Jonathan Saipe

1O Common (And Sometimes Costly) AdWords Mistakes

5 March 2013, Jonathan Saipe

OopsHaving run dozens of PPC and AdWords courses, I thought I’d share some of the most common recurring issues I encounter with client campaigns.

Such issues have the potential to conspicuously reduce campaign performance and inhibit ROI.

So, I’ve short-listed the 10 most common AdWords mistakes we come across in frequency order:

1. Too many keywords in one ad group

This is by far the most common AdWords mistake I come across. There’s a great temptation to add lots of keywords to each ad group, the logic being that your share of search will increase. Google doesn’t help the situation as the AdWords interface provides easy ways to add yet more keywords to each ad group.

Solution: Ad groups should be very tightly themed and should contain a small group of keywords. I work on the principle of “lots of ad groups with few keywords” rather than the opposite. And given that Google is looking for relevance, you should be able fit your keywords into the ad group’s ad copy.

2. No conversion data and insight

The second most common issue we encounter is lack of conversion data and hence reduced insight into campaign or keyword ROI.

Whilst campaign objectives will of course vary, understanding the impact of PPC activity on bottom line and profitability is critical. Having no conversion data makes calculating the positive (or negative) impact of PPC very difficult.

Solution: Set up AdWords conversion tracking and if you are using Google Analytics, ensure that you are linking AdWords and Analytics so that you can compare AdWords conversion data with other channels in Google Analytics.

3. Excessive use of broad match keywords

I come across dozens of instances where accounts are only using broad matched keywords in ad groups. The risk here is that Google can trigger ads for unwanted variants of those keywords, resulting in either a poor CTR (and hence Quality Score) or poor conversion rates. A quick search query report on broad matches terms can reveal some real horror stories in terms of real searches that triggered ads.

Solution: Reduce (or remove) instances of broad matches and replace with more targeted keyword matching options such as broad match modifiers, phrase or exact matches. Note that these can be combined in a single ad group to overcome the dilemma of volume versus targeting.

4. No impression share metrics or competitor insight

There are very few occasions where we have seen campaigns using impression share metrics – something we wrote about over two years ago. Having insight into your share of search could indicate that you are under spending and missing opportunities. We also find that large numbers of marketers don’t have an understanding of their competitor landscape within the AdWords environment which could impact on their bidding strategies.

Solution: Ensure you have added impression share metrics to your AdWords campaigns. And periodically run AdWords auction insights to see your competitors’ “overlap” and “position above” rates.

5. Lack of ad experimentation

Campaign experiments are not unique to AdWords. With the huge proliferation of conversion optimisation software, there is ample opportunity for testing landing pages and email campaigns. Within AdWords, Google makes it incredibly easy to run multiple ads within one ad group to test copy variants.

Solution: Set up more than one ad in your ad groups and test for copy variants such as: calls to action, offers, persuasion, impact and value proposition.

Bonus tip: look at your ad rotation settings in your campaigns and decide whether to optimise for clicks or conversions (or just rotate randomly if you’d like to have more manual control). Your decision here will depend on whether your objectives relate more to brand versus outcomes such as leads, sales or sign-ups.

6. Keywords don’t match audience behaviour

During our various search marketing courses, we discuss the difference between office language versus the search behaviour of our target audiences. I heard a lovely example recently when a course attendee put their hand up and said, “it’s diggers not excavators!”. This really hit the nail on the head.

Too many campaigns lose sight of the search habits of their target market and instead bid on keywords less commonly used in search. This will result in missed opportunities or poor CTR or conversions.

Solution: Make your keyword bids more customer-centric. Use keyword research tools, or carry out interviews or questionnaires to gain customer insight. Also consider synonyms. And if your campaigns are international, consider language and cultural variations in keyword usage.

7. Under-use of campaign extensions

Google’s growing list of campaign extensions offer an increasingly large number of options to advertisers. However, I often find that AdWords extensions are not implemented which can result in missed opportunities.

For example…

  • Sitelinks are well known for increasing ad CTR and offering advertisers various ways to enhance their advertising options
  • Call extensions will give you opportunity to receive calls directly from the mobile channel
  • Location extensions will offer ways to advertise multiple outlets/offices to increase regional uptake
  • Social extensions will let you publicise the popularity of your organisation’s Google Plus page increasing trust cues in your copy

All of these options can increase ad performance and potential ROI. It’s a simple opportunity wasted.

Solution: In your campaign settings, configure the campaign extensions that will make your ads work harder for you.

8. Insufficient regular attention paid to keyword performance

I like to compare keyword bidding to stock broking. Stock brokers buy and sell shares. Each stock has a cost risk and a cost reward. Savvy stock brokers will know when to buy and sell. They monitor the market closely and react quickly as and when required.

There are parallels with keyword bidding. Keywords carry a cost risk, but equally potential reward. Keywords that show potential can be eligible to have their bid increased, whereas keywords that perform poorly can/should be culled to avoid wastage.

This analogy usually convinces marketers that they aren’t looking at their keyword performance as often as they should do. Keywords are very much the life blood of AdWords activity (especially within the search network) and regular reporting and action is of paramount importance.

Solution: Analyse your keyword performance as often as you can. Look for cost, CTR and conversion metrics that really stand out (positive and negative); particularly for negative performers, pause or delete keywords that aren’t working for you.

9. Lack of awareness of allowable CPA

This is an issue I encounter a great deal of the time. I see a lot of keyword bids created without taking into consideration allowable cost per acquisition i.e. how much can I spend on marketing something before I start to make a loss whenever a sale, lead or sign-up is completed.

Calculating allowable CPA is no easy task, especially for companies selling many products or where the value of a converted lead is difficult to predict. But nonetheless, having a figure to work with helps marketers understand whether their conversions are within their profit targets.

Solution: Work with someone in your or your client’s finance department (or equivalent) to help establish your allowable CPA(s), or at least an average you should be working with. Once you have this, you can analyse your cost per conversion data to ascertain whether you are hitting your targets successfully.

10. Failure to understand GDN and remarketing opportunities

There are two issues here. There’s still a lack of understanding around the Google Display network and the expected difference in performance compared with the search network. But more specifically, I find that many AdWords campaigns aren’t using remarketing opportunities to reignite interest among customer segments.

Remarketing can be used either as an acquisition tool for people who visited key pages or saw promotions and didn’t convert; or a retention strategy for recent purchasers or leads by reminding them about complimentary products or services. When it works, we sometimes see very favourable cost per conversions.

Solution: There are some very good blog posts on remarketing best practices as well as some great examples of brands using remarketing. I hope you can be inspired to create some of your own campaigns.

I’d be interested to hear your opinion on which AdWords problems or issues you regularly encounter?

For further information on how Emarketeers can help, see our AdWords Foundation Course and Advanced AdWords course.