8 Biggest Money-Wasting Mistakes in Google Ads

google ads wasting money


Key Takeaways:

  • Incorrect Conversion Tracking: Misconfigured conversion tracking can lead to skewed data, causing advertisers to make decisions based on inaccurate insights, potentially wasting budget on ineffective strategies.
  • Poor Account Structure: A poorly structured account can result in inefficient budget allocation, overshadowing high-performing keywords and missing out on potential conversions.
  • Not Understanding True Brand vs Non-Brand Performance: Failing to differentiate can blur ROI metrics.
  • No CPC Control on Auto Bidding Strategies: Without CPC controls, advertisers risk escalating costs over time, leading to increased spend without a corresponding increase in value.
  • Lack of Negative Keywords: Overlooking this can result in ads appearing for irrelevant queries, wasting budget on unqualified clicks and reducing overall campaign efficiency.
  • Search Partners and Display Network: Without careful management, these networks can expose campaigns to click fraud, draining budget without delivering genuine leads or conversions.
  • Unchecked Broad Match: Without vigilant oversight, broad match keywords can consume a disproportionate budget on off-target traffic, diminishing the ROI.
  • Not Testing Landing Pages: Failing to optimize landing pages can reduce conversion rates, meaning even high-quality traffic might not result in desired actions, leaving potential revenue on the table.

Many advertisers, both novice and seasoned, often fall prey to common Google Ads mistakes that can significantly drain their budget without delivering the desired results. In this article we dive into 8 of the most prevalent money-wasting mistakes in Google Ads, offering insights and solutions to help you maximize your return on investment.

Mistake #1: Incorrect Conversion Tracking

Conversion tracking is the backbone of any successful Google Ads campaign. It allows advertisers to understand which ads are driving valuable actions, such as form submissions, purchases, or phone calls. However, a myriad of issues can plague this crucial component.

One common pitfall is the misconfiguration of conversion triggers. These triggers might be non-existent, incorrect, or even firing multiple times unintentionally. This can lead to skewed data, making it appear as if an ad is performing better or worse than it actually is.

Moreover, many advertisers clutter their accounts with numerous conversions, all set to “Primary”. This sends mixed signals to Google about which conversion actions are truly vital. Ideally, primary conversions should be those directly impacting the bottom line, while secondary conversions can be softer metrics like newsletter sign-ups or video views.

Call tracking is another nuanced area. Without proper quality control, advertisers might find that many of their recorded calls are empty or irrelevant. Google’s default 60-second threshold isn’t always enough to filter out these low-quality interactions.

Furthermore, the threat of fake or spam leads can distort conversion data. Implementing tools like ReCaptcha and honeypots can help in filtering out most spam form submissions, ensuring that your data remains clean and actionable.

These are just a few of the most common conversion tracking issues. There are dozens others that pop up regularly, and having a Google Ads expert who knows how to audit, setup, and monitor conversion tracking regularly is a must-have to get the most out of your paid search efforts.

Mistake #2: Poor Account Structure

A well-structured Google Ads account is pivotal for achieving optimal performance. However, many advertisers overlook the importance of a meticulously organized account, leading to inefficient budget allocation and missed opportunities.

As highlighted in our previous article “5 Tips for Hiring the Perfect Google Ads Expert”, a properly structured account ensures that high-performing, bottom-of-the-funnel terms can spend effectively without being overshadowed by broader, top-of-the-funnel terms. This prevents high-value keywords from having their budget cannibalized.

Moreover, account structure should accommodate the distinct performance or user experience variations between mobile and desktop. While bid modifiers offer some flexibility, sometimes it’s more strategic to separate these campaigns. The same principle applies to campaigns based on location or even match type, especially in fragmented industries with numerous competitors.

Two primary considerations should guide account structuring:

  • Anticipated Performance Differences: Different subsets of keywords will inherently perform differently. Recognizing and accommodating these variations is crucial.
  • Search Volume: It’s detrimental if a single keyword consumes a disproportionate amount of the budget, thereby limiting other keywords’ potential to serve.

