Online Marketing Blog

Do You Make These 12 AdWords Mistakes?

The majority of our new clients and consultations come to us with their PPC campaigns in a very similar state. In most cases, the only reasonable thing to do or recommend to do is to start their campaigns fresh and new. Even though there are countless “AdWords mistakes” lists that have been published and synchronized all over the Internet, I would like to make some suggestions to everyone on the not so common mistakes. If you are setting up your first PPC campaign or thinking of expanding your current PPC campaign, I urge you to read the following list before shelling out your money to a PPC management firm.

The following advice is based on questions received from our clients and from companies who have come to us seeking consultation.

1) Having a non-converting landing page.
I would estimate that about 90% of our clients come to us either directing PPC traffic to their home page, or directing it to a standard product they are advertising/selling page. It is very easy to get caught up in the excitement of PPC advertising and the instant gratification the search engines promise but just throwing traffic at your site will not cut it. If you are advertising a product for the first time You absolutely need a tailor made landing page for that product. The page should cater for PPC visitors only and be very targeted. You should have split testing or multi variant testing set up on this page before you start sending traffic to it. When you have the optimal landing page (according to your tests) then start to focus on the intracies of PPC bid management, gap surfing, bid jamming and all that fancy stuff. Your landing page is also an essential part in getting your AdWords quality score perfect from the start. Your landing page will make or break your PPC campaign. Do it right from the get go.

2) Installing only one form of tracking.
The majority of accounts came to us from other PPC management agencies and a lot of what we see is quite shocking. Many accounts have not installed their conversion tracking code and any that did left it at that. For example, if you use AdWords and sell online You need to install e-commerce tracking to track each and every order. If you are not comfortable with the sometimes complicated setup, at least use the basic value tracking in your conversion tracking code.

3) Not tracking the correct metrics.
It may take more time but if you can, set the value of each sale in your conversion tracking code or e-commerce tracking code as the profit per sale. This will allow you to see exactly how profitable your campaigns are and focus more on the keywords, ad groups and products that are making your more money. If you run a completely e-commerce based product site, set the value tracking as your profit and your e-commerce up normally. It’s win-win. At the end of the day, your ROI is the most important metric (generally). Make sure you know exactly what it is. (And I mean EXACTLY, not just a rough estimate from how positive your bank balance is at the end of the month.

4) Failing to optimize ad serving for your ads.
By default, AdWords sets your ad creatives to be “optimized”. This means that they display the ad with the highest CTR more often. You do not want that. You want to be able to make that decision yourself after a statistically sound sample size (about 30-100 clicks per ad). In your campaign settings, simply change your ad serving preference to “Rotate Ads Evenly”.

5) Using broad match only.
When adding new keywords, add them with ALL match types. The match type with the highest quality will be shown more often and with higher placement. You can make decisions as to which one to keep down the line based on the ROI data of each.

6) Entering the content network without modifying your bids.
This is our favorite one. We can increase a campaign ROI by up to 300% relatively quickly with this one! Many advertisers are STILL opting into the content network as part of their search campaign. Don’t opt out completely, simply duplicate your campaign and set it to content network only. Make sure you set your bids much lower to begin with and optimize accordingly. Running ads on the content network and search network can skew your ROI data and force you to make bad decisions with your campaigns.

7) Not running content network reports.
This is a fairly new one. Content network campaigns can be VERY profitable if managed correctly and they have the added benefit of being a wonderful way to brand your product or service, even if a user never clicks on them. Make sure you run a placement performance report and act accordingly. Block non converting/spam sites and perhaps think of running a site targeted CPM campaign on the ones that convert well.

8) Not testing your ad position.
Many advertisers want the top spot on the PPC engines. While in a lot of cases, the head men/women upstairs insist on this, this can usually have a negative effect. It is important to test the ROI (remember, total profit-total cost) for each position. In a LOT of cases there is more money to be made from being in positions 2-6 as a result of the lower cost of attaining those visitors/leads/customers.

9) Not day parting.
While many consider this an advanced form of pay per click management, it most certainly is not. While there are many caveats, Only showing your ads at certain times of the day and indeed only at certain days of the month can decrease the number of window shoppers clicking on your ad and again…. increase your overall ROI. It can can also free up some monthly budget for spending on the top positions if they are most profitable.

10) Bidding high to increase your quality score.
The small part that CTR has in PPC quality score is normalized to it’s position. Don’t bother spending a fortune on top position clicks just to bring your CTR up in the hopes of improving your quality score.

11) Hoping your quality score will get better.
You may notice that your quality score fluctuates from Good to poor different times of the day. sometimes you can still get a lot of quality traffic when it changes to “good” for those few hours. But something is wrong, fix it.

