5 Common Paid Ad Mistakes & How to Avoid Them

Pay-per-click (PPC) mistakes we’ve encountered in accounts of all budgets and sizes.

Digital Marketing
Graphic illustration of common pay-per-click mistakes that are costing you money.

Google AdWords and Bing are amazingly powerful digital marketing tools and they’ve done a tremendous job of making it easy to get a pay-per-click (PPC) ad campaign running. 

But while it’s easy to get started, it’s also really easy to make costly pay-per-click (PPC) mistakes.

Here are five common pay-per-click (PPC) mistakes we’ve encountered in accounts of all budgets and sizes.

1. Auto-Pilot Mode

One of the first things we look at when reviewing a client’s pay-per-click (PPC) account is the change log. We’re always troubled, but not surprised, to find a lack of changes. We’ve seen accounts that haven’t been touched in weeks or, in some cases, months. This is a tell-tale sign the account is in auto-pilot mode, and that never drives positive results. While change for change’s sake isn’t necessarily a good thing, paid keyword campaigns need constant attention. Based on performance, bids need to be adjusted, and keywords and ad copy need to be added, removed and tested on a continual basis.

Unless you have a very limited number of keywords, we recommend reviewing the performance of your campaigns no less than three times per week or, ideally, on a daily basis. The effort is well worth the return.

2. Broken Landing Pages

Yep, you read that right. We find broken ads all the time. While Google and Bing check to make sure your destination URLs are real and working during the ad-creation process, once those ads are up and running, they no longer monitor them. If a page breaks after an ad goes live, it could be days before you are alerted by the Adwords platform. What’s worse, you may never get alerted if your page is alive (HTTP 200) but just isn’t working right or is serving up incorrect content, broken images, broken functionality, etc.). Trust us—broken pages don’t drive very good conversion rates.

We use Ghost Inspector to automate the bulk of our destination URL checks, but we also spend significant time doing this manually. If you see a sudden, dramatic decrease in an ad’s performance, this is likely the culprit.

3. Conversion Tracking Issues

Believe it or not, we constantly take on new clients who don’t have conversion tracking set up correctly or even at all for their PPC ads. Let’s just face it: things break. Maybe it was working yesterday and now it’s not. Maybe you just rolled out some new functionality or made some significant content revisions. It happens and there are a million reasons why. In any case, always check to make sure those changes didn’t break your analytics tracking. We also recommend you routinely audit your conversion tracking numbers with your actual numbers. Revenues and lead counts may not match exactly, but they should be darn close.

If, by chance, you’re not tracking conversions at all, stop your campaigns immediately and get tracking in place or you’re likely throwing money out the window. Managing a successful digital marketing campaign without analytics and conversion tracking is a mighty tough job.

4. Incorrect Landing Page

Sending visitors to a landing page that best matches their search is critical for driving high PPC conversion rates. Don’t make a visitor try to find the content or product your ad tempts them with. That just leads to a poor customer experience all around. It’s important to make sure you understand all the possible queries your ad might show for and ask yourself:

  • Does the destination page provide the best answer for the query?
  • Does it show the best possible product?

Review the search terms data within your account on regular basis to make sure your destination URL is correct. It’s very possible your keywords are matching search terms that may have better landing pages. 

Here is an example. A caramel manufacturer and we happen to know a good one should you be looking) sells delicious sea-salt caramels. The standard product comes in a nicely packaged retail box and is available for online purchase. The company also makes a custom wedding-favor packs. While the product is the same, the packaging and use case is different.

  • Bid Keyword: Sea Salt Caramel
  • Triggered Search Term: Sea Salt Caramel Wedding Favors

In this case, both the keyword and the search terms are applicable, but they should be sent to two different landing pages, one for the retail offering and one for the wedding-favor offering. Your conversion rates will thank you for doing this. I promise.

5. Not Running Brand Campaigns

I know, I know…spending money on a brand campaign is a real bummer. Chances are, you have solid organic rankings driving visitors and conversions, and paying for ads on these keywords and potentially cannibalizing your organic traffic might seem reckless or pointless, but it’s an absolute must. It’s likely your competitors are bidding on your brand terms and thus showing up ahead of you in search.

If you’re in a competitive space—and who isn’t?—it’s possible your organic listing won’t show until the fourth position, and that just leaves too many opportunities to lose out on a visit and potential conversion. In fact, we feel so strongly about brand campaigns that if it’s the only campaign you have budget for, we say do it. If you’re a seasonal business, this is just as important, and you should be running those ads year round.