Paid Search

How to Act When Your Click Volume Unexpectedly Goes Down

One of the most stressful situations you can experience with Google AdWords is sudden change in your performance that you can’t explain right away. Add to it, your boss or client sending email after email demanding an explanation to why their visits or sales on the website are down. All of this creates a very stressful environment.

With 5 years of experience working with in-house and Client campaigns, I have seen it all, and I’ve had all types of people “on my back” demanding explanations. After a while, you tend to get rather good at figuring out exactly what has gone wrong and providing a sound explanation with clear steps to make everyone happy.

My biggest takeaway from trying to analyze sudden performance changes is that you need to look deeper. Simply reviewing your overall campaign performance in the Dimensions tab over time will not suffice. You need to dig into the actual ad groups and get into the nitty gritty. You will often be able to see a pattern after you analyze 4-5 ad groups where performance has dropped.

These are my tips to where you should look and what the usual reasons are when you experience a decrease in click volume from your AdWords campaigns.

Scenario 1) Did you Experience a Worse CTR alongside your Lower Click Volume?

One of the most common scenarios when experiencing a lower click volume is that your CTR also goes down. You basically have two metrics that impact how many clicks you have:

  • Your CTR
  • Your number of impressions

In this case, we are going to investigate 3 reasons to why your click volume went down if your CTR has also decreased:

A) You Changed Your Ads

If you have changed your ads around the time your click volume decreased, then this is normally the reason. A lot of advertisers don’t think of safeguarding their backs when they’re creating new ad variations.

Testing ads in AdWords is exactly the same procedure as regular A/B testing. You need to have a control ad that will be able to tell you if your new ads are performing better or worse than your benchmark. I’ve often created ads where I thought that it was a waste of time to test them. They were obviously better written, but I still decided to test them. The few times I was proven wrong, I was able to quickly pause the new ads and regain our previous campaign performance.

If you’ve recently changed your ads and subsequently experienced a lower CTR, I urge you to restart your old ads and run a test to see if the new ads are responsible.

B) Has Your Avg. Ad Position Decreased?

If on average you had an ad position of 2.3 and suddenly find yourself having an average position of 3.2, you will see a drastic loss of clicks. Your CTR will be much lower as you descend down the rankings in Google.

There can be many reasons to why your ad position can go down at the same time as you’re receiving fewer clicks. The most common reasons are:

  • Your competitors have increased their bidding
  • Your Quality Scores have decreased causing your Ad Rank to become lower
  • You have decreased your bidding

Depending on what factor is the reason behind the decrease in CTR, you will need to start different tasks.

In this case, I would also like to mention that you don’t have to act like a robot if your click volume starts going down. Sometimes, your competitors will simply start outbidding you to such an extent that you can’t keep defending the same ad positions and thereby click volume.

Don’t just roll over on your back when your boss or Client is screaming for more clicks. They might not be able to see the bigger picture to why you have decreased your bids. Often, you can explain to them that you decreased bids or that your competitors are being more aggressive and come up with a plan for getting more out of AdWords.

C) Competitors Having More Interesting Ads?

One of the reasons for low CTRs is when competitors start aggressive promotions. If you’re selling the same product at around the same price with the same benefits, you will undoubtedly be subject to fluctuations in click-volume, depending on how aggressive your competitors’ promotions are.

Imagine the following example:

AdWords Ads Competitors are better How to Act When Your Click Volume Unexpectedly Goes Down

The second ad might offer faster shipping or a bigger selection, but I’m truly intrigued about the 50% discount on the first ad. Samsonite luggage is rather expensive and saving 50% can quickly mean savings of anything from $50 to $100.

If your CTR is decreasing and your click volume is going down – remember to search for your keywords using the Ad Preview Tool and figure out if your ads are still the most attractive on the page.

Scenario 2) Your CTR is The Same As Always, But Click Volume is Still Down

If your CTR is the same as always, but you’re experiencing a decrease in clicks, there’s only one thing that can be the cause: Decreased impressions.

