What Happened To My Paid Search Conversions? 5 Helpful Tips to Uncovering the Mystery of Lost Conversions
- Andrea Hamilton, Client Strategist
It has happened to the most observant marketers and best campaign managers -- you are running a paid search campaign which month over month has performed strongly. The campaigns are optimized, you have the necessary budget to be effective and all of a sudden *poof* your leads and/or site conversion metrics drop off into the abyss.
Once you recover from this oddity you jump into the engines, or your analytics account, but really, where do you start? Check out these 5 helpful tips to uncovering the mystery behind a decrease in paid search conversions and what to do when you get there.
Check Your Conversion Pixels: Are your pixels still firing? Depending on how you’ve deployed your conversion pixels, via Google Tag Manager or by placing it in the source code on the final conversion page, you have a few options for testing:
a. Check when the last conversion was recorded: In AdWords, you can go to Tools > Conversions and you will see the pages where conversions are set up to fire along with the date/time the conversion pixel last fired.
b. Complete a test conversion: Search for your ad in the live auction environment, click on an ad, and complete the desired action you’d want a user to complete. That conversion should appear in the engine as “converted click” or “conversion” within 10-15 minutes.
c. If you are deploying pixels via Google Tag Manager: Check GTM. Identify the page the pixel should be firing on and the last time it fired. If it has recently fired, you can run an on-page test to determine if the pixels fired as expected.
Check Your Landing Pages: If you’ve made recent updates to your site, the tracking code could have been inadvertently removed from pages that record conversions. Audit your paid search landing pages to confirm that tracking pixels and Analytics code are still in place.
Check Your Google Analytics Tracking Code: If the Google Analytics tracking code is missing from any page of your site, especially a page that is a conversion point for your efforts, you will likely see a drop in paid search engagement metrics. Keep in mind, you may see activity in the engine, however your site engagement metrics may “flat line” and/or be significantly affected. I recommend extending your date range to 30-60 days to see more of a trend line.
In the example below, the Google Analytics tracking code was missing from the home page but was present on other pages. This required a bit more investigation and, depending on how comfortable you are in the Analytics interface, you may need assistance from a member of your technical team. You can find the detailed Pages report by visiting Google Analytics and navigating to the Behavior > Site Content > All Pages report to understand what pages are affected.
Check Your Ecommerce Tracking Code: If you are using ecommerce tracking code to track online purchases or to track a user’s journey, you will need to check that the code is firing as expected. There could be a delay with the firing rule associated with the pixel or the code could have stopped firing as a result of updates to the site. In either example, this may affect the ability for data to be passed into Google Analytics. This may not be as apparent as the previously mentioned example, but if you have ecommerce deployed on the site, this would be an important area to investigate. In Analytics, to go Conversions > Ecommerce > Overview expand the date range and look for significant drops in transactions.
Check your Competition: If you are in a very competitive market and you’ve noticed an increase in your cost per click around branded key terms, this is a good time to take a look at the competitive landscape via the AdWords Auction Insights Report. This is a known competitive strategy and permissible by Google.
Depending on your market, some brands take the high road and tend not to engage in this practice because it can significantly drive up cost. However, many brands engage in the practice to gain market share and conversions from competitors. If your competitor has an aggressive bid strategy, a brand can experience an increase in cost per click and a decrease in overall lead volume within a short time frame.
Below you will find an example of the Auction Insights Reports.
While this can be a nerve-wracking experience for most marketers, these 5 steps will put you on a path to understanding what happened to your conversions and how to get your paid search efforts back online and performing.