Google AdWords: The 5 biggest mistakes advertisers make

Rachel Mepham reveals the five most common pay-per-click pitfalls

Pay-per-click (PPC) is one of the most transparent forms of advertising. With the ability to set your own parameters, from overall budgets down to the cost you pay for each click to your website, it is also one of the most controllable. However, this doesn’t mean it’s easy. There are many mistakes that advertisers tend to make when running PPC campaigns – here are the top five we have identified:

1. Linking to a general page

One of the simple mistakes that is often made is taking clicks through to your homepage. Advertisers always seem to think their homepage allows visitors to find whatever service or product they want. This is not the case and it is important to make sure that the process from keyword, advert and landing page is as streamlined and relevant as possible. Keywords and ads should be broken into logical groups and allocated relevant landing pages, this makes it simple for the user to find exactly what they are looking for and then execute the purchase or enquiry. For example: a user searches for ‘car hire in Madrid’; the advertiser’s ad says ‘Car hire in Madrid, Great prices with 10% online.’ The landing page then takes the user to the homepage, with no mention of Madrid! Understandably the user will be frustrated that the website doesn’t offer what they are looking for and what they expected to find – and may simply leave the website to click on a competitor. Google rewards relevance, so creating ads which are more relevant can radically increase your click-through rate (CTR) and quality score, and ultimately help improve your position on the search results pages.

2. Using the same strategy for search and display networks

The Google AdWords search and display networks are quite different platforms and work very independently.  – The search network is where a user actually types in a search term and results are displayed based on that search term (in the ‘Sponsored links’ along the right hand side of the results page and at the very top). – The display network (formerly the content network) is Google’s network of partner sites, where your ads are delivered based on content or demographic usage for that particular platform. It requires different ads and targeting settings to run the two strategies successfully and therefore is important to separate these into individual campaigns.

3. No tracking – running blind

Traffic is strong, click-through rates are high and costs are increasing but what about your sales? If you don’t have any tracking for sales or leads then how do you know if your campaign is working? It is all very well getting people through to the website but what are they doing when they get there? Running a campaign without analytics or conversion tracking implemented on your website, or installing but not using it, is a waste of time and money. It means you won’t be able to identify which keywords and ads are working and where you are making a return. The search engines offer their own free tracking tools and Google Analytics is a must have. There are also more intelligent and in-depth paid-for tools available to help identify what works and what doesn’t.

4. Using only one ad variation

It is often easier and more time efficient to use one variation of ad copy which reflects your brand and use that for all your keywords. For some ad groups, this strategy can work to a degree, however if you are looking at taking business from the competition then your ads need to be relevant and engaging. The only way to do this is to test what works by running variations and make sure you are matching your ads to the keywords. This is why the account structure is so important, it allows keywords to be grouped effectively to then allocate two or three ads to rotate and test which performs the best.

5. No review or optimisation

AdWords won’t run itself (at least not well). Many advertisers go to the effort of setting up their PPC campaigns and then simply leaving it to run. This can only be a bad thing, for two reasons: Firstly, if you are not monitoring and optimising your account it will never be efficient. Advertisers regularly waste money on keywords which are not working, or far worse, keywords which are not even relevant. Only by reporting, implementing and learning about the performance can you save money and get the best results from your budget. Secondly, there are continual market changes, competition, current affairs and seasonality which will affect the performance of any account. In order to utilise or combat these market changes it is important to plan your campaigns and optimise them to perform as best as they can. Rachel Mepham is head of digital at Digital Clarity, a leading search and social media agency. Rachel has been instrumental in building the paid search side of Digital Clarity’s business and has strong relationships with both search engines and direct clients. Within her head of digital role, Rachel acts as a consultant to London-based media agencies and boutique design consultancies, where she helps leverage and apply her eight years of online customer acquisition techniques.


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  1. As a Google Partner I see these and more mistakes regularly when auditing failing Adwords accounts. so much so that I recently wrote about the issue on my own blog : – the main thrust being that on the one hand Google make it incredibly easy to set up and account and start advertising (and, we should not forget, sending them money) whilst on the other it is almost impossible to make an AdWords account profitable “Out of the Box”. Without some level of professional guidance most small business owners spend a few hundred pounds to get to this realisation – unfortunately reaching the decision that either Google AdWords doesn’t work (it does) or that it’s not for them (it is).