Ad Traffic Not Converting? 4 Ways to Find (and Address) the Problem

September 7, 2022

by Jeff Pearlman

The world of paid and social advertising has rapidly evolved. Consumer expectations get higher and higher, and as a result e-commerce businesses and marketers have to become more sophisticated and savvy to meet the demands.

You have to think on your feet. Outplay your competitors. Adapt and overcome. It’s like playing high-speed chess … against hundreds of opponents. 

But because social media and the paid landscape change so fast, and competition, especially in the business-to-consumer sector is fierce, it’s challenging to be strategic and think long-term. 

Combine that with current events that have companies tightening their purse strings, and you have many e-commerce marketers under pressure to squeeze maximum value out of minimum spend. Each cent you put into social and paid advertising needs to bring you something in return. 

So how can you identify why your advertising efforts aren’t a checkmate? 

How Are You Defining Conversions?

First, let’s define what your goals are. A conversion is typically whatever the end goal of your campaign is. In the case of e-commerce marketers, that would usually be a purchase. 

Every action leading up to that purchase is a step in the conversion funnel. That means you also need to be thinking about the journey leading up to that conversion, and track and measure those goals, too.

E-commerce businesses have a big challenge. First, you must make consumers aware of your brand and products, then interested in buying them. Next, you have to drive the interest into something stronger: consideration. And when the purchase finally does happen, your effort can’t stop. There are actions and goals around keeping a customer as a repeat shopper. 

Don’t guess, test and revise. Strategize to attract and retain customers. 

This isn’t a middle school word problem — remember those? There should be no guessing in your marketing strategy. A test without a plan is just a recipe for losing interested customers.  Instead, there should be research and hypothesizing. 

Too many marketers hide bad metrics and uninformed choices under the guise of “testing.” You should always be ready to try a new strategy or test a new idea, but you must presume success and have a hypothesis and some data to back up your reasoning. 

Data is critical to understanding how to drive traffic to your site that will convert. You can’t just launch random ads at your audience and expect them to purchase from your site.

Every decision you make needs to be data-driven. But some metrics are more illuminating than others when piecing together a conversion puzzle

The data situation gets murkier every day. Though Android and Google devices have held off on changing tracking abilities, marketers should be preparing for a cookieless future. That means relying heavily on zero-party, first-party data and a blended attribution model to inform your strategies

First-party data is data you have collected yourself. It’s the data you’ve asked for from your customers, like email or birth date. First-party data is essential because it’s guaranteed — you own it. 

Zero-party data is similar, but the difference is that it’s willingly handed over to you. For example, participation in a membership or loyalty program or in a purchase intention survey. 

4 reasons your traffic isn’t converting and how to fix it. 

If you aren’t hitting your conversion goals or return on ad spend (ROAS), figure out why. Data, research, and a little common sense can help you optimize your campaigns for the best results. Four frequent mistakes we see are: 

1. Your ads are…bad

When you can’t find your keys, they are often in the most obvious place. You search high and low, and there they are, right on the hook. 

It’s the same with identifying why your traffic isn’t converting. It’s easy to deep dive into granular data and overanalyze the tiniest details, only to realize your landing page doesn’t match the ad copy — resulting in a high bounce rate. Low time on page, a low click-through rate and minimal organic traffic can also clue you in that something is causing your ad to tank.   

How to fix it: Luckily, this one is easy. Review your ads with a critical eye to see if anything has been overlooked. Check out how to use micro-iterations to identify winning creative and support scaling initiatives.

2. You listen to your gut instead of listening to your data 

Even without cookies, marketers have unprecedented access to data. Yet many are falling into a trap of going with a gut feeling, a hunch or a strike of inspiration instead of going where the data points. 

Gut feelings and inspiration are great, but only when you have the data that aligns with them. Say you are an e-commerce marketer focusing on the style du jour: mid-century modern reproduction furniture and decor. You feel like Facebook is old news, and your gut says your younger, trendy audience isn’t engaging there anymore

But if your data says the 18-25 year old female segment is active on Facebook Marketplace browsing home furnishings — why would you ignore that? There’s an opportunity to capture their interest and consideration as they move through the purchasing process. 

How to fix it: Confirm your gut feeling with data. If you are staunchly against Facebook as an advertising platform for your younger segments, look for engagement numbers that indicate you’ll achieve better ROAS elsewhere. If you can’t find compelling data, be open to following the numbers wherever they go. 

3. You overlook audience pain points and focus on product features 

Your audience really doesn’t care about your product’s features. They care about how it will alleviate their pain points or align with their values. Research and data on sentiment and interests will lead you in the right direction. 

“Made out of recycled materials” is a cool feature, but it doesn’t mean a lot to the average consumer. But reframe that to resonate with the audience. “Prevent 15 water bottles from reaching the ocean” puts the audience’s values first. 

When you lead with talk about you and your product, it’s easy for the audience to remove themselves from the equation and, therefore, the buy cycle.

How to fix it: Zero-party data like consumer preferences from survey data can really illuminate a messaging strategy that will resonate. Keep your audience engaged in your brand by keeping them front and center in your ad messaging and creative strategy to continue to funnel them through the buy cycle. 

4. You leave out key aspects of personalization 

If you market to everyone, you are really marketing to no one. Consumers have high expectations for personalized content. Your e-commerce marketing can’t be one-size-fits-all. If you aren’t tailoring your creative strategies to the people and platforms, you’ll be setting yourself up for disappointment. 

Your social media and paid advertising need to hit the right people on the right platforms at the right time, using bespoke creative assets to communicate your messaging. Personalization needs to focus on three things: your audience, the platform and how your audience engages on the platform. The more personalized your advertising is, the better results you’ll see. 

How to fix it: A combination of first- and zero-party data, plus information like social engagement, conversion rate and ROAS to identify the best performing content for each segment of your audience. With this data, you can develop creative strategies and tune into customer preferences and expectations across different platforms. 

Make Smart Choices to Increase Conversions 

Launching campaigns without understanding the nuances of each platform and carefully considering the audience will only result in financial waste. If traffic isn’t converting, it’s time to analyze.

Digital marketing in the e-commerce world is a very complex network. It’s imperative that you make use of all the data you have access to, plan ahead and pay attention to details. Every marketer has access to the same buttons. It’s the creative strategy, the targeting and how well you communicate with your audience that will drive the conversions you are looking for. 

When you leverage the data you have, do thorough research on your audience and consider the differences of each platform, you can understand where people get stuck in the buy cycle. And then, you can optimize to set them back on their path to purchase.

About the author: Jeff is an analytical and creative Digital Strategist with 9+ years of Social Media, Influencer and Content Marketing experience with various brands like Jaguar, Land Rover, Lenovo, Motorola, Ulta Beauty, Malin & Goetz, Teleflora, b New York and Raaka Chocolate – to name a few. He started his career as a copywriter, penning copy for an online sports company where he found his work featured on the back covers of national publications and featured on ESPN Radio. He currently resides in Seattle where he likes to spend as much time outside as possible with his wife and three kids, one of which is a dog.

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