This case study is about how we diagnose issues with ad accounts and then turn them around to start producing results. It’s also about demonstrating our knowledge as reputable Google Ads Managers, and maybe you’ll like what we’re saying and want to hire us ;)

We audit a ton of Google Ads accounts each year. Sometimes when we’re auditing an account and reviewing the metrics, specifically the conversion metrics… you get a “data doubt” feeling. The “Ah, that looks too good to be true‘ sorta feeling. There are way too many conversions showing in the system versus actual leads/calls the clients is getting.

The simple way to vet the data -> ask the client

First we ask the client. What’s the lead volume been like the last 14 days. Did you get 25 leads?

Client responds: “No way, only about 6/7.”

There’s your answer. And that’s a problem. We need to figure out what is causing the Conversions data to go haywire.

See the change in conversion over a 90 day period. 560% change in conversions?

My hunch

When we Segment View for Conversion Action, we can see the type of conversion causing the problem.

You can segment the view both at the campaign and the Ad Group level.

It seems to be this one – Google Ads Phone Click conversion action.

Click-based phone conversions are susceptible to spam coming from the Search Partners and the Google Display network.

Ideal world every client has call tracking software. Like a CallRail, or a Calltrackingmetrics, but not everyone can afford it, so we are left with implementing the call-click conversions, which is not 100% accurate but the best alternative.

Anyway. Google Ads says 25 leads, client says 6/7. You don’t need to be a genius to see that doesn’t match up.

Let’s dive into it.

Review the Google Ads Campaign

So this is a Performance max campaign, which inherently gives us less data than any other type of campaigns, meaning diagnosing and finding the culprit can be harder. So let’s now review a few different items and see what we can find.

#1 Conversions auditing

What conversions are causing the issue?

Is it configured incorrectly?

Go into Conversion Tab. What is it, how is it implemented? 

We checked in Google Tag Manager and all is fine.

Is it double tracking?

Nope, the conversion count is set to “one” – so we are good there. (See the above image)

What about any GA4 event tracking, can we match anything up there?

Let’s look into Google Analytics at the Event tabs, and find the right Phoneclick event. And here we go, looks like a huge spike in clicks on June 7th. That doesn’t look natural.

Big spike on June 7th – from the Ads (cross network = Google ads campaign)

46 phone number clicks in one day – when they normally only get 1 or 2.

What we can deduce from this is that for sure there is some spam traffic hitting the ads resulting in false conversions.

Let’s look at more of the settings.

#2 Locations auditing

Location settings magic button

This toggle on the location settings was not set to the 2nd option. So that will have caused some issues.

Navigate to “When and where ads showed”

Find this under the insights tab.

-> Go to Matched Location and choose Cities.

All looks good here….but.

Let’s verify this in Google Analytics. And Google Analytics shows something different?

What does this mean?

It means we’ve been showing ads outside of our target area. Wasted clicks and wasted budget.

#4 Time and Days of clicks/performance

Straight away I don’t like what I see. The times are all off. If we were targeting the right people (commercial clients) I would expect most of the clicks to be within business hours.

Who’s actually working on Friday between 5-7pm? Really?!

Action: Can we limit the times that the ads are shown to Business hours only?

Yes we can. Go to the Ad Schedule in the Campaign settings and choose your hours, and specific days if you like.

#5 Is there a target keyword problem?

Performance Max is a real cruel mistress when it comes to Keyword Data and Search terms. In a regular Search campaign, the data is all there for you to see in both the Search terms report and the Keywords tab.

But for Performance Max, we have none of this data.

In this case there was not enough keyword data to make any conclusion decisions from.

#6 What about negative keywords?

Can’t do negative keywords in Performance Max.

This one is a real pain in the ass. But, someone shared a secret with me recently that you can actually submit your negative keywords for your performance max campaign through a Google Ads support by completing a form.

Regular search campaigns can input easy negative easy, but performance max where there is this extra process.

Here is the link to the form to submit the keywords, or list.

What do we recommend to fix the issue?

First, what does Google recommend? They say to increase budget. Thanks Google :(

That would escalade the problem, Google. No thanks for the advice.

Action items

  • Review all the campaign settings are all good
  • Review the auto-generated Text Assets and Headline (decide if we want that or not)
  • Adjust the Ad schedule to business hours
  • Review target keywords. Possibly one of the keywords is trigging some irrelevant ads. So we’ll try to tighter on the keywords.
  • Ad copy – go to assets report and review the automatically generated headlines and descriptions
  • Remove the phoneclick conversion action altogether
  • Start a new campaign

Need help with Google Ads management?

Google Ads is frustrating when it’s not your core skillset. There are some many buttons to press and lanes to choose, that leaves many advertisers feeling overwhelmed and disappointment. We know this, we see it every week. Help is just one call, or email away. Get in touch with a team member for a quote, or to get started with a free Google Ads Audit.