11 Common Paid Advertising Mistakes Affecting Your ROI

image of blog Ed Jones
20min read

Paid online advertising used to be a relatively simple process. You chose your keywords, set bids for them, created your ad copy, determined negative keywords or things you didn’t want your ads to show for, and then optimised your campaigns over time. However, the paid ad platforms of today are a lot more complex.

For those who are still new to the concept of pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, this refers to a type of online marketing wherein your business publishes ads using an online advertising platform like Google AdWords, Facebook Ads or Bing Ads.

You select certain keywords that you’d like your ad to appear for, and then you are charged each time a user clicks on your ad.

 

The goal with these campaigns, of course, is to get your advert in front of any of the users who would be most interested in the products or services that you offer.

 

Paid marketing has gotten more complex

While paid ads can make it easy for your company to reach your target market and bring more traffic to your website, every PPC campaign needs to be carefully planned and managed for it to be effective. But doing this today is a lot harder than it looks, and with so many different aspects to try to keep track of, inexperienced marketers can make mistakes that end up costing them heavily. 

This doesn’t mean you should exclude PPC from your marketing strategy, though, because as we’ve told you before — studies show that paid advertising has a 200% ROI, or $2 return for every $1 spent. We’ve worked on thousands of PPC campaigns in our 10+ years of helping customers of all shapes and sizes to get the most out of their online marketing efforts. 

So, if you think your ad campaigns aren’t performing as well as they should, here are some of the paid advertising mistakes we’ve learned can negatively impact your ROI, along with advice on how to remedy them:

    1. Following the recommended or default settings and suggestions
    2. Not investing in strategies and best practice expertise
    3. Relying on Smart campaigns
    4. Wasting ad budgets on irrelevant search terms
    5. Choosing the wrong bidding strategy for your goals
    6. Ignoring your Ad Quality Score
    7. Not tracking the right metrics
    8. Not using remarketing or retargeting tactics
    9. Misusing bid modifiers
    10. Using the wrong keywords for your goals
    11. Not keeping up with changes in PPC advertising

 

1. Following the recommended or default settings and suggestions

PPC advertising platforms understand that many of the people using the tools they offer aren’t actually marketers. They’re small business owners or members of small teams where everyone wears a lot of hats. And so, search engines like Google and Bing make a variety of recommendations about the best settings to help advertisers fine-tune their campaigns, which can be helpful for those who aren’t sure what they’re doing.

A lot of these suggestions are useful and can help you get the results you want, but you should remember that these recommended or default settings and suggestions are based on data collected from millions of campaigns run by thousands of advertisers. They don’t consider your specific goals, and they are often aimed at maximum clicks over maximum results or conversions.

The better option

It is best to review each recommended setting before deciding whether to keep them turned on or not. If it doesn’t make sense to you, it is usually better to be safe than sorry by leaving something unchecked. However, this doesn’t mean you should ignore those settings forever. Log in to your PPC account regularly and review any recommendations, do a little research, and apply only those that can help you achieve your marketing goals.

 

2. Not investing in strategies and best practice expertise

One of the worst things you can do when it comes to any form of digital marketing is not having a carefully thought out and detailed marketing plan to guide your efforts and help ensure you’re staying on track with your goals. Without a sound strategy and a clear understanding of what you’re trying to achieve, you may find yourself wasting money that you can’t afford.

In terms of PPC, the biggest mistake you can make is not defining your target audience. If you don’t know who your ads are supposed to be for, you won’t be able to craft marketing material aimed at them. It will also make it more difficult to build a landing page that encourages the specific action you would like your audience to take. Whether this is subscribing to a newsletter, buying a product or signing up for a demo of your service — knowing your customer is essential.

The better option

Take the time to use both qualitative and quantitative research to build profiles of your ideal customer. Then learn how to use them properly. A fully developed and detailed buyer persona can help you segment your ad groups and campaigns for a specific target audience and also by search intent. This type of personalised marketing is far more powerful than the generic “Buy Our Amazing Product Now” ads we’ve become immune to.

Source: WooCommerce

3. Relying on Smart campaigns

If you’ve ever run a Google Shopping Ads campaign, you may be familiar with Smart campaigns. They can be incredibly helpful when it comes to maximising your Return On Advertising Spend (ROAS) on the Google Shopping network, and, in some cases, it is useful for the Google Display Network as well. However, this is NOT the case with Google’s standard Search Ads (also known as Google Text Ads).

Formerly known as AdWords Express, these Smart campaigns are aimed at beginner advertisers and take over all the management of running a PPC campaign. This includes determining keywords, bidding on those keywords, and scheduling your ads. The results tend to be decidedly underwhelming, though, and even the greenest PPC advertiser will outperform Google’s Smart Search machine-learning-driven AI technology.

