10 Easily Avoidable AdWords Mistakes

Posted by Amy Peveto on January 05, 2011

In the highly competitive world of pay per click (PPC) advertising, it’s becoming more important than ever for businesses to ensure that their PPC campaigns are highly optimized. The goal is to maximize your return on investment (ROI) by using keywords which are most relevant to your business, and are more likely to result in traffic, conversions, and sales.

In order to ensure the best ROI for your business, it is critical to avoid mistakes which result in an inefficient use of budget and poorly performing PPC campaigns. Here are 10 common mistakes and how to avoid them.

1. Setting a daily budget

Google AdWords allows you to set a daily budget for each campaign in an account. Once a budget is set, AdWords does its best to not accrue more clicks per day than the budget allows. For many who are new to PPC this is a tempting feature, because it gives total control over the budget; unfortunately it gives that control to the program, rather than to you.

When your daily budget is close to being expended, AdWords starts to throttle the number of times your ads show. This slows the budget spend, but your business comes up fewer times in search results. This means fewer chances for a user to see your ad, visit your site, and convert.

We’ve found that by not setting a daily budget--or by setting an extremely high one--we can be sure that AdWords is showing our clients’ ads as often as the keywords are being searched on. The trade-off is that we have to keep a closer eye on our campaigns to make sure that we are not exceeding the budget.

2. Using only one ad group

In any AdWords account there can be up to 25 campaigns, and within each campaign there can be 2,000 ad groups. Although most accounts are run optimally with far fewer campaigns and ad groups, the ability to be as granular as possible should not be overlooked.

AdWords attempts to target keywords within an ad group to the ads you create -- if a keyword does not match up well with any of the ads, it will not be used. A bookstore owner who dumps all his keywords into a single ad group will have difficulty targeting those keywords to specific ads within that group. Keyword Quality Scores will suffer, which leads to having to bid more to have ads shown.

Instead of lumping everything together, the bookstore owner might begin by separating all his keywords and ads related to children’s books into one ad group, and then create another ad group which would contain keywords and ads related to biographies, another to journals, and so forth.

By placing targeted related keywords into a common AdWords ad group, and creating ads which correspond to those keywords, you will maintain tighter control over the group’s performance. All of your ads will be relevant to all of your keywords, increasing the campaign’s effectiveness.

3. Poorly researched keywords

PPC campaigns begin with keywords, and keyword should always start with research. What keywords or phrases are important to your business? Are people searching for those phrases? Use the same keywords your customers do; if you sell a line of energy bars, don’t spend time trying to rank well for the keyword energy bars if your customers call them meal replacement bars.

Shorter, more generic keywords require higher bids, and visitors who search with them are often in the research and browsing phase of the buying cycle. Getting people to your site is important -- but it’s also important that those visitors be qualified leads who are interested in converting. Around here we’re big fans of long tail keywords: they cost less than bidding on more popular, less specific keywords, and they ensure that our campaigns weed out the tire-kickers.

I use free programs like Google Keyword Tool and Google Insights for Search to see what keywords are most popular in my area and around the globe; for a closer look at the keywords visitors to our sites are using, I create a keyword report in my analytics program.

4. Too many keywords

As I’ve discovered, it is possible for keyword research to go too far. My research may have yielded a list of hundreds or thousands of keywords, but it’s important for me to remember that I will have to manage all of them. It is easier to optimize a list of 20 - 30 keywords than it is to optimize a list of hundreds.

If your current campaigns have lots of extraneous words, getting rid of them will clear space and time for you to optimize the keywords which are performing well. I recently did a “keyword dump” in an account, and now feel as if I have a better handle on managing it.

5. Ignoring negative keywords

When it comes to optimizing a PPC campaign, you need to avoid clicks which result in bounces. One quick, easy way to lessen these fruitless clicks without having to spend hours with your keywords lists is to add negative keywords to your campaigns. Negative keywords are words or phrases for which you tell AdWords not to trigger your ads.

A large company which specializes in home building and selling will want to rank well for keywords like home builder and new homes. However, because they do not rent homes or build apartments or condominiums, their negative keywords may be phrases such as apartments, new condominiums, and homes for rent.

By adding these as negative keywords, the home builder will minimize clicks from people who are searching for services the company doesn’t provide. This means a lower bounce rate, more profitable visits, and a more optimized PPC campaign.

6. Not scoping out the competition

Very few businesses have zero competition. Take some time to see what your top two or three competitors are doing with PPC. See what keywords are triggering their ads, what position those ads are in search results, and what the ads themselves say. Avoid the mistakes they’re making and improve on what they’re doing right.

