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The Top 10 Google AdWords Mistakes

The Top 10 Google AdWords Mistakes

Paid search is one of the most powerful marketing tools available to businesses today, if not the most powerful. In terms of digital ad spend, it accounts for almost half of every penny spent by marketers around the world. Google reports that a good campaign can generate a ROI of £2 for every £1 spent, which makes it a pretty attractive way to advertise.

But let’s not be naive about this now. Google doesn’t exist to help your business promote itself out of the goodness of their heart. They do it to make money. Last year, Google’s total revenue was almost $110 billion, and 68 per cent of that was generated from AdWords, making search advertising a huge money maker for the search engine giant.

If you’re just getting started with PPC advertising and are ready to launch your AdWords campaign, bear in mind that it’s very easy to rapidly deplete your budget it you get it all wrong. AdWords can be much more complicated than it looks, and it’s easy to make a big mistake that can spell the demise of your campaign.

Here are the top 10 mistakes we see marketers making on AdWords which are stopping their campaigns from being successful:

1.      Using too many broad match keywords

Broad match keywords will display whenever your keyword appears in the search string, regardless of the order of the words. This can generate a lot more clicks, as your ad will be served to many more people. However, it disregards user intent, which can mean you end up paying for clicks from people who have no intention to buy.

Having some broad match keywords in your campaign can be beneficial for driving traffic to your site but relying too much on these types of matches could end up being a very expensive strategy. Research has shown that exact match keywords convert much better than broad match, although the number of searches tends to be lower, so you’ve got to ask yourself, do you want quantity or quality?

2.      Failing to use tightly focused ad groups

Ad groups using lots of different keywords which are not particularly closely related to each other is a recipe for disaster. Having one, two or a maximum of three keywords in each ad group is the ideal strategy, with all the keywords very tightly focussed. We’re talking plurals here rather than synonyms.

Having multiple keywords in your ad groups will damage your performance as well as your relevancy and will impact on your click through rates and quality scores. If you have a high performing keyword, it should be in an ad group all of its own. You can also test close variants of high performing keywords in their own ad group.

3.      Not developing awesome landing pages

Are you sending the users who click on your ads to your homepage? Stop! Every ad you create should have it’s very own custom designed landing page if you want to ensure maximum potential for conversion.

Linking to a homepage or any other standard page on your site does not provide a streamlined user experience. If your ad was talking about a sale, take them to a landing page all about the sale. If it was about free shipping, design a landing page which highlights your free shipping offer. This will encourage a conversion much more readily than just plonking them on your home page and expecting them to do the work.

Not only this, but by creating a landing page for each campaign, you’ll be able to accurately track the success of your ads. You know that only people from the ads can arrive on this page, so you can see at a glance what impact your ad is having.

4.      Bidding to be top of the results, rather than considering return on investment

Bidding on keywords can be a tough task. It can be tempting to bid high, so that you’re always at the top of the results, but if you’re using a popular keyword you could be paying way more than that keyword is worth to you. Being in the top position for a highly popular keyword is not necessarily going to bring you the return on investment you need, so consider how important that keyword really is and adjust your bidding strategy accordingly.

You don’t have to bid what Google suggests either. After all, Google have a vested interest in getting you to spend as much money as possible. Experiment with your bidding to see where different levels get you, and if it’s getting too expensive try looking for a better niche keyword.

5.      Failing to track results and measure return on investment

If you’re running an AdWords campaign without any means of tracking your results, you might as well be throwing your money away. Tracking clicks, conversions and the impact of different strategies on your results is crucial, as only this way can you ensure you are getting the best results from your efforts.

Tracking is made easy with tracking pixels from Google, so there really is no excuse for not doing it. Checking in regularly will let you see which campaigns are costing you too much money for the return they bring in, and which ones are having a great result so should be ramped up.

6.      Not excluding certain search terms

PPC advertising has the potential to cost you a lot of cash for not very much in return, if you don’t know what you’re doing that is. Having a high clickthrough rate on an ad is great, but not if 90 per cent of those people are not even slightly interested in your business. You’re paying for every click, but hardly anyone is converting.

To avoid this happening, you should build a list of negative keywords to add to your campaign, which will avoid attracting clicks for something you don’t do. For example, if you sell trainers but not kids trainers, adding the word ‘kids’ as a negative keyword will prevent disappointed mums and dads from arriving at your store.

7.      Leaving AdWords on auto-pilot

Research has shown that less than one per cent of AdWords accounts get worked on even once a week. This is a huge mistake, as leaving AdWords on autopilot will mean missed opportunities and a potentially significant loss of money.

Running AdWords ads is a game of constant optimisation. Following trends, capitalising on seasonal changes, as well as A/B testing your ad copy and keywords… all of this will give you a better ROI from your activities. It also means you’ll quickly spot any ads that are bringing in high volumes of low quality traffic and which should probably be dropped.

8.      Accepting recommendations from Google

Did we mention that Google’s out to take money from you? Well, we’re going to say it again. Google wants your cash and has AdWords set up to rinse as much of it as possible out of every client. It doesn’t make Google a bad brand, it’s just that they’re a business with targets to make, just like the rest of us.

The takeaway here is that if you leave all the settings as Google suggest, you’ll probably end up spending more than you need. From keyword match types to bid values, letting Google control your decisions will almost certainly cost you more, without any improvement in your results. Tailor everything to your needs to keep costs under control.

9.      Not using advanced features

If you don’t understand the advanced features of AdWords, you’re probably not going to be able to get the most from your campaign. Things like ad extensions are crucial for getting more eyeballs on your ad, and for compelling surfers to take that next step in your sales funnel.

With ad extensions, you can use links to your site, location extensions, add telephone numbers and more. It’s all there in your AdWords Ad Extensions tab, and by taking the time to add this information you’ll ultimately be increasing your click through rate, as well as increasing the value of your traffic too.

10. Advertising in search and display

Whenever you create new campaign in AdWords, the software takes it upon itself to select your campaign settings as Search Network ‘with Display Select’. Have you noticed that? It’s a bit of a sneaky move, but remember, Google is out to take your money (did we mention that yet?).

Having your ad running on both the search and display networks is almost guaranteed the drive a lot of low value clicks, costing you money without bringing conversions. Search ads and display ads should be run entirely differently and should be treated as two separate activities. Check your campaign settings and ensure you are not unknowingly using the display network as well as search.

These are our top 10 most common mistakes made on Google AdWords, but this is by no means an exhaustive list. While AdWords might seem simple to get started on, it’s a footpath laden with pitfalls for the unwary novice user. For more help with your AdWords activity or other PPC campaign, talk to Search South for expert support.


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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.