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Four AdWords Mistakes That Drag Your CTR Down

by Larry Kim  |  
June 23, 2014

In this article, I'm going to discuss four common mistakes marketers make that drag their AdWords clickthrough rate (CTR) down, and I'll show you how you can write ads that get 2-3 times the average CTR.

We've analyzed millions of dollars in ad spend by advertisers of all sizes across all industries, and we've found that they are making these four mistakes.

That's good news for you: Once you learn to identify and remedy these missteps, you will have a definite edge on your competitors.

The following chart illustrates the relationship between your ad's average position and expected average CTR:

Each blue dot in the figure represents an advertiser account. The orange curve is the average advertiser account CTR (note that this is not for individual ads but for entire AdWords accounts) by ad position. The green curve shows accounts performing at twice the average CTR, and the purple curve shows those that have three times the average CTR.

As for those blue dots way up at the top... those are the top performers: accounts with average CTRs that are far outperforming their competitors and exceeding the average by up to six times.

First, let's discuss why you should strive for much better CTRs.

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Larry Kim is the founder/CTO of WordStream Inc., provider of the AdWords Grader and 20 Minute PPC Work Week.

Google+: Larry Kim

Twitter: @larrykim

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  • by Shawn P Mon Jun 23, 2014 via web

    A high CTR is great for Google but if you're the one paying the Adwords bill it is not the metric that should be considered the most important. Yes I can get a higher CTR but if the clicks are low quality or don't lead to sale I'm just wasting money. Instead of focusing on a high CTR (which is what Google does for obvious reasons), the focus should be on a high conversion rate as compared to CTR.

  • by joe labarre Mon Jun 23, 2014 via web

    Larry, to start I'd like to say that I think you put out some great articles on PPc on a regular basis, Im a big fan. I do have a question on this one though.

    In the divorce attorney ads the two you highlight don't have any of the keywords within the ad that you'd expect the advertiser to be bidding on. Would the expected higher CTR outweigh the lack of ad relevance in the ad?

  • by Jon Lamb Mon Jun 23, 2014 via web

    Larry. Big fan. To echo Shawn P. comments we focus on conversion vs CTR. Would like to see impact of zip specific vs. traditional radius. We have conversions nearing 10% with average placement of 2 or below.

  • by Maria Thompson Mon Jun 23, 2014 via web

    Great article. Thanks!

  • by Larry Kim Mon Jun 23, 2014 via web

    Dear Shawn P,
    Just say no to low CTRs. even though you may end up paying for fewer clicks, those clicks will cost 400% more due to a Quality Score google imposes for low click through rate keywords. You're much better off being "picky", choosing specific, relevant keyword and targeting options, then trying to get as high a click through rate as possible (thus, getting huge quality score discounts on CPC due to high CTR). yes conversion rates also matter, but click cost plays a huge part in determining Cost Per Conversion. More info here:

  • by Larry Kim Mon Jun 23, 2014 via web

    joe labarre -- As i mentioned in the article, ads containing search terms are "safe" - they tend to produce above average CTR's. But truly great ads with 3x or more the average CTR rely primarily on super compelling ad copy rather than keyword relevance.

  • by Larry Kim Mon Jun 23, 2014 via web

    Jon Lamb - CPC is a huge factor in cost per conversion. Lower CPC on relevant keywords (via higher CTR) generally results in lower CPA's. more info here:

  • by Simon Dell Tue Jun 24, 2014 via web

    "truly great ads with 3x or more the average CTR rely primarily on super compelling ad copy rather than keyword relevance."

    Amen. We experiment with all sorts of different ad copy to ensure better CTR, sometimes split-testing by just changing single words to see what works best. Great article.

    Simon Dell

  • by joe labarre Tue Jun 24, 2014 via web

    Good answer, thanks!

  • by Shawn P Tue Jun 24, 2014 via web

    Larry, Thanks for responding to my comment and giving me the SlideShare link ( The SlideShare is excellent and has opened my eyes to quality score.

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