Top 10 Pay Per Click Mistakes

Having managed pay per click advertising campaigns for several years now, I’ve had the unique opportunity to test many strategies and see PPC campaigns developed by others. Since many of my clients are small to mid-sized businesses, they usually don’t have the time or expertise to properly create a strong PPC program. So that other SMBs don’t make the same errors twice, I put together the following list of top 10 PPC pitfalls for your business to avoid.

1. Top 10 Pay Per Click Mistakes #1 – Don’t Use “Generic Keywords”

Single word keywords with multiple linguistic meanings that can be used across several different industry verticals, products and /or services should be used very sparingly. According to Google, the average number of words in a keyword search phase is four ( 4 ). The more specific you can get in your keyword selection, the better.

2. Top 10 Pay Per Click Mistakes #2 – Avoid Broad Match Terms

It’s better to define and control the words that you want your ads to show for than to allow the search engines flexibility to show them when they “think” there’s a match. Based on data I reviewed, they often get it wrong. By using phrase and exact match search terms, you can maintain this control and help avoid clicks from less relevant search queries.

3. Top 10 Pay Per Click Mistakes #3 – Stay Away from Non-Relevant Keywords

Be specific as possible with your keyword selection. Non-relevant keywords on the fringe of your product or service ( as suggested by many keyword tools ) may not get clicked on or convert as much as highly relevant keywords. This can lower your click through rates ( CTR ) and negatively affect your quality scores.

4. Top 10 Pay Per Click Mistakes #4 – Geo-Target where your Customers Live

Only show your ads in geographies where your customers may live. If prospective clients in a particular region are clicking on your ads but not converting into sales, spending little time on your site, or generating high bounce rates, don’t be afraid to stop advertising in that area. If you want to expand into new regions, consider the demographics of your current customers and find “like” regions of similar prospects which match your target audience characteristics.

5. Top 10 Pay Per Click Mistakes #5 – Don’t Overbid for Ad Positions #1 & #2

While ad positions #1 and #2 on the page may get you more clicks, the quality of these clicks are inconsistent, cost more, and tend to have lower conversion rates. With these high average cost per clicks ( CPC ), this can also translate into greater costs per conversion and a lower ROI. I recommend targeting your bids to position ads in slots #3-#6 which tend to have lower CPCs and higher conversion rates because the search engine user may have be further into the research and buying cycle when they arrive at your ads and website ( hopefully ready to make a purchase ).

6. Top 10 Pay Per Click Mistakes #6 – Add More Negative Keywords

Negative keywords are used in PPC campaigns to help avoid displaying your ads to unqualified prospects. Too few negative keywords in your campaign will mean that your ads may show for search queries totally unrelated to your product or service. Through keyword research analysis and review of search query report data on a periodic basis, your can identify new negative keywords to help make your ads more relevant to your search audience. Common negative keywords to consider include: free, information, reviews, and jobs.

7. Top 10 Pay Per Click Mistakes #7 – Don’t Put Too Many Keywords in Ad Group

Stuffing many unrelated keywords in ad groups can diminish your ad group relevancy, lower your overall CTR and negatively affect your quality scores. Keep your ad group keywords highly correlated with similar terms being grouped together. Here is an example of good keyword ad groupings from a recent campaign I created: ad group #1 ( solar flood lights, solar LED flood lighting, etc ), ad group #2 ( solar garden lights, solar LED garden lighting, etc ).

8. Top 10 Pay Per Click Mistakes #8 – Have Enough ( but not too many ) Keywords

I have found that PPC campaigns with too few keywords ( e.g. less than 10 ) are prone to missed click opportunities. Except for expansive ecommerce sites or companies with large product lines, PPC campaigns with too many keywords ( e.g. more than 10,000 ) can run the risk of being irrelevant. Over time, I have found that starting a new PPC campaign with between 100 and 500 keywords is usually sufficient to generate enough clicks to provide good benchmark metrics. Over time, the data from these clicks will provide you with direction on whether to increase or decrease the number of keywords in your campaign.

9. Top 10 Pay Per Click Mistakes #9 – Rarely Advertise on the Display Networks

Running ads on the search engine display networks is usually less costly than search channels. But they also convert at much lower rates. While I’ve found the display networks to be effective at promoting low cost products, enhancing brand awareness, or increasing email lists through free giveaways ( e.g. whitepapers, free downloads ), I suggest that you test on select sites within the display network before spending large amounts of time and money on this channel.

10. Top 10 Pay Per Click Mistakes #10 – Drop Underperforming Keywords

Don’t be afraid to eliminate keywords that don’t convert. Though these keywords may be generating plenty of clicks, if you hold onto these underperforming keywords, they may absorb too much of your budget and not allow other new potential higher performing keywords to rise to the top.

I trust that your gained some insight from the PPC mistakes that I’ve made. By learning from my errors and avoiding these pitfalls, I hope that you can leapfrog over your competition, accelerate your PPC performance, and ultimately, improve your paid search advertising ROI.

About the Author: With over 20 years of experience in database marketing and searSavech engine marketing, John Pfeiffer helps small to mid-sized companies succeed online with proven and affordable pay-per-click services. In addition, he is the author of numerous articles and whitepapers on PPC advertising techniques. John can be reached at

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