This is the second of a 2-part blog post highlighting some common pitfalls you want to avoid when getting started with paid search. The first installment took a look at loose account structure, aggressive keyword bidding and poor ad copy. Part two covers interface tools and driving too much traffic.


Last month I wrote about three PPC pitfalls to avoid when taking on a paid search campaign. This post will build off of those by highlighting two additional pitfalls. We will take a look at how the interface tools and excessive traffic can actually affect the success of your campaigns. Once again, 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 #4 – Interface Tools

The first pitfall you want to avoid from today’s lesson is placing too much trust in the interface tools. Although many of them seem very enticing at first, they might actually end up causing more damage than good.

Google Adwords Conversion Optimizer

To illustrate my point, lets take a look at the Adwords Conversion Optimizer. This is one of the tools that Google introduced to their paid search interface that allows you to spend less time managing your bids manually. In addition, Google confidently explains how their tool will “Increase your AdWords conversions and decrease cost per acquisition. On average, campaigns adopting the Conversion Optimizer achieve a 21% increase in conversions while decreasing their CPA by 14%*.” This is well-written copy on Google’s behalf, but I would urge you to take a closer look before opting into this.

For those particularly observant folks, you might have noticed the asterisk at the end of their claim. This typically indicates that there is a catch, when it comes to products and services making claims. You know, the fine print that you can barely read at the bottom of the page. Here’s what it says:

*This analysis compares the performance of Conversion Optimizer campaigns with a control set of campaigns and represents the average impact of Conversion Optimizer. The actual impact will vary from campaign to campaign (and a small number of advertisers could conceivably perform better without Conversion Optimizer).

Essentially, this illustrates my main takeaway from this pitfall. Although these tools are designed for your benefit, this is not always the case. In other words, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.

Solution: To avoid this problem, take PPC enhancement tools with a grain of salt. The fact of the matter is that the results are not clear-cut and dependent upon each individual scenario. You don’t want to fall into the trap of assuming that a tool will do everything you want it do. Some people simply prefer to opt out of enhancement tools for more control, but for those who want to try new things, you need to keep a close eye in case your data goes awry.

Now, it’s not my intention to condemn the tools that are designed to make our jobs easier, but rather urge you to proceed with caution when giving them a test run. You might try setting up a trial period in order to collect data and then determining whether or not it is actually beneficial.

Pitfall #5 – Driving Too Much Traffic

Another pitfall you want to avoid is driving too much traffic. Here, I am referring to the irrelevant clicks that are only good for increasing spend without anything in return.

PPC Traffic Funnel

For example, let’s say that I want to set up an ad group that targets men’s running shoes. I include shoes, Nike and running as broad match keywords within that ad group. After allowing those keywords to collect some data over time, I notice that there are an abnormal amount of clicks being generated without any conversion data. These excessive clicks are typically referred to as irrelevant traffic and need to be restricted. Moreover, this is a red flag that needs to be addressed because it is affecting your ROI.

Whenever you are structuring an account, it is important to consider the ways in which you can restrict your traffic flow. Generating highly targeted traffic is one of the basic essences of PPC in general and is also critical to the overall success of your campaign. Let’s take a look at some of the ways in which you can close the floodgates and drive more qualified traffic.

Solution: As a PPC manager, it’s all about the ROI. You want to be thinking about the maximum amount of leads/conversions you can produce with a given amount of money. Whether you are handling your PPC independently or working on behalf of an agency, you will more than likely be working with a set monthly budget that you will be responsible for optimizing accordingly. So, here are a few ways that can help optimize your traffic flow:

  • Match Types – Phrase and exact match keywords are good for limiting traffic because they only trigger your ads if certain criteria from a user’s search query are met. Phrase match will show if the word or words in your keyword appear in a customer’s search query in the same order, even if other words are present in the typed query. This is good for limiting some of your traffic. On the other hand, exact match will show when the exact word or words in your keyword, in exactly the same order, appear in a customer’s query. This is good for even more control than phrase matching. For more information, check out this post on understanding match type differences between Adwords and adCenter.
  • Negative Keywords – Negative keyword lists are another core component of a successful keyword list. Adding negative keywords to your ad group or campaign will block your ads from being shown for searches containing those terms. By filtering out unwanted clicks, negative keywords can help you reduce your CPC and increase your ROI. For more information, check out this post on using negative keyword lists.
  • Keyword Selection – From my hypothetical scenario above, this becomes particularly important. Remember how I included shoes, Nike and running as broad match keywords? If I’m trying to target men’s running shoes, it should be clear that this is poor keyword selection. Not only are they broad match (least amount of traffic control), but they aren’t tightly themed as well. The keyword shoes could trigger ads for casual shoes, women’s shoes, etc, all of which are not men’s running shoes as I intended. In order to drive more qualified traffic, I would want to go back and make sure all of my keywords in that ad group pertain to men’s running shoes by using terms like running shoes for men and Nike men’s running shoes. For more information, check out this post on account structure set up and best practices.
  • User Targeting – Adwords and adCenter have some nice targeting features that can help you further refine your traffic flow. Each interface allows you to target users based upon their location, the type of device they are using, particular times of day, certain days of the week, as well as by gender and age. As you might imagine, these targeting options can be quite useful in refining your traffic and generating better ROI. For more information, check out this two-part post on the targeting features of Google and Bing.

As I mentioned in my previous post, 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. Overall, this series took a look at loose account structure, aggressive keyword bidding, poor ad copy, interface tools and driving too much traffic as potential pitfalls. Avoiding these will get you started on the right foot and ultimately lead to better ROI. What are some other PPC pitfalls you have experienced in the past? I would welcome your feedback in the comment section below!