Top 5 Google AdWords Mistakes

June 15, 2011

Anyone can be up and running with Google AdWords in just a few minutes. Let’s face it though – what makes it super cool, also makes it dangerous! After reviewing dozens of accounts, we’ve identified 5 common mistakes that businesses make when setting up their AdWords campaigns. These mistakes can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars a month and/or result in lost click opportunities.

Not Taking Advantage of Targeting Options
Google very cleverly provides a system of account organization that makes it possible for businesses to create targeted campaigns and allocate budgets. More than half of the accounts we’ve reviewed, however, have only one campaign with one ad group and one ad variation that shows up for all keywords and links to the company’s homepage. Businesses are using a blanket approach instead of considering how an ad will specifically address what a user is searching for. Users are more likely to click on an ad if it contains their search phrase, so you should create ad groups that group similar search phrases and link to specific pages on your site related to those search phrases – not to your homepage.

Arbitrary Budgeting
With no more strategy than, “This is what I think we can afford,” a business will arbitrarily set a daily budget, not taking into account what the campaign requires to be successful. With this approach, campaigns may shut off after just a couple of clicks a day and will quickly be deemed unsuccessful. A more strategic approach involves understanding the search popularity of keywords along with the expected cost per click for a geographic area and setting click goals based on your conversion rate. You should also look at AdWords as a part of your overall media budget and make adjustments based on the ROI of each initiative. You may find that AdWords gets a much better return than other media and deserves a much higher percentage of your budget.

Falling for the Default
Google wants you to get clicks – that’s how they make money. Most of the default settings in AdWords are designed to be broad reaching, such as Display Network and broad match keyword matching. If you aren’t careful, your budget can max out quickly on irrelevant clicks that just result in a high cost per conversion. Because most small businesses work with a limited budget, the concern should be quality over quantity of clicks. We usually recommend a conservative approach in the beginning with very targeted settings that you can open up as you evaluate the success of the campaign.

Lack of Tracking
While many businesses that try Google AdWords have Google Analytics installed on their websites, they often don’t have the two accounts linked. This is a simple step – as long as both are set up under the same Google account. The importance of this step shouldn’t be overlooked because it allows distinction between paid and unpaid Google search traffic. Analytics show detailed traffic information (including average time on site, bounce rates and average page views) on a campaign level, an ad variation level and a keyword level, so the performance of AdWords ads should never be in question! More importantly than site analytics, you should also have a method for tracking your sales and customer contact from AdWords ads – even if it’s just tick-marks on a notepad when you ask, “How did you hear about us?”. Set a baseline before you start, and review results on a regular basis, so you can measure the return on your AdWords investment.

Set It and Forget It
This is probably the single most critical mistake a business can make with any advertising initiative, but especially one that is so easy to review and adjust. The keywords you select, the ads you write, the settings you apply, the cost-per-click bids you set, the competition and countless other factors are all subject to regular evaluation and changes. Because every one of these factors is easily trackable, you should review your account on a regular basis, at least monthly in the beginning. Look at it as a fine-tuning process that has the potential to get big results.

Google AdWords is a powerful small business marketing tool that can be deceptively simple to set up right “out of the box”. If you really want to harness its power, approach your campaigns strategically and take the time to get to know the system. It will pay off with highly effective advertising that gets results.