How PPC Traffic Temperatures Are Hurting Your Conversions

Johnathan Dane
Johnathan Dane

Imagine this...

You’re at Gordon Ramsay’s high-end restaurant in Las Vegas, a little boozy from your pre-dinner cocktails, and you just ordered a delicious steak from the menu.

Twenty minutes pass. The server brings it out, and the smell of garlic and butter fills the room.

Your taste buds are going insane. The inside of your mouth fills with saliva in anticipation of meat-based nirvana.

The waiter places the gorgeous steak right in front of you. You’re smart and already have the knife and fork in your hands.

You start cutting the steak, you see the juices flowing, and you slowly bring the first bite to your mouth.

You chomp down with a smile on your face... but to your surprise and disgust, the steak is ice cold.

Your smile quickly turns into a frown. Then you hear Gordon Ramsay screaming at the cook who prepared your steak and seven others like it:

ppc help
No one wants Old McDonald to milk anything. Anything - image source

So what happened?

The cook didn't get the steak to the right temperature before serving it to you.

And you’re doing the same with your PPC traffic and the visitors you’re trying to convert.

If you don’t, then you’ll never have PPC campaigns that improve.

Because of this, the temperature of your call-to-action (the steak) has to match the intent temperature of the visitor (the person dining).

The only problem is, your visitors aren’t sticking around to tell you that the steak is undercooked. They just bounce instead.

This is why so many advertisers fail when they try to use the same calls-to-action on the Google Ads Display network or in managed Facebook ads as they do on the Google Ads Search network.

Visitor Intent on the Temperature Scale

Okay, so now that you know why steaks are cold and why Gordon Ramsay is unhappy, let’s look at the different stages some of your visitors go through before they actually end up paying you any money.

In the most simple terms, you should categorize your PPC traffic into three different temperature categories:

ppc channels
“Ice Cubes Down Pants”, “Someone Peed In The Pool”, and “Straight Up Volcano Lava”

Ice Cubes Down Pants Traffic

This is traffic that’s never heard of you. Most likely coming through display, search, video, and social advertising that has never been on your site or landing page before.

Someone Peed In The Pool Traffic

This is traffic that’s a little more lukewarm and knows who you are, but not super well. Most likely coming through your retargeting campaigns or are already following you via social media or are on your email lists.

Straight Up Volcano Lava Traffic

This is traffic that has already bought from you before or already way down the conversion funnel to become a user or client. They’re hyper-engaged and also find you by searching on your brand name.

As you start categorizing your PPC traffic on this temperature scale, you start seeing how ludicrous it is to expect an “Ice Cubes Down Pants” visitor to immediately pull out their credit card to buy from you.

They need a bit more romancing. Eventually, they'll move to the “Someone Peed In The Pool” category, and then the “Straight Up Volcano Lava” category.

Let’s break down each type of traffic source…

Ice Cubes Down Pants Traffic

First off, have you ever had someone put ice cubes down your pants?

The reason I ask is that there’s a very strong chance you’re doing it to your visitors. Right now.

Like I mentioned earlier, before you can expect people to convert on your macro conversion (the ultimate goal of your PPC campaigns), you must get them to take micro conversion steps first. And this is also impacted by the type of PPC traffic you’re driving.

It’s why Uber has decided to lower the threat of their mobile ads from their straight aggressive call-to-action of “Making Money with Uber”...

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In this example ad.

To something of a lower threat like, “See If Your Car Qualifies”...

paid online advertising
In this Instagram ad.

For one of our clients, we were having no problem turning Someone Peed In The Pool PPC search traffic to account creations through a landing page with a hero shot like this:

landing page help
We thought this was great.

But once we tried to migrate this landing page for Google Ads Display traffic, it sucked.

Why, you might ask?

Most likely because the offer/call-to-action didn’t match the lowered temperature of the newly launched Display traffic. Google Ads search traffic has a stronger intent to convert than Google Ads display traffic when comparing the same call-to-action.

Matching Traffic Temperature and Conversion Intent

We needed to match the “Ice Cubes Down Pants” PPC traffic temperature and conversion intent of Display traffic.

So we lowered the threat of the call-to-action and changed it from a “Free Account Creation” to a “Newsletter Subscription” landing page that looked like this:

ppc landing page
But this was much better.

After someone converted on the page above, we gave them the option to create an account on the confirmation landing page.

Lo and behold, the bulk of those email subscription converters decided to keep going and create an actual account too (which was our original conversion goal for search traffic).

So what happened here?

Because we noticed that Display traffic had a colder PPC traffic temperature than Search, we lowered the threat of the call-to-action to something that would get the visitors foot in the conversion door.

Then, because of the psychology behind multi step landing pages, it was easier for us to upsell the account creation conversion afterwards.

Which is what Dr. Robert Cialdini mentions in his book Influence - The Psychology of Persuasion.

paid advertising
No explaining needed.

