Seven Common Mistakes That Cause New Advertisers To Fail

The fundamentals of a good pay-per-click campaign have not changed over the past six years. However, every single day, advertisers new to the world of PPC advertising are making the same mistakes as veterans made years ago.

You can save yourself lots of time and money by examining the mistakes of others so that you do not fall into the same traps of creating unprofitable PPC campaigns. Here are seven of the most common mistakes I see new advertisers make—and more importantly, how to avoid them.

Not setting & measuring campaign goals

Before you start any advertising campaign you should set the goals for what you wish that campaign to achieve. If you do not have goals, there is no way to know which keywords, ad copy or landing pages are meeting your goals or just wasting money. A conversion goal is a metric your define for your account. It could be a form fill, a phone call or an eCommerce checkout. First, set your account goals. Second, find a way to measure those goals.

All of the major PPC engines have conversion tracking scripts that you can put on your website. When these scripts are triggered, it sends conversion information back to your reports so that you can see what keywords are converting and which are wasting your money.

These scripts are useful to use with Google Analytics or other analytics systems as they put data back into your PPC accounts directly. This makes it easier to see conversion data in all the reports you run within your PPC account.

Poor account organization

The most time consuming aspect of PPC accounts is the organization of keywords and ad copy within an AdGroup. The most basic, yet fundamental notion of an AdGroup is that the keywords in the AdGroup only trigger the ads within that same AdGroup. The ad copy within an AdGroup only show when a keyword within that same AdGroup is matched to the search query. Yet many beginners either stuff their AdGroups with too many, or unrelated keywords.

While your ad copy does not have to contain the actual keywords, the closer your ad copy reflects the intent of the keyword search, the higher your clickthrough rate and conversion rates will be.

Use this exercise to organize your AdGroups:

  1. Write an incredibly specific ad copy with exactly one search intent
  2. Examine the keywords in the AdGroup
    • If the ad copy reflects the keyword, leave the keyword in the AdGroup
    • If the ad copy does not reflect the keyword, put the keyword in another AdGroup

It is better to have ten AdGroups of ten keywords than one AdGroup of 100 unrelated keywords. There isn’t a magic number for how many keywords should be in an AdGroup—at least if you’re targeting the search network. Google says that for ads appearing on the content network, only the first 50 words in an AdGroup are used to determine its theme.

No doubt, organizing your account in this granular fashion is time consuming. However, it will make your ads and keywords more relevant, which will lead to higher quality scores, higher clickthrough rates, and ultimately, a greater payoff for your efforts.

Focusing on traffic rather than conversions

Every day someone adds a very general keyword such as “TV” to an account. What does that keyword even mean? Is the searcher looking for TV listings, Plasma TVs, online TV or something else? The word does not have a defined search intent. While these general keywords can drive a lot of traffic to your website, the purpose of search advertising should not always to drive more traffic for the sake of getting more eyeballs to your website.

Start by focusing on more specific keywords that have a defined search intent, such as:

  • Samsung DLP TV
  • Buy Samsung TVs
  • Samsung hl66sw

While general keywords will drive a lot of traffic, they can also waste a lot of money as they usually have low conversion rates and do not pay for themselves. Using general keywords is OK once you understand how they affect the metrics in your account. However, when you are first starting PPC advertising, use specific keywords until you understand how different types of keywords convert.

Ignoring match types

By default, Google uses “broad match” to trigger results for a search query. Broad match by definition is a loose fit, so a general keyword such as “coffee mugs” can match queries such as “tea cups,” “Starbucks coffee mugs” or “collector coffee mugs.” Those searches are conducted by individuals looking for very different items. This happens because a broad matched word can be matched to similar, misspelled or plural words. In this case, tea is similar to coffee and cups is similar to mugs—that’s why it is possible for your “coffee mug” keyword to be displayed when someone searches for “tea cups.”

There are three match types in Google AdWords and Microsoft adCenter that determine what variations of the search query will match to your chosen keywords and cause your ad to be displayed.

Broad match has its place, but if you exclusively rely on it you will lose control of ad serving. Broad match keywords will never convert higher than your exact match keywords.

In addition, you can use negative keywords in your account to stop your ad from showing. In the above example, if you sold coffee mugs, but you do not sell Starbucks coffee mugs, you could use the negative keyword Starbucks so your ad would not show when someone searched with the word Starbucks.

Negative keywords allows you to control when you do not want your ad to show. This in turn leads to higher CTR, conversion rates and more profit by not paying for clicks that will not convert for your company.

Failing to separate content and search campaigns

There are two different types of advertising that you conduct within the major PPC accounts. The first is search. With search, your ad is only shown when someone actively searches for your keywords.

Your ads can also be displayed across the content network. With the content network, the search engine examines all the keywords within your AdGroup to determine the theme of your AdGroup. Then, Google places your ad on a web page with content related to the theme of your AdGroup (such as

Because there are very different ways that the keywords in your AdGroups trigger search or content ads to be shown, and very different user intent (active searching vs. passively reading an article), you should separate your content and search campaigns. You should also use different keywords so that your ad is triggered appropriately and you can optimize the content network.

Google’s matching of ads on the content network has vastly improved in recent years, but it can be difficult to use effectively when first starting your PPC campaigns. I recommend start with only search, and once you have fine-tuned your keywords, ad copy and landing pages, then turn to the content network to further the reach of your accounts.

Sending all traffic to the homepage

Searchers, by definition, are looking for a specific piece of information. Usually a company’s homepage has lots of information about a company, or speaks broadly to their products, but does not speak to any particular search query. If you send searchers to your homepage from your ads, and they have to hunt for the information they’re looking for, you will see people quickly abandoning your site. You should send traffic to:

  • A landing page created for a specific search query
  • The page that is the furthest, logical step in the buying cycle for your website

Examine the conversion rates by keywords and landing page. Look at bounce rates for keywords and landing pages. When you see high bounce rates and low conversion rates, then the traffic needs to go to another page or you need to optimize the page to increase conversions.

Not testing

The PPC engines allow you to have multiple ad copies in a single AdGroup. Each ad copy can also go to a different landing page. It is very simple to test different ads and landing pages to see which ad copy or landing pages increase your primary search metrics, such a clickthrough rate and cost per conversion.

It is not difficult to get to metrics such as profit per click to see which ad copy and landing page combination leads to the highest most profit for your different keywords and ad copies.

When creating a new AdGroup, always create at least two ad copies. After you have enough data to reach statistical significance, then you can run reports to see which ads, landing pages and keywords lead consumers to do business with your company.


These deadly mistakes should be taken to heart by all new advertisers. However, remember that the more you learn about PPC marketing, the more you can deviate from these basic rules as there will be times when you need to break them to reach particular objectives.

However, learn from the mistakes that others have been making so that you do not fall into the same trap which has caused many PPC accounts to become unprofitable, or worse, fail entirely.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: SEM | Paid Search Column


About The Author: is the Founder of Certified Knowledge, a company dedicated to PPC education & training; fficial Google AdWords Seminar Leader, and author of Advanced Google AdWords.

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  • Terry Whalen

    Who could argue with these points? Thanks for the post, Brad.

  • nickstamoulis

    Great list, you are right on the money! I personally think that the lack of proper measurement issue is one that far too many advertisers still deal with…


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