12) Failing to run the search query performance report.
Running the Search Query Performance report should be done at least once a week to see what words in phrases that trigger your ad on broad match should not be showing your ad. You can then add those words to your negative keyword list. Simple, effective and will improve your CTR and ROI.

There are many other mistakes that one can make with their AdWords account. Many simple and silly and many a little more complicated. The list above are the ones that we see time and time again. If you can avoid those, you will be in excellent shape and in most cases will prevent you from having to go to a PPC management company to fix your problems. Feel free to add to this list in the comments below.


  1. avatar
    janine Says:
    August 21st, 2007 at 12:34 pm

    Excellent post, Dave. One of these days, I intend finally running some AdWords campaigns and thorough explanations in fairly layman terms are a great resource for people like me. Those who have been wasting money on inefficient AdWords campaigns will be even more appreciative I’m sure :) I actually bought an AdWords book on a whim lately, and I have learned a lot more from a couple of your posts. You should write your own one! :)

    Reply

  2. avatar
    Dave Davis Says:
    August 21st, 2007 at 1:51 pm

    Thanks for stopping by Janine. Glad the post was of some help. It’s a shame PPC advertising is given the “mystery” status that it is. It is just like anything else, you get out of it what you put in (In the form of time and effort).

    There are actually a few good AdWords books out there but they are overshadowed by all the spammy scammy ones that pollute the Internet. I have yet to come across a guide better then the official AdWords learning center. 100% of the basics are covered there.

    As for writing a book, I think I will leave that until I am retired :)

    Reply

  3. avatar
    Daryl Clark Says:
    August 21st, 2007 at 3:16 pm

    Dave it is nice to see someone offering some tips of real value vs. the self promotional stuff I usually run across from other marketing firms. I’m posting a link to this article on my blog today and will be linking back to other articles of yours in the future. Keep up the great work!

    Reply

  4. avatar
    Dave Davis Says:
    August 21st, 2007 at 3:26 pm

    Thanks Daryl. I agree and I feel a blog should be anything but self promotional. There is no way to “hide” information from people, our skills and value to a client lie in our experience, creativity and nack for detail. Any business based on withholding information from customers is just plain silly. There is no “secret sauce” to any SEO or SEM campaign and PPC management is just that, PPC management.

    Thanks for the mention on your blog. Very much appreciated. I have added your blog to my ever expanding RSS subscription list.

    Reply

  5. avatar
    Dave Says:
    August 21st, 2007 at 3:27 pm

    I totally agree – I always check this blog every few days in the hopes that Dave has written another post… I consider myself pretty knowledgeable in PPC marketing, but I always learn a thing or two from your posts. Thank you, and please keep them coming!

    - Dave

    Reply

  6. avatar
    Dave Davis Says:
    August 21st, 2007 at 3:32 pm

    Thanks Dave! Very much appreciated! You could always subscribe to the feed too.

    Reply

  7. avatar
    Dave Says:
    August 21st, 2007 at 3:38 pm

    Why do I always forget that!?

    Thanks, just did. :)

    Reply

  8. avatar
    Elixir Blogger Says:
    August 21st, 2007 at 11:00 pm

    Great tips, Dave. I only started using the Search Query a few weeks ago and it’s making a difference in costs and targeting already. I just found your June post on bidding on the company’s name and will be referring one of my clients to it. Maybe he’ll listen if he hears it from more than just me.

    thanks!

    Reply

  9. avatar
    Amy Konefal Says:
    August 22nd, 2007 at 6:10 pm

    I agree whole-heartedly with the comments above. You have some great quality posts, this one no exception (and dead on to the mistakes we find when auditing PPC accounts as well – namely no separate content bids, horrible landing page experiences and no conversion tracking whatsoever – yikes).

    Added you to my subscription list as well. Best to you and keep up the great work…

    Reply

  10. avatar
    CustardMite Says:
    August 24th, 2007 at 3:07 pm

    Hi Dave,

    Great post.

    Hard to argue with any of what you’ve written. I’d personally add one more that I find – even when I’m taking over accounts from other agencies (which is a bit scary).

    Quite often, the daily budget is running out by about mid-afternoon. Clearly, if you bid less, your advert will appear lower, and hence your clickthrough rate will be lower. Perhaps this puts people off reducing their bids, but if they did, they’d be able to make their budget last all day, and more importantly, get more clicks for the same money (since the cost per click would be lower).

    I find that adjusting the bids to allow for seasonal variations in the traffic is one of the things that I spend the most time doing on the accounts that I manage..

    Reply

  11. avatar
    Dave Davis Says:
    August 29th, 2007 at 3:05 pm

    Thanks Steve. I have noticed that too but quite rarely actually. Many of our clients have quite a large budget and often struggle to actually spend the money daily.

