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Common Google AdWords errors

We’ve seen a lot of AdWords accounts over the years and we’ve seen a lot of problems too! In this article, we take a look at some of the most frequently observed pitfalls.

When clients approach us to manage a Google AdWords account, it’s typically due to one of a few scenarios:

  • They are going to be using AdWords for the first time and wisely want the account set-up and optimised by someone who knows what they’re doing
  • They have tried running AdWords in-house and it hasn’t worked
  • They’ve used another agency (often a web development agency, or some other agency that doesn’t specialise in PPC work) and there have been some problems

In each of the latter two cases, we find ourselves taking on an account that has been created by someone else. That’s when we get to see what’s gone on. Here are some of the issues that we’ve inherited and found ourselves having to fix:

Conversion tracking set-up incorrectly

This is one of the most common problems that we’ve seen: if you’re unable to track the effectiveness of your AdWords advertising, then it’s unlikely to be delivering results for you at a fully optimised level. That probably seems fairly self-explanatory. After all, if you don’t know which ads and keywords are providing you with leads, then how can you be sure that you are spending your budget in the most effective manner?

This may be a simple thought, but it’s critical to AdWords management. Without it, the agency (and the client) is flying blind. Typically, we tend to see the following problems in this area:

  • No attempt has been made to put Conversion Tracking in place. This is hard to understand, given that Google AdWords Conversion Tracking is free to use.
  • There’s a problem with the installation, but nobody appears to have noticed!
  • The Conversion Tracking isn’t actually counting what everyone thought it was

Location targeting not…targeting properly

Are all of your prospective clients located close to your office or showroom? If so, why is it that your campaign is targeting everyone in the United Kingdom? Location targeting is usually one of the first elements that we check when we take on a campaign that’s been created by someone else.

We’ve seen campaigns for UK retailers (who deliver only within the UK) mistakenly targeting a worldwide audience. That’s a poor use of the available budget.

Trying to sell to those who won’t pay

This is one that we love! If you sell a service, then do you really want to appear on searches where Google users are looking for free videos that show them how to carry out the service that you provide? Or maybe you sell products and find that your ads are appearing when people search for free items? These aren’t the best targeting options for most advertisers.

If a prospect doesn't have budget available, then they're not really a prospect! Click To Tweet

Think carefully too about whether the searcher is likely be in a buying phase, or whether they are merely browsing. How likely are they to buy? The best campaigns will target those who are set on making a purchase.

Dreadful product images undermining Google Shopping performance

Agency: We think that Google Shopping should work well, given your product range.
Client: We’ve tried that before and the performance was awful. We’d rather not waste any more money.

Agency browse the client’s site, see some truly awful images that fail to showcase products effectively and suggest that this may be the root cause of the previous poor performance, rather than an inherent issue with Google Shopping. This is a scene that has played out frequently in the past. It’s not always the underlying cause of problems with Google Shopping, by any means, but it’s usually something to check at an early stage.

The product feed’s been broken for weeks

Not going any sales via Google Shopping? Has anyone taken a look at the state of the feed, as viewed from within Google Merchant Center?

Broad match keywords and no negative keyword selections

We’ve grouped these two together, since once could be used to offset the other. If you’re only using exact match keywords, then you won’t need an extensive list of negative keywords.

By the same token, a great list of negative keywords can be used to manage an account in which broad match keywords feature heavily.

What if you have lots of broad match keywords and no (or few) negative keywords? Simple: you have a Google AdWords account that hasn’t been properly optimised and you are needlessly spending money as a result. It’s time to review those match types, or to expand that negative keyword list. The Search Terms report within your AdWords account provides a great starting point.

Bids aren’t being refined in response to conversion data

This is probably the area where a really good PPC agency can have the greatest impact. In order to generate the best possible return on investment from your PPC advertising, you need to spend on the areas of the account that deliver results, while reducing spend on areas that are just leading to wasted budget.

Refining your approach will require monitoring conversion data and making manual interventions.

Poor landing page selections

It can be some tempting, particularly when carrying out a Google AdWords account audit, to simply login to the AdWords account and carry out the audit from there. But this neglects a key part of the process: examining the website that traffic is being driven to.

PPC is about your website, as well as your Google AdWords account Click To Tweet

In fact, 50% of problems with AdWords advertising campaigns can’t be identified by simply looking at the AdWords account. That’s because many problems are actually present on the client’s website. Landing pages that don’t reflect the target keywords, that don’t have a strong enough Call To Action, that don’t provide a suitable experience on mobile devices…the list goes on an on. If the landing pages aren’t doing the job, then it’s likely that the PPC campaigns will ultimately fail.

Does this mean that you should ignore the content of the AdWords account? No. But if you don’t consider the website and the advertising account together, then you’ll only ever have half of the picture.

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