36 Myths of PPC

Note: This post was authored by Amber, a prolific blogger at PPC Hero and one of our long-time PPC managers, who welcomed her gorgeous son Jacob on April 29th!

Over the course of the past several years, many old PPC tactics have become dated and are no longer considered best practice. There have also been many PPC strategies that have been developed bloggers and so-called PPC advertisers without solid evidence of increased ROI and, to no one’s surprise, may damage your account’s profitability rather than help.

After reading Search Engine Land’s excellent take on 36 persistent SEO myths we were inspired to create a similar list for PPC- check them out, see if you’re falling prey to any, and figure out how to get over them if you are!

1. Being in position #1 will make you most profitable. This is absolutely not true. Sometimes being in position #1 will be profitable, but most of the time you’ll end up spending more cash than what you’re generating. Being in position #1 gives you great visibility and is great for branding purposes. However it also draws in a lot of ‘searchers’ who are not yet ready to buy, but are still researching. Experimenting with ad position will allow you to determine the positions in which you achieve the right balance of cost vs. value.

2. Turn off your account at night, no one is searching or buying then. There are actually several reports that can show you how much traffic you get during all hours of the day or night, as well as click-through rates. Using Analytics, you can also determine your hourly conversion rates. Consider all of the different time zones you’re targeting, and remember that if you do turn your account off before doing the proper research you could be eliminating qualified traffic.

3. Dump as many keywords into your PPC account as possible to get the most traffic. While in theory you may get a ton of traffic from doing a keyword dump, it won’t all be qualified traffic. You really want to only target the most relevant keywords for your PPC account. If you do a dump you’re likely to blow through your budget quickly without generating much return on your investment.

4. Turn on only your best performing ad. Having only one ad text running can be detrimental to growing your PPC account’s performance. Ad text testing is a great strategy to help increase your click-through rates and conversion rates. If you stick with only running one ad, you’ll never be able to truly grow your account.

5. With PPC you can set it and forget it. A lot of small businesses think they can load in their keywords and ads, set a budget and walk away. PPC is not set it and forget it if you want to make the most of the money you’re spending. It takes constant monitoring, testing, bid lowering & increasing, turning off, and turning on in order to get the biggest bang for your buck. It is for this reason that many businesses choose to outsource their accounts to a PPC agency which can dedicate time and expertise to these tasks.

6. You should always run the content network. The content network can be a great source of extra traffic and leads. However you should research content network best practices before just turning on the content network and letting it run, and always make sure you monitor it very carefully. The content network has been known to drive a lot of unqualified traffic at very high costs when left uncontrolled.

7. You should never run on the content network. Again, the content network can be a great source for extra traffic and leads. Always try the content network, tweak settings as necessary, and give it a chance to work for you before you write it off.

8. Bid on only long-tail keywords. Long-tail keywords are very specific keywords that relate to the product or service you are selling on your site. However, there is minimal traffic associated with long-tail keywords at times and this traffic also revolves around searchers who are now in their buying phase. If you don’t bid on some general keywords, your ad may never appear and you’ll never be in front of your target audience when they’re doing their initial research, which will strip you of important brand recognition opportunities later in the customer’s buying cycle.

9. Quality score is calculated on click-through rates only. Quality score is heavily based on click-through rates, but it is also impacted by landing page quality, among other factors that Google doesn’t want to define too closely

10. Good conversion rates will help improve your Quality Score. No, in fact Google says conversion rates are not calculated into your overall account Quality Score.

11. Opening up a new PPC account will re-start your Quality Scores. Technically, if you open up a new account your Quality Scores will reset. However, if you keep the same account structure, landing pages, ads, keywords, etc., then you’re going to end up with the same Quality Score as you had previously. In order to improve your Quality Score, you need to re-structure your account and organize your Campaigns, Ad Groups and Keywords to reach the most targeted audience possible.

