If you’re new to the game, paid search can seem like a daunting task at first. I remember my first few days at Hanapin feeling the same way, but I can tell you from experience that this is one of the biggest hurdles you will have to cross as a PPC manager. It’s the same way with any trade; the more you put into it, the more you will get out of it and the better you will become. The trick is keeping your wits about you and nailing the best practices right from the start.

Managing PPC account(s) requires a huge time commitment and precise attention to detail, so it is imperative that you stay ahead of the game. One way to go about this is by avoiding hazardous practices that can lead your account astray. In my first installment of this two part series, I will highlight a few common PPC pitfalls you should avoid. It is my hope that both PPC beginners and veterans alike will find some value in my words in order to diagnose some common PPC issues before the damage is done.

Pitfall #1 – Loose Account Structure

The first pitfall you want to avoid when setting up your PPC campaigns is loose account structure. This can affect your account in many ways since thoughtful account organization is crucial to the users search experience.

For example, lets say you have a campaign set up for sporting goods and an ad group for soccer. Within the soccer ad group, you have soccer ball and baseball as target keywords. The two keywords are similar in some ways, but from a PPC standpoint, not similar enough in meaning to offer the highest level of relevance to a searcher. If keywords were soccer ball and soccer net instead, that would be fine since they share soccer as a common theme. However, my first example did not and would therefore be considered a bad practice ad group because of its lack of organization.

Setting up your account structure in this fashion is detrimental to your quality scores, because your target keywords will not be consistent with the ads you are showing for those terms. Put yourself in a searcher’s shoes; do you want to see ads about baseballs when you are trying to find soccer balls? Probably not, and Google takes users’ search experiences very seriously. In fact, they have ways to punish you, (lowering your quality score) so it is important to structure your account properly. Although making decisions on how to segment your keywords won’t always be this clear-cut, the principle of always structuring your account around tightly knit themes remains.

Solution: The idea behind this concept begins with campaigns, which are then broken down into ad groups. Each ad group has a specific, targeted set of keywords, and each ad group contains ad texts that are relevant to the keywords in that ad group.

The set of keywords found in each ad group should ultimately share a common theme or characteristic, which is best practice. In order to avoid the pitfall of poor account organization, you will want to set your campaigns up in this fashion. This way, you are ensuring the highest level of relevance between your ads and target keywords. This will also help increase your quality scores, which will save you money on keyword bids in the long run.

For more info, check out Account Structure Set Up and Best Practices.

Pitfall#2 – Aggressive Keyword Bidding

The second pitfall you want to watch out for is becoming too aggressive with your keyword bids. This can be detrimental to your accounts because it can lead to excessive spend and a high CPL. In fact, if you are too aggressive and come out with guns blazing, you run the risk of blowing through your budget halfway through the day causing you to miss out on relevant traffic that could have beneficial later on.

For example, lets say that you are working for a small anti-virus software company. Now, let’s also say you don’t have much of a budget to work with and the keyword competition is fierce in the anti-virus industry, with estimated first page bids upwards of $6 per click. Regardless, you decide to jack your bids up to meet the demands of the competition. All the sudden you notice that your ads are not showing the entire day because your budget depleted prematurely. This would be considered bad practice because you are missing out on a half-day’s worth of relevant traffic that could have converted.

Although there are situations in which testing the effects of high bids can be beneficial, especially if you have a lot of budget to play around with, I would not recommend this strategy to any PPC newcomer. In order to effectively reach your audience, your ads need to be showing all day and throughout the entire month. The last thing you want to do is have to walk into a meeting with your client and tell them their monthly budget ran out half way through the month because you bid too aggressively. Your budget is what it is, so your bidding strategy needs to be able to accommodate that level of spend you have to work with.

Solution: Assuming you are on a tight budget, I would recommend more of a reserved approach to your bidding strategy so you can figure out what is working in your account over time. I am referring to “working” in the sense that some of your keywords are spending money and driving leads, rather than spending your money with no return. I would also recommend shifting your focus to longer-tail keywords that have just as much potential as the competitive terms. Longer keywords are particularly effective when working with a smaller budget because they have the potential to drive leads at a fraction of the cost.

For more info, check out Bidding Strategies Part I and II.

Pitfall#3 – Poor Ad Copy

Another pitfall you want to avoid is writing poor ad copy. This can be extremely hazardous to your account’s overall health because the ads ultimately make or break a customer’s decision to visit your site (and no one can convert if they don’t visit). If you disregard the importance of your ad copy, it is probably safe to say you won’t be driving too many leads, if any at all.

The example above should give you a pretty clear understanding of the good and bad practices for copy writing. Looking at the bad example on the right, it seems confusing because there are a bunch of numbers all heaped into two lines of text. The unnecessary use of descriptors in the heading and lack of call to action make it even worse. I would not be surprised if this ad failed miserably in an ad test, because it probably comes off as confusing to searchers (I was confused…). This ad is an example of bad practice, but can be easy fixes by putting some extra thought into it.

Solution: Good copy matters. Consumers are exposed to thousands of ads each day.  In order to stand out from the rest, your ad must be relevant and engaging to the user. I would recommend a clear and concise approach, and highlighting what makes your product or service unique.  You might even go as far as checking out what your competitors are doing with their ads to find ways to gain the upper hand. You can also entice your customers further by highlighting special offers or promotions. More importantly, however, your ads should also include a call-to-action so your customer knows what to do next. Some common call-to-action phrases include: buy now, find out more, call now, etc. Concise descriptions, highlighting offers and call-to-action phrases will make your ads stand out from the rest and ultimately lead to better click-through rates.

For more info, check out these 7 Ways to Be Sure You’re Writing the Best Ads Possible.

It is important to avoid potential pitfalls like these in your PPC accounts. With a little bit of research and care on your end, you can capitalize on the best practices passed down through the generations. I touched on a few of these today, but I will continue the series in my next post as I discuss some additional PPC pitfalls to watch out for. Which ones do you avoid? With your feedback, this series can become an extensive resource for PPC’ers of any kind. I would welcome all of your comments below!