6 Critical Adwords Mistakes That Will Eat Your Budget

critical adwords mistakes

This is a contribution by James Grimsley.

Pretty much every online business has either tried Google’s PPC AdWords platform or continues to use it to drive traffic and sales, with varying success.

With the recent changes to ad visibility on Google search results pages, ad placement has seen some dramatic reductions. Gone are the right hand column ads in favour of just four ads at the top of the page (above the fold), and a small handful at the base.

In short, paid ad real estate placement just got even tougher!

To the untrained individual, a Google Adwords campaign can be a horrendously expensive experiment. And with the recent changes mentioned above, the risk of increased overspending on wasted clicks and poorly placed ads are even greater.

Whether you’re new to PPC or consider yourself a veteran, here are 6 tips to help you avoid developing a budget burn rate and critical Adwords mistakes.

6 Critical Adwords Mistakes That Will Eat Your Budget & 6 Ways to Fix Them! #business #paidadvertising #marketingstrategy

Mistake #1: Poor Use (and Understanding) of Keyword Types

The classic trap every newbie to PPC falls into is to automatically implement scores of keyword variations into a single ad group.

They will try to think of every possible permutation of every keyword relating to their niche, and simply blast their campaign full of them.

Broad match-only keywords are often sought after by Adwords newbies who believe this is the safest choice…but it isn’t.

Worse still, many will try placing a blend of exact, phrase and broad match keywords into the same ad group, using duplicates. These duplicates will effectively battle against each other, causing conflicting ad placement results, and ultimately lead to a drop in ad positioning and click-through rates.

In short, this mistake confuses Google’s keyword matching algorithms and can result in huge overspending.

Fix: Improve Keyword Matching & Segmentation

The fix requires a greater understanding of the different types of keyword matches, their uses, and what effect they’ll have on your campaign:

a) Broad match

As the name suggests, this keyword type is the broadest of all keyword match variants. It will display if a Google user enters a search that includes your broad match keywords in any way shape or form.

Sounds great right? No, not exactly!

For example: say you run a commercial cleaning business and you decide to use ‘cleaning company’ as a broad match keyword. Every possible keyword permutation that includes that phrase will match, so you will be attracting scores of irrelevant or unwanted clicks. This will rack up the costs big time!

Because broad matches are placed into your keyword list without any inverted commas or square brackets, it effectively means that they can be placed with practically any search query that contains your keywords in any order. For your Adwords campaign, it leaves the door open for potentially infinite keyword matches. And that’s a dangerous tactic if it’s poorly executed.

Yes, its true that broad match most certainly offers the best opportunities to finding your audience … but you’ll have to also filter out irrelevant searches with a well-crafted set of negative keywords to counter this costly affect. (We’ll talk about negative keywords in a moment.)

Examples of Broad Match Keywords: cleaning company, cleaning business, cleaning firm

b) Phrase Match


Phrase match keywords offer a little more control, in the sense that your ads will only display if the search query phrases used by your audience are typed in the exact order you specified.

Naturally, the number of impressions (e.g. times your ads will be displayed as a result) will be far less than broad match keywords. However, this tends to improve the quality of clicks and reduces the amount of wasted money on irrelevant clicks.

For phrase match keywords to be successful, you must have a very clear understanding of your audience and what they search for. That can only come from good quality keyword research.

So don’t rely solely on Google’s keyword matching tools. There are tons of incredibly powerful third party keyword research tools out there that will give you a greater insight into user habits and commonly searched phrases. Try out resources such as WordStream, Soovle and UberSuggest to find the most commonly searched phrases in your niche and you’ll be far better prepared in creating a fine-tuned set of target keywords, than using pure guesswork!

Examples of Phrase Match Keywords: “cleaning company”, “cleaning business”, “cleaning firm”

c) Exact Match


If you really want to lockdown your searches to the finest detail, exact match offers precisely that.

As the name suggests, this match type requires the user to enter the exact phrase as you have it set up in your campaign, so if a user enters a search for [commercial cleaning business], then only users who search using that phrase precisely in that order with no other keywords in the mix, will see your ads.

So, just like you have to do with phrase match keywords, you need you know your audience and exactly what they’re searching for. Research, research, research!

Examples of Exact Match: [cleaning company], [cleaning business], [cleaning firm]

Keyword Segmentation

Some PPC users prefer to use only a single type of keyword match, such as only choosing broad matches, to keep things clean and simple. Others prefer to experiment and use a mixture of all three.

If you intend to use more than one, try segmenting them into separate ad groups.

If you mix them up, it becomes far more challenging to manage and monitor their performance. The conflicts will return confusing reports, which will look like a minefield of garbled data.

