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Month CTR Conv Rate
Oct04 3.3% 16.5%
Nov04 3.5% 13.8%
Dec04 3.0% 10.0%
Jan05 1.10% 7.4%
Feb05 0.9% 8.3%
Mar05 2.1% 7.3%
Apr05 1.4% 7.3%
May05 1.1% 5.9%
Jun05 0.9% 4.3% (figures to-date)
(CTR relates to search and content)
It's obvious what's happening; it's sinking like a stone.
What's worse are the actual numbers behind these stats:
* Volume of impressions is up by nearly 1000% from Oct last year
* Volume of click throughs is up by 120% since Oct last year
* Spend has increased by 120% since Oct last year
* Volume of conversions is down by 43% over Oct last year (ouch!).
The adcopy, barring a few little changes, is the same as it was last Oct. It worked then so why shouldn't it work now?
The design, layout and infrastructures of the site are unchanged since Oct (content is added to daily...)
With these last two points I'm trying to emphasise that very little has changed in our world since Oct last year, so the ongoing decline in adword performance must be because of other factors..?
In this respect my initial feeling is that as the adword world has expanded, so quality has declined - that's what the figures seem to be saying to me.
Competition - particularly among the more prominent kw's used - is not a big problem. Most ads show in position 1 or 2, with a number sitting 'upstairs'. This situation has not altered over the last 9 months.
Having said all that, there must be other factors involved. Factors that I'm not adding to the equation. Click through rates have dropped as impressions have rocketed. Conversions have hit rock-bottom - yet continue to go lower...
Has the attitude of searchers towards ads changed? Do they perhaps just see them as serps now rather than as commercial offerings?
Something's up, but I don't know what it is.
Couple points of speculation:
- first looks like there may be a seasonal component to your offerings, which could explain the plunge in ctr, especially after xmas, and then holding fairly steady thereafter... if then it should revive in fall.
- Seems a little odd though that your click thru volume has increased 120% - maybe overall interest or volume of searchers has increased, although people are generally researching, not buying at this time, which could explain the declining conversion rate. Another factor could be decline in traffic quality - what do you have turned on - search network, content network, both?
-obviously without more specifics it's hard to make more focused suggestions.
People may just be getting wise to the ads and prefer to click on the nautural results.
...first looks like there may be a seasonal component to your offerings...
It's not seasonal. Our business is in publishing trade & technical magazines and the stats here relate to site registrations & newsletter sign ups...
...what do you have turned on - search network, content network, both?
The stats are for both search and content.
I've no idea what's going on here - apart from the fact a once very healthy ad group is now dying. As stated, it's costing 120% more than it did in Oct 2004 to buy 43% less success.
Some statistical deviation can be alleviated by the fact that new kw's have been added over a period of time - added to the successful ones.
Statistically I would have anticipated a slight fall in ctr as one determines kw's to be successful or unsuccessful over a period of time. As the non-performing ones get dropped, so the ctr should level back out again.
Not in this case.
Perhaps the ad is just tired. Perhaps it really has outlived it's usefulness. I don't know. What I do know is that it took a year for me to build up to the stats you see for Oct 2004. Nine months later, it's almost undone.
However, I don't want to be defeatest about this. There must be something to learn here; something that I can get to grips with, understand, apply and use to rebuild.
At the moment though I am without a clue...
Also, you mention that very little has changed on your site. Could that be the reason--stagnation? I don't advocate change just for its own sake, but maybe the site needs a redesign or refocusing of the marketing message.
Might want to try some other ads or change the web copy to emphasize the benefits of a subscription--or perhaps do a survey to (indirectly) find out why people are visiting but not buying. For example, give away a free subscription to x people for filling out the survey, or have a drawing, etc.
How has the relative % of traffic changed between search and content? Has proportion of content increased relatively? Has conversion rate decline been the same for all types of ads? What proportion of traffic is thru adsense? Is traffic all coming from US or other regions too? Just trying to gauge the quality of the increased clicks. Implications: more detailed conversion analysis, splitting up adgroups, content from search etc...
As for competition, perhaps your position hasn't changed in the listings but some competition has lowered their prices, and/or improved their landing page to capture more actual subscribers out of the researchers. Implications: lower your prices, sweeten your offerings on the landing page, refine ad copy...
that'll be 2 cents... :-)
...what's going on out there in the real world.
Business is up and the economy is well; the most bouyant in Europe I believe. The specific sectors we're in are doing well across Europe, as indeed they are globally.
Summer is also a slow time...
I double checked this and in fact the summer is a good time. CTR was up across the summer months - more people on holiday means less speculative or 'curiosity clicks'.
...very little has changed on your site. Could that be the reason--stagnation?
What I made a point of stating earlier was that infastructurally the site has not changed. Design & layout are pretty much the same. Route from landing page to 'Thank you' page is unchanged.
As for site content, well, we are publishers. Several new stories get added to the core landing page (Home page) every day and when new editions of magazines are published, these too go online - thus hundreds of pages are added at regular intervals throughout the year. The key landing page (Home page) reflects this.
