How to identify what’s generating poor-quality leads in your PPC ad campaigns

Category: Data and analytics

Every pay-per-click (PPC) marketer will have experience with poor-quality leads.

Whether you have leads engaging about a service or product you don’t offer, or callers reaching the wrong part of your business, they can result in a lot of wasted time and budget.

But identifying these unwanted leads – and tweaking your PPC ad campaigns to avoid generating more – can be difficult when you don’t have a complete picture of your prospects’ journeys. And any wrong attempts could leave you in a cycle of attracting the wrong people to your business.

In this blog, we’ll unpack what contributes to the generation of poor-quality leads, how you can identify them, and what you can do to ensure the right leads engage with your business.

What’s generating your poor-quality leads?

While it’s an essential platform PPC marketers engage with every day, Google Ads doesn’t offer all the information needed to identify the quality of leads. And there are three key reasons why.

1. The Google Ads platform hides search term data

Since September 2020, the Google Ads platform has stopped showing the exact terms people use to find your website if they don’t receive a sufficient search volume – a limit put in place to meet security thresholds and ensure user anonymity.

Instead, these search terms are now placed into a category named “other search terms”. But in these cases, Google isn’t always consistent with what it considers a sufficient search volume. Also, the “other search terms” category doesn’t offer marketers any insight into which keywords are generating valuable leads or which are bringing in poor-quality ones.

For many companies, the “other search terms” category can make up a significant portion of their leads. This makes it increasingly difficult to understand which ad campaigns or search terms you should prioritise.

Google Ads search volume data.

2. Google aims to expand your audience – but sometimes, it can attract the wrong leads

When searches receive a high enough volume to display the specific terms, marketers face new challenges.

Google Ads can often take users’ search terms and match them to a close variant, aiming to expand your audience. Sometimes, this can be valuable and attract leads with keywords you may not have initially considered. But in other instances, it can have a damaging effect on the quality of your leads by attracting the wrong prospects.

An example of Google Ads matching to keyword variants

If a user is looking for a residential care home and searches for “residential care homes near me”, Google may display results for respite care homes to try reaching a wider audience. But in this specific instance, the results won’t meet the user’s needs.

Search terms report.

When the user calls the respite care home to enquire about residential care services, Google Ads will view it as a conversion.

From that point onwards, Google will continue to display ads for the respite care home to other users.

In this scenario, it wastes time for the user – who’s engaging with a company that doesn’t offer the services they need – and the respite care home’s sales team, who will continue to receive more calls for residential care and spend their PPC budget on the wrong ads.

When Google’s keyword matching brings in the wrong leads, marketers can log these “negative” keywords to prevent it from happening again.


But if those search terms are hidden in Google Ads’ “other search terms” category, there’s no way to even identify them in the first place.

In some cases, it could be as simple as the sales team mentioning to the marketing team that they’re receiving a lot of enquiries about a specific topic. But in organisations where the sales and marketing teams are disconnected, this information isn’t always passed on.

3. Google Analytics’ attribution models don’t offer a full picture of your user journeys

Finally, the attribution models in Google Analytics 4 (GA4) also mean PPC marketers don’t gain a full picture of their users’ activity.

GA4 only offers data-driven, paid and organic last click, and Google paid channels attribution – all only capturing online conversions. Crucially, phone calls and first clicks aren’t reflected in these attribution models.

Google analytics attribution model.


Without these elements, it can be incredibly difficult to accurately attribute revenue and sales to your PPC ads, as you can’t be confident that the calls didn’t come from a different source.

Faye Thomassen, Head of Marketing at Mediahawk explains: “While essential for PPC marketers, ad platforms present challenges in delivering lead quality. Together, these challenges can quickly send marketers into a cycle of wasting budget on ineffective ads that generate poor-quality leads. But there is a way around this.”

“While essential for PPC marketers, ad platforms present challenges in delivering lead quality. Together, these challenges can quickly send marketers into a cycle of wasting budget on ineffective ads that generate poor-quality leads. But there is a way around this.” Faye Thomassen, Head of Marketing, Mediahawk

Even without uncovering those hidden search terms, there are ways to understand your user journeys and identify which ads are working and which aren’t.

