What To Do When Annual Sales Are Lagging Behind

A couple of weeks or a month of lagging sales can be a big cause for concern, especially when it compares unfavorably to the same time period in years past. For us poor souls at Digital Reach Agency, the blame for the drop in action will often fall upon our shoulders simply because, to the client, we’re the only thing that’s changed between then now. However, it’s rarely such a simple problem. It is important in these situations to dig into your Google Analytics and Google AdWords data and isolate all the moving parts. Here are the steps we take to find out what, if anything, has changed in their AdWords account that has negatively affected their sales.

When sales are down and the finger is pointed at you, it is time to figure out exactly what is going

When sales are down and the finger is pointed at you, it is time to figure out exactly what is going on

1) Use Google Analytics to see if AdWords really is the problem.  A lot of companies look at their online sales only in the aggregate and don’t discern between traffic sources.  Even if the AdWords account is doing much better, if organic sales have tanked and that overshadows the AdWords improvements, the blame is often unfairly placed on AdWords (and its manager). Check and see if the traffic levels for non-AdWords sources have changed; the problem could be something else.  For example, a decrease in organic traffic would call for some sort of SEO solution.  For clients who don’t have an SEO strategy or have an older website, this often turns out to be the problem.  Without any content refreshes or CRO work, the site gets stale and outdated, which leads to the double whammy of less overall organic traffic AND lower conversion rate.

2) Compare Search Terms between last year and this year.  A significant change in search terms could be the cause of decreased sales, especially if you didn’t have conversion tracking last year to help you determine the efficacy of those search terms (often the case for clients who have never had good AdWords management). **– As a side note, if you don’t have conversion tracking implemented for this year, get on that!–**  Open up a couple of tabs in your browser and compare the search terms for the same date range from last year to this year.  Have the top search terms changed?  If so, this could be the cause of the decreased sales.  You’ve probably moved away from those search terms while following best practices blind to conversion data, but it is important to remember that these “best practice” changes we make without that data generally follow the 80/20 rule: 80% of the time, they work great.  20% of the time, they don’t, and a different strategy must be employed.  If sales are down, search terms are different, and you haven’t accrued enough conversion tracking data to know for sure that the changes you’ve made are best, then you should alter your keywords to get those search terms back in line with what was happening last year.

3) Compare ad text from this year to last year.  Following the same logic as with the search terms, it’s possible that the ad text optimization you’ve been doing (CTR-focused) has led you away from ads with higher conversion rates.  Or maybe you were running a special sale last year that you highlighted in your ad text.  If there is a significant difference, and you don’t have conversion data telling you definitively that the new ad text is better, try the old ad text out.

4) Compare landing pages, Geographic spend, Time of Day spend, Display Vs. Search, etc.   If you don’t find something different with the search terms or ad texts, dive deeper into the account and compare some more variables between this year and last.  Are the spending more on Display now?  Was mobile off last year and is now on, or vice versa?  The important thing is to isolate and analyze as many variables as possible, and a possible solution to the decreased sales problem should present itself.


AdWords’ & Analytics’ more granular reports can give you some magical insights

When you are trying to figure out what, if anything, is going wrong with your AdWords account, taking a macro-level look at the Campaign level will often overlook the problem.  By using more specific drill downs to compare time-periods, you can look at variables individually and identify possible improvements even without conversion tracking data. Next time you’re facing the blame for lagging AdWords performance, try these tips!



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