10 common Adwords mistakes by business owners

A few months ago I decided to get back into experimenting in Adwords advertising for both my day job and Observu website monitoring. I quickly learned that Adwords is very good at letting you pay for low value traffic and making you believe you are doing a good job.

1. Mistake clicks for success

Clicks are traffic to your site and this can only be a good thing, right? Yes, if you weren’t paying through the nose for it. If you are paying EUR 2,00 for a visitor that spends 5 seconds on your site and then hits the back button that is just throwing away money.

To start, you need to monitor conversions (pretty much everyone uses Google tag manager to set it up) such as submitting your registration form, buying a product, etc.

Make sure to add the ‘number of conversion’ column to all your adwords reports so you can see which clicks get you conversions

2. Not check actual search terms regularly

Another way to see the value of your traffic is to religiously check the actual search terms visitors used before they clicked your ad. You may think you are getting clicks for interesting keywords, but Google may be fooling you with their reports. e.g. I advertise on a broad matching keyword: website monitoring. What Adwords sends me traffic for is someone that searched for: compare monitors online. It’s highly unlikely that this is someone interested in my product.

To deal with this you can either change a broad matching keyword to a more narrow match or add it as a negative keyword.

3. Pay for irrelevant traffic

This is a refinement on point 2. If you watch it closely you will notice that Adwords will send you traffic on people search for URLs .e.g. queries like: http www somewebsite com your keyword Often it’s very unlikely to be relevant, I therefore suggest to add the following negative keywords to every campaign that is not your own brand campaign:


4. Overpaying for mobile clicks

In my experience there is far less value in mobile clicks, because on mobile Ads look even more like search results and people are very quick to (maybe accidentally) hit the first result they see. I therefore urge you too adjust your bid for mobile devices with 50% to 90%.

5. Use automated / enhanced bidding

Although these options sound great, what I’ve seen in practice is that Adwords most of the time just raises your bids to the maximum CPC you’ve set. With manual bidding you have much better control over what you are willing to pay. I suggest adding the [top of page] column to your keyword reports to select a proper price to bid.

6. Combine multiple keywords in a single ad group

An important factor in how well your ads are displayed is the Quality score. One part of this quality score is that your Ad text matches your keyword. Now when I first used Adwords I assumed that Google would match my keyword to the most fitting Ad I had in the group. This does not seem the case. Adwords converges to the best performing Ad in a group, independent of how well it matches the current keyword. Therefor the only way to force a relevant ad, is to make sure a group has a very narrow scope in keywords and use the keyword in the ad text. By doing so, the quality score will improve and the display likeliness and position of your ad will improve.

Further improvement can be made by creating a landing page for the ad group and making it highly relevant to your keyword.

7. Adding broad matching keywords

As I already mentioned at point 2. and 3. if you use broad matching keywords, Google takes a lot of liberty to show your ads. Now this has it’s advantages, such as also matching searches for competing products. But it also triggers a lot of irrelevant traffic. It is therefore strongly suggested to only use broad matching keywords to discover more specific relevant keywords. In my case, instead of just using: website monitoring I use:

+website +monitoring
“website monitoring”
[website monitoring]

Phrase match (second item) is the closest to what you would normally expect Google to do. Using all three variations allow to bid more for people searching for the exact keyword.

8. Forget checking the quality of conversions

If you followed the recommendation to track conversions, it’s easy to assume every conversion has a value. That’s not the case. e.g. if someone fills out my signup form, but never confirms their e-mail, is there any value? What if they sign up, but then contact support and you figure out they intended to do something else. (e.g. sign up for a different product with a similar name)

Ideally your signup/buy process should capture the adwords campaign it originated from (e.g. using the __utmz cookie) so you can identify which campaigns result in these bogus conversions.

9. Mixing low and high cost keywords in a single campaign

One of the struggles with Adwords is getting to a CPC that is low enough so it works for your business. Once you found some low cost, high volume keywords they can provide a steady stream of traffic. Some keywords may be more relevant and you are willing to pay more for it, that’s fine. However, if you combine these two in one campaign under a single budget, this means that that one EUR 3 click, just cost you the 10 30 cent clicks you would normally have.

10. Not using a dedicated campaign for your brand name

If you need to advertise on your own brand name (e.g. a competitor is stealing your clicks by advertising on it). You need to do so in a separate campaign. First, someone searching for your brand has very different characteristics, this will skew your conversion metrics. Second, this is easy, highly relevant traffic, you don’t want to miss out on this because you ran out of budget due to other keywords.

I’m by no means an expert, but just checking your account regularly for these mistakes can drastically increase the value you get from your Adwords budget.


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