Your campaign is tracking along merrily, then you go to check on it one day and performance has plummeted! WTF? Your heart sinks. Today was meant to be such a nice day.
I've had this happen to me a few times over the years so I can absolutely relate to what you're going through. In this post, I'd like to give you a few ideas for where to start looking for answers and give you a few solutions as well.
General causes of rapid performance changes
Just to be clear, this article is about the methodology to finding the reason behind a rapid change in your performance.
Like overnight or a week on week issue.
It does not cover poor performance overall or declining performance over several months which can have overlapping symptoms but are often quite different - (Plug) If these things are happening to you, check out our Google Ads services and I'll try and get out blog posts later on as well.
I typically class factors that could affect an account like this into three areas:
- Technical factors
- Google Ads factors
- Holistic factors
Typically, these are the factors I hope for in these situations. The easiest to fix and also explain. It means that somewhere along the line tracking has been mixed up or removed or a URL has changed.
Have the conversions stopped dead on one particular day? If so, it's more likely to be a technical issue. Read on.
- Are conversions still coming through in the conversions report?
- If not, did they stop at a particular day?
- Are your conversions based on Google Ads tracking code or imported from Google Analytics?
- If Google Ads tracking code, check your thank you page for the code
- If imported from Google Analytics - see below)
Google Analytics | Goals
- Are goal conversions still coming through?
- If not, what are the goals based on? Events or Page URLs?
- Events: Check that the Event is still firing through in the Events report. If not, (assuming they are setup using GTM), check your event tags and triggers. Depending on what isn't working you may want to quiz your developer on any site updates recently which can affect tracking.
- Page URLs: Go through the conversion funnel on your website, keep note of the URLs and cross check with what you've setup in Goals - Has something changed?
- Check out the change history - Has anyone else been fiddling around in your analytics?
Google Analytics | eCommerce tracking
- Did eCommerce tracking stop on a particular day for all channels?
- Depending on whether you setup your eCommerce tracking through a plugin or manually through GTM:
- Check settings for the plugin - I can't give much help here because each plugin is different in how it sets up eCommerce - If there's a developer email - Try that
- Manual setup through Google Tag Manager (GTM) - Check the thank you page the code is meant to be firing on, is eCommerce data is still being pulled through to the datalayer?
- If yes, the issue might be with your tag or firing trigger. Check the eCommerce tag and trigger hasn't been changed
- If not, work with your developer to see why the information isn't being pulled to the page anymore
So I'm sincerely hoping that you've found a goal has been changed or the website has been updated and nobody decided to tell you.
You get to take the afternoon off, content with your mastery of online tracking...
But, if not, we must move on to the next group.
Google Ads Specific Factors
So your tracking is working fine and you're comparing performance to your other channels. You see that it's only Google Ads that has had the drop in conversions. Ok...at least this narrows down where we're going to look. Let's start with:
- Change history: What major changes have been going on in the last 30 days? Your change history will allow you to investigate, identify and rectify, quickly.
- Budget changes? Overall or daily?
- Any negative keywords added?
- Any restructuring of accounts?
- Anyone reset all your bids to $1?
If there have been no major changes in Google Ads, that leaves your website - Specifically, your Google Ads landing pages and conversion pages:
- Any major changes to the website or the landing pages? Pretty easy to spot and, no doubt, you're already aware of something, someone mentioned a while back, vaguely, while having your second Friday drink :P
Sometimes though, it's nothing you've done. Nope, not your fault at all. But perhaps, it is still your responsibility so we keep digging.
The next set of factors would affect your wider business as well.
Holistic factors (External Environment Factors)
You notice that all your online channels have seen a drop in in monthly performance. It's not just Google Ads, it's across the whole freaking site, great. Be on the lookout for:
- Your Business: Has anything changed with your business recently? Have you changed your prices, changed your service/product offering? This can have an obvious and immediate impact on your sales.
- PR: Also very rarely we have to deal with what I call "the gut punch". Google your company name and see what pops up. Any type of negative press can be really tough. If you work with us, we'll have a Google alert set up on your company name - So hopefully we can get you some warning.
- Seasonality: Check out the last 2-3 months compared to the same months in the previous year. Was there a similar drop? Some businesses experience a large impact on sales/leads based on time of year, weather, holidays, financial year end. It's not great because there's no easy solution but seasonality can explain a sudden drop - sometimes.
- Competition: What are your competitors up to? Have they come out with a new deal? What are they offering on their website? What are their offers in Google Ads? If you're in a business where price is a large factor, this can be huge.
- Political/Legal factors: We noticed positive and negative effects on our clients over any election periods. Also any new legislation coming out can have a large impact. For example, the new Health and Safety legislation has had a large flow on effect in terms of the business we've seen clients in relevant areas pick up.
Phew, so I know I haven't covered everything. But these are the most common things I come across when trying to diagnose what's going on with an Google Ads account. Let me know what I've missed in the comments below or feel free to email me directly, I will shamelessly take your idea for my own. (Kidding).
If you are thinking about your digital strategy, download our online advertising ebook. It's filled with a tonne of factors about what you should consider when thinking about your ad spend, Google Ads, Facebook and lots more.