High CTR, but Low Conversion Rates? Where’s the PPC Disconnect?

Author's avatar Marketing Sep 7, 2023 18 minutes read

Table of contents

    Peter Caputa

    Enjoy reading this blog post written by our experts or partners.

    If you want to see what Databox can do for you, click here.

    One of the most frustrating experiences you can have is to create an ad that looks amazing on the surface. It is getting all of these clicks. 

    When you dig into Google Analytics, you discover these ad clicks aren’t turning into new qualified leads or sales. 

    And this is something that 90% of the PPC specialists we surveyed have experienced at least once. 

    what is your experience with the situation? high ctr - low conversion rate

    According to our Google Ads Benchmarks Group for All Companies which features over 2000 anonymous contributors, the median value for Google Ads Conversion for August 2023 was 55.

    How does your company stack up?

    If you want to compare your advertising performance against the median value, as well as the top and bottom quartiles join this benchmark group for free! You will get to discover how your metrics stack up in areas such as Clicks, Impressions, Avg CPC, CTR, Conversion Rate, Conversion Value, Cost/Conversion, Cost, Conversions, All Conversions, and View-Through Conversion.


    In this post, we’re taking a closer look at the most common reasons for this PPC disconnect and how you can fix it. 

    1. Poor landing page design
    2. Conflicting copy on your ad and landing page
    3. Flawed keyword research
    4. Bidding on high-volume, general keywords
    5. Failing to consider search intent
    6. Targeting the wrong segment
    7. Misleading ad creative
    8. Ad content isn’t aligned with your product
    9. Making empty promises in your ad
    10. Slow landing page speed
    11. No clear CTAs

    1. Poor Landing Page Design

    As said, the most common reason an ad isn’t converting is the landing page. 

    “The most common reason why a campaign might have high CTRs, but low conversion rates is definitely a poorly designed landing page or a huge disconnect between what is shown in the ad and what is presented on the landing page,” says Madhav Goenka of Frazile. “To improve conversion rates in this case, one needs to create a much more thoughtful landing page that is customer-oriented and connected with what the ad depicts. Simple but clear landing pages can get you much higher conversion rates than pages that are fancy but difficult to follow.”

    Ryan Scollon adds, “More often than not, it’s due to a poor landing page. It usually means that your ad is saying all of the right things but your landing page is not following suit. The first thing to check is that your landing page is user-friendly. Does it load quickly? Is it responsive (does it work well on mobile and tablet)? Do you have enough call to actions?

    Also, think about the conversion that you are asking people to complete. Are you making it easy enough for them to fill out that form or download that guide? Is the conversion action something useful or something they would be interested in? If you need more help, I would suggest taking a look at your competitors’ landing pages and see how they differ from yours.”

    Related: 23 Ways to Improve Your Landing Page Conversion Rates

    Ricci Masero (ACIM) of White Rabbit Consultancy agrees, “By far the most common reason for high CTR and low conversions on any campaign is down to the UX of the landing page or website. Website speed is crucial here, if users have to wait around for pages to load, they are unlikely to convert (this will often be reflected by a high bounce rate). Trust signals can really help too, e.g. customer reviews, affiliation badges, certifications and awards. User journey tracking tools like Hotjar can help you to analyse the user experience of your landing page (and checkout process), to see if there are any obvious barriers to conversion in the UX. Another way to ensure your landing page is well optimised for conversion is to use a service like Roast My Landing Page to see if there are any other areas for improvement. Real world testing and user feedback is key to understanding your website UX and landing page conversion rates.”

    PRO TIP: Wondering what type of content helps convert visitors to customers and where exactly the conversions you want to see happen most often? Then check our data snack and discover how to:

    1. See which pages drive the most conversions by tracking the right set of metrics
    2. Learn how to set conversion goals and track their completion rate
    3. Apply tips that can boost conversions on your pages

    2. Conflicting Copy on Your Ad and Landing Page

    While poor landing page UX can be a major factor in low conversion rates, another key factor is weak landing page copy, especially if the copy on the ad doesn’t match what’s on the landing page. 

