17 Most Common PPC Mistakes Web Marketers Make

As I manage quite a few PPC campaigns I always notice the silly and sometimes not so silly mistakes that advertisers make with their PPC programs. Mistakes when creating PPC ads, click fraud detection, and lack of testing are just a few of them. Fixing each of these mistakes could mean an extra 70% of revenue or a savings of thousands of dollars every month.

Below is a list (we all love those lists don’t we?) of the most common mistakes marketers make with their paid search (PPC) advertising campaigns.

1. Bidding Broad – It’s important to not be lazy when setting up that campaign of yours. Every industry has their giant keywords that bring the most traffic but there are many more variation of keywords that are being searched. The more you focus on the “long tail keywords”, the less you’re going to pay per click. Furthermore, your ads will be ranked higher if the keyword is closer matched. Take your 100 keywords and make them into 200 by just looking at your own web statistics for exact keyword variations people use to search for your product.

2. Fighting for #1 Spot – Most of the time (from my experience), being #1 ad in paid search results is not the brightest strategy, especially if you’re paying a lot per click and the keyword is broad. I found that one of THE best ranks in paid search is being #3 (top left side for Google). Look, most people do research before they buy online. Being #1 could mean that you’ll attract visitors who might have not used the right keyword for their search or ones that are just starting their research and thus … you’ll be remembered last when they are ready to buy.

3. Avoiding Geo-targeting – Even if what you sell works all over US or world, people are still more keen on using a local provider or at least a company that recognizes “their state”. It’s just a psychological thing. Google and other search engines allow you to geo-target your PPC ads by state. Create 50 ads and drop in the state name inside the ad. You will surely get a higher click through rate (CTR) and thus a lower CPC. Furthermore … right from the start, your visitor will know that you “recognize” their location.

4. Losing Relevance on Landing Page – Whatever you say in your ad … repeat it on the landing page where you’re taking the visitor! If you are advertising an 80% sale in your ad, you can be sure that people are looking for it when they land on your landing page. If they don’t see it … they leave. It’s kind of like a scent they pick up on when they read your PPC ad and look for when they land on a page you take them to.

5. Getting Rid of Fraud Networks – Every paid search engine, be it Google, Yahoo, MSN, etc, has a network to which they distribute your ads. Unfortunately, many of these networks are fraudulent and do not refer quality traffic. Look into your web statistics and find domain names that bring you traffic with a high bounce rate. Usually it will be around 90%. Google allows you to drop these domains into a “negative excluded sites” folder while Yahoo and others make you call them to address the problem. Doing this will prevent you from paying for garbage traffic.

6. Being Boring – I still see marketers go online, search for a keyword, look at the advertisers (competition) and create ads to fit in with the “community”. Silly right? Unfortunately, very true. Anytime you create a paid ad you MUST look at what is already being said by the advertisers and come up with something unique and yet relevant. It’s a tough one but you have to identify what is unique about you and why people should buy from you. Just make sure that it’s what your target market wants and cares about.

7. Using Telephone Numbers – Using a telephone number within your PPC ad is an eye catcher … that’s all. Not many people will pick up their phone and dial your number if they see your ad. So what you’re doing is just wasting space that can be used for a good message. Tests have been done and this was proven quite a few times … get rid of that phone number in the ad.

8. Not Bidding for Your Name – If your competition is targeting your company name as a keyword I’d suggest taking legal actions (if applicable). In our company we send out those legal letters at least every other month to a competitor. If you’re in a different situation … bidding for your keywords will mean more traffic and another real estate space devoted to you on that search results page. I’d even bid for the company name if there were no competitors at all. You will pay around 0.05 to 0.10 cents per click and see the amount of searches (impressions) that are done for your brand name. A little of extra statistics that shows you the possible growth of your company.

9. Lack of Affiliate Control – The company name is usually the highest converting keyword. Your affiliates know this and advertise under your company’s name in paid search. What happens is that not only do you now have to pay your affiliate for the sale “they” brought in, but you’ve already paid your due with your own advertising methods for that customer to know your name before the search. Be sure to prevent your affiliates advertising in paid search for your company’s name. All they are doing there is collecting the cash from your own advertising.

10. Not Separating Content Match from Search Results – This is a mistake 101. Yes it takes time, but any campaign should separate their regular search advertising from content match. This will allow you to get better reporting, set different cost per click, different budget and overall have a cleaner look at both of these campaigns. Just separate into 2 campaigns. Both will have same keywords but one campaign will be created only for “search” and the other one for “content match”.

