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Thursday, Mar. 6, 2008

The Good, The Bad & The Pay-Per-Click Ugly

By Daniel McGuigan
March 6th, 2008

A few months ago, I showed how Dell had bought a PPC ad for “bestbuy Sony DSC-W80,” and although they were smart to buy this highly-targeted search term, there was no follow-through on the landing page.

Bryan Eisenberg bought the camera last year and was so happy with its performance that he’s been spreading the word around the office ever since. After doing a routine Google search, we noticed — unsurprisingly — that there are a lot of bidders for the term “Sony DSC W80″.

What we soon found was that, much like Dell, the landing pages these other e-tailers were taking visitors to illustrated everything from the good, to the bad, to the PPC-ugly.

Plenty of options…

Looks like there’s a lot of competition for this search term. If a searcher clicks one link and doesn’t find what they’re looking for, it will be easy for them to hit the Back button, to see if the competition makes learning about it — and eventually buying it — easier.

When customers have this many options, getting your link on the front page of Google isn’t enough; you have to bring them as far into the buying process as you can with the information you are given. Lets take a look at how well the different options presented here do at bringing the searcher closer to the purchase.

Make sure the Landing Page works had one of the top 3 paid search results. When we click their link, we assume we’ll be taken where we’ll easily find the product that was advertised. Instead, the customer is brought to a non-working page (curiously titled “”), forcing them to click the Back button.

Obviously, Wal-Mart needs to update this URL. While it may have once led somewhere, it now only brings frustration to the camera-seeking masses. They’re losing sales and paid search credibility with anyone who clicks it. surely has a massive PPC budget to oversee, and updates like this can slip through the cracks. But it serves as a good reminder to keep tabs on your paid search ads. If you notice one is converting poorly, or not at all, you should at least make sure the landing page works.

Give us a Brand or Category Page (at least)

Thankfully, doesn’t give us a broken link, yet it merely brings us to the homepage. This won’t do.

Since I typed in a specific brand and model number, I expect to be brought to a Product Page — or, at the very least, a Brand Page or Category Page. They have exact information about the product I’m looking for and they just drop me off on the homepage? Leaving it up to the visitor to first find a tiny “Digital Cameras” link, then navigate through the site to find the Product Page, is an unnecessary gamble, especially since the paid search link promised “Sony DSC W80 in stock!”

Why not take me directly to the Product Page instead of making me scan the homepage just to find a Category Page?

Sony’s word against Bryan’s?

You’d think the company that made the product would have something to say about the camera, even if it’s discontinued — which, apparently, it is. At this point, the halo from Bryan’s positive word-of-mouth is beginning to crack. (“Thanks a lot, buddy. Does this camera really exist?”) is missing out on an opportunity here. Although they no longer make the camera, they could provide links to similar cameras, especially if there’s a newer versions of the same model — which there is. They could use this page to show improvements that were made to the newer model. This page provides visitors with nowhere to go besides Back.

• Manufacturers: It takes time to get the word out about your products. If you don’t take advantage of it, you’ll lose some sales from late adopters (a huge chunk of the market).

• Retailers: Don’t forget to capitalize on positive word-of-mouth from older model numbers. Turn would-be customers for those older products into buyers of the newer ones. If you still offer popular discontinued products, leverage that advantage with targeted Pay-Per-Click ads and Landing Pages.

Unscramble the Search

Finally, the product I’m looking for — and it’s right on the landing page. has it down. They even show visitors the newer model on the same page!

NewEgg removes all the obstacles a visitor might go through to find the product (they’ve already clearly told Google) they’re looking for. They place visitors in the perfect place; this is where customers are in the buying process when they search for “Sony DSC W80″. It was a little harder to find this camera than it should have been, but ultimately, NewEgg shows how to get the most out of your PPC ads.

New research shows that fewer people are clicking Pay-Per-Click ads on Google. In past discussions on this blog, readers have expressed that they no longer use PPC ads because of numerous bad experiences. Perhaps that’s why so many companies out there aren’t optimizing or paying attention to their PPC ads, which — soon enough — affects how useful they are for consumers.

If Pay-Per-Click is part of your online strategy, make sure your ads are optimized. Otherwise, you’re leaving money on the table. PPC can be very valuable when used properly. But if you neglect it, and the experience isn’t useful for customers, these campaigns can negatively effect your business.

To be truly PPC- and Landing Page-savvy, here’s how to appeal to all buying modes.


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[Editor's Note: Want to convert more customers with your Pay-Per-Click campaign? Contact us.]

Add Your Comments

Comments (31)

  1. On behalf of the advertisers (with the exception of Walmart), a lot of these PPC results can be the handy work of Google Broad Match inefficiencies. I’ve run across quite a few issues with broad match and I’ve had even more detrimental results than this. For instance, I was bidding on the broad matched term Seagull Lighting in an effort to get all other related traffic before I had time to really build out a proper keyword list. I found incoming traffic coming in from completely irrelevant searches such as “seagull” and “lights” which drove the ad spend through the roof in a matter of days.
    One word of advice I would provide to the advertisers in question is to build out a full, comprehensive keyword list and gather as much intelligence as possible on actual typed search queries so they don’t have to resort to broad match for a significant number of their keywords.

  2. Hey, what google really needs is some people doing arbitrage to remove the inefficiencies you’ve described…. oops, they killed those guys off last fall.

