PPC Advertising Pitfalls – don’t just do what "Simon" says

Thu 9 April 2009 10:40, Lisa D Myers

Last week I spoke at Search Marketing World in Dublin, I really enjoyed the conference, it was on a much smaller scale than SES but it was really nice to see so many new faces and more importantly to see so many new presentations. At this conference I spoke on “Successful PPC Management – Avoiding common mistakes”, sharing a panel with my fiancé and fellow Searchcowboy blogger Jon Myers.  Now, I’ve always been an SEO geek, who loves talking about canonicalisation issues, site architecture and general SEO geekiness. But after spending a lot of time discussing and debating with my fiancé (who’s well known in the UK for his PPC experience and knowledge, disclaimer: I’m not saying he doesn’t know anything about SEO) I have come to understand that the world of PPC is so much more complicated than we think, and certainly ALOT more complicated than Google AdWords would have you think:

PPC Advertising Pitfalls – don’t just do what "Simon" says

“No matter what budget!”, “Connect with potential customers at that magical decision moment!”, “Your ad will appear next to the search result when people search on Google using one of your keywords.” Only some of the Google AdWords “sells”, easy as 1 2 3, right? It really isn’t that simple, in fact if you believe that it is that simple you are more likely to experience this:


Because PPC is believed to be so “easy” to set-up and manage, many businesses are wasting money every day. Don’t get me wrong, Google has made a fantastic job at making the design and layout of AdWords very easy to use, but it might actually be too easy, maybe deceivably easy!?

So I’ve created a list of top pitfalls for when setting up (or even managing your PPC campaigns), it’s pretty straight forward and logical advice, but as I’ve learn there is no such thing as “obvious”, as its  only “obvious” to you because you already know about it. In fact saying “obviously” is mostly a redundant word, as if something was truly obvious there would be no need to actually say it. On a side note let’s just delete “obviously” from the dictionary.

So here are the top 5 most common pitfalls that I believe can make a big difference to your paid search advertising:

Pitfall  #1 – Target Audience
When you set up a campaign it will automatically default to target all countries. If you are not targeting globally this is, let’s say, not the best. Make sure you specify language and locations. Where are your target audience? Country, region, city? Targeting a smaller region can result in fewer impressions but a higher CTR (click through rate).

Pitfall #2 – Campaign and Ad Granularisation
This is a word used in most agencies to describe the process of making campaigns and ads as targeted as possible. Dividing your campaigns into the basics, such as:

  • Product & Model terms
  • Brand terms (brand terms, expanded brand terms and misspelled brand terms)
  • Locations
  • Descriptive terms
  • Offers/Campaigns

These are some of the most common areas of which to make campaigns as targeted as possible based on a keyword list. Granularisation WILL make a difference to the quality score of each keyword and ultimately give you a better ROI (lower CPC for a higher position and so on). BUT, if you have a limited budget I would be careful of spreading your budget too thinly, doing extensive granularisation of campaigns and keywords might not be the right thing to do if it leaves you with a very small budget per campaign.

Pitfall #3 – Believing “the more keywords the better an ad group will perform”
Starting off with a big list of keywords is quite normal, it allows you to test what works, what will give you clicks and conversions. Using this initial intel to develop the campaigns and ad groups further is definitely advisable. But for some reason it seems to be a misconception that adding loads of keywords each month will make your ad perform well. In fact I would say it might be a case of “if it’s not broke don’t fix it”, not saying you shouldn’t add any keywords but adding keywords just for the heck of it can harm your campaign. If you have built up a good CTR, you are getting the conversions it’s better to work on the ad creative to improve before bashing in loads of new keywords. Maybe even have a specific campaign for testing of keywords.

Pitfall #4 – The not always relevant Content Network
When you set up a campaign the standard is set to bidding not only on Google search engine but also:

  • Search Partners, your ad can then also appear in; Google Products, Google Groups + AOL & ASK.
  • The Content Network, ads will also appear on the entire Content Network (which is defined as “Relevant Sites” featuring content related to that ad), you also have the option to refine placement targeting for specific sites within the content network.

Now my big issue with this is:

  1. The default Google sets to all of these. I really think the content network should be a “opt in” rather than a “opt out” as it can make such a big impact on your campaign.
  2. In my experience the content network isn’t very good in terms of quality; the “relevant sites” part is very relative! And if you don’t understand your match types properly this can possibly even hurt your brand. The content network also usually inflates your impressions, to such an extent that your CTR is likely to be pitiful small, thus affecting your ad performance. And if you have a limited budget and aren’t one of the big spenders, I would most certainly recommend disabling the content network, ASAP.

Pitfall 5 # Understanding Match Types
This area is one of the most important areas to understand when doing PPC advertising, and frankly I think Google isn’t good enough at explaining this to new customers. You might even think that they don’t want to explain in.

What is keyword match type?
A keyword match type is the rules the search engines use for controlling when and which ads are displayed dependent on the search query entered by the user. The most common match types are: broad match, phrase match, exact match and negative match. The default match type is broad match.

Broad Match
Definition: Your keyword/phrase in any order or combination with additional words, could display your ad.
For example if you are bidding for the keyword “office design”, your ad could be shown when someone searches for anything that has the words “office + design” in any order with additional word preceding or following. So for example your ad could appear when someone searches for: “office furniture design”, “design a home office” etc BUT Google also includes synonyms and so called “associated” words so your ad could also potentially appear for “space planning”, “desk design”, actually these are not really that bad, I have seen worse cases of extended broad match.

When searching for “flights” in the below example, Google display an ad for “Apple Mac Air”, this is due to the extended broad match and the “association” between “flight” and “air”. Hmm, not ideal I would say.


So when dealing with “broad match”, I would advice on developing an extensive negative keyword list so that the ad doesn’t get displayed for terms that is not related to your product/service.

Top tip!
In the start stage of setting up a campaign it might be a good idea to use broad match and make use of the Search Query Report This report will be able to tell you which terms triggered your ad and be very useful in fine tuning your keyword list (and your negative keyword list).

“Phrase Match”
Definition:  Your keyword/phrase in exact order but also other terms preceding or following the phrase you are bidding for. To mark a keyword as phrase match you need to include it within “quotation marks”.

So if the key phrase you are bidding for is “office design”, your ad can be triggered when someone searches for “office design ideas”, “office design company” etc but NOT for phrases that has additional words between the two words, such as  “office interior design”.

This is the match type I personally use the most; in fact I use a little saying; “if in doubt, phrase match”.

[Exact Match]
Definition: Our exact keyword/phrase in exact order with no words preceding or following. To mark a keyword as exact match it needs to be within a [bracket].

This match will only show your ad when someone searches for “office design” in that order with those two words only. Having a keyword in exact match will limit your impressions but if it is a solid relevant keyword that you know by experience drives traffic and conversion that’s not a problem.

- Negative Match
Definition: The ad will not appear if the negative keyword is included in the search query. To mark a keyword as negative match it needs to have a – before the keyword.

Negative keywords are very important (and necessary) when running campaigns using broad match, and will help define the relevancy and make sure you only get displayed for relevant search queries. For example in the ad group for “office design” you have the negative keyword ‘-software’ your ad will not appear when someone searches for anything related to the keyword office and “software”, let’s say, I don’t know.............“Microsoft Office” which would have buried in impressions.

To be honest I can probably go on and on about pitfalls but as this has turned out to become a bit of a Mammoth blogpost, I will leave it to these 5, for now :) But do feel free to comment and ask questions.

Lastly, when running a PPC campaign just make sure you think about all the possibilities, don’t just 123- up and go. Even if “Simon” says!

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