Seven Popular Ways to Waste PPC Ad Money (Part 2)

Last time I began listing seven great ways to waste your PPC dollars. Here are the last four.

4. Use AdWords Express

To use AdWords Express is to tell Google, “Here’s my site. Here’s my money. Advertise however you want.” AdWords Express isn’t even a good stepping stone to regular AdWords; you can’t convert from one to the other. You have to build the regular AdWords account from scratch. Once you’ve done that, the chief effect of having an AdWords Express account is to spend money you don’t know you’re spending — if you forget to turn it off.

If that sounds good to you, fine. Give it a whirl.

Better yet, resist.

5. Bet the Farm on Broad Match

When I use a broad match (BM) keyword in PPC — let’s say custom flooring — I’m telling Google I want my ads displayed for any search Google’s engine thinks is related to that term, whether the words “custom” and “flooring” are involved or not. I’ll get search results related to carpeting and custom concrete, not just tile. If all I do is install tile floors for a living, I don’t want some of the traffic that will bring to my site, and I certainly don’t want to pay for all those clicks.

But maybe the problem is that my search term is too general, not that it’s the wrong match type. So let’s try custom tile floors and see how we do. (You’re welcome to try it yourself.) That’s better, but I’m still likely to get results you might expect for “custom floors” and “tile floors” — which means I’ll be paying for clicks by unqualified customers.

Broad match is useful in a limited role, if you need to find more keywords that relate to your products, or perhaps if you’re advertising in a small local market. Otherwise, I prefer to avoid it altogether, in favor of two or three other types:

  • modified broad match (BMM): +custom +tile +floor — This requires a search term to contain every word preceded by a plus sign. Close variants such as plurals and spelling errors count too.
  • phrase match (PM): “custom tile floor” — This requires a search term to contain this phrase; again, close variants count.
  • exact match (XM): [custom tile floors] — This requires the user’s search term to match the keyword exactly (again allowing for close variants).

Ordinarily, I’ll use only modified broad match and exact match, bidding exact match a little higher. If word order is crucial — as in “engine fire” vs. “fire engine” — I’ll use phrase match in place of modified broad match. Otherwise, modified broad match covers the same territory as phrase match, plus more. (Note that in the Google Display Network, all keywords are broad match.)

The use of match types in PPC is a larger topic. For now, just remember: If you’re using broad match much, you’re almost certainly wasting money.

6. Mix Search and Display in the Same Campaign

It’s possible to run search network and display network ads from the same campaign, and it seems like a reasonable time saver. The modern way to do it is to choose this campaign type: “Search Network with Display Select.” The tip in the current campaign creation menu calls it the “best opportunity to reach the most customers.”

It will definitely help you reach the most customers from a single campaign, but the best way to do that — the best practice — is to run separate search and display campaigns. Users respond to search and display ads much differently; what works for search may not work for display, and vice versa. And if you mix the two, your campaign click-through rate (CTR) won’t be very useful, because it will mix search and display CTRs, which tend to differ by about a factor of ten.

And there’s another problem: with Display Select, Google is deciding for you where the likely display clicks are.

So spend a little extra time to save money: Avoid Display Select. Don’t mix search and display in the same campaign — even if Google wants you to.

7. Don’t Use Negative Keywords

Negative keywords give me even more control over my traffic and allow me to exclude unwanted search terms, even if they match my keywords. To extend my example above, suppose I look at my Search Query Report (SQR) and discover that I’m paying for a lot of clicks by people who are searching for do-it-yourself instructions for custom floors.

These are not my customers; I want to install the floors for them. So I might use negative keywords such as these to insure that my ads don’t show for their search terms:

  • “how to”
  • “do it yourself”
  • DIY

Regularly checking search terms can help me eliminate this waste, and it has another advantage too: I can use negative keywords to direct traffic within my account, so I can send visitors to the pages most likely to convert for their search terms. Suppose my business is called David’s Custom Tile, and I want anyone whose search term includes my name going to my branded campaign, not a general custom tile floors campaign. I’ll make David a negative keyword in my general account, so it will leave that traffic for my branded account, even if bids and quality scores might indicate otherwise.

Here’s a partial screen shot of a Search Query Report (SQR) from an account I sometimes use at election time to publicize my local political commentary. If I don’t want clicks from people looking for polling locations, I might make “voting places in American Fork Utah” (or perhaps just “voting places”) a negative keyword.

Search Query Report

Negative keywords are just one more way of making sure you pay for as few clicks as possible from people who are not looking for what you offer.

Final Thought

There are probably people out there for whom each of these wasteful mistakes has turned out wonderfully. I haven’t met them. When I do, I’ll wonder how much better their PPC performance might have been, if they had used their money less wastefully.

I suppose we’ll never know. But, as I told my nephew the other day . . .

Cautionary tales: don’t be one.

Posted in PPC