12 Most Common Mistakes in A Google PPC Account + How To Fix Them

By Ted Parry 1 January 2020 9 minute read
Being involved in paid search for over 6 years means I’ve personally audited dozens of Google pay per click accounts. Some spending just a few hundred a month, others tens of thousands. Without fail, there are always themes that I spot repeatedly. Unfortunately, most of the time it seems like you’re entering a jungle … and end up feeling like this:

Not to worry, I’ve suffered for your gain (hopefully). In this article I hope to distil some of the core areas to look at if you’re currently concerned about your PPC performance, and ways to kick start it.

Table of Contents
  1. Unrealistic / No Targets
  2. Budgets being spent in inefficient campaigns
  3. Lack of Conversion Tracking.
  4. Too many keywords per ad group.
  5. Variety of match types per ad group.
  6. Showing for Irrelevant Keywords
  7. Low Ad Volume + Quality
  8. Not Utilising Ad Extensions.
  9. Lack of overall optimisation
  10. Poor landing page
  11. Lack of business margin/poor margin.
  12. Lack of remarketing.

1.Unrealistic / No Targets

When business owners first get started there is a great deal of excitement around PPC. They have allocated their marketing budgets and expect to spend it and get 20x returns. However, as we all know, it’s competitive out there, and businesses have been spending on Google ads for years (some since initial launch). This means starting up a brand-new campaign is going to take a few months of testing (3-6 months in most cases) before you can compete at an efficient level. Is this the answer you want to hear? Most likely not ... but it’s better than being the guy at the bottom:

Solution: Have expectations that it’s going to take 3-6 months to start gaining traction, and spotting profitable areas. Also set return on investment targets that are realistic. For example if you have an ecommerce business that runs with a 50% margin, having your overall cost of sale around 20% to 25% is a great result.

2. Budgets Being Spent in Inefficient Campaigns

One of the quickest fixes you can make to any ppc campaign is to move budget from low performing campaigns into the higher performing ones. Sounds simple right? Unfortunately, it’s all too common for me to see campaigns getting waaay too much of the budget, and eating up the majority of the profits due to poor performance.

Solution: One of the quickest ways to fix this is by reviewing campaign performance over the past 3 months. Then ask a few key questions … are the most profitable campaigns getting enough of the budget, are there any campaigns that are not performing but spending too much?Sometimes it’s the case whereby certain ad groups are performing much better than others. If that’s the case then it may be worthwhile splitting out the ad groups into their own campaigns.

3. Lack of Conversion Tracking

How are you supposed to know if your campaigns are working if conversion tracking is not in place? It’s incredibly hard to optimise a campaign with no conversion tracking. Without conversion tracking, a ppc campaign generally gets worse over time, not better.One thing I’ve seen that is potentially more sinister is when ppc agencies put conversion goals in place that are totally irrelevant. For example, I once audited a uk car dealership that had goals as ‘More than 1 minute spent on site’, and ‘more than 1 page viewed’. The car dealership thought their cost per conversion was £50, when in fact it was over £500!!

Solution: Always ensure that you’re not only tracking the main goal, but also micro conversions, and no irrelevant conversions are being pulled in. This means if you’re a direct to consumer ecommerce business that you’re tracking not only conversion revenue, but also phone calls, contact enquiries and newsletter sign ups. These all contribute to the end result, and ensure your pay per click campaigns are optimised as much as possible.

4. Lack of Ad Relevance Due To Keyword Volume

One key reason for poor ad click through rate has to come down to lack of ad relevance. One of the first things I see in poorly setup campaigns is when a lot of different keywords are thrown into one ad group.

Solution: Always ensure that each ad group has a max of 10 keywords. This ensures maximum relevancy for each ad group, and means you can analyse performance of each ad group much more efficiently.

5. Variety of Match Types Per Ad Group

It’s well known within paid search that the most efficient match type is exact match, with the least efficient broad match. Unfortunately, when I’ve audited a vast majority of campaigns, the primary match type has been broad match, with phrase match and exact match thrown into the mix.

Solution: The way Amore Digital sets up and manages campaigns is a two-pronged approach. Broad match modified campaigns enable the business to prospect for new keywords that may have been missed in initial keyword research. Then a conversion focused campaign that has exact match keywords.

6. Showing for Irrelevant Keywords

On the back of the last point, one core downside of having too much volume on broad match is that you need to be reviewing the data regularly with search query reviews. However, if this is regularly not done it means a lot of irrelevancy sneaks through. This can be as simple as people looking for jobs, fake gear, contact info, or big brand competitors such as Amazon + Argos which are incredibly hard to compete with.

