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Friday, November 21, 2008

11% of AdWords Clicks are Wasted on Dead Pages

Over the past 60 days I have been keeping track of all of the AdWords ads I have clicked on. As of today I've reached 1,000 clicks. There's a ton of interesting data in my spreadsheet but one thing really jumped out at me - the amount of clicks that advertisers pay for that resulted in me seeing an error/dead page.

Out of my tracked 1,000 clicks 110 of them landed me on a dead page. A dead page could be a 404, site down, broken redirect, typo in the destination url, etc. Basically it means I (or anyone else) could load the page if they clicked on the advertisers ad. Of course this small sampling of clicks doesn't mean that 11% are wasted across the entire AdWords platform but to me it did validate something I've felt for quite some page uptime is a pretty big deal for AdWords users.

If you're a paid search account manager who works with clients/departments and are not the one in control of the server that hosts the landing pages or sites you have likely dealt with this issue a number of times already. You notice that your campaign that's converted at 10% for 2 years converted at 0% yesterday. You do a quick check of the landing page and it's loading so slow unless you're willing to wait 10 minutes for a partially loaded page you're out of luck. You contact who ever is in charge of your server/site and sometime thereafter (shortly thereafter if you have a good team) things are back to normal. Great...but what about all the $$$ you essentially pitched into the trash yesterday sending people to a "dead" page? That one day could have a big impact on your overall campaign numbers for the month and no one wants to hear "the server was down" as an excuse....especially when you can't prove it.

What's even worse that having a server/site down for a period of time is having an intermittent problem that makes it hard to identify site performance as an issue. Spread a few dozen "dead" clicks across a few hundred total clicks and it impacts the numbers, and not in the way it should. I've seen problems like this continue for months and months. The impact on the paid search campaign(s) can be disastrous.

I would love to see AdWords jump in and help advertisers with this issue. They could do something as simple as creating a report that advertisers can run that would show clicks that resulted in "dead pages" and the costs associated with those clicks. This would help advertisers:

1) Make more informed decisions - they would not shut down keywords/ad groups that were producing a poor return on investment due to server issues.

2) Provide more accurate reports to clients. The paid search manager should not be penalized due to site performance issues. If the landing page won't load 11% of time that needs to be taken into consideration when looking at campaign performance.

3) Work with their host/IT group to identify and correct the issue. If your page or site isn't loading for 11% of AdWords clicks you're paying for odds are it's not loading for other traffic sources as well. This could be huge...imagine an 11% lift for your business without altering your advertising at all.

I'm not saying or implying that Google shouldn't charge for clicks that lead to dead pages...our server uptime is not their concern. What I am saying is that when Google can help advertisers be more effective (and this type of reporting would help) those advertisers can produce a higher ROI for clients which will likely result in increased spending with the AdWords platform.

Since Google AdWords doesn't offer this type of reporting at the present time my advice is to set up your own site monitoring if you think there may be availability issues with some sites you're working with. You won't get the same level of detail that an AdWords based service could provide but the right service will allow you to estimate downtime with a fairly significant degree of accuracy - not to mention the fact that if you knew a site was down you could pause a campaign until the issue was resolved and avoid paying to send people to an unresponsive page. I use and would estimate that over the years it's saved the businesses I've done paid search management work for hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Anyone else using a site monitoring service or product in conjunction with paid search they would recommend?


At 5:47 PM, Anonymous Stelios said...

Interesting post! This is my main fear after it happened for one of my cliens where some of our best performing kws where going to an erro page. I notified the client but still this messed up my results. Do you know if there is a tool that could check the destination URLs on a KW level? thanks

At 2:44 PM, Anonymous Mark Kennedy said...

Someone just tweeted one of your blog posts (using PPC to hurt competitors), so I checked it out.

This is a good blog about PPC, so I added it to my blog roll and my Google reader.

Keep up the good work

-Mark Kennedy

At 3:58 PM, Blogger Jeremy Mayes said...

Stelios, not off the top of my head, no. I typically just use DCM and have it check the root...if the root of the site is up and responsive odds are all landing pages on that domain are as well.

If anyone knows of a tool that does what Stelios is asking feel free to link drop.

Mark, Thanks for stopping by and glad you enjoyed the content. See you in your reader...I publish a full feed.

At 12:26 PM, Blogger Gregory said...

Did you happen to catch this webinar on Quality Score? Thought is was surprisingly good.

At 2:05 PM, Anonymous Adrian Huth said...

great article and have also noticed this across the verticals i do ppc in.

site monitoring is crucial. though i do agree adwords itself could do way more here you have to be pro active currently and do this yourself.

At 12:39 PM, Blogger tdwhalen said...

AdWords used to do a better job at this - they used to crawl destination URLs on a regular basis, but now they seem to do less of this, possibly just do to resource priorities.

I do think they should get those bots moving again, like they did in the old days.

At 6:53 PM, Blogger Jeremy Mayes said...

As a follow up to this post, there's a great post at bgtheory about how to find broken links in your destination urls. Check it out.

At 5:16 AM, Blogger Hovhannes Avoyan said... - you may want to look at this service - it is free but powerful monitoring not only for external uptime but also internal resource usage etc.

At 5:29 AM, Anonymous Network Management said...

Really this is useful post. advertisers wouldn't loose money.

At 1:51 PM, Blogger Jwm909 said...

Great stuff here! Just this week I happened onto a large number of incorrect keyword-level URLs. Your post and the links in these commens are priceless!

At 2:12 PM, Blogger Jeremy Mayes said...


Thanks for stopping by and glad to hear the info on this post helped you out. Good luck with your campaigns!

At 2:30 AM, Anonymous Rodricks said...

Very interesting post !! The Keysearch Analytics blog has tips, tricks, advice and case studies for the search marketing industry.

At 9:09 AM, Anonymous forex said...

Great post, explained really well and I could really understand. Thank you

At 9:08 AM, Blogger MrAdVenture said...

My question is-why are you clicking 1000 ads in 60 days?
I am very sure they were not of real interest to you-so actually you are admitting to click fraud.

I just wonder how many of those ads you clicked I paid for?

We will never know-which is okay-after all I was advertising against Adsense-using AdSense as your only source of ads costs you 40-60% of potential clicks-I ask you to read this article on Contextual Advertising

At 5:57 PM, Blogger Jeremy Mayes said...


I'm online 10+ hours day. I work in paid search and use Google a bit more than your average user.500+ clicks a month is not unusual for me. The good ones result in conversions for the advertiser.

So what you are "very sure of" is far from the truth.

At 11:15 PM, Anonymous CrossRoadsReviews said...

Great article...i fell victim to this mistake one time due to typo. Usually Google checks to make sure the destination url works fine before your add was approved but what happened was I sent all the traffic to someone else' website. Good thing I corrected before much more damage was done though.

At 12:01 AM, Blogger Informiv said...

I am also the victim of similar situation... i think for this Publisher concept is main cause where Revenue shearing takes place

At 9:15 PM, Anonymous baz said...

google kicked me out of adwords, no explanation, no emails, just froze all my keywords. After many emails to them they came back to me saying some of my landing pages were incorrect and was a bad experience for their searches

At 4:40 PM, Blogger Ann said...

You all should use adMarketplace's pubmarketplace at They have created a new ad tag cloud which has made text advertising more engaging, creating higher CTRs and higher conversion rates . . . way better than ADsense

At 4:16 AM, Anonymous Monitoring Guy said...

Interesting Post.. You could also try with - Free Website Monitoring Service. To monitor website's availability and performance.


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