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Pay-per-click advertising has struck a balance whereby it appears easy enough for the uninitiated to give it a go and get some results, but complicated enough that agencies can thrive by adding their experience and expertise. In this article, we’re going to focus on Google AdWords primarily, and discuss five of the most common mistakes we see DIY advertisers make and the tactics we use to fix them and improve their campaigns.

  1. 1. Relying On Keyword Recommendations

The first major mistake that DIY advertisers make is relying on Google for their keyword recommendations. When setting up a campaign, Google offers you a set of keywords that it thinks may be relevant for you, based on the landing page you enter.

The issue is, this is automatically generated by looking at the keywords associated with your pages, and this can lead to search phrases that clearly won’t convert, or worse will simply waste budget.

The way we approach keywords is to first conduct a full analysis, looking at Google Search Console, Google Analytics, SEMRush, and other tools to find search terms with the potential to convert rather than just including everything Google suggests.

  1. 2. Basic Setting Errors

We often see basic setting errors in campaigns that can massively affect the success of the ads going forward.

For instance, the most common is probably setting a campaign to the ‘search & display network’ setting. This means that your text ads will show in search results, but also as a text based display ad on certain sites. In practice, this means that your ads will have a really low clickthrough rate, and will generally look to be performing badly – which is reflected then in your quality score and the amount you have to pay per click to get traffic volumes at a decent level.

All these problems are easily solved by applying a little best practice and knowledge to make sure the campaign is set up in the way it should be.

  1. 3. Campaign Structure

How a campaign is structured can make or break its performance as much as any creative, or level of management. While Google now encourages you to segment your campaign in its ad creation flow, it’s still all too easy for newcomers to AdWords to lump all of their keywords into one ad group.

This causes numerous issues as it becomes impossible to judge performance as accurately, and poor performers pull down the performance of stronger performing keywords as they’re all lumped in together. There is also often an issue with ad relevance in this scenario.

When creating a campaign, we always recommend you make your ad groups as granular as possible, to ensure you can measure and optimise your performance going forward, and to allow all ad groups and keyword sets to stand on their own feet and have their own performance.

  1. 4. Bid Levels

When you set up a campaign in Google AdWords, you’re asked to set a default bid. This bid level then applies to your whole ad group at first, meaning that all keywords are being bid for at the same level. Most users seem to leave it like that and never make any changes.

The reality is that this means some keywords will be being bid at a level where they’ll never be seen, while others will be being overpaid for.

It’s crucial to look at each keyword in turn, and then to optimise your bid levels every day. Our top tip is to customise the columns you’re viewing in AdWords to ensure you can see the top of first page bid, and the first page bid levels needed and then optimise your bids based on that compared to your clickthrough rate and conversion rate data when you start getting some actions off your ads.

  1. 5. Lack of Testing

AdWords can give DIY advertisers a set and forget platform. It’s quite common for someone to tell us they set up an AdWords campaign three months ago and they haven’t had very good results, only to mention they haven’t touched it since they set it up.

AdWords is a data rich platform, giving you the ability to run pretty clean tests in an easy way. Our advice is simply to use it as it’s intended.

There’s plenty of simple, practical ways to test and improve your campaigns. For instance, set up three ads for each ad group, and pause the worst performing each week and replace it with a  different version of the best performing. Simple testing tactics like this can help you continually improve the performance of your campaign, and this is essential as the platform becomes more and more competitive every week.

Dean Lynn

Dean is the Founder of Trusted Media and has over fifteen years experience of commercial business marketing. If you ever meet Dean, you'll quickly realise how honest and straight to the point he is; something his clients love about his marketing approach. When Dean's not at Trusted Media providing marketing consultancy to clients, he can be found at home with his daughter, who loves creating (breaking) things. Dean never sits still, enjoys eating food (part-time #instafoodie), and finds his happy place in the kitchen baking or in the garden.

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