The 10 Most Common Google Ad Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Google Ads can be tricky, with the world of advertising constantly changing it can be easy to fall behind, and even easier to make mistakes. However, some mistakes are a lot more common than others, and this article will help you to identify and fix those mistakes before they become too costly.

The 10 Most Common Google ad Mistakes

  1. Search and display network default targeting
  2. Not using negative keywords (or using too many)
  3. Not utilizing conversion testing
  4. Poor keyword research or using the wrong keyword match
  5. Using the wrong bidding strategy
  6. Creating only one ad variation
  7. Not utilizing extensions
  8. Not utilizing experiments
  9. Utilizing incorrect audiences
  10. Having a poor landing page

Search and Display Network Default Targeting

In one of Google’s more recent updates the search and display networks were combined, meaning the default option when setting up a search campaign is to actually set the campaign up as both a search and a display network. If your goal for the campaign is to gain brand awareness or work on your reach then this strategy isn’t necessarily a bad one, but if you’re trying to focus on conversions (whether that be sales, phone calls, or website visits) this default setting could actually hinder your success. Display networks focus on awareness and reach, so if your goal is to get conversions it is likely going to be far more successful to only use the search network and disable the default setting of having a search and display network.

Search campaigns can be a crucial part of how you advertise your business. They allow you to specifically target people actively searching for your product or service. Search campaigns are incredibly easy to set up and are even easier to customize to your specific needs. Search campaigns will show your ads across a vast network of search results and will only show to people actively searching for your ads, meaning your ads will only show to people who want to see them!

Discovery campaigns are something that should be set up later on in your Google Ads journey after you already have several successful campaigns. Discovery ads require the top performing images, videos, headlines, and descriptions you have, and it will take some time to figure out the parts of your ads are performing the best so you can combine them all into a successful discovery campaign. Don’t jump into a discovery campaign with amateur photos and basic headlines, you won’t be nearly as successful as you would be if you had taken the time to learn your brand and discover what aspects of your ads your customers are responding to.

Not Utilizing Negative Keywords – Or Using too Many

Negative keywords work to exclude certain terms from your ad group so that you can focus on only the keywords that matter to you and your customers. This allows you to target your ads better and increase your campaign’s ROAS. Negative keywords can also be broad match, phrase match, or exact match when entered into the ad group. However, unlike regular keywords, negative keywords do not apply to close variants so you could still get some unwanted searches with your negative keywords in place. You can always add negative keywords when creating your campaign, but it is often best to go off of search terms. Especially as your campaign is growing it is important to check what search terms are triggering your ads and then decide if you want to include or exclude those search terms within your campaign.

It is important to also note that using too many keywords or using unnecessary negative keywords can make it harder for you to reach your target audience. It is important to exclude what is irrelevant but be careful not to exclude too much so as to not hinder the reach your ad group has. Finding a balance between weeding out what is irrelevant to your ads without restricting your ad’s reach to potential customers can be difficult to achieve but will give your ads the most potential for success.

3.Poor Keyword Research or Using the Wrong Keyword Match Type

The first step in writing ad copy that will most effectively boost your SEO is to do keyword research. There are several ways to research keywords and for the best results you should use multiple research tools in order to have the best understanding of which keywords will work for you and which ones will not. Google analytics is a great place to start because you can look at how many times people have searched for a specific keyword within a set period of time. You can also use a search engine if you clear your cookies and log out to prevent any skewed data based on your past searches. You can type in keywords that you think will be popular or use the ones that you found from Google analytics and be able to see not only other closely related things that people commonly searched for but also which of your competitors are using those same keywords. Having poor keyword research will leave you far behind the competition and your content will be severely lacking. There are three different match types for keywords, understanding how each works and when to use them is a great start to improving your campaigns.

Broad Match Keywords

Broad match keywords are the default type of keyword unless otherwise specified when creating your ad groups. They allow you to reach broader audiences by showing your ad on user searches that are related to your keyword. Google’s system automatically runs your ad on searches that are related variations of your keyword such as synonyms, misspellings, and other similar searches that may not contain the exact keyword terms. To help show the most relevant matches Google may also look into the user’s recent searches, the content of your landing page, and other keywords within the ad group to greater understand the content of the keyword.

Phrase Match Keywords

Phrase match keywords show to people searching for your exact keywords and for very close variations of your keyword. Phrase match is a great choice for keywords because it is more targeted that broad match and more flexible than exact match. This gives you more control over your ads and who sees your ad based on their search. Close variants of your keyword with phrase match can include misspellings, singular and plural forms, acronyms, abbreviations, synonyms, accents, implied terms, and paraphrases. If additional unrelated terms are entered in between two words within your keyword phrase your ad will not be shown on that search. With phrase match words can be rearranged but the meaning of the phrase must remain the same for your ad to be shown on that search.

Exact Match Keywords

Exact match keywords will only show your ad to the searches that are most like your keyword. Close variants such as spelling, and grammars differences will also be shown. Exact match keywords give you the most control over your search results and can often result in a much higher click through rate. However, it severely limits your reach with customers, so it is best used when you are confident that you know your audience and the exact terms they are searching for.

