Whether you are new to Google Ads or have been managing accounts for years, we're certain that you have had a moment when you’ve stopped and wondered, “Why, why is this happening?!”
Even the most experienced Google Ads specialist will tell you, Google Ads are difficult to figure out and sometimes best practices that work for one account will leave you banging your head against the wall on another.
While no one tactic is guaranteed to work, there are several common Google Ads mistakes we've seen in the majority of the accounts we've audited. Our goal with this chapter is to explain each of those mistakes and why they happen, so you can avoid them entirely (and save yourself some money).
1. Using the Wrong Keyword Match Type
Keyword match type is a tricky thing and definitely not something Google does a good job of explaining to those just getting started. Not only do they not explain things, they default accounts to add keywords in the broadest manner possible which can lead to unwise ad spend and bogus traffic and leads.
An issue with using the wrong keyword match type typically occurs for two reasons:
First, in the hopes to get your ads up and running quickly, you have done some basic keyword research and popped the keywords into your ad set, not paying attention to how the format Google has added them.
Second, a few days of your ads running, you start getting “suggestions” from Google that outline all the potential traffic you are missing by not adding their suggested keywords.
The suggestions Google provides are there to help those who are not sure about what they are doing, but they are not always the right choices to make. It's very tempting when getting started with Google Ads to simply click that apply now button and hope for the best.
But what happens when you do this?
Well, that part is actually deceiving, too.
Typically, clicks start flowing in and your money starts flowing out at a faster rate. The problem is your click quality is poor, and you'll quickly lose control over your searchers.
"What's Going On?!"
It's simple. By default, Google uses the “broad match” keyword match type. This means that your ads are now eligible to show whenever a searcher searches for any word in your keyword phrases, in any order, which would also include misspellings and synonyms.
We call this a "wide cast net," and it truly will reach the widest audience possible, but it could also bring in a large amount of irrelevant traffic. Which as you know, irrelevant traffic is money wasted.
There are four different keyword match types you should get to know better if you're working within Google Ads.
- Broad match (defined above)
- Broad match modifier
- Phrase match
- Exact match
Each of these match types has there own set of advantages and disadvantages, but ultimately are necessary for you to gain the most control on which search queries trigger your ads to appear when you want them to. As mentioned above, by default Google starts with broad match type.
Broad Match Modifier
With this keyword match type, you are still taking advantage of the wide cast net of broad, but gaining back some control. You do this by appending a “+” in front of any specific words within your keywords that you want to lock in place.
By locking these words in place, you are telling Google that you only want your ads to show when that particular word or close variant appears somewhere within the search query. The key is that the modified broad keyword has to be present in order for your ads to serve.
"Why would I want to use broad match or broad match modifier keyword types, to begin with?"
Well, they are a great way to build your keyword list -- search queries are very unpredictable. By utilizing broad match type keywords you will have more queries that trigger your ad(s).
Spend time reviewing these in the early phases of your campaigns and use them to quickly find relevant search terms to add to you list. Doing this for brief periods of time allows you to grow your keywords quickly and waste less time trying to find new search terms.
This, by far, is our favorite match type for keywords in the Google platform. With phrase match you will have better control over what triggers your ads to serve. By placing your keywords inside of quotations (e.g., “some important keyword”) you are telling Google that you want your ads to appear only when a searcher searches for your exact keyword phrase.
The quotations keep your keyword in your exact order and will not allow Google to add any words in between, however additional words at the beginning and or the end of the search query is OK.
Exact match is the most restrictive keyword match type, but it also gives you the most control. If using this match type, your ads will only show when users are searching for your exact keyword or a close variant of your exact keyword. This provides the best opportunity to show your ads to those most interested in what you have to offer.
We strongly recommend that you test each match type to see what works best for your campaigns. Try combining various match types within your campaigns and analyze the data until you are confident about the relevancy and quality of your keyword traffic. Keep an eye on how close your search terms are to your keywords.
