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Top 5 Google AdWords Mistakes To Avoid

Top 5 Google AdWords Mistakes To Avoid

The online world is a fiercely competitive place to do business, but it can be a profitable one too. Here in the UK, ecommerce is worth around 533 billion pounds a year, and accounts for around 17 per cent of all retail sales. It’s the only industry which has seen sustained growth in double digits, growing at around 11 per cent in the UK, and seven times faster than the global retail average.

In order to harness the power of the world wide web, retailers need to be smart. The tried and tested means of getting more sales through our ecommerce sites is by getting more people to visit them. And how do we do that? For most of us, it will be a combination of SEO, social marketing, paid advertising and pay per click activities.

Paid search accounts for a big chunk of many businesses marketing efforts, accounting for around 48 per cent of all digital ad spend. With 71 per cent of the search market share, Google is the worlds largest online display advertising network, and is where the majority of these marketing pennies are being spent.

A great Google AdWords campaign can make as much as £2 for every £1 spent, offering one of the best return on investment of any marketing tool. However, it’s not always so easy to figure out how to use it well. Here are five of the biggest mistakes we see marketers making every day, which is impacting on their success with their AdWords campaign.

1.      Using the wrong keyword match type

If you’ve had a play with AdWords already, you should have noticed that you’ll be asked whether you want exact, phrase or broad match keywords to be used. But do you know what this actually means, and when you should choose which type of match? Here’s what you need to know:

  • Broad match: These keywords will trigger your ads when someone searches for a term containing any of your keywords in any order. On the plus side, it means you could reach more people. On the negative side, you could end up showing ads to people conducting completely irrelevant searches.
  • Phrase match: This type of match offers slightly more control, in that your ads will only show up when the user searches the keywords in the exact order. This can help to filter irrelevant searches but could see you missing out if you have a very wordy audience.
  • Exact match: This AdWords match provides the maximum control over who sees your ads, and usually gives the best return on investment too. It will only display your ad when someone searches exactly your keyword, meaning you can be certain they are looking for your services.

The more observant marketer may have noticed that there is also a fourth type of match: the broad match modifier. This is a useful type of match which can give you the massive potential reach of the broad match, but also restricts the ads to queries which are more specific to your business. For example, if your broad match modifier was ‘kid’s shoes’, your ad would only display to searches containing both kids and shoes.

This would exclude your ad from displaying to those searching for kids toys or ladies shoes, but would give more reach than the phrase match, which would exclude your ad if there were a word between the two terms, e.g. ‘kids school shoes’. For most businesses, keywords should be focused on broad match modifier terms and exact match terms but do your research and experiment a little to see what suits your audience.

2.      Overpaying for clicks

You might think that the average click is worth a fair bit to your business, but how much is too much? If your business is in an online casino, for instance, you could be paying as much as £58.57 per click! If you’re in estate agency, finance or insurance, you can expect to pay top dollar too, with all of these costing in excess of £10 per click.

And actually, if you’re using only the Keyword Planner to estimate the cost of advertising on Google, you could be in for a nasty surprise. Research by Smart Insights shows that, on average, the cost per click in real terms was 200 per cent more than the historical Google estimate, so your campaign could end up being way more expensive than you thought once it actually goes live.


Clearly, generating more profit from your AdWords campaign is a must. One way you can achieve this is by reducing that cost per click outlay. To do this, try:

  • Use relevant and popular keywords but be specific. Keywords which are too generic will mean you’re paying for clicks that are unlikely to convert
  • Test different advertising strategies so you’re putting your money into the most effective vehicle
  • Reduce your bids slightly, but monitor positions so you don’t end up losing out
  • Make the landing pages as relevant as possible to the keywords
  • Keep checking what people click the most, and what search terms brought them to your site. If the search term was irrelevant, add it as a negative keyword to avoid paying for clicks you don’t want

If you do happen to be unfortunate enough to work in an industry with sky high cost per click, it’s crucial that you do as much as you can to ensure every click is worth its fee.

3.      Not turning clicks into conversions

Unless you’re a seventeen-year-old YouTuber, generating endless streams of traffic is probably not your priority. You want to see your investment in AdWords reflected in your bottom line, and that means turning those visitors into proper paying customers.

