CPC, PPC, paid search or Google Adwords; whatever you call it, it’s one of my all-time favourite ways to get sales and leads for a mere fraction of the cost of almost every other marketing and advertising channel that exists.
CPC stands for Cost Per Click and PPC for Pay Per Click by the way. Us geeks just can’t resist an acronym (or more correctly in this case, an initialism).
Despite how cost-effective Adwords is, it’s no excuse to burn your hard-earned dollars, or pay more than your competitors are.
In fact, if you correct these 4 mistakes, you’ll probably spend far less to get the same or more visitors than they do. Nice.
Back to basics first
Scroll down to mistake #1 if you already know the benefits of Adwords (if it’s done right)…
Your ad appears for free. You don’t pay a cent unless you get a visitor to your website. There aren’t many other forms of advertising that can claim that benefit.
Even better, you’ll only get pre-qualified leads visiting your website. That’s because your ad only shows when someone in the city or country you want to target, types in a search term that exactly matches one of your products or services.
Well, that’s if you set your Adwords campaign up correctly of course. Hence this article.
A keyword means the same as a search term, so when your Adwords supplier talks about keywords they don’t literally mean 1 word.
Sure, keywords can be 1 word, but these days they are getting longer and longer. So ‘How does Google Adwords work’ is 1 keyword, or 1 search term, not 5.
So without further rambling (okay, there may be a little more rambling as we go along), let’s fix the first mistake:
1. Not using the search term in your adwords copy
If you’re guilty of this one you can at least console yourself with the fact that many brands, probably with far bigger budgets than yours, are making the exact same mistake. In fact I pick on 3 of them in this article.
Although to be fair, in their case it’s probably their digital or advertising agency getting this wrong; which actually makes it far worse if they’re paying professionals who should know better, but I digress…
Why bother writing different ad copy for each search term?
How does spending less but getting more traffic to your website sound? Exactly.
Google wants people to use its services (funny that). When it comes to Google search, one of the things that keeps you and I going back time and again is that they (usually) provide the most relevant search results for the search term, compared with other search engines.
In other words, we find what we were looking for.
Google knows this of course, so they also reward advertisers for providing relevant ads.
All things equal, if your ad does not include the search term or keyword in your copy, but your competitor’s ad does, your quality score goes down and it’s you that gets punished.
What is quality score?
Quality score is the grade Google gives each of your ads out of 10.
Google measures a number of factors to determine your score, and relevancy is the second most important ranking factor.
The most important? Your click through rate. But guess what happens if your ad is the most relevant? You guessed it, your click through rate is likely to go up too. Win win.
TIP: Watch the video from Google at the end of this page. It is 10 minutes long but a must-watch for every marketer, agency and business owner. It’ll explain what quality score is in more detail, and how it impacts how much more or less you’ll pay than your competitors.
Is Google punishing you?
If your ads have a low quality score, possible penalities might include:
Money, money, money
Google charges you more per click – sometimes more than what your competitor whose ad is above you is paying!
Google Adwords is not as simple as ‘pay the most and your ad appears at the top’. So stop comforting yourself that your competitor is probably paying a lot more to have their ad above yours. Not necessarily.
Your ad position may drop, even if your cost per click does not go up, so your ads now appear below even more competitors and your click through rate tends to go the same way.
In general, the further down the page your ad appears, the fewer clicks you’ll get.
Google refuses to show your ad at all. Ouch.
So let’s find a real-life example of a (presumably) big-budget company making this mistake:
Let me see, who to pick on?
Let’s start with marriage. One of life’s biggest events. One that starts with a proposal and that means you need to find… The Ring.
Personally I prefer a princess-cut solitaire diamond with platinum band, though I wouldn’t say no to adding some pink diamonds in there as well given a budget of Lotto-winner proportions.
But if you don’t yet know what you or your spouse’s taste in jewellery is, let’s begin with the search term ‘engagement ring’ and see where we end up:
Which ads stand out to you? (just click the image to view it larger, then click the back button to keep reading)
If your eye was drawn to the ads that Google has automatically highlighted in bold, that’s for good reason.
Based on the ad copy alone, Google thinks those ads with ‘engagement ring’ in their ad copy, are the most relevant to your search term, because the search term is actually used in the ad copy (doh).
Did you spot the well-known brand who got this wrong?
Yep, Michael Hill Jewellers.
Right there in one of the most expensive positions (the 2nd ad on the left), and for a search term I’m sure Michael Hill not only wants to be number 1 for, but also happens to purport to be a specialist in. The best they can do? The word ‘ring’. Used once. Face palm.