    “There are two major reasons for high CTR but still no conversions on any ad campaign,” says Eddie Friedel of Design Service Pro. “You are ranking for a wrong query(different intent) 2. Your landing page content is totally opposite to your ad copy. 

    To improve the conversion rate, you have to consider all the factors that could do wonders for your campaign. Make sure your website is loading fast and is mobile-friendly, and do not mislead your audience by showing them false hopes, and wrong taglines in your campaigns. If a customer is clicking on your campaign, he/she should be directed to exactly what he was looking for.”

    Jeff Ferguson of Amplitude Digital adds, “To be brutally honest, it’s because our team wrote an amazing ad, but the landing page just didn’t fulfill the visitors’ expectations. It’s a sad state of not having complete control of every aspect of an ad campaign; however, we rarely let this issue stand for too long. Once we notice the issue, we work with our clients to improve the page however we can – new copy, improved graphics, shopping cart optimization, and, most often, improving page load speed. There are many steps to purchase, so don’t go blaming the agency when things aren’t working – sometimes you need to take a hard look in the mirror.”

    PRO TIP: Not sure how effective your landing pages are? Here is how to properly track how effective your landing page and the CTAs are at converting visitors to contacts. 


    3. Flawed Keyword Research

    Your ad strategy is doomed from the start if you are targeting the wrong keywords. The best ad catering to the wrong people will fail every time. 

    “I’ve encountered a devastating error within Google Ads that can lead to extremely high CTRs but truly awful conversion rates (or worse, irrelevant and unqualified clicks and conversions),” explains Tony Mastri of Park Place Technologies, “The combination involves a broad match or phrase match keyword that is matching for irrelevant search terms, and a Keyword Insertion token in the Ad headline. 

    The result: your ads appear for keywords that have nothing to do with your business, and they dynamically adjust your ad copy to contain equally-irrelevant verbiage. The user then clicks through to your site and tries to fill out a form, even though your business doesn’t provide the product/service for which you’re advertising. 

    For example, your “women’s leather boots” ad might match for someone looking for “women’s leather boot repair.” Your ad is dynamically generated to say “Women’s Leather Boot Repair | Get Great Deals Today” and the user clicks through to your website and fills out a form without paying attention to your landing page. You’ve now paid for a click and conversion that is completely unqualified. Regularly monitoring search terms and adding negative keywords can help avoid this debacle. You could also avoid Keyword Insertion tokens at all costs.”

    Another flawed keyword research approach is to bid on competitors’ branded keywords. 

    “Ranking for a competitor’s branded keywords may be the most common mistakes in regards to high CTR-low conversion campaigns,” says Alina Clark of CocoDoc. “While using your competition as a benchmark often works, it can also work against your business by reducing the number of conversions from the keywords used. People undertaking branded searches may visit your site, but they won’t convert because they know exactly what they are looking for. This may give you a false sense of security in regards to the traffic, but no real conversions.”

    4. Bidding on High-Volume, General Keywords

    While you may be tempted to find and bid on the highest volume keywords, this strategy can backfire. 

    “A common mistake is to bid on too general keywords,” says Craig Hewitt of Castos. “Marketers often decide to pick high-volume keywords to bid on, which tend to be general keywords. This means that many people will click on the ad but when they arrive at the landing page, they are offered a solution that addresses a very specific need, typically one that is not relevant to them. So they don’t convert. It is far better to target long-tail keywords that accurately describe what you’re offering on your landing page. Although you will have lower CTRs, your conversion rates will be much higher.”

    CJ Xia of Boster Biological Technology adds, “Before launching a paid campaign, keyword research is the most important step you should take. To drive conversions, you need to appear for the relevant queries. Pay attention to the websites that typically appear for the keyword, rather than only the search volume. Another reason could be the landing page you are taken to for the ad isn’t for the specific niche the potential customers searched for. You may have failed at matching your landing pages to the customer’s expectations.”

