Cost per leads (or cost per sale, cost per acquisition) is what you as an account manager are optimizing towards. You and your client have a set goal of what you think you can hit to remain profitable. You may also find yourself in a position where you are not hitting your CPL threshold and it is higher than you and your client approve. So how do you diagnose what the problem is? I have found a few step by step ways of looking at your account and diagnosing the problem of a high CPL.

Review keyword bids:

  1. Review what you are paying for a click. What I like to do is filter out any keywords that are converting for the last 30 – 60 days; from there, I drill down to which keywords are racking up costs but aren’t converting.
    1. There is a caveat to this: if your client has large nonbrand keyword coverage, it is important to ask yourself if your account can handle the costs of a nonbrand, broad keyword term. The keyword may be driving up costs as individually, but it may be driving lower funnel traffic and being used as a more awareness keyword. This is a next-level search strategy that gets you to question what is your overall account CPL threshold.
    2. Dig even deeper and separate out the types of campaigns you are running, aligning them within the marketing funnel. Figure out with your client or your account team what types of CPLs your account can handle while still working toward a blended CPL across all campaigns.
  2. Review your branded bids. It is important to understand what you are paying for your branded search traffic vs your nonbranded search traffic.
    1. If your branded terms are seeing a spike, this is likely due to competitors bidding on your brand and driving up your own costs.
    2. In general, you want to have lower costs on your branded terms than on your nonbranded terms. If you are not seeing this, you need to run a search term report to find irrelevant keyword terms that may be similar or misspellings to your brand term.

Review the quality of your leads:

  1. This will require in-depth communication with your client, but ask your contact if they are seeing high-quality conversions come through.
    1. If it’s a lead gen account, ask if the leads you are generating in search are converting to opportunities.
      1. For further strategic conversations, if you are running on multiple platforms, try to get your client to compare the conversion rates after a lead comes through against each other. Do the leads that come through Facebook have a lower conversion to opportunity? Do the leads from LinkedIn have a higher conversion to opportunity? These are next-level questions to ask because you may be willing to pay differently amongst platforms based on the next step in the lead life cycle for your client.
    2. If it’s an e-comm client, ask if they are seeing their average order value increase/decrease. (You will likely be able to see this information in Google Analytics if the accounts are set up and linked properly. Be sure to consistently check on the AOV if you are seeing high CPAs or low ROAS).

Consider CRO:

  1. Check to see if you are sending more traffic to your landing page YoY or MoM. If you are seeing greater volume (higher CTR) as time goes on, but your CVR is dropping, this is likely a landing page issue. Depending on your relationship with your client, advise them on how they can make the user’s journey simpler and quicker to increase CVR.
    1. There is likely something on the page that is stopping users from converting. Is the form too long? Is the site hard to navigate? Does the user have to click multiple times before completing the desired action? Does the page load slowly? All of these issues are likely contributing to your high CPL.
    2. Offer to run a landing page test. If there’s a shorter way to get your user to convert, try testing two different landing pages against each other to see if one converts better than another (i.e. send your user directly to the form vs a generic info page).

Refresh ad copy:

  1. How long has it been since you reviewed and refreshed your ad copy? I like to set up marketing calendars with my clients so that we can keep a pulse on how long ad copy has been running. If you are seeing a low CVR and a high CPL, your ad copy may be in need of some tweaking.


There are multiple ways of diagnosing a high CPL, however, these are a few quick and relatively easy ways to figure out why your costs are rising.


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