Top 5 Most Common PPC Mistakes Beginners Make

most common ppc mistakes for beginners portent

I work with a lot of small businesses either just getting started in PPC or who simply just don’t have a lot of experience managing PPC accounts. With that said, I see a lot of the same mistakes being made over and over again. Here are the top five mistakes you should be careful of.

Too much broad match

Bidding heavily on broad match keywords is a common mistake I see when reviewing PPC accounts.

Too often, laziness takes over when new campaigns are built. It’s easy to throw a bunch of broad keywords in an ad group/campaign and call it good.

Additionally, lack of understanding for how match types function can leave beginners to just stick with broad since it’s the default.

The truth is, broad match keywords will inevitably lead to a low click-through rate and–ultimately–wasted money. Instead, try and shift toward a heavier use of phrase and exact-match keywords. Or at the very least, modified broad match. More info about keyword match types here.

Example of match type selection

Another tactic is to search for long-tail keywords that relate directly to your landing page and ad copy. This is an effective way to raise your ad rank, which plays a large role in Quality Score. Being more specific will improve your targeting and save you money!

For more information about keyword and match type selection, check out points #1 and #2 on this list of ways to save money on Google AdWords.

The need to be #1

People are innately competitive and being #1 sounds oh so good. That’s not always true in the world of PPC. Getting into a bidding war for the #1 spot in the SERP is an easy way to overspend for clicks.

With Google’s new ad layout (four ads at the top of the page), you should, in many cases, look to reduce your average ad position in order to save money for more click volume. This doesn’t mean there is no value in ranking highly. It just means that a lower bid for the #2 or #3 spot may save you money, which could mean more clicks overall.

Try starting with a high average position. If/when the campaign status becomes ‘limited by budget,’ lower your bids. If you drop too low, you may lose volume. Continue this and experiment until you find a happy medium between ad position and traffic volume. The end result will be lower CPCs and more clicks while keeping your campaign budget the same.

Not tracking conversions

PPC is a unique marketing tactic for several reasons, but none bigger than this one. PPC allows you near complete transparency if you just take the time to set up conversion tracking. You can connect a single click to a sale or lead.

This transparency is a huge opportunity to improve your marketing. If you know which clicks, keywords, ads, etc. are driving business for you, you can make optimizations to drive more. On the other hand, if you can see where you’re spending money and getting little in return, you can save a lot of money.

Google AdWords conversion tracking and Google Analytics are both free ways to get this visibility. Setup is not difficult or time-consuming. Do yourself a favor and set up a way to track your PPC success.

For more information about conversion tracking, check out this post from our PPC account build tutorial series.

Combining the search and display networks

This might be the biggest and most common mistake for first timers. The first option and default when building new campaigns in AdWords is ‘Search Network with Display.’ It even says ‘Best opportunity to reach the most customers.’ Shame on you, Google.

example of new campaign setup

This isn’t the best option for anyone trying to advertise on Google or any other platform. Not only does it not give an accurate representation of the data, but it also forks over control of your campaigns.

Running a search campaign with display enabled will seriously skew your data because the display network often has lower CPCs (as well as much worse CTRs) compared to the search network. Often times, advertisers end up overpaying for display clicks because their max CPC bid is set to compete on the search network.

Simply put, they are completely different advertising approaches and should be treated as such. Give them their own campaigns so you can optimize them correctly.

Setting it and forgetting it

It is critically important to check and make optimizations within your AdWords account at least once a week. More often than not, clients who try PPC advertising on their own have a “set it and forget it” mentality. This leaves missed opportunities for substantial optimizations.

You don’t have to spend 20 hours a week if you have a small account spending just a few thousand dollars a month, but spending around 20-30 minutes will drastically improve performance. During those 20-30 minutes you should be checking your bids (raising on strong performers, lowering on poor performers), adding negative keywords, adding new keywords, experimenting with match types, optimizing and testing ad copy, and focusing on increasing Quality Score.

At a bare minimum you should be checking the budget and adjusting keyword bids based on performance. Thirty minutes a week will make a world of difference.

This is not an exhaustive list. There are so many things that hurt PPC performance that aren’t easy to control without experience. It takes time to learn the ropes. Don’t give up. And let us know if you have questions.

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  1. Hi Paul, I very much agree with your points, especially the use of broad match. We don’t have a single campaign that has even one broad matched keyword in it as they are a complete waste of money, mainly due to the fact that they trigger for often unrelated search terms as well.
    As a small tip for your readers (you will know this anyways): for our best performing keywords we add them to the list in exact match [key word], as phrase match “key word” as well as broad match modifier +key +word (sort of as a catch-all). This saves a lot of money in the long run as Google will pick the closest match type to trigger the ad, and exact matches for example tend to be cheaper per click than the others. The search term report is a treasure trove to get this started in a structured way.

    1. Frank, great points! I agree that the search term report is a great way to both weed out unwanted phrases and add in relevant phrases as well.

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