6 Google Search Ad Mistakes to Avoid at All Costs

Google Paid Search Ads can be one of the most effective and trackable forms of advertising for brands of all shapes and sizes…if the person(s) managing the digital ads knows what they’re doing!

The right tactics for running paid search ads can produce new leads, conversions, web traffic, brand awareness, and even sales. Certain mistakes can easily turn your online marketing efforts into a money pit, though, bringing big costs and no results to speak of.

PLAY Creative Digital Strategist Jessica Vogel breaks down six of the biggest mistakes you can make that prevent paid search ads from converting. Take it from here, Jessica!

The first step in avoiding common paid search pitfalls is knowing which stats matter most in your campaign. The most important metrics (or key performance indicators) that Google uses to measure search ads are:

  • Impressions: How many times your ad was shown to people.
  • Click Through Rate (CTR): The number of clicks on your ad compared to the number of impressions it achieved. 
  • Average Position: Where your ad appears in a Google search result for a given term, compared to other search ads.
  • Cost Per Click (CPC): What you pay each time your ad is clicked.
  • Search Impression Share: How often your ad shows up when your selected keyword (or term) is searched.
  • Conversion Rate: The percentage of conversions achieved as defined by the ads manager.

A good search ads manager should consider all of these metrics when reviewing the results of a campaign. However, there are a few KPIs that rank as most important in the big picture of a campaign: conversion rates, cost per conversion/lead and return on ad spend. If your ads manager is not talking to you about these KPIs, it’s time to start asking questions.

There are two main reasons a campaign can fail at producing conversions. Search ad campaign failures can almost always fall into one of two categories: poor Google Ad structure or inadequate landing pages. Here are those mistakes:

  1. Ad structure: This is the most common problem I have seen when taking over a campaign. If an ads manager can’t identify where, when and how they’ll target certain keywords, then they’re just making expensive guesses. There should be research and reasoning behind every setup decision from keyword match type to campaign and ad group structure. Otherwise, you might as well flush your money directly down the toilet, because you’re paying for junk clicks.
  2. Targeting the wrong keywords: This is the biggest roadblock for Google Search Ad campaigns and the most common reason that I see for campaigns failing before their ads even start running. If your ads manager isn’t targeting the right keywords, the clicks you’re paying for won’t relate to the actual goal of the campaign, and are junk. Think you might be paying for junk clicks? Ask your ads manager for a copy of your Search Terms Report, which shows you all searches that people typed into Google that led to a click on your ad. This will help you find out if you’re mistakenly paying for clicks from people looking for CPA jobs when you’re actually trying to sell CPA services, for example.
  3. Using the wrong match type: “Match type” is filtering system Google uses to deploy ads to users based on what they’re searching, and it’s chosen by the ads manager. There are four match types that can be used: Exact, Phrase, Broad and Modified. These allow you to choose how closely someone’s Google search must match your keyword in order for them to be served your ad. For example, using a “broad” match type for the keyword “CPA near me” means the ad might be served to someone who searches “how much does a CPA make in my area?” This leads to lots of ad impressions on the wrong audience, and wasted impressions are wasted dollars!
  4. Mistaking quantity for quality: A common misconception about ads management is the belief that a ton of impressions and clicks to a website means the ads manager is succeeding. In reality, the quality of those clicks is more important than quantity, every day of the week. The goal should be to send quality traffic to your site, even if that means getting fewer clicks and paying more per click. 50 premium-priced clicks from relevant users who actually want to become a customer are better than 500 cheap clicks from users who probably won’t ever become customers. And don’t confuse a higher volume of less qualified clicks with “casting a wider net” either, because irrelevant clicks on search ads almost always come from users who are searching for something else entirely.
  5. Ad-landing page disconnect: If your ads are set up properly and are targeting the right keywords, it still won’t mean much if you’re not giving users what they’re expecting on the landing page. We see many companies get frustrated by this because they know they’re attracting quality traffic but not achieving conversions. This is a customer journey problem that must be solved on a case-by-case basis. However, the main question to ask is this: What are people expecting from your landing page (thanks to the ad they clicked) that you’re not delivering? What is turning them off?
  6. Poor UX: Even if your landing page has everything it needs, it might be presented poorly. This goes for both the front end and the back end of a landing page. Is the page or content laid out in a confusing way that’s not intuitive and easy to navigate? Is the content confusing or not funneling to a singular end point or goal? Similarly, is the site simply taking too long to load, causing users to get impatient and leave before they even see it? All these data points must be considered, and that’s like a mouthwatering grand buffet to marketers like me who love analyzing data. We can follow that data and find out which part of the journey isn’t working for users.

These are all the key data points to monitor when determining how you can target qualified clicks and turn them into hot leads, or even turn hot leads into customers. A key thing to remember is that having the proper technology and strategy established first will save you lots of wasted marketing dollars. At PLAY Creative, heat maps and Google Analytics are some of our best friends, and once we have enough statistically significant data gathered, it can paint a picture that tells us how we can improve the landing page experience and eventually turn that landing page into a lead-generating machine.

If you’re interested in a free assessment of your Google Search ad performance—or you want to get started, reach out to us by filling in the form below. We’re here to help!

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