The Google Ads platform offers a number of ways to customize your advertising campaigns to reach customers. For many, having this many options is the only way to ensure all campaigns are focused on the right objective. But this amount of detail can be overwhelming, which can lead to mistakes or suboptimal strategies.
In this post, I’ll walk you through the most common mistakes I see in Google Ads and help you arm yourself with the information you need to correct them.
5 Google Ads mistakes to avoid
Here are the seven Google Ads blunders I’ll discuss in this post:
- Using the incorrect (or no conversion actions)
- Combining Smart Bidding with the Incorrect Goal
- Recommendations that automatically apply
- Only using broad match keywords
- Negative keywords are being overlooked.
Using the incorrect (or no conversion actions)
We’re all running Google Ads campaigns for the same reason: to increase sales and/or attention for our businesses (or causes, etc.).
Conversion tracking allows us to measure those desired outcomes by tracking the actions users take on our websites using pixels. However, I believe that this description of conversions may be confusing for some.
While driving traffic to your website may be the desired outcome for you, this does not imply that each pageview should be a conversion. These can be easily tracked using existing metrics such as clicks in Google Ads or pageviews in Google Analytics.
Conversion actions, on the other hand, should be treated as higher-value actions, such as filling out a form or making a purchase.
Too often, I see accounts stuffed with pageview conversion actions and hundreds of “conversions,” but no sales.
🤦🏾♀️ How to Prevent a Facepalm
Make your conversion actions more specific. Choose only those goals that will help your company grow so that you can be sure your campaigns are optimizing for the right actions.
Combining Smart Bidding with the Incorrect Goal
To compound the issue of counting page views as conversions in Google Ads, I frequently see those same accounts employing Smart Bidding strategies that are geared toward “conversions.” Do you see the issue here?
Google offers a variety of Smart Bidding strategies to help you achieve your objectives. If you want to learn more about the pros and cons of each Google Ads smart bidding strategy, I wrote a post about it a few months ago.
When you combine automated bidding focused on conversions with an account that is mistakenly using pageviews as that conversion, you end up with an account that is very good at getting users to click on your ads (costing you money) and visit your site, but not much else.
On the other hand, when it comes to automated bidding and conversion optimization, there are some limitations.
Google claims that its system is smart enough to know what conversions you want and optimize for them without much input—but as someone who has been in this industry for more than a decade, I’m still hesitant to hand over the keys to the kingdom.
🤦🏼♂️ To avoid this facepalm, do the following:
If you average 7-10 conversions per week, or more than one per day, automated bidding with a conversion focus (such as Maximize Conversions, Max Conversion Value, or tCPA) may be a good option for you.
If your volume is lower, you might want to try out a few different bidding strategies and see how they perform. To focus on performance, I would start with Maximize Conversions but be open to shifting to Maximize Clicks or Enhanced CPC with regular bid reviews.
Recommendations that automatically apply
Over the last few years, Google Ads has made recommendations directly in the platform to try and help advertisers optimize their campaigns.
While some suggestions are useful and can assist you in reaching your objectives, it’s important to note that the majority are based on “best practices” across a wide range of accounts and do not necessarily take your specific account goals into account.
While I believe in always reviewing the recommendations made, I do not believe in handing over control to Google and allowing them to automatically apply their recommendations in my accounts.
Here is a list of actions that can be performed automatically:
That’s a lot of changes Google can make for you without your knowledge. But only if you choose to participate in these automated changes.
What you can do to avoid this facepalm
I strongly advise turning off these automated recommendations instead of scheduling a monthly log-in to your Google Ads account to specifically review the suggestions Google provides. You can disregard any that do not make sense for you and go over and apply the ones that do. But, in any case, you’ll be the one in control, not Google.
More information can be found in my post on the benefits and drawbacks of Google Ads auto-applied recommendations.
Only using broad match keywords
There are three keyword match types available in Google Ads: exact, phrase, and broad. While the names aren’t as closely associated with their specific applications as they once were, it’s still true that broad is the, well, broadest of the match types. That is, it will make your ads eligible to show, and thus clickable by users, on a broader range of queries than either exact or phrase.
While broad match keywords can be useful in some situations, they are best used in a limited number of situations.
A broad match may be appropriate for you if you meet the following criteria:
Your account is performing well, but you’re having difficulty scaling with exact and phrase terms.
You have a high conversion rate and can use Smart Bidding to leverage broad matches.
You’re targeting a specific group of known users with Remarketing Lists for Search Ads (RLSA).
🤦🏻♀️ How to Prevent a Facepalm
While this is not an exhaustive list, it does highlight one point: if you don’t focus your broad match keywords in one way (either with strong past performance, lots of conversion data, or audiences), these match types can run amok and match to queries you have no business matching to. This brings us to our next blunder.
Negative keywords are being overlooked
Regardless of the match types, you use for your keywords, you’re likely to match to queries that aren’t a good fit for your company. You can tell Google that you don’t want your ad to be displayed for these searches by entering negative keywords.
Here’s a quick example to demonstrate. You’re a t-shirt seller, and someone searches for “free t-shirts.” If your t-shirts aren’t free (which I hope they aren’t), you should probably add “free” as a negative keyword to your campaign so that your ad doesn’t appear when people search for free items.
I see far too many accounts with no negative keywords added. This is already a mistake, but when combined with only using broad match keywords, you can quickly end up spending a lot of money on terms that have no chance of converting. It’s not looking good.
🤦🏾♂️ How to Prevent a Facepalm
To begin, add the more obvious negative keywords, then use Google Ads’ search terms report to review your search queries in your Google Ads account by clicking on Keywords, then Search terms in the left-hand navigation.
Once there, you can begin adding entire search terms or portions of them as negative keywords in your account