Are you thinking about testing out contextual ads or have already started running them and can’t figure out what you’re doing wrong?  To give you a heads up, all online campaigns fail; it’s inevitable.  How hard you fail depends on how you set up your campaigns, and how you choose to refine them over time. Here are 6 reasons why your contextual ads are underperforming, and how to avoid these common pitfalls.

Campaigns aren’t separated by network

The default setting on AdWords will clump your ads to target both the Search and Display networks, and is therefore hurting your campaign performance.  Avoid this common mistake by breaking out your campaigns by network.  This allows you to perfect the keywords and bids in these different campaigns & ad groups, which also happens to be the #2 reason why your contextual ads are failing.

Targeting the same keywords as Search

Longtail keywords perform better for search programs because they allow you to get more targeted at an exact match or phrase match level. On the flipside, with contextual ads, there is only one match type: broad match.  So, targeting the same longtail keywords for contextual ads wouldn’t make much sense. The more tokens you have within a keyword gives ad networks the freedom to determine what’s broadly relevant to the keyword, which will end up hurting your campaigns.

For example, if I’m targeting “pink silk scarves with polka dots” through contextual campaigns, that may be considered contextually relevant to Polka dancing.  Do you trust that broad match will avoid this? I certainly don’t.  Try using fewer tokens in your keywords for contextual campaigns, like “silk scarves” instead.

Not Managing Placements

You may have set up automatic placements, which is OK to start. But you’ll need to monitor these and optimize them based on trends.  If you’re seeing some poorly performing or completely irrelevant traffic sources, add those as negative placements.  If you see that a placement is performing better, move it to your managed placements so that you can set different parameters for it from the rest of your automatic placements.

Keyword (or any other) targeting, ad copy & landing page text inconsistencies

The ad copy and landing page should go hand-in-hand. Anyone who clicks on your ad has to see relevant landing page copy, or else you risk having these visitors leave right away.  To make sure you’ve got your ducks in a row, format your ad copy based on the landing page you’re using.  From there, make sure your targeting is in line with the ad.  Are you targeting certain countries that do not read the language of your creative? Are you targeting keywords that are inconsistent with the ad copy & landing page?  Double check on these for the best possible results.

Stale ads

If you’re targeting the same audience, interests, or keywords over a long period of time and you see a decline in click-through rate, your ads have most likely become stale to your audience.  Try rotating your ads to bring your campaigns back to life.  This can be as simple as promoting a different headline to the contextual ad.

Lack of dayparting

Similar to search, you do have the option to daypart for contextual campaigns so you should definitely exercise this feature. If you notice that ads on a certain day or during certain hours are hurting your campaigns, decrease bids or turn off the campaign altogether during those hours.

Do you have any stories about how you revitalized a failing contextual ad campaign?  Share them in the comments section!