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Thursday, Dec. 6, 2007 at 3:27 pm

Just a Bit Off Target With Pay-Per-Click

By Daniel McGuigan
December 6th, 2007

Even giant e-tailers like can miss the mark now and then. Despite big budgets, keeping track of everything can be a nightmare to manage. But if you’re going to place Pay-Per-Click (PPC) ads, it’s absolutely critical to follow though and check the links. The customer experience should be as effortless as possible, and if PPC ads don’t bring the visitors where they intended to go, they’re just one click of the “back” button away from your competitors. And if you don’t fulfill their expectation on a landing page, it’s less likely they’ll click your PPC ads in the future.

Nice ad placement

Here you can see that Target is paying for their ad to show up on top of the list for my search for “Logitech Harmony Remote.” Target is a company I trust, and it looks like they have exactly what I’m looking for, so I click the link.

Looking good, until…

Instead of taking me to the Logitech-branded page from the text ad, I’m taken back to square one: Target’s homepage.

The more logical choice

This is more like it. Although you can’t quite see from this last screenshot, the remote I had searched for was just below on this landing page (click the image to go to the page). Actually, I found it by typing in “” since I’d already seen it in the text ad. But my job is to analyze these types of things. And that’s just it: Even if they remembered the web address from the ad, most customers wouldn’t bother.


While this may seem like nitpicking, these types of oversights show how a missing link can ruin an otherwise decent scent trail.

(If you’d like to see more examples like this, check out Bryan’s screencast on conversion-boosting tips for

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Comments (14)

  1. This is *not* nitpicking, Daniel. This is a very valid concern!

    I was also terrified to see that there was no tracking code in the URL in the first screenshot.

    Question: were you re-directed to the homepage from some other page, perhaps? This would explain the lack of relevancy and no tracking code.

  2. The link actually just went straight to the homepage, no redirect.

  3. That’s just tragic, really.

  4. Hundreds of companies do this, so I have stopped visiting these ads all together. Too bad a few bad apples ruined a good thing.

  5. Great detective work, Daniel. Target is paying top dollar to Google for this position. As of 3:29 PM, EST, Target (or its SEM agency) still hasn’t fixed the problem.

    I hope this isn’t an endemic problem with Target’s search campaigns. Other terms that should link to Target areas (such as Erin Featherston) do link correctly to the customized landing page area. So let’s hope this is an isolated problem.

  6. Its a mistake/error, its not like the agency doesn’t understand why its a good idea. Holy grandstanding, Daniel.

  7. And for the record, we don’t/have never worked with Target/

  8. I think there is a bigger point being missed here…Yes, we don’t want to confuse the customer but also, Google likes when landing pages are related very tightly to the link, and almost always will reward you with significantly better CPC rates.

    Since it is probable that other products are set up this way, Target’s AdWord costs are probably much higher then they need to be…and only because the people responsible for its advertising budget are not properly trained in AdWords. For small businesses these mistakes are much more costly.

  9. I have noticed the same for Target before
    and then clicked off their site, this is
    costing them sales.
    Best Regards,

  10. Actually, the link from Google took me to the logitech page on Target, first time, without redirecting. You think they fixed it fast?

  11. Papi: You beat me to it. I had just noticed that it’s now linking to the Logitech page and was about to point it out. So congratulations to Target for noticing the problem and fixing it.

    Gogi: I’m not sure I understand why you think I’m grandstanding. As I said, I’m aware that this is/was a mistake of some kind. I don’t see why this would be done intentionally, but that’s not the point — it’s an error that’s costing a company sales, and it’s something that seems to be a common oversight with PPC campaigns. My point was that making sure your customers are being brought to where you want them to go is crucial, so it’s important to double-check each PPC ad. Apparently, that’s what Target just did. (Either that, or they read GrokDotCom.)

  12. Unfortunately this issue is not new to Target. For the better part of a year, I’ve noticed Target listings popping up in results for highly specified searches with good copy but landing pages that have nothing to do with the query. Even worse, these pages are often an incorrect product or category page which makes it even more of a pain to get to the right product, assuming they even sell it anymore. In any event, I’ simply learned to ignore Target listings for the most part which is not what you want to see from your customers!

  13. This is BIG! If someone from Target’s online marketing team visits, I hope they leave a comment here explaining why they chose the homepage as the landing page.

    We write PPC ads for companies too, however it is upto them to check if they are getting a good ROI on their ads. You can’t force people to click and you definitely can’t make them buy. But you can at least lead them to the right page on your website once they have clicked!

  14. Although the landing page has been fixed, I’d argue that for such a specific product search query this landing page would be more appropriate for the query “logitech harmony remote”:

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