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Heidi Cridland

Heidi Cridland

Top 15 Mistakes to Avoid Making in Google Ads

With decades of experience in running Google Ads we know all the ins and outs of this marketing strategy. Now we want to help you flatten the learning curve a little by chatting through some of the most important things to NOT make a mistake with. This article is based on a podcast released recently on Getting to the Heart of Business – the podcast we at TheOnlineCo. have been creating in hopes of helping other businesses with their digital marketing.

Heidi is our SEM (Search Engine Marketing) manager at TheOnlineCo. and her expertise has given us a whole lot of gold to share with you both here in this article and over at the podcast .

In this article, we’re going to help you avoid some of the mistakes that cause the biggest problems when it comes to Google Ads. If you can avoid them, you may not need our help to get your campaign running at best practice for you! If you feel like you might already be at the point of no return with your Google Ads then maybe you should book a quick chat, we’re here to help.

When we sat down to create this podcast series, we did a bit of a brainstorm and came up with 31 mistakes before we realised that was going to be too many and decided on the top 15 mistakes that are made with Google Ads.

Read on to find out what they are – and how you can avoid them.

Too many keywords within an ad group makes it difficult to create your relevant ad text. It also makes it difficult to get the customer to the relevant landing pages. This results in poor quality scores, costs going up, and overall lower results, which obviously are not what we want.

The analogy here is that drawer, you know, the one underneath your utensils in your kitchen. It’s the drawer where you put stuff that you don’t know where to put. Extra pens and pencils, scissors, the random cutlery that you used once and probably should just throw in the bin. It’s the bits and pieces drawer. By putting in too many keywords you’re basically serving up the junk drawer to Google and saying, “Here you go. You sort it out.” Then people see your ad and they’re confused. And Google gets confused and then you get confused and you can’t get the answers you really need.

The key is to make your ads look like that first cutlery drawer in your kitchen. Neat and organised with clear ad groups for your keywords. For example, if you sell plantation shutters you could have Plantation Shutters, Plantation Shutters Sydney, and Plantation Shutters for sale all in the same ad group. What you don’t want to do is put roller blinds or awnings or roman blinds or even window coverings in that ad group. The key is to have all similar terms together.

You may find that you don’t really know anything about keywords. Here’s a great article we put together on how to create a keyword map. A little effort in the beginning could help you move forward much faster when creating content not only in Google Ads but other areas as well.

Conversion tracking can only be set up one of two ways. It’s either done correctly or it’s done incorrectly.

Conversion tracking put simply is the process of recording what leads you’re getting from the ads campaign. If you don’t set up conversion tracking or it’s set up incorrectly you won’t be able to figure out how well the campaign is performing. You’ll be attempting optimisations in the dark. Tracking allows you to know what you need to do to make your ads work better for you. And when you make optimisation changes whether those changes did what they are supposed to.

An analogy you could use for this situation could be dieting. If you’re dieting but you never weigh yourself, how do you know if the diet is working? You’re not measuring what it is you’re looking for. If you want to simply feel good, it won’t really matter. But if you want to lose weight, if you don’t weigh yourself, you don’t know that what you’re doing to achieve that goal is working.

In a campaign, you’ll be measuring phone calls or emails/form fills. You can set up call tracking or mobile clicks to call. Those two are the things you should be tracking. Tracking page views or clicks aren’t proper goal completions to be tracking! They can be good indicators of being found online but they’re NOT leads.

The campaign we talked about earlier was tracking page clicks/views and the data said that they were converting 250% which of course, isn’t accurate at all.

Google has three match types broad, phrase and exact and they all target differently. If you’ve got everything set to broad match it’s basically telling Google that you want everything that has anything to do with this term. You can end up with a lot of irrelevant searches coming through which means you’re wasting money. Making sure that you have relevant terms, not using broad match all the time (it’s ok every now and then) is important to ensure that most of the traffic you’re seeing on your ads is conversion able traffic.