Solution: Ensure you’re aware of the risks of broad match keywords, and that if you're running a Google ads account it’s not a case of ‘Set & Forget’. Have a process in place to review the search queries coming through every week or two, and remove any irrelevant queries. This can be done by adding them to an overall negative keyword list.

7. Low Ad Volume + Quality

A common theme I see regularly is the fact a lot of Google ad accounts don’t have enough ad volume for testing. Depending on the importance and volume going through the ad account it’s recommended to have at least 2-3 different ad variations in place. This means over time you can spot trends in performance, and if certain copy is working push it throughout the account.

Solution: The quality of the ads in question is normally determined by three things:
  • The relevance (inclusion of keyword)
  • The value propositions (benefits of product)
  • The call to actions (offer and urgency)
Also try and use up the ad space where possible. Too many ads don’t use the space given by Google, and thus miss opportunities to persuade users to click through.

8. Not Utilising Ad Extensions

Ad extensions are a great tool to have in your PPC arsenal. They serve two main purposes:
  • Increase click through rate
  • Increase conversion rate
The click through rate is increased due to your advert having much more prominence within the search results. The conversion rate is generally higher as you can pull in more product benefits. Unfortunately, a lot of businesses don’t include them and miss out.

Solution: Try and include at minimum the ‘core’ extensions for an account. This in most cases is call, sitelink and call out extensions. If you’re an e-commerce business you can also take advantage of price extensions.

9. Lack of Overall Optimisation

Under optimisation is known as the silent killer of PPC accounts. Just like a cuckoo in the nest, the worst performing most irrelevant keywords eat up the majority of the budget ... while the highly profitable terms fall into oblivion.

(aaaand there goes all your budget)

However, to the trained eye it becomes apparent quickly when there has been a lack of optimisation on the account. One of the clearest signs of under optimisation is if all of the keyboard bids are set at the same level. Unless the account is set to an automatic bid strategy or is a brand-new account, there are rarely excuses for this.

Solution: When working on a PPC account there needs to be a solid plan in place when it comes to optimisation. I suggest regular checks on the below core areas:
  • Keyword bids
  • Device bids
  • Ad schedule review
This will ensure your account is at least being maintained, and poorly performing keywords, devices or times of day don’t eat away at your budget. Take a look at our approach to PPC Management which involves a decent dose of optimisation.

10. Poor Landing Page

There have been instances when businesses I’ve audited have had well setup Google ads accounts and then … wham. When it comes to reviewing their website it’s all over the place. In some cases it really doesn’t matter how well a PPC account is setup, if the website is bad and really lacking trust signals, it simply won’t work. Investment in digital advertising means investing across the board, and in the website that will be driving performance.For example; if your competitors have a conversion rate of 1.5% while you have a conversion rate of 0.75% they can afford to bid double, or spend a similar amount but get 2x the conversions. Over time this will make competing with them extremely difficult.

Solution: Ensure you not only have relevant landing pages for each search query, but a website that has seen ample investment, and can compete in the marketplace. This is something a website conversion review can decipher, as well as a competitor review.

11. Lack of Business Margin / Poor Business Model

This is more of a business issue, however an extremely fundamental one to PPC activity for sure. One mistake business owners make is think that digital advertising is the silver bullet to their poor business fundamentals ... unfortunately it’s not. If you have margins of 5-10%, PPC is going to be extremely difficult, the only exception I would make is if the item has an extremely high repeat purchase rate, and thus users end up purchasing in bulk down the line. The core issue this causes is extremely low bids, and thus a lack of overall exposure.

Solution: There is no easy answer to this one, as the business may be restricted by prices applied by Manufacturers. Some potential solutions include finding ways that increase the over average order value, as well as having products that have a high repeat purchase rate.

12. Lack of Remarketing

This isn’t a deal breaker, and confirmation an account is setup badly. However, remarketing is one of the most effective channels in terms of pure return on investment. It’s a well-known fact that most consumers don’t purchase on the first visit and need multiple visits before a decision is made. This means that if remarketing hasn’t been utilised, especially in an e-commerce setting, it means money is potentially being left on the table.

Solution: Remarketing isn’t too hard to setup. Ensure that you use the most popular sizes, and from that target users who are likely to convert. Our post on remarketing lists for search ads should help with this process.

This post highlighted 12 of the most common mistakes within a Google ads account, and should thus put you in a good position if you ever wanted to Audit Your Google PPC account. However, if you read this post realising you don’t have the time, skill or that you’re sceptical of your current agency/consultants performance, do apply for an audit.

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