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Pay-per-Click Mistakes, Pitfalls, and Oversights

As a PPC manager going on 7+ years of experience, I’ve encountered a lot of crazy AdWords and PPC advertising mistakes that clients and junior PPC professionals have made.  Mistakes can kill the profitability of any campaign, and sometimes the mistakes are so tragic that advertisers never return to AdWords due to their fear of blowing an ad budget on worthless traffic.

Some of the mistakes and oversights would blow your mind, e.g. keyword selection (such as bidding on the keyword “how”, just “how” by itself). Other oversights are less severe like forgetting to set an ad schedule preference.  So if you’re a PPC n00b, I hope this list helps you avoid some stress, and if you do find yourself making a mistake as you get started don’t fret because we’ve all made mistakes as we get started.  As Albert Einstein says: “Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new”.

Mistake #1: No Negative Keywords

Unless you are using 100% exact match on all of your keywords, you better make sure you have some negative keywords to filter out certain search queries. Unless your product or service is offered for free, then definitely have the negative keyword “free” in your campaigns so you don’t pay for any traffic that is only looking for a free product/service and doesn’t plan on spending any money.  We have a robust negative keyword list over in our SEM resources section that you should review and see how it might be applied to your campaigns.

To insert negative keywords into your AdWords campaigns, select the “Keywords” tab and scroll to the bottom and you’ll find the section to input negative keywords either at the ad group or campaign level.

negative keywords

Mistake #2: Network Selection

This is probably the most common mistake I’ve seen, and also the easiest way to burn through a budget with little to no returns.  Always, always, always choose Search Network Only for your keyword campaigns.  You never want to co-mingle banner advertising with search engine marketing ads.  They are different animals when it comes to online marketing.  Search and display should always be segmented for a multitude of reasons including budgeting, ad types, and performance expectations.

Here’s a screencap of where to find this setting in AdWords:

adwords network settings

Mistake #3: Failure to Monitor

Veteran PPC managers know they have to continually login and review the performance of their accounts.  Things can go sideways fast if you are not diligent about monitoring your PPC performance.  For new campaigns, you should be logging in daily to see which keywords are racking up the clicks and impressions and adjust accordingly.  PPC is not a set-it-and-forget-it form of marketing.  Ignore it for too long and you may have burned through your monthly budget in less than a week.  I like to keep a spreadsheet that tracks the spend of all of our client accounts which tells me how budget they have remaining for the month, what the account is spending per day on average, and how if the account’s spending pace is on track or not.  Under-spending can be just as bad as overspending for some clients, so you always want to make sure your campaigns are spending as planned.


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