing with themselves, and not in the sense that they have multiple ads running simultaneously.
Rather, all of the keywords in your campaign are vying for the highest bid so that they can be seen. Because of this, if you outbid high converting keywords (often more specific in nature) with lower converting keywords, Google could potentially trigger either keyword to serve an ad. And you will trigger the low performer just about every time. Here’s an example:
- Query: Medical Software
- Low Converting Keyword: Medical Software (high volume, higher bid)
- High Converting Keyword: +Medical +Billing Software + EHR Integration (low volume, lower bid)
Here, Google could trigger either keyword with the query Medical Billing but will serve the low converting one if it is bid higher than the high converting one.
Number of Conversions Dropping
When the actual number of conversions is dropping, it could be for the reasons mentioned above, but it’s usually for a more obvious reason. Let’s focus on the usual suspects.
CTR is Dropping
Typically, if your PPC campaigns experience a decrease in clicks, then there’s a smaller audience to complete conversions and thus the conversion numbers will decrease. Alternatively, if you made changes to your campaigns which resulted in a drastic increase in impressions (like increasing bids or expanding geotargeting radius), you could see a lower CTR but no change to conversions.
When advertisers aren’t seeing the conversions they were hoping for from their campaigns, they often reduce their budget in an effort to increase the ROI. This strategy couldn’t be further from effective. As you decrease your budget, you limit your impressions and therefore see fewer clicks and conversions.
[tweetthis]As you decrease your PPC budget, you limit your impressions and will see fewer clicks and conversions.[/tweetthis]
Some advertisers take their cost-cutting efforts even further by lowering bids in addition to the budget. In other words, not only is the entire campaign getting fewer impressions but now it’s seeing a lower ad rank in AdWords.
Google determines ad rank by your bid and your Quality Score, so with fewer opportunities to appear in search engine results combined with a lower position, conversions will almost certainly suffer.
Geography, Ad Scheduling, or Device Setting Changed
Minor tweaks to your PPC campaign settings can easily impact your conversions. For example, you decide your campaign is targeting a wider audience than you feel is necessary and decrease your geotargeting radius. You could actually be missing out on impressions from your target audience directly within your target location.
How? We know that Google tends to be inaccurate when guessing our location. Which is why sometimes you’ll get emails telling you “someone” logged into your Gmail account from a location 50 miles from where you are (even though it was you).
They often make the same mistake when geotargeting ads, which means they could easily end up showing fewer ads in your target location. And as we’ve established, fewer impressions = fewer conversions.
Making changes to your ad scheduling or device settings can also decrease your impressions and therefore conversions, too. Keep track of the setting modifications you’re making and stay on top of your campaign performance each week.
Your Prices Increased
We know that people usually try to spend as little as possible while getting the highest quality. So it’s clear why conversions would drop if you increased the price of your product or service.
This is particularly true for advertisers running Google Shopping Campaigns or businesses that include prices in their text ads. If this is the case, use your campaigns to communicate the value they’ll receive, or offer an incentive like a promo code to offset the price increase.
Some Not So Obvious Reasons
Sometimes there are things going on behind the scenes that can be causing your conversions to drop. Here are a few to look into:
Errors Causing Ads to Be Flagged by Search Engines or Facebook
Errors and issues on your website can affect your campaign’s performance and often go undetected. Common errors include missing or incomplete structured markup but can also be more serious issues such as malware, DNS or server errors.
Your Google Search Console account will crawl your website and look for these errors, but it’s not perfect. If you don’t manually check your account, the issues could go unnoticed. If you do have errors on your site, your impressions and therefore conversions will likely be affected.
If you’re running PPC campaigns on Facebook, you’re probably aware of some of the rules which can affect your reach. For example, there is a rule that you cannot have text over more than 20% of an image. While your ad may still get approved and run in this state, your reach will be limited.
Further, Facebook also has specific guidelines on restricted and prohibited content, as well as branded content rules, and not adhering to these guidelines will result in limited ad reach. Be sure to brush up on the guidelines to ensure you’re not violating any rules.
Landing Pages are Not Setup as HTTPS
Secure sites are favored by Google, but you already knew that. As digital crime continues to increase, a secure site is just as meaningful to the visitor. Especially as we nudge closer to the introduction of the “Not Secure” warning that will appear in Chrome.
Sometimes advertisers overlook the setup of the landing page they’re driving users to. This is common if the landing page is hosted on a sub-domain or the advertiser is leveraging a third-party landing page tool that doesn’t enable SSL.
Later this month, you’ll start to see non-secure forms getting flagged with the same warning. So it’s important to ensure your entire site and forms appear as https:// to the user.
[tweetthis]It’s important to ensure your entire site and forms appear as https:// to the user.[/tweetthis]
Still not convinced? A study by GlobalSign indicated that 84% of website visitors would abandon their purchase if they knew their information was getting sent over an insecure connection.
Misconfiguration with Conversion Tracking Due To Website Changes
Changes to your website may actually be indicating fewer conversions (or more) than you’re actually getting. Here are a few examples of some things that may be skewing the number of conversions you’re seeing from PPC:
- Switching to a secure site
- Swapping a form on a landing page
- Replacing a form with a direct email
- New phone number
- A website redesign
- Switching landing pages to a sub-domain or third party tool
- Adding a CAPTCHA → A study by Moz across 50 different companies identified an average 3.2% reduction in conversions on pages using CAPTCHAs.
What to Do Next
Hopefully, you’ve uncovered some of the underlying reasons why your PPC conversions or conversion rates are dropping. As a parting gift, here are a few methods to implement to bring them back up:
- Get a thorough understanding of what’s causing your conversion rate to drop
- Run split tests to determine what’s working, and what’s working faster
- Analyze your performance weekly
- Don’t forget to optimize your landing pages!
Peter Dulay is a conversion expert with over 10 years of experience in digital advertising and conversion. He has helped many startups and fortune 500 companies to boost their conversion by 400% and more.