5 PPC Mistakes You Could Be Making Right Now

As the de facto PPC…guy…at Kaleidico, over time, it’s been my job to manage the sometimes Byzantine world of Google AdWords. And yeah, sure, Bing Ads, too. (But let’s be real. We’re mainly talking about AdWords. That’s the world we live in.)

PPC operations can be daunting–especially if you’re just starting out. You may feel as though you don’t know the right questions to ask, that you “don’t know what you don’t know”.

Don’t panic!….but this is probably the case. AdWords is so absurdly labyrinthine the minotaur him/itself could get lost.

So let’s just start by addressing 5 basic, beginner-level AdWords PPC mistakes. List? List.

1. IMPROPERLY MANAGING EXPECTATIONS

Clients/decision makers hate processes and live and die by immediate results. Unfortunately for the PPC Manager, there’s always–always–going to be a learning curve about the market no matter who runs your campaigns, if you handle them internally or have an agency handling them for you.

Even if you know your business inside and out, searchers don’t always use the same terms you do. (This goes for organic SEO, too.)

Making sure you and your client/marketing higher-ups are on the same page regarding your goals is absolutely crucial.

Many a manager has lost custody of his or her accounts because they failed to prepare their clients for the necessary time needed for experimentation and optimization. You’re not going to start with a flawless campaign. Everything in digital marketing is a process of testing and optimization and that goes double for PPC.

Early on in my own PPC management mission, I had a client suddenly lose their nerve and yank their PPC business out from under me, just as they were about to begin realizing significantly better ROI. That may sound like a rationalization in retrospect, but it’s the God’s honest truth. A scant week after assuming control of their account, they bugged out and in-housed everything because they hadn’t seen immediate results.

Humbling, to be sure, but a great learning lesson about the importance not just of managing the AdWords accounts themselves, but managing client expectations to avoid rude awakenings.

2. STARVING CAMPAIGN BUDGETS

It’s seems intuitive–you’re just starting your campaigns: let’s not go crazy. We’ll start with a small budget, then scale it once it proves itself. Sounds logical, right?

The problem is, starting out with, say, a budget of $500.00/month likely won’t give you the kind of results that will justify greater investment.

You might be starving out good traffic and limiting valuable insights by being overly frugal.

The thinking goes: the smaller your budget, the fewer times your ad serves. If you limit, via budget, the pool of people whose searches trigger your ads, you could end up with a less than representative sample, providing bad intel on the effectiveness of your ads and keywords.

You need to start with an audience big enough that it can tell you something about what’s working and what needs work within your campaigns.

Every client I talk to says the same thing: ‘as long as it’s profitable, the sky’s the limit on budget’. Well, duh, right? You mean, Hypothetical Client, you’ll pay whatever it costs to fuel a machine that always makes you more money than you’ll spend? Wow. Brave choice. You get the Savvy Businessperson Award for savvy businesspeople!

That’s like saying you’ll eat all the brownies you want as long as you don’t gain weight. Unfortunately, they haven’t invented a legal, perpetual money-making mechanism since the inkjet printer toner cartridge.

Give yourself a realistic chance at success by not hobbling your PPC campaigns from jump with weak (and likely wasted) budgets.

3. YOUR ADS JUST AREN’T VERY GOOD

Don’t be married to your first batch of ad copy. Or your second. If people aren’t clicking but you still think it’s a great ad–could that possibly be due to the fact that you wrote it? Believe me, I know: the limited characters Google allows makes writing ads only slightly less annoying than, well, everything else in Google AdWords. Don’t let that stop you.

Make new ads all the time and run them against older ads. Take your winners and test different variations of those. Rinse and repeat.

And just as important as not being satisfied with your ad copy is not overcomplicating the substance of it. Keep your ad copy thoroughly nailed to your keywords and, as our Google strategist once told me, “tune them into the radio station–WII-FM” (What’s In It For Me).

Include a CTA or offer that speaks with some urgency, (“Free 30-Day Trial. Act now!”, etc.) and then test variations on that theme until you find winners.

4. KEYWORDS ARE TOO SPECIFIC…OR TOO BROAD

You don’t want junk traffic, so you’re going to go with exclusively exact match keywords. Well, OK, but how many whole people are one-and-a-half percent of five people? I’ll let you work out those numbers on your bus ride to the unemployment office and you can get back to me.

Don’t suffocate your campaigns by choking off traffic that would otherwise be interested in your ads, but for your excessively limited keywords.

The flip side of that coin is the possibility your keywords aren’t focused or precise enough.

If you’re doing all broad-match terms, you may tend to see flat CTRs as people realize your ads are irrelevant to their searching intent. Worse still, you may wrack up a bunch of garbage clicks that devour your daily budgets and don’t convert worth a damn once they hit your landing pages.

Lots of paid search jockeys have very definite opinions of what match types you should use. But don’t be overly dogmatic about match types–it limits your options and gets you weird looks at parties. Use broad-match, broad-match modifiers, a few exact matches and some phrase match to taste. Collect all four.

5. YOU’RE NOT USING NEGATIVES THE RIGHT WAY

You know you can see every keyword and term people are using to trigger your ads, right? Take a look at that list and see what pops out at you.

One client of ours–an antioxidant supplement–has PPC campaigns currently running that were beset early on by a rash of confusion that they were to be taken for erectile dysfunction. They are not. At least probably not successfully. Thus, we ‘negged out’ terms people had somehow associated with us, (‘nitric oxide’, ‘erection’, etc.) This will save your budget and possibly even give you a few much-needed laughs.

Also, make sure your ads aren’t being triggered by searches for similar (or wildly dissimilar) products you don’t actually offer.

Negatives can save you a lot of money in the long-run, use them liberally.

Unfortunately, there’s no column in the AdWords interface that tells you exactly what’s wrong with your PPC strategy, just the cold hard numbers without context.

PPC is unforgiving this way. That’s why you need to know what you’re looking for when troubleshooting.

Are you handling your own PPC campaigns? Have you experienced any of these challenges? Sign up for our newsletter for more pointers on how to manage your paid search campaigns.