When things decline many want to find a cause and blame it. Often they point to AdWords because it has a simple to understand cost. Sorry to burst your bubble but marketing is complex and it’s never that simple. All forms of PPC (Pay Per Click) face this issue and we have to examine the role PPC plays in overall marketing before we take a hatchet to the budget.
The purpose of PPC/AdWords is to get qualified traffic from the search engine to the website. It is the website’s job to convert qualified traffic into sales. The tricky word in these statements is the word qualified because keywords hold influence over this attribute. Within every keyword is intent. The depth of intent is an important factor though difficult to quantify. For the purpose of this article let’s assume we are working with a well-developed keyword model that fits a particular business model.
If the volume loss is traced to AdWords and is not simply a change in response or conversion rate, then we must dig deeper. The next step is to investigate whether the volume decrease is due to a loss in impressions or a loss in clicks. If we find that the CTR (Click Through Rate) is steady then we can conclude that the problem is in the impressions and is outside the scope of what AdWords can help you with. Simply stated AdWords does not create demand, it only serves demand that is already there. While some marketing channels have the ability to create demand, AdWords is not on that list. A great example of this is a client in the snow removal business who was concerned with the lack of demand. We had to explain to him that demand was created by snow storms not keyword models. Just as expected, when the next big storm hit he was buried in work.
None of this means that AdWords should be exempt from critical review, it too can be the source of problems. If your account has been running for a while and the results start to shift in a noticeable way then, by all means, dig into AdWords as part of the review. Keep in mind that events outside of AdWords can impact performance and this is especially true of breaking news stories. For example, in recent times one of our clients who sell flags experienced a huge spike in Confederate Flag traffic right around the time of the shooting at a Church in Charleston. This radically changed the “confederate flag” keyword traffic. Anytime something related to your business or product goes viral it can impact your keyword set.
In addition, it is important to always consider the associated connections within our marketing system. A great example of this is the connection between SEO and AdWords. While Google tells us that there is no connection between the two, our experience indicates otherwise. We have seen time and time again that when an AdWords account is shut down the volume of SEO traffic falls with it. Now I believe Google when they say that there is not a mechanical connection but SEO is sensitive to overall traffic and AdWords counts for that. People may visit a site through an ad but return with a search for your brand. If the ad goes missing so does the potential return search. Over the years we have observed that stopping AdWords can have a 10-20% negative impact on organic traffic.
There is no doubt that AdWords must be critically evaluated just like every other part of any marketing system but keep in mind that it does not exist in isolation. Changes to Adwords should be made in moderation with observation. You do not want to pull on one end of a string just to be surprised by whats on the other end.
The bottom line is that the majority of responsibility of converting traffic into sales belongs to the website. The 95 letters and spaces in an AdWords ad only displays after a person has activated the search query and is solely responsible for getting a user to the website. Once the user clicks the ad it is up to the website to keep the users interest and meet their need(S). All in all, the influence of AdWords is between the search query and click and that is only one step in a very long journey to a sale or client relationship.