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5 Easy Ways to Sabotage Your AdWords Campaign


I’ll be the first to admit AdWords can be frustrating. REALLY frustrating.

And with all the new features, settings and updates Google’s constantly rolling out, it ain’t getting any easier!

Yet, time and time again, I see AdWords advertisers making the same fairly basic mistakes in their campaigns that totally sabotage their efforts.

It’s a shame too because a lot of advertisers who could be very successful with AdWords give up because they think AdWords doesn’t work. And instead of raking in the dough while singing AdWords’ praises, they end up blowing a lot of money while cursing its failures.

So while AdWords doesn’t work for every business/situation… many times the failures advertisers experience are their own doing.

What are some of the common ways advertisers sabotage their AdWords accounts? Here are the top 5 I come across…

1. Mixing Search and Display Networks in 1 Campaign

AdWords Search and Display Network

When you run an AdWords campaign, there are two main networks where your ads may be displayed.

The first is the Search Network. This is what most people think of when they think of AdWords. Someone goes to Google, types in a keyword and relevant ads appear on the page.

The other is the Display Network. This is a network of thousands of websites that display Google ads on them. It has much greater reach (in terms of available impressions) than the Search Network, though the quality of traffic tends to be lower than Search.

Search and Display are two completely different animals. How you pick keywords, write ads and set bids is very different for each.

Because of this and because the mindset of someone seeing your ads on Search vs. Display is very different, you need to run them in SEPARATE campaigns.

Google’s gotten a little sneaky lately and introduced an option called “Search With Display Select”. They bill it as the “Best opportunity to reach the most customers”.

And, yes, technical it is just that. But is reaching the most customers really your goal in AdWords?

For most advertisers, the answer is no way!

A better goal would be creating highly targeted campaigns that reach as many of the right prospects as possible with the right message while getting the best return on the money you spend on clicks.

So if you want to try both Search and Display, by all means do. Just be sure to create one campaign targeting Search and one targeting Display so you can optimize them separately.

Search and Display Network Settings

2. Dumping all your keywords in one Campaign and Ad group

A few sentences ago, we talked about creating highly targeting campaigns to reach your ideal prospects with the right message. That applies to separating Search and Display, and it also applies to how you organize your keywords.

Let’s say you run a site that sells sporting goods. Some of the keywords you may bid on could include running shoes, bowling balls and baseball bats.

Now, I’m pretty sure you’d agree with me that the person searching for running shoes is looking for something quite different from the person looking for baseball bats.

So, if in AdWords, you have all these different keywords in the same ad group (an ad group is a collection of keywords that share the same ads), how can you write highly targeted ads that speak to the specific keyword someone’s typing into Google?

Sure, you can write a very generic ad like…

Tom’s Sporting Goods
We’ve got all your sporting
Good needs right here!

… but how effective is that gonna be? Does it really speak to the person searching for running shoes or bowling balls? Definitely not!

The better strategy is to group highly related keywords into one ad group.

For example, all your bowling ball related keywords would be placed in one ad group, and then you’d write at least two ads for that Ad group specifically mentioning bowling balls. Those ads would then lead searchers to the bowling ball page on your website.

Using that structure in your campaigns will help you get more clicks and conversions versus the dumping all your keywords together approach.

Oh, and as an added benefit, structuring your campaigns into tightly themed ad groups should help you get higher Quality Scores which will result in lower click costs. (Quality Score is the algorithm Google uses to determine the cost/rankings of ads in the auction. With a high Quality Score you can rank higher than your competitors but pay less than they do for clicks.).


3. Using Only Broad Match Keywords

We still see a lot of campaigns relying on Broad match keywords. In most cases, that’s a big no no.

See, with Broad match keywords, you let Google determine what search terms trigger your ads to be displayed for. The problem is Google’s idea of which search terms are related to the Broad match keywords in your campaign may be WAAAYYY different from yours.

