How to Troubleshoot Paid Traffic Campaigns

By Ryan Deiss, Russ Henneberry

All digital marketers need to know how to troubleshoot paid traffic campaigns. After you’ve set up your campaign, let it run for three to five days so that you can start collecting data. When that time is up, you should assess and troubleshoot your campaign. Although you’re looking for problems or why goals aren’t being met, troubleshooting doesn’t necessarily mean that something is wrong with the campaign.

The goal of troubleshooting a campaign is to fix any problems that may have arisen since its launch, but also to look for ways to optimize the campaign and possibly, if justifiable, to scale the campaign.

There are four areas to focus on and the steps you can take when troubleshooting a paid traffic campaign, as follows:

  • The offer
  • The targeting
  • The ad copy and creative
  • The ad’s congruency

With paid traffic, a lot of trial and error is involved in a campaign, even if you’ve done everything right. At one company, for example, for every ten paid campaigns that are run, only one to two break even or turn a profit. But that doesn’t mean that you should throw away an underperforming campaign and start all over. With some digging, you can find what’s holding back the campaign and get it back on track.

Make sure to examine each of the following areas one at a time so that you can isolate the specific issue of your campaign. If you try to assess all the areas at one time, you won’t understand the root cause or what ultimately fixed your campaign, so you may end up facing the same problem in the future. Implement one step, run your ad for an additional five days and collect more data, and then move on to the next steps if necessary.

Read on for more details about troubleshooting each of these areas.

Strengthening your offer

The first aspect to focus on when your campaign isn’t performing as expected is your offer. Ask yourself: Do people want what you’re selling? If you don’t offer something that your market actually wants or needs, you won’t get conversions. To see whether your offer is appealing, answer these three questions:

  • Are you solving a problem for a specific group of people?
  • Does a specific need exist for what you’re offering?
  • Are you offering your market value?

If your answer is “No” to any of these questions, you’ve already found your problem.

No matter how compelling your landing page copy is or how attention grabbing your image may be, the best marketing campaign in the world can’t solve an offer issue. This is why your offer is so crucial and is the key to the success or failure of any marketing campaign. A poorly executed marketing campaign with a great offer usually outperforms a great marketing campaign with a poor offer. If a poor offer is your problem, you need to come up with a new and better offer before you run traffic to it.

Tweaking your targeting

Another big culprit of a struggling ad campaign is your targeting. If you’ve concluded that your offer isn’t the problem and have proof to back that up, examine whether you’re targeting the right people. Regardless of whether you have the best offer and marketing message, putting your offer in front of the wrong audience means that your campaign will fail. Are you targeting people who will actually buy?

The biggest targeting mistake you can make is to go too broad in fear of missing out on potential prospects. When starting your campaign, you want your market to be as specific as possible. If you’re in doubt about the size of the audience you’re targeting, go a bit smaller. Then, if the campaign meets or exceeds expectations for this smaller audience, you can scale it and make your audience a little broader.

If you believe that your targeting is off, reassess your customer avatar. You might have a misconception of your audience. Go back and make sure that you’re being specific enough and that your information on your audience is correct.

Another big issue that can impede your targeting is to advertise on the wrong traffic platform. You might be placing ads on a platform where your market doesn’t hang out online.

Scrutinizing your ad copy and creative

After confirming that your offer is enticing and you’re putting your offer in front of the right people, examine your marketing message. The ad copy and the creative (the image) are the segue between your offer and your target market. The copy and creative ensures that people can see the end benefit of your offer. If your marketing message doesn’t catch your target audience’s attention and give people a reason to click, your campaign will fail because you aren’t generating traffic.

Inspect your ad copy to make sure that it does the following:

  • Calls out to your audience
  • Hits a pain point that your audience experiences
  • Gives your market a solution or a benefit (a reason to click)
  • Next, the image needs
  • To be eye catching
  • To correspond with your marketing message

Overall, verify that your creative and your copy don’t say different things. They need to match or you risk confusing your audience. In addition, this matchup helps make your ad copy and your creative more compelling, which also leads to the next area to troubleshoot.

Checking the congruency of your campaign

Finally, you need to troubleshoot the congruency of your ad as you move prospects to the next step of your marketing funnel. For instance, after people click your ad and visit your landing page, do they get what they expected? If your landing page doesn’t have the same look and feel as your ad, people may think they’ve landed in the wrong place or that you won’t deliver on the benefit promised in the ad. Something seems wrong to site visitors, causing them to click the Back button in their browser.

So not only do you want each step of the campaign to build off the previous, you also want the campaign to remain congruent throughout. To maintain congruence, consider keeping the following elements in your ad design consistent throughout the campaign’s path:

  • Color scheme
  • Layout
  • Imagery
  • Font type, size, and color

Next, if you make an offer or touch on a pain point or benefit within the ad, reference that again on the landing page. Make sure that these items appear quickly and aren’t buried down the page or you risk losing the prospect. The easiest way to assure the prominence of these items is with the copy: Use the exact same language from your ad to your landing page headline, subheadline, and body copy. Also include the same images from the ad within the landing page.

By ensuring that your ad and your landing page both reflect the same benefit, pain point, offer, and design, you can maintain familiarity and preserve congruency.