5 critical mistakes that can kill your PPC campaigns

5 critical mistakes that can kill your PPC campaigns from Wordtracker, the leading keyword research tool

At Receptional (the digital marketing agency I work for), we offer a ‘Free PPC Health Check'. It's popular with prospective clients because it highlights where campaigns are performing profitably. And it identifies areas for improvement.

I've conducted many PPC account reviews over the years and believe that advertisers are making five critical mistakes: particularly in the poor quality of their adverts.

Your ads are your ‘shop window’ and creating effective PPC ads can mean the difference between your company thriving online, and simply wasting your budget.

Poor ads damage your clickthrough rate (CTR)

PPC professionals know that Google uses an algorithm called ‘Ad Rank’ to determine the position of your ad on its results pages. A good Ad Rank means your advert will appear higher up the page (where you're more likely to attract traffic to your site). Ads that appear lower down the page attract less traffic.

Ad Rank is also used to calculate how much you're charged for each click your advert receives. A good Ad Rank means you'll pay less for your campaigns.

Here's how Ad Rank is calculated:

Ad Rank = CPC Bid x Quality Score

As you can see, the two factors that determine your Ad Rank are your campaign's Quality Score and your cost per click bid price.

A number of elements contribute to your Quality Score, but the most important are the relevance of your ad and its clickthrough rate (CTR). Your CTR and ad relevance are crucial to your campaign's success.

So it continues to surprise me when I review a PPC account and see that these key factors have been neglected.

What are advertisers getting wrong?

I've seen a huge array of mistakes when it comes to ads - from poorly converting landing pages to things as simple as spelling mistakes. For the purpose of this post I'll focus on the five most common mistakes:

1. Ads that aren't relevant

Ensuring that your ads are relevant to your landing page and its associated keywords should be a top priority.

Making your ad relevant will help improve both your Quality Score and the CTR your ads get. Getting a higher Quality Score means you pay less for each click you receive. That means you get a better return on investment (ROI).

Despite the importance of ad relevance I often see accounts in which very different keywords have been grouped together into a single Ad Group. This makes it impossible for your adverts to be relevant.

As a result, your Quality Score will be low and you'll end up paying more for each click you receive.

It’s important that keywords are tightly grouped together and relate to just one theme. At Receptional, we aim for a Quality Score of 10 (the maximum), so that costs are kept as low as possible.

Advertisers should also consider using dynamic keyword insertion (keywords are automatically inserted into your ad, ensuring that it's always relevant).

You might also include your target keyword within the ad's description.

Care home Edgbaston ad 1

(This advert and the next are from a Sunrise care homes campaign.)


Care home Edgbaston ad 2

I rarely see keywords included in the display URL. Advertisers should use this opportunity to display a relevant keyword.

Care home Edgbaston ad 3

Following simple best practice guidelines like this will not only improve your ads' relevancy and boost its Ad Rank: also, the keywords you're targeting will be highlighted in bold.

And this will help you stand out from the 10 other ads fighting for the searcher's click!

2. Missing call to action

Including a call to action in your ads is crucial: it will help increase your clickthrough rate. However, clear calls to action are often missing in the accounts I review.

Even when a call to action is included I see inappropriate language. For example I see ads with call to actions such as ‘View More’ or ‘Browse Now’, which is ideal if your aim is to drive user engagement. But, for clients wanting to generate sales, language such as ‘Buy Now’ is more likely to encourage a user to purchase.

Don't underestimate the power of your call to action. Using an appropriate phrase could mean the difference between a user browsing through your products - and actually buying something.

3. Lack of testing

I always recommend having at least three variations of your advert running. Test new ads every month so that you're continually trying to improve your CTR.

Many advertisers fail to update their ads regularly, which often means their messaging, promotions or prices are out of date. This can affect the user experience as well as CTR.

The elements you could be testing include your descriptions, display URLs, and calls to action. You should also test new messaging such as benefits, promotions, and prices, as well as trialing new sitelinks

Dr Who

(Sample advert from www.swaggerandswoon.com)

By testing small variations you'll be able to monitor the differences in CTR for each tweak you make.

4. Lack of ad extensions

There are a number of different types of ad extension available to advertisers. Using these extensions can help you quickly send visitors to the information they're looking for.

Traditional extensions include call, location, product, and social extensions as well as site links. Recently, Google has introduced enhanced campaigns, which allow you to add app extensions, dynamic search ad extensions and offer extensions.

Google strongly promotes the use of these extensions. For example, Google claims that sitelinks can improve CTR by up to 30%.

Despite the potential benefits, I rarely see advertisers taking advantage of all the extensions that could be relevant to their business.

Here's a location extension example:

Sydney Mitchell

(A sample advert from Sydney Mitchell solicitors.)

And an offer extension example:

New shoes ad

(Sample advert from Running World.)

A product extension:

Irobot rooma

(Sample advert from Electric Shopping.)

And a sitelinks extension example:

Kenburn waste management

(Sample advert from Kenburn waste management.)

The nature of your business will influence which Ad Extensions are appropriate. For example, if you have a high street presence and want to drive users into your stores, you'd probably want to use location, call and offer extensions. A pure e-commerce site would benefit from sitelinks and product extensions, which drive online purchases.

5. Ad creation best practice

Google (and Wordtracker) provide plenty of best practice PPC advice for free. Simply following Google's best practice is a good place to start when creating ads and structuring an account.

Yet many advertisers fail to follow this advice. The result, as you would expect, is that their accounts' CTR and overall success suffers.

For those trying to create a successful ad campaign, I've summarized a number of best practices that will provide a good foundation for your campaign:

  • Make sure the relationship between ads, keywords and landing pages is relevant.

  • Analyze competitors' ads. Aim to make your ads stand out.

  • Make Your Ad Text Stand Out - by capitalizing the first letter of each word.

  • Mention your unique selling points and the benefits of choosing your benefits (over your competitors').

  • Highlight appealing promotions or special offer pricing.

  • Ensure you have a call to action that is relevant to your advertising goals.

  • If appropriate, use dynamic keyword insertion and ensure your target keywords are present in the title and ad text.

  • Include keywords in the URL field. They will become bold if searched for.

  • Decide on your advertising goals and use appropriate ad extensions.

  • Don’t forget to test, test, and test again!

Good luck with your campaigns. And don't forget, if you spend more than $5,000 a month on your PPC campaigns and would like a free health check, simply visit Receptional's PPC page and fill out the contact form

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