11. Ignoring the Seasonal Copy – It works. Including a seasonal discount or a “holiday special” in your ad copy is a great way to increase your CTR and get more sales. Furthermore, your ad will clearly stand out from the rest. Make it a Christmas special, Spring special, Summer blow out, etc. Make it relevant to “today”.

12. Lack of “Exact Tracking” – You must be able to track every visit to your site from PPC advertising by the exact keyword, campaign and ad group used. To do so you can set variables (yourcompany.com/?keyword) or integrate your PPC campaigns with your website analytics software. This is the only way you can really calculate the effectiveness of every keyword you use to get traffic.

13. Paying for Negative Keywords – Google and other search engines allow you to report keywords for which your ads should not be shown. If you’re paying for “broad match” keywords, you’ll see a lot of visits from people who’ve typed your keyword with a word “free” or “stock” or “jobs”. Do you want to pay money for visitors who’re looking to pay $0 for what you sell? Do you want to pay money for visitors who are researching stock info on what you sell? Be sure to use that “negative keyword folder” to get rid of these worthless clicks.

14. Mistaking CTR with conversion rate when testing ads – We love to test and that’s great, but what should marketers look for when choosing which ads to keep and which to delete? Looking only at the CTR (click through rate) is a false indication of a better performing ad. If you add a word “FREE” to your ad, you’ll see a jump in your CTR but what good will it do?

15. Not Using Keywords in Ad Copy – This is a simple one. Put keywords into your ad copy for which you are serving the ad. Not only will your ad be more relevant but the keywords in it are going to be bold.

16. Not Calling Google – Ok, I am not a fan of being a “rat” or telling on someone, but my friend … when it comes to business and playing fair, you have every right to raise a flag when you see a competitor engaging in bad techniques. You’ll notice some of your competitors creating multiple accounts and having 2 ads simultaneously on the Google PPC results page. Google has a policy against this. Call Google and let them know if your competitor is doing anything that’s against the rules of the search engine. You’ll be amazed how quickly they take care of the problem.

17. Avoiding Brand Name Keywords – It is unfortunate, but many companies do not take advantage of their competitors. How do you do this? Bid on their brand / company name. Think about it … anyone searching for your competitor could easily be your customer instead. Why not have your ad show up under that keywords? What if they are still shopping around? What if they are searching for your competitor’s name because they saw their TV or radio ad. Bottom line is, bid on your competitor’s brand names. Most of the time the ROI on those keywords is excellent. If you get a “legal letter” from the competitors and it holds water, I’d suggest comply with it.

Other related and helpful articles about PPC mistakes

Avoiding Search Hobgoblins

10 Worst AdWords Campaign Mistakes

The Pay Per Click Mistakes of a New Marketer

32 Comment(s)

  1. Very well put together post. Great point about the negative keywords.

    Seth | Jan 3, 2007 | Reply

  2. Hi Igor,

    Very helpful post. I like it because it is so specific — not the usual generalities that don’t really help.


    Anita Campbell | Jan 3, 2007 | Reply

  3. Thanks for the link to our “hobgoblins” article.

    Your readers might also want to check out our audit piece here:

    Or a DMA presentation on how the Sharper Image buffed up their PPC campaigns here:



    Alan Rimm-Kaufman | Jan 3, 2007 | Reply

  4. Thanks Anita,

    It’s quite difficult sometimes to keep it short and yet specific.

    Thanks for commenting.


    Seth … I am sure when you guys take on a new project many of your clients don’t even know that this “negative keywords” option exists.

    Igor Mordkovich | Jan 3, 2007 | Reply

  5. This is a great checklist for anyone doing PPC. It’s easy to forget any one of these details, especially for beginners.

    I especially like the “treat content and search” differently tip. G & Y make a ton of money on that.

    markus941 | Jan 3, 2007 | Reply

  6. Very complete and organized. This is one of the best PPC posts I’ve seen. Thank you for taking the time to pull it together. I really liked #8 & 17 and made reference to it today in my post.
    Thanks again!

    Chris Brown | Jan 4, 2007 | Reply

  7. Markus …. “G & Y make a ton of money on that” you’re right about that.


    Chris, thanks for the kind words. For many people today, #8 still does not make sense (unfortunately).

    Igor Mordkovich | Jan 4, 2007 | Reply

  8. 9. Lack of Affiliate Control – Be careful to avoid the ego trap of forcing your affiliates from bidding on your trade mark but letting your competition in instead. It is better to let your affiliates bid your trademark but keep you in #1 position thus forcing your competition out.