Take advantage of your search term report to get both positive and negative keyword ideas.
Note the special symbol (second column) used to offset keywords in each of the scenarios.
2. Not Using Negative Keywords
Having a negative keyword strategy is one of the most critical steps to success within your Google Ads Account. That's because choosing what not to target is equally as important as choosing what to target.
Negative keywords are the means for you to set guardrails within your Google Ads account. They are used to prevent your ads from being served up in response to irrelevant search queries and, ultimately, help reduce wasted ad spend, thus maximizing your return on investment.
Just like with regular keywords there are different negative keyword match types:
- Negative broad match
- Negative phrase match
- Negative exact match
Negative Broad Match (Google Default)
This will prevent your ads from serving if the search contains all your negative keywords, regardless of the order. However, it is important to note that your ads could still show if the search contains only some of your negative keywords.
Negative broad match keyword: running shoes
Negative Phrase Match
This will prevent your ads from serving if the search contains your exact negative keywords in the same order even if additional words come before or after.
Negative phrase match keyword: "running shoe"
Negative Exact Match
This will prevent your ads from serving if the search contains your exact negative keywords without any extra words. However, it is important to note that your ad will appear if the search contained any additional words.
Negative exact match keyword: [running shoes]
Pick Your Negative Keywords Carefully
Always think through the ramifications of your keywords and the delivery of your ads. Make sure that you are looking at your search term report for how people are searching for you and also taking advantage of Google’s Keyword Planner. (This will help you see actual user query data to help find negative keyword ideas, especially on related searches.)
Another great tactic for finding negative keywords is to use Google to search for your primary keyword and mine through the search engine results data for what Google sees as relevant to that search query.
Just remember that Google has no trouble spending your money, so please use negative keywords to take that control back and stop spending on useless keywords for your product or service.
3. Not Setting Up Goals & Conversion Tracking
According to Disruptive Advertising’s Google Ads analysis, 57.7% of Google Ads accounts have some level of conversion tracking in place. While that number seems OK, it actually means that 42.3% of Google Ads account managers have no idea whether or not their campaigns are working.
Ladies and gents, this is a huge issue.
Without having a clear definition or understanding of your goals and conversions, you are unable to clearly define success within your Google Ads account -- meaning you will never be able to see how effectively your ad clicks lead to valuable activity. On top of that, you won't be able to scale your Google Ads campaigns properly, and you won't be able to take advantage of Google's machine learning capabilities effectively.
Of course, goals and conversions can mean many things -- so, let's run through what these could look like.
First, you have to have a conversion source. This could mean your website, mobile app, phone calls or custom goals imported from sources like Google Analytics.
We typically like to work with clients by reviewing their current conversion points on their site. Usually, we find:
- Contact us forms
- Schedule a demo
- Product purchase
- Event registration or ticket purchase
- Pages to visit
Once you have established your most valuable goals (actions/events) you want to make sure that you have set up your tracking properly. You can set up your conversion tracking within Google Ads itself or create goals within Google Analytics -- then, by linking the two accounts, import them into Google Ads.
Let's start with Google Ads -- you will need two codes snippets on your website.
The first one is the global site tag. This adds website visitors to your “All Visitors” remarketing lists. You must install this code on all your website pages, but you only need one global site tag per Google Ad account. The second code snippet is the event snippet itself. This tracks the action or actions that should be counted as your conversion.
If you decide to take advantage of setting up goals inside of Google Analytics you will need to run through some small steps inside of your Google Analytics account to create your goals and link the two accounts. Once you have linked the accounts you will be able to import the goals you would like to apply to your Google Ads account.
Think of Google Analytic goals as a way to gauge how well your website is meeting your critical objectives.
To find your goals inside of Google Analytics:
- Go to your Google Analytics account.
- Click on the “Admin” button in the lower left.
- Click on “Goals” (far right column).
