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Conflicting PPC Trends: What They Mean & How to Fix Them

kerschbaum-joe
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conflicting-opinionsWhen managing PPC campaigns, specific trends and statistics can be in direct conflict.

These polarizing trends often occur with stats that should be parallel or at least trending similarly.

As disturbing as this discrepancy may be, it can also help you gain deeper insights into your PPC campaigns.

Often when a certain statistic like impressions goes up, and a closely related statistic such as clicks goes down – something is off-balance. A random occurrence like this can happen on any given day within the life of a PPC campaign, but you need to be looking for the overall trends that indicate an overarching problem.

Below is a list of some conflicting statistics, as well as their root causes. Remember, these aren't about “bad data” in your account, but when similar stats are trending in opposite directions.

Impressions Increase – But Clicks Decrease

  • New keywords: New keywords may have been inserted into a campaign. These new terms may be too general, causing impressions to increase but clicks to remain steady, or even decrease.
  • New match types: New keywords with loose match types may have been launched, or new match types of pre-existing keywords may have been inserted.
  • New distribution channel: Within a specific campaign perhaps a secondary distribution channel was launched such as search partners or display network for AdWords or Bing Ads.
  • Ad rank fluctuation: A shift may have occurred and your ads are ranking higher than before. Running a comparison ranking report as well as a top/side comparison report can determine if this has happened.
  • New GDN placements: New placements may creep into your GDN campaigns. We often see new placements pop-up in our GDN campaigns that may boost CTR but with little actual value.

Click-Through Rate Increases – But Conversion Rate Decreases

  • Ad text/landing page mismatch: As new ad messaging is tested, it's possible that a disconnect between ad copy promise and landing page fulfillment arises. Perhaps the messaging doesn't match or the call-to-action is not the same from ad to landing page.
  • Error on landing page: You may see an increase in CTR but conversion rate doesn't follow due to a tracking error. Before making any major changes, always make sure your stats are correct.
  • New search queries: For broad match or modified broad match terms, we have seen new search queries generate more clicks quickly, but they fail to convert. Running a search query report can determine if this is the issue.

Cost-Per-Click Increases – But Ad Rank Decreases

  • Quality score issue: If you find your average CPC is increasing but your ad rank is actually decreasing, you may be suffering from a quality score issue.
  • Change in competitive landscape: Sometimes trends/shifts in performance happen and you technically didn't do anything to initiate the change. We have seen performance improve and suffer as competitors come in and out of our verticals.
  • Match type tightening: As we migrate critical keywords from loose match types (broad match) toward more focused exact match, you may find that competition is fiercer. This may cause your CPC to increase but ad rank to hold steady or even decrease.

Conversion Rate Increases – But Average Duration Decreases, and Bounce Rate Increase

  • Improved landing page experience: This can be a good thing! At some point you may find that your user engagement metrics are suffering, such as decreased visit duration or increased bounce rate. However, if you look closer perhaps your conversion rate has increased. This may indicate that you're speaking more directly to your target audience and convincing them to action quicker.

Transactions Increase – But Return on Investment (ROI) Decreases

  • Elevated CPA: One of the main culprits of decreased ROI is increased CPA. Sure, sales may be increasing, but you may be paying more for them.
  • New sale or limited offer: We often get a false positive in conversion trends generated by special offers/coupons. Communication is critical when launching offers. Just the other week our conversion rate for an ecommerce client increased 20 percent but AOV decreased by almost 10 percent. It turned out they had launched a sale within the shopping cart and didn't mention it to us. Overall, the sale was good with increased revenue and an acceptable dip in ROI.
  • Shift in order size/AOV: You may find that raw number of transactions has increased but AOV or order size has decreased.
  • Shift in products purchased: This can be caused by seasonality or numerous other reasons. Orders for certain products may rise and fall and this can impact your transactions and ROI numbers.

Summary

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These are just a few examples of trends that should fluctuate in parallel. There are countless iterations of this type of performance deviation.

In many instances you will see trends that don't make sense. But as a skilled PPC professional, it's your job to make sense out of nonsense sometimes.

Continuous analysis is required to stay on top of any PPC campaign. It takes experience to recognize anomalies such as these and expert knowledge to decipher exactly the root cause – and take the appropriate action.


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