November 23, 2017

Conversion Optimizer: Max CPA is better than Target CPA

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never cold call again

I’ve had a campaign that’s been driving me nuts lately, and I haven’t been able to figure out why – until now.

It was cruising right along for years, then 18 months ago I moved it to Conversion Optimizer, and it started cruising even better. Until a few months ago, that is.

It had been delivering about 200 signup conversions/day at around $3.50/conversion. In April that performance began to decline, until it was struggling to deliver 80/day and those were at $5.50 CPA – over those months I had to continually increase Target CPA just to keep traffic moving!

In going back through change history, I found the problem: I switched it from Max CPA to Target CPA (I also increased the AdWords daily budget at that time, but that’s a topic for another post.)

Why would this cause a drop in traffic?

I couldn’t figure it out myself, so the other night I was up until 2am searching for answers, and sure enough, there are other PPC management firms out there that have noticed an immediate drop of about 10% with Target CPA and downhill from there.

We’ll probably never know the actual Conversion Optimizer algorithms, but here’s my theory: When you tell the Conversion Optimizer you want to say, for example, $3/conversion via Target CPA, it tries really hard only to find $3 conversions.

That means if there are plentiful $2 and $4 conversions, which would average out to $2, it’s going to pass them up and focus on finding only $3 conversions. Over time this creates a downward spiral and traffic gets strangled off.

(Again, this is only my theory, but from my experiences, I think it’s correct.)

With Max CPA on the other hand, you can set it at, say, $5, and still end up with an average of around $3. It will not only go out and find $3 conversions, but lots of $1 and $2 conversions, along with lots of $4 and $5 conversions, and at the end of the day you come to a nice comfortable average of around $3 – exactly what you were aiming for in the first place.

Well I’m off to switch some other poor performers back to Max CPA and see if I can get them back to their good old selves!

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never cold call again