This post was originally posted on 1/13/2009. Updated on 9/9/2014.
It's amazing how many poorly researched, poorly written, and poorly targeted paid search campaigns you can find on major search engines without even really looking for them. It's obvious why Google runs those free AdWords credit promotions for new users; if you don't know what you're doing, that money goes pretty quickly.
Whether they're using Google AdWords or Bing Ads, here are some of the dangerous thoughts that seem to go through the minds of PPC users who don't know what they're doing:
1. I know the keywords that best describe my products/services; those are the ones I'll target.
Standardizing the terms you use to refer to your products and services is part of effective branding. Search, however, is not done on your terms; it's on the terms of the user. Starbucks doesn't refuse service to people who come in and order a "large". Nor should you ignore users just because they don't use specialized terminology in their search query. Research how your industry is being searched online and think about how you would describe your products/services from the the user's point of view.
2. I don't want to leave any users out; I'll use broad match keywords.
This is the flip-side of the above: While doing broad match for competitive keywords increases your brand's exposure in theory, it will probably cost you more money than it's worth.
Use common sense. Don't be afraid to implement negative keywords to your ad campaigns. With Google AdWords essentially getting rid of Exact Match by including Close Variants in all campaigns, the need to filter out keywords not related to your industry has become paramount so you don't end up paying for words that have nothing to do with your industry.
3. My company name is the most important thing; I'll make that my ad headline.
Unless you're a universally recognized brand like Nike, search isn't about you. It's about whatever the user typed into the search query, and most often, relevancy is what is most important. If your site is optimized well and you choose your domain name wisely, your company site should be on the first page of the user's search results. Your company name is how your customers distinguish you once they discover your business. Help them find you first.
4. One of my ads is not performing well; I'll try out a new one with a different headline, description, display URL, landing page.
No two PPC campagins are the same, so testing out lots of different options is fundamental. However if you change everything about every test subject, how are you going to know what's making a difference to users and getting them to click through to your website?
Instead, test combinations of different elements; that way, the elements that are common across multiple ads serves as a "control" for the experiment. Tinkering with ads and keeping track of which combinations are pushing the most conversions now will save you a lot of TIME and MONEY compared to hastily changing everything in an ad and not being to understand why or how it performed compared to a previous ad.
5. The user knows what they just searched for; why should I repeat it in my ad copy?
Not only does using keywords in the ad copy help reassure users that you're speaking the same language, this practice also improves quality score in AdWords. Quality score is an estimated measurement by Google of how well your keywords, ads, and landing pages help users find what they're looking for when coming across one of your ads.
If your quality score is higher, it means better placement in searches and lower cost-per-click for your ads. PPC doesn't start at just buying a few keywords. You also have to optimize your ad copy and landing pages as well to make it work.
6. My homepage is the best source of information about my products/services; I want all my traffic going there.
Your home page might be a great resource for learning about your company and the different services you provide, but unless the keyword was your company name, or unless you only do one thing, the user is probably looking for something more specific. Why not give it to them?
Traffic to specialized landing pages is much more likely to convert, and keyword relevancy on the landing page increases quality score, which again means - you guessed it - higher placements with lower cost-per-click.
7. My target market is everywhere
Targeting everyone everywhere can be a tempting option for businesses that are trying to drum up new business. However, realistically people who are near your business or who live in an area who have large amounts of your target demographic are going to be better options to target. Whether you're a business with one physical location, multiple locations, or only online products/services, you should make sure your ads are geo-targeting locations that are relevant to your business. If you have 1 or more physical locations, make sure your ads are shown in those areas.
Even if you only offer online products/services, choose locations that will attract users who can be potential customers. If your business offers financial advice on how to pay off college debt or loans, you wouldn't geo-target a wealthy area where debt or loans is not a concern to that particular demographic. Research who your customers are, where they live, and select the appropriate locations - be it a city, territory, radius around a particular location, or a country.
8. I just need to increase my maximum cost-per-click.
PPC managers and the programs themselves will often recommend that you just need to put more money into your campaigns and it will pay off. This is the simplest way to get more clicks, but it's also the most expensive and unless you improve other aspects of your campaigns, it will lower your ROI. Paying more money just to get more clicks from users that aren't interested in your services/products is not savvy business practice. If your goal is to drive up conversions using PPC, you want to do it with a high rate of clicks to conversions - to save time and money, for you as well as your potential customers.
9. Once I have my campaigns optimized, I can leave them alone.
Would you ignore the current trends of your industry? Ignoring them for your online business can be a costly mistake. The same customers might be using different vernacular to search for the same things two months from now. Any number of political, social, or economic factors, while not affecting your business directly, can have an effect on the way users might search for your services/products. It's not so important to know the "why" behind searcher behavior, as long as you monitor it and adjust your behavior accordingly. Modify keywords, change your ad copy, and a/b test your ads and landing pages to keep up with your users.
10. I'm getting "hits". AdWords is working.
Google gets paid every time you get a click. The only way to know for sure if your AdWords account is working to its full potential is by measuring the rate at which visitors to your site are becoming customers or clients and not just bouncing from your site. This is your conversion rate, and most major PPC programs give you tools for measuring it. Use them. If your ads are getting clicks but not leading to conversions on your website then your ad copy or keywords are misleading of your products/services. A great way to see if this is the case is to closely monitor your bounce rate and pages per session metrics. If you see these two metrics increasing dramatically it means people can't find what they are looking for right away and are either leaving immediately after getting there or trying to find it elsewhere on your website.
11. Remarketing doesn't improve my ROI
12. I only need one campaign, one ad group, one ad.
Amazingly, there are still PPC accounts set up this way. The mindset behind this seems to be that your website and your company are what matters, so you come up with the best possible description of your website that will appeal to the broadest audience possible, and then put it in front of as many people as possible, as often as possible.
In paid search, the most important thing is to match up the user's lack of a product or service with what you provide. You have four lines of text to demonstrate this relationship to a user. Why not experiment and find the most efficient way to convey this information? Stay on top of important keywords in your industry, find different ways to say the same thing in your ads, and optimize your landing pages for that niche audience you are seeking. It will be tedious work, but the increased conversion rates and sales will make it more than worth it in the end.
Do you have any questions about how a digital agency can help you with your PPC efforts? Let us know in the comments below. If you need further help with your paid search campaigns our Pay-Per-Click Marketing Services can help.