Top 11 Money-Wasting AdWords Mistakes

Learn how to avoid costly errors and save yourself from big headaches in pay-per-click advertising, specifically AdWords.

In my daily interaction with search engine marketing clients, I come across bad habits that businesses and individuals continually repeat.

I see a very high percentage of website owners with little to no understanding of how to build a search engine-friendly site. That's typically my first encounter. The cash drain isn't as apparent then as during my second encounter: pay per click, specifically Google AdWords.

This column assumes that you're fairly new to Google AdWords. If you want to educate yourself further, the 10 to 20 hours you can spend at the Google AdWords Learning Center is well worth it. You also can take the certification exam if you meet their requirements. You need to manage at least one AdWords account and keep at least $1,000 "spend" for 90 days to be allowed to take the exam.

For more information, review the following websites:

  • adwords.google.com/support
  • adwords.blogspot.com
  • groups.google.com/group/adwords-help

They contain additional tips, as well as real-world comments from professionals and others in the field.

Once you've familiarized yourself with AdWords and are ready to set up a campaign, be sure to avoid these top 11 money-wasting mistakes.

1. Not turning off the content network.

When first setting up a campaign, turn off the content network. This option is "on" by default, and you're lucky if it works for you in the first run. It's a form of contextual advertising and tries to position your ads on sites like About.com, The New York Times, Food Network and others. You typically will see high impressions in your system, but often low CTR--click-through-rates, as determined by impressions to clicks--and low-quality clicks. These aren't serious buyers; they're wasting your dollars and time.

2. Using too many keywords.

When creating new campaigns and ad groups, many people begin by entering every keyword under the sun. Don't. Targeting is key; think about your niche and the categories within it. You can use tools like the Wordtracker Free Suggestion Tool to determine which keywords to begin with. Then, when you have a list together, refer to tip No. 6 below.

3. Ignoring the competition.

Analyze your competitors. One way is to use the Google Keyword Tool. Select "site-related keywords" and enter the competitor's website to pull keyword groups from their pages. Also, check their sites for an overall impression and for content. Do some more digging at SpyFu.com to find more on rankings and competitive PPC spending. Look at the search results pages after entering their top keywords in Google, review their ads, think about text and prepare for tip No. 4.

4. Not including keywords in the ad text.

Use keywords in the title of the ad, but also in the ad copy. So many ad copywriters forget to include the keyword phrase in the actual body of the ad text. Write clearly and provide relevant content for both users and the Google AdBot. Create a matching, relevant landing page to satisfy users and obtain a higher Google Quality Score.

5. Sending visitors to your homepage.

Most PPC accounts I come across send traffic and visitors to their homepage. But there's simply too much information there, and visitors may leave your site. Realize that narrow-casting is better than broad-casting in almost every case.

6. Using too many broad keywords.

Creating ad campaigns and ad groups with tightly matched keywords is necessary, but most folks don't do it. You should place only a few keywords into each ad group and add more groups to accommodate new "themed" keywords. Google maxes out at 100 ad groups per account; I believe they'll raise this at some point.

7. Using broad match.

When you set up Google AdWords for the first time and input a keyword, the default type is broad match. While broad match can work for you, I always recommend using phrase and exact match types to start and track the performance from there. AdWords also has a negative match type, which is overlooked most of the time. Examples of match types are:

  • Broad: leather jacket (any order, any word, not as targeted, more clicks)
  • Phrase: "leather jacket" (this order, words before and after, more targeted, OK clicks)
  • Exact: [leather jacket] (this order, no other words, highly targeted, least clicks)
  • Negative: - pink (this would not show ads for "pink leather jacket")

Yahoo! Search Marketing includes match types as well. Make sure you understand them and where they're different. Begin with the standard match type, which is not the default.

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Jon Rognerud is a recognized authority on SEO, who has spent more than 20 years creating and managing web and marketing projects from small to large companies, including positions at online giant Yahoo!. He is the founder of Chaosmap.com, a leading search marketing company in Los Angeles, CA. He plans, builds and delivers profit-making SEO, PPC and Social Media training, consulting as well as breakthrough speaking seminars. He also blogs on his website, http://www.jonrognerud.com

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