Your Adwords Campaign Should Be Working, but isn't.

30 Oct 2017

Your client has a good product or service, it's not to niche and there is plenty of search. You are happy with the keyword traffic being generated but your campaign is just not working, and the client is getting frustrated. What do you do?

  1. Adwords provides a fantastic way to reach new customers, but it isn’t all plain sailing.
  2. When campaigns break down, knowing where to spend effort can be a dilemma.
  3. This post talks you through some of the ways in which you can critique your campaign to see where it’s going wrong.
  4. Often the campaign itself is not the problem. 

Leaving eCommerce to one side here, regular service campaigns can often be tough going for PPC execs.

Software and tech products, for example, can be examples of tricky sells. Sometimes the product is so new that a market doesn’t really exist for it yet and on occasion, the service is so niche, the PPC platform just doesn’t fit.

But what when its none of these things? Where do you start when there looks a good opportunity for the client but it just isn't happening?

This is often where many of my job tickets in the office come from. A distress flare is sent up and a ticket lands on my desk.

So where to start?

Well for the purposes of this post, I am going to avoid the obvious by saying ‘check your keywords’. So we are aiming here at an intermediate/advanced troubleshooting exercise. The assumption is that you have already done all the basic checks.

I distil my analysis into a few main areas. You will notice that none of these are actually inside Adwords itself.

Pro Tip – keywords are just the beginning of the process. If you have matched intent sensibly, then the most likely cause of a failing campaign sits outside the Adwords platform.

Brief – What Are We Selling?

Firstly I revisit the brief. Was it implemented correctly? Was any key information missing that the team needed but wasn’t provided? Do we understand what we are selling?

This is actually a key point. In some cases, where a project has fallen over, it’s because we don’t understand the product or service fully.

We can often be dealing with high tech complex products and services. It’s critical we fully understand the product and if you don’t - rebrief or arrange a site visit.

When presented with a failing project, my first port of call is to ask my team what they know about the product. I usually have done my own homework first but sometimes that isn’t needed. Simple common sense questions can often highlight product knowledge issues.

Buyer Personas & Pain Points

Features not benefits on your landing pages? You are doomed.

Product features don’t make sales. You must make it clear how your product/service solve business issues.

If you don’t understand the profile, wants and needs of your target customer, your campaign is going to struggle. Again a key issue for me is where the team (or sometimes the client themselves) don’t have a clear picture of who they are targeting and why.

In failing projects, the exec has not got this key information over to the visitor and the page is either too general or focused too heavily on itself.

If the client is also struggling here, then it’s a case of going back to the drawing board.

Landing Page Headlines

Sometimes the headline on the landing page is the problem. The headline should distil the offer and set an expectation as to what will happen next. Buzzwords and marketing speak don’t cut it.

Don’t shortcut this step. It is absolutely vital.

Write maybe 5 or 6 headlines and canvas opinion on them. See if people understand what your message is and what they can expect from the page.

Does this match your brief and ultimate conversion goal?

Mixed Conversion Messages

What is the aim of your landing page?

- Sign up

- Learn more

- Free demo

- Get a quote

Any of these are valid conversion aims. What I commonly see however is where the page ‘story’ and headline, don’t match the conversion aim.

If you want to encourage a free demo for example, then your headline should lead visitors to that conversion aim. In many cases, this doesn’t happen. The page talks generally about the product/service and then requests a demo via a CTA.

Pro Tip – Always based your copy on your conversion aim, don’t wander off a straight line and talk generally about the product.

Client Interference

When I get one of these tickets and sit down with the exec - when we get into the issues, often the exec has been on the right lines – only to find the client has changed the focus, headline, CTA etc. Basically, they have hijacked the process.

This should never happen but as clients pay the bills, it is sometimes difficult to resist their overtures. By undoing amends made by clients, who often aren’t experienced in the work, results rapidly improve.

Pro Tip – Politely resist client interference. It rarely adds value unless you have made factual errors that need correcting.

Fuzzy Call To Actions (CTA)

When things go west, the CTA is often lurking somewhere in the mix. Why? Because the user expectation has not been set clearly enough.

Here are a few examples of innocent enough looking CTA’s that actually can create doubt and friction in the mind of the visitor:

Book Survey –


Do I want people knocking on my door?


Will I get charged for this?


When will they come round?


I really just want a chat at this stage?


I am not sure this service is 100% what I want yet

End result – abandonment.

Contact Us -


If I do, what happens next?


Will I speak with an expert If I do?


Why? What’s in it for me?


The other guys are offering me a free survey.


What happens next?

Pro Tip – Always make sure your CTA explicitly details what the outcome will be and NOT the action. Action statements do nothing for conversions.

Examples of action based CTA’s that are really really bad for sales:

‘Get In Touch’

‘Contact Us’


These are innocent enough but on paper but lurking behind them is conversion friction. Remove it.

What’s The Story?

Copywriting can play a huge role in the success of the page. You ideally need to build a story as the reader moves down the page. Often I see disjointed pages where the content is good but the story is poor.

Check your pages – do you provide a compelling story that people can relate to?

If you maybe want people to book a survey, then consider giving examples of other people who may also have been unsure but seen a large benefit. Social proof can play a large role in persuasion so try and build a picture around your conversion aim.

Why it solves your problems.

How it’s solved other people’s problems.

Why it's easy to do and won’t take your time up.

Allay fears over costs and contact.

Some of the best converting landing pages have been quite long in my work. So people will go beyond the dreaded fold if you give them a reason to.


So these are areas I will primarily work through when assessing a poorly performing campaign. There are of course a huge range of other issues here and improving your knowledge of psychology is a great place to spend some time.

I would stress again that you need to make sure the basics are covered. Your ads need to be on point and the traffic too. If you are doing that, then it could also be down to the old school conversion killers of price and delivery.

If you are happy with all these things, then some of my troubleshooting tips may help. Let me know in the comments.

The article was written by Jon Colegate. Connect with Jon:

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