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7 Reasons Why Your Digital Ads Aren’t Converting

April 6th, 2023 | 5 min. read

By Julia Elliott

It can be stomach-churning to check in on your digital marketing campaigns after a month or two and see small numbers. A few dozen clicks. And far fewer conversions.

If you're frustrated, you're not alone. After all, you're investing good dollars. It can feel maddening to see your ads reach thousands of people — and get only a few leads out of it.


It's a common question at Zoe Marketing & Communications, where we run hundreds of annual digital campaigns. In the past 15+ years, we've seen what works, what doesn't and what helps.

In this blog, we'll expose seven key reasons why your digital marketing isn't converting:

  1. You have unrealistic expectations

  2. You're not using retargeting ads

  3. There's an 'intent' mismatch

  4. Your budget or bids are too low

  5. Your tactics are too limited

  6. Your landing page is "bad"

  7. It needs more time

By the end of this piece, you'll have a clearer understanding of the roadblocks. And you'll learn actionable ways to avoid or overcome them.

1. You have unrealistic expectations

It helps to know what sorts of results are typical. Here's the "reality" for three key factors:

  • 0.1%: This is the typical click-through rate, or CTR, for a digital ad with 100,000 impressions

  • 4%: The standard "lead-gen landing page" conversion rate, according to KlipFolio (i.e., these people filled in a form on the page your ad clicked to)

  • 2.4%: The average lead conversion rate, per WordStream (so, the percent of leads, above, who "converted" to use your products/services)

These numbers are inherently "small." But, as your ads cross people's paths more often and you capture their email addresses, your response rates increase.

Through this process, you're reaching more qualified leads. And that's always a smaller number than the total "impressions," or people who saw your ad but didn't click.

2. You're not using retargeting ads

What about people who visit your landing page but don't do anything? The second they visit, your page can capture data on them — and you can use it for retargeting ads to them.

Retargeting campaigns serve paid digital ads to those who "looked and left." So you "target" them again — multiple times a day, even — with ads that appear when they're browsing elsewhere online (Google, specific websites, social media sites, apps, etc.).

Without retargeting, you're leaving valuable prospects on the table. They're interested, so keep them from falling through the cracks. A few more reminders may be all it takes.

3. There's an 'intent' mismatch

Some digital ads aim for branding and awareness. Others focus on conversions and clear "calls to action," or CTAs, such as "join now" or "learn more."

Both are important. But branding is a "slower burn." You might see fewer leads and conversions than you will with classic click-based digital ads.

Also, people don't behave linearly. They might see your page, leave, then come back (or even call) later. It's OK, as long as they behave somehow — and you see and measure that.

To get a gauge, look at various metrics for your digital ad campaigns, such as:

  • Are you getting more calls?

  • Are you getting more foot traffic?

  • Are you seeing more homepage visits?

  • Are you seeing more organic traffic?

  • Are you seeing more people Googling you?

Whether you're focused on branding or converting, look beyond clicks to get a truer sense of your exposure.

4. Your budget or bids are too low

With search engine marketing, things can get competitive. Remember, Google Ads automatically bids on your behalf to display your ads. And certain keywords and industries are in hot demand, driving up costs. Regardless, two issues can arise:

  • Your budget is too low. Even if your bids are high enough, your budget will run out faster, and your ads will no longer show up where they need to.

  • Your bids are are too low. This means your ads won't display.

Your Google Ads account will detail the problem (a "limited by budget" note, etc.). In either scenario, you'll likely need to invest more and/or adjust your campaign's length of time.

5. Your tactics are too limited

Only using Google Ads, for example, might not be enough to move your conversion needle. Good digital marketing is holistic, and there's power in pairing up different tactics.

Here are two samples of what that could look like:

Example #1: Digital display ads + keyword ads + retargeting

As people use search engines, "display ads" (aka, tile ads that are visually designed) appear on other websites they look at — usually via Google Ads.

But you can also use text-based ads based on keywords folks look up. And again, it helps to mix in some retargeting for your landing page.

Example #2: Sponsored content + social media + digital ads

Sponsored content articles are powerful branding tools, but you must also invest in promoting those stories. Ads on Facebook and Google Ads can give that traction.

The blend of tactics that delivers the best results depends on your unique business or service — and it may need tweaking over time.

Discover more about the best approaches for different types of prospects.

6. Your landing page is 'bad'

Too often, landing pages — where your ads direct people — feel like an afterthought. And this is a big misstep. You've put a lot of effort into getting people to notice to your ads. Where are you sending them?

These are a few top snafus to avoid:

  • Misalignment/confusion: Ensure your page's message, colors and design match your ads. If you're promoting a school open house, take prospects to a page about that, and not your school's new STEM grant, for instance. Stay on topic.

  • An abrupt ask: Don't hit people with a form to fill right away. Warm them up a bit. 

  • Commitment mismatch: What is your call to action, or CTA? People may leave if it's too specific or "big," such as "Sign your kid up today" for a school. Instead, invite them to "Sign up for our virtual open house" or for more information.

  • Lackluster effort: Put as much effort into your landing page as your ad, if not more. The words and images you select build trust and boost the odds people will sign up.

Think of your landing page from their perspective — and your perspective. What would make you more likely to give your email? From there, you can correspond with interested people and assess if they're a good fit for you. Get more tips on creating good landing pages here.

7. It needs more time

Give at least 2-3 months to start seeing what's "working" — and what's not. Digital ads need time and sustained effort. Quick "one-offs" won't deliver as many conversions. 

Consider what you're promoting, too. Is it an event you want people to attend this weekend, or is it a new school for their child? The latter takes a lot more deliberation.

It's normal to feel impatient. You're investing money and want to know it's paying off.

But the reality is that marketing takes time. And we know this because we are consumers, too. And we don't always move that quickly.

Think of marketing as a learning process. Any marketing agency you work with should have a mindset that they'll get better results over time, as they learn about your customers. You'll also gain valuable insights into which people are interested in you and which aren't.

Next steps for driving results with digital ads

Digital ads do get clicks, leads and conversions. But it's essential to know the stumbling blocks.

As we covered in this blog, that involves having realistic expectations, doing retargeting, having a good mix of tactics and more.

At Zoe Marketing & Communications, we craft custom campaigns for hundreds of clients that build results. If you're ready, talk to us to learn what we can do for you.

In the meantime, learn more about conversion marketing and how to make the most of it:

Julia Elliott

For 17 years, Julia Elliott crafted strategies and stories for Zoe, along with its sister companies, Metro Parent and Chicago Parent. A deep background in journalism helped her create customized content marketing to drive client success.