9 Common PPC Mistakes That Can Hurt ROI

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RICHARD TALBOT Head of Paid Search

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If you are new to Google’s principal paid advertising platform called Google Adwords or sometimes just “AdWords”, there is a good chance you are making common mistakes that will increase your overall spend. Here are a few tips to fix those problems and get a better return on investment.

1. Poor ads or landing pages

The AdWords Google serves and landing pages must be relevant to the products or services you offer. Let’s suppose you own an online shoe shop selling all types of shoes, and want to advertise women’s runners. If you write a great ad advertising runners, but the landing page you redirect customers to relates to high heels, it is more than likely that the woman who was looking for runners but can only see high heels after clicking on your ad will leave your website straight away. This qualifies as a bad user experience that affects your quality score, increasing your CPC, and therefore your costs. That’s why it is so important in PPC to split campaigns into tightly themed ad groups that lead to specific themed landing pages.

2. Not using ad scheduling

Ad scheduling is a great way to improve your ROI so take advantage of it. Imagine you own a hair salon. Do you think people will look for a hairdresser in the middle of the night? Worse still if you are using call-only ads, if you don’t set an ad schedule, your call-only ads will show 24 hours a day, and people might call your salon (increasing your spend) in the middle of the night. Analyse the data related to the hour of day and day of the week – you will find it in the dimension tab in the AdWords interface – and schedule your ads accordingly. Once this has been done, you can increase your bids for times or days you get more leads, such as weekends.

3. Wrong location targeting

This mistake echoes the one above. If you own a hair salon, target locally as people are less likely to travel long distances to get their hair cut. If your salon is in Galway but you target nationwide, chances are people in Dublin will click on your ad if it doesn’t mention that you are based in Galway. Of course once they reach your website and see that you are in Galway, they will leave quickly and look for a hairdresser in Dublin. But you will still pay for that click on your ad.

4. Not bidding on your brand name

Always bid on your brand in PPC. Brand terms convert more because users searching for brand names are further along buying decision process and closer to purchase. (They have already compared products and know they want to buy from your brand). Brand terms usually have lower CPCs too so that’s good for your ROI. The other reason you should bid on your brand terms is that your competitors might be bidding on them. (This is legal as long as they don’t use your brand in their ads).

5. Tracking problems

Tracking problems might also indirectly hurt your ROI. Think about the best way to track leads for your business, and if you are only tracking sign-ups or online orders, consider also using call extensions and tracking phone calls so your ROI is more accurate.

You might miscalculate your ROI if your tracking code is not installed on the right page of your website. One common mistake is to set the tracking code on your contact form page. If this happens, there is a good chance you’ll have a healthy ROI – but sadly, this ROI is incorrect. You are actually counting as a conversion any visit to your contact page, whether people actually send the contact form or not. So any visit to your contact form with no form being sent is being counted as a conversion in error. The right way to track leads coming from contact forms is to create a ‘thank you’ page to which people are redirected after successfully submitting the contact form, and to install the tracking code on that ‘thank you’ page.

6. Not adding negative keywords

If don’t have any negative keywords in your account, you are more than likely spending too much money on PPC. Negative keywords are the best way to block irrelevant traffic and to reduce your spend. Start analysing search query reports (see below) and add negatives from there.

7. Not analysing search query reports

One of the best ways to optimise your PPC account is by looking at search query reports. Access them via the AdWords interface (download them as excel files as the reports are easier to work on in excel; you can apply filters and organise data): just go on the keywords tab in AdWords and select ‘search terms’ (don’t forget to select the period of time you want the report for). Once you start analysing this report, you will see that a few keywords in your account probably triggered irrelevant searches. For example, let’s suppose you still own that online shoe shop but you only sell women shoes. Your keyword ‘white runners’ might trigger ‘white runners for men’ which would be wholly irrelevant for your business. In this case, you should add ‘men’ as negative.

8. Not getting rid of poorly performing keywords

Another way of optimising your PPC account to get a better ROI is to analyse your keywords during a period of time and begin pausing the ones that are not performing. Imagine you have a keyword in your account that accrued a cost of €1,000 for the past 6 months without providing any leads. Now is the time to get rid of it. It might be too generic. Be careful though because although some keywords don’t provide direct conversions, they play an important part in the conversion process. These are called clicks-assisted conversions and impressions-assisted conversions. Look at those keywords at keywords level in the AdWords interface and if there are keywords costing a lot without bringing direct sales but helping in the process with loads of clicks and impressions, think carefully before getting rid of them.

9. Displaying ads on irrelevant websites

One thing that could adversely affect your ROI on the display network is wrong placements. If you are using automatic placements, always check that those placements are relevant. Go on the display tab in the AdWords interface and select ‘placements’ to analyse the websites your ads appeared on.

Eliminating these factors will ultimately help, not only with the performance of your PPC campaigns, but also with your all-important ROI.

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RICHARD TALBOT Head of Paid Search

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An experienced digital marketer with 8+ years of industry experience, Richard has worked in client account management at both Google AdWords and Microsoft's Bing Ads in Dublin. He now leads the Paid Search & Display Advertising team at Tinderpoint delivering successful campaigns for a portfolio of diverse national and international clients across many industries.