    Seasonal PPC management can be very difficult too, you’re dead right. Done right however it can really make a difference on the bottom line of a campaigns quarter results.

    Reply

  12. avatar
    Nathan Libbey Says:
    August 30th, 2007 at 8:12 pm

    Dave, Thanks for this great post. I’m just about to start my first Adwords campaign, so I’ve really been needing some guidance. This will help get me on my feet.

    Reply

  13. avatar
    Dave Davis Says:
    September 12th, 2007 at 4:30 pm

    Hi Nathan, thanks for stopping by. You are very welcome. If there is a particular topic that you would like covered, please let us know!

    Reply

  14. avatar
    Virginia Greg Says:
    September 14th, 2007 at 11:20 am

    I’d say another mistake folks make is giving up too soon. If things don’t work out for a few days, they quit.

    Reply

  15. avatar
    Mickael Says:
    May 24th, 2008 at 10:24 am

    Hi! thx for sharing this info. I’d add just one thing concerning the search query report. They’re very useful and must be generated on a weekly basis. But I’d advise to go further by using server logs and/or a web analytics tool like Google Analytics (free). If well configured, it can display actual search queries and not only AdWords keywords inserted in the initial keyword list.
    http://ads-optimization.com/adwords/adwords-secrets/adwords-actual-search-queries.html

    Good luck all for your adwords campaign management!

    Mick

    Reply

  16. avatar
    Adam Boulton Says:
    October 27th, 2008 at 10:57 am

    We’ve had just finished a little research about the optimal Ad position to be in to maximise profit from your PPC campaigns.

    Let me know what you think
    http://connect.icrossing.co.uk/paid-search-higher_902

    Reply

  17. avatar
    Essex Search Optimisation Says:
    March 5th, 2009 at 5:28 pm

    I currently only use one form of analytics (take a guess) for my adwords campaigns, if you were to have two sets of data would you take the average between the two and report that to the client?

    Reply

  18. avatar
    Brenda | Trade Marks Says:
    September 17th, 2009 at 7:44 am

    Dave those tips are just great and I have passed this on to a friend of mine that is involved with using ad words and I think that this is going to come in very handy for her. Thanks for sharing, and for someone how is new to this blog the post are just fantastic.

    Reply

  19. avatar
    Maxine Business Performance Says:
    October 6th, 2009 at 9:27 am

    All this information can be a little intimidating, especially for some one very new to SEO, but I do have to say Dave that you are very clear in your explanations and it is helping me tremendously, I have only used the very basics when it has come to setting up a campaign but I look forward to using some of your great tips.:)

    Reply

  20. avatar
    joel Says:
    October 15th, 2009 at 7:50 am

    Thanks for the great tips Dave.When i started with PPC, I did most of the mistakes you have mentioned.I needed this long before. But still it is a very useful article which all must read because it will for both beginners and experienced ones in PPC.

    Reply

  21. avatar
    Dave D Says:
    December 25th, 2009 at 12:10 pm

    Hi Dave,
    Wonderful Post Buddy..

    can you talk about PPC (Adwords) on Content Networks..
    How Keyword Choosing and Bid Choosing gets different with PPC(Adwords) on Search Network..??

    Reply

  22. avatar
    Net Age Says:
    February 8th, 2010 at 12:53 pm

    I myself am no PPC expert, but I do have a healthy respect for people who have turned effective PPC into an art and a science. It seems like you’ve covered the basics well here, even if this post is a couple of years old. What I am seeing these days is that internet marketers are looking way beyond Google and their slaps, and are exploring many new options that have come to the market over the past couple of years.

    Reply

  23. avatar
    John Minto Says:
    June 27th, 2010 at 10:45 pm

    Thank you for all the free advice. We have a three product groups and excited about the potential of PPC for our business but finding the right advice is difficult, at least with your tips we can test some strategies.

    Reply

  24. avatar
    Kevin Tan Says:
    July 16th, 2010 at 10:15 pm

    Hey Dave, I personally haven’t used this marketing technique but reading this definitely prepares me better when I expand to that frontier. Thanks!

    Reply

  25. avatar
    dan Says:
    November 26th, 2010 at 4:56 pm

    Hi Dave. You always offer great free advice and it is very much appreciated. I would like to add one tip if I may. Which is, I observe many people humping hundreds of keywords in to a single campaign and single ad group. But the best technique which I have found is to create a single ad group for each keyword. That way you have laser targeted ads, and they are the best performing.

    Reply

  26. avatar
    Drew Says:
    July 5th, 2011 at 10:44 pm

    I can’t believe how long this post has been here and it still is very effective advice when getting into PPC. I actually use some of these tips when using PPC on facebook. Awesome post.

    Reply