Where should the search term appear in your ad copy?
I recommend you always use the search term in your ad title as a bare minimum.
Check out that visual above and you’ll see it’s the biggest text on the page too, so when it’s bold it really stands out.
Repeat the search term in your display URL as well (we cover how to fix your URL in mistake #3).
Also use it in one of your lines of body text if you can. Keep the copy sounding natural at the same time though. This is actually quite tricky with the strict character count for each line.
Remember not everyone searches for the same thing. You (or your agency) should know which variation of the search term gets the most volume of search, so you can write your ad for that search term first and direct the other very similar search terms to that ad.
You can also use high volume variations of that same search term in your body copy, so it doesn’t feel like a robot wrote your ad.
If I just geeked you out, see mistake #3 to find out where the title, display URL and body copy are, and why your display URL should never just be your domain name.
Epic fail alert
Uh oh Michael Hill. I hope you’re made of money. I had high hopes that your ad would at least send me to a page of engagement rings to drool over, but no, and I almost can’t believe this, but here’s where your ad sent me (click the image to view it larger):
Yep, your 404 error page! Tut tut.
Your ad may not have promised engagement rings, but you did mention your latest catalogue, so it looks like someone’s been working on your ads recently. What a shame, and a waste of money.
Caveat time: I haven’t worked for any of the companies I mention in this article, they just happened to make good guinea pigs. I never intended to target them as such, I actually chose the search terms (eg: ‘engagement ring’) and they just happened to be the best examples of advertisers making these mistakes. Also, I don’t know if they do their own Adwords or an agency does it for them. If an agency does it, I don’t know who they are (and am crossing my fingers it isn’t someone I’ve worked for before!). There, done. Moving on now.
That brings us to mistake number 2:
2. Sending visitors to the wrong page on your site
Okay, so you’ve fixed that first problem. Your ad copy is a piece of copywriting relevancy genius. But now what?
This time I’ll move on to another of life’s big moments, buying your first house.
Continuing my Lotto-winner delusion further, let’s find a house in the desirable suburb of Ponsonby in Auckland.
Ponsonby is next to St Marys Bay, which got the honours of being the most expensive suburb in the country with a median house price of $1.45 million as reported by Stuff.co.nz.Here’s what I got: (click to view larger)
Ok, so you’ve probably noticed already, that although Bayleys uses ‘houses for sale’ and Barfoot uses ‘Ponsonby’ copy in their ads, both fail to use the full search term. But I’ll forgive them for that as there’s a much bigger problem brewing.
Not quite of Michael Hill proportions, but close…
Can I just say before I name the loser: This is something both companies should want to get right. Going by my search term alone, I’m a lead you really, really want to have looking at your properties.
Not only am I looking to buy (‘houses for sale’, not ‘houses for rent’), I’ve even told you I have some serious cash burning a hole in my pocket, as I’m looking in one of the most pricey suburbs.
So who’s the loser?
Drum roll please… you both lose, but for different reasons.
Barfoot – You took me to your about page. What’s possibly worse (though it did make me smile, so thanks for that), is underneath your 6 paragraphs of copy all about you, is a list of houses… that have sold.
So helpful (someone needs to invent a sarcastic emoticon). At least the about page was for your Ponsonby branch and the sold houses were in Ponsonby, but that’s if I’m being kind.
This ‘strategy’ may work if I was a seller looking to list my house, and looking for an agency in Ponsonby, as then proof of other sales in my suburb builds trust; but what exactly about my ‘houses for sale in Ponsonby’ search term says I’m looking to sell, rather than buy?
Bayleys – You also failed to meet my needs. Your ad linked to your ‘houses for sale’ page. Sounds like a good start, right? Sure, if I was looking for a house in Cambridge, Tauranga or Hastings (those were the cities and towns of the first 3 houses for sale listed on the page).
In fact only 1 house, way down the page, was even in the same city I was looking in (Auckland).
Who do you think did the worst?
Such as easy fix for both sites too!
Both have obviously spent a fair bit of money on a website that can custom search across multiple categories, showing the buyer only houses that perfectly match their requirements. Both have a search option to only show houses for sale in Ponsonby.
That is where you should have taken me when I clicked your ad.
I can guarantee if I rung or emailed you and asked for a listing of houses for sale in Ponsonby, that you would not send me (1) information about houses that are not for sale in Ponsonby or (2) listings for houses in other cities.
Sure, you could argue I can just use your search box and spend extra time ticking options till I only see houses for sale in Ponsonby, since you’ve now got me on your site after all.