There can be several reasons to why your impressions are lower, but here are some of the most common scenarios:

A) Seasonality

Seasonality is a big area in many industries. Even businesses that are seasonality “proof” will experience fluctuations in interest for their products throughout the year.

Backpacks sell tremendously well during the “Back To School” season, while toys have a huge increase in demand around Christmas (alongside almost all other consumer products).

Before you start looking too deep into your campaign, investigate whether seasonality can be the cause of your lower impressions rate. Impressions are just another way of saying ‘searches’, so when impressions go down, searches for your keywords decrease as well.

B) Modified Match Types to Become More Strict

If you have changed your match type strategy for your campaign or just some of your main keywords, you will experience fluctuations in your amount of impressions.

Let’s say that you paused all your broad match modifier keywords and instead chose to focus more on your Phrase and Exact Match keywords. This will, in almost all cases, reduce your overall impressions for your account and thereby also lower your click volume.

Again, this is a scenario that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. If you were spending your budget on more relevant search terms by choosing to focus on Phrase Match and Exact Match, this would be a very healthy strategy to implement. If you’re seeing a decrease in conversions at the same time, then it’s time to worry.

C) Pausing Certain Keywords

This might be obvious to some, but if you’ve recently paused certain keywords you will also experience a lower amount of impressions. I’ve seen Clients and junior AdWords managers who simply didn’t understand why their click volume had decreased.

A quick visit to the Change History Tool in Google AdWords revealed that a couple of high-volume keywords had been paused. It can be tempting to jump to some of the more complex issues when you’re experiencing lower click volumes, but sometimes the answer will be right in front of your nose.

D) New negative keywords

Once you start adding negative keywords to your AdWords campaigns, it’s very easy to add negative keywords that are too broad. Negative keywords that are too broad will block searches that they are not intended to block.

If you’re advertising for a health store where you sell fruit juicers, you might see a search for Omega Fish Oil. In order to make sure you never received clicks from searches for omega oil, fish oil etc. you add the negative keywords:

  • -omega
  • -fish
  • -oil

But wait. One of the popular juicers is of the brand Omega. Omega Juicers sell wonderfully well and you have just blocked all searches for the brand. That’s how fast you can start blocking searches on Google if you’re not careful.

E) Lower Quality Score

Another reason for decreased impressions is experiencing lower Quality Scores. You might still have the same CTRs, but your overall impressions have decreased due to several keywords having lower Quality Scores.

The lower your Quality Score, the higher you need to bid in order to maintain the same position as before. If your Quality Score has decreased enough you will start seeing keywords Below First Page Bid. This means that your keyword will only show up when other advertisers have run out of budget, or when Google rotates some of the current advertisers in order to present a more varied set of advertisements to repeat searchers.

If your Quality Score is lower, there are several things you need to do in order to regain your old Quality Scores. However, one of the first things you need to check is if you have the right framework for Quality Score success.

Scenario 3) Your CTR is Higher Than Before, But Your Clicks Are Still Down

Now it gets interesting. I’ve had cases where other metrics have actually gone up and we should have experienced an increase in clicks, but for some reason we didn’t.

Let’s dig into the first case:

A) Your Budget Is Being Spent Too Early

If you have increased your Quality Score or your bidding lately, you will most likely have received a higher position and consequently a higher CTR.

With the higher CTR, you’re actually starting to get more clicks earlier throughout the day and thus reaching your budget before the day is up. This is often seen when bids are increased more than the budget can stomach.

Let’s say you would previously pay $1 per click and reach 100 clicks a day on your $100 budget. After increasing the bids for some of the keywords that generated conversions below your target CPA, now your average cost per click is $1.2. Hence, you will only be able to budget 80 clicks. Depending on your CPC increase, you might see big changes to your click volume.

B) Have The Keywords You’re Getting Clicks From Changed?