...change the web copy to emphasize the benefits of a subscription... etc...
Looks like this is now essential. Still doesn't explain to me why this very successful adgroup is now failing.
How has the relative % of traffic changed between search and content?
First things first: per-se, impressions have gone through the roof, particularly since the start of the year. Impressions for just about any month of 2005 equate to three or four months worth in 2004. However, increased levels of impressions have not brought the same level of clicks, and nowhere near a comparative level of conversions.
During 2004, Content delivered a very low level of impressions and clicks. Avge impressions Jul-Dec 04 was in mid-four figures. Avge impressions Jan-Jun 05 is in six figures... Bit of a difference.
As for Search, Impressions hit a new, record high in Jan 05 (what happened in Jan 05? Did I miss something?). Every month thereafter the figure has doubled. Click throughs - and conversions have not followed anything like the same pace; in fact, they drop. It seems the more that ads are seen, the more 'curiosity clicks' increase thus lessening the value to us.
One step that I have taken is to delete some newer kw's. These have been highly targeted kw's pullling in clicks, but little in the way of conversions. This is something I'll need to keep a much closer eye on in the future and will watch as the impact on stats should become apparent.
Overall I'm left with a feeling that as Search and Content networks have expanded, so it has diluted the core audience we were successfully reaching last year - although that really does sound nonsensical in many respects. It also appears that the strategy I used in 2004 is not the strategy for today. What I managed to achieve nine months ago and sustained till the beginning of 2005 no longer applies.
At this moment in time I have no idea what the strategy for 'now' is. By the time it's become clear I fear the market will have moved on again.
Hopefully I'll have a repeat of the mini epiphanies that so dramatically affected they way I perceived adwords and how it worked when first starting out..:-)
People may just be getting wise to the ads and prefer to click on the nautural results.
Unsure whether that specifically meant my ads, or adwords in general...
However, in some respects both aspects were my point.
Perhaps people really are becoming immune to the visual presence of adwords (hence recent design & format changes to presentation/layout) and, in much the same way as, a few years ago, response to banner ads continually dropped over a period of time, so the history of response mechanism related advertising is repeating itself.
As 'traditional' publishers have been saying for years: "You don't advertise with us for response - it's all about getting your name in front of potential customers...".
And, as online marketeers have been saying for the last three or four years: "You don't advertise with us for response - it's all about branding, product awareness and positioning..."
CPM becomes important when the business model of CTR shows its lack of sustainability...?
Perhaps we are just seeing an extension of what used to be the philosophy of the 'traditional' sectoral/regional online marketing agency expanded, but now through a global 'agency' with a global brand and reach?
Business is up and the economy is well
Still doesn't explain to me why this very successful adgroup is now failing.
Also, just because you're "changing" the site by adding new material doesn't mean that visitors still find it relevant.
What instantly comes to my mind is a huge increase in content sites in that timeframe (much more quantity, much less quality). I would definitely try it "search only".
I would also check my referers. Are there phrases that I definitely don't want? Are there dubious "search partners"? Add negative keywords or switch to phrases or even exact matches, as mark1111 already noted.
It could even be that your SERPs have changed drastically. Maybe the organic listings are so good, they don't need no adwords. Maybe a competitor has appeared with better pitch. Create another ad, with totally different approach.
...in the US and some other parts of the world. Do you have subscribers there?
Yes, we have subscribers in the US and some other parts of the world... Probably in most of it - the world that is - not USA.
Economy and money is not a direct issue here, as our services - news and information - are free. Even our magazines are free to a large geographical section of the planet.
Have you introduced new keywords that have another meaning people are searching for? i.e., do you need to add more negative keywords to exclude those searchers? Negatives are often overlooked. Anything you're not using as a positive should be a negative.
This adgroup relates to specific engineering sectors we publish in. The kw's are very specific. Negatives are in place and have been for a long time.
...adding new material doesn't mean that visitors still find it relevant.
Ordinary Joe would not find it relevant. Engineering specialists do.
What instantly comes to my mind is a huge increase in content sites in that timeframe (much more quantity, much less quality).
This, ultimately is my fear. By answering the comments you've posted I wanted to show that the most obvious considerations have been, er, considered already and that there is still no clear reason why an adgroup that was marching along very successfully should see such a dramatic decline, particularly as this decline coincides with the dramatic expansion of the channels it is showing on.
My feelings, as expressed previously is that increased in exposure through the expanding adwords universe does not mean an increase in quality, rather it can be the reverse in some cases. It is unfortunate from my perspective it just so happens that one of those cases is mine..;-)
I'm glad that others see this too, although I'm not certain as to whether this quantity over quality problem applies solely to Content or not. Time, and more money will tell.
In the meantime though, I did have a mini adwords epiphany this morning and have set up a test for the next month or two. I'm sincerely hoping that this will have a positive impact. Well, it'll need to as there are plans afoot from on high to increase our presence through adwords and I'd hate to have to recommend against it.
After all, what else would I do all day?