When You Don’t Want a Higher Conversion Rate in Google Ads

Conversion rate, cost per conversion and – if you have it – return on ad spend… 

These are all metrics that come pretty close to the bottom line of what it means for your PPC activity to be performing well… reliable indicators of the health of your campaigns.

But there are exceptions.

There are times when a higher conversion rate not only stops being a worthy KPI but, conversely, starts pointing towards wasted spend.

These cases are important to spot, and to act on.

This example is from a commercial cleaning company. 

Along with high-quality leads, the client was seeing quite a few enquiries from prospective cleaners.


Of course there’s a certain amount of user filtering we can do with keyword selection, negatives etc… but some traffic from the ‘wrong’ kinds of user will always slip through.

By paying attention to the data over time, we learnt that a much higher proportion of the irrelevant enquiries are coming from mobile than desktop… so the higher conversion rate we see on mobile is not an indication of health. 


To be really ruthless about it – we could apply the same logic to demographic targeting too. 

It is likely in this case that the irrelevant traffic comes disproportionately from within a certain band in the gender and age range brackets. When those bands show particularly high conversion rate then – if we believe they are contributing more than their share of the wrong conversions – we won’t honour that high conversion rate as a KPI…. 

We may want to tune down our spend on those segments, despite how they look based on the metrics alone. 

We can easily get into politically incorrect territory with this (and I remember hesitating slightly before asking this client whether their cleaner enquiries followed an identifiable demographic profile…) but it pays to be hard nosed about it. Discriminating is in the nature of optimisation, when we narrow down to the types of users we most expect to convert.

In practice, B2B campaigns often see lower-quality leads – with a higher proportion of employment seekers – among the 18-24 band, so this could be a good first place to look for ‘dud conversions’ in your campaigns.

Ideally what you count as a conversion really is the desired outcome… but with lead gen campaigns that’s not always the case. 

So be prepared to let go of conversions, conversion rates, and CPAs when you can pinpoint segments of traffic that tend towards driving those conversions that you don’t want.


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