12. You should only have one keyword per ad group. While some advertisers live and die by this (so I’ve heard), this is not necessarily true and you could be spending a lot of time over-optimizing your account. The best practice here is to have a small list of keywords in your ad groups so that your ads match the keywords as best as possible. With this strategy, the more your keywords match your ads, the more likely your ads are going to be more targeted to the user, and the higher your click-through rates will be.

13. Never put phone numbers in your ad texts. We did a test on this a while back, and honestly it depends on your account and your target audience. If you’re reading in some article that you should ‘never’ or ‘always’ do xyz, then you need to test it for yourself first before making the final decision. We found that putting the phone number in our ads actually increased our click-through rates as well as increased the number of calls/leads we got from the website.

14. Copy your competitor’s ads. It’s okay to look at your competitor’s ads for ideas, but do not copy them. Putting aside the legal issues, your ad will not stand out from your competitor’s ad, and you’ll only confuse your potential customer. Find a way to make your ad different and enticing enough to make the customer want to click on your ad over your competitor’s ad.

15. Test your ads every week no matter how many clicks they have. Wrong! Be sure that when you’re testing ads and deciding on when to pause or leave an ad on that you give yourself a longer date range to look at – also be sure each ad has at least 100 clicks, the more the better before making any final decision. This will allow you to get a true perspective on which ad is performing best over time. If you get too anxious and pause an ad too early, you could be pausing a potentially great performing ad.

16. Your PPC agency is there to drive traffic to your landing page only. No, your PPC agency is there to help you meet your bottom line, period. This includes managing your PPC account, giving recommendations on your website, and optimizing your PPC landing pages, among many other things.

17. PPC is mainly click fraud serving your ads to invalid traffic. Actually, Google, Yahoo and Bing are very good at keeping track of fraudulent traffic. The search engines can actually refund your click money if they determine some of your clicks are invalid.

18. Google Adwords and Analytics reports different traffic numbers, therefore they’re not very accurate. Google Analytics and Google Adwords report on traffic numbers differently – Google Analytics reports on the number of unique visitors to your site from PPC, whereas Adwords reports on the total number of clicks your PPC ads get, therefore some discrepancy in visitor number is to be expected. Lead numbers given by each source should be very similar.

19. Google is the only search engine worth advertising in. This is absolutely a myth!  Yahoo and Bing, together with a few other second tier search engines, are well worth advertising in. For certain accounts, sometimes Yahoo and Bing actually work better than Google when it comes to conversions and ROI.

20. Google is more for young, college-aged kids, where Yahoo and Bing are more for older people. These kinds of studies have been going around for a while. And while some people truly believe these search engines have such specific demographics, there is no definitive study – just opinions.

21. The search engines know best. While they certainly aren’t’ trying to defraud you, they won’t catch every instance of nefarious activity that may happen to your PPC account, and remember: their goal is to make money for their company and yours in the process, not JUST for yours. You need to be responsible for your own ROI and watch for any suspicious activity in your PPC accounts.

22. There are many special targeting options Google has that Bing and Yahoo do not. Recently, Yahoo and Bing have made big strides to give you the same level of targeting that Google provides, including geo-targeting, demographic targeting, etc.  This is likely to increase in the future, so don’t write off possibilities for local targeting and demographic targeting in these other search engines.

23. If you want a good keyword research tool, Google is the only way to go. There are so many good and free keyword research tools out there you can use. I would recommend that you use as many of these free tools as possible when performing your initial keyword research. Google may give you a nice comprehensive list, but expanding your search among multiple tools can give you many more keywords to bid on or add in as negatives.

24. You should never use broad match keywords. Again, this is one of those things that you need to test in order to see what works for you. I use all three match types in my campaigns, initially to see which ones perform the best over time. Then I may only use one or two of the best performing match types. By excluding broad match, you could potentially be excluding additional keywords from showing your ads that could be very profitable.  Broad match keywords, with proper bids and cost management, can also be an excellent source of information (via search query reporting) about longer-tail keywords that may work in your account.

25. Don’t worry about adding negative keywords, the search engines don’t really use them anyway, especially on the content network. Negative keywords are a must for every PPC account. All search engines use them as effectively as you enter them, and using search query reports you can determine negative keywords which may be driving substantial unqualified traffic to your ads.

