The Biggest PPC Mistakes That Companies Make

One of the fastest ways to draw more potential customers to your website is pay-per-click (PPC) advertising. Using tools such as Google AdWords, Yahoo Search Marketing and others, business owners can display ads in the sponsored results section of search results pages and pay a fee each time someone clicks through from the ad to their site.

But PPC can be risky if not executed correctly. You can wind up spending a significant amount of money without getting the number of new customers you were hoping for.

If you’re new to PPC advertising, don’t panic. It is possible to learn how to run a profitable campaign through practice and experimentation. Here are five costly PPC mistakes you’ll want to avoid when starting out:

1. Sending visitors to your home page.

Say you’re running a PPC ad for the keyword “Nikon D90 digital camera” — a product you sell on your website. You set up the ad to run whenever this keyword is searched for on your chosen engine, and you use a URL that redirects readers who click on your ad to your site’s home page. Now, this user must painstakingly click through your website’s navigation to find this exact camera model — if he or she even bothers to stick around.

In this case, you took an engaged, targeted visitor and forced him or her to work for the information you promised. A better approach would have been a link to the camera’s product page, avoiding any frustration and bringing your visitors one step closer to completing their purchase.

Related: 3 Ways to Create More Engaging Website Landing Pages

Whenever possible, drive PPC visitors to targeted landing pages. If you don’t have a product-specific landing page to refer visitors to, create custom landing pages that provide the exact information the reader is looking for.

2. Sending visitors to your contact page.

Some businesses send PPC visitors directly to their website’s contact page to force email newsletter opt-ins or lead generation form submissions. This can not only frustrate visitors and hurt the chances of making a sale, but it also can run afoul of PPC platform guidelines.

If you’re advertising through Google AdWords, for example, be aware that requiring visitors to fill out contact forms in exchange for something free goes against the search giant’s guidelines.

3. Failing to split-test your ad text.

To produce the most effective results, avoid running PPC ads without testing them first. You can split-test your ads by creating multiple versions of the ad’s text for each of your PPC ad groups. That way, you can determine which specific wording leads to the most click throughs and on-site conversions.

Nearly all PPC engines allow you to split-test, but ensure that your ad variations will be displayed at random so they generate meaningful data. Some PPC platforms use predictive algorithms to display the ad variation that’s most likely to be successful, but this diminishes the integrity of your split-test data. You can find instructions on how to ensure that your ad versions are displayed randomly in your PPC engine’s help section.

Related: How to ‘Split Test’ Your Website to Engage Online Customers Better

4. Relying entirely on ‘broad match’ keyword ads.

Broad match keyword ads are displayed whenever all or part of your target keyword phrase is searched for, offering the greatest traffic potential. But you may be sacrificing relevance for reach.

For example, suppose you’re a law firm targeting the phrase “divorce attorney” with a broad match ad. Your ad should appear on the results page for the search query “divorce attorney,” but it could also show up for the phrases “reasons for divorce,” “dui attorney” or “dealing with divorce for children.” In these cases, you may be wasting money on irrelevant searches.

Setting your ads to phrase or exact match might decrease your traffic potential, but help ensure that your ads appear for search queries that are most relevant to your business.

5. Not taking advantage of negative keywords.

Many people fail to use negative keywords, which can prevent ads from displaying whenever certain words are searched for. Following the example above, adding the word “dui” as a negative keyword within your PPC ad group would prevent your “divorce attorney” broad match ad from appearing in results for “dui attorney.”

Adding negative keywords to your PPC campaigns is one way to control relevancy without eliminating the potential traffic of broad match ads. But you’ll need to devote time to finding the many possible negative keywords that could influence your campaign.

The Major PPC Mistakes & How To Fix Them

These top mistakes are the difference between high-performing accounts and ones that fail. If you’re not happy with your PPC results, consider this as a checklist to revamp your account. And if you’re making any of these super-common errors, it’s time to fix them.

Mistake #1: Infrequent Logins

The number-one reason most businesses fail at AdWords is they don’t sign in enough. PPC managers say they are doing work in their accounts, but when I look at the change history of the average AdWords account, the numbers tell a different story. In fact, only 1% of small businesses sign in to AdWords on a weekly basis.

If you want AdWords to work for you, you have to commit to regularly logging in and actually working on your account. After all, it’s not going to manage itself.

The good news is AdWords doesn’t have to take over your life. Since most advertisers do so little by way of account optimization, just logging in and working on it for 30 minutes each week (not all day, not every day) can make a big difference.

Mistake #2: Not Optimizing for Quality Score

Quality Score is often seen as a black box –- you can never know exactly how Google calculates it or exactly what your dynamic, behind-the-scenes Quality Score is for any given Google search. This has led many advertisers to erroneously conclude that Quality Score doesn’t matter as a metric.

They’re dead wrong.

Average Quality Score is an extremely good predictor of overall account success, as it directly affects your rankings and cost per click (CPC). Lower CPCs translate into lower costs per conversion, so optimizing for Quality Score is essentially the same as optimizing for costs.

The savings can be pretty powerful:

ppc-quality-score

Unfortunately, though, the typical small business has an average Quality Score of 5, which offers no discount at all.

Mistake #3: Ignoring Mobile Traffic

AdWords advertisers have ignored the mobile space for far too long. It used to be really complicated to run your AdWords ads on mobile, because Google recommended creating entirely separate mobile campaigns. Now, with Enhanced Campaigns, it’s much, much easier.

However, most PPC managers still make the mistake of thinking that mobile traffic is less valuable than desktop. We’ve found a couple of things to be true:

Mobile users are quicker to convert. They often want something NOW, so you need to adjust your ads (messaging, call-to-action, extensions, etc.) accordingly to secure the conversion.

For some businesses, mobile traffic is actually more valuable. We’ve seen some companies getting higher conversion rates from mobile clicks, at a lower cost per click. Test out those audiences and don’t assume mobile isn’t right for you.

Fewer than one in five AdWords accounts has set up mobile-preferred ads. Make sure you’re the one that does it right.

Mistake #4: Lousy Keyword Targeting

While SEOs are flipping out about the “not provided” crisis, as an AdWords advertiser, you still have keyword data to spare. But most AdWords accounts suffer from poor keyword targeting. Some of the problems I see include:

Overly broad keyword choices — Long-tail keywords are more cost-effective, especially in competitive niches, but too many advertisers focus on broad head terms.

Overly broad match types — One in four small businesses only use the default broad match keyword type. This match type is great for Google, since it maximizes the number of clicks, but it’s not so good for you, since those clicks are less likely to be relevant to your offering.

Too few negative keywords — Negative keywords help filter out unwanted, irrelevant clicks, so they’re a key cost containment measure. However, 20% of AdWords accounts don’t use any negative keywords at all.

These targeting mistakes are part of the reason that the typical SMB wastes a fourth of their annual paid search spend.

Mistake #5: Blowing Off the Landing Page Experience

The landing page is where you seal the deal in PPC. You can get everything else right in your AdWords campaigns, but if you’re not building solid landing pages, you’re not going to turn those clicks into conversions.

And guess what? It should come as no surprise at this point that many advertisers don’t realize how important landing pages are:

More than one in four AdWords accounts send all of their PPC traffic to the same landing page.

Roughly one in five small businesses send all of their PPC clicks to the homepage.

Sending all traffic to one landing page or, worse, your homepage is a terrible idea. You need a targeted, dedicated landing page that serves one purpose only: getting the visitor to complete the desired action, which should be closely tied to the keyword and ad that got them to your site in the first place.