However, when you separate them, it becomes much easier to identify which keyword types perform best.

Make your ad groups easy to identify by labelling them with the keyword match types, so for example, you could use the following names for your ad groups:

Cleaning (Broad match)
Cleaning (Phrase match)
Cleaning (Exact Match)

By implementing this simple approach and by having only a single keyword match type per ad group, your data will be better segmented and analysing keyword performance will become far easier.

You’ll see quickly which keywords are working for you, which aren’t, and where to take necessary action to improve performance.

Mistake #2: Lack of Negative Keywords Causing High Budget Burn Rate

This is another huge Adwords mistake that can eat your budget. But it’s also a rather common mistake, since most newbies to Adwords are completely oblivious to the existence of the negative keyword feature. And frankly, Google hasn’t done a great job of helping that situation … until recently!

Negative keywords are almost as important, if not more so, than your target keywords. Without any in place, you run the risk of displaying your ads across a multitude of irrelevant and extremely costly search phrases. These can really decimate your daily budget!

Essentially, negative keywords tell Google your parameters for where you don’t want your ads to be shown.

Although the negative keywords setting used to be fairly buried down at the base of the keywords page, Google has recently placed it as an option on the keywords tab in a far more prominent position.

Ignore this page at your peril!

The Fix: Add Well-Researched Negative Keywords

As I pointed out earlier, negative keywords prevent your ads from displaying on search queries that simply don’t match your product or service.

No one wants to advertise to the wrong audience!

By adding keywords to the negative list, you can filter out all the “garbage,” and only focus on the potential customers you want to target.

Using negative keywords also helps to improve your campaign’s quality score, which I’ll touch on shortly, so its imperative you set these up well.

How to Find Negative Keywords

The quickest and easiest way to get a good idea on the various types of searches that users enter on searches is to use Google and see what springs up.

Enter a range of your intended positive keywords in Google and then go through each and every letter in the alphabet as a suffix to your search phrase and see the suggested searches Google throws up. You’ll be horrified at the results!

To continue with our previous example, say we’re setting up a commercial cleaning business Adwords campaign.

Just a few test searches on Google return some startling results.

Typing in the phrase “commercial cleaning” and adding the letter “f” shows just how far reaching negative keywords need to be. The results we got were:

commercial cleaning franchise
commercial cleaning flyers
commercial cleaning franchises for sale
commercial cleaning for sale
commercial cleaning franchise reviews

Since none of the above results would be suitable for this campaign, we already have a handful of potential negative keywords to add to the mix.

Feel free to also use the search tools previously mentioned to find common search phrases that aren’t relevant to your niche. Both Soovie and UberSuggest will give you a ton of keywords to filter out in your campaigns and save you a lot of time and effort.

Mistake #3: Lack of Own Brand Bidding

Forgetting to include keywords and ads to promote your company for users that directly search for your business name or brand is often overlooked…but a costly mistake.

Consumers who’ve had a positive experience with a merchant are far more likely to return to their site than go to a competitor, so don’t allow that sales opportunity to pass you by.

A recent Bing study shows that brand-based ads are more likely to receive a higher level of clicks and conversions over generic, non-branded product based ads.

If that’s the case, never make the mistake of underestimating the power of your brand and customer loyalty. So make sure when they search for you, you’re found first!

Fix: Create an “Own Brand” Ad Group

It doesn’t have to be in depth or large scale, but by adding a simple ad group containing just phrases that match your company brand, name or trademarks will help to ensure you capture those over any sneaky competitors trying to steal your market share.

Note: don’t add your brand names to other existing ad groups that are specifically designed for product or service keyword matching. Rather, create a separate ad group purely to promote your company or brand name.

Create a few ads that contain your brand name in the title and description, with your key top selling products getting a good mention or two. Just a handful of keywords should be effective enough to ensure you’ve covered this, and you can rest easy that no one else can easily pounce on your customers with your name!

Mistake #4: Lack of Ad Extensions

Google doesn’t tend to make a great deal of noise about ad extensions or how to ensure your ads are optimised for your target keywords, but both of these techniques are critical to ensuring better ad placement and improved conversion rates.

Extensions effectively allow you to add more information to your ad, which can be really powerful.

Fix: Use Extensions to Increase Advert Scale & Appeal

Ad extensions (see image: Ad-Extensions.png) allow you to improve the quality of your ads by including your company phone number, links to useful pages on your site, call outs, a telephone number and the golden goose of online shopping: reviews!

If you’re in a position to utilise any or all of these methods, use them and don’t overlook them!