Understanding your user journeys can help you generate the right leads

Before you can tweak your PPC ad campaigns to attract the right types of leads, you need to spot what’s attracting the wrong leads and make the right changes to prevent them.

That requires understanding every step your leads take to reach your business. And this is possible with the right tools – you can accurately attribute your leads, conversions, and sales to their sources.

If you’re not already using these tools, here are some valuable starting points:

Call tracking

While Google Analytics will only offer you insights into your online conversions, call tracking can give you a much bigger picture.

Using trackable phone numbers for both online and offline campaigns, the right call tracking tool can help you understand where your callers came from and every source that contributed to their final conversion.

With these insights, you’re more likely to know which PPC ad convinced them to engage – helping you narrow down the keywords or ad variants that may or may not be working in your campaign.

Speech analytics

Manually keeping track of the reason behind every phone call can be a difficult task, especially if you’re a business that handles hundreds of phone calls every day. But by combining speech analytics with call tracking, you can easily automate this process.

With speech analytics, you can automatically identify positive and negative keywords mentioned by callers.

Pulling out these keywords from every call can give you valuable insights that help you ensure you’re investing in the right PPC ads – and taking investments away from those bringing in poor-quality leads.

How speech analytics can guide your PPC ad investments

Our Digital Marketing Manager, Hayley Thomas, tested Google Ads’ variant matching herself. Searching for car leasing, she was served two ads: one for BMW and another for Cazoo.

The BMW ad led to a landing page that offered the chance to build and buy your own BMW, while the Cazoo ad offered used cars for sale – but neither page offered leasing options.

From a user perspective, her experience was poor. But if either brand were to use speech analytics, they’d be able to easily highlight any calls with queries around car leasing, and identify the term as a potential for close variant matching.

Then they’d be able to add “car leasing” as a negative keyword to their ad groups, stop the matches from happening in the future, and prevent any more budget wasted on poor-quality leads.

Integration with website tracking tools

With a call tracking platform that integrates with tools like Hotjar, you can see what users are doing on your site. This can include how fast they read your content, the modules they’re clicking on, and even how long they spend on each page.

With these insights, you can gain a better picture of the types of users specific PPC ads attract to your site.

This is especially useful for organisations with multiple services and products, with separate sales teams for each. By understanding the content your leads are looking at, you’ll be able to gain the insights you need to tweak your PPC ads to ensure the right prospects are going to the right parts of your business.

“As we come to the end of many companies’ financial years, marketing teams will be in the full swing of their plans for next year,” says Faye. “And that comes with the all-important discussion of budgets. A recent report revealed that 55% of marketers will be increasing their paid search spend by as much as 60% in the coming year.”

Faye goes on to add: “When creating your marketing budgets, leveraging the right marketing analytics tools is crucial. It allows you to map out the entire customer journey, optimise your marketing channels, and measure ROI more accurately. With this deeper insight into the user journey, you’ll improve your targeting, reduce wasteful spending, and ultimately gain better quality leads.”


Of course, these tools are just a starting point. The more you can understand your user journeys, the more insights you have to guide your PPC investments and ensure you’re bringing in the right leads.

Mediahawk offers all these capabilities, as well as the ability to import your sales data to gain an accurate correlation between your ad spend and revenue. With the right insights from Mediahawk, you can fine-tune your ads to ensure they’re working for your business – not against it.

We’ve only covered a snippet of what call tracking can help you achieve in your PPC marketing campaigns.

Get the call tracking and search marketing guide to learn how you can drive search ROI and strengthen your organic and paid search strategies.

About the author - Natalia Selby

Marketing Executive at Mediahawk, with 20 years experience in analytics and content management.

Call tracking and search marketing - the combination you didn't know you needed. Mediahawk.
Guide your PPC marketing with call tracking

We’ve only covered a snippet of what call tracking can help you achieve in your PPC marketing campaigns.

Get the call tracking and search marketing guide to learn how you can drive search ROI and strengthen your organic and paid search strategies.

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