8 of the Most Damaging Pay Per Click Mistakes

Written by  April 29, 2009

Pay per click advertising has the ability to not only increase traffic to your site, but also increase the knowledge you have of your market. It can very quickly put money in your pocket or very quickly take it out.

Opening up a paid search account, adding a method of payment, and letting traffic flow only takes a few minutes. After that, the most common problem is simply not knowing where to go from there.

Here are eight mistakes that most often turn what could be an otherwise successful campaign into a pure nightmare.

1. Using large non-targeted broad keyword lists.

Large lists of non targeted keywords generally attract non targeted visitors. Rather than focusing on these massive lists (sometimes referred to as keyword dumps) you should focus on smaller more targeted lists. In addition, refrain from using “broad match” keyword types without any offsetting negative keywords. The use of alternative match options will likely yield less traffic, but that traffic should be more qualified.

2. Paying too much attention to your CTR and not enough on your Conversion Rate.

CTR (or Click Through Rate) means nothing if that traffic does not produce actions (sales in the case of ecommerce sites). Focusing on CTR only as an indicator of paid search success will only end up costing you money in the end (thus the “pay per click” concept.) Instead pay more attention to your paid search Conversion Rate to get a better idea of whether you are moving in the right direction or not.

3. Not looking at your Value per Visitor in relation to your Avg. CPC.

Your Value per Visitor represents the amount of revenue you earn for each visitor that arrives at your website through a paid search click. Your Avg. CPC (Average Cost per Click) is the amount you spend on average to get one visitor to your site. Comparing the two tells you whether you are making money or not.

If your Avg. CPC is less than your Value per Visitor then you are making money. The further the two numbers are apart, the more money you are making. It goes without saying that if your Avg. CPC is more than your Value per Visitor then you are losing money.

4. Using only one Ad Group for multiple sets of non-related keywords.

Setting up only one Ad Group and loading it with multiple sets of non-related keywords does a number of bad things. It restricts your ability to more accurately target your visitors based on ad copy. It can cause your quality score to suffer. It costs you more money and also can cost you ad position. I’ll sum it up as follows: using one ad group will often result in non-targeted traffic at a higher cost with a lower ad position in the results. This is no way to succeed at paid search.

5. Using only one ad copy variation per ad group.

I see it often. Website owners running paid search and only using one ad to generate traffic. To be successful and find out what really converts, you should use at least two different variations of ad copy per ad group — and that’s only a gauge. Three to four different ad variations is even better.

Running different ads against each other across one ad group helps you learn what triggers your market to act and furthermore what triggers them to buy. It enables you to test what works and what doesn’t so you can zero in on higher conversion rates.

6. Not turning off Content Network at the start of a campaign.

Until you know what you are doing, one of the first things you should do to save yourself some money is to turn off the “Content Network” option (on by default).

Traffic from the content network typically converts at a much lower rate than traffic generated through the search network. There are ways to increase that content network conversion figure (combining placement targeting with proper landing pages is an example) but it takes a lot of time to get it right. The longer you leave the Content Network turned on, the more money you’ll likely spend and the lower your paid search conversion rate will go.

7. Not setting a Daily Budget.

If you don’t set a daily budget you’re opening yourself up to unexpected charges and possible wasted advertising dollars. The easiest way to set a budget is to come up with the amount you are willing to invest in advertising per month and then take that amount divided it by 30 or 31 (days in a month). Then allocated that daily advertising spend across the number of campaigns you have. This does not ensure the most “visible” campaign, but it will ensure you rarely exceed your budget.

8. Running all paid search traffic to a single landing page.

Driving all the traffic your paid search receives to a single landing page (i.e. the home page) is going to typically result in less than desirable conversion rates. The better method is to set the destination url at the individual keyword level to allow more control over where traffic is routed.

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11 Responses to “8 of the Most Damaging Pay Per Click Mistakes”

  1. Computer Consultant on April 29th, 2009 9:25 pm

    I definitely need to follow on your advice about multiple ad groups. I had a feeling it was having negative impact and now you proved it.

  2. Eric on April 30th, 2009 8:42 am

    You’ll likely have to start over (new ad groups and campaigns) across the board. That is the best thing to do depending on how long you have had your current setup running. It is likely that your current campaign already has felt the effect of this through lower quality scores etc…

    This can be difficult to rid yourself of if the campaign was running for any length of time. Take your time planning the next round — it’s worth it in the long run.

    You don’t want to have to do this again or it can set you back further.

  3. Michael on April 30th, 2009 5:45 pm

    Another thing that these advertisers could do would be to set several pages from their website into a rotator such as I have with mine: royalvaletparking.com/sites/index.php this way when a visitor comes to your website the chances of variety is very good. If you have a ECommerce website you could add several page urls to various products or product categories. With this I can utilize 1 or 2 adverising campagnes and know that my visitors will always get a variety of pages to view. The odds of them seeing a product or program on your website that catches their eye is very good with a quality rotation system. Many versions of URL rotators can be found free through searching the web. There are some higher quality ones as well.

  4. Eric on April 30th, 2009 7:01 pm


    Thanks for the suggestion Michael.

    One thing to consider that you may try as well.

    If you want to split test you might want to try Google’s Website Optimizer as an alternative. It is solid, easy to use, free and integrates well with Analytics. That way you aren’t rotating sites, but rather rotating content based on a specific target.

    For paid search you want to ensure that the page you send your traffic to is so targeted to that traffic, there is virtually no way the visitor can’t find what they are looking for.

  5. Michael on April 30th, 2009 7:29 pm

    Thanks Eric. This rotator I have all my sites on just to link them to a main page. If I were to rotate pages through google or yahoo I would def place only targeted pages in it.

  6. Eric on April 30th, 2009 7:49 pm

    Ah I see!

  7. Aaron Anderson on April 30th, 2009 8:32 pm

    Greetings Comrade Eric!
    Your article was interesting, but I feel I did not understand it 100%. Or if I did, I felt it was a somewhat empty understanding in that I don’t have the foundational knowledge upon which your article rests.
    Therefore–and this is the point of my message—please suggest some books, CBTs or other sources which I could use to raise my awareness of these issues.
    Thanks for your article, and thanks in advance for whatever information you can offer.

  8. Computer Consultant on April 30th, 2009 11:23 pm

    Thanks for advice.

    What would you say is average CTR and conversion rate?

  9. Eric on May 7th, 2009 7:44 am

    For paid search alone it’s tough to actually nail down an “average industry conversion rate” and / or click through rate. For websites it’s easier however, for paid search I would be more concerned with what your own personal averages are. Comparing to industry standards could really give you wrong direction.

    You could have one ad group or campaign that has just a .3% CTR but is converting at 24%. That would likely mean the traffic is highly targeted. So in that case, if you tried to compare an “industry standard” CTR to yours you may think it doesn’t look so good. In fact, quite the opposite is the case.

    On the flip side, you may have a campaign with a 10% CTR but only a .5% conversion. Depending on your spend, this might not be a good situation.

    So don’t get hung up on industry standards for paid search and focus more on what works for your particular situation. If your efforts are generating a positive ROI you’re in good shape.

  10. busana muslim on September 25th, 2009 2:38 am


    Good article.. i hv never tried your suggestion no 5 and 8. It’s very interesting. I’m going to try it for my next campaign.

  11. Robin on September 25th, 2009 2:50 am

    Thanks for the tips Eric. The only the thing I can’t seem to locate is the “Value Per Visitor”.

    I’ve just got clicks,impr,CTR,Avg CPC,Cost,Avg Pos,Conv(1perclick),cost/conv(1perclick),conv rate(1perclick)

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