This post has been updated here: “11 Common AdWords Mistakes You Could Be Making

Paid search is one of the best ways to increase traffic to your website. When used correctly, paid search can be a highly effective tool to increase traffic and grow revenue for your business; the opposite is also true. If the mistakes that are listed below sound familiar, then it’s time to adjust your PPC strategy.

Mistake #1 – Not Knowing Your Adwords Competitors

Your competitors are a source of free learnings. Use them. They can teach you keywords that are worth targeting or whether certain types of ads (like display ads, Google Shopping Ads, etc.) could be effective in your account. It’s also important to pay attention to your competitors’ ad copy. What tactics are they using?

Ad copy should distinguish you from your competitors. A sure way to gain mediocre results is to look the same as everyone else. If none of the ads on the results page advertise product pricing, then you might try showing your prices. Another example would be if all of the competitors are including their brand name in their ad copy; you might opt to leave your brand name out and talk about extra features or benefits of your company.

Another reason to look at your competitors is to determine if you want to bid on their brand names. The advantage of bidding on your competitor’s brand names is that your ads show any time that someone searches your competitor’s brand. This is an effective way of building brand awareness in your prospects. Using competitors’ names in AdWords may or may not be a wise decision, depending on how much you need to pay per click and how much return on investment you receive.

Competitors provide shortcuts to knowledge that could take months to learn on your own. Before starting your campaign, do a few test searches to survey the competitive landscape and what tactics they use.

Mistake #2 – Expecting Too Much From AdWords

This is one of the most common AdWords mistakes: a new client wants to expand their business and decides that paid search is the main driver of that growth. They start an AdWords account, several weeks pass by, and the client grows confused as to why the expected growth isn’t happening. The reason? Inaccurate expectations that lead to poor strategy.

Too often, businesses expect to be able to set up an AdWords account, target a handful of relevant keywords, set a budget of around $200/month, and then not touch the account again while getting hundreds of visitors to their site every month. As we’ll see later in this post, not optimizing your account is a big mistake, but here are two major issues in particular: validity and budget.


By “validity,” I mean whether or not paid search for your business is a good idea. There are certain verticals that, because of the ways people behave inside that community, don’t warrant a PPC campaign. If your market fits into a very small niche, or if people don’t search for your products or services online, then paid search will do little to help grow your business.

A way to determine whether paid search will work for your company is to use Google’s Keyword Planner. This tool allows you to see the estimated traffic for specific keywords. Look at volume data for keywords that your prospects would actually search. If there is a lot of traffic in your market, then get started on a PPC campaign as soon as possible! If not, then there is little that can be expected from PPC. Paid search only captures existing traffic; it does not generate new traffic.


Some believe that a smaller PPC budget is all that’s needed to see growth. That is short-sighted thinking. Look at it this way: AdWords makes you set a daily budget; this means that $200/month breaks down to about $7/day. On average, a click on your ad will cost between $1 and $2 (this average can be much higher depending on what your market is). This tells us that, at a $7/day budget, we can expect to see 3-7 clicks per day. That means that we could get seven customers to our site at maximum. Even with the best conversion rate, you can see how progress would be stunted with such a restrictive budget.

Instead, if the budget allows at least 30-40 searchers to visit the website per day, you stand a much better chance of seeing the growth your business needs. A realistic starting budget for the average PPC account is somewhere between $30-$60/day (or $900-$1,800/month). This budget allows dozens of searchers to find your company every day and provides you with enough data to optimize your account towards becoming more effective.

Mistake # 3 – Not Optimizing Your AdWords Account

The next most common mistake is not spending enough time in AdWords making optimizations. Optimizations are adjustments made to improve overall performance and effectiveness. Paid search is much more than a one-and-done task. You could spend hours upon hours on dozens of aspects of your AdWords account. Below are some of the top areas that should not be ignored.

Keyword Bid Management

Even if all your keywords start off with Google’s suggested bid, it is still necessary to check keyword bids at least once a month. This is because the competitive landscape that your keywords are fighting in is constantly changing. Balancing your bids between overpaying and falling off the search results page takes a consistent touch to achieve.

