Google Ads is a popular and highly effective way to drive traffic to your website or campaign landing pages and content assets. Not convinced? Well, approximately 75% of the world’s desktop and laptop searches come through Google search. Apparently, that works out at around 70,000 searches every second (stats courtesy of, you guessed it, a quick Google search). If you want to get your campaigns in front of your target audience, avoiding the most common Google Ads mistakes is essential.
Recently, I sat down with Fifty Five and Five’s two longest-serving PPC specialists, Laura and Maria, to pick their brains and – a quick confession from me: although I write a lot of copy for Google Ads, I know little about what actually goes into setting up and running the campaigns. So, this proved a great opportunity to learn more about what Laura, Maria and the rest of our busy paid media team do to make sure our clients’ campaigns are a success.
We had a long discussion, and I learned a lot about common Google Ads mistakes. To share our knowledge, we’ve compiled a list of ten to avoid. Here they are:
Google ads mistake 1: Ignore negative keywords at your peril
Negative keywords are the search terms you don’t want people to have used to get to your ads. If you set up a campaign to promote your managed services, you don’t want people who are looking for jobs in managed services to click on your ads.
To make sure this doesn’t happen, set the right negative keywords. Choosing ‘managed services specialist salary’ or ‘managed services job roles’ as a negative keyword would ensure you don’t attract the wrong attention.
Laura’s advice: “We recommend putting your negative keyword list together at the start of the campaign. But, during the campaign, you may become aware of certain keywords you want to add to this. When you are in Google Ads looking at a campaign, you can go to ‘Search terms’. Here you have a list of all the keywords, including both negative keywords and search terms, that are associated with your ads. We suggest checking these on a regular basis during the campaign – sometimes every day, maybe three times a week.”
Google ads mistake 2: Poor keyword research and unsuitable keywords will derail your campaign
According to Laura and Maria, poor keyword research is one of the most common mistakes that marketers make.
Laura’s advice: “This is a tricky one because sometimes a short tail keyword, for instance ‘digital transformation’, might at first seem like the right choice. But on closer analysis, it’s simply too broad. You would get a lot of impressions, probably a lot of clicks, and end up spending a lot of money. It’s highly likely that users won’t be interested in what you’re offering or will not stay on your site for long. That’s because this keyword could draw in people who are just searching for ‘what is digital transformation?’.
A short tail keyword, for instance ‘digital transformation’, might at first seem like the right choice. But on closer analysis, it’s simply too broad.
“A better option would be to use ‘digital transformation solutions for HR’, for instance. Or, if you are promoting a whitepaper, use that in the keyword.”
Maria’s advice: “It’s more sensible to use a mix of short tail and long tail keywords – and then to monitor the results to see which keywords are working and which aren’t. You might have a broad keyword, but if it’s driving clicks, and the clickthrough-rate (CTR) is high and the cost per click is good, then it could be worth keeping. But normally broad keywords are expensive.
“You should also look at the bounce rate and the average session duration. For instance, a keyword might be producing a great CTR, but the average session duration is zero or ten seconds. This strongly indicates that whoever is clicking on your ad is not engaged with what they find when they get there. In that case, it’s worth pausing the campaign. Time to try a different approach.”
Google ads mistake 3: Keyword Planner is a fantastic tool and not using it is a crime.
Google Ads is full of useful tools to help you run your campaigns and set them up to be effective. Keyword Planner is one of the most relied upon – and there’s a reason for that.
Laura’s advice: “It’s a good idea to use Keyword Planner, which provides insights for PPC and also helps you discover new keywords. It provides lots of useful data, such as the competition and the average monthly searches. Most importantly, it gives you keyword suggestions. You can define the location, the language, the search network, the time your ad will run and much more.
“What’s more, Google keeps improving Keyword Planner. Now you can include the URL of the page you want to promote, so Google can scan that page and tell you exactly how the keywords you have chosen are working for you – a huge help. It’s a big mistake not to take advantage of these features when researching keywords.”
Google ads mistake 4: If you don’t test different variations of ad copy, results will suffer
You can set up your ads like a pro and do everything right, but if your ad copy doesn’t speak to your target audience in language that grabs their attention, your ads will fail. Therefore, you need to test your ad copy. The mistake here is to fail to write enough ads to test.
If your ad copy doesn’t speak to your target audience in language that grabs their attention, your ads will fail.
Laura’s advice: “Some marketers have two versions of their ad copy and think that is enough; some only have one, which is not good for testing. We normally try to have three different versions at least, normally four or five. This provides the room to test different descriptions and headlines.
“A/B testing is essential, as it helps you see what’s working best and what isn’t.”
Maria’s advice: “It’s also good to make use of Google’s responsive ads. When you use responsive ads, you can implement all the headlines and descriptions you have, and then Google uses machine learning to organise them so that they have a greater impact. We find that responsive ads usually perform better – at least that’s what we see most of the time.
“This automation seems to be part of a wider trend. And it is a mistake not to embrace it. Google and Facebook are trying to bring users towards an approach where they take greater control of how your ads perform on their platforms. The thinking goes that if they can help customers improve their results and ROI with paid media, then these customers will keep coming back with more business – a win-win scenario.
“With responsive ads, you don’t have control over which ad will be shown or the specific structure (i.e. the combination of headlines and descriptions). But you have full control over the headlines and descriptions submitted in the first place, before Google’s machine learning works its magic. I think this is something some marketers are against. But if the results are better, why would you not go for automated optimisation?”
Google ads mistake 5: Neglecting to take daily budget in consideration can be costly
As Google optimises your ads for your target audience, it will change certain aspects of your campaign, based on what is performing and what you are trying to achieve. If your daily budget changes, it can have expensive consequences.
Maria’s advice: “When you create a campaign, you set up certain parameters (e.g. daily budget, audience, keywords etc.). Google then goes into a phase called Learning where it ‘learns’ your settings. This can last 48 hours, so it’s always good to set up early and schedule in advance, to let Google perform its magic before your campaign goes live.
I’s always good to set up early and schedule in advance, to let Google perform its magic before your campaign goes live.
“But it is important to check this daily. Because in the process, Google can do some strange things sometimes. For instance, it can double your daily budget.
“For example, if you have a daily budget of £20, optimised for clicks (the bidding strategy that is), and if your campaign is doing well, Google may take your daily budget and spend up to twice as much. Suddenly you have £40 of daily spend. In that example, it’s not too much of a worry because the spend is small. But when the campaign has a big budget, in which the daily spend might be £200 or £300, then waking up in the morning and seeing that your campaign has spent £600 instead of £300, it can give you a heart attack. So, you need to be aware that this is a possibility and keep checking daily.”
Laura’s advice: “It depends on the bidding strategy. If it is being optimised for clicks, then Google has a limit. It will only raise the budget by double. If it’s for conversions, there is no limit. It can be 3 or 4 times more. So that’s something else to be wary of.”
… to be continued.
We can help you avoid these Google Ads mistakes
That’s end of the first half of our list of ten common Google Ads mistakes. To learn more, make sure you check back for the second part, published soon. If you can’t wait till then, you can go to our services page to learn more about the paid media services we offer.