    5. Failing to Consider Search Intent

    Another keyword research faux pas is not taking into consideration search/buying intent

    “One of the two biggest reasons is that user intent is not being met, so when they arrive on your site they can’t find what they are looking for, and the second is that the user experience itself is losing you customers,” says Ashley Howe of Tapfiliate. “It could be something as simple as not being able to check out as a guest, for example, or bad site navigation. The best thing to do when you start your campaign is to ensure that whatever it is you are promoting is also advertised on the homepage and the ad includes a link to the right place to find what you are advertising.

    The second is to make sure that whatever your campaign you have enough stock, and the third is to look at the customer experience critically. Is it easy to find things? How many steps to get through to purchase? And how can the experience be improved?”

    6. Targeting the Wrong Audience

    You also want to make sure that you are targeting the right people

    “A low conversion rate and high CTR indicate that your ad is targeting the wrong consumers for your product, or your website needs some work,” says Minesh J. Patel of The Patel Firm. “If you feel your landing page and subsequent content is high-quality, mobile-friendly, and in line with industry standards, a mistargeted ad is likely to be the culprit. Be sure to update your negative keywords list on Google, so that you aren’t ranking for related competitor products you don’t actually carry. You want to count out the consumers not interested in your product with well-targeted keywords.”

    7. Misleading Ad Creative

    Sometimes, your PPC specialists can get too creative to the point where the ad images and videos are eye-catching but also accidentally misleading. 

    “I’ve been hired by clients that have been attempting to manage their online marketing but have been unsuccessful,” says Dan Cantero of Dan Cantero Headshots. “On a number of cases, the campaign has resulted in an incredibly high CTR only to have a low conversion rate. In some cases, the conversion rate was zero. After looking into the metrics for the campaigns, in a high number of cases, we found the culprit to be the creative.

    The graphic associated with the campaign was very effective but targeted the wrong demographics. In fact, the creative was so effective, that prospects were not even reading the copy of the ad and simply clicking on the CTA. In speaking with some of the prospects, we confirmed that there was a mismatch in what the prospect thought they were being offered, versus the actual offer.

    A new creative was used with the same copy and the CTR improved dramatically. So much so, that no other changes to the campaign were made.”

    8. Ad Content Isn’t Aligned with Your Product

    We’ve talked about ads and landing pages needing to be in sync. It is even more important that your ad and product/service are intertwined. 

    “A high CTR paired with a low conversion rate signifies that something is getting lost in translation with your content,” says James Diel of Textel.”Your ad is performing well, successfully attracting users to your website – but the journey is ending before they decide to buy. One possibility is that your content or product doesn’t align with your ad, so you’re grabbing the wrong target market. You have a few options here, but the easiest is to rework your ad, so it’s more in line with what you offer consumers, rather than luring in loads of clicks that lead nowhere. Adjust your keywords, and be sure to update your negative keywords list to more accurately target your audience.”

    Related: 14 Reasons Sales And Marketing Alignment Is Crucial for Skyrocketing Company Growth

    9. Making Empty Promises in Your Ad

    Other times, it is deliberate to the point of making bold offers or empty promises. 

    “The most common reason for low conversion rates despite a high CTR is that the offer doesn’t match the promotion of the product/service,” says Chris Wilks of BrandExtract. “If your ads and campaigns are making promises that the offering can’t deliver on, then this can happen. In my experience, the best thing to do is to modify each so that the campaign and the offering are tightly aligned. If that is already the case, then you might want to try adding a more enticing offer, like a free trial or a discount to encourage users to convert and give your product/service a shot.”

    Leanna Serras of FragranceX says, “Marketers try to attract attention with engaging ads, and may try to entice visitors with unique promises or special offers. This can generate a high CTR but if the visitors are then taken to a page that does not fulfill the promise of the ad, they will click away from the site and not convert.

    So it’s very important for your landing page to match the promise of your ad. One way to do this is to use the same keywords in both your landing page and your ad. This should give you both high CTRs and high conversion rates.”

    For example, Luke Genoyer of United World Telecom adds, “This could be due to a misleading offer. In the past, the person in charge of PPC/Google Ads was using Price extensions but was listing the same pricing for all of our products, despite them having completely different pricing.

