9 Rookie PPC Mistakes That Drive Me Wild

October 14, 2013

We all make mistakes, that’s a given. And I’ve probably done at least a few of these on these least by accident in the early days of PPC management. Now that I have gained some sensei wisdom, I can say with some finality that there are just some mistakes that should never, ever happen. Go forth and learn.

1. Targeting display and search together – the gif sums it up pretty nicely. When you target these two networks together, Display will probably eat the lion-share of the budget, leaving little opportunity for Search to perform. You will see low CTR and low conversions. You’d have more fun throwing that cash-money out the window.

PPC Mistakes - Targeting Display and Search Together

2. Launching campaigns without a starter negative list – Your initial keyword research should give you at least a primer list of keywords that you don’t want to ever show for. You could also already have some ideas in mind that you want to add in based on your own knowledge of your business. Make use of ad group level negatives as well. A nicely organized campaign can get derailed if ads are showing for the wrong keywords. When you launch with no negatives, it’s possible that you’ll experience an influx of search terms – they might start as a trickle, but you might have a flood on your hands all too soon and that report will quickly become unmanageable.

PPC Mistakes - No Negative Keywords

3. Not establishing a standardized naming convention for campaigns – This might seem like a small thing. Perhaps even inconsequential. YOU’RE WRONG. Nothing drives me crazier than campaign names that are not specific enough. Or campaign names that don’t follow a naming convention for easy data analysis in Google Analytics. Try making a custom report when you’re campaign names are all over the place. I usually include any and all these identifiers when needed: Brand or Non-Brand, Main Theme, Product, Location, and Match Type. We’ve all been there before – you know what I’m talking about – when the literal campaign name is “Campaign”.

PPC Mistakes - No Standardized Campaign Names

4. Not scheduling campaigns/ad groups/ads to be enabled or paused on the correct date, thus missing a critical request. – This one is so easy and is often overlooked. If a client gives you a time/date that they’d like ads to be on or off, if they tell you that a Call-to-Action needs to be switched out on a certain date…don’t wait ’til that day. Prepare in advance using labels and automated rules. An extra 3 minutes of prep will definitely pay off! Nothing is worse than remembering last minute that you have to switch out 350+ ads to another type.

PPC Mistakes - Not Using Ad Scheduling

5. Not being specific in the geo-targeting – the default setting for AdWords is targeting the entire US. If this isn’t in your game plan, Google doesn’t know it. Google is not telepathic (yet). You must assign the geo-targets on the outset. This one critical step keep you from spending money in areas that aren’t even within your business range (i.e, shipping or locations).

PPC Mistakes - No Geo-targeting

6. Keywords are all broad match – About 3% of the time, when keywords are set on Broad match there is a very specific strategy behind it, shored up with copious negative keywords and a close managerial eye. The other 97% of the time, it’s just because someone who first set up campaigns did not fully understand match types. If your keywords are all broad match (no hard brackets [] or quotations marks “” around them, or even a + for modified broad), then I suggest restructuring your campaigns immediately. That could mean a serious Search Term Report date and having AdWords Editor open and ready. Campaigns with all broad match keywords make me Jim Carey-wild.

PPC Mistakes - Keywords are all Broad Match


7. Forgetting about old sitelink text  – With the ability to now schedule your sitelinks, this might happen less, but it still bears a reminder. I always look at a new client’s old sitelinks (and call extensions) and see if the sitelinks are all still relevant to their new site or offerings. I look for expired offers, old dates or deadlines or even old wording that simply doesn’t match the new messaging they are promoting. Sitelinks can contribute a lot to your CTR – don’t let old or stagnant ones keep you from performing.

PPC Mistakes - Forgetting Sitelinks

8. Misspellings in ad text – This is an easy one, right? Nothing screams “unprofessional” more than an ad that is misspelled. Sometimes it helps to export the ads and look at them in Excel, checking for errors along the way. Add “spell check” to your final once-over before launching a campaign live.

PPC Mistakes - Misspelled Ad Text

9. Not linking GA and AdWords or having any tracking whatsoever – You guys, it happens. It happens and I wish it never did. You should always check to see if GA and Adwords are linked correctly. If for some reason you don’t use GA, then make sure your URL’s are properly tagged for your reporting system and that goals are set up in your reports. I always have Analytics goals imported into AdWords, but if nothing else works, then having at least one goal set up via the AdWords traditional route is a must. You can still back track in GA for CPC traffic – looking at the Content report and filtering for the thank you page of choice – but if set up correctly, this need never happen.

The goal stuff isn’t as bad as simply having no analytics whatsoever, whether GA or not. Essentially you are sending traffic to a ghost page. Say goodbye to any data.

Just please. Make goals. Add tracking. When they are not there, I almost want to give up already.

PPC Mistakes - No Goals or Tracking

What are some of your own rookie mistakes, or ones that you see often? Share in the comments below!