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Written by Sam Yadegar on Apr 6 , 2021

Don’t fall for these roadblocks on the path to PPC success.

Here, you’ll find:

  • The common PPC mistakes even seasoned marketers fall for
  • How to avoid these pitfalls in your own campaigns
  • What elements make up a successful PPC program
  • Why optimization, consistency, and proper targeting are key

Running a pay-per-click (PPC) advertising campaign is like getting your first credit card. If used wisely, you’ll spend some money now and be rewarded for your good decisions later.?

On the other hand, if you’re careless or not especially thoughtful about your decisions, you could be out of funds before you know it.?

While we can’t speak to your credit score, we can help you learn from the PPC mistakes of others without having to make these missteps yourself.

Here are the top 9 most common PPC mistakes we’ve seen, along with tips for avoiding them.???

HawkSEM: PPC mistakes

Once you know your audience, you can choose better keywords and create stellar ad copy that gets your target audience to click. (Image via Unsplash)

1. Not having a concise goal and strategy

We don’t recommend starting a PPC campaign without a clear goal in mind. Without a specific target or timeframe, it’s difficult to track your progress or know how to measure success.

End goals are so important that Microsoft Advertising begins every campaign setup process by asking you what your goal is so they can offer helpful suggestions. Plus, not having a goal can potentially make any strategy seem like it’s moving in the right direction.

Once you define your goal, you can create a plan for how to reach it. Define your audience as specifically as you can. Once you know your audience and strategy, you can choose better keywords and create stellar ad copy that gets your target audience to click.?

2. Not realizing that PPC goes beyond Google

Plenty of marketers get trapped in a Google-only mindset. But, as we’ve said before, Microsoft Advertising is a viable option for plenty of industries.?

Ads on Bing (Microsoft’s search engine) also run on the Yahoo! and AOL search networks. They have exclusive access to 63 million searchers who opt for the Microsoft search engine over Google, and their users tend to spend more money too. Don’t let Google’s reputation trick you into missing out on that opportunity.

Pro tip: Microsoft Advertising has a display network called the Audience Network that can be leveraged as well.

3. Not geo-targeting

Even if you’re selling your product or service all over the country, geo-targeting can help your ads appeal to people on a more personal level.?

People are attracted to brands and ads that feel personalized and like they’re speaking to them. This goes for both local and national companies. Google will allow you to geo-target advertisements by state, so you can include the user’s home state in the header of your ad to grab their attention.?

Take it from the search engine itself: “Location targeting helps you focus your advertising on the areas where you’ll find the right customers, and restrict it in areas where you won’t,” explains Google. “This specific type of targeting could help increase your return on investment (ROI) as a result.”

4. Not using negative keywords

You already know how essential your keywords are in a campaign, but there are a few other things you need to be aware of to better make use of keywords.

One of the PPC mistakes many companies fall for is failing to use negative keywords in their strategy. Negative keywords are terms that you can use to tell Google which search terms you don’t want to show up in the results for.?

For example, if you’re selling luxury bedding, and “bedsheets” is your keyword, you wouldn’t want to appear in a search query like “what to do with old bedsheets?” Using negative keywords can help improve the relevancy of your ads and make sure the right people are seeing them.

Pro tip: Don’t neglect your own branded keywords. Some companies will bid on the competition’s keywords to siphon off buyers looking for their brand. If your competition is bidding on your keywords and you aren’t, that could be a costly mistake.

5. Not taking advantage of available resources

Paid search platforms often have various features and tools to make managing your account easier. The trick is knowing what they are. For example, Google has ad scripts that help you automate many important but tedious repeating tasks. They can analyze your ads, send budget alerts, and assist with bid management.

Google also allows you to schedule your ads to run during certain times of the day. There are often windows of heightened conversion when your target audience will be most likely to see your ads.?

Ad extensions are another great resource. You can spotlight prices, location, site link, or features by adding them. They make the ads larger and more engaging. Ad extensions are free and can do wonders for your clickthrough rate (CTR).?

confusing ppc mistakes

If people get different messages from your ads and landing pages, they may end up confused about who you are and what you offer. (Image via Unsplash)

6. Not optimizing your landing pages

Where do people get sent when they click on your ad? If they’re not taken to a specific and optimized landing page, they may be unsure of what to do next.?

An optimized landing page has specific language about the next step a visitor to your site should take — aka the call to action (CTA). The CTA could ask them to do something like sign up for your email list, schedule a consultation, fill out a form, or give you a call.

Make sure your landing page is written with clear, easy-to-understand messaging that matches the language in your ad, and that you have an explicit next step. Elements that make up a killer landing page include:

  • An eye-catching headline
  • An easy form
  • A mobile-friendly experience
  • A thoughtful design

7. Not having a consistent message

Let’s circle back to messaging. Throughout all the content you create (including ads and landing pages), your tone, message, and branding should be consistent. If people get different messages from your ads and landing pages, they may end up confused about who you are and what you offer.?

Do your keywords match what you’re selling? Do they match the keywords on your landing page? If not, visitors may be unsure about whether your business is what they’re looking for and bounce from your page.?

To remedy this, it’s wise to repeat your ad copy on your landing page to keep visitors on track. Other best practices include having a similar design across all of your platforms and offerings, and keeping the tone and voice consistent throughout.

Need more help with your PPC? That’s why we’re here.

8. “Setting and forgetting” your campaigns

Another one of the PPC mistakes we see over and over is thinking that you can simply set up a campaign and let it run on its own. Experience has shown us that these campaigns require consistent monitoring, analyzing, and updating to reach their goals.?

Building a PPC campaign is a lot of work, so once it’s up and running, you may be tempted to leave it alone, sit back, and let it do its job for a while. But the truth is, it’s a good idea to monitor its performance as often as possible. You’re paying for the ad daily, after all, so you want to make sure you’re spending your ad budget wisely.

Look at your key performance indicators (KPIs) and watch for things like:

  • Low CTR
  • A low number of conversions
  • Keywords that aren’t converting
  • Other strange behavior or problematic issues?

As your campaign matures, you can start to think about scaling it. Then, once the campaign has collected enough data, you can look into expanding your keyword lists, try new types of campaigns and bidding strategies, and set up additional campaigns.

9. Striving for first place

Everyone wants to be #1 when it comes to PPC advertising, but it may be difficult (not to mention unsustainable) to strive for the top spot in the long term.?

While being in a higher position on the search engine results page (SERP) will pretty much guarantee you more clicks and an increase in web traffic, this isn’t always a great strategy for your budget.?

Ads further down the page can still have great CTRs and conversion rates, and will end up costing you less in the long run.?

The takeaway

When it comes to creating PPC ads that work, you may need to use a little trial and error before landing on the formula that gets you the results you want for your business.?

Luckily, avoiding the PPC mistakes above can help you have a more efficient journey towards creating a great PPC campaign with impressive ROI.?

This article has been updated and was originally published in May 2020.

Sam Yadegar

Sam Yadegar

Sam Yadegar is the co-founder and CEO of HawkSEM. Starting out as a software engineer, his penchant for solving problems quickly led him to the digital marketing world, where he has been helping clients for over 12 years. He loves doing everything he can to help brands "crush it" through ROI-driven digital marketing programs. He's also a fan of basketball and spending time with his family.

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