mark-simmons-pay-per-clickPay Per Click, PPC, paid search, search engine marketing. No matter what you call it, it’s a difficult beast. As someone who’s been managing PPC campaigns since 2001, I can personally attest to the complex and continually evolving channel that is paid search. Don’t get me wrong, when used effectively (and with the right product), pay per click can provide a significant return on investment.

The reality is it’s not easy. It’s not simple and not everyone can effectively manage it. I can tell many stories of people who “taught” themselves PPC and subsequently squandered away their hard earned money and deemed the experience a failure. That, friends, is a pet peeve of mine. When pay per click is blamed for losses due to mismanagement.

In this post I’m going to discuss several situations where you can inadvertently waste your money in PPC. Remember, search engine advertising is designed to make money – for the search engine. It’s your job to know what you’re doing or hire someone that does. Let’s begin!

A recent recent study by WordStream found small businesses wasted 25% of their pay per click budget

Mistake #1: Using Keywords That Are Too Broad

Keyword research is the first step to successful PPC. Done properly and you’ll have a better understanding of the competition, search volume inventory and potential campaign costs. When you use the Google Keyword Planner, you will get suggestions designed to generate traffic and not necessarily conversions. You need to think about what people are searching for, where your customers live and the variations you need to consider. All too often, when I audit campaigns, I see really broad keywords. The trick is to be semi- to super- specific. You want to narrow your focus to increase relevance and when you can, use focused or long-tail keywords to reduce cost and increase conversion. There’s a huge difference between “sneakers,” “online sneaker store” and “durham sneaker store.” Avoid overly broad terms and you’ll save yourself money.

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Mistake #2: Incorrectly Targeting The Wrong Locations

This one is another huge mistake I’ve seen where local business targeted the entire country or US businesses targeted the globe. Google has done a better job of this during campaign setup and you now have to select your targeting. Prior to the change, Google used defaults that if you didn’t change, cost you budget. Make sure you are targeting the areas your customers are. If you’re the type of business that only sells locally, you need to make sure that’s who you’re reaching. It’s less of a problem if you are selling an internet based product or service with no (or few) geographic limitations. Make sure your setting are as they should be from the beginning.

Mistake #3: Modified Broad Match

If you aren’t familiar with match types, now is a great time to read up. It’s important to make use of match types as they help you refine searches and test strategies. There are a number of ways to do this and I would love to chat about it with you over email on Twitter or in person. For the purposes of this blog, let’s just say that it’s a good practice to use several match types and see what works better. There’s one main mistake I see quite often.

Broad match is really something that should be used sparingly. The problem is that Google is quite liberal in how they show results based on broad match keywords. Translation: your ad comes up against keywords that are very far from relevant to your product, service or website. Thankfully, Google implemented modified broad match which provides more refinement in how they match up your ads to the search queries. The end result is that your ad is served up less often but for more relevant searches. A mouthful, I know. Using modified broad match will save you a significant amount of wasted budget. If you want to see the keywords that actually triggered your ads, you can do so in the reports section. I recommend reviewing that report regularly.

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Mistake #4: Incorrect Network Settings and Combined Campaigns

When you create a new campaign, you are given the option of search, display or both. The big mistake I see here is when advertisers select both in one campaign. What you must understand is that search and display operate very differently and must be treated as such. It was taught long ago to me that you must separate search and display into their own campaigns. For one, you can assign separate budgets and mainly because it’s easier to gauge the performance and results. Consider display its own “sub” channel within the channel of search. A lot of times I see that display was ineffective for a campaign and it ended up costing the company money because they couldn’t effectively determine the cause of the poor performance.

Mistake #5: Over Bidding

This faux pas comes with the misconception that you need to be in first or second position to be successful. As a new Adwords advertiser, you must get that there is a lot of competition. Unless of course you’ve created something completely new with zero competition. Let’s face it, that’s not reality. Reality is that you are a newcomer to an established space. PPC bids will reflect that and so will your results. It’s better to start off conservatively to get a feel and then get aggressive in areas (keywords) you’ve gained traction. Additionally, position testing will help you determine where you should be aiming with your bids for optimal conversion rate. Feel free to contact me to learn more about position testing.

Don’t fall into the trap that you have to outbid everyone to get conversions. Google looks at maturity of an advertiser, relevance, Quality Score and many other factors. Just because you can bid high doesn’t make it a sound strategy. More often then not, you’ll be up against an advertiser with deeper pockets and more history than you. That, is a losing battle. One bets to simply avoid.

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Paid Search is unique marketing channel. One that requires an adaptive and analytical mind. If you’re plan is to set up an account and let it run on auto pilot, you are setting yourself up for failure. Given that most small businesses waste 25% of their budget during their learning curve, doesn’t it make more sense to hire a professional to manage it or at least a consultant to train you? A reasonable investment in the beginning makes it more likely you’ll experience and efficiently run campaign. Not to mention that proper management is what makes you money in the long run. How do you want to approach it?

Please leave comments and share your experiences – good and bad. You may just help someone out.

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