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6 Huge Adwords Mistakes To Avoid

This post examines what I have found to be the really big mistakes, particularly in-house and inexperienced marketers make with their Adwords campaigns.

Not using conversion tracking

Must be 1st on my list. Adwords (and ppc as a whole) has this phenomenal accountability associated with it because we can actually track the cost per lead, cost per sale or whatever other ‘conversion’ that we want our campaigns to measure. Conversion rate and cost per conversion should form the basis of your keyword bidding based on how much ROI you want from a product sale or how much a lead is worth to your business. It even allows you to track phone calls (with call extensions) but that’s a slightly different topic.

What is cost per conversion?Get conversion tracking set up if you don’t have it and if your site isn’t selling products or have enquiry forms there are other things you can track as conversions e.g. avg time on site over x or views of a key page, contact us page views for example. If you don’t have traditional conversions to track, or even if you do, you can import your Google Analytics goals into Adwords to track as conversions. (I’m making an assumption anyone reading this blog has Google Analytics and goals setup!)

Not monitoring your cost per conversion

For those who didn’t even have conversion tracking setup you can almost be forgiven for spending a lot of money on Adwords and not knowing what ROI you were getting. For those that have it and don’t monitor cost per conversion you are really missing the point as to the potential of this cost effective advertising medium to put extra bucks in your bank account. This isn’t like regular advertising where ROI is guesswork. Don’t pay more per lead, sale (or other conversion) than you want to, you have control over that.

very high cost per conversion

Determine what your target cost per conversion should be based on potential profit from the conversion. If you are selling products this should be relatively easy to do, but don’t forget to factor in repeat business and upsell’s. If you are selling a service and your site produces leads, rather than sales, you’ll need to weight in the likely lifetime value of winning the customer, minus associated costs. If your trackable conversion is something like a PDF download you’ll need to learn what the ratio of PDF download to customer acquisition is then cross reference it with your Adwords cost per conversion figure (PDF download) to get an idea of what is an acceptable cost per conversion.

Not separating mobile bids

Adwords campaigns recently became Adwords Enhanced campaigns, which really messed up the ability to adjust your bidding based on the device searchers see your ad on Google through i.e. desktop/laptop, mobile and tablet.

Previous best practise would have been to have e.g. a red widget campaign targeted at desktops/laptops, a red widget campaign targeted at tablets and a red widget campaign targeted at mobile devices. The reason you should have done this is because the conversion rate from these 3 different device types varies a lot. Paying £1 per click to promote a £20 product with a conversion rate of 10% and thus cost per conversion of £10 is great, but what about if the conversion rate from mobile is just 1% and your cost per conversion for your £20 product is therefore £100? With similar/duplicate campaigns for each device you can control your bidding better and reduce biding for devices that convert too expensively. Unfortunately with Adwords Enhanced campaigns desktop/laptop and tablet devices are treated as the same. There is no option to target tablets separately now. You can target your mobile bid per campaign separately but not at the keyword level any more, however by choosing a % to bid up or down for that device across all keywords in the campaign. If you haven’t adjusted your mobile bids theres a very good chance you are overpaying for mobile traffic that converts less well than from other devices.

How to adjust mobiled bids in Adwords Enhanced campaigns (click for bigger image)

In your campaigns hit the settings > devices tab to see how the different devices fare in terms of cost per conversion. If your mobile cost per conversion is too high adjust the bidding down. Keep an eye on the mobile cost per conversion over time and adjust your bidding accordingly.

Not using ad extensions

Ad extensions are a great way to make your ad stand out. If you don’t have ad extensions your ad consists of 2 or 3 lines of text plus your display url. With ad extensions your ad can also be appended with other useful information which can draw attention to your ad, increase clickthrough rate and provide options to connect with your business over and above simply visiting the destination url of the ad. For example you can include a phone number with your ad with trackable call data or a street address hyperlinked to Google Maps. The most widely used ad extension is sitelinks. These are additional links underneath your ad, which can be used to direct people to other areas on your site e.g. FAQ, blog or contact us page, giving searchers an opportunity to get to an alternate page on your site they might want to visit instead of the one you’ve chosen as your destination url. Aside from adding searcher convenience sitelinks also increase the size of your ad, make it stand out more and increase clickthrough rate.


Here’s a good article from Koozai on which ad extensions to use.

I recently wrote an article about sitelinks and the broad range of other search result items here.

Not making your campaigns granular

Many in-house PPC campaigns follow a similar account structure; 1 campaign, 1 ad group, lots of keywords not closely related to the ad or ads in the 1 ad group! Ok, maybe a little harsh but even reasonably good in-house campaigns usually have a very flat account structure.

To get the best results from PPC and to understand campaign strengths and weaknesses it pays to make your campaigns as granular as possible. For example if you have an ecommerce store selling 5 different products in 5 different colours it would be much better to have a campaign for each product and within each each campaign 5 different ad groups for each colour. Ok, thats a little simplistic but the logic is clear. If I search for ‘red widget’ i’m more likely to click on an ad about red widgets and i’m more likely to buy your red widgets if the ad sends me to the red widget page. Building your account structure out granularly following this logic helps makes sure all your keywords can be represented by targeted ad groups and ad copy, which will produce better clickthrough rates, better quality scores, lower cpc’s as well as better conversion rates.

How to add negative keywordsIt comes as a surprise to many new or even not so new to pay per click that the search engines will show your ad for variations of the keywords you bid for whether you think they are relevant or not. The main reason for this is when you list keywords as ‘broad match’ by default (not going into match typing here but here’s a good article by Search Engine Watch on it) you are giving license for the engines to show your ad for what they think are appropriate variations of your keywords. Now, on the whole, this is actually a very good thing as it increases your coverage and helps you get traffic from keywords you would never of thought of. The only downside to this if you were blissfully unaware that the search engines did this then you have no idea you are very likely wasting money, potentially lots, on search terms you really don’t want your ads to appear for.

If you were inclined to want total control over which search terms trigger your ads then you need to list all your keywords in [exact match], but I don’t recommend that approach.

How to view the search terms reportTo find out what are the actual search queries triggering your ads and for which you are paying, see the image opposite. The search queries that are performing well, add them to your campaigns as keywords in their own right. For those, which are not relevant add them as negative keywords. You’ll find the tool to add negatives to your Adwords campaigns at the bottom of your keyword reporting (see image above).


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