Ad extensions increase the size and scale of your ads, so on a base level, it's worth taking advantage of simply to increase the real estate space of your ad.

From a marketing perspective, the opportunities given by extensions will create more calls to action and attract attention. These increase your chances of a click and sales conversion.

Essentially, it’s a no-brainer!

Another great trick to increase the scale and potential verbiage in your Google ads is to use the {Keywords: } syntax in your advert verbiage.

By inserting the above syntax into your ad title, main body or both, the Google users search phrase will automatically be embedded into your adverts, thus increasing its relevancy, visibility placement and likelihood of being clicked.

Implementing this doesn’t cost a thing yet is likely to dramatically increase the ads served percentage rate and prominence amongst search results.

Mistake #5: Not Understanding Adwords Reporting

Oddly enough, Google’s default Adwords interface lacks various data columns, which are vital to tracking campaign success and performance. It’s almost as if they don’t want you to have great data unless you ask for it – but that’s the reality!

Google’s default view when starting an Adwords campaign is seriously lacking in useful and insightful data. If you want to get better feedback on how your ads are performing in terms of relevancy, placement, cost and conversions – you have to make that happen. They won’t do it for you!

It seems a little outrageous, but that’s the situation we're working with. If you’re a newbie, don’t rely on the default data Google is presenting to you.

The fix will require you to make some necessary changes before you’ll start to see exactly where your campaign is going right and where’s it’s going wrong.

Fix: Customise Your Reporting Dashboard

Once you have a campaign in place and you’re close to being ready to go, here are a few of the columns you'll probably want to add to improve the overview of your campaign performance. You can add these by clicking the “Modify Columns” option.

Qual. Score

Each of the keywords in your campaign will be given a quality score out of 10 to determine how relevant they are to your campaign’s target landing pages and adverts.

Without knowing how good your quality score is, you’re pretty much blind. The higher the quality score, the less you’ll actually have to bid to get your ads higher on search pages, so if you’ve hit any 10/10’s, you’re in good shape.

Anything less than 5/10 for a quality score and your bid costs could start to really rack up. In these cases it’s best that you either pause those keywords or work to improve the relevancy of your ads and target URLs to push the score up a little.

Remember: With just four ad places to fight for at the top of the page, getting this right is critical to reducing your cost per conversion.

Est. First Page Bid

Although the accuracy of the numbers returned under this column are arguably just estimates, the figures returned will give you a good idea if you have a fighting chance of getting your ads seen near the top … or if your keyword choices are simply too ambitious to have any success.

It’s definitely a useful benchmark to realising what will and will not work for your daily budget.

Conversions & Conv. Rate

Conversions are the only indicator that really tell you if your campaign is a success or failure. Without this data, you won't be able to measure your ROI.

Both conversions and conversion rates will tell you which keywords perform best, worst, and the ads that are attracting buyers to an eventual sale.

When using Google Adwords, check frequently to ensure conversions are improving and to harness the power of the best performers as much as possible.

Mistake #6: No Conversion Tracking

It never ceases to amaze me how many Google Adwords campaigns I see get set up with no tracking code embedded on the target sales site.

If you can’t effectively track conversions, how can you measure success?

It’s impossible.

Fix: Embed Google’s Conversion Tracking Code

Setting up goals and conversions is fairly simple if you know how. If embedding the simple script that Google generates is too complex for you to implement with your current HTML knowledge, it's so worthwhile to get the help of someone who does!

Yes, it might cost a few hours of labor, but it's a worthwhile investment. A tracking code will give you invaluable insight into the success or failure of your campaign, which keywords convert, which ads attract and convert users to site visits and sales, and how much the overall cost-per-acquisition rate of your campaign is.

Ignore this vital tool and you are effectively writing a blank cheque to Google, not knowing what you’ll get back in return.

Have You Committed Any Critical Adwords Mistakes?

So there you have it.

These are what I regard as just six of the most critical Adwords mistakes that need attention in any Google Adwords campaign. Avoid them to reduce spiralling costs and give you a better insight into effectively using your marketing capital to get a good return.

PPC campaigns that are set up in haste rarely ever succeed.

If you have the means and the time, get the groundwork done right first time and I’m certain you’ll see a much more positive net result as a consequence.


More About the Author

James Grimsley - HeadshotJames Grimsley is the CEO of ECMS, a specialist facilities management and commercial cleaning business based in London, UK. James is an experienced entrepreneur, having been involved in start-ups for nearly 20 years. He has a genuine passion for entrepreneurship, internet marketing and helping ambitious business owners to get their ideas off the ground and brought to fruition through sharing insights and knowledge via the online community.

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