    Prospects would come to our website expecting one price but would leave without converting because the prices they saw on the website were different from prices in the ad they clicked. We fixed this by removing the price extension from our Google Ads.”

    10. Slow Landing Page Speed

    You also want to make sure your landing page loads quickly or else people will bounce right away. 

    “The main reasons would generally be site speed and site experience,” says Paul Purczel of Adelaide SEO.“Many websites fail to have a distinct call to action or flow that will guide a user through to the conversion point. One thing that is concerning these days that is becoming more common is click fraud, which can increase click-through rate, but result in no conversions.”

    Connie Chen of Moving Traffic Media adds, ”Whenever we see an issue with a high CTR but low conversion rates, there are a few suspects I like to investigate. One of the more obvious reasons may be a poor landing page that has content that doesn’t connect with your audience.

    However, one culprit many people overlook is a technical issue that affects user experience, such as site speed, input delays, and even font size. This could look like a user coming to your mobile site and wanting to click a button, only to realize their finger is too big due to font and spacing issues, or the site reacts or loads too slowly for their device.

    All of these can be easily addressed by conducting a site speed audit for both desktop and mobile sites, and then working with a web developer to solve these issues. Analytics data can also hint at these issues through metrics such as bounce rates and page load times.”

    11. No Clear CTAs

    This is almost too obvious to include, but you also want to make sure that you are telling people what you want them to do when they click on your ad or visit your landing page.  

    “When CTR is high but the conversion rate is low that indicates a problem with the landing page, which is most commonly due to a lack of effective calls-to-action (CTA) on the page, and more specifically “above-the-fold,” says Michelle Symonds of Ditto Digital.“Assuming that the web page content accurately reflects the Ad copy or organic search listing and the page is fast and error-free then the high CTR tells us visitors are interested in whatever product or service is on offer.

    However, the low conversion rate suggests that visitors are not being guided to take the right step towards a goal: a purchase, a sign-up, a request for more information, whatever that goal might be. The solution is to create a clear CTA like a “Buy Now” or “Read More” button. The CTA can be a clickable image overlaid with a small amount of text or a simple button.

    Avoid CTAs that don’t stand out clearly from the page such as hyperlinks within other text or small buttons with similar colors to other parts of the page. CTAs positioned on the left of a page typically show higher numbers of clicks but you can experiment with different wording, colors, imagery, and location to determine which works best for a business. Simple A/B/n testing can reveal accurate data about the behavior of visitors to your site to help better optimize your calls-to-action.”

    To summarize, “the most common reasons why a campaign might have high CTRs,” in words of Ashok Sharma of GETTRX are:

    • “There is a disconnect between the landing page and the copy of the ad.
    • The keywords used were too general.
    • Ads are not ranking for the right keywords. 
    which of the following do you find the most common reason why a campaign results in high CTR, but low conversion rates?

    High conversion rates indicate that we are only half wrong, and that there is a chance to correct some issues so that we can drive conversions. 

    In order to identify and address the causes of low conversion rates, (broadly speaking) we can take the following steps:

    • Make sure the landing page matches the ad.
    • Identify the right keywords.
    • Do not rank for competitors’ branded terms.
    • Address technical issues and make your website mobile-friendly.”

    Optimize Your PPC Campaigns with Databox

    The quickest way to diagnose and fix these PPC campaign issues is to set up regular ad tracking. This way you are in the habit of reviewing your metrics weekly. A dashboard is the simplest way to get a bird’s eye view on your campaigns. 

    Looking to review your metrics and optimize your PPC campaigns? Get started with Databox for free.

    Author's avatar
    Article by
    Jessica Malnik

    Jessica Malnik is a content strategist and copywriter for SaaS and productized service businesses. Her writing has appeared on The Next Web, Social Media Examiner, SEMRush, CMX, Help Scout, Convince & Convert, and many other sites.

    More from this author

    Get practical strategies that drive consistent growth

    Read some