- Click “+ New Goal” to set up a new goal or click on any goal listed to view what it is you are exactly tracking.
All this is critical to having visibility into which keywords, ads, ad groups and campaigns are driving your most valuable searcher activity. This is where you see your ROI and can make more informed decisions within your account to scale.
4. Running Ads Around the Clock
By default Google out the box will run your ads 24 hours a day, seven days a week nonstop, until your ad spend if gone for the month. Unfortunately, we see companies make this mistake a lot with Google Ads.
One of our most important checklist items while building out a Google Ads campaign is to set the campaign up with custom scheduling (also known as “dayparting”) even if we are going to run ads all day, every day anyway. The main reason for doing this right away is because we would be unable to view previous data later on down the road if we waited.
How Ad Scheduling Works
It is important to note that Google Ads schedules are set at the campaign level and will direct Google on exactly which days and time to run your campaigns. In other words, your ads won’t run during times outside the range you specify. Ad schedules only run on a weekly basis, which means you won't be able to run your ads on certain days of the year -- like holidays or other major events.
The amount of control here is incredible. For example, you can set which days of the week you would want to run your ads as well as start/stop times for each of those days. You are also able to set up multiple ad schedules for each of those days (Monday, 6 a.m. to 11 a.m.; Monday, 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.) Once you establish your custom schedule you can set bid adjustments for each individual time block you created.
Scheduled bid adjustments are also a great alternative to shutting campaigns off certain days or hours. Being able to adjust your bid allows your account to continue running your ads but at a lower or higher average CPC.
Here are your main reasons to utilize custom ad scheduling:
- Business hours
- Supply and demand
- Limited daily budget
- Your data says so!
Simply put, you will want to see what days and times provide you the most value to your business. We often like to look at this data not only with Google Ads, but within Google Analytics, as well. As you start to make bid-adjustments you will always want to revisit your data and re-adjust where necessary. If you stop delivering ads on the weekend or late at night you will not see new fluctuation. By utilization of hours of day and day of week reporting.
Better insights to your searches activity matched up with your account goals and conversions will always lead to better account performance which will lead to a much higher ROI on your account spend.
5. Bad Mobile Google Ads Experience
Hoo boy, this one is a really, really big deal. We all heard in the past couple of years how important responsive websites have become in our now mobile-dominated world.
But what does that all mean to you inside of your Google Ads account? It means the game changed. It means that you have to be either all-in and committed to creating mobile ad experiences or step aside.
The truth is that competition soared once the shift happened. This meant that if you were not positioning in the one or two spots for your mobile ads you were pretty much wasting your time. Remember that the search engine results page (SERP) space difference between mobile, desktop, and tablet is significant.
Google made it clear that Ad Ranking would be the primary driver for your success. This means that your maximum CPC needs to play well with mobile, as well as your quality score -- Max CPC x Quality Score = Ad Rank. The CPC part is easy, it's the diligence needed to ensure that your ads are taking your searchers to a mobile-friendly and optimized landing page. Page speed is your friend in this.
Mobile users are very goal-oriented. They expect to be able to get what they need immediately and on their own terms. And if the site your Google Ads point to fails to deliver that mobile-optimized experience that loads quickly, they'll abandon your site in seconds, no matter how "quality" the content you're delivering might be.
Quality of content doesn't matter if the experience in which it's delivered is subpar.
Keys to mobile experience success for Google Ads include:
- Keep your CTAs prominent
- Keep your menus Short
- Make it easy to return to your home page
- Make site search visible
- No pop-ups
- Utilize filters to help narrow results
Make sure to always be testing and take advantage of such tools like:
If you think we're kidding about the impact of a poor mobile experience on your Google Ads placement and return, check out the drop-off that happens after the fourth placement:
6. Leaving Google Ads Defaults in Place
Given what we've talked about thus far, you know many of the Google Ad defaults could ultimately accelerate your ad spend with very little return. But to get you pointed in the right direction, here is a quick rundown of some of the most offensive defaults...
