Pay-per-click (PPC) marketing can be a minefield of technical traps. If marketers don’t know which features and settings to look out for, they risk losing valuable time and money. In fact, small businesses waste a quarter of their paid search spend due to poor campaign management.

That’s why we’re unpacking 15 of the biggest PPC mistakes web marketers make, and how you can fix them.

Let’s get started.


1. Grouping Too Many Keywords Together

Your keywords need to be relevant to people’s search queries. That’s why it’s important to split your keywords into distinct groups. This will help improve your accuracy and ensure that the most relevant keywords are associated with each ad.

ppc keyword relevancy

If you run a bakery, for instance, you might have different keywords groups for cakes, donuts, muffins, and cookies. So when someone searches for “best donuts nearby,” the donut-related keywords will trigger your donut-related ad. You’ll then have a greater chance of engaging the searcher, because your ad will deliver exactly what they’re looking for. This will also help you lower your cost-per-click (CPC) and get more bang for your buck.



2. Letting Low-Performing Keywords Run

If certain keywords aren’t pulling their weight, pause them and move them into their own ad group. This will ensure that your active ad groups are filled with the most relevant and high-performing keywords possible.

For example, your ad group might contain high-performing keywords like “chocolate chip muffins,” “blueberry muffins,” and “banana nut muffins.” But the fourth keyword, “gluten free muffins,” isn’t generating as much engagement. Perhaps that keyword needs it own ad copy and targeting specifications.

So try it out! If the keyword drives clicks in its new ad group, then you can keep it running. If not, then it might be time to let it go.


3. Using Incorrect Match Types

Google Adwords matches your keywords to search queries based on three different match types:

  1. Broad match
  2. Phrase match
  3. Exact match

It’s important to choose match types that work best with your keywords and budget. Maybe you already use exact match but your keywords aren’t driving any traffic. Try phrase match or broad match, and see if this opens up your audience.

For example, not everyone will search for “rainbow sprinkles donuts” verbatim. They might search for “donuts with sprinkles” or “donut and rainbow sprinkles.” By experimenting with different match types, you can better respond to your audience’s behaviors and, in turn, increase engagement.


4. Including Too Many Informational Keywords

Informational searches come from people who just want to gather insights and generally aren’t ready to buy. If you bid on these searches, you likely won’t get a return on investment. Instead, you need to focus on commercial intent keywords. These are used by people who are serious about making a purchase.

For instance, here are some examples of informational keywords and their commercial keyword counterparts:

informational and commercial keywords chart

Use commercial keywords, and increase the chance that website visitors will make it to your checkout page.


5. Forgetting Misspellings for Negative Keywords

Google will still show your ad for misspelled negative keywords. So even if you submitted “bread baker salaries” as a negative keyword, your ad might pop up if someone searches for “bread baker salarys.” To avoid wasting money on these terms, you have to manually submit them as negative keywords.

It’s not as daunting as it seems. You can use helpful tools like the Keyword Typo Generator to find common misspellings. You can also check your search terms report—under the “Dimensions” tab—for misspelled negative keywords that slipped through the cracks:

adwords search terms report


6. Targeting By Average Income

On Google Adwords, you can target consumers by income bracket. The question is: Do you want to reach people based on their average individual income or their household income? After all, a stay-at-home dad might not make a lot of money. But when you include his wife’s income, his spending power suddenly increases.

If your target audience includes families and spouses, you may want to target by household income as opposed to average income. You can make this change under your advanced targeting options:

adwords income targeting


7. Not Including Ad Extensions

Google’s default text ad format allows you to include a headline, URL, and description. You can, however, add more information to your ads by using ad extensions. For instance, you can include customer ratings, third-party reviews, special services and deals, and even a “Call” button that links to your phone number.

And here are examples of a sitelink extension and location extension:

google adwords ad extensions

Click here to see Google’s entire list of ad extensions.

All extensions are free to use; they can help you create more enticing PPC ads and increase your clickthrough rate.


8. Writing Stale PPC Ad Copy

Once you earn a top spot in the search results, don’t throw away a major opportunity to grab people’s attention. Steal the spotlight from your competitors with irresistible ad copy.

Here are a few tips to help you do just that:

  • Address the customer directly with words like “you” and “your.”
  • Capitalize the beginning of each word to make your text stand out.
  • Use an exclamation point to get people excited and appeal to their emotions.
  • Highlight benefits, not features. People don’t want to know what your product can do; they want to know what it can do for them.
  • Include action words like “click,” “order,” “shop,” and “visit.”

Most importantly, make sure your keywords are in your ad copy! Remember that PPC ads are only triggered if they’re relevant to people’s search queries. Your ad copy can be as engaging as possible, but if it doesn’t include the right keywords, it won’t show up.


