PPC Worst Practices: What Not to Do with Your Paid Campaigns


Creating or managing a PPC campaign requires time, research and experience with the platform. There are a lot of intricacies when it comes to your paid campaigns. It can be a challenge knowing what to do or what not to do. When I take over an account for my clients here are some of the things that I encounter. Keep in mind that in most cases I have had to find out the hard way for some of these “What Not to Do’s”

Overstuffing your account with every keyword imaginable.

There is no need to have every variation of every keyword that you are interested in showing up for… in fact in most cases 90% of your keywords are generating zero impressions putting you at risk for low Quality Score, which can drive up CPCs. Google has Close Variant Keyword Matching which will include your keywords misspellings, plural/singular, and every permutation. Also, note that there are 5 types of Keyword Matching: Broad, Broad with a Modifier, Phrase, Exact, and Negative match. For more information on keyword match types, visit Google’s Help on keyword match types

Overusing Dynamic Keywords Insertion (DKI).

Let me be straight, DKI is a great tool, but it must be used correctly. This should never be the default method for Ad text creation because it is a lazy approach when applied to all types of ads. In some cases, you can get into legal trouble with DKI. If you are bidding on competitors’ brand names, DKI will show your ad with their name in the headline – a big no-no that may result in cease and desist letters. You are better off taking the time to create great ads rather than a quick fix that might get you into trouble.


PPC No - 1


Trusting Google translate within your account.

My biggest fear here is that Google translate does not account for regional dialect when you are targeting other countries using the English versions of keywords. Trusting a system that does not work for basic translations, is unqualified traffic in my book. I also agree with the standpoint that cultural trends do not translate across international borders. In some parts of the world they place a higher emphasis on quality over price/deals/discounts.

Focusing only on Google Search network.

Yes, that network is the most popular, but if you are a small player you may want to explore other options. For instance,

  1. Google display network is a great option for many different ways to target your potential customers. That also includes remarketing to users that have already visited.
  2. If you have an e-commerce site then Google Shopping is a great fit. You can run shopping campaigns that show up in the SERPs. CPC’s are extremely low, but setup can be a tricky task.
  3. An increasingly widespread way of creating brand awareness is through Paid Social ads. Taking your Twitter, Facebook, and/or LinkedIn accounts to a new level of targeting is the most exciting part. There is so much user info on the social media platforms that it is hard to miss the mark. Plus any new information you acquire can be applied to your AdWords account.
  4. And lastly you can take your marketing budget to other engines… that’s right I said it… there are other engines that will produce for you, in fact, Google is not the preferred choice in other counties. Examples include: Naver – South Korea, Seznam – Czech Republic, Eniro – Sweden, Onet.pl – Poland, Spiegel.de – Germany, Orange and Bing – France, and Yahoo has a much larger impression globally offering services in most of the world outside of Africa and the Middle East.

Not using Display network at all or properly.

I touched on this above, but I will say it again because it is vitally important: Do not omit using Display ads in your AdWords account. Display has gotten a bad name because of misuse or misunderstanding, but display ads have so many ways to go after your perfect customer, sometimes even before they know they need your product/service.


PPC No - 2


Making Quality Score the only criteria for optimization decisions.

I may get excommunicated for this but quality score is a great metric to use in your optimization of AdWords, but it is not the only data piece to the puzzle. It is a very important metric, but there are other metrics to keep a closer eye on, like conversion rates and CPA’s. I monitor all of my search campaigns quality scores at the campaign level on a daily basis. That might be excessive, but I have a really good idea of what is working and what is not working on a daily/weekly basis.

Obsessing only on 1st

Hear me out: if you are struggling to get into that first position in the bidding war, maybe it’s time to back down off that bid and stay consistently within the 2nd and 3rd position price point. In some cases, the price is so high it is not worth having the 1st position. Think about this: in some cases 2ndpositon is half the price of #1… so you could get 2 clicks for every click in the 1st position… and 3rdposition would be even cheaper yet.  I would still work on getting your Quality Score up, but this will help keep costs down and still maintain a high volume of traffic.

Waiting for 100% certainty.

Honestly I struggle with this more than I like to admit, but then I finally have to say, “I have given it 30 days, it didn’t work, shut it down and move on.” Not everything works, but I try to give everything 30 days, or if you have massive volume 14 days or even 7 days will suffice, to decide on the next step.

Over-expanding keywords/Obsessing over your Competition.

As part of a good optimization process, you should be adding keywords to your account that you may have overlooked or have been found for within your account. The problem is that when going through your searched terms, there is a tendency to add all of the keywords, because it seems that’s what users are searching for. That will lead to the very first problem, overstuffing. Also, after doing competitive analysis, the tendency is to add all of your competitor’s keywords, which is also a bad idea. Focus on what makes you unique, and work from there. Consumers can smell copycats a mile away.

Overusing ad extensions.

I’ll be the first one to tell you how much I love using Ad Extensions. However, over use could potentially confuse the user. The call extension should always be used. Use location extensions as long as you are expecting foot traffic. I love Sitelinks extensions giving the ad 5 links for the user to choose from, especially good when your product may have multiple generic names. Call out extensions are great for showing off promotions. And reviews extensions are great to include due to the trust factor that users depend on. There is also a Social Extension showing off your G+ followers, and then there is a newer extension called the structured snippet extension – industry specific headers that can show off products/services – and there are more… imagine all of these in one ad?
PPC No - 3

Not tracking results.

No Analytics/Conversion Tracking?? WHAT? How do you know if your campaigns are working? This is a must for all websites. User Experience (UX) is big in the eyes of the search engines and it should be a priority for your site.

Not using Negative Keywords.

If you are not using negative keywords then you are doing it wrong. It’s that simple. Negative keywords are easy to overlook, yet worth the effort. This is your chance as a marketer to eliminate irrelevant traffic and wasted budget.
PPC No - 4


It may seem like a lot to take in, all of these “don’ts” but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done! If you do the research, plan accordingly and have a strategy in place, you can have a successful PPC campaign that drives in leads and revenue. If it seems like it may be a little too much to handle, then that’s where we come into help.
Here are the key signs that you may need some help managing your PPC campaigns and that it’s time to contact an agency:

  • Your average Quality Score is below a 5.
  • Your CTR’s are low or heading in that direction.
  • Your spend or Avg. CPC is off the charts.
  • You don’t know how to adjust bids.
  • You are afraid to try new things.
  • You rely on Google’s recommendations to optimize your account.
  • You have no idea what a display ads is or how to utilize it.
  • You just have too many digital jobs on your plate. (SEO, PPC, IT, Content Creation, etc.)
  • Or you have no idea what any of the acronyms I just mentioned mean.