If you sell shoes, you don’t necessarily want the phrase “shoes” in your ad, it’s too broad. You could try men’s shoes, but that also may be entirely too broad. It may be your best bet for your ads if you try men’s running shoes or men’s basketball shoes, men’s tennis shoes or men’s cross-trainers. If you get the right term and the right match type, you should be able to drill down to the very best search for your ads and Google won’t be meaninglessly spending your ad budget.

It’s simple – if you have too small a budget you won’t get any clicks.
Let’s say the cost per click is $5 – if your budget is only $5 per day it may take a very long time to get any clicks at all – AND you’re only able to get one click per day. (Which may not be a conversion at all.) If you have a budget large enough to get a larger volume of clicks, you’re more likely to get leads out of that quantity of clicks.

For example, if you get 100 clicks you might get 5 conversions. If you only get 10 clicks you might only get ½ a conversion. It’s really like throwing a rock in a pond rather than a rock in the ocean. When you’re putting your ad onto the worldwide web, you’re throwing a rock into a giant ocean. You’ve got to make a big enough splash to get results.

The question is, for a small or medium business where would you start? Our advice is that $30 a day or $900 a month is a good benchmark to get started. In most industries that will give you enough impact to get some leads. After that, you can scale it up. The best part is that you can make sure it’s working before you invest more money.

Negative Keywords are words you DON’T want to show for. Sometimes you may find terms that have similar meanings to the words you DO want. If you use negative keywords, they will help ensure that you only get searches for the relevant keywords you want to be searched for. If you make sure negative keywords are in there, they will exclude what you don’t want.
Google will serve that term to everyone. It’s like going to McDonald’s and ordering a cheeseburger, they’re going to give you pickles! If you don’t want the pickles, then you have to say you don’t want the pickles and it’s the same with Google.
An example is a client we have had in the past sold awnings. We used a single word keyword to begin with “awnings”. Now, this client sells awnings for houses, but we were getting a lot of clicks for caravan awnings, which the client does not sell. Putting caravan as a negative keyword then stopped those clicks coming through and saved the client money.

Send your potential customer to the MOST RELEVANT page for their search. If you don’t – they’ll bounce. If they’ve searched for awnings, you want to send them to your awnings page, not your home page that says “we sell awnings” they won’t search any further. The customer just wants awnings, so send them to awnings.
Have you ever been in a building you’re not familiar with and asked someone where the bathroom is and they say, “It’s just down that hallway.” But the bathroom is not actually in that hallway… you need to take another few turns. You could potentially still find the bathroom but it’s going to take you more thought and effort than you thought it would. It’s the same when people are on the internet. When they’re clicking on something, they want it now. If they click on your ad, and they take your money, and they’re on your website and you’ve sent them to a page where they have to click again or another two times, you’ll find that they’re just as likely to click the back button, head back to Google and search for a more direct route. Send them directly to the page they want.
We implemented custom landing pages for a client a few years ago and overnight saw a four times increase in leads. With a better landing page experience always comes an increase in results.

Google gives you a couple of options. You can use manual CPC bidding and you will set your bidding for each term, or you can use automated bidding which is all about machine learning. Over time Google has learned a lot about the types of bids for specific terms. If you use automated bidding, you will free up a lot of time which could be taken up setting manual bidding on each term to complete other tasks. Using manual bidding is a waste of time that could be used in other areas as automated bidding will tend to also get you better results much faster.

Take advantage of machine learning. Google has spent all this time learning about the demographic of your customer and YOUR demographic also. It takes ALL your data across all different attributes such as the keyword and if you’re logged in to Google, your preferences, what you’re into and your search behaviour, it knows your age (your demographic) and your location, what device you’re on, and the browser you’re using… ALL of these go into the mix for Google to find you leads. Doing that manually means you’ve set yourself an impossible task.

Manual bidding is like cutting your lawn with a pair of scissors – it’s just too much work and you’re going to get an inferior result. With all the time you’ll be saving maybe consider making your landing pages better on your website or improving the quality of your ads, and maybe even create some split tests or experiments to improve your results even further!