Here are a few real world examples of search terms we’ve seen trigger ads for Broad match keywords:

Broad match keyword: ear surgery

Search queries ads were shown for: hearing implants, ear implants, otoplasty cost

Broad match keyword: math tutor

Search queries ads were shown for: math teacher, safe private tutor, math tutorial

Broad match keyword: solar panels

Search queries ads were shown for: solar system, solar batteries, solar energy

Not the kind of searchers these advertisers had in mind when they set up their campaigns!

A lot of advertisers end up blowing a whole lotta dough in AdWords because of an overreliance on Broad match keywords.

For new advertisers especially, we’d recommend sticking with Exact and Phrase match keywords and, once you’re a little more comfortable with AdWords, use some Broad Match Modifier too.

But, unless you’re a seasoned pro and have good reason to use Broad match, I’d recommend you steer clear of it in your campaigns.

Here’s a nifty chart that shows you the difference between all of the different match type options Google has available.

AdWords Match Types

4. Ignoring Your Landing Pages

When running an AdWords campaign, it’s easy to get caught up in all the ad groups, keywords, placements, ads, and the associated metrics and forget about your website.

However, the success of your AdWords campaign is highly dependent on the effectiveness of the landing pages you send your traffic to. And, at the end of the day, it’s the conversions that happen on your website that put money in your bank account—not impressions, clicks, clickthrough rates, etc.

Just a few percentage point differences in the conversions of your landing pages can make a HUGE difference in the performance of your AdWords campaign. As a matter of fact, if you can double your conversion rate, your cost per acquisition will immediately be cut in half which means you can either make more money or else you have more money to spend to acquire new customers.

One of our clients was going through a rough patch with AdWords recently. A few new competitors came into their niche which had a negative impact on their account’s performance. It got to the point where things were just about break even for them.

How’d we fix it?

It was by designing new landing pages that boosted their conversion rate a few percentage points that made the biggest difference. That boost greatly improved the profitability of the account and also allowed us to bid higher for some of their top keywords (because the better you are at converting traffic into dollars, the more you can profitably bid for keywords).

One other thing to keep in mind when it comes to landing pages. The current pages you have on your site that work well for SEO may not be ideally suited for AdWords traffic.

Another client of ours used the same landing pages for both SEO and PPC. With some of the recent changes in Google’s organic algorithm, we ended up with the following problem…

If we optimized the pages for SEO, the pages ranked higher organically but the conversion rate for our PPC traffic took a hit. If we went back the other way and optimized more for PPC, the conversion rates went back up but the organic rankings fell off.

The solution? We created separate landing pages for SEO and PPC. That gave us the best of both worlds.

You may find a similar strategy is ideal for your website as well.

Landing page optimization really isn’t optional anymore when it comes to PPC.

Ignore it at your own peril.

5. Not Split Testing

Every ad group in your AdWords campaign should have at least two ads running in it. Google will rotate the ads for you so, if you have two ads—one will be displayed about half the time and the other will be displayed the other half.

Over time, you’ll likely see one ad outperform the other. When that happens, you want to get rid of the losing ad and replace it with another.

This strategy is known as split testing and has been a key part of successful direct response advertising for decades (and, by the way, AdWords is really direct response advertising on steroids!).

Split testing your ads (and your landing pages too) on a consistent basis is about the most effective way to improve the performance of your AdWords campaign.

It helps raise the clickthrough rates (CTR), Quality Scores (and higher Quality Scores mean lower costs per click), and conversion rates in your campaign.

And split testing landing pages can lead to big increases in conversion rates (we already talked about what a big impact that can have on the profitability of your campaign).

The first ads/landing pages you use in your campaign probably aren’t going to be the most effective ones for your campaign. By consistently split testing over time, you’ll weed out the poor performers and let your winners drive you to greater performance and profitability.

How many of the mistakes listed above have you made? What other mistakes have you made (or seen others make) that have sabotages AdWords campaigns? Share them in the comment section below.


Adam KreitmanAdam Kreitman coaches business owners on how to make their websites more compelling to their prospects…and to Google. He owns Words That Click, a firm specializing in Conversion Optimization and managing Google AdWords campaigns for small businesses. Follow him on Google+.