The better option

The Google Ads platform is complex, and navigating it can get complicated, but there are dozens of tutorials and guides out there that can help you set up adverts that will let you get the best bang for your buck. However, the best option is to hire someone like the team here at Online Marketing Gurus to help you manage your marketing efforts and ensure you’re taking full advantage of everything this powerful tool has to offer.

 

4. Wasting ad budgets on irrelevant search terms

You may have heard of the 80/20 rule before. For those who haven’t, it essentially says that 80% of your outputs/results come from 20% of your inputs/efforts. And from the hundreds of SEO audits we’ve conducted over the years, we’ve found that this often holds true for PPC accounts as well. The performance metrics available in PPC platforms will tell you what your top-performing keywords are.

But many advertisers will continue bidding on extra keywords in the hopes of attracting new business. It’s not a bad idea — every now and then, it can be quite an effective strategy for companies trying to expand their offerings or grow their market. However, this is usually not the case. And all those extra keywords can eat up more than half of your paid media budget each month.

The better option

This is luckily quite a simple fix. The first step is to turn off broad match keywords. Google’s new algorithms may use broad match keywords as the default match type, but it is not nearly as effective for PPC campaigns as it is for organic search. Next, filter your Search Terms to find your highest-performing keywords. Then, eliminate all the keywords that aren’t producing conversions and focus your possibly small budget on those that drive real value. Overall traffic might drop, but your CPA (Cost Per Action/Acquisition) will improve.

 

5. Choosing the wrong bidding strategy for your goals

Marketers with years of experience will always recommend manually bidding on your keywords because it allows you a granular level of control. However, ad platforms today have done an incredible job of building highly effective smart bidding algorithms. It is always worth testing them out, if only to learn what works for your campaigns.

Explaining everything that you should know about bidding strategies will need an entire blog post, but here’s a very quick overview:

    • Target impressions share — This strategy is all about maximising your visibility, which often translates into inflated costs and little to no increase in your lower-funnel metrics.
    • Maximise clicks — This strategy does exactly what you expect and is about getting as much traffic as possible. The traffic it brings may not be as high-quality, and you will likely see a decrease in your conversion rates (or increased CPA).
    • Maximise conversions (no CPA target) — This strategy is about getting as many conversions as possible while spending the full budget you’ve allowed for your campaign. It can be effective when you first start promoting something, but only if you set a low campaign budget.
    • Maximise conversions with a CPA target — This strategy is similar to the previous one and can be highly effective when the bidding algorithm has enough data to learn from. However, if your ad budget is too low, it can negatively affect your volume.
    • Maximise value — This strategy is similar to maximise conversions, except that it is about driving as much conversion value as possible. The qualitative factor of value combined with the quantitative factor of volume makes this a very useful bidding strategy.
    • Target ROAS (return on ad spend) — This is a favourite bidding strategy of many PPC marketers today, but only if they already have conversion value data. The goal of this strategy is to drive as many conversions as possible while meeting your ROAS goals. But if you set them too low, you run the risk of reducing your volume.

The better option

It can be tempting to set and forget your PPC marketing campaigns when you use smart bidding strategies. However, it is far better to run shorter campaigns so that you can test out different strategies that you think may be effective. Then, keep tweaking each ad as you go to improve your results. Not only will this help optimise your ad spend, but it also helps generate the data these algorithms need to really perform.

 

6. Ignoring your Ad Quality Score

Your Ad Quality Score is a value that Google assigns. It is loosely based on the relevance of the keywords you’ve chosen, what Google expects your Click Through Rate (CTR) to be, and a website visitor’s projected landing page experience. It is a very nuanced metric, and most advertisers will overlook it as a result.

Source: AdEspresso

What they don’t realise, though, is that your Ad Quality Score will affect how you rank against competitors bidding on the same keywords that you are. And what this means is that a low score equals a higher ad spend than your competition’s when you’re trying to fight for those all-important higher positions in search results.

The better option

Improving your quality score should be an ongoing effort, but a good place to start would be taking the time to create smaller ad groups of around 4-5 highly relevant keywords. Make sure you’re incorporating those keywords into your ad copy as often as possible. Next, ensure that the landing page for your adverts follows best practices and is optimised for conversions.

 

7. Not tracking the right metrics

You can get dozens or even hundreds of clicks on your PPC ad. But if you’re not getting the conversions you’re aiming for, there has to be something wrong with either your ad copy or how you’ve set up your campaign. But with the dizzying amount of performance metrics that the majority of ad campaigns provide, it can be overwhelming trying to keep track of it all and understand what you’re seeing.

The problem with this is that if you’re not making decisions that are backed by a solid understanding of your marketing data, your campaign will ultimately cost you a lot of money without delivering the desired results. There is no single data tool that can tell you everything you need to know, but a big-picture view of the most important KPIs can help you build better-performing ad campaigns.