9. Trying to Be #1

It’s easy to assume that the end goal of PPC advertising is to get that top spot—the very first listing on the search results page. But this doesn’t always pay off.

We’ve found that the costs of the second and third spots are much lower, and they still get 43% of clicks. Meaning, it’s not worth the extra money just to have your ad on top. Even if you’re further down on the page, your ad will still be seen—and clicked on.

This isn’t to say it’s terrible to be #1. If you’re upping your bids to get that top slot, however, save your money and be okay with coming in second or third.


10. Failing to Use Ad Scheduling

You can let your ads run every day, or you can choose specific dates and times that drive the most engagement. The latter option can help you increase your CPC and conversions.

Start by building your ad schedules under the “Settings” tab. Choose “+ AD SCHEDULE” and “Create custom schedule.”

adwords create custom ad schedule

Let’s say you drive the most online sales on Saturday and Sunday mornings. You can adjust your ad schedule to only show ads during that time. This way, you know that when people view and click on your ads, they’ll be more likely to make it to your checkout page.

You also don’t have to stop Google from showing your ads during those “off” times. You can simply lower your CPC by choosing “Set bid adjustment” under the “Ad schedule” tab.


11. Not Setting Frequency Caps

If you’re worried about pestering customers with too many ads, you can set frequency caps. This option is only available on Google’s Display Network.

Frequency caps put a limit on the number of times people see your ad in the top spot each day, week, or month. And they help you control how often you communicate with potential customers. For example, if you have a long sales cycle, you may want to reach people a couple times a month so you can stay top-of-mind while they make their decision. But you also don’t want to bother them each day until they make a purchase. By using frequency caps, you can ensure that your ads receive the right amount of exposure.

If you’re running a Display Network campaign, you can change your frequency caps under “Advanced settings” and “Ad delivery: Ad rotation, frequency capping.”


12. Sticking to One Ad Rotation Method

When you run multiple ads within one ad group, Google AdWords will rotate them automatically. If you have “All features” enabled, however, you can choose how often you want your ads to rotate based on certain performance metrics like clicks and conversions.

View and select these options under “Advanced settings.”

adwords ad rotation method

Let’s say your main goal is to drive website clicks; you might want to choose “Optimize for clicks.” Google will then show ads that are expected to generate clicks. This will help you meet your objective and deliver more relevant ad experiences through PPC marketing.


13. Not Excluding Their Own IP Address

People from your own company might click on your ads by accident. It’s understandable, but you shouldn’t have to pay for these mistakes. That’s why it’s important to prevent ads from being shown to people at your company’s IP address.

Simply ask your IT department for your IP address or find it at http://whatismyip.com. Then find “IP exclusions” under “Advanced settings” on AdWords. Enter your IP address and click “Save.”

adwords exclude IP address

This one may seem silly, but it can cost you money for no reason—and that’s even sillier.


14. Sending People to Their Homepage

Make it as quick and easy as possible for website visitors to find what they’re looking for. Meaning, don’t send them to your homepage and make them click around. Instead, send them to a specific product page or—better yet—build a custom landing page for your ad.

This landing page should be simple to navigate, and it should include the keywords from your ad. Most importantly, it should present a clear and enticing call to action.

Take this landing page for NetSuite’s cloud-based business software, for instance. It includes one simple image, a bold headline, a few key facts about the product, and an easy-to-use form. At the bottom of the form is a clear call to action: “Get Free Product Tour.” There’s no confusion about where you are or what you should do from here.

optimized ppc landing page

Think of your ad as the prologue to a book, and the landing page as the first chapter. Readers should be able to move seamlessly from one to the next and continue learning about your products.


15. Ignoring Their Quality Score

Your Quality Score can seem a bit abstract, so it’s easy to ignore. It is, however, an important barometer for ad performance.

Each keyword is assigned its own Quality Score from one to ten—with ten being the best score you can get. This number is based on three elements: expected CTR, ad relevance, and the landing page experience associated with each keyword. A high Quality Score is a sign of healthy ad performance, while a low Quality Score could signify a higher CPC and lower rank.

To check your Quality Score, choose “Keywords” under the “Campaigns” tab and click the speech bubble icon for any keyword.

google adwords quality score

If you’re not happy with your Quality Score, try pausing low-performing keywords, refining your ad copy, and optimizing your landing pages.



If PPC marketers aren’t prepared for the technical nuances of PPC advertising, they could lose money on ineffective campaigns. With the right tactics and strategies, however, they can avoid common pitfalls and budget leakage.

Consider these 15 PPC mistakes that are easy to miss. They may seem tedious, but remember that even the smallest slip-up can cost you. By addressing these issues now, you can confidently build more relevant ads and win the attention of your future customers.

Asher Elran
Co-founder at Ignitur