7 reasons you’re spending too much on Google AdWords

Find AdWords difficult to optimise? In his latest blog, Areion Azimi shares key pointers to help you better target your audience AND save money...

When I use Google search to find products and services online, I often see major brands bidding on entirely irrelevant keywords and displaying adverts with nonsensical content. And they’re not alone.

Countless other large, medium, small and start-up businesses make similar unnecessary mistakes when using AdWords. Is it because these companies don’t understand marketing? I personally doubt it.

Is it because marketing teams have cracked ‘secret keywords’ which, although completely random and unrelated to their offering, yield 100% click through rate and 100% conversion on ads placed via Google search? Doubtful.

The difficult truth is that we know AdWords is tricky to optimise but we deal with the baggage it brings because of the traffic it delivers. So how can you make sure you’re not losing money on AdWords?

Below I’ve outlined a few common areas where advertisers tend to see the most of amount of low value default out-of-the-box configurations set by AdWords when you create new campaigns or accounts. A majority of these changes require your campaign settings to be set to All features and not Standard, which by the way AdWords does not recommend you tinker with, for reasons you’re about to find out.

(NOTE: Make sure you have a good understanding of your conversion metrics and consider the impact any changes could have on your AdWords account. It’s good to try and save on your AdWords spend, but any change can have the potential to a loss of revenue and/or profitability.)

1. Location options (advanced)

Most businesses lose a lot of money on this. AdWords conveniently defaults the following location setting option for you: “People in, searching for or who show interest in my targeted location”. The problem with this setting is that it assumes your desired customers finds you via the Google site they’re searching from and NOT the actual physical location where the person resides.

Thus, someone living in Uzbekistan but searching from Google will very likely see ads that you probably intended to be seen by individuals living in the UK. Therefore, you can pay for clicks from really anywhere in the world – even if your business doesn’t serve these locations. However, most companies only ship products and provide services to customers in select parts of the world so you may want to change this option to “people in my targeted location” if you want your ads to serve individuals in select targeted locations.

2. Bid strategy

The Ad Rank mechanism AdWords uses to display advertiser ads is primarily based on Quality Score, which is the “expected click-through rate, ad relevance and landing page experience”, and the bid amount of the keyword in question. By default, AdWords selects “AdWords will set my bids to help maximise clicks within my target budget.”

This may seem like a good idea but would you trust a stranger to place bids for you at an auction? If your ad copy or site content are not optimised in Google’s eyes, you could be paying a premium on certain keywords to boost your Ad Rank. Retaining control of keyword bid amounts is important if you wish to better manage your company’s AdWords spend, albeit with the additional effort to adjust bid amounts manually.

By adjusting bids manually, your business will benefit and you’ll be able to exploit an AdWords flaw. When AdWords alerts you on the dashboard that your bid amount is too low check the impressions and clicks over a few day’s time to confirm this – often what AdWords says and what it does can be different. You may be surprised to see that even though AdWords is saying your keyword bid is “below first page bid”, your ad can still rack up impressions, clicks and be in a top spot. Ain’t that dandy?

3. Keyword match types

Got some keywords and think you’re ready to make money online eh? Good for you! By default, Google sets your keywords to Broad Match, thus those keywords you think you’re bidding on…aren’t actually what those who click on your ads are searching for.

Rather, to see what people are actually searching for you’ll need to check out ‘Details – Search Terms -> All’ settings under the ‘Keywords’ tab. Here you can see the actual search terms people used that clicked on your ad, as well as the keyword match type Google is using to justify displaying your ad.

This page is an eye opener for many businesses as you’ll quickly see the good and bad keywords which have been racking up clicks. If you see any keywords you don’t want your ad to show up for make sure you add them as Negative Keywords so Google knows not to show your ad. Similarly, if you see any keywords you’d like to add, you can select those too from this view.

4. Keyword suggestions under opportunities

Be careful of the AdWords keyword suggestions. Most can be garbage yet they are grouped based on whatever criteria AdWords wants you to think is coherent, and often it’s  not. Don’t accept these suggestions without reviewing each and every single keyword you’re adding in. Also, bear in mind if you’re not wishing to use Broad Match for the keywords, you’ll need to change the keyword type afterwards.

5. Ad Scheduling

On the default Ad Scheduling settings, AdWords runs your ad throughout the day which can be desirable for some but not for others. Let’s say you tun a food business,and your business is open from 8am to pm, would you want to run your ads and pay for clicks from customers you can’t serve? Probably not!

Fortunately, you can set the dates and times you wish your ads to run but its hidden deep in Advanced Ad Settings.

6. Device settings

If you don’t have a mobile or tablet-ready site Google doesn’t care. AdWords will enable on your ads to appear to mobile users even though you’re site is not compatible for mobile or tablet browsers.

You’ll have to navigate to the ‘Settings’ tab and click ‘Devices’ to change the bid amounts for mobile devices, tablets and desktops if you wish to not have your ads displayed to mobile, tablet or desktop users for whatever reasons you deem necessary.

7. Display network

Depending on your marketing strategy, be considerate of whether or not you wish to advertise on Google’s Display Partner Network. Depending on the nature of your product and your business’ customer lifecycle, advertising via the Display Network could be a waste of money. Try to avoid it if you can and understand that it’s mostly beneficial for businesses whose customer’s browse to different sites online before making a purchasing decision. Google pre-selects the Display Network option when creating new campaigns and new accounts, so look out for that trick from the ‘ol AdWords mavericks.

Hopefully with these tips you’ll be able to reexamine your campaigns to make sure you’re getting the most from your advertising spend on AdWords.

Areion Azimi is founder of Sweet Startup; a company which provides development services to start-ups and small and medium-sized businesses.

For more advice on using Google AdWords, click here.

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  1. TotalWeighing
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    A good article with lots of tips, thank you.

    The only thing I would recommend is rather than turning down your bids for mobile devices, do quite the opposite. make sure your website works on a mobile device (essential these days) and turn up the bids to make sure you are shown in position 2 or less.

    Depending on your industry, most people look for things on their mobiles these days before then moving their search over to a desktop PC to finalise the transaction.