Marketing Bootcamp

7 Common Mistakes Companies Make With Google AdWords

So you want to send paid traffic to your website? That’s great! Given the amount of digital noise online today, expanding your digital marketing campaigns by putting your message directly in front of your target audience with paid ads is a powerful technique, and you’ll find that Google AdWords makes it easy to get up and running with this approach.

Unfortunately, though, just because it’s easy to open up an Adwords account doesn’t mean that it’s easy to generate a positive return on investment using this service.

Related: 10 Ways to Boost Results Using Google AdWords

Many pay-per-click (PPC) advertisers start out with good intentions, but limited experience. As a result, they run into common mistakes that can hurt a campaign’s profitability. If your initial campaigns have produced lackluster results, read through the following mistakes and their solutions to improve your PPC ROI:

1. Targeting keywords that are too broad

Here’s a newsflash: if you’re a new advertiser, you’re probably never going to be able to bid your way to the top spot for broad keywords such as “women’s shoes.” Even if you do, you’re going to be paying so much for the privilege that, unless you’re Zappos, it’s unlikely your revenue generated will justify your costs.

Instead, start your AdWords campaigns with groups of five to 10 long-tail keywords -- preferably those you’ve identified as good candidates from the data found in your Google Analytics or Google Webmaster Tools accounts. Expand your campaigns to broader keywords only as you’re able to prove a positive ROI with these entry-level queries.

2. Putting too many keywords in an ad group

In an ideal world, you’d create a unique landing page and PPC ad for every keyword you target, so that your user’s experience is as laser-targeted as possible. But since nobody has this much time, stick to ad groups of just five to 10 keywords to start, as mentioned above. Doing so will prevent you from forcing too many unrelated words and phrases to use the same ads and landing pages.

3. Running ads on the “search network with display select” campaign type

Google tries to push this combination campaign type, but the reality is that AdWord’s search and display formats require different advertising approaches. Stick to search, display or both, but be sure the ads you create follow industry-accepted best practices for each individual campaign style.

4. Sending traffic directly to your homepage

Every visitor you secure via PPC ads should wind up on a landing page that’s designed to be as appealing and engaging as possible to his or her interests. If, instead, you simply drop visitors onto your homepage, you’re making them work to find the information they want, leading to higher bounce rates, missed conversion opportunities and unnecessary ad expenses.

Yes, it’s a little more work to craft custom landing pages for your PPC campaigns, but the results are worth the effort. Tools such as Unbounce and LeadPages make the process a snap.

Related: It's Easy to Spy on Your Competitors Conveniently and for Free

5. Not including negative keywords

Suppose you run a website selling designer women’s shoes. Depending on the match type you use, your AdWords campaign for “women’s shoes” could appear for phrases ranging from “designer women’s shoes” to “cheap women’s shoes.”

Since every click costs you money -- and since visitors searching for the query “cheap women’s shoes” aren’t likely to turn into buyers for you -- adding the negative keyword “-cheap” to your campaign will keep these tire kickers away.

6. Not rotating ad variation displays evenly

If you create more than one ad variation (which you should, for split testing purposes), Google’s default is to serve up the ad it believes will perform better more frequently. While this might help your overall campaign ROI, it won’t give you a fair split test since the frequency of your ad variation displays isn’t even.

To prevent this from occurring, head to the “Settings” section of your AdWords account, then click on “Advanced Settings.” There, you’ll find four ad rotation options: “Optimize for clicks,” “Optimize for Conversions,” “Rotate Evenly” and “Rotate Indefinitely.” Select the “Rotate Indefinitely” option to keep your data clean.

7. Not measuring ROI

If you’re running AdWords campaigns without any mechanism to determine which of your paid clicks are converting into customers, you’re almost certainly wasting money on poor quality traffic. Tracking the conversions that enter your sales funnel from an AdWords click and go on to become paying customers will show you how to focus your ad spend in the future, which campaigns should be ramped up and which ad groups or keywords should be dropped entirely.

Tracking conversions on your site requires you to first define your sales funnel and then either install an AdWords tracking pixel or set up Google Analytics goals on your site. It’s a little more complicated than simply running a campaign without conversion tracking, but taking these steps is the only real way to know if your campaigns are paying off with a positive ROI.

What other AdWords mistakes has your company made? Share your experiences by leaving a comment below!

Related: Inside the Buying Funnel: Use Money-Making Keywords to Bring Your Google Ad to the Next Level