Why Online Ads Fail

I explain the 9 common ways that online advertising fails.

As the owner of a digital marketing agency I spend most of my days reading, writing, thinking and talking about online advertising.   A good portion of this time is spent in research, either for clients or in prospecting for new clients.  This means I see a lot of ads.

Based on my experiences and the ads I see every day, I am confident in saying that about 95% of all online ads suck in some way.










What do I mean by “suck”? I mean the ads either completely or significantly fail to achieve their goal.

Or in other words.  The advertiser is paying for ads that are not getting results.

You may think good design is the main component of a successful ad, but design is only one of the nine ways in which an online ad can fail.

Top nine reasons that online ads fail.

  1. Bad design (ad is ugly, confusing or just doesn’t connect with the audience)
  2. Bad targeting (ad is not being seen by the right people)
  3. Scheduling error (displays after sale is over, or after holiday has passed, etc.)
  4. Obvious mistakes  (spelling, typos, grammar)
  5. Landing page not relevant to ad
  6. Links to product or service that is out of stock or not available
  7. Poor quality or missing product images on landing page
  8. Incomplete or poorly formatted product or service description
  9. Bad sales pitch. (even people that click on ads still need to be sold on the product or service)

The irony of online advertising is that performance reports are available within hours of the ad launch. Mistakes are quicker to find and fix than in any other media, yet few companies take advantage of this.

Here is a good example of poor targeting:

While performing an advertising audit for a client I discovered they were paying $9.00 per click for a service they didn’t provide.   How did this happen? Their previous agency had bid on all keywords suggested by Google, but without ever examining if those keywords were applicable to this specific business.

This resulted in paying $9.00 each for visitors that had almost no chance of becoming customers.

Here’s another example of poor targeting that I grabbed today.










Great ad by Maclin Ford.  It is sensitive both to the search terms I entered as well as my geographic location. I’d consider calling them.

Crappy positioning by Ford Canada though.

Am I really in the market for a new truck when I’m trying to find where to fix the one I have?

You could argue that it is possible a customer with an older truck in need of repair is a potential customer for a new truck.  However, it’s a low possibility and carries two large negatives that I’ll explain below.

The real cost of bad ads.

Having sucky ads is a double whammy.

  1. You’re burning your ad budget without making sales.
  2. Potential clients that have been poorly targeted may develop a bad impression of your business.

From my example above.  Ford risks giving customers the impression that selling new trucks is far more important than servicing existing customers.  Not a good risk with a customer who may already be bitter.    Better to bid only on more relevant keywords.

Here’s one last reason it’s worth investing more time in your ad management.  If you remember nothing else then remember this.

Higher performing ads cost less per click than low performance ads.

It may seem crazy, but the competitor whose ads are always before yours?  They may be paying less than you are!

So which of the nine mistakes are you making?

Not sure?  Consider our Advertising Audit service.

We’ll examine your current campaigns, check performance and make recommendations for improvement.

Free for qualifying advertisers.

Contact me to learn more.