Avoid These Costly PPC Mistakes in Your AdWords Campaigns

Google AdWords continues to be one of the best marketing channels to drive targeted traffic.

With a pay per click campaign you bid on only those keywords that are relevant to the products or services your business offers. Prospective customers that search for those queries can then view your ads in the search results and click through to your ads in the search results across all devices. There are even a number of targeting features available that let advertisers further refine and optimise their campaigns.

A well optimised campaign can ultimately contribute to your bottom line.

Many small businesses start out with AdWords in the hopes of generating more sales and leads. But largely due to lack of experience, many end up making costly mistakes that actually results in a negative return. Even a small mistake can cause costs to quickly add up and burn through your marketing budget.

 In September, Laura Collins at search engine land published an article outlining some of the most common PPC mistakes she sees in paid search. So we decided to add to that with some of the most basic PPC mistakes that we continue to see when managing campaigns for our new clients along with suggestions on how to avoid them.


 1. Not Understanding the Different Keyword Match Types

Not all searches are equal.

If someone searches for the keyword “camera” you would have no idea what their intentions are. They could be looking for reviews on the latest DSLR camera or researching photography courses in their area. So the biggest mistake that small businesses make is targeting keywords that are too broad.

You might have a lot of impressions to your ads but conversions will likely be low.

This is where keyword match types come in.

With keyword match types you can control which keywords trigger your ads. Broader keywords have more traffic potential but narrower matches are far more likely to convert.

 The following is an overview of the different keyword match types:

  • Broad match: This is the default setting for keywords in your ad groups. Broad match means that your ads will display whenever those keywords are searched for, regardless of order. Bidding on “cameras” means that your ads would show for “deals on digital cameras” or “how to use DSLR cameras”.
  • Phrase match: Phrase match lets you be more specific with your targeting. Bidding on “Tennis shoes” means that your ads would only show for queries that contain those keywords in that order such as “buy tennis shoes” or “Nike tennis shoes”.
  • Exact match: Exact match means that your ads only display when those exact keywords are searched for. If you bid on “emergency locksmith services”, only that exact search query will trigger your ads.

 Note that there are also additional keyword modifiers you can use for more control. Here is an overview of the match types along with some examples:

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 So why does this all matter?

Because your campaigns will be far more successful by utilising keyword match types correctly.

Suggestion: Familiarise yourself with each of the keyword match types and what they do. If you are on a tight budget, then start with exact match type. Traffic figures may be low but your campaign is far more likely to be profitable.


 2. Not Grouping Keywords Together

Chances are that your business offers a range of products or services. So it makes sense to bid on all relevant keywords to bring more targeted traffic.

AdWords is set up so that advertisers can create campaign ad groups and add relevant keywords to those groups. Whenever one of those keywords are searched for, it triggers a text ad in the search results. Structuring campaigns in this manner makes it easy to organise and manage an account.

But simply grouping all keywords together is a common mistake that many business owners make.

Online users are far more likely to notice and click on your ads if the copy matches their search query. So lumping all your keywords together in one ad group means that only one ad gets shown for each of those keywords. Taking this approach is likely to have a negative impact on your campaigns, especially if all those keywords are different.

Google recommends grouping keywords by theme:

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Grouping keywords in this manner is beneficial for the following reasons:

  • Targeted ad copy: The ads you create for each ad group are far more relevant and targeted, resulting in more traffic to your landing pages. Any keywords in your ad group that match a search query are also bolded in the search results which helps to improve click through rates.
  • Higher Quality Score: Quality Score is the rating that Google assigns for keywords and ads. The more relevant your ads are, the higher your score. A better score translates to higher ad positions and lower costs.
  • Better organisation: Grouping keywords together by related themes makes it far easier to manage a profitable AdWords campaign. You can see exactly which groups are performing and which ones need improvement. This kind of information is absolutely invaluable.

 Suggestion: Use ad groups to organise your keywords by themes or categories. Ideally, each ad group should have no more than 20 keywords to keep them better targeted.


3. Not Creating Individual Landing Pages

When a visitor clicks on an ad, they expect the landing page to match their intent.

This is perhaps one of the most important elements of running an AdWords campaign. Even with targeted ads, your campaign could still fail to gain traction if visitors are sent to poorly optimised pages. One mistake that many business owners make is sending traffic to the homepage.

Imagine that you are searching for outdoor hiking boots. You see an ad for an online store that is offering a special discount. But instead of landing on a page where you can browse through boots, you get directed to the homepage. Chances are that you will bounce out due to lack of engagement.

Just as it is essential to group keywords by theme, another key factor that affects your campaigns is the landing pages. If visitors are directed to a page that doesn’t match their intention, conversions will suffer.

Here is an ad that appears in the search results for “outdoor hiking boots”:

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And here is the landing page for that ad:

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Right away visitors are taken to a page where they can easily browse through outdoor hiking boots. The landing page is far more likely to convert than if the ad directed visitors to a generic homepage. And building optimised landing pages for your ad groups is ultimately what will produce measurable results.

Suggestion: Build out individual landing pages for each ad group. Doing so requires far more effort but will produce better results than simply directing visitors to your homepage.



Google AdWords is easily one of the most effective marketing platforms. Advertisers and business owners are able to create highly targeted campaigns to drive more traffic and sales. But a poorly managed campaign can quickly burn through your budget. Avoiding the PPC mistakes as covered here will greatly boost your campaign performance.