Google Ads – Trouble Shooting Poor Performance

What happens if the Google Ads campaign you are running is not performing well or performance drops? The ability to investigate and determine the cause, effect, and eliminate waste with a campaign that is not doing well is a critical part of campaign management.  Finding the specific cause of a downward trend or lower performance campaign requires deep diving into several different areas to identify and resolve the issue.

When did the issue occur?

The first thing to try and identify for an existing campaign is when did the performance start to drop? Has the trend been a slow decline or dramatic drop? Did it drop on a certain date? You need try and pin point the specific date or trending month when the performance data started to slide downwards.

Use the date range in Google Analytics to go back over a period and use the filter on the graph for the goal you are focused on that has not performing and try and identify the dates or month where the trend downward started.

Eliminate Technical Errors

If performance has dropped suddenly ensure there is no technical issue with the customer journey. Check the ad resolves to the right landing page, check the CTA is still visible on the page, and test the goal process all the way through to completion.

Goal Verification

The next thing is to verify is, if the goal is still functioning and the thank you page or sales confirmation has not changed. The easiest way to test this is to use Google Analytics – Acquisition / All Traffic / Source/Medium view and you can see if the goal is working and the sources it has come from. If the goal is working for all sources and you can see no issues you can move onto the specific Google Ads campaign analysis.

Using this view, you can also identify if the drop has been for all sources or just Google Ads campaign. For example, if there is a drop across all sources to the website, the issue may be seasonal and reflect a drop within search or demand for a product/service. If it is a sudden drop for all sources again, the technical stability of the site assets should be reviewed, was the site down, was an issue completing a sale etc?

Identify the Campaigns Impacted

Using Google Analytics / Google Ads / Campaign view and take the date where the performance dropped leading up to the current date and compare to previous. You will need to have your Google Ads account linked to Google Analytics. This will allow you to see which campaigns have driven the performance drop. It should be clear which campaigns are impacted by performance drop.

Look at the following:

  1. Have the clicks increased / decreased?
  2. Has the CPC increased / decreased?
  3. Has the conversion rate decreased?

Is it just one campaign or is it all campaigns?

Identify the Ad group

If there is one campaign that is impacted only, go to the next level and identify which Ad group within the campaign. If you can isolate the performance drop to one or a number of ad groups, you are in a much better position to do the next level of trouble shooting. Now you should have clear picture of which campaign / ad group or even keyword of the account is not performing.

Google Ads Change History

Once you have a verified date/month for the performance drop and verified that there are no technical issues and the goal is functioning you can move into Google Ads for further investigation.

The first thing is to review is to understand any changes that have been made to the account around the time that the performance started to drop. Use the Google Ads Change History and use the date range to look at the actions for a week leading up to when the performance dropped for the campaigns affected.  These may include:

Changing of Bidding Strategy

Google Ads offer several different bidding strategies to use ranging from Target Cost Per Acquisition, Target ROAS, Maximise Conversions, Enhanced Cost Per Click and more. If you have seen a drop-in performance AFTER implementing a different bidding strategy you may need to revert to manual bidding. The most common issue that occurs is that Google will automatically set bid prices to work to find the optimum position – this can lift the CPC on keywords and drive up the cost of a click and where a budget is limited, it can instantly mean less clicks, lower performance.

Addition of a keyword / Incorrect match types

The wrong keyword or using the incorrect match type can easily blow out an ad group and greatly impact performance. A generic or broad keyword with multiple meanings can easily drive up the cost or consume large parts of the budget but not deliver the most targeted audience to the page.  It is better select keywords that have the highest chance of converting to customer as opposed to keywords that can drive clicks.

If you can find the specific change that saw the down turn in performance in Google Change History – you can simple undo it. If you have to change a bidding strategy, and go back to manual bidding, make sure you look at a keyword level and change the max CPC price – as often this has been auto lifted much higher by Google automations.

Actual Search Terms

If you are still unsure and have a campaign that is suffering from general sporadic non-performance, make sure you review the Actual Search Terms that people have been typing into your campaigns. This will allow you to make an assessment on the relevance of the keywords. This is especially important if you are using broad match modifier as a match type. Identifying terms that your ads are serving on that have a low value to convert into a sale should be added as a negative.  Utilise this method to eliminate waste in your campaign and use your budget for a more targeted click.

Next Steps

Working through each of the steps above in most cases you should be able to cleary identify what the issue is and rectify it. Ensure you make a note of the changes taken, and potentially don’t make too many different changes at once so you can measure cause and effect. Monitor the performance over the coming weeks until you are confident you have rectified the issues.