The most common reasons for a drop in Google Ads performance are seasonality, competition, and restrictive campaign adjustments. Our experts share first-hand experience with how to combat these issues and avoid them in the future.

When any marketer logs into their Google Ads account and is faced with the perplexing issue of a drop in Google Ads performance, panic can set in.

Don’t worry, it happens even to the most experienced of us.

In this guide, we’ll discuss the reasons behind these performance slumps and share strategies not only to recover but also to enhance your Google Ads campaigns.

Six reasons why you might see a drop in Google Ads performance

There are many reasons why your Google Ads performance might drop. Some of these are outside factors, but many are items you control and adjust yourself.

  1. Your Ad Rank & Quality Score dropped
  2. Level of competition
  3. Ad fatigue
  4. Seasonal trends
  5. Keyword optimization
  6. Changes to your landing page

1. Your Ad Rank & Quality Score dropped

Ad Rank determines where your ad appears in search results, which impacts its click-through rate (CTR). At the same time, the Quality Score evaluates the quality and relevance of your ads. This impacts both your ad position and cost per acquisition (CPA). 

To counter a drop in Google Ad performance, look for any changes in your Ad Rank and Quality Score. Then, assess why those changes happened.

Once you’ve identified the issue, strategize a solution. 

chart trending downward

(Image: Adobe)

For example, the problem could be a new algorithm update changed the criteria for the Quality Score. A solution is to examine the new algorithm criteria and adjust your ads to better align with it.

Then, stay informed about algorithm changes in the future so that you can be prepared to make necessary adjustments when needed.

Additionally, a sudden drop in the performance of selected keywords or changes in user search behavior can influence Ad Rank. In this case, you would update the now underperforming keyword. Then, stay vigilant for future shifts in search patterns that may affect your chosen keywords.

2. Level of competition

The PPC battleground is never the same from week to week.  

You will experience:

  • Changes in market dynamics
  • New players entering the ring
  • Shifting consumer behaviors 

All of these things influence the competitiveness of your ads. As the competition level increases, your ads’ campaign performance can drop. 

The more ads fighting for attention on a specific search term, industry, or product, the less likely your ads are to stand out and deliver conversions.  

Monitor industry updates and adjust your strategies to stay ahead of your competitors. Dive into competitor ads and keywords and tweak your bidding strategies to gain a competitive edge. 

When you’re completing routine optimizations in your account, pay attention to search impression share and the auction insights report. Tracking these will allow you to track your competitors and how often you’re missing out on valuable impressions.

Avoid overly competitive keywords that can take up much of your ad budget but deliver little ROAS. 

3. Ad fatigue

Ad fatigue creeps in when your audience becomes unresponsive due to repetitive exposure. 

Your audience will get bored if you’re not regularly updating your ads. This will result in a drop in your Google Ads performance. 

To combat ad fatigue, you need a diverse range of ad creatives and regular updates. 

You can introduce fresh offers, change up your visuals, and explore ad formats to keep your audience engaged and intrigued. 

The goal is to maintain relevance over time, prevent user burnout, and ensure continued interest in your brand and products.

4. Seasonal trends

Consumer behavior goes through natural shifts with the changing seasons. These shifts impact search queries and ad performance. 

For example, the National Retail Foundation reported that U.S. retail sales hit a record $936.3 billion during the 2022 holiday season (November to December). So, if you have a retail store, you probably saw a big jump in clicks and conversion rates during that period. 

But, if you’re still running your Christmas ads in January, you will see a drop in performance because the Christmas season has ended.

White clean calendar on solid yellow background with copy space,

(Image: Adobe)

Or if you are advertising your ski pants all year, instead of only during the build-up to and during the ski season, you will naturally see drops in performance outside of those times. 

You may be dealing with an unfamiliar industry. In this case, you’ll need help from the experts – your clients. “When evaluating changes in performance, make sure a discussion around seasonality is had with the client first,” says HawkSEM’s VP of Growth and Strategy, Steven Dang. “Sometimes the changes aren’t so much campaign management related as they are seasonality related.”