26. You don’t need a PPC firm – you can easily manage your account on your own. Well, I can’t speak for other PPC firms, but for the same reason that you can’t ‘set it and forget it’, if you don’t have time to manage your PPC account at least weekly (at a minimum) you should probably hire someone to manage it for you. With all technology, things are constantly changing. Like previously mentioned, keywords can become inactive due to quality score issues, ads can be declined due to editorial issues, etc. Not to mention that if you’re putting money towards your PPC account, you probably want to maximize your traffic and revenue potential. Having someone manage your account and make the best changes and keep up-to-date with new features can really help grow your traffic and revenue.

27. You don’t need to use pay-per-click if you’re already ranking high in organic listings. Ranking well on the organic side is great, but also having paid ads can really help increase your branding efforts and can also increase traffic and revenue to your site. Obviously, free is better than having to pay to display your ads, but it’s important to get your name in front of your audience searching the web.  PPC also allows you to target a broader range of keywords than you may rank well for organically, widening your audience and exposure. The average user needs 7 exposures to a brand/product before it really sinks in, so paid search can help shorten this gap. Having organic listings and paid ads is the best way to go.

28. You should not have to spend a lot on your keywords if there are no other advertisers. The problem with this is that just because there are no other advertisers in your area doesn’t mean they won’t pop up, or just aren’t advertising at that time of your search, or that there aren’t other advertisers showing in areas nearby. Google will charge you based on the competitiveness of showing for a keyword over time as well as on your Quality Scores, not necessarily the level of competition at the moment and in the location you decide to run your ads.

29. The higher you bid on your keywords, the better your Quality Scores will be. No, as previously mentioned, Quality Scores are based on click-through rates, landing page quality, and more. It is not based on how high your ads are placed or how much you’re spending.

30. If it works in Google, it’ll work in Yahoo/Bing/etc. Just false. They’re not the same- the algorithms with which they show ads and determine keyword and ad quality are different, and in Google and Bing vs. Yahoo, the match types work completely differently. You can import your Google structure into Yahoo and Bing in order to save some time setting up accounts, but you better believe you’re going to have to think through how your settings and keywords are going to show in one search engine vs. another.

31. The search engines default account settings are just fine, you don’t need to change them. Whether or not the search engine’s default settings are fine or not depends on your goals for your account. Always check your ad rotation settings, and set to rotate evenly if you’re testing ad texts, distribution settings if you want to run on search or content only, and geotargeting settings if you want to only show ads to a certain audience.

32. You should delete keywords that don’t convert. This is a huge myth, especially when you have assists in Yahoo telling you which keyword someone typed in the search to get your ad that ultimately assisted in the conversion of another keyword. Hopefully, in the future, we will have more visibility in all search engines regarding first click and last click metrics to help make more accurate decisions about keyword performance.

33. You should delete keywords that don’t have any impressions. While this is a common practice among search advertisers, our search engine reps have never told us it will improve our Quality Scores. What IS a good idea is to keep track of keywords that gain impressions, but not clicks, as they are decreasing your click-through rates and quality scores. They need to be improved if possible with better ad group structuring and ad texts, or they need to be removed.

34. Negative keyword match types work just like normal keywords. No, they don’t, and if you think they do you’ll either miss out on a lot of opportunities to eliminate irrelevant traffic in your account or unintentionally exclude a lot of relevant traffic.

35. PPC is the cheapest form of online advertising and brings the biggest ROI. Boy, I wish I could say this is completely true. Although I do believe you can get a great ROI from PPC, it’s not always the cheapest form. Running PPC ads can cost you a pretty penny if you don’t know what you’re doing right off the bat. Having a PPC agency or someone who has PPC experience help you run your account will definitely save you a lot of money in the long run.

36. PPC advertising is a must for all businesses. This is only a myth because I don’t believe PPC works for everyone. I think all businesses should try it, for a period of time, put all they have into it (effort wise) and see if it works for them. I’ve unfortunately had some clients where it just doesn’t work.