As a digital marketer there are many different skills that make you better at your job such as ad platform know-how, content strategy and so on. But the most important skill you can have in your arsenal? Knowing how to right the ship when said technical skills aren’t getting you results.

Why do I think this is the case?

I see loads of great content on LinkedIn every day about the marketing space. But what I don’t think I’ve ever seen on LinkedIn is someone claiming their digital advertising works perfectly 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. What buyers want, what content they respond to and how the ad platforms work is ever changing. When these changes happen, you might see a dip in performance. 

This doesn’t mean you should change every single thing you’re doing. It’s likely that only some parts of the campaign need tweaking. 

But to determine what parts calls for a shift in perspective. You may need to pull back the lens and look at the bigger picture of things and other times you might need to roll up your sleeves and look under the hood for what might be causing the issue.

I call this approach “zooming in and out” and we’re going to walk you through some actionable examples on how this can be applied.

Zooming Out

For most marketers the main metric they look at is the end goal: the conversion. Whether this is a high intent inbound lead in the B2B space or the purchase of this season’s handbag from a DTC brand, the end goal is what everyone focuses on. And you absolutely should. 

However, the mistake a lot of marketers make is only focusing here and not looking backwards in the customer journey. Or widening the lens even further to consider as your company’s industry, the time of year, and so on.

Let’s say you launched a new set of paid search ads at the start of the quarter and notice that leads are down 25 percent from paid search compared to last quarter. The first thing I am doing is taking a look at the bigger picture.

I’d ask myself 

  • If the history of paid search performance is similar for this quarter in prior years.
  • Whether the number of organic leads also decreased this quarter.

If the answer to either of those questions is yes, you’re likely looking at a natural downswing in overall business.

However, if their overall business is pacing the same as last quarter and their paid search for the same quarter last year did not see a huge dip like you’re seeing now, then you need to zoom out in a different way. In this case your “zooming out” would be looking at earlier touchpoints in the customer journey that lead to the conversion.

Start with their in-platform metrics. Is the CTR/CPC good? Are you getting a good quantity of clicks? Does your search terms report show high-intent keywords instead of spending a ton of money on junk?

If the answer to any of those is no, then you need to double check on the keywords you’re targeting and the ads you’re targeting those keywords with. Whether it’s paid social or search, if your in-platform metrics are not doing well, then the issue lies within the content you’re creating or the audience you’re targeting.

If all of their in-platform metrics look good then congrats — you’re targeting the right audience with the right content. You’ve now narrowed the list of culprits down to one option: What happens between your audience member clicking the ad and converting.

If you’re in DTC, this can mean a drop off in the checkout process, the user not being directed to the right product or a bad website experience. In B2B, check landing page metrics such as engagement rate, how far users are scrolling and how long they stay on the site — all of which you can find using the sweetheart of marketing analytics, GA4. If you aren’t checking these metrics or haven’t gotten comfortable with Google’s new toy, check in for a walk-through on getting more advanced with GA4.

So now we’ve done a temperature check on the business as a whole, along with all of the earlier touch points in your potential new customer’s journey. What’s next if we haven’t found the issue yet? 

Zooming In

When zooming out, you checked that your ship was built correctly and you charted your course keeping business trends and seasonality in mind. But a good captain knows one hole in his ship could bring the entire thing down.

The same goes for your advertising. When analyzing your paid media, there’s no shortage of filters through which to analyze ad performance and try to find what’s not working.

You can take a look at

  • The device that the ad or landing page is being served on.
  • Your different audience segments and demographics.
  • The specific time or days of the week your ads are running. 

Breaking your ad performance into more specific segments like these is what I’m referring to when saying “zoom in”. You’ll often times find that one segment of any of the above mentioned dimensions is what is causing your ship to have a hole in it, dragging the whole thing down.

And your paid search campaigns could have multiple small holes in it. For me, the Overview section in Google Ads is a great place to start. There you can find breakdowns of specific performance metrics broken down by device, demographics, or when your ads are running. 

Your “hole” could be that 75% of your budget is being spent on mobile phones, but the conversion rate on desktop is five times that compared to mobile. Or you could be spending 30-plus percent of your budget on weekdays past 6 p.m., but none of your conversions are coming from that time frame.

When you zoom in and see issues like this, it makes it easy to see what holes in your ship you need to patch up. Which is way less costly than building an entirely new ship.

Final Diagnosis

Although we have talked about zooming in and out as two separate strategies for diagnosing your paid media campaigns, you should use them in tandem when working to find out what is dragging your performance down.

Not just because it can be difficult to immediately gauge whether the issue lies within the bigger picture or just a small segment of your ads’ performance, but because sometimes it can be both.

When your ad campaign performance is not meeting expectations, you should always check everything

If you go to the doctor and tell them that your lower back is hurting, they don’t just check your lower back. They check your hamstrings, your neck, your core, your upper back, and more. Because often times the area that you first see your problem is not where the solution is.  Treat your ad campaigns as if you’re the doctor, and they’re the patient — and you’re going to do everything in your power to keep them alive and well.