There are numerous ways to get more conversions from every click, but the key is to do everything in your power to keep that user interested. If they land on your website only to hightail it back to the SERPS, your bounce rate will soar, you’ll be paying for clicks that come to nothing and your authority as a website will be damaged.

One issue which frequently causes a high bounce rate is website load speed. According to KissMetrics, a one second delay in response can result in a seven per cent loss of conversions. If your website takes more than three seconds to load, research shows that 40 per cent of users will abandon and try another offering.

If you’ve managed to get your user to stay on the site, the next thing to come under scrutiny will be your checkout process. Today’s average checkout process is five pages long, making customers frustrated and risking cart abandonment. 33 per cent of websites don’t offer a ‘guest checkout’ option, giving customers more chance to become irritated and forget the whole thing.

Making the checkout process simple, easy and transparent has been shown to significantly increase your chances of a first-time conversion, so keep it slick and avoid unexpected surprises. In the event that you do lose a buyer, don’t forget to follow it up with an email. Basket reminders can recover as much as 25 per cent of abandoned revenue, so make this part of your process too.

4.      Omitting the use of negative keywords

Following along the lines of getting maximum bang for your pay per click buck, negative keywords are something you should embrace wholeheartedly. This will ensure your ad is not presented to someone performing an irrelevant search, helping you hone down your leads even further.

For example, if you sell kid’s shoes but you only sell trainers, you don’t want to show up when someone is looking for kid’s ballet shoes or kid’s formal shoes. Using negative keywords can help you filter out people who aren’t looking for something you supply, and it’s easy to add this feature to your campaign. Here’s how:

  • Go to your Keywords tab in AdWords
  • Navigate to the Negative Keywords tab
  • Click ‘+keywords’
  • Choose a campaign that you want to add negative keywords for
  • Add words one per line; be careful not to overlap with your regular keywords
  • Save, and you’re done!

Finding negative keywords is going to take some trial and error. No doubt you can think of a few off the top of your head, but there may be some unusual ones which will only reveal themselves through some digging into Google Analytics. In the Analytics interface, click on ‘acquisition’ then ‘AdWords’, and then look at ‘Matched Search Queries’ to see what people are actually searching for when they click on your ad. Take a look at this regularly and add any negative keywords to your campaign to keep refining your traffic into high quality leads.

5.      Not understanding user intent

Bidding for keywords related to your industry or business is all well and good, but unless you understand what users are searching for when they type in those keywords, you’re just going to be an irrelevant ad to them.


There are generally three reasons a user is searching on Google:

  1. Navigational: They are looking for a specific business or website. It could be yours or could be a competitor, or indeed something completely unrelated.
  2. Informational: They are trying to find something out.
  3. Transactional: They are ready to buy and are looking for a supplier

Understanding where in this process your user is will help you build better landing pages and maximise your returns on every click that passes through.

Let’s look, for example, at our shoe company again. Maybe they are called ‘kid’s shoes direct’. If a user is searching ‘are kid’s shoes direct a trustworthy company’ or ‘kid’s shoes direct reviews’, you know they are already in the transactional stage and almost ready to buy from you. In this situation, your landing page should be relatively minimal, with few distractions and a clear, powerful call to action.

On the other hand, if they are searching for ‘which kid’s shoes suit wide feet’ or ‘best kid’s shoes for running’, they are more at the informational stage. This user would benefit from being directed to a blog type page, or something with a bit more substance, to help you build trust and rapport.

Revisit your list of keywords and try to work out which are transactional triggers, and which are simply seeking information. Give the user what they want, and you’ll get more from every click.

Running an AdWords campaign needs to be focussed and refined, with plenty of testing and revision throughout the process. Throwing mud at the wall to see what sticks can end up costing you dearly, not just in invoices to Google, but in terms of your credibility too. Targeting the right ads at the right people will increase your traffic, generate high quality leads and ultimately boost your bottom line, so don’t be afraid to really spend some time getting everything right.

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Vanessa Simms
Vanessa writes on a range of subjects for the Search South blog, but has a strong focus on her core interest area of Google AdWords management best practices.