Understanding Expectations for Paid Search

We wrote a similar article a few years ago on Why Aren’t My Ads Showing, and most recently we were asked to write a similar article for agencyside to help other agencies set client expectations for paid search. We’ve tweaked the original article a bit for our customers to provide a bit of insight and understanding into the workings of paid search from our perspective.

We often are asked “Why Aren’t My Ads Showing?”, so we are here today to provide a bit of insight into that question. There are several main factors that influence ad delivery. This list is not exhaustive, but it will provide you with knowledge to understanding the answer to the question.

1) Campaign structure – Remember you are paying per click, and generally have some sort of budget limitation. For example, let’s say you have a keyword with an average cost per click of $1 and a daily account budget of $100. This means you will receive 100 clicks per day on average. Because the paid search venues must stay within a narrow range of your budget your ad frequency will be directly related to your click through rate. If you have an average click through rate of 10% it will take 1,000 impressions to exhaust your budget. So if there is search volume of 5,000 per day for your keyword, your ad will show 20% of the time. Now consider if you have 50 to 100 keywords in your campaign all sharing the same $100 budget.

2) Quality Score is technically Google nomenclature, but all search venues have a method for determining something similar. Intended to be the great equalizer this determines what position your ad will show and at what cost relative to the other advertisers. This is what prevents us from buying our way into top placement for more competitive terms. Higher Quality Score means higher positioning, lower cost per click, and often greater frequency – all good things. The factors that affect Quality Score are well documented, but basically if you aren’t relevant, have poor ad copy or have some technical issues with your landing page you aren’t showing.

3) Age of Campaign – New campaigns can start off slow while the search venue is getting an understanding of the click through and user behavior relative to the account. This generally takes a few days depending on the size of the account. Larger accounts will take longer since there are more variables to assess. If you have a large account with a small budget, good luck. Better to start small and expand from there as the campaign picks up steam. See #1 for reasoning on this.

If you have a mature account that is losing visibility it may be time to reconfigure, redesign, or reassess to find another approach. Hopefully, you have some sort of ongoing optimization involving testing of campaigns elements in place so this won’t happen. Always watch for loss in visibility after a miscalculated major change in landing page design, site redesign or if you see your average cost per click increase substantially. Even with an unlimited budget your ads still wouldn’t show for every search. That is just the way it is. Google offers a tool to help diagnose certain problems related to ad visibility in the impression share component of its reports. This can tell you how much visibility your campaign is missing based on budget limitations or quality score.

Every impression (every time your ad shows) that doesn’t get clicked is detrimental to the account in some way. “Googling” keywords every day to see if your ads are showing is costing money, even if you never click on a single one.

If you are interested in understanding if your campaigns are performing to their potential, let us know. We can provide an audit and consultation to help you maximize on every dollar spent. Contact us today.

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