You spent hours outlining your goals, allocating a budget, finalizing your list of keywords, identifying your target audience, editing and proofing your creative, and now PPFFFTTT—the campaign is underperforming and it’s all you can do to not throw up your hands and just click delete. Deep breaths. Deep breaths.
Let’s look at the bright side here. This is the best time to optimize a campaign! You’ve got loads of data running through your reports, and we all know when you need some direction on where to go next, you start with the data.
Before you start clicking buttons and moving things around, decide what you’re trying to optimize for. Sure, at the end of the day you want to see optimal numbers for CPC, CPM, CPA, CTR, etc, but what’s the most important? Is it profit? Is your sales team expecting a big list of leads? You may need to tinker with some of the other numbers, but be sure you’re focused on one specific goal.
Once you know what you’re solving for, use the following tips to devise a strategy.
Get cozy with your target audience
You initiated the campaign with a specific target audience, but now you can see if your message is actually resonating. Take a look at the raw data and see what inferences you can make based on who’s actually interacted with your ads. Is there a certain professional industry that seems extra interested in your ads? What extensions of that industry could you add to your targeting? Take a look at the comments, too. What sort of characteristics and info can you glean from the commenters? Location, job title, age, etc. Make sure those stats are included in the initial target audience you defined.
On the flip side, see if there’s anyone you can exclude from seeing your ad. People who are likely too young in their careers to make the purchasing decision needed for your product? Folks who have already visited your website and taken the action you needed them to? You don’t want to keep throwing money out for people who aren’t bringing you value.
Revise your ad schedule with dayparting
We covered this topic in another post, but it’s important to mention the impact it could have here. As a basic reminder, dayparting is scheduling ads during specific hours of the day and days of the week in order to better target customers and optimize your ROI. Pretty darn brilliant, right? Imagine you took your one true love to a baseball game where you had organized a “Will you marry me?” message to flash up on the Jumbotron, but they showed it during the 7th inning stretch when she always gets up to go to the bathroom. Yeesh. You should have known to schedule the message to appear between the 1st and 2nd innings when she’s rooted to her seat with a lapful of snacks.
Now, back to your data. Take a look at when people are clicking on your ads, and more specifically, when those clicks become conversions. That’s your sweet spot. Maybe it’s Friday afternoons when people are feeling looser with their budget. There’s a lot you can try out with dayparting alone, like creating individual schedules for separate audiences, creating ad sets for different geographical regions, and rotating your creative to keep it fresh. Check out the full article here if you want to zero in on dayparting as a way to optimize your digital campaign.
Play with your budget
There are a million ways to switch up your campaign just by moving money around, but perhaps the easy and most effective move you can make is to simply shift the money to what’s working. Even just a week into a campaign, you should have enough data to conclude which ads are most effective with your audience (this is assuming you didn’t do any testing beforehand…).
Going a bit deeper than that, Google has useful tools to calculate your campaign’s recommended budget, but even if the recommended budget and your actual budget are very different numbers, there’s still some opportunity, you just need to determine if shifting money would pay out in the end. Dig around in Google’s “limited by budget” feature ("limited by budget" will pop up in the status column of your campaign’s table when your budget is lower than the recommended daily budget). Google says campaigns with this status “can't accommodate all of the traffic available for your keywords and other campaign targeting settings. To make sure that your budget lasts throughout the day, Google Ads will reduce how often your ads appear.” Ok, that’s never a good thing. To see if shifting more money here is worth it, click "limited by budget" in the status column to see how your campaign could perform with a slightly higher budget.
And finally, look around in your dashboards for any default settings that you could adjust to better define your campaign. (Double check yourself, before you wreck yourself!) The default features were made to help you, but it’s much more effective to have everything tailored to your specifications.
Change your landing pages
Maybe people are clicking on your ads like crazy, but then falling off once they get to your page. If that’s the case, it’s time to move your focus farther down the funnel. We’ve talked A LOT about landing pages, so we’ve got a library of tips for just about any issue you’re having.
Heatmaps — This is an awesome and super easy way to see what people actually do when they land on your page. Do they spend time looking for your CTA button? Then make it bigger, brighter, and repeat it everywhere. Are people clicking off your page as soon as they get there? Make sure your ad creative matches the landing page and that your offer is loud and clear.
Practice Consistency — You never want someone clicking on your ad and then thinking there’s been a glitch as soon as they land on your page. This post, How To Extend Your Ad Copy Into Converting Landing Pages, will help you keep the message the same across the board.
Go Back to the Basics — You’ve probably been doing what you’re doing for a long time, and a million things have happened since you first started. Check out this article How To Drive Social Media Traffic To Your Landing Pages for a reminder of all the checks you should be making on your list when you initiate a campaign.
Look back at other campaigns
Chances are you’ve had some campaign fails in the past. Take this opportunity to learn from those mistakes. Pull up similar campaigns and see what parallels you can draw between that and what you’re trying to solve now. What levers and buttons did you push then? Would that strategy make sense here, too? You’re still working with the same materials—product, audience, etc—so don’t think that you need to reinvent the wheel.
Pay it forward to future digital campaigns
Resurfacing headaches like a stalled campaign might be the last thing you want to do, but you can still use campaign learnings to make your life easier in the future. Here are a few tips to consider when setting up your next campaign.
Be patient: Again, you have to let the data compile enough to make informed decisions, and that takes a little time. Don’t frantically make changes while yelling about why nothing seems to be working. Give the results enough time to add up so that you can clearly see the spikes and valleys.
Take notes: You’re won’t know what successful tweaks you made if there’s no record of it. Take detailed notes about any changes you make so you can determine what moved the needle, and what you might be able to do again in the future should you find yourself in a similar situation.
Test, test, test: You can save so much money if you know out of the gate what’s most likely to work. If you’re struggling with ideas of what you could test, this article, 7 Simple Steps to Boost PPC Results with A/B Testing, is a great place to get started.
Diversify your platforms: Don’t go all in on one thing. What absolutely kills it on LinkedIn might be your worst performing campaign on Facebook. A multi-channel campaign also provides a natural plan b if your hypothesis ends up being incorrect.
So, the next time a campaign isn’t going quite as planned, look to the data for clues, then decide where you can jump in to make the biggest immediate impact.