Seven Ways Your Paid Search Campaign Is Wasting Money

wasting money, Ben Franklins

Jon Davis

Many businesses are using paid search ads on search engines to promote their products. Unfortunately, chances are that you're wasting at least part of your advertising budget without knowing it. Here are seven of the most common ways that your paid search campaign could be wasting your money right now:

1. Keywords not grouped correctly
Your keywords should be grouped in very specific adgroups. For example, if you offer consulting services it would help to have an adgroup that targeted keywords involving "consultants" and a different adgroup targeting "consulting" related keywords. Having very specific adgroups with a small number of keywords is vital to making sure that when a visitor clicks on your ad, they are interested in specifically what you are offering. Using fewer keywords also lets you write ads that contain some version of the keyword or keyword phrase to capture the user's attention. Having the keyword in the ad - preferably in both the headline and body copy - will improve conversions because you're offering exactly what they're looking for.

2. Bidding too high
Much is written about the importance of having high click-through-rates (CTR). While it is true they are important to ad positioning, you must not forget that the goal of a paid search campaign is to drive the most quality traffic to your site for the least investment. Your business shouldn't be concerned about CTR, but about optimizing your budget. Chances are if you are maxing out your daily paid search budget on a consistent basis, then you are bidding too high for many of your keywords. You probably have great ads or the demand for your keywords is so high that there are plenty of clicks to go around. Lower your bids and, if you still max out your budget, you'll receive more clicks (thus, more traffic) for the same price.

3. Vague ads that don't let the user know what they are about to see
This mistake would seem obvious, but is made by many looking to simply increase CTR at the expense of designing an efficient campaign. Say your business sells leather jackets for men and only men. If someone searches for "leather jackets" and sees your ad, they better know that you offer leather jackets only for men before they click on the ad. If you do not make this clear, a woman could click on the ad, find out that you have nothing for women, and you've just wasted money on someone who is not interested in your products (since you paid for the click). A better ad would include something like "Leather Jackets-Men," so that anyone who clicks on the ad has qualified himself as a potential customer. These tactics might hurt your CTR - because women shopping for themselves won't click the ad - but you won't be wasting your money by paying for useless clicks. Or they could improve your CTR by appealing to women shopping for the men in their lives.

4. Using keywords that aren't converting
Google offers an option to track which keywords convert for your website - to whatever goal you set: a sign-up, an online purchase, viewing a certain page or a unique goal for your website. The aptly named Conversion Tracking option offers many powerful tools. The program allows you to use a cross-channel option to track conversions of other paid search campaigns in addition to Google Adwords, including banner ads and other online marketing efforts. This tool can help you determine if you are paying for keywords or entire adgroups that aren't resulting in any conversions for your website.

5. Not utilizing exact match option for keywords
When setting up a paid search campaign, you are presented with options as to how you want to enter your keywords. You are probably familiar with the three options:

  • [exact match] using brackets
  • "phrase match" using quotes
  • broad match

For companies with small budgets, it is especially important to use the exact match option, which will ensure that anyone who clicks on your ad is as qualified as possible. If you don't use the exact match option, then you could, for example, be receiving clicks from people who are looking for candy vending machines when your company offers only drink vending machines. Every campaign should begin using the exact match option for all their keywords before experimenting with the other options.

6. Using the content network
If you did not opt-out of the content network, then your ads are showing up on all websites in the search engine's content network whose content matches your keywords. You will probably notice that the impressions on the content network for your ads are very large and your CTR is very low when compared to the search network. This is because many people seeing your ads have no interest in your products. The content network is most effective in smaller niche markets and for certain industries. Chances are your company does not fall into this small category and you would be much better served going after the qualified users who are searching for your business.

7. Not sending clicks to specific pages on your site
When someone clicks on your ad, they want to be sent to the page on your site that deals specifically with the product or service for which they were searching. This means that, in most cases, you do not want your visitor to go to your homepage. You should send them to the page related to the ad. If the visitor winds up on your homepage and has to search again for the product or service, chances are they'll give up on you and go to the next listing. A visitor wants to find what they were looking for quickly; if they don't, they will leave your site, meaning you've wasted another click - and wasted money.

If you're ready to stop wasting money and invest in targeted campaigns that bring quality traffic to your site who then deliver business objectives, it might be time to talk to a search marketing pro.

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