Guest post by Michele Brasfield

As a search engine marketing agency, we continually evaluate AdWords accounts for new clients across a variety of business categories. We see many different approaches to AdWords optimization, but some of the adwords mistakes we see are often very consistent. Here’s a rundown of five of the more common mistakes we see:


1. Tracking. Clearly, you know the importance of tracking or you wouldn’t be here. Without it, you can’t optimize an account easily or segment the data in the many different ways that help you build a healthy, lean and mean AdWords account. This is often a numbers game. You need to see not just where you’re successful, but where you are not. It’s shockingly all too common how little tracking is in place with many AdWords advertisers. Before launching an AdWords campaign, make sure you or your agency has a clear plan of how you are going to track success.


2. Lack of Negative Keywords. Here’s a sure-bet ad budget waster. It's surprising how many dollars in wasted ad spend are lost on keyword searches companies don’t want in the first place. We don’t leave our house with all the lights on, the air conditioner blasting and the TVs on. So, why leave your AdWords account wasting money on bad keyword matches when you can flip a switch and turn them off? This is an easy-to-ignore aspect of proper account management, but consistently monitoring your exact search queries can only save you money and improve your CTRs. By studying your exact keyword phrases, you will also better pinpoint your most profitable battlegrounds in addition to the keywords that are leaking you of funds. Adding negative keywords is simply essential.

For those who aren’t sure what negative keywords are, here’s a simple example. If you sell cars and use the keyword “new cars for sale”, you don’t want your advertisement to broad match on “car tires for sale,” which Google could do with your keyword. So, you add a negative keyword to your campaign for “tires” and your ad won’t appear on these searches.

The keyword you bid may often not be what a user has searched. If you’re broad matching or phrase matching, Google tries to determine what it thinks is close to that. It’s not an exact science. In fact, some of the keywords Google chooses can be downright horrid. (For instance, we’ve seen bidding on types of trees as keywords, only to have Google match them to searches for “plants vs zombies cheats” that the business had been paying for instead.)

 In AdWords, your exact keyword data can be found under the Keyword tab in the Details section.


It’s vital to not only watch these after you launch any new campaign, but also check in periodically as bad keywords get introduced all the time.

Occasionally, problems can’t be solved with negative keywords because your keyword is too generic or too broad. In those cases, consider narrowing your exposure by reducing a broad match keyword to a modified broad match or a phrase or exact match only. Modified broad match allows you to make sure that a specific term is always included in the search. This is often under-utilized by advertisers.


3. Too Many Keywords in an Ad Group. The more you can micromanage your AdWords account, the better you can get it to perform. We probably restructure about 95% of the AdWords accounts we see from clients. One of the most common problems is simply too many keywords in your ad groups.

Google gives an example of your AdWords account as being like a dresser. Ad groups are like drawers of that dresser. In one drawer you may keep all your socks. Your ad copy for this account drawer should be relevant for socks (in other words, don’t have also “pants” and “shirts” in the ad group). We recommend taking it further. If you have “black socks,” you will do better to have an ad/ad group that speaks directly about black socks, blue socks, white socks, etc. There is no such thing as too few keywords in an ad group. The disconnects between the keyword and ad copy hurt both your CTRs and your Quality Scores. Don’t be afraid to micromanage your ad copy, especially for those high-trafficked keywords.


4. Not Split Testing Ad Copy. You’ve heard about this, including a recent blog post here. It’s important to always be testing something against your winning control ad. A test doesn’t have to be a new ad theme, but can be simple as a few characters. Want some quick test ideas? Try swapping the first and second line of an ad, you will often get different results. Try testing relevant keywords in your display url. Try capitalizing first letters of your body copy. Test different punctuation, like making your ad ask a question. These are quick and easy tests that can fine tune and improve your existing control ad without having to spend much time thinking creatively to improve your account.

Even though those are quick-hit ideas, it’s important to invest time here when you can. Ongoing split testing, will continually improve your most important metrics if you are doing it right. Google also rewards ad copy that gets a higher CTR. For them it’s simple: The more people who click an ad, the more Google makes. Sometimes it makes financial sense for Google to serve up ads with lower bids above ads with higher bids. In other words, you don’t always have to outbid the competition to rank above them. You can finesse your way there with finely tuned ad copy.


5. Not Using Ad Extensions. This one is often overlooked. In search marketing, owning more real estate always gets more traffic. AdWords offers various ad extensions that allow you to add to your existing ad copy. Want to improve CTRs or promote a special offer? Consider using Sitelink extensions:


These almost always improve your CTR, but also give you multiple opportunities to create a call to action or motivate the user to visit your site. Sitelink extensions can even be scheduled to start/end on certain dates or run during specific days of the week. Google is providing a wider variety of additional ad extensions and more ways you can micromanage your account with them. Take advantage of them.

While these are some of the most common mistakes, there’s quite a list of others we see all the time: Not doing enough long-tail keyword research; Only sending traffic to your home page; Poor landing page design; Not separating your Display (Content) Network campaigns from your Search Network campaigns; Lack of keywords in your ad text and many others.

Michele Brasfield is a Sales Strategist for Zero Company Performance Markering, Inc., a PPC management firm. For more details about how Zero Company can manage and optimize your search engine marketing, contact her at 888-885-3995 or visit their site today.