For those looking to delve into the nitty gritty, you may also consider segmenting campaigns based on visitor gender, especially if your product or service has distinct messaging for different genders. Additionally, separating search remarketing audiences into distinct campaigns can be beneficial, given their anticipated superior performance compared to brand-naïve audiences.

While there’s no universal blueprint for account structuring, adhering to the two key principles mentioned above can guide advertisers towards a structure that ensures long-term profitability and sustainability.

Mistake #3: Not Understanding True Brand vs Non-Brand Performance

The distinction between brand and non-brand performance is crucial for advertisers aiming to optimize their Google Ads campaigns. However, many fail to grasp the nuances, leading to misinformed decisions.

To truly discern the performance of brand versus non-brand, a Google Ads expert needs to dig into the Search Terms report. Google, especially with brands that have national recognition and high search volume, may match branded search queries to non-branded keywords. This can blur the lines between the two categories. Furthermore, there are scenarios where a search query might contain both branded and non-branded terms. Such queries might trigger a non-branded keyword, but their performance would be more in line with a branded term.

The challenge is compounded by Google’s “close variant” matching algorithm, which has become increasingly unpredictable. Solely relying on Keyword level data can be misleading. To truly gauge the performance differences between brand and non-brand, a diligent Google Ads expert will sift through the Search Terms data. This meticulous approach is essential, even if it provides only directional insights. (It’s worth noting that the Search Terms report often reveals just 30-50% of the data compared to a Keyword report.)

To harness the full potential of your campaigns it’s vital to understand the intricacies of brand vs non-brand performance, going beyond surface-level data by diving head first into analyzing your Search Terms report.

Mistake #4: No CPC Control on Auto Bidding Strategies

Google’s auto bidding strategies can be a double-edged sword. While they promise efficiency and optimization, they can also lead to escalating costs if not monitored closely.

A common oversight with these strategies is the lack of a Max CPC cap. Without this safeguard, Google tends to incrementally increase your average CPCs over time. From personal observations, I’ve seen CPCs for similar keyword themes surge by as much as 3x over a span of three years. Alarmingly, this isn’t limited to just non-branded terms; branded terms are equally susceptible.

What’s more, Google’s design choices further complicate cost control. Max CPC caps are only permissible for auto bidding strategies like Target ROAS, Target CPA, or Target Impression Share. Strategies like Max Conversions or Max Conversion Value, which are widely used, don’t offer this option. Furthermore, the ability to set a CPC cap is tucked away under portfolio bidding strategies and isn’t available on a per-campaign basis in campaign settings.

Such design choices aren’t accidental. Google has a history of subtly tweaking settings to maximize their revenue potential. At The Fractional PPC, our strategies are crafted to empower advertisers. We aim to create systems and structures with Google Ads that ensure you get the best value for every penny, rather than letting Google arbitrarily inflate costs without delivering added value.

Mistake #5: Lack of Negative Keywords

Negative keywords play a pivotal role in refining the quality of traffic your Google Ads campaigns attract. They act as filters, ensuring that your ads don’t appear for irrelevant or off-target search queries. Yet, many advertisers underestimate their significance, leading to wasted ad spend on unqualified clicks.

A “clean” Search Terms report, one that closely aligns with your product, service, or company, is largely achievable through the strategic use of negative keywords. Without them, Google might display your ads for terms that, while seemingly related, aren’t likely to convert or might be entirely unrelated.

Organizing negative keywords into specific buckets can be invaluable. This allows for tailored application to distinct sets of keywords. For ease of management and account hygiene, it’s advisable to add these terms to a Negative Keywords list at the account settings level. This approach not only streamlines the application of negative terms across multiple campaigns but also facilitates their addition to new campaigns. For optimal results, it’s crucial to regularly review and update your negative keywords. We recommend examining your Search Terms report daily during the first week of a new campaign, weekly for the subsequent two months, bi-weekly from months 2-6, and then monthly thereafter. Setting calendar reminders can make this task routine, ensuring that the quality and precision of your traffic remain uncompromised.

