Not many advertising agencies that manage paid search like to write about this. But there are times when paid search doesn’t work.

The trick is knowing why paid search is failing your business. In some cases it’s because of tremendous competition and low barriers to entry. Other times it’s because your PPC management agency isn’t very good. We won’t try to cover the reasons for a failure due to poor management. But rather go into some scenarios where PPC just doesn’t work.

  • The first scenario where we see a lot of failures are when you have low barriers to entry, and hundreds of competitors where location doesn’t matter. Take credit card processing. It’s not that hard to set up a firm doing credit card processing. There are hundreds of companies doing this nationwide. Your PPC account has to be perfect and your website perfect and your business reputation and your salespeople and you’re on boarding of new clients and your rates have to be the lowest…otherwise it’s going to be very hard to compete. And as of February 2016 there are no more than four ads at the top of a desktop search and none on the right-hand side. there are only so many keywords that drive substantial traffic in this industry: credit card processing, open a merchant account, debit card processing, process credit cards, plus a handful of others.

  • Low-margin or low price products are difficult. if you’re trying to sell something for $20 or less then paid search might not be the way to go. Let’s say in your industry clicks are only one dollar. And let’s say you have a good conversion rate of 5%. It will take 20 clicks at $1 each to sell that $20 Trinket. Not exactly a path to riches. Paid search is likely going to be a failure in your case.

  • Industries where you have substantial competition from nationwide lead aggregators. Plumbers and locksmiths would be one example where you will find nationwide companies that bid on PPC and then sell the leads. so not only do you have to compete against local competitors but you could also be competing against large corporations who are adding several zeros to the end of your marketing budget and analyzing every factor of their paid search accounts and websites. It’s hard to compete against that.

  • Affiliates. There are lots of rules that make it hard to advertise as an affiliate on the top paid search platforms. Thankfully the dozens of calls we used to get from affiliates have stopped along with the dozens of calls we were getting from tech support companies in India who were banned and were scrambling to find someone to get them online again.

  • Paid search only works (for search and search partners) when people can search for a keyword to find your product or service. For new products that people haven’t heard about if there aren’t keywords to define your product then you have to look for other ways to market your product or service. Or try the display network.

Paid search still works for lots of businesses. We’ve always seen tremendous success for law firms especially in personal injury, family law and pharmaceutical liability. Our specialty e-commerce clients are doing well – especially sectors with high barriers to entry where you need a large inventory and you don’t have too many competitors.

We are always happy to give your honest opinion of whether we can help you or not. We don’t want to waste your time and it makes our reputation look bad if we take on a client that doesn’t have a high probability of being successful.