What do you do when you find seasonality? Acknowledge and adapt to the seasonal variations in your industry. Adjust your campaigns to align with seasonal trends, and you will ensure that your ads remain relevant and speak to the changing needs of your target audience.

5. Keyword optimization

Keyword optimization is the cornerstone of a successful Google Ads campaign. But as marketers, we can often get attached to our chosen keywords. 

Simply because a keyword performs well one week does not mean it will the next. Trends and news can impact consumer behavior. For example, you might have an ecommerce store that sells beauty products. A specific brand of hair wand might perform really well one week because it gets a celebrity endorsement. 

But next week, a bunch of negative TikTok reviews of the product might go viral. In this case, during the second week, ad performance for keywords with that brand or product name will probably drop. 

With Google’s changes to exact match keywords, you’ll find they can often act more like broad match keywords. These days, keyword optimization means paying attention to your search terms report and adding negative keywords to combat irrelevant terms in addition to watching keyword quality scores.

6. Changes to your landing page

Assess any recent changes to landing pages. If the changes result in a disconnect between the ad content and landing page experience, it may lead to a decrease in ad performance.

Not only may your audience now have a less cohesive experience moving from ad to landing page, but their interactions will tell Google that your Quality Score and Ad Relevance need to be brought down. 

Not only can changes to landing pages influence the overall Quality Score of a campaign, but this can subsequently impact the cost per click (CPC). 

You may then see a drop in performance that looks like a higher CPC, meaning you are getting less for your ad budget. 

What to do when you see a drop in Google Ads performance

A decline in Google Ads performance can be disconcerting. However, a systematic approach to not only understanding the root causes but also implementing effective solutions can help you quickly resolve the issue. 

Here’s a step-by-step guide of what to do when you see a drop in Google Ads performance.

A structured approach to troubleshooting a drop in Google Ads performance involves:

  1. Identify the start of the decline
  2. Examine change history & (possibly) revert
  3. Analyze the competitive landscape
  4. Check your tracking code
  5. Account for seasonality
  6. Look for seasonality

1. Identify the start of the decline

To begin, delve into your historical data to pinpoint the exact start date of the decline. 

Understanding when the decline began is essential if you want to find the potential events that triggered it.

2. Examine change history & (possibly) revert

Next, look at the change history within your Google Ads account to identify any recent adjustments or modifications. 

Changes made in the account might be the reason for the drop. Revert to a prior state if any alterations are unwanted or correspond with the decline.

We spoke Dang about where an advertiser should begin looking if they see a drop in performance. He suggested the time (week) or time (day) reports were a great place to start.

“Looking at weekly or daily account performance fluctuations over a relevant time period (say past 30 days) allows us to pinpoint exactly when the problem started to arise, and then for us to pinpoint further what the culprit or reasons might have been (looking at campaigns, ad groups, keywords, or ads of concern),” he says. 

He also mentions that checking the change history is a natural next step in the search for answers. “Provided the problem is traceable to a certain period or point in time, we can also go to the change history to review our past actions to see if there is a cause/effect explanation for the change in performance,” Dang explained.

3. Analyze the competitive landscape

Consider the competitive landscape you operate in and check the metrics of your competitors. You can see your competitor’s data through tools like Spyfu and the Auction Insights report. This helps discern if shifts in competitor strategies coincide with your drop. 

Understanding how competitors are faring can shed light on external factors influencing your campaign performance, such as changes in the market. 

4. Check your tracking code

Another critical step is to verify the tracking code on your website. Inspect your tracking codes to ensure accurate data collection. This is a fundamental step for knowing your data is correct and making informed decisions. 

Faulty tracking codes can distort performance metrics, making this step vital in troubleshooting.

5. Account for seasonality

Assess whether seasonality could be influencing the drop, especially if your industry experiences fluctuations at certain times (more on this later). 