We haven’t used manual bidding for over five years. The results speak for themselves. We recently decided to do a manual bidding test and set it all up. The automated bidding returned FIVE TIMES the results so you can see it really is doing its job.

Being number one might seem like the right thing in almost every case… BUT it doesn’t always bring you the best results. Google’s machine learning covers things here as well. Machine learning will learn what position is best for each user. If it doesn’t think the user is going to click through and become a sale it won’t show your Ad in position one every time.
If you allow the automated bidding to do its job, you will end up in the best position for the user’s intent each time your keyword is searched. That may not be position one.
You can think about it like an auction. It’s not that hard to be the highest bidder at any auction. All you have to do is offer a lot more than the item is worth. Let’s say you’re bidding on a house. The property has a value of $1,000,000. You could offer $1.5 million and be the top bidder, but you may have overpaid by ½ a million dollars. With Google Ads you can do the same thing, overpay and overpay and overpay. Google won’t tell you you’re overpaying and at the end of the month you’re left with less leads and an expensive Ad run.
Regardless of the position your Ad is in you have just as much opportunity to be the one a user clicks on when you’re in the mix of those first few ads. Your return on investment will also be potentially higher because you won’t have paid top dollar simply to be in position one.

Extensions expand your Ad. They make your ad bigger; you’ll be taking up more Ad Real Estate and you’ll be more noticeable.
Google gives Ads that use extensions preference. If you’re not using them and a competitor is, Google will prefer their Ad over yours. As extensions allow the Ad to give more information it offers a better experience for the user and Google will see that as a more positive Ad to offer.
Perhaps you own a business that needs signage out the front. If you’re offered a small sign for $1000 and a large sign for the same price, it’s an easy decision, you’ll go for the large sign. It’s the same with Google Ads. You’re offered extensions for the same price – the point is you should always use them.
We always use:
Phone Extensions – adds your phone number
Call-out extensions – free shipping etc…
Structured Snippets – more information about brand or services
Site links – add more information about pages on the website
Location – links to Google My Business – if someone is within a certain Km reach the Ad will show your address to the user

There are two parts to this mistake being made.
If you’re in Sydney, you want to target Sydney. If you’re only servicing the Sydney area then you don’t want to target NSW, you’ll only be getting a higher number of irrelevant searches. It will be the wrong audience.
If you go a little deeper into Location Targeting, you will find an option that allows you to target either people who are interested in your area or only people who are IN that location. The default is usually set to people who are interested – if you don’t change that location targeting default you might get someone who has holidayed in Sydney or done some research on Sydney, but they might live in Melbourne. They’re going to see your Ad because Google thinks that’s what they’re interested in, and you haven’t changed that setting.
This is where it’s very important to not only get your location set right but be sure that the setting is set to the right thing as well.
It’s simple – you don’t want to advertise your Sydney based pie shop in Melbourne.

Results take time. Regular optimisations are required. You have to allow time for your Ad to start generating results to be able to make the optimisations needed for it to start performing at its best. With Google Ads, you need to give the Ads at least 3-6 months to be able to decide that the Ad is working and getting good results. Of course, you continue to optimise as you see what’s working and results will also continue to improve.
Have a 12-month view with both your mindset and your budget. Marketing is not the same as engineering, you don’t just build a car and then drive it. In marketing you deal with people. Technology, yes, but mostly people. And there are all sorts of reasons people choose different things at different times.

Let’s say you’ve got an Ad campaign that’s been running for two weeks, and nothing looks to be happening. If you go ahead and change five or six things in that campaign, you won’t know what’s working and what isn’t. If you change all those things and it causes the Ad to tank you won’t know what it was that WAS working.
The process we follow is to look at the account, figure out what’s wrong, come up with a hypothesis, look at the data, make a plan, review and repeat. And keep going through that process. Find a problem, fix it, and see if it works, if it hasn’t then you try something else. Following this process means you will get better results over time.
Optimise ONE thing at a time. Use structure and a scientific approach.

