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10 Common PPC Mistakes to Avoid

6 minute read

10 Common PPC Mistakes to Avoid

If you are just starting out in PPC the number of settings, strategies, and the plethora of conflicting advice that can be found with a quick Google search, can certainly be daunting.  It is easy to make mistakes which can affect the long-term performance of your account.  In this article, I will cover 10 common PPC mistakes so that you can avoid them. This is by no means a complete list, PPC account management is a big topic, but I aim to cover some common mistakes which, when avoided, can provide you with the biggest gains in terms of performance

1. Using Broad Match keywords

When initially setting up your campaign it is important to be aware of the different match types that are available and how each of these works.  There are 4 match types to choose from:

  • Broad match
  • Broad match modified
  • Phrase match
  • Exact match

I won’t go into the details of each one here but a good rule to follow is to avoid broad match! There are occasions when you may want to use broad match such as remarketing but that is beyond the scope of this article.

So, what’s so bad about broad match? By using broad match keywords, you are giving Google way too much freedom when matching your ads to a search term.  This results in irrelevant traffic which inevitably leaves your site (bounces) as soon as they realise it is not what they are looking for, costing you money, and bringing down your conversion rates.

A common theme in PPC account management advice is to be as targeted as possible to attract the traffic that is most likely to convert.  Use exact match for keywords that you know are relevant to your business and use phrase match or broad match modified to ensure you don’t miss out on other, relevant searches that maybe you hadn’t thought of.

2. Combining Search and Display in the same campaign

When you create a new campaign, you have the option to target only the search network or to target both the search and display networks in the same campaign.  It is not good practice to combine search and display campaigns as this would make it very difficult to manage.  This is because search and display advertising perform differently in many ways.

Search advertising targets users who are specifically searching for your product or service resulting in higher click-through rates and a higher cost-per-click whereas the display network can reach a much larger audience who are not necessarily looking for your product or service. As a result, the display network will have a much lower cost-per-click and lower click-through-rates which can skew the data if you are looking at the performance of the campaign as a whole.

3. Not enough ads per ad group

It might be much quicker when creating a new campaign to just add one ad per ad group, but you will never know if a different ad could get you better results. You should always be testing new ideas for ads and it shouldn’t take too long to set up.

Create at least 3 ads per ad group with one variable in each ad e.g. just change the headline or just change the description.  Leave the ads to run for 30 days before comparing results.  This will produce the fairest results and allow you to make an accurate judgment of performance.

Make sure to check in the settings that Ad rotation is set to “Do not optimise: Rotate ads evenly” as this ensures each of your ads will get a fair chance to be shown.  If you choose “Optimise: Prefer best performing ads” Google will choose which ad it thinks is performing best and show that ad more often.  It will often make this decision too early, not giving your other ads enough exposure to make a fair judgment.

4. Too many keywords in an ad group

Each of the ad groups in your campaign should target a different theme.  This is to ensure that the ads that are showing for these keywords are highly relevant which will in turn increase click-through-rates, the quality score of your keywords, and even conversion rates.

As with campaigns, split your ad groups into themes based on subsections of your website and the products or services your business is trying to sell.  When adding keywords to your ad group think to yourself “would creating a new ad for this keyword make it more relevant?”.  If the answer is yes, then create a new ad group.  It really is worth the time and effort and you will reap the benefits of higher quality scores and a lower average cost per click.

Another option is to create separate ad groups for each keyword in your campaign (known as SKAGS, single keyword ad groups, in the world of PPC jargon).  By doing this you create a specific, highly relevant ad for every keyword.  If you have the time and resources this can be an effective strategy, but it will increase the complexity of managing your campaigns. Whichever method you choose, tightly themed ad groups are the way to go.

5. Not reviewing the performance of search partners

Search partners is a collection of non-Google websites where your ads can be shown.  These include sites such as Amazon and several smaller search engines.

When you create a new campaign the checkbox to include search partners is automatically ticked so many people opt in to search partners without realising it.

Whilst opting into search partners is not necessarily a bad thing, it may work well for your campaign, you need to be aware that your ads are showing on search partners and to regularly monitor the performance to determine if it is the right option for you.

You can review the performance of your ads on search partners by going to a campaign, clicking on segment and then selecting Network (with search partners).  One point to note is that your click-through-rate on search partners does not affect the quality score of your keywords on the Google Search Network so don’t worry if this is particularly low.

6. Not using ad extensions

If you are not using ad extensions, you are potentially missing out on higher ad positions and increased click-through-rates.

When calculating your ad rank (the position of your ad in the search results) Google considers 3 factors: The maximum cost-per-click bid that you set, quality score and the expected impact from ad extensions.  It is good practice to add as many ad extensions to your campaign as you can but make sure they are relevant. 

Start out with site links and callout extensions as these are very quick and easy to set up.  Some ad extensions such as app extensions may not be relevant to your business.

Find out more about the different types of ad extensions here.

7. Going for the number 1 spot

Everyone wants to be number 1 but this is not always the best strategy to take for your PPC campaigns.  Being top of the search results is sure to increase your traffic but it won’t necessarily be cost-effective.  You can often achieve better results by swallowing your pride and showing your ad further down the page at a much lower cost per click resulting in a more profitable campaign.

8. Not using conversion tracking

Conversions, whether they are sales or leads, are one of the defining aspects of your campaigns. If you don’t have conversion tracking set up on your AdWords account, then it becomes impossible to judge how well a specific keyword or ad group is performing leading to wasted ad spend and poor results.  Luckily, Google has made it simple to set this up. You will need to define what a conversion is for your business and add a tracking code provided by Google to your website.  Follow the steps here.

9. Not bidding on your brand name

There is a lot of debate around whether you should bid on your brand name.  Again, this can vary for different businesses and should be based on performance.

Start off by doing a quick search on Google for your brand.  Does your website come up at the top of the organic results? Are any of your competitors showing ads for your brand name? If there are no ads showing and you are top of the organic results then you would likely be wasting money by bidding on this term but if your competitors are trying to steal your traffic by bidding on your brand name you might be missing out on clicks and creating your own ad might be worthwhile in order to stave off that competition!

10. You don’t have a good landing page

So, you have structured your PPC account to perfection with tightly themed ad groups and the most creative and enticing ad copy? All your time and effort is likely to go to waste though if you do not have a good landing page.

When a user views your ad, they have an idea of the content it will lead them to based on the headline and ad copy you have chosen.  If the user’s expectations are not met they will quickly leave your site (bounce) and the cost of that click is wasted.

The landing page should be highly relevant to your ad and the keyword that triggered that ad.  Not only that, your landing page should be easy to navigate, provide high quality, informative content and have a strong call to action to maximise conversions.

Landing page relevancy is also another factor that Google considers when calculating quality score, so it is worth some time and effort to get it right.

Creating and managing a PPC account can prove to be very profitable however it is easy to make mistakes along the way.  Do not despair.  By avoiding the common PPC mistakes listed above you can save yourself a lot of time and money and achieve greater results for your business.

Andrew works as a PPC Executive at Nominet. Passionate about all things digital, Andrew started out working in SEO before moving to PPC and has over 4 years’ experience working in digital marketing.

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