5 Common AdWords Mistakes

At Top Draw, we build many AdWords accounts from the ground up, but we also inherit accounts from our client’s past marketing agencies or accounts that were created in-house. Here are the 5 most common mistakes we find.

Poor Keyword Strategy

One of the accounts we reviewed 2 years ago had “Edmonton” as a broad match keyword (a keyword that triggers your ad to show whenever someone searches for that phrase, similar phrases, singular or plural forms, misspellings, synonyms, related searches, and other relevant variations.) That’s an extreme example, but it’s a common type of problem. Google AdWords uses programmatic keyword matching so that you don’t have to dream up absolutely every keyword permutation that your prospects might use. Programmatic keyword matching is very powerful, but it can – and will – waste your spend if you don’t carefully configure your keywords. There are negative keywords, which are kind of like “blacklist” keywords that you never want your ad to show on, but you will forever be playing whack a mole with bad key phrases if you don’t tighten your keyword strategy.

Not Knowing the Market

AdWords is like an auction house for keywords, so it is important to know who else is bidding, what your share is, and how often you’re “winning”. Using the auction insights reports in AdWords clearly shows when campaigns are going off the rails because it provides insight into:

  • How often you’re showing up on the keywords you’ve selected (% impression share)
  • What rank you are usually at

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Both of these metrics need to be considered when adjusting  your budget and knowing when to cut back on the scope of a campaign or go all in. When you see a new account with campaigns that have an impression share of < 1%, you have to wonder what the strategy is.

Wrong Bidding Strategy

Within bidding strategies, manual max CPC offers a ton of control, but it requires diligence and frequent check-ins. It’s definitely not a “set it and forget it” setting. So, it’s shocking to see so many accounts that might get looked at once a quarter that are using all manual bidding controls. Typically, they’re either underbidding in their market (see above), or they’re overbidding and they’re all claiming “Limited by Budget”. The best selection of bidding for results-focused companies is one using Enhanced CPC bidding or even Google’s Conversion Optimizer. To do that, results from the website need to be well integrated with the AdWords campaign. Within some other campaigns, an automated bidding strategy may provide solid results without needing constant babysitting, but it all depends on the goal of the campaign. It would be a bit silly to be using a “Max Clicks” bidding style on a campaign where you want to drive awareness and really should be using a CPM or Viewable CPM bidding strategy, but we’ve seen it!

Overly Complex and Over Configured Campaigns

Is there such a thing as over configured? Yes, a campaign that has too many bid adjustments, day modifiers, enhancements, and custom scripts running on it is difficult to maintain, analyze and optimize. That level of complexity is fine for a large campaign, but for a whole pile of little campaigns, it can make them impossible to manage.

It seems counterintuitive, but often when you strip out the complexity and return the campaigns to a sane amount of programmatic controls, performance starts to improve and it’s easier to see where to optimize them. Ugly duck keywords are easier to see and bidding problems start to rise to the surface.

Broad Targeting

Did you know that by default, even when you target a geographic location like Canada, you might end up advertising to people from India and China? That’s because the default setting will still allow advertising to them if they “show interest” in your targeted location. Similarly, advertisers build out these great keyword lists for YouTube advertising, only to find that YouTube’s keyword matching is . . . well, it’s pretty crappy. Care needs to be taken with settings like these to properly target the right users in Google AdWords.

Ultimately, the largest strengths that online advertising has are incredible targeting and tracking, but expertise is required to leverage these advertising tactics properly. If you think your AdWords campaign could use some expert love, give us a ring.