Paid Search Marketing

Improve Your Paid Search Performance by Addressing These 5 Common PPC Mistakes

By Larry Kim November 03, 2009 Posted In: Paid Search Marketing Comments: 6

For many online marketers, pay-per-click advertising is a relatively complicated marketing tool with a lot of moving pieces. Maybe that’s an understatement, but with so many moving pieces, it is commonplace to let certain strategies and best practices fall through the proverbial cracks. Admittedly, a lot has been written on PPC mistakes. But that is just further proof that so many advertisers are leaving money on the table and need to be reminded how they can step up their game and improve their PPC performance. Today I’m going to discuss 5 common mistakes that PPC advertisers make and offer simple solutions to get your campaigns moving in the right direction.

  1. Ignoring Quality Score-Friendly Campaign Structure

    Despite the wealth of knowledge found on blogs and in the PPC search engines’ help sections, it amazes me how many advertisers ignore campaign structure best practices. Primarily, I’m referencing ad groups that contain 100s of keywords or worse. This is Quality Score un-friendly. Why? When you have that many keywords in a single ad group, it is impossible for you to write ad copy that actually contains your keywords! Ad texts that contain your targeted keywords garner higher click-through rates and ultimately retain higher Quality Scores. Take a hard look at your keyword list and start segmenting them into small, meaningful groups that will allow you to craft keyword-laden ad copy.
  2. Quality Score Friendly Account Structure

  3. Bidding at the Ad Group Level

    This is a mistake that I’m guilty of, and a vast majority of PPC professionals and amateurs are guilty of as well. In all of the PPC search engines, you have the ability to set default maximum cost-per-clicks at the ad group level. When you’re in a rush to complete a campaign optimization or to launch a new series of ad groups, it is easiest just to determine a good “umbrella bid” and launch the ad groups as-is. You (and I) could argue that this is admissible at the on-set of a new campaign. But the mistake that I’m referring to is continuing to manage bids at the ad group level long-term. Tisk, tisk. Keywords are unique entities that must be treated as such with keyword-level bids. Ad group level bidding can leave some keywords below the “first page bid” threshold in Google. And in general ad group bidding can waste money on poor performing keywords and restrict keywords that would benefit from an increased bid.
  4. No Ad Text Testing

    Big, big mistake. If you run a PPC campaign and are currently NOT split-testing your ad copy, stop reading this post right now and go write some ads. I’m serious. Do it now. Stop reading and go write some ads. For the rest of you, what I’m about to say should be obvious. All of the PPC search engines have the built-in capability to rotate multiple ad texts so that you can test variations in messaging, benefits, calls-to-action, etc.
  5. Ignoring the Content Network

    Google’s Content Network has long been given a bad rap. Advertisers didn’t understand the subtle nuances of contextual advertising and instead of learning how to improve their campaigns, labeled the Content Network as unwieldy and something to be avoided. Not so, I say! Contextual advertising is very powerful and very effective (and as Spiderman says, with great power comes great responsibility). Utilizing the Content Network requires vigilance in reporting, and a dedication to testing different techniques to make it work. Let me tell you, when you find the sweet spot, your payoff in quality conversions can be huge. So if you are currently making the mistake of ignoring the Content Network, please reconsider. Take the time to craft a Content campaign with themed ad groups and make a pact with yourself to perform daily (weekly at least) Placement Performance reporting to eradicate poor performing or irrelevant websites.
  6. Under-Utilizing Negative Keywords

    The PPC search engines have given us all a fantastic tool to hone our campaigns and improve our performance with negative keywords. If you’re just joining us from an ad writing sojourn in #3, prepare to leave again. If you aren’t using negative keywords, go to your AdWords account and pull a Search Query report right now (see screenshot below). Look for queries that are irrelevant to your product/service and add them as negative keywords. Like right now! If you already use negatives, good for you. But I bet that you could do better. I’ve seen a lot of PPC campaigns that have a nice, neat little list of negative keywords that was either created when the campaign was launched or was inserted after a well-timed blog post (not unlike this one?). The problem is that negative keyword usage is not a singular event. It is an on-going process that reflects changes in your marketplace and the ebb and flow of search queries. Make it a point to regularly scan your search queries and consistently add to and expand your negative keyword list.

         Google AdWords Search Query Report

Well, there you have it: 5 common PPC mistakes. Now you know the mistakes, and better yet – you have the tools to turn those mistakes into improved PPC performance!

Share your thoughts! What other PPC mistakes have you found or feel should be addressed?

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If you enjoyed this post, please consider leaving a comment.


Tuesday November 03, 2009

Richard (not verified) Said:


I'm rkraneis on Twitter. Follow me, send me a DM and I'd be glad to send you some feedback.

Thanks for the article.

Tuesday November 03, 2009

Richard (not verified) Said:

Now I understand...

It took a while to understand all 5 points. 3, 4, and 5 were easy.

Numbers 1 and 2 took reading it twice to understand but I've got it.

One of the reasons I read WordStream's Blog is to remain sharp in this area (not as sharp as you guys and gals perhaps, but way sharper than the average person in my age group). So I appreciate the challenge.

Tuesday November 03, 2009

Richard (not verified) Said:

Classic PPC Mistake

Recently I spoke with a potential client in NYC regarding PPC. She is a very smart lady, but I suspect, not a numbers person...

We were discussing Google PPC and she said, "It's a scam. I spent thousands of dollars on ads and didn't make any sales. They don't work."

This is the classic PPC mistake of unrealistic expectations.

I suggested to her that she could have set a dollar limit in her mind for the campaign and pulled the plug to re-assess if the campaign went badly. Obviously, she never did.

The audience of this blog is too savvy to make such a mistake. But the executives who give out PPC assignments may not be so knowledgeable.

So there's the classic PPC mistake: unrealistic managerial expectations.

Perhaps you can write on that topic one day.

Wednesday November 04, 2009

Richard (not verified) Said:


Nice to see an illustration for #1 and #5. Did the illustration for #5 come from a WordStream product? Just wondering.

Here's another question on point #1.

Since 100 keywords for 1 Ad Group weakens quality score (and increases CPC while decreasing placement in the ad) and multiple ad groups with much smaller keyword groupings improves quality score, it raises a question for me.

Bad: 1 Ad Group with 100 keywords.
Good: 10 to 20 Ad Groups with 10 to 5 keywords per ad group.

If quality score improves with many targeted ad groups, should those targeted ad groups also have customized landing pages?

Learning PPC on my own just through books and blogs, I've always thought that PPC ads convert better with customized landing pages.

It seems like the good advice to multiple ad groups would suggest using customized landing pages for those ad groups also for better conversions, which in turn would raise the cost of the campaign. Am I over thinking this process?

A fine article, thanks again.

Wednesday January 13, 2010

Where Did Bakedwheat Web Go? | Bakedwheat Web Enterprises (not verified) Said:

[...] Improve Your Paid Search Performance by Addressing These 5 Common PPC Mistakes [...]

Monday August 02, 2010

DragonSearch (not verified) Said:

We try to do negative keywords at least once a month. If you wait any longer, the list on the query report is too big to want to go through...

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