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When Your Poor PPC Performance is a Positioning Problem, Not a Targeting One

When Your Poor PPC Performance is a Positioning Problem, Not a Targeting One

10/25/19 UPDATE: Hello Facebook Agency Visitor Person!  We’re delighted to have you visit this awesome post. About a year ago, ZATO stopped offering Facebook Ads solutions so we could focus solely on what we do best: Google Ads. Because of this, we’re always interested in partnerships with great Social Advertising agencies (like yourself, wink wink!) and we offer referral fees for signed clients!  Anyway, back to it, and happy reading…

Post Summary

A trap I see some brands fall into in PPC, is to label a positioning problem as a targeting problem.

What do I mean by that?

Well, let's say your store sells cardboard boxes for shipping. But not just any cardboard boxes, you sell high quality, ultra-durable, cardboard boxes for shipping. The thing is, these tend to be 45% higher in cost.

You look into your Google Ads account and notice that you get a lot of traffic from people who search specifically for "best cardboard boxes for shipping", but your CVR is really low. This means your ROAS target is well below your overall goals. Your boss tells you to trim some fat in the account, and so you shrug and exclude [best cardboard boxes for shipping].


I mean, I get that sometimes quick efficiency wins needs to occur, but this isn't a targeting problem. Why aren't people buying on this term that is perfectly in line with your product?

It's not because you haven't yet figured out how to best segment out the ideal Google Search Ads audience within an audience, it's because your brand hasn't figured out how to position itself well in front of your ideal potential target audience (shout-out to April Dunford's excellent book Obviously Awesome).

You need to answer "why" it is that people searching for EXACTLY what you are selling aren't buying, and then you need to sell to them. Some thoughts on how to gather this research:

  • surveys (why are people buying other boxes? Ask them)
  • industry forums (who is sharing the dirt in some reddit community about shipping box purchasing
  • customer reviews (why did people decide to buy yours? What do they like about it?)
  • competitor research (read their reviews too!!! Why are people buying their boxes and not yours?)

Then, leverage that into better positioning your product/brand to address core reasons a person wouldn't normally want to pay more for shipping boxes.

Perhaps you have some UGC of customers who talk about how much they wasted in damaged shipping costs until they switched to yours.

Perhaps you have an actual slider of how much money damaged shipping costs are to a business and how they actually save money by paying more for your boxes, and less for fewer returns/damages.


But my key point here, is that advertising and marketing can only solve so much (I discuss this in my PPC Ponderings book, BTW). We have limitations. We can identify the right audience, but sometimes we just can't go further and it's up to you (or your client) to ponder *why* the core audience isn't purchasing.

Do you have a positioning problem? The easiest way to tell there could be one, is if your targeting is dialed in and people aren't purchasing.

Well, or your cart is down 😆

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Kirk Williams
@PPCKirk - Owner & Chief Pondering Officer

Kirk is the owner of ZATO, his Paid Search & Social PPC micro-agency of experts, and has been working in Digital Marketing since 2009. His personal motto (perhaps unhealthily so), is "let's overthink this some more."  He even wrote a book recently on philosophical PPC musings that you can check out here: Ponderings of a PPC Professional.

He has been named one of the Top 25 Most Influential PPCers in the world by PPC Hero 6 years in a row (2016-2021), has written articles for many industry publications (including Shopify, Moz, PPC Hero, Search Engine Land, and Microsoft), and is a frequent guest on digital marketing podcasts and webinars.

Kirk currently resides in Billings, MT with his wife, six children, books, Trek Bikes, Taylor guitar, and little sleep.

Kirk is an avid "discusser of marketing things" on Twitter, as well as an avid conference speaker, having traveled around the world to talk about Paid Search (especially Shopping Ads).  Kirk has booked speaking engagements in London, Dublin, Sydney, Milan, NYC, Dallas, OKC, Milwaukee, and more and has been recognized through reviews as one of the Top 10 conference presentations on more than one occasion.

You can connect with Kirk on Twitter or Linkedin.

In 2023, Kirk had the privilege of speaking at the TEDx Billings on one of his many passions, Stop the Scale: Redefining Business Success.

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