Why paid traffic is not converting well

On average, 1 out of 100 visitors  to your website will buy something. Actually, one and a half. But since a half-person cannot make purchasing decision, that half is as good as zero. (source: WordStream)

I do not know about you, but that number has always bothered me! It’s just to damn low!

What bothered me even more is marketing professionals that refer their clients to “industry standard conversion rate” as normality. It should NOT be normal!!!

Just stop shrugging at 1-2% conversion rates!

Industry standard, my ass! Where does this standard come from?

I’ll tell you, from millions of inexperience eCommerce store owners without any marketing experience? Or “marketing agencies” with blanket advertising practices. Showing clients’ ads to everyone.

In my consulting, I’ve seen conversion rates at well above 2%. Actually, some products would sell to every fifth person who visited website. But I would call that a “fluke” – good product, at good price, with amazing marketing. That’s not typical.

Of course, there are visitors that will not “buy” anything from you even if you pay them to buy. (we tried that!)

But the bottom line, if you’re settling for 1%, you’re settling down. Way down.

Let’s just stop the philosophy and answer the question: why paid visitors do not convert. From advertisement, not the free traffic you get.

Before, we go diving into advertising, let’s assume the following:

  • Your product is well priced within its category. It’s not outside of competition price range (cheap-expensive).
  • Your website does not have any technical bottlenecks (like slow loading, broken cart, and bugs/errors on the site)
  • Your site is reasonably easy to navigate (and well designed).

Here is the most obvious but overlooked answer:

Your paid advertisement converts poorly because, your target audience is either too broad, wrong, and/or irrelevant.


This is it. Spending more money on advertisement won’t help you. Finding a different advertising channel would not help you if ground work isn’t done.

What will help?

  1. Adjusting your advertising rules
    1. Targeted keywords for search ads (Google AdWords)
    2. Targeted audience for placement ads (Facebook)
  2. Fixing your ad copy (and visual)
    1. Showing relevant message based on answers to questions below
    2. Changing imagery to support the message (if needed)

The Problem: Reaching the wrong audience

Open your marketing campaigns. Hopefully you have access to them and it’s not under jurisdiction of some ad agency. Look at your ad and tell me if they adhere to guidance below.

For your target audience (Facebook) ensure ads match the criteria you’ll outline in a little bit.

For search ads (AdWords) make sure your keywords match the same criteria.

Ask the right questions

We need to carefully examine “Who”, “Why”, “How”, “When”.

Who My Audience Is

Audience is best filtered by following criteria,

  • Age
  • Need
  • Identity
  • Desire/End Goal

The key to “Who” isn’t just broad description of your general market (i.e. “men and women ages over 25 working professional jobs”). Dive down deeper. For each product-line (or category of products) you need to have audience that gets as specific as reasonably possible:

By Age

Segment your audience by several ages. Yes, many subsets of age groups 3-5 years in range, i.e. 18-20, 21-23, 23-27. The older they get the longer the range can be. I’ll explain why it’s important in another post. But keep in mind, values and ambitions of 18 year old person are very different form 25 year old one.

By Need

Major needs or problem that your products could solve. Those need to be personal ones that address not only specific need but need of that age group. (i.e. 18-20 want to dress stylish and cool without breaking the bank, 35-40 will want professional clothes they can wear to work, etc.)


Sense of identity, who the person is. Are they mothers? Teachers? Lawyers? Parents? Do they play soccer on weekends? Do they love traveling? Try finding identities related to your product. For each identity you might have different qualifying elements. For example, price, quality, durability, brand, support, maintenance, social status, etc. Don’t forget, that each age group might have different identities.

End goal and desire

And you should do that for each age group and/or Identity. For example, a parent would want something that saves him or her time to spend more on family. While professional business person might care more about status and appearance. A single men would be more interested in product that elevates his attractiveness, while married one would consider something more practical and less outgoing.

Why My Audience Buys My Product

The answers to “Why” question is different for each “Who” (usually is).  Ask yourself: “Why are they looking for product?”

  • To solve a problem
  • To gain social status
  • To remedy health issue
  • To fulfill passion or desire
  • To become better

Example, “College students ages 18-20 would buy my clothes, BECAUSE, they are looking for budget stylish clothes that are comfortable, easy to maintain and look cool”.

Another example, “Professional men ages 25-30 who work in offices search for quality dress shoes, BECAUSE, they want comfortable shoes, that aren’t too expensive, yet stylish that would give them professional look in front of their bosses/clients/etc.”

How Does My Audience Prefer My Product

The “how” is very utilitarian question.

How do they prefer the product?

Fast delivery? Preorder? Custom made? Extra large? With custom attributes? Online with a credit card? Monthly subscription? Usually answer to this question will give you “Get your _______ (i.e. delivered tonight/customized/handmade)”

When My Audience Looks For My Product

When is exactly what it sounds like.

When do your customers shop for product?

It’s not always times of day. It can be event or date related. Evening? Before holidays? Towards end of the week? On the weekend? After common paydays (fridays, 1st, 15th, 30th of the month). After tax return? For own birthday? For significant other’s birthday? Etc.

Here you have it. A complete customer snapshots. You should have multiple snapshots per product-set. Ideally, per product (if possible).

Embrace Generalizations

Purpose of marketing is to reach the right customers who are willing to buy your product. If you capture 60-70% of your stereotypical clients, the remaining 30% that do not fit into criteria will be just fine. Just like common misconception that every Harley rider has a tattoo. Some don’t. But most do.

Start With Age and Dive Deeper

It’s easier to focus on age grouping because it’s linear factor. As we age our goals, wants, needs, desires and personal views change. Your ads should be different for different age group and identities.We need to adjust our marketing for age-appropriate message. Next, within that group we should target with identity appropriate with need and end goals mixed into the message.

For example, college students have budget as top priority, while professional over 25, might care more about style, social value, brand and quality of the product.

Actionable Steps

  1. Create narrow segmented profile for each of product set (or category)
  2. Answer “Who”, go as deep as you need to to have a full stereotypical persona
  3. Answer “Why” in a way that you can explain reasons to buy in your ad-copy.
  4. Answer “How” in a way that makes it clear what customer gets with the product on all the options he or she can configure.
  5. Finally, answer “When” to have your targeted ads more precise and delivered just at the right time. Often, answers to “Where” opens up whole lot of new opportunities, like “holiday special” or “Top 10 Gifts for your husband” list. You can (and should) create special grouping of products to address a specific need. For example “Best beauty products for upcoming summer holiday


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