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13 Reasons Your AdWords Campaign Isn’t Profitable (Part One) — A SPN Exclusive

Did you know that 80% of new Google AdWords advertisers fail to achieve a Return on Investment from their campaigns? I didn’t either because I just made that up. But seriously, I bet the percentage is very high. I seem to be spending more and more time helping clients tweak their AdWords campaigns these days.

Unless you live and breathe search marketing, it’s difficult for most people to allocate the time and resources necessary to maintain a successful Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising campaign. Plus there are just so many little tricks and secrets that most people don’t know about. I’ve seen firsthand AdWords campaigns that are simply hemorrhaging money in the hands of new advertisers.

Then there are the new features that Google and Microsoft keep introducing into their PPC programs. Just when you think you have a handle on how the system works, they go ahead and change the system, sometimes dramatically.

For one of their first assignments, our PPC Starter Course students at Search Engine College are required to set up a new Google AdWords campaign, complete with carefully considered strategies for keyword selection, ad copy and matching types. More often than not, what they come up with is a campaign that is destined to fail. I then spend the rest of the course teaching them what’s wrong with their campaign, how to correct the errors and how to make sure their campaign has a good chance of succeeding.

But it’s not just first-timers that make mistakes with Pay Per click advertising. I’m often asked to review AdWords campaigns for new clients, some of which have been running for a long time. I often cringe at what I find when I login to their account. Campaigns that have been unprofitable for years are left to flounder and waste thousands of dollars because the staff are too busy to manage them or are simply ignorant of what it takes to make them profitable. Unfortunately, the “Set and Forget” mentality is alive and well in PPC.

The Unprofitable Campaign

Take last week for example. A client asked me to take a look at their Google AdWords campaign because, although it brought traffic to their site, it didn’t seem to be resulting in any direct business. They had decided that PPC was simply unprofitable and they were ready to abandon it as a marketing channel. I logged into their account and had a good look around. It wasn’t the worst campaign I’ve seen but it was pretty close.

There were 13 (yes 13!) problem areas I discovered:

1) Not Enough Ads

This was the single biggest problem with the campaign. There weren’t anywhere near enough ads to cover the number of keywords the client was targeting. Some ad groups had over 150 keywords and only one ad! Ideally, each keyword should have it’s own ad, sometimes two, because it is important that each ad is laser-focused on the keyword and includes repetitions of that particular keyword. You should always create multiple text ads for each keyword so that you can measure which ads work best. Not everyone will click on the same ad so you need to create and test multiple ads with different wording to see which convert best. AdWords will gradually show only the best performing ads over time.

2) Using Ads That Don’t Reflect Target Keywords

One or more of the ads didn’t use the keyword in the ad headline. For example, one Ad Group targeted the keyword phrase ‘bridesmaid dresses’ but that specific phrase was not in the headline or ad text. The single ad they had in place actually related to wedding dresses so it wasn’t relevant to be triggered for ‘bridesmaid dresses’ and related keywords. The client had tried to cover all bases with a single ad, but this was never going to be effective. To entice people to click, they need to see the keywords they’ve just searched for appear in your ad. You should always use your target keyword in your ad headline and first or second line of ad text.

3) Not Using Enough Ad Groups

This was the second biggest problem with the campaign. There weren’t nearly enough ad groups to cover the keyword themes the client was targeting. Many of the keywords in each Ad Group required dividing into several other Ad Groups based on unique keyword themes. For example all “bridesmaid” related keywords and ads needed to go in their own Ad Group, while all keywords and ads relating to “used wedding dresses” needed to go into their own Ad Group and so on. Then several new ads needed to be drafted for each new Ad Group to laser-focus on those keywords as described above.

4) Not Using the Quality Score Column

The client didn’t have Google’s Quality Score column showing, so it would have been difficult for them to know the quality score of their keywords so they could tweak bids and ads. I switched it on immediately. To find the Quality Score, look at the Keywords tab and click on either the white speech bubble next to your keyword, or if you want to, you can add the Quality Score column from the columns drop-down list. This column will show a score out of 10 for each of your keywords. The higher your score, the lower the minimum bid Google requires you to pay for each keyword.

5) Opting into the Content Network

The client had opted into Google’s Content Network as well as the Search Network. Using the Content Network will almost always produce a lower ROI and higher click charges because the network consists of AdSense publishers. These publishers include many personal and irrelevant web sites that show AdSense ads. These often have content only loosely related to your subject matter but this is often enough to trigger your ads to appear as a contextual match. In my experience, Click Fraud also seems to be more common in accounts that utilize the Content Network. I advise my clients to avoid the content network like the plague unless they have an e-commerce style site where they can expect some drive by sales. Needless to say, I flicked the Content Network off on this campaign pretty quickly.

6) Not Using Content Bids

The client had opted NOT to use Content bids, even though they had opted into the Content Network. If you must use the Content Network, you should always use separate, lower bids for your keywords on that Network because the ROI is so much poorer. The number of clicks you are likely to receive on the Content Network is much larger, but of a much lower quality and less likely to convert so you shouldn’t pay as much for them. You can set your maximum bids to a lower amount than the search network by opting into use Content bidding in your campaign settings.

7) Unnecessary Use of Multiple Campaigns

The client had actually created two campaigns, but they both had the same regional target markets and other settings. There is generally no need to set up multiple campaigns unless you are separating out the Search and Content Networks, you are targeting different regions/countries and/or you have multiple advertising campaigns with different start and end dates.

Is your AdWords campaign guilty of any of these common mistakes? Don’t worry too much – you’re not alone. In Part Two of this article, I’ll list the remaining mistakes I found in the campaign and how I addressed them.

In the meantime, wishing you clicks and conversions…

About the author: Article by Kalena Jordan, one of the first search engine optimization experts in Australia, who is well known and respected in the industry, particularly in the U.S. As well as running a daily Search Engine Advice Column, Kalena manages Search Engine College – an online training institution offering instructor-led short courses and downloadable self-study courses in Search Engine Optimization and other Search Engine Marketing subjects.

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