Ad Optimization

Just as important as bid management is ad copy optimization. It’s impossible to write a new ad into existence that starts performing perfectly. There will always be a different way to phrase your selling points that will ever-so-slightly improve performance. Repeatedly tweaking ad copy can be time-consuming but is essential to achieve a high-performing AdWords account.

Keyword List Optimization

The last area I’ll mention in this section is optimization of the keyword targeting list. When you start an AdWords account, one of the first things you do is add keywords you would like to target. This is good. The mistake comes when that is all you do, and it’s a deceptively expensive mistake. Here’s why: if you use the wrong match type, or don’t use negative keywords, then your ads are potentially showing for unwanted traffic. Negative keywords prevent ads from being shown when a query uses a word that you’ve identified as “irrelevant.”

For example, a client of ours sells joint sleeves that help keep the joint warm and protected while healing from injury. One of the phrase match keywords in the account is “arm sleeve.” Within the first few days, we noticed we were paying for clicks like “nfl teams arm sleeve.” Our money was being spent on dedicated sports fans who wanted to show their team spirit, not protect their healing joints! So we added several negative keywords to ensure we didn’t waste money on NFL merchandise queries.

Conversely, if you only use exact match keywords, then highly relevant queries will be missed. This prevents users from reaching your site and costs you business.

From optimizing your keyword bids and ad copy to using the correct match type and adding negative keywords, there is a lot of critical work to be done in a healthy AdWords account. There are many other aspects of managing an AdWords account that are not mentioned here, but it’s obvious now how running a PPC account requires much more effort than one-time setup.

Mistake #4 – Sending Paid Search Traffic To Poor Landing Pages

A relevant, specific landing page is just as important as ad copy. If a user clicks through to your site to a landing page that doesn’t meet their expectations, that user will leave.

I was part of a team that was in charge of the marketing strategy for a company working in the DFW real estate vertical. At the client’s request, we sent all paid search traffic to the homepage. On-site metrics were awful: ~80% Bounce Rate, users were only staying for 33 seconds on average and viewing 2 Pages/Visit. After a few weeks of gathering the discouraging data, we asked the client about sending traffic to some different pages on the site. These new pages showed all of the real estate listings the company owned in specific cities. Our thought was that users came to the site wanting to look at listings in the area they were searching for instead of a generic homepage.

Simply by tweaking where we were sending traffic, we saw dramatic lifts in performance. In just the first week of the new landing pages, Bounce Rate decreased by 14%, users viewed over double the number of pages, and they stayed on-site 350% longer! A consistent pattern is: the longer people stay on-site and the more they interact with the site, the more likely they are to convert. If you are not sending PPC traffic to the right landing page, then expect to continually see mediocre results.

Mistake #5 (Bonus) – Not Optimizing Your Landing Pages

This mistake gets into Conversion Rate Optimization (the process of increasing your website’s conversion rate) and page design, but it is worth mentioning in this list. It’s important to realize that PPC is not a stand-alone tactic; rather, it is best used in conjunction with all of the other marketing tactics (SEO, CRO, Social Platforms, etc.). You can be doing everything right: writing engaging and unique ad copy, targeting highly relevant keywords, and sending PPC traffic to specific and relevant landing pages; however, if the landing page doesn’t convert, then it’s time to take an honest look at the page and the website to figure out where improvements can be made.

Simply changing the wording on the page, altering your CTAs, or reworking your selling points on the page can make a big impact in the conversion rate of PPC traffic. One rule of thumb is to make sure the product/service messaging stays the same from the ad to the web page. If your ad mentions a benefit, then that same benefit should be reflected on the landing page. There’s a lot of techniques that go into CRO and it can make the difference between a failed PPC campaign and a successful one.


Managing an AdWords account is a worthwhile (albeit time-consuming and expensive) endeavor that can provide a lot of growth for your business if handled with expertise. Alternatively, paid search can lead to lots of wasted spend and frustration if these common mistakes are made.

Using what’s explained in this post, determine what to do with your company’s paid search strategy. Comment below with your thoughts or questions and let us know if you would like help growing your business.