And yes, I could just phone or email you a second time to get the information I asked for in the first place – but why would you want to make a potential buyer jump through hoops like that?
Do you want them to actually end up buying a house from you, or from your more on-to-it competitor?
By the way, remember quality score we talked about at the start? Yep, your quality score also goes down when your landing page sucks. Whether your landing page matches the search term is another factor Google measures.
3. Wasting your display URL
See that green text in the ads? That’s your display URL:
It’s a made-up combination of your domain name (which has to match your real domain name that your ad takes visitors to) and a fake URL string.
Here’s what those geeky terms mean, using that Stuff article about suburb prices as our example:
Their real URL is:
That area in green is their domain name. The part in red is the URL string (ie: the address of an individual page on their website).
The whole thing is called a URL, so the domain name is part of the URL.
Now go check out those ads above again, and you’ll notice the URL string is really short. In the case of Stuff’s URL, they might choose to make their display URL something like:
TIP: The display URL in your ad does not have to include the ‘www’ bit at the start, so if you have a long domain name, just drop the ‘www.’ part and you’ve gained 4 more characters to fit more keywords in, increasing both relevancy and your quality score. Never make your display URL your domain name only. Always include the search term.
What happens when there’s no page on your site that exactly matches the search term?
The good news is you can land your ads on any page on your website.
So even if your most relevant page is your home page, you can totally make up the rest of the display URL to match your keyword.
Remember: In your display URL, only the domain name has to be real.
That brings us to the next big mistake:
4. Not having a page on your site that matches the search term
You’re probably not going to like this last tip very much.
If you’re paying to attract visitors for a certain product or service, but your website doesn’t have a page about that product or service, you need to pause that ad right now and sort out your website as a priority.
Either that or you need to rethink your search terms!
Hopefully you’re asking yourself why anyone would even do that. Here are the 2 most common reasons I’ve heard over the years:
I sell a different product, but it relates to the search term
Ok, let’s say you sell shoes. Casual sneakers and sports shoes to be exact.
A popular brand of sports shoes is Nike. You’ve noticed heaps of people search Google for ‘Nike shoes’. You don’t actually stock Nike, but you do sell Reebok, so why not have your ad come up for ‘Nike shoes’ (you ask yourself), maybe you’ll change their mind and get them to buy a pair of Reeboks instead?
Really?! Let’s make this easy. Don’t waste your money. Don’t piss off your potential customers either.
If I rang your store and asked if you stock Nike shoes, would you lie to me? Well I hope not, because I’m going to be one annoyed customer when I make the trip to your store only to find you don’t sell the brand I was specifically looking for.
Sadly this reasoning is really common, and really frustrating, with paid search advertisers.
Not only that, but since your quality score’s going to be low, because your ads landing page does not relate to the search term; you’re not just wasting your money, you’re actually paying extra to get a customer who is extremely unlikely to buy from you anyway.
I do have a matching product or service, I just don’t have a page about it on my site
Hopefully this is an obvious one. If you don’t have a page focused on each of your main products and services, you are harming far more than your quality score.
You know all those search results underneath and to the left of those ads? Those are called organic search results.
Around 98% of people click one of those, in fact over 50% are estimated to click the top organic search result alone. An average of just 2% click an ad (so if any of your click through rates are below 2%, you have some optimising to do). Of course that 2% is better than no traffic if your website does not rank on page 1 at all.
Without a page on your site for each of your core products and services, you’re essentially ‘blocking’ Google from listing your website in organic search results when someone is searching for what you sell.
You could be missing out on far more traffic that Google Adwords could ever get you. Plus all that organic traffic is absolutely free.
Anyway, you do want visitors to your site to know you actually offer what they’re looking for, don’t you?
In both cases, I suggest pausing those ads immediately and either picking better search terms, or fixing your website, or both!
As always, I offer you my congratulations for making it to the end of another of my epic novels. I think this is a record breaker for both length and the number of rhetorical questions in one article.
What’s worse (or should that be better?) is that these are just the 4 of the most easily fixed Adwords mistakes I could think of off the top of my head.
There are far, far more. So if I have another spare 6 hours one day I’ll write a follow-up to this article. For now I need a cup of tea and a lie down, or a hand massage, or all of the above.
Before you go off in a flurry of checking your ads and having a well-informed giggle at your competitors getting it all wrong, please share this article with your network.
PS: If you’re looking for the LinkedIn share button, or email option to send this article to your marketing manager – both are available by clicking the green Share button below.
Must-watch video: Want to know exactly how quality score affects your cost per click and how Google works out how much you pay? Watch this excellent video presented by Google’s Chief Economist Hal Varian: