Why Did My Cost-Per-Click (CPC) Skyrocket? (Part 2)

By Darren DeYoung

As stated in the first post of this series, online advertising is anything but consistent. There are a myriad of factors that contribute to unexplained changes in ad performance. Sometimes it is the result of making tweaks and changes to your campaigns. And sometimes it is caused by a competitor. Although both can have implications that cause cost-per-click (CPC) to skyrocket up or down, it is the action of the competition that leads to head-scratching revelations. In this post, we’ll dissect how changes made by your competition can impact the CPC.

Why Did My Cost-Per-Click (CPC) Skyrocket? (Part 2)

How Landing Page Experience Impacts CPC

Like everything that Google does, its paramount mission is to “Organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” As part of this mission, they strive to provide an indelible customer experience which extends to those who choose to use their advertising platform. Google wants users who click on a Google Ad to have a great experience. And the landing page experience is one component of how Google Ads measures how well your website gives people what they are looking for when they click your ad. It is the destination and the place people arrive after clicking your ad. Through a combination of systems and human evaluation, Google assigns it a rating. The Landing Page Experience rating is simple: Above Average, Average, or Below Average. This rating then correlates to the Ad Rank and affects your CPC and position within the ad auction. A poor landing page experience will cause the ads to show less often if they send users to websites that offer a poor experience. Likewise, a positive landing page experience will cause the ads to show more.
It's bad for the user because they don't end up where they expected to end up; it's bad for the advertiser because they clicked on an ad and ended up somewhere they didn't want to be.
Jonathan Alferness, Google Director of Product Development

How Ad Copy Experience Impacts CPC

The landing page experience and ad copy work in unison during the user experience. Both the message of the ad and the message of the landing page must align to receive a good position within Ad Rank. Failure to align will be flagged by the powers at Google and result in the ads being shown less often (or not at all). All components of the ad copy should point to a similar message that can be found on the landing page. If the text from the ad and text from the landing page are preaching the same message, a good rating can be expected. Of the 60 combined characters that are provided in Headline 1 and Headline 2 of an expanded text ad, there is limited space to convey your message. Think through the ad copy for effectiveness, efficiency, and make sure it aligns with the user experience.

What happens when there are changes?

If your ads are cruising along, providing good exposure and leading to positive results, but all a sudden there is an abrupt change, you will likely wonder what happened. Well, what if another company that is competing for the same keywords just redesigned their website? Yes, their new site is trendy, modern, and attractive. But at the same time, your CPC skyrockets upward.

How could this happen if you didn’t do a thing? If this competitor didn’t adjust their final URLs for their ads and if they didn’t set up landing pages for those ads on their new site, they just debilitated their Google Ads campaign. Their actions caused their Landing Page Experience to drop. This directly affects their Ad Rank while causing your CPC to increase.

The increase in Ad Rank may come with a higher CPC as your ads are now shown more prominently and in a higher position. Sometimes this increase in CPC is substantial (depending on the competing bids), while other times it may be minimal. Regardless, it is a common scenario that may occur and be alarming if your CPC doubled from the previous day.

These changes, or those similar in nature, will have a significant impact on ad performance. The more substantial the change to ad copy text or landing page design will lead to greater changes in ad performance. Eventually this will catapult ads--either yours or those of your competition--up or down the ad position ranks.

What can be done to protect from skyrocketing CPC’s?

Since it is not plausible to see what the competition is doing and how they are making changes to their ad copy or landing pages in real time, the best approach is to focus on factors that you can control--your ads and your landing page. Four areas that Google recommends to improve the landing page experience are:

  1. Offer relevant, useful and original content Ensure that users find exactly what they are looking for when they reach your website. Don’t make them look around and provide all the information they need to complete a conversion on the landing page.
  2. Promote transparency and foster trustworthiness on your site
    This is about showing authenticity and that there is a real company behind the website. Contact details, access to an about page that shares information about your business, or a privacy policy are all elements that can build trust with the user.
  3. Make mobile and computer navigation easy
    A well-organized page with simple CTA’s will allow the user to find the product or service mentioned in the ad. Annoying pop-ups or a poorly designed page that forces the user to “hunt” for information is not going to be graded well.
  4. Decrease your landing page load time
    Whether on a computer or mobile device, your page needs to load quickly. Load speed is also factored into the Quality Score because keeping people waiting for a website to load is the definition of a poor experience. This is especially important for mobile devices as they account for a significant part of website traffic.

Test your site to see how it scores on mobile speed and get quick fixes to improve it.

Because your landing page plays a big part in turning clicks into customers, the user expects to end up on a page that is relevant to what they saw in the ad. If they don’t find what they expect, they are more likely to leave. If the user searches for landscape supplies and they click on an ad that leads them to a webpage with lawn fertilizer, whoops! That is a poor experience which goes against what Google stands for.

To perform the best, take steps to improve ad copy and make sure it corresponds to the landing page experience. Better landing pages lead to higher conversion rates, which in turn means an increase in the value of traffic. This allows for higher bids and more traffic at the same efficiency. It is a virtuous circle and is what you can control to help get the best ROI from your paid search campaigns.

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