PPC Mistakes That Can Leave Your Broke

Pay-per-click advertising is commonly used by many marketers and business owners. Because PPC is so competitive the line between profit and deficit can be a thin one. Avoiding mistakes is vital to the long term success of any paid search campaign. In this article I will outline 13 of the most crippling PPC mistakes.

1)      Only running 1 ad per ad group

You should always be split testing ad copy. The smallest change in punctuation alone can make a huge difference in both the click-through-rate and conversion rate. Once a winner is determined, you should then create the next split test immediately.

2)      Running too many ads per ad group

It takes time to accumulate data and make informed decisions. With that in mind, it’s important not to run too many ads in the same ad group. Doing so only lengthens the amount of time it takes to find statistically confident winners. A good rule is to only run 2 to 3 ads at any given time.

3)      Not using negative keywords

Negative keywords help you avoid appearing for queries that are not relevant to your business. The best time to make a negative keyword list is when you’re doing the initial keyword research for your campaign.

For example, if you’re targeting keywords related to “moving company” then you may also run across people searching for “moving company jobs”.  Since you’re probably looking for customers, and not potential employees, it would be in your best interest to add “jobs” as a negative keyword.

4)      Not separating keywords into ad groups

Placing non related keywords in ad groups is a common mistake. Ad groups need to be tightly focused around a common keyword. Always keep your ad groups small. Smaller ad groups tend to perform better since they are easier to write ad copy for.

Here is an example of keywords in a bad ad group for a clothing and shoe store:

  • Tennis shoes
  • Sneakers
  • Warm Sweaters
  • Boots
  • Loafers
  • Outdoor wear
  • Snow pants

Here is an example of a good ad group for the same store:

  • tennis shoes
  • steel toe tennis shoes
  • discount tennis shoes
  • white tennis shoes
  • tennis shoes for sale
  • high heel tennis shoes
  • velcro tennis shoes

See the difference? The bad ad group is a bunch of loosely grouped keywords that have no common theme. The good ad group is tightly focused around different keyword variations of the term “tennis shoes”.

5)      Bidding too high

Getting obsessed with high rankings can turn ugly really fast. The top position is generally very expensive in comparison to the other positions. Don’t get obsessed with being the top ad or you may find yourself turning otherwise profitable keywords into huge money sinks.

6)      Bidding too low

The problem with bidding too low is that your ad can fall off the first page in the search results. Once an ad falls off the first page it doesn’t get enough traffic to be properly tested.

If you see that your ad is sitting on the second page, bump up your bid and give that keyword a chance to hit the first page. You may find that you had a bunch of profitable keywords that where just sitting there dormant simply because the bid was too low.

7)      Writing the same ad for every ad group

We all get lazy at times but getting lazy with ad copy can have some devastating effects on click-through-rates and conversion rates. The keywords in your ad group should somehow relate with your ad. This is especially important in AdWords because AdWords uses a quality score formula that can significantly impact how much you pay for clicks. If you use the same ad in every ad group your quality score will ultimately suffer and you’ll end up paying much more for your traffic.

8)      Sending all traffic to the homepage

If you have an ad groups about “tennis shoes” then don’t send that traffic to a homepage that also has every other product on your website. Always send your traffic to the most relevant page on your site. If you don’t have specific pages that cater to each ad group, then consider creating landing pages to use in your PPC campaigns. Doing so will make a big difference in how well you convert visitors into buyers.

9)      Only using the broad match type

Most PPC platforms allow you to bid on different match types. In AdWords, the default bid option is broad. This means if you bid on the keyword “tennis shoes” your ad can appear for “tennis shoes” and also for different variations of this term.

Sometimes those variations can become so broad that they start to lower the quality of the traffic, resulting in a higher cost per conversion. On the other hand, broad match can also introduce you to new opportunities that might have otherwise been missed.

I’ll give you one example where broad match might work against you.

Assume for a moment you own a motorcycle merchandise store. In your motorcycle merchandise store you have different brands for different products. One of those products is a line of helmets that goes by the brand name of “Simpson” (this is an actual brand).

You may have also heard of the cartoon show “the simpsons”. If you start bidding on “simpson helmets”, in the default match type, you may start showing for all sorts of unrelated queries that have nothing to do with motorcycle helmets and everything to do with the cartoon show.

This is why it’s important to use different match types for different situations. Match types and negative keywords used together can give you a lot more control over what type of search queries your ads will appear for.

10)   Not using day scheduling

Some PPC platforms allow ad scheduling. This feature gives you control over what time and day ads run on. In AdWords, this feature also allows you to change the actual amount of your bid at any given time during the week.

Perhaps you have identified certain times that seem to bring in more sales than usual. In this case, you may want to use this feature to increase your visibility by bidding higher during these time periods.

You may also find the opposite where certain times of the day just don’t convert. This may be during the night when no one is available to answer phone calls. If that’s the case, then you can use this feature to either turn off your ads or bid lower to avoid wasting money.

This feature is a great way to limit your spending during times which conversion rates are low and to improve positioning during times which conversion rates are peaking.

11)   Ignoring the display network

The display network is different from search. Running ads on the display network gives you access to millions of websites that participate in Googles adsense program. This network allows you to intercept users at different parts of the buying cycle.

When testing out the display network it’s important to have it in a separate campaign. Bidding on the display network is done on an ad group level as opposed to a keyword level. Always start with conservative bids then slowly increase those bids to find sweet spots of traffic at the lowest possible bid.

There is a big misconception that display network traffic is not worth it. This is not true and I address this in a different post here.

12)   Forgetting to set proper geo-targeting

Targeting locations can be a bit tricky. You always want to make sure that people searching for your service or product see your ad, but you don’t want to show ads in locations in which you can’t offer your service or product. This seems simple enough but at times requires some further planning.

For example, let’s assume you own a hotel in Los Angeles. You want to target people searching for the word “hotel rooms” because it’s relevant to your business. However, if you’re targeting the whole country then this becomes a problem.  Someone typing in “hotel rooms” in Miami isn’t necessarily looking for a hotel in LA. In this case it makes sense that your campaign only target Los Angeles and the surrounding areas.

But what about the people outside of your local area who are traveling to LA and need a hotel room? Those people are likely to search for “Los Angeles Hotel Rooms”. In this case you would want to create a separate campaign targeting the whole country and since you already have a campaign targeting the local areas you would then exclude those areas in your second campaign.

The above example may seem complex but it illustrates where geo-targeting can get a bit tricky. Proper geographical targeting can make a big difference in avoiding uninterested visitors, which in turn reduces the overall cost-per-conversion in your account.

13)   Making too many changes at once

As mentioned previously, paid search is a data driven platform. You make a change, get data, analyze the data, and make a conclusion of whether the change you made gave you a positive result or a negative result.

But what happens when you log in, write a new ad, adjust some bids, add negative keywords, introduce a new landing page and change a match type all at once? Let’s assume you get a positive result.

All the changes you made have resulted in a lower cost-per-conversion, great!. Now, what do you contribute the positive result to… everything? What if only one of those changes was responsible for the decrease of cost while the rest actually had small negative impacts?

By making one or two changes at once, you can pinpoint exactly which part of the process is responsible for the result. And since you’ll know what caused the result, you can use that factor to make further improvements across the rest of your account with much more accuracy.