The better option

The first thing you need to do is decide what qualifies as a conversion for your campaign. For some, this might be nothing more than a page view. For others, it will be selling a specific product or service. In some cases, it may be upselling by getting existing customers to purchase an additional product or service for something they’ve already bought.

Which metrics are the right ones for you will vary according to your campaign, industry, and more. But make sure to identify them and monitor them closely.

 

8. Not using remarketing or retargeting tactics

For those who don’t know what remarketing or retargeting is, this refers to the tactic of showing targeted ads to people who have already visited your website and/or taken action once there. It is a great way to avoid paying for low-quality traffic because the target audience will satisfy a set of criteria that you determine.

Source: Search Engine Journal

This can be visiting a certain product page, how much time they spent on your site, how many pages they visited while there, and their demographic or geographic information. These are usually what marketers refer to as warm leads, so it allows you to be a little more aggressive in your promotional efforts. One example could be by offering a discount for something they looked at but didn’t buy.

The better option

Google Ads offers a video remarketing tool that allows you to target anyone that has interacted with your YouTube videos or channels and direct them toward your website. There are other remarketing ads you can use that include remarketing in mobile apps, standard remarketing, dynamic remarketing, and even remarketing using your email lists.

 

9. Misusing bid modifiers

The people behind various paid advertising platforms understand that setting up a new ad campaign can be a time-consuming and complex process. This is why the majority offer a range of bid modifiers that help you to adjust your bids for specific criteria without changing how your ad group or campaign’s targeting has been set up.

They can be an excellent way to optimise your ad campaigns, but it is easy for things to go awry if you don’t understand what each modifier is doing and how bid modifiers work.

There are three very important things you need to be aware of when it comes to bid modifiers, which are:

    • Bid modifiers compound, so adjusting multiple modifiers that impact the same auction can end up with them working against each other instead of together.
    • Bid modifiers are best used with outlier segments, such as a device type that tends to perform much better or worse than any others.
    • Bid modifiers work differently for manual bidding than they do when you’re using automated bidding strategies.

The better option

The operative word for optimising a PPC campaign is “tweaking” — making small changes and letting them sit for a time before adjusting them further or making any other amendments. So, you should never make radical bid modifier adjustments across multiple categories at the same time.

Remember that changing your actual bid is more effective than changing all the bid modifiers in a certain category in the same direction. And lastly, always verify how a bid modifier will work with the bidding strategy you are using before you implement it.

 

10. Using the wrong keywords for your goals

This is one of the more common paid advertising mistakes and is closely related to the mistake of using irrelevant keywords that we mentioned already. For example, if your company was selling solar equipment, it would be far more cost-effective for you to bid on terms like “where to find solar panels”, “get an inverter for the house”, “residential solar installation”, “solar panels cost”, and similar.

Bidding on keywords like “solar energy” or “off-grid” might make sense because they’re topically relevant to your company and what you offer, but they don’t give enough detail on what a searcher is actually looking for. More general terms tend to have higher volumes but lower conversion rates, and it can be very tough to compete on those terms.

The better option

Put yourself in the shoes of that ideal customer you identified earlier, and consider what you would search for if you were them. Long-tail keywords are more detailed search terms that generally get less overall traffic. But if you’re using the right terms, these also have a higher conversion value because of how specific they are. The type of traffic that long-tail keywords tend to attract makes them a great option for both paid ads and normal SEO campaigns.

 

11. Not keeping up with changes in PPC advertising

The technology that we interact with daily is changing almost as fast as we can blink. And as technology advances, so do the tools and techniques we use for all our marketing efforts. But many beginner marketers fail to keep up with these ongoing changes and often find themselves having to make huge adjustments when they realise their PPC ads are suddenly costing a lot more or are no longer performing effectively.

One of the biggest changes currently shaking up the paid marketing community is the fact that Google is discontinuing expanded text ads (ETA) and making Responsive Search Ads the norm for their oldest form of PPC advertising. These ads are similar to Dynamic Search Ads in that they use automation to tailor the headline and description of an advert to the user.

What makes them different is that they use the information you provide to create different ads, rather than sourcing the content from your website.

The better option

One of the biggest paid advertising mistakes that anyone can make with their marketing efforts is to simply set it, forget it, and hope for the best. The most successful campaign is a constant work in progress. Some companies have an ad budget that allows them to hire dedicated PPC experts or a digital marketing team that can handle all their online advertising efforts.

For those that don’t though, the dedicated professionals here at Online Marketing Gurus have all the experience you need to make sure you’re stretching your advertising dollars as far as they will go — and getting the best results.

From detailed 100+ page SEO audits to an array of high-quality SEO, PPC marketing, and paid social media advertising services, we have all the tools necessary to get serious digital results that translate into skyrocketing year-on-year revenue growth.

 

Contact us today to book a consultation and find out how we can help your business succeed beyond your wildest dreams.

 

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