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

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.

Andrew Lolk

Andrew Lolk

CMO, Co-founder 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: We help small businesses succeed through innovative search engine marketing strategies.
Andrew Lolk

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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.