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Losing Money On PPC Traffic? What You May Be Missing

Let’s be honest: paid visitors are a skeptical bunch. And why shouldn’t they be? Discovery through a paid ad is inherently more questionable than organic results. Visitors from PPC have a sense of “being sold” rather than going on an explorative shopping journey.  And those visitors, many or most of whom haven’t heard of your site, must determine whether your site is the real deal. If they develop even the slightest inclination that your site won’t provide a great shopping experience, they will bounce and look elsewhere. That’s why many marketers closely monitor PPC traffic to make sure those expensive visitors are engaged when they reach the site.

Judging PPC Traffic

To find out if their campaigns are worth the cash, marketers often look to Quality Scores (QS), Google’s estimate of how relevant their ad, landing page, and offer are to the user.  The Quality Scores predict, on a 0-10 scale, how much visitors will value your offering.  Click-through rates, keyword relevance, copy, and more go into the scores for ads, landing pages, and more.

QS is a great tool and has helped many marketers quantify the value of their PPC traffic.  But as is often the case with online marketing, there are myriad factors at play and it can be hard to determine what changes will boost QS. A lot of emphases is placed on the keywords in the ads and the content and navigability on the landing page.  These are all important, but they are just some of the aspects of the inclusive term “user experience” Google uses to describe how they determine QS.  It can be discouraging to spend time working on keywords in an attempt to raise QS, and see no change.

Beyond Keywords and Copy
One factor marketers often overlook is the site speed and performance of their landing pages and the rest of the site. When Google bots crawl the landing page and site looking for keywords and the presence of information like contact info, they also track how long the pages take to display. They hope to ensure that visitors will have a good experience on the site.  If Google finds that your site is slow, it will knock your score for it.

Why Google Cares about performance, and why you should too

Page abandonment is a huge factor with PPC ads.  Since every click costs money, abandonment takes on a new level of importance.  If your page loads slowly, visitors who click on an ad may abandon your page before it even finishes loading. From Google’s perspective, this is bad because that visitors may not trust ads in the future, which undermines the entire PPC model. More importantly for you, though, in cases of abandonment, you’re paying for visitors who never see your pages. It also means that you lose any brand awareness benefits you might have gained from a click, given that the user had a negative experience. Plus, of course, it lowers your QS.

Another, more roundabout way that performance affects QS is through raw traffic levels. For instance, when Shopzilla improved its page speed by five seconds, it doubled SEM visits on the site. With a boost like this in validated SEM traffic, you see higher Quality Scores and lower costs per click, meaning a higher ROI from paid programs and more trust from Google. With QS, success begets success.

Slow Site? No Problem.
If you have an inkling that speed may be behind your low QS scores, there are easy ways to get started optimizing for better performance.  First, run tests on, to establish a baseline. Then, to get started with performance optimization, check out the first steps to improve performance.

Photo via Images_of_Money on Flickr

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