7. Not including keywords in ad text

When the keyword or phrase a user searches with triggers an ad that contains that exact phrase, the phrase will be in bold in the search results. Google wants users to find what they’re looking for and knows when an ad is relevant -- bold text attracts the eye, making it more likely for the ad to be noticed and clicked on.

While many ad writers place keywords in ads’ titles, they often forget to include in the ads’ text. An ad in which a given phrase is included two times will have more relevance according to Google, and will have twice the amount of bold text, making it more prominent.

8. Sending visitors to your homepage

After I’ve spent time doing keyword research and creating multiple specific ad groups, I don’t undo all my work by making a website’s homepage the destination URL for all of my new ads.

It’s my goal to make it as easy and quick as possible for a website’s visitors to find what they want. In the same way that I spend time correlating ads to keywords, I also make sure that the ads I’m creating take visitors to a relevant page: an ad for a 50% off sale should take the visitor to a landing page which talks about that sale, or the products which are eligible for it.

Keyword Quality Scores are based on the relevancy of the content to which ads are directed; sending an ad to an irrelevant page will result in lower scores, and you will have to bid more on your keywords to retain your ads’ placement in search results.

If you do not have a relevant page to which to direct a user, consider whether or not the ad is relevant to your campaigns. If it is, create a separate landing page with relevant content and direct the ad there.

9. Not tracking conversions

Much of your effort is wasted if you’re not tracking your campaign’s effectiveness: the only way to determine the success of your PPC campaigns is by tracking the actions you want your customers to take on your website (filling out a contact form, downloading a white paper, making a purchase, etc.).

Setting up conversion tracking in AdWords is easy, and once it’s enabled you will be able to see which campaigns, ads, and keywords are bringing you the best ROI.

10. Not testing

Testing is something you should be doing, even if you have a satisfactory conversion rate.

Test everything. Periodically research new keywords; weed out keywords with few impressions and no clicks; set your ad rotation to “Optimize” and AdWords will show ads with higher click-through rates more often, ensuring better positions in search engine results.

Conduct A/B testing on your website’s landing pages, and see which version leads to more conversions. Don’t be afraid to go over budget if it means an improved ROI.

In conclusion

The mistakes described here are common, and need only time and diligence to correct. Taking time to research, set up tracking, and test your PPC campaigns is half the battle of SEO -- by avoiding these mistakes you will improve your campaigns, increase conversions, make your spending more effective, and improve your return on investment.

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Submitted by Leads Dubai on Sat, 12/08/2012 - 9:51am

thanks for the useful post
does anyone know how to estimate a budget for the customer and what is value per lead?

Submitted by Amy Peveto on Sat, 12/08/2012 - 5:21pm

Glad you found it helpful!

The two things you mention, budget and value, really depend on the customer for whom you're setting up AdWords.

Different industries have different levels of competition, so some businesses have to utilize higher budgets in order to have their ads rank high.

Value per lead is also set by the customer. How much money do they make when a person buys a product or service, compared to how much it costs to get them to buy (from search to clink to conversion)?

These are both subjective categories, and change from business to business.

Submitted by Mac Nouri on Sat, 12/29/2012 - 2:21pm

Do you work for google? Do you offer your services to public? I need someone to spend a few days and setup an effective campaign for me. Can you do that?

Submitted by Amy Peveto on Sun, 12/30/2012 - 8:38pm

@Mac - No, we don't work for Google. However, we do have experience with setting up and running PPC campaigns. If you're interested, please give us a call or fill out our contact form and someone will be in touch to see if we meet your needs.

Submitted by Dave on Wed, 04/03/2013 - 11:36am

Im fortunate to have a business where despite there being competition the Max CPC is 1.00 however ive geo targeted my ads to only the zipcodes and cities I service with my business. My logic is - Id rather go a day without a click but when i get that click and someone calls me or emails me and that reverts to a sale it was worth it. Versus having to pay for clicks from Texas when they could never covert to a sale because its out of my service area which is California. I think a lot of adwords users fail to geo target and this results in unwanted clicks and quick wasting away of there budget. Also by geotargeting I can have a small budget say 100 a month that suits me perfectly. With my campaigns im pretty much guaranteed to be in the top position in adwords for the specific keywords ive chosen and I also studied my competition so i know pretty much what keywords they use and I now use them as well. I don't think i could do more.

Submitted by Amy Peveto on Wed, 04/03/2013 - 11:47am

Agreed 100%, Dave. Geo-targeting is under-utilized, but can be a great way to narrow down your audience and keep CPCs affordable.