Best Practices For Cold PPC Traffic

The goal of your “Ice Cube Down Pants” traffic is to get engagement (such as time on site, for example) from them.

And if you’re lucky, get them to opt into a low-threat offer.

Here are some of the call-to-action ideas to use for ice cold traffic:

  • Content marketing (like blog posts, videos, podcasts, etc)
  • White papers, guides, and other downloadable PDFs
  • Quizzes, surveys (to spur engagement)
  • Sometimes all you want is to capture the “time” of the cold traffic visitor to then retarget later with an offer higher up the temperature scale.
  • etc.

Someone Peed In The Pool Traffic

You know that feeling when you’re swimming around in the pool and you find a hot spot?

You kinda like it at first, but you’re not really sure if you should stick around.

That’s the same feeling your visitors get when they’re the “Someone Peed In The Pool” type of traffic.

Your call-to-action on your landing page either has them leave the pool (your landing page) right away to take a shower, or they’re like me and don’t care (I know, kinda gross, but I’m just being honest) and stick around to convert.

There are other definitions out there for warm traffic, but I’m going to speak in terms of PPC traffic.

The “Someone Peed In The Pool” type of visitors are the ones who are searching for what you have to offer. They’re NOT Display traffic visitors who click on your image ad.


These are people who are on Google and have the intent to do business with you. They’re just not sure whether they want to do business with you or your competitor.

They could also be people who have come back from a remarketing ad and now go to your site or landing page for the second time.

Lastly, this type of visitor could also be searching for your competitors. So as they border on the ice-cold/lukewarm seesaw, you can use your ads to convert them to consider your offer instead.

You’ll also find that if the search volumes are there, you can take advantage of competitor search terms like:

  • company x alternatives
  • companies like company x
  • company x competitors
  • etc.

Best Practices For Lukewarm PPC Traffic

In a nutshell, lukewarm traffic is either familiar with you or knows what you do. Usually this type of traffic is more expensive to acquire compared to ice-cold traffic.

The goal of your “Someone Peed In The Pool” traffic is to generate leads through some type of conversion funnel that you’ve created or to get them to buy a lower-ticket item.

Here are some of the call-to-action ideas to use for lukewarm traffic:

  • Same opt-in offers as the ice cold traffic, but with the goal of increasing the “ask” of the offer.
  • Consultations
  • Longer webinars
  • Software trials
  • Low dollar items
  • etc.

What happens after you get “Someone Peed In The Pool” traffic to convert? The path to your end goal (the macro conversion) should be much shorter than the distance your “Ice Cubes Down Pants” traffic has to go.

Straight Up Volcano Lava Traffic

You know those raving fans you have that are already sold before they actually buy? Those are your “Straight Up Volcano Lava” traffic people.

They’re like the Andy Samberg in Hot Rod that agrees to everything you have to say or put out.

They love you.

They’ve either already bought from you before or they’ve consumed so much of your content that they’re what we call “eternity lurkers”. These folks take a full f’in year to come around and become a customer.

In the PPC world, your hot traffic is searching for your brand name via search engines or is listed in multiple retargeting audiences because they’ve been to your website or landing pages.

Best Practices for Hot Traffic

If you’ve identified your “Straight Up Volcano Lava” traffic, then your biggest opportunity isn’t necessarily to get them to convert at a higher rate, but to increase the value of their conversion.

What I mean by that is, that if you’re in the lead generation space, you can increase your prices to have higher margins.

If you’re in the eCommerce space, then your hot traffic usually has higher average order values too.

If you’re in the SaaS space with fixed pricing, then look forward to longer retention rates.

The cool thing is that all your ice cold and lukewarm traffic can eventually move towards the “hot” traffic stage and stay there.

If you do a good enough job pushing people along your conversion funnel, then you won’t have to be satisfied with ice-cold traffic staying ice cold.

The goal of your “Straight Up Volcano Lava” traffic is to siphon them as quickly as possible to the opportunity to pay you money.

Don’t try to oversell leads that already have their credit card ready.

Here are some call-to-action ideas to use for hot traffic:

  • Direct client/customer opportunities
  • Bigger event you’re putting together
  • Higher paid ticket items like webinars or consulting
  • etc.

In Closing...

This reason we have different PPC temperatures is the reason why some people are obsessed with funnel marketing.

It also helps you understand why improving your funnel could be better time spent than A/B testing.

But most importantly, and when it comes to PPC traffic temperatures, take a good look at the calls-to-action/offers you’re currently using to attract conversions.

Is your lukewarm call-to-action being used for ice-cold traffic? Make sure you test “lowering the threat” of your calls-to-action to see how it improves performance.

And always keep in mind:

“Don’t treat all your PPC visitors the same.
PPC works best when you have multiple strategies to attract and convert.”

What has been your most interesting PPC temperature and call-to-action combination?

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