Google Ads has a high barrier to entry when it comes to getting a campaign started correctly, much less getting a campaign optimized. Most businesses find that working with a Google Ads manager helps them avoid campaign setup errors—but checking on these can help you identify if your Google Ads expert isn’t as good as they say they are.
If your Google Ads campaign isn’t working the way you expected it would, it’s probably not time to turn your campaign off and give up on Ads entirely. Instead, it’s time to identify why your campaign isn’t working and what you can do to fix it.
How to Check If Google Ads Is Working
The easiest way to check if Adwords is working is by going to the search keyword report in your campaign and looking for the following:
- Your ads are getting impressions
- Your ads are getting clicks or interactions
- Your landing pages are getting conversions
If you’re missing any three of these, your ads are definitely not working. If you’re getting impressions, clicks, and conversions on your ads but aren’t satisfied with your campaign’s performance, then it’s a matter of optimizing your Adwords account to improve performance.
If your ads aren’t getting impressions, you have a larger issue that your ads aren’t showing that you need to troubleshoot before you can optimize your ads for performance.
Top Reasons Why Google Adwords Doesn’t Work
When I start working on a new Google Ads campaign, I always check for the top reasons why a campaign might not be working, especially if the campaign has been running for a while without getting the desired results.
Google Ads Aren’t Showing
If your ads aren’t getting impressions, there’s likely a larger issue related to your ads not showing. Your ads can not show for a variety of reasons but the most common culprits are that the campaign, ad, or keywords aren’t enabled, ads approval isn’t complete, or you have targeting options set incorrectly. It might also be that your Google Ads account setup has problems. Troubleshooting why ads aren’t showing can be complex but should be your first step if your ads aren’t getting impressions.
Using the Wrong Match Types
If you set up your account on your own or through a Smart Campaign, you’re likely using the wrong match types for your keywords and your ads are likely showing for lots of searches that aren’t highly targeted to your campaign. This is the most common mistake I see when I take on a new account that someone DIY’d! Using the right match types can help to reduce advertising for unrelated terms, make it easier to optimize, and help your campaign perform better.
Not Using the Right Negative Keywords
Even with the right match types, your ads can show for unrelated searches or searches you don’t want. For example, even if you use a phrase match type for “appraiser”, your ads can show for search terms about unrelated appraisals including doll appraisals, coin appraisals, and many more. Other common negative keywords include words like “free” or “cheap” that can also prevent your ads from showing to the wrong prospects. You can check to see if your ads will show for the wrong keywords using the Ad Preview Tool—but working with a PPC manager who already has a strong negative keyword list can fast track your progress.
Advertising For the Wrong Keywords
A bit more difficult to troubleshoot, advertising for the wrong keywords is a common error I’ve seen in Google Ads. Understanding why your target audience is searching can help you better understand which keywords you should advertise for—and what not to advertise for. For example, if you have a large number of keywords that get clicks, have a high bounce rate, and no conversions, they might be a waste of your budget.
Ad Rank Is Too Low
If your ads are showing and getting impressions but you’re not seeing a lot of clicks or conversions, checking your Ad Rank is the first step I take to make sure that you don’t have a systemic problem with how your campaign is set up. Ad Rank is a combination of your Quality Score and Bid that determines where your ad will appear in search results. While Ad Rank isn’t a metric Google shares in your Ads account, you can make educated guesses about your Ad Rank by looking at your impression share lost to rank at the keyword level. If you see high percentages on any of the metrics for impression share lost to rank, that means your Ad Rank is lower than your competitors bidding on the same searches. You can fix Ad Rank by improving either or both your Quality Score or Bid.
Bid Isn’t Right
If I see a high impressions share lost to Ad Rank, the next thing I determine is if that’s coming from the bidding side of the Ad Rank equation, since that’s an easier fix in most cases to quickly improve Ad Rank. I also take a look to see if there are bid related alerts in the account, such as “Below First Page Bid” or that the campaign is budget limited. You can look at search impressions lost to budget at the campaign level to make sure your overall budget isn’t too low and that you’re missing impressions because you’re not putting enough money towards your Ads campaign.
Quality Score Is Too Low
The other half of Ad Rank is Quality Score and if your Quality Score is too low, you’ll constantly overpay for your ads. A good rule is to always optimize for at least a 7 QS and try to get to an 8 or 9, if possible. Optimizing your Quality Score is the best way to beat your competition—but it can take a long time to make effective improvements to this Ads metric. Quality Score is a combination of expected click-through-rate, landing page experience, and ad relevance. Improving your Quality Score can be a long, frustrating battle for even the most seasoned Ads Managers but is well worth the effort. If you have a high quality score, you can bid less for top spots and have an even more effective Ads campaign!
Landing Pages Don’t Match Your Ads
One big mistake I often see with new Ads campaigns is to send traffic to the homepage from all ads instead of specific landing pages tailored to your ads. The best way to optimize your landing pages is to create landing pages that match your ad copy, the searcher intent of your target audience, and make a clear path to conversion. Sending people to your homepage can increase site engagement—but leave people confused about what action to take and reduce your conversions.
Landing Pages Aren’t Right
Landing pages aren’t super hard to get right, especially if you have a good website design to begin with, but can be a huge reason why your ads aren’t performing well. If your landing page doesn’t answer the reason why someone is searching in the first place, your campaign will underperform even if you get people to click your ads. Take a look at your landing pages from the perspective of someone who has never interacted with your brand before and assess how well they’d convince you to take action from your most common searches.
Ads Don’t Use the Full Features
If you tossed up an Ad campaign without going through all the setup steps, you’ve missed ad extensions. Ad extensions are a feature that show extra information about your business and research shows that not using extensions can negatively impact your ads. Extensions are an easy fix but are often neglected by new advertisers.
Ads Aren’t Enticing or Are Poorly Written
Your click through rates are a large part of your ads’ performance and factor into how your ads rank, what you’ll pay for clicks, and how your campaigns perform. If your ads aren’t enticing or have copywriting problems, your performance will definitely suffer. Writing great ads comes with experience and routine ad testing but you can identify this issue by looking at your Expected Click-through-rate. If Google says this is “Below Average” you need to work on making your ads more in line with your target audience’s problems and searcher intent.
Your Expectations Aren’t Realistic
You’ve done everything you can—and all your metrics are in order. Your Quality Score is great, your campaign isn’t budget limited, you’ve progressively reduced your budget as your campaign has improved, and you’ve done all the conversion rate optimization you can. Nothing seems to improve your results at this point. But your Google Ads still aren’t working. What’s wrong? In this case, it’s usually your expectations for your return on investment that are messed up.
What Should I Do If My Google Ads Stopped Working?
If your campaign was working but over time has stopped working—or suddenly stopped working, you’ll want to check to make sure your ads are still showing and you’re getting impressions first. But if you’re getting impressions, your campaign’s performance has rapidly decreased.
Usually rapidly decreasing performance is caused by new competitors entering the ad auctions or your competition upping their game. Just like SEO, Google Ads is largely entirely relative to your competition for ad positions and bidding. If your ads have stopped working gradually over time, you’re probably not managing your account well to keep it fresh and optimized.
Need help with your Google ads not working? I offer a free initial consultation to take a look at your Google Ads campaign and help you find a path forward to make Google Ads work for you.