When to Use the Different Keyword Types

To get the best result out of your keywords it is recommended you use a combination of all three types of keywords. You will find that some keywords will perform better as a certain type than other keywords. The best way to determine this is typically through trial and error and keeping a close eye on which of your keywords are performing well and which of them are falling behind as your campaign grows. Some of these will be too broad and bring in search results that aren’t related to your product; and some of these will be too narrow, restricting those that would actually be interested in your product.

4. Using the Wrong Bidding Strategy

Considering your goals when setting up a bid strategy is incredibly important – what do you want to get out of this campaign? Do you want people to simply click on your ad and be taken to your website? Do you want people to not only click on your ad but make a purchase or view a video? These goals are crucial to understand and keep in mind so that your bidding strategy will reflect what you are looking to achieve throughout the campaign.

If the main goal of your campaign is to bring in conversions or sales then Smart Bidding is the way to go. Smart Bidding takes a lot of the heavy lifting out of your budget by using automated strategies and machine learning to optimize your campaign for conversions. It also factors in a wide variety of auction signals in order to capture the most accurate information for your ads. There are five different Smart Bidding strategies that you can use when focusing on conversions with your Google Ads.

  • Target CPA (cost per action) – Target CPA allows you to increase your conversions by setting a target CPA, or target cost you want to spend per action. Google will then auto bid based on your target CPA to maximize your conversions without going over budget.
  • Target ROAS (return on ad spend) – Target ROAS works to increase your conversions in an attempt to reach a target ROAS. You also set a target CPA for this bidding strategy so that you are not spending too much money per action while still improving your ROAS.
  • Maximize Conversions – Maximize conversions works to maximize your conversions as effectively as possible without applying a cost per action. It works off of a target ROAS to get you as many conversions for your money as possible. This can get you a lot of conversions very quickly but can also run through your budget in record amounts of time.
  • Maximize Conversion Value – Maximize conversion value is similar to maximize conversions in the way that it works without a CPA to get you the most conversions possible. Unlike maximize conversions, however, maximize conversion value does not work off of a target ROAS.
  • Enhanced Cost Per Click (ECPC) – ECPC is an optional feature that you can use with manual CPC bidding that will automatically adjust your manual bids in order to maximize your conversions.

If the main focus of your campaign is to gain website traction and generate the most clicks to your site as possible, a cost per click or CPC bidding strategy is the way to go. There are two different CPC bidding strategies.

  • Maximize Clicks – Maximize clicks is an automated bidding strategy in which you enter an average daily budget that you would like to spend and Google Ads will automatically adjust your budget in order to generate the most clicks as possible. This bidding strategy is quite simply the easiest and most effective way to generate large numbers of clicks to your website.
  • Manual CPC Bidding – Manual CPC bidding gives you the opportunity to adjust your daily budget yourself. You can set budgets for entire ad groups, or have differing budgets down to each individual keyword. This strategy can work if you have found certain keywords or ad groups to be more profitable, but it very labor intensive and hands on to keep running on a regular basis.

If the main focus of your campaign is visibility there are several different bid strategies that can help you get the highest possible number of people to see your ads.

  • Target Impression Share – Target impression share automatically generates bids based on each individual search in order to get your ad to the most visible place on the page, often at the very top. This will effectively show your ads to as many people as possible but can be very expensive.
  • CPM – CPM bid strategy allows you to pay based on the number of impressions your ad receives, or in other words you’ll pay for how many times your ad is shown on YouTube or the Google Display Network.
  • tCPM – This is a bidding strategy that allows you to set a pre-determined budget for what you are willing to pay per one thousand impressions. Google Ads then automatically optimizes your bids according to your campaign’s unique needs. This bidding strategy allows you to only pay your budget or less while still reaching as many people as possible.
  • vCPM – This is a manual bidding strategy that is designed to increase your reach as much as possible but is not necessarily targeted towards generating clicks or any interaction with your ads. This strategy is best if your main goal is awareness focused and you simply want people to become more aware of your brand.

CPV – This bidding strategy is only applicable for video ads and allows you to set a budget of the maximum amount of money you are willing to spend per view or click on your video ad.

5.Creating Only One Ad Variation

Within Search campaigns you can set up either an expanded text ad or a responsive search ad. Both of these are text ads, but they do have their differences. Expanded text ads are a combination of headlines and descriptions that will show in the order that you entered them in, while responsive search ads will ask you to enter many headlines and descriptions and will then use Google analytics and data to create the most effective combinations of headlines and descriptions to show to your prospective customers. It is recommended for best practices to include both expanded text ads and responsive search ads in your Search campaign.

Different ad variations will work better with different audiences, which is why it’s absolutely necessary to have multiple ad variations. This can be multiple different ads, like text ads and expanded text ads, but it also applies to the wording within your ads themselves. Different wording, differing images, etc. all play a very important role in helping your campaign be successful. Plus, then if one of your ads is underperforming you can look at which of your ads are doing well. The subtle word differences will go you a lot more insight than you may think.