Recognizing seasonal patterns helps give context to ad performance variations and allows you to make adjustments in expectations accordingly. Some industries you might see seasonality in are pest control, travel, health insurance, and, of course, many ecommerce products.

6. Look to other marketing channels

Lastly, it’s essential to explore the performance of your ads in relation to other marketing channels. Investigate how your ads are faring across different channels such as social and organic to gain a holistic understanding of your overall marketing efforts.

If there is a drop in other channels, it might mark a more serious issue, such as damage to your company’s reputation. 

From here, you can inspect the reasons that might be causing your drop and then make the proper adjustments to your strategy to bring up the decline.

Dang reminds us, “Changes in performance can be related to:

  • New or recent changes (at all levels – campaign settings, budget changes, bidding strategy changes, new ads, new or deleted keywords, just to name a few)
  • Competition-related (new entrants, aggressive bidding behavior, new promotional activity, competitors bidding on our brand terms)
  • Macroeconomic-related (broader changes in consumer behavior and business cycles)
  • Seasonality related (recurring and predictable ebbs and flows for the business throughout the year – for example, a tax software client might see a dramatic dropoff in business after Q2).”

So, you should investigate each level carefully when trying to determine the cause of a performance drop.

How to prevent future drops in your ad performance

Recovering from a dip in Google Ads performance is crucial. However, the fundamental goal of a PPC manager or marketer is to prevent them from happening in the first place. 

Here are some steps you can take to do just that. 

1. Conduct regular ad audits & monitoring

Ongoing account audits are essential for any successful PPC campaign. Go into your account and regularly review account settings, ad groups, and performance metrics to catch any issues before they escalate.

Waiting for issues to surface is a risky strategy. Encourage a proactive mindset in your marketing team. You want to foster an environment where your marketers are on the lookout for anything unusual and can adjust and optimize based on emerging trends and user behavior rather than waiting for instructions.

2. Learn & adapt to the trends

PPC can change from week to week. Not only are their algorithms altered, but there are changes in markets and consumer behavior. Stay up-to-date on industry trends, algorithm changes, pop culture trends, changes in the market, and emerging technologies to adapt your strategy accordingly.

Make staying informed a habit. Subscribe to industry newsletters, attend webinars, and network with other marketers to gain insights and anticipate shifts in the digital marketing landscape.

3. Use analytics to make data-driven decisions

Data should be a key resource that you use to drive your campaigns. When you approach your ad strategy with a data-first approach, decisions become rooted in actionable insights derived from thorough analytics. This can help you more accurately predict what will perform well and when or why you might see a drop in ad performance.

The right analytics tools can unveil hidden patterns and opportunities. For example, HawkSEM’s ConversionIQ can help you gain insights from your wealth of data provided by tools like Google Analytics, Google Ads Insights, and other analytics platforms.

4. Build out your funnel

We’re often driven towards conversion-focused campaigns because they align with our end goals. Search ads may allow us to capture buying intent and achieve our goals, but that’s a short-sighted strategy that will be sensitive to economic and industry changes. 

Instead, it’s best to focus on a full-funnel strategy with a variety of campaign types including Performance Max campaigns to garner impressions from all of Google’s networks and Display ads to retarget past purchasers and website visitors to build a resilient advertising strategy.

The takeaway

To construct a holistic approach to troubleshoot and reverse a drop in your campaign’s performance, you need to:

  • Identify the start date of a decline
  • Look at your change history
  • analyze competitive metrics
  • Verify tracking code integrity
  • Consider seasonal influences and examine changes made to landing pages 

Constant vigilance, adaptability, and a proactive and data-driven mindset in your marketing teams can help you avoid drops in the future by making changes when or before issues start rather than waiting for them to become a problem.

Shire Lyon

Shire Lyon

Shire is a passionate writer and marketer with over eight years of experience as a writer and digital marketer. She's well-versed in SEO, PPC, and social media, helping businesses both big and small grow and scale. On her downtime, she enjoys hiking, cooking, gardening, reading, and sailing.