First 4 Areas to Look At When Seeing Performance Declines in AdWords

Whenever accounts see negative shifts in conversion volume over a period of time, or an increase in CPLs it becomes panic time for many. But as online advertisers, a lot of the time, the answers are right in front of us as to why the decline is occurring.

There are a lot of things that you need to look at when this happens in an account, but if you were to break it down into a checklist of four – this shows what that checklist might look like.

#1 Conversion Tracking

This is one that surprisingly, a lot of people miss when reviewing an account. “Landing pages seem similar, the traffic type we are receiving is similar, what is going on?” Find a date range where performance looked great and compare conversion types to see if there is a clear answer as to where the drop is coming from.

Some things you might find when diving into conversion tracking:

  • The account is no longer counting a conversion type as a direct conversion as it was before (maybe calls from ads)
  • The account is now set to “one-to-many” and was previously “many-to-many” conversions causing double tracking previously
  • The account completely shifted strategies on what is tracked as a conversion

These could have been purposefully to get more accurate tracking – or they could have stopped tracking due to tag issues on the page. Regardless of cause – if there is no consistency, then there is an issue in comparing performance from one time frame to the next. From there decide with the team and client (if you’re an agency) as to what should be getting tracked as a conversion, and for comparisons sake – continue tracking all of the old conversion methods in order to fairly compare different date ranges (but do not add anything of lesser value as an actual conversion).

#2 Traffic Trends on Top Converting Keywords

Within AdWords – assuring the traffic dips did not occur on top performing terms is crucial when investigating performance dips. This is something that is done a lot during account Audits, and it is found that performance shifts had slowly happened on some of the best performing terms, this could be because: people have slowly shifted the way they search, competitors slowly took this auctions over or due to a number of automated rules that may have caused shifts. Sometimes it could also be because the Search Partner Network performed so well for a certain term, and your ad is no longer showing on that Partner page.

Overall – getting the keywords where this occurred and then investigating from there is a good step to take. While working at Hanapin Marketing, we developed tools to easily get comparisons in traffic on converting terms during a good performing date range vs. the traffic on those same terms during the time of the performance slide. This allows for very quick analyses on if traffic on converting terms is an issue, and from there you can dive into which terms saw the dips and investigate on those terms.

#3 Traffic Trends by Device

Mobile is growing in traffic, while Desktop traffic is staying constant. Breaking news there, right? This has be the trend for seemingly the past 3 years or so. With this though, it is crucial to understand the shifts that are occurring at the device level and how that is affecting your bottom line.

Are conversion rates affected by simply having more mobile traffic and less desktop traffic within your AdWords account? If so, what are next steps from there? Assuring a positive mobile experience is in place then becomes even more crucial.

This seems to be one that has affected a lot of accounts – but purchases are not slowing down overall. Just be sure to have an effective mobile experience in place – call extensions, quicker page load times, easy to navigate pages, etc. – and this way you’re conversions will not be stolen away by the competition simply because users can access their products easier through a mobile device.

#4 Landing Page Traffic, Conversion Rates & Page Load Times

Are different pages receiving more traffic than before? Are certain non-PPC pages getting less traffic? Have conversion rates on certain pages just dropped? Have our page load times differed when the performance started to decline?

These are all questions that need to be asked when it comes to on-site performance. Once all of this information is gathered, make the appropriate adjustments. If different pages are receiving a larger majority of the PPC traffic and it is hurting performance, re-evaluate where to send users on the site within your different ad groups. If conversion rates dropped on certain pages, re-evaluate the content on that page to keep it current. If page load times have dropped, find out what content or images are causing the slow page load times and adjust your pages from there.

The one that people don’t connect the dots on quite as often is how lacking traffic from other sources on certain pages can negatively affect the remarketing efforts you have going on in AdWords. If an audience was building on a certain blog post for example, and that audience was being used for RLSA and was doing excellent performance-wise, then that is probably a very telling story as to why performance dipped once that blog post stopped getting views.

These are all on the site questions that need to be asked when diving into things when performance starts to slide in an account.

Final Thoughts

These are just four of the first things to look through when an account declines. Find a great performing time frame and make comparisons – see when trends started within these different categories and adjust.

But don’t stop there! Look at other differences like Day of Week performance and traffic trends, Time of Day trends, auction insights to visualize which competitors might be coming into the space you’re targeting and much more.

From there creating templates for a process that works for you and your team can be extremely beneficial to get started, but you definitely have to then dive deeper to assure you’re looking at each account and situation differently as well.

jacob brown hanapinJake has been in the PPC Industry since June 2012. He has worked in agencies and in-house at an electronic components company as a Search Engine Marketing Specialist. He started working at Hanapin Marketing in November 2013.

Follow Jacob on Twitter @jakebrownppc