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.
Related: Pay-Per-Click Advertising ROI Calculator
The author is an Entrepreneur contributor. The opinions expressed are those of the writer.