How to reverse-engineer your online advertising strategy

In PPC, we often talk about eye-catching ad copy — but columnist Jacob Baadsgaard suggests that, rather than focusing on different ways to catch your customer’s eye, advertisers should start by looking at what customers are already responding to.


Online advertising experts love to talk about the importance of matching your landing page content to your ads. And you’ll get no argument from me — it’s a great way to improve the performance of your online advertising.

I mean, it just makes sense. People click on your ad because the messaging resonates with them. If you have the same messaging on your landing page, that should resonate with these users and cause them to convert, right?

As great as this approach is, the success or failure of a “match your landing page to your ads” approach to advertising rides on one critically important assumption: that you’re using the right ad messaging.

Unfortunately, if your landing page strategy is based on your advertising strategy, there’s no easy way to test this assumption. You are fundamentally limited by your ability to predict what messaging will work for your target audience. If you’re way off-base, there’s no real way to know.

But what if we flip things around? What if, instead of matching landing pages to ad content, you matched your ad content to your best-performing pages?

Reversing your advertising process

Most of the time, advertisers work in one direction. We come up with an advertising concept or message, create an ad that matches, and then fill in the missing pieces between that ad and a completed sale: landing pages, forms, lead magnets, promotions, sales collateral and so forth.

Then, when we want to improve things, we go back to our pieces and try to figure out how we could improve them. Poor click-through rate? Let me try tweaking the ad copy. Not enough people signing up for your email list? Let’s change up our lead magnet. Not enough sales? Let’s offer a promotion.

All of these tweaks, however, assume that you actually know what your customers want and you just need to refine your presentation. That’s not always the case. Your audience isn’t you, so they don’t always want what you think they want.

Many big companies recognize this and use surveys or focus groups to try to get inside the heads of their target audience. However, for most of us, that sort of in-depth research can be a bit hard to pull off. So we end up taking our best guess and making tweaks instead.

This works well enough most of the time, but what do you do when your best advertising ideas still aren’t delivering adequate results? In this situation, it may be helpful to try reversing your advertising process. Instead of coming up with different ways to catch your customer’s eye, start by looking at what your customers are responding to on your website and landing pages.


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