The Top 5 Mistakes Newbies Make In Google AdWords

I can't tell you how many times I have had small business owners or new advertisers come to me and tell me that AdWords is confusing, that they don't understand it, and that they are worried they are making some easy-to-fix mistakes. 

Here's the thing - they are probably right. After auditing hundreds of accounts throughout my career, I've started to notice a pattern - people are always making the same mistakes. These mistakes result in wasted advertising spend, dissatisfaction with results, and ultimately giving up on an advertising platform that can really help you with your business. 

AdWords Is Powerful

AdWords is an incredibly powerful tool for small businesses. Why? Because it is intent-based advertising. Google processes 3.5 billion searches a day worldwide, and every single one of those searches is somebody looking for something. Nobody Googles "dentist office near me" if they aren't looking for a dentists office. Chances are, a portion of those searches are for you or what you do - and you may not be capitalizing on them. 

Here are the mistakes I see the most often when auditing AdWords accounts. 

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#1. Not Structuring The Account Correctly

If I had a dollar for every time I went in to audit an AdWords account and found 100+ keywords in one adgroup nestled in one campaign, I would be a rich woman. This is by and large the biggest mistake I see people making in their accounts. 

Your account should be set up in a strategic way, one where keywords that apply to the same theme or idea are grouped together in groups of no more than 5 - 20 at a time, and those groups are then strategically grouped again under relevant campaigns. If you are a service based business and you offer three distinct packages of services, there is no way they should be advertised as a unit. One ad cannot apply to three separate topics or offerings. Doing this will lower your message match and the quality of your account, and therefore increase the amount that you pay per click. 

When I help people set up or reorganize their account, I ask them to list every single term they can think of that somebody may search for that could lead to them, and then to group those terms into smaller, tightly knit groups. 


#2. Not Using Keyword Match Types

The importance of using keyword match types cannot be underestimated, as hundreds of search terms can match to one single keyword. There are four different match types to choose from, and all of them have their own advantages and disadvantages. It is crucial to understand them or you risk not getting the best possible results out of your account and wasting your ad spend. 

Broad match is the default match type, and has the most reach whereas exact match keywords are the most exact, and while they can limit your reach, they can almost assure you that your traffic is aligned with the keyword you are bidding on. Wordstream has an amazing guide on using keyword match types that I highly recommend you check out.


#3. Not Using Negative Keywords 

This is closely related to number one, but different, in the fact that there are probably tons of search terms you don't want to show up for. The words 'porn', 'cheap', 'free', and 'sex' come to mind, but there are also less extreme versions. For example, if you are a hair salon or hairdresser, you probably don't want your ads to show up when somebody searches for a hairbrush. Negative keywords can help with that. 

The common question I get when discussing this is "But isn't all traffic good?" No! All traffic is not created equal. You are paying with your advertising for someone to come land on your site, and if you are paying for someone who has no intention of purchasing your product, you are wasting money. And wasted money is never a good thing in an AdWords account. 

You want to start with a standard list of negative keywords that address all the terms I mentioned above, but also use the search terms report to figure out what terms you want to be excluding. There can be things you would never think of - for example, a recent ad for a graphic designer I work with showed up for the term "graphic design for christian websites" - which is not their specialty and was immediately negative'd out. 

What's really crucial here is remembering to use your match types for negative keywords as well. You don't want to broad match your negative keywords (for example, if a hairdresser used the negative broad match keyword hair brush, they'd stop showing up for anything with the word hair in it). Instead, use phrase or exact match when setting your negative keywords up. 


#4. Not Using Conversion Tracking 

I distinctly remember a conversation I had in a cafe with a new client where I asked him why he was so disappointed with his AdWords performance and he told me "it isn't working." But when we took a look through his account, I discovered that there was no real way he could know it wasn't working, because he wasn't tracking his conversions

We figured out that his goal from his account was to get people to submit a form - and once we installed an AdWords Conversion Tag to let us know when someone had done that, we found out exactly what his account was providing him, and could optimize from there. 

The point? You can't know what's working if you aren't tracking it. Don't base your advertising decisions off assumptions. 

Need to install a tag? Here's the Google Help Centers guide on setting up conversion tracking.


#5. Following Intuition Instead Of Data

This is a mistake that even experienced marketers can make, and one I find in my audit of corporate accounts as well - where what we 'think' will work is what we do, instead of figuring out what actually works based on what we 'know'. AdWords has the capability to offer fantastic return on ad spend, but if you don't know how to read your account (or you do, but you're ignoring the story it's telling you), you are missing out on opportunities. 

You should know the goal of your account, what you want it to achieve, and how you plan to get there and always have that in mind while making changes. 

If you can master the five items above, you're well on your way to running an account like a pro.

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