  3. Arthur, It’s true that there are many complications with Google’s expanded broad search. In many instances, like the one you listed and countless other stories, the broad search can decrease the effectiveness of advertisers’ PPC ads. But with the examples I gave, this can’t be used as an excuse. There has to be some connection between the search and the PPC ads that Google returns.

    The searched term (“Sony DSC W80”) consisted of two very specific things: “Sony” and “DSC-W80”. The pages that these links were advertising had to have had some connection to one of those elements. The advertisers are likely paying for either “Sony” or “DSC-W80,” which none of these pages really caters to. In any of these scenarios, visitors could have at least been taken to a Sony-branded page featuring different options from the Sony catalog.

    Don’t get me wrong. This is hard work — no question about it. At the end of the day, a machine can’t replace a marketer’s responsibility. With each term, you have to be on with relevance. That requires human (not machine) intervention.

  4. You’re correct about everything. No wonder companies (all sizes) are wondering why their PPC campaigns are not converting the way they want. Half the battle is making those links head to the correct landing page… you’d think that would be the most important part to many. Very good examples and points brought up!

  5. Daniel,
    Agreed with your response. However, due to the very miniscule margins in the electronics vertical, it’s just hard to believe that someone like (who is extremely competent in the CSE space) would drop the ball on PPC. Maybe I’m just jaded by the reverse broad matching issue that I’ve seen with Google, but I’d be curious to see what landing pages the advertisers had for the keyword in this example – if they were even bidding on the keyword to begin with.
    I’ve been longing to see a comprehensive analysis of the reverse broad match issue across a handful of verticals for a while now. Maybe bringing together 10 or so advertisers to share their input and a bit of data can illustrate if google has an issue or not.

  6. Also, can anyone comment on what results they have seen with Google’s new match type?
    This may actually have something to do with the poor results we’re seeing here.

  7. Daniel,

    Just wanted you to know that I think a number of images are missing from your write-up. Lots of whitespace.

    I still enjoyed the article.


  8. Oops.

    Sorry Daniel, the images just appeared on my web page.

    Must have been a user error. :)


  9. While advertisers need to follow up and verify that clicks are headed where they want them, Google doesn’t make it easy when they “broad match” model number searches across different ad groups to a less specific ad in the campaign, to the detriment of the more targeted campaigns you build for such long tail terms.

  10. Best PPC ad title I’ve seen – the words “Ad Title Here”. Which would be good if I was searching for ‘Ad Title Here’.

  11. Google has been running an ad on their content network for their AdSense program – the link has been dead for at least 7 days. Haven’t seen it yet today, but funny nonetheless.


  12. [...] This article from the boys makes the point as well as anything we have seen. My one quibble with them: anybody who buys a Sony camera must not believe in customer service. » bookmark this » hide bookmarks Effect.BlindUp(‘obsocialbookmark_barA’); [...]

  13. Nice piece, I had not thought of the idea that searchers may begin to abandon sponsored links due to poor quality landing pages.

    I just assumed that it was part of ppc 101 that you had a specific landing page for each ad group

  14. Finding poor quality landing pages is a problem with both paid as well as general search results. Then why are consumers shying away from the paid search results alone? From the consumer’s point of view, what difference does it make whether the result is paid or general?

  15. [...] reviewed the Good, Bad and the Ugly PPC search results for a digital camera. They looked at the top three paid search results and the [...]

  16. Let’s step back and see this for what it really is — a HUGE opportunity for growing businesses. There are a few examples here of large corporations that are failing at keeping their campaigns airtight… and therein lies the opportunity. We can do better, and with a growing focus on usability in landing pages, the search engines will reward us.

  17. It shows how people are wasting hell lot of money on PPC without thinking if it is worth or not. Why can not they bother to test the ad after making it. Might be they have too much money to put down the drain psshhhhhh

  18. Try being one of the salesmen at Vann’s and using the site for reference to compare the products and looking up specifications on products. Luckily the techs have updated the software, so it works better, but still not the best. I would love if it were as efficient as Crutchfield or NewEgg. Still have problems with it though, but much happier with the recent upgrades.

  19. [...] creating effective advertisements companies will be able to get the best “bang for their buck”. Using an advertising medium like this though can be risky for organizations. Companies can spend a lot of money tailoring their advertisement so that it will appear on search [...]

  20. Stunning isn’t it, how websites fail to be effective for the most obvious of reasons. I see it time and again as I re-hab existing sites: it isn’t the esoteric technical issues that are the problem – it is that the basics are ignored.


  21. [...] The Good, The Bad & The Pay-Per-Click Ugly on GrokDotCom. Extremely interesting examples of bad PPC advertising. [...]

  22. [...] The Good, The Bad & The Pay-Per-Click Ugly on GrokDotCom. Extremely interesting examples of bad PPC advertising. [...]

  23. Sadly, when searching for “ssd drives” and clicking a Newegg ad, I was presented with Flash Memory rather than their Solid State Drive page. Someone missed that target…

  24. sadly this happens to many other big retailers as well. but who cares, they’ve got the big money. Us little guys look for every penny we spend.

  25. You are right on everything, great article here

  26. Great article!

    I just add this article in my bookmark.

  27. WOW !! Never thought about it ! PPC is well explained !

  28. Hm, thay did a very good trick, my god how things can be manipulated, even adwords like in this case.

  29. With PPC, I think Google Adwords is the best. There are no service better than it. Right ?

  30. You’ve got to point your users to the right page, not just your homepage. It’s pretty obvious actually, but so few people actually do this.

  31. [...] The Good, The Bad & The Pay-Per-Click Ugly [...]

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