When you’re choosing your keywords and writing your ads you need to be careful because of how tricky the English language can be. There are terms out there that can be the same term (or keyword) and have different meanings or intents.
If you have one of those terms in your ad but the ad isn’t specific enough, you’re going to get a lot of irrelevant traffic. Being specific in your ad writing and staying away from those broad terms is how you’ll get the best, most relevant traffic to your site. If you have one of those terms that could potentially have multiple meanings – it’s worth checking into the term and working out if it’s necessary for your ad or if there might be a term that’s just as relevant, maybe even more specific to you, that won’t be a potential roadblock.
For example, let’s have a look at the term house painting. You could be looking for a company to paint the house, you could also be looking for a painting FOR a house, you could be looking for a painting OF a house, or you might be looking for instructions on HOW to paint a house… that’s four different ways this term could be interpreted. Now, if you’re a company that paints houses – you won’t want someone clicking on your ad that is looking for a painting of a house! That’s where your Google Ads budget will literally be tipping down the drain. In this case you would ad an extra keyword and the term would be house painting company. This means the intent would be much clearer and the likelihood of irrelevant clicks would decrease.
Think about the intent of the person doing the searching. Go a little deeper and really put yourself in the customers’ shoes to work out what they will be looking for. It can be difficult as a business owner to get out of that mindset and into the mindset of the customer, but if you can do it you’ll find yourself more successful with your campaigns.
For a simple test you can put your keyword into Google. Look at the results – if you find a lot of results that aren’t relevant to you and your business then you know that you need to try another keyword.

This one isn’t only for Google Ads, it relates to all areas of marketing, but for the topic we’re discussing here we’re going to stick with Google Ads.
The purpose of Google Ads generally is to bring in leads, that’s why most businesses advertise. But we find clients come to us with the question: “Why aren’t we getting more traffic to our website?” Getting lots of people to your site doesn’t automatically mean they are the right people getting to your site. This is where we focus on getting the leads that you need to the site. It may mean less traffic but the ratio of lead conversions to visitors will be higher because you’re targeting the right people.
It doesn’t matter so much what position your Ad is in when the results arrive on the page IF you’re getting good conversion rates on your Ad. If your cost per lead has dropped, you’re winning on both fronts – the position of the Ad doesn’t matter because you’re spending less money and still bringing in the leads.

If someone contacts you – they want you to contact them! They’re interested in what you’ve got. Don’t spend your money on marketing if you’re going to let leads sit in your inbox.
We’ve seen so many times where clients have good leads but haven’t put any thought into a sales process. One of our clients even said that they don’t really want to speak to people. Being in business requires us to not only find the leads but then have a process to connect with those leads, take them on a discovery journey and ultimately, get them to buy your product or service. The work to do that is after the marketing.

BONUS TIP

16: I can’t see my Ads

Many clients we’ve had have come to us to say, “I can’t see my Ads.”
Here’s why. We’ve spent the entire process targeting your customers. Because you are your own business – you are NOT your target market. When the campaign first starts the Google algorithm doesn’t know that. You could type in a keyword and see your Ad. Very smartly you won’t click on your Ad because that will cost you money and you don’t want to waste your budget on yourself. So, Google very quickly learns that you are not your customer and the next week when you go and type in your keyword your Ad won’t show up. You’ve trained Google not to show you your Ads. You don’t want Google to show people like you your Ads because you’re not a customer.

If you work with someone like us – we can show you the data. Your Ads ARE running. You are just not your customer.

If you want to find out more head over to www.theonlineco.net where you can do an on-demand course on Google Ads or find a whole lot of articles on our blog that might give you some insight. If you’re looking for help with your overall digital marketing we have a Digital Marketing Playbook process where we set up a 12 month plan for your marketing. Book a quick chat with us!

Heidi Cridland
Heidi Cridland
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