Mistake #6: Search Partners and Display Network

The allure of expanded reach often tempts advertisers to explore Google’s Search Partners and Display Network. However, venturing into these territories without caution can lead to significant pitfalls, primarily due to click fraud.

Both networks are notorious for fraudulent clicks. While e-commerce advertisers might find some solace in the fact that actual purchases are harder to fake, lead generation campaigns face a more complex challenge. The influx of fraudulent conversions, some of which can appear genuine at first glance, can mislead advertisers. For instance, a form submission from a Gmail account where the email address aligns with the user’s name might seem valid. However, such leads can be deceptive.

Relying on these deceptive metrics can inadvertently signal Google’s bidding algorithm that such leads are valuable. The result? Your budget gets drained on spammy or fake leads, sidelining genuine, qualified leads.

Given these challenges, at The Fractional PPC we typically steer clear of the Search Partners network for my clients and limit the Display Network to remarketing campaigns. But here’s a caveat: Google, by default, opts you into an “expanded audience” for remarketing campaigns on the Display Network. To avoid this pitfall, navigate to the Ad Group level settings, click on “Edit Ad Group targeting”, and disable “Optimized Targeting”. The irony isn’t lost on us – Google’s choice of naming a setting designed to increase spend as “optimized” is quite telling!

Mistake #7: Unchecked Broad Match

Broad match keywords, while offering the potential to capture a wide range of search queries, come with their own set of challenges. Google often recommends broad match as it can help advertisers tap into unforeseen search queries. However, this flexibility can be a double-edged sword, leading to significant budget wastage if not monitored meticulously.

The inherent nature of broad match means it can trigger ads for a vast array of search terms, some of which might be irrelevant or tangentially related to your offerings. Without a vigilant eye on your Search Terms report, you might find a substantial portion of your budget being spent on low-quality or off-target traffic.

If you’re considering experimenting with broad match, a strategic approach is essential. We recommend segregating broad match keywords into dedicated campaigns. This ensures they don’t siphon off the budget from your more targeted, bottom-of-the-funnel Exact match terms.

Furthermore, continuous monitoring and analysis of the Search Terms report for broad match campaigns are non-negotiable. Leaving broad match keywords unchecked and operating without a rigorous evaluation of the traffic quality they bring can lead to suboptimal results and missed opportunities.

Mistake #8: Not Testing Landing Pages

The success of your Google Ads campaigns isn’t solely dependent on the quality of your ads or the precision of your targeting. Equally vital is the landing page where your ads direct potential customers. A high-converting landing page, achieved through rigorous testing, is the yin to the yang of driving high-quality, targeted visitors.

As highlighted in our article on landing page tips, there are several strategies to enhance conversion rates. These include diversifying conversion options to cater to varied visitor preferences, testing paginated forms with easy initial questions to reduce decision paralysis, leveraging genuine testimonials prominently to establish trust, and optimizing CTAs to resonate with your audience.

Moreover, as emphasized in our guide on hiring the perfect Google Ads expert, any expert you engage should place a significant emphasis on landing page conversion rate optimization. It’s not just about driving traffic; it’s about ensuring that traffic converts.

If you’re only focusing on the Google Ads side of things, you’re missing half the equation. Landing pages play a pivotal role in converting high-quality, targeted visitors into customers. By not testing and optimizing them, you’re leaving potential conversions—and revenue—on the table. Remember, it’s a two-pronged approach: drive the right traffic and do everything you can to increase the likelihood that they convert when they arrive.

Final Thoughts

By being aware of these common pitfalls and implementing the recommended solutions, advertisers can ensure that their campaigns are both cost-effective and high-performing. In the world of Google Ads, knowledge is power. Equip yourself with the right insights, and you’ll be well on your way to maximizing your Google Ads potential.

Hire a Top 1%
Google Ads Expert

@ a fraction
of the cost.