Continuing with the previous case, let’s dig deeper into how increased Quality Scores can mean fewer clicks. In the next example we assume the following:

Keyword A has a Quality Score of 3/10, Avg. position of 6.0 25 clicks per day and a $5 CPC = $125 in spend
Keyword B has a Quality Score of 7/10, Avg. position of 2.1, 200 clicks per day and a $1 CPC = $200 in spend

In total, $325 is spent for 225 clicks. Your budget is exactly $325, so you can’t get anymore out of the day.

Let’s say that your Quality Score increases for Keyword A to 7/10. Keyword A has more competition than Keyword B, so even with its higher Quality Score you will see higher CPCs for keyword A.

With the increase in Quality Score for Keyword A and the bid still being the same, Keyword A will reach position 2.0. This means that your CTR will be higher. You can easily expect an increase from 1% to 10%. As a result, you stand to get 10 times more clicks than before.

However, we still only have a $325 budget. Where before we would get the majority of our clicks from our $1 CPC keyword, we now have to evenly split the clicks between the $1 CPC keyword and the $5 CPC keyword:

$325 = $162.5 for each keyword

$162.5 / $5 = 32 clicks

$162.5 / $1 = 162 clicks

The $325 expense now all of a sudden equals 194 clicks. This is a 14% decrease in click volume simply because our Quality Score increased. I bet you didn’t see that coming.

Main takeaways:

Whenever you experience changes in your AdWords performance, it’s crucial that you dig deeper to find out what is actually going on. Too many times I see AdWords professionals who just keep optimizing their ads, tweaking bids and adding more negative keywords, but they overlook the campaign performance as it gets worse and worse.

If you take the time to analyze your data, you will often discover the hidden reasons as to why your campaign performance is stalling. With this info, you can take the appropriate steps to improve your AdWords performance.

You don’t get much out of adding more negative keywords in the hope to increase your click volume / CTR if your initial problem is that you have added the wrong negative keywords in the first place.

What is your experience with influxes in click volume?

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 How to Act When Your Click Volume Unexpectedly Goes Down

Andrew Lolk

Co-Founder at White Shark Media at White Shark Media
Andrew Lolk is the author of the 189-page free AdWords ebook The Proven AdWords Strategy. He's worked in AdWords since 2009 and have co-founded White Shark Media; A leading Search Marketing agency and Google AdWords Premier SMB Partner.
 How to Act When Your Click Volume Unexpectedly Goes Down

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3 thoughts on “How to Act When Your Click Volume Unexpectedly Goes Down

  1. Just an addition to scenario 2:
    I had a case where my number of impressions decreased drastically, and after investigating a little – I discovered that the entire drop was coming from the Google search partners. This was around the time that Babylon stopped working with Google, so I’m guessing that could have been the issue.
    So segmenting by network and comparing ‘before’ and ‘after’ the decrease can prove helpful.
    Also, under the dimensions tab – the new ‘top movers’ dimension can show us if the big changes are happening in Google or its search partners.

  2. I agree with Gilad on segmenting and would take this further by adding to look at other sources of traffic. I think we PPC’ers can at times be guilty of operating in a silo (especially when we do not have any influence on SEO, email etc such as in an agency environment when you do not have the full service contract). Even working in-house as I do, occasionally I will see this drop in performance however it is always worth looking at other areas to see if the drop in performance is reflected in other channels.

    For example, if we send out a promotion via email, brand PPC often sees a drop in performance. As the brand accounts for 75% of all PPC revenue, this has a material effect on the overall revenue PPC makes. However a quick look in Google Analytics (or internal data) shows (usually!) that the email channel has picked up in performance.

    For the business at least, this is a favourable situation, as it costs us next to nothing to send emails, compared to the CPA of even a branded PPC term. So I would say that the number 1 thing could be to first understand the performance drop in context to other channels. Of course most of us know our accounts inside out so are often in-tune to unusual behaviour in which this article is a great check-list to use.

  3. Scenario 1, B… A good idea would be to check and compare your auction insights. There you can see exactly who is advertising in your space.. has it changed? Are they bidding more or have a bigger budget? An entrance of 1 single competitive advertiser can make a difference, when 2 or even 3 come in, the whole dynamic changes.