6. Not Utilizing Extensions

Ad extensions expand your ad to show additional information and give prospective customers more of a reason to click on your ad. Ad extensions will typically increase your CTR (click through rate) by several percentage points. There are a wide variety of extensions to choose from to fit your various campaign goals and ad types. Ad extensions are free to use so it’s recommended to add as many ad extensions that are relevant to your campaign goal as possible.

Google Ads selects which ad extensions to show based on each individual search on Google in order to maximize your conversions, which is why it is a good idea to include as many ad extensions that are relevant to your campaign goal as you can. Ad extensions make your ad larger, giving it more visibility and drawing more attention to it on the page. This means more people will look at your ad and ultimately click on your ad, giving your ad more value. Extensions can also give prospective customers more information on your company, such as listing multiple location sites or multiple means of contact directly on the ad without them having to perform an additional search or look through your website for that information.

However, just because an ad has extensions on it doesn’t mean those extensions will show every time your ad is shown to a prospective customer. Google will show your ad when it is predicted to improve the performance of your ad and when your ad’s position and ad rank are high enough for extensions to show. Screen size can also affect when extensions are shown. Extensions are much more likely to be shown on a computer screen where there is room for ad extensions to be read than on a cell phone where the ad space is more limited. The more space your ad takes up, the better. And while not all of your extensions will be shown at the same time, the more real estate your ad takes up on a page the more likely people are to click on it.

7. Not Utilizing Experiments

Experiments will tell you in a direct comparison which strategy will be more effective than the other. You can experiment with differing keywords, bidding strategies, ads, even landing pages, to see which one performs better. Not utilizing this service can waste you a lot of time and energy trying to figure this out the long way. The budget is determined by a percentage split, meaning the experiment will take the current budget allocated to the original campaign and split it between the original campaign and the campaign experiment for the duration of the experiment. The default setting is 50%, meaning half of the current campaign’s budget will stay with the original campaign and the other half will be allocated to the experiment. Campaign experiments are a great way to see if your campaign is performing at its absolute best. You typically want to start with successful, well-established campaign and use the experiment function to test if it could be even better with different settings.

8. Utilizing Incorrect Audiences

Utilizing audiences in your campaign can be an incredibly useful tool to optimize your campaigns. However, incorrectly utilizing or not utilizing audiences within your campaign can have the opposite effect. Audiences are not necessary to have a successful campaign, but once you can properly understand your audience – your true audience, not what you think your audience is – can drastically improve the performance of both your ad campaigns and of your business as a whole. Your true audience, however, can be hard to find right away. It’s important that you allow your campaign to grow and develop into a well-performing campaign before trying to add in audiences. Once your campaign has been around for a while and has continued to be successful you can use Google analytics to look at the kinds of people that have been historically purchasing your product and build your audiences off of that data.

Having Poor Landing Pages

If everything else in your campaign is performing well and the above mistakes do not apply to you, it’s time to take a look at your landing pages. A poor landing page can be just as detrimental if not more so to the success of your campaigns. The reason that this can be so harmful to your campaign is because Google does not collect data on this particular aspect of your ad campaign. If your campaigns are performing well in every other aspect: keywords and ads have a high CTR, your spend is low, but you’re still not getting conversions, it could be a sign that your landing pages are not performing well. To figure out if this is truly the case go back to your research. Look up your top competitors’ websites and see how their landing pages compare to your own. Based on this research, learn what your landing pages could improve upon and make changes to see if it then improves your conversions.

Commonly Asked Questions:

What should my budget be?

While it greatly varies between different business and different campaigns, I tend to set most of my campaigns at a starting budget of $5. I watch my new campaigns closely and if they perform well, I might raise the budget. However, if they do not perform well, I make sure to quickly fix the problem or lower the budget if the campaign is hurting the overall account.

How do I know if my campaign is performing well?

While what is considered “good performance” greatly varies from business to business, there are a few things to look for when you’re first getting started. A CTR (click through rate) of 2% or higher is considered a good interaction rate with your website, and anything below a 1% is very bad. When looking at conversions, the best tool to use is the Conversion Value/Cost. This calculates your ROAS (return on ad investment) and a ROAS higher than 4 is generally considered good.

How many campaigns should I set up?

Start small, especially if you’re new to Google Ads. Set up one campaign at a time and then give that campaign a week or two to find its feet. If it’s performing well, great! If not, you know that it’s time to go back to the drawing board. From there you can start to determine which ads work for you and which ones don’t, the most effective way to market your brand, and which products or services to pay more attention to based on what your customers are actually purchasing.


Related Articles:

Everything You Need to Know About Google Ad Keywords

The Different Types of Google Ads and How to Use Them

The Different Google Ad Campaign Goals and When to Use Each One

Google Ad Bidding Strategies and When to Use Each One

The Different Google Ad Extensions and How to Use Them

How to Set up a Search Campaign in Google Ads

How to Set up a Display Campaign in Google Ads

How to Set up a Shopping Campaign in Google Ads

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