Automatic Opt-in to Both the Google Search & Display Network (GDN)
The idea of serving a single campaign across the search and GDN at the same time will end up costing you money. Ultimately, you are limiting your targeting and optimization capabilities and risking a faster ad spend with the GDN. The more control you have over your campaigns, the more successful you will be with them.
Automatic Inclusion to Google’s Search Partner Network
By extending your reach across hundred or non-Google websites, you put your campaigns at risk for either poor click-through rate (CTR), which will bring down your quality score or a boost in clicks that eat up your daily budget with little to no conversions. Remember, it is extremely difficult to manage the sites your ad could end up on which means you no longer have control.
Automatic Selection of Broad Match Type for Keywords
Remember from the last chapter? Utilizing broad match type will open your campaign up for high spend on irrelevant traffic. Why spend money on searchers who are not looking for your product or service?
Automatic Selection to Optimize Your Ads
When you first build out your campaign, you typically would want to have three ads in your newly built ad group. By default, Google will start optimizing right away for the better performing ad. The problem with this is that Google will make that decision quickly, not allowing the other two ads to rotate evenly as your keywords trigger on searches.
You cannot control the benchmark (impressions, clicks, conversions). The best you can do is turn off the default and move to the option of “Rotate Ads Indefinitely.” This option will get you as close to an even rotation as possible while you are testing out your Google Ads copy.
Quality of your ads will always play a part in delivery -- so, if you have a poorer performing ad, it may not trigger as much as the others. Always remember that poor quality could take your ad off the first page of the search results page and move you to the second where your impressions will significantly drop.
Automatic Serving of Ads to Mobile
Not all businesses are created equal, and so their Google Ads may not convert as well on mobile or tablet. When building out your campaigns you are automatically opted into serving your ads on mobile, tablet, and desktop. If your site is not mobile-friendly and you know that your mobile traffic performs poorly make sure to remove yourself from these devices.
Automatic Opt-in to Automatic Ad Creation via Google AI
By default, Google would like to assist you on writing new ads to help boost your campaign performance. If you don’t go in and adjust this setting Google will not only write these ads for you, they will turn them on. This could result in a lot of different outcomes but, most of all, you'll experience a loss of control and testing would dynamically affect your campaign performance.
Automatic Location Setting
This is a must to fix straight away. If left as is, will spend your daily fast on irrelevant clicks from other countries or states fast. Here's an example to help better explain:
Let's say you're a car owner in Maryland in need of “car repairs,” but the day before you had been looking at vacation rentals in Orlando, Florida. An ad for a car repair shop in Orlando might show up in my search engine results page if the advertiser for that car repair shop in Orlando had left that setting enabled.
Automatic Inclusion of Mobile Apps for Display
Always pay attention to where your ads place. The default is to place on all devices, which could mean falsely categorized websites and mobile apps driving under-qualified traffic, mainly due to accidental clicks. Mobile game apps are notorious at spending your money fast for that exact reason.
7. Not Taking Advantage of Ad Extensions
Google Ads extensions help provide your searchers additional information they may be looking for and allowing them to take action directly from the search results page.
During these intent-rich micro-moments, Google Ad extensions give your ads more prominence and get you more clicks and valuable user interactions. They simply own more real-estate on the SERP. Google Ads extensions will help make your ads more appealing to the searcher, often at a lower cost per additional click than the cost of moving up a position.
Make sure that your extensions are as relevant to your ad as possible helping to maximize the performance of your ads.
The most popular extensions include:
- Structured snippets
Taking the extra time to ensure that your account is set up correctly and that you are not falling prey to any of these common mistakes will pay off tenfold.
We encourage all my clients to create a checklist of the items above and review each and every one of them one step at a time. By turning off any leaky spending holes will help any Google Ads manager level up their Google Ads account.