4 Red Flags That PPC is Not Right For Your Business And What To Do About It

By Jeff Baum | @jeffbaum71 | Associate Director of Services at Hanapin Marketing

I’ve been in PPC for quite some time now. As I get exposed to working with more and more clients, I’ve come to realize that many of their businesses are not a good fit for PPC. I’m not just speaking to the ability to setup an account, create a few campaigns, and quickly begin sending traffic to your website.


Many businesses fail to think through whether or not their organization’s are fully prepared to support a PPC program before jumping right in and spending a lot of money.


In this post we’re going to discuss when businesses are not a proper fit for PPC advertising and what they could be doing to prepare themselves for running a successful program.


Goals, Metrics, & KPI’s Oh My!


Many clients I’ve worked with have existing PPC programs but no idea what they want their accounts to accomplish. In all my years managing accounts, I’ve never seen an account succeed where clear goals and objectives weren’t firmly established at some point.


Whenever I take an account over, the first two questions I always ask are what the goals are and how their data is measured. It still surprises me to this day how many times I get the proverbial shrugging of the shoulders and the ‘I don’t know, you tell me’ line from clients.


This is a very dangerous position to be in if you’re responsible for your organization’s paid search account. If I’m a key stakeholder in a business, and spending tens of thousands of dollars per month on advertising, someone better have a clear answer of what our goals are and show me metrics telling me whether or not we’re on track to meet those goals.


If you don’t have any idea of what your PPC goals, supporting metrics, and KPI’s are, I suggest asking yourself these questions to help arrive at a goal and determine if paid search is a right fit.


  • What’s the single most important goal your business is trying to achieve?
  • Will paid search help my company achieve its most important goals or at least play a supporting role in reaching that goal?
  • Does my organization have the ability to accurately measure metrics using backend data in order to properly judge whether PPC is a success or failure?


If the answer to these questions are ‘no’ then paid search is not a correct fit for your business at this time. Once clear goals have been established and a solid system has been put in place to measure whether those goals are being achieved, only then is your organization a right fit for paid search.


Not Having a Conceptual Level Understanding of PPC


PPC is nothing more than direct response advertising. Simply put, if you’re investing in $1 of advertising and not returning $2 or more dollars in revenue or profit then PPC is not for your organization at this time.


It’s very easy to get caught up in the ego of PPC marketing. I’ve worked with clients that are consumed with how many clicks their ads get, what the click through rate of their ads are, their keyword quality scores, etc. One thing to never forget is that PPC is really all about conversions. The primary concern should be whether or not your account is receiving enough conversions and if they are converting at the highest possible profit margin.


I’m not saying that front-end traffic metrics aren’t important. They are. If our ads are not being clicked or the ads being clicked aren’t converting, we’re losing numerous opportunities to generate business. What I’m saying is we shouldn’t be completely consumed by front-end metrics. Instead, we should use front-end traffic metrics to guide our optimizations with the final outcome (generating business) in mind.


Below are success metrics for two separate clients. Client A is successful at PPC. Client A has very specific goals and is 100% conversion focused. Due to the clarity of their goals, client A has had numerous months of successive growth as evidenced by the increase in converted clicks and reduction in cost per converted click.


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Client B on the other hand struggles mightily. This client has unclear goals, an inability to track performance in their back end systems, and are traffic rather than conversion focused. Because client B focuses on the wrong metrics, strategies and tactics are implemented that actually lead to a reduction in business as evidenced by the decline in conversions and sharp rise in cost per converted clicks.


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The key takeaway from these two stories is that it’s imperative to have at least a conceptual level understanding of paid search. Not having this rudimentary understanding can lead to bad decisions that hurt business and waste valuable advertising dollars.


Landing Page Performance Not a Concern? Then PPC is Not For You


Do you have a well set up PPC account that adheres to best practices but don’t pay attention to your landing pages? If indeed you aren’t optimizing landing pages, then PPC may not be for you.


Most landing pages convert traffic, even if it’s at an absolute minimal rate. However, these low conversion rates may not be enough to produce high enough revenue or profits to justify your spend. On the other hand, strong conversion rates equate to better PPC performance. Ignoring the need to optimize landing pages takes away one of your biggest tools to meeting your paid search goals.


I once worked for a company where I specifically asked the CEO if they conduct landing page optimization. The response I got was “I don’t believe in landing page testing”. Even though PPC was performing very well, over time site designs and layouts got stale and performance started to suffer. Instead of creating simple A/B tests and making small changes in a test environment, the CEO simply created completely new user experiences. Everything was designed off of a ‘gut feel’ and ultimately, performance suffered. Instead of reverting back to a more successful design, another user experience was created.


The end result was with each successive design change, performance worsened and performance never recovered.


Let’s recap. PPC is not for you if:


  • Landing page testing and performance is not a concern of yours.
  • Landing page and website designs are created solely off artistic feel and not considering user behavior.
  • Not using a data driven approach to website development.


Paid search is heavily data driven. Very few decisions are made off of gut feel. If you’re not treating landing page optimization as an extension of your optimization strategy, PPC may not be for you as there will be substantial amounts of wasted spend involved.


Does Your Business Have the Ability To Follow Up With Prospects?


If your business is lead generation focused and doesn’t have a back end nurturing and closing funnel in place, then PPC is certainly not for you. I’ve seen businesses start up a PPC account, their prospects fill out contact forms or call in to speak with a sales representative, only to find out no one answers the phone or follows up with them.


Businesses that build their PPC account before their sales funnel are much more prone to failure. The more successful approach is building the funnel first. Having a tested process for working and closing leads will lead to much more successful outcomes in terms of revenue and profit and those positive results will more than justify the dollars invested into paid search advertising.




I personally believe PPC advertising can work on some level for any business provided it meets the criteria outlined above. However, if you are not confident in your ability to:


  • Establish clear goals
  • Accurately measure success or failure
  • At least conceptually understand PPC
  • Understand the importance of optimizing landing pages


Then this advertising channel is not for you. I hope you consider these points and address them in order to make paid search a viable channel for your business.