The Big, Ugly List Of Why Your Online Advertising Isn’t Working

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online advertising isnt working

If your online advertising isn’t working, don’t worry. There’s likely a fix.

Advertising can go wrong for many reasons. Bad audience set up, terrible targeting, fierce competition …

However, if you’re armed with the reasons things can go wrong, you’ll have a better chance of setting them right.

Just prepare yourself, okay? The list is long and ugly!


Failure To Launch

It’s hard to keep investing money into advertising that isn’t producing a return on investment (ROI), and even harder to figure out why certain ads don’t work.

We often find with new clients that their failure to launch comes from simple set-up mistakes. If your ads aren’t launching or they’re barely getting impressions, reach, or clicks, check here first.

  1. Audience: Start by asking WHO your audience is. Your ad should use language that appeals to your audience. Helpful Hint: Start with “hot” or “warm” audiences like using a customer list to reengage past customers or Lookalike Audiences to target customers who have similar interests as your current customers.
  2. Goals: Most online advertising platforms allow you to set up an ad with a goal in mind. Goals can be things like collecting emails, buying something, or garnering clicks. You must have a plan! If you know what you want to achieve, your goal should be obvious. Helpful Hint: Each ad needs to have one specific goal. Don’t try to cram brand awareness, email submission, and purchases into one ad!
  3. Poor Path: Sometimes the goal and audiences are 100% correct but when someone goes to click on your ad, they’re sent to a website’s homepage where there are too many options. A brand awareness ad may lead to your homepage, but a specific ask should lead to a specific landing page with a specific call-to-action (CTA). Helpful Hint: The key with advertising is to make things as simple as possible. The CTA on the ad should match the CTA on the landing page. And the landing page should not be crammed with ALL THE THINGS. Make it clean, concise, and to the point!

Ads = Art + Science

First of all, most people focus on the science. Or the set up (like we just did above). But much advertising success can be attributed to art.

To start, copywriting is an art. Imagery is as well. And both play a vital role in answering the question of why your online advertising isn’t working!

  1. Messy Messaging: Think about how many online ads you see in a single day. How many of them made you stop and click? Not many, I’m guessing! The reason why we start with “science” or set-up is that you must know who you’re talking with to get the messaging right. Most online advertising is bland, boring, or (too) boastful. Helpful Hint: Focus on benefit statements that solve the pain point(s) of your #1 customer.
  2. Cliché Copy: Woo your audience with well-crafted copy and calls-to-action that convey power, poise, and polish. This isn’t easy to do! As a result, you’ll need to have some conversations with happy customers to hear what language they use to describe your product/service and why it solved their problem(s). Helpful Hint: Split test your copy to understand what your audience responses to. For example, when you create an ad, create many versions of it, all with slightly different copy. Test out varying headlines, calls-to-action, or buttons. The data will start to show you which copy performs best!
  3. Unimaginative Imagery: For one thing, most people hate stock photos! The best images are unique, uncluttered, simple, and stunning. Helpful Hint: If you were to take away all the text on your ad image, does the ad relay your message with the image alone? Does your image evoke emotion? Does your image tell a story? It should!

Ads & Algorithms

And then, of course, there are the algorithms. Each advertising platform has its own set of rules and algorithms to live by.

Here are a few general things to watch out for when running ads on Facebook, for instance.

  1. Ad Fatigue: Have you ever seen an ad on Facebook over, and over, and OVER again until you end up hiding that person or page? That’s ad fatigue! Each campaign will have its own lifespan wherein the ad does well and then starts to get stale. Helpful Hint: Don’t let campaigns run for months and months; keep your advertising fresh (and users happy!) by making iterations regularly.
  2. Relevance: Facebook offers a relevance score with ads to show creators how relevant an ad was deemed to its audience. You’ll want to aim high with your scores; low scores often indicate not only low relevant but negative feedback given by users who’ve seen your ad. Helpful Hint: Audience plays an important role here as does art and science. Be sure you’re optimizing your ads at least weekly to understand your scoring and relevance.
  3. Engagement: There are two ways users can interact with your ads: passively and actively. Passive metrics are things like view time, story type, time posted, and other metrics that are deemed non-active. Active metrics are likes, shares, comments, and other engagement types, like shares or replies. The more active metrics an ad receives, the better your relevance score is and the more your ad will be shown. Helpful Hint: Besides achieving your advertising goal, your ad should prompt people to stop scrolling and engage with your content.

Other Reasons Your Online Advertising Isn’t Working

Finally, there are plenty of other things that pop up and mess with your marketing.

  1. Ad Blockers: Studies show a quarter of Americans use ad blockers, which means the consumers who use ad-blocking software won’t see your advertising efforts. The use of mobile ad blocking is on the rise as well.
  2. Facebook’s Clear History Tool: Facebook is unveiling a tool that will allow consumers to clear their Facebook history, which will essentially block the use of Facebook’s pixel tool as well as other targeting options available to advertisers. The tool is one effort to fix privacy concerns as it makes users’ data anonymous.
  3. Site Malfunctions: If you run a number of ads, you know how common it is for sites to go down. Both Facebook and LinkedIn are notorious for have ad glitches which delete entire advertising campaigns, get your ads shut down for “false positives” (i.e. saying that you’re violating terms when upon review you really aren’t), and other egregious errors.

Unfortunately, there are no helpful hints for the above reasons as to why your online advertising isn’t working. These are merely common problems that any advertiser will face.

The bottom line is that advertising isn’t as easy as all of those $29.99 Advertising courses make it out to be — and it’s only getting more difficult.

Trial and error is one way to navigate the ever-changing world of ads. Or, seek the help of an expert (helpful hint: like us!).

What are some of the issues you have? Why isn’t your online advertising working? Let us know in the comments section below!


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Brooke B. Sellas is the in-the-trenches Founder & CEO of @HelloBSquared, an award-winning social media, advertising, and social media customer care agency. She's also the author of Conversations That Connect -- a book all about social listening and social media customer care. Brooke's marketing mantra is “Think Conversation, Not Campaign” so be sure to give her a shout on the socials!
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Category: Advertising
Tags: advertising, advertising advice, advertising mistakes, Advertising Strategy, online advertising
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