    Chuck Hamrick | Jan 4, 2007 | Reply

  9. Chuck, that’s a great point …. IF a company has their competitors bidding for their name.

    Most companies I work with have a trademark in place that allows them to go “legal” after anyone who is bidding on their company’s name. A quick letter from the attorney takes care of this.

    In the case where no legal action can be taken and Google won’t protect (they do have that trademark form available), having your affiliates take up all the space is a great strategy.

    Igor Mordkovich | Jan 4, 2007 | Reply

  10. Great tips! Here’s the one I need most:

    5. Getting Rid of Fraud Networks

    It’s so annoying that my very niche-specific ad shows up on some worthless sites. I just end up getting curiosity clicks, as opposed to people who are really in my target market (holistic businesses.)

    I didn’t know I could tweak that within Google. Though I avoid their interface so much that I seldom log in anymore. That’s probably a whole other tip: Avoiding the Interface & Not Updating Your Ads/Keywords. : )

    Jaya Schillinger | Jan 4, 2007 | Reply

  11. Thanks Igor! I don’t know much about PPC so it was a very useful post to read. I added a post telling my blog readers about your list. Good stuff.

    eoecho | Greg Magnus | Jan 4, 2007 | Reply

  12. Jaya … thanks for commenting. “Avoiding the Interface & Not Updating Your Ads/Keywords.” could easily be #18 :-)


    Greg … glad you enjoyed the post. Thanks for linking.

    Igor Mordkovich | Jan 4, 2007 | Reply

  13. Hey … just wanted you to know that I found your blog very informative. I have to admit that I am a novice when it comes to the “Internet Marketing Game.” I’ve used Google – as well as AdBrite – on and off for the past couple of months, and at times I’ve been frustrated with what I could call less than stellar results / fraudulant clicks. In short, I appreciate the information in your blog as it will help me improve my marketing campaigns.

    Several months ago, I used AdBrite. All told, I spent a little over $1000 – it was spread out among a bunch of different channels, as I was trying to test the waters to see what gave me the best results. Overall, I was very disapointed. I felt as if 9 out of 10 “channels” where nothing but fronts for “click fraud.” (This was due to my results / conversions when compared to how many “visitors” these channels generated. Second, it was kind of curious how all of a sudden I would have a spike in visitors from a particular location in either Vietnam or the Philipines.) All told, there were only 2 channels that I would have done a second marketing campaign with – per return on investment. Subsequently, I gave Google Adwords a shot. I tested out the waters by only spending $5-$10 a day so that I could tract visitors / conversions. In short, I have been disappointed with my conversion ratio via the “Content Network” (where Google ads run on Blogs, etc.), however, I’ve been less skeptical about ads run on Google Search itself, and those are the only ads I have running at present.

    David Ezra | Jan 4, 2007 | Reply

  14. Again, you bring your A game when writng this list. Short and sweet but mostly informative. I always learn from you and have already implemented some of your suggestions. My favorite, #14, it is all about conversions.

    David Temple | Jan 4, 2007 | Reply

  15. David … you’re too kind.

    #14 is very, very common. People forget to dig deeper and look at the conversion rate. Instead all they look at is CTR. Then the budget skyrockets and revenue doesn’t.

    Igor Mordkovich | Jan 4, 2007 | Reply

  16. Very strong post. This a great list to refer to.

    Blake P. | Jan 4, 2007 | Reply

  17. Hello, My son did a search for Netflix, and Blockbuster showed up in the paid results. I noticed the same thing once when searching on Nordstroms, Macys came up in the paid search… Your #8 sounds like that is a big no no! I am curious what your thought is on this. Great Post! Thanks. Andy

    Andy P | Jan 4, 2007 | Reply

  18. Excellent post. Always enjoy the read. I ran into problem #16 and bit the bullet. Amazing how easily things were handled.

    Rugjeff | Jan 4, 2007 | Reply

  19. Igor, Just found your site, great post. Whats your feed subscriber count up to already?

    J.R. | Jan 5, 2007 | Reply

  20. Andy … thanks for commenting.

    What your son saw is perfectly normal. Google, unlike Yahoo allows their advertisers to bid on possibly trademarked names.

    This whole issue now goes back to the “legal” field. From my experience, we’ve been able to get rid of every competitor trying to advertise for our company’s trademarked name. It’s just that some companies choose to fight it and some don’t.

    By the way … if you do a search for Nordstrom right now … there are no paid search ads to be seen. Looks like they have addressed this issue.

    Igor Mordkovich | Jan 5, 2007 | Reply

  21. Rugjeff, thanks for commenting.

    Google usually let’s you get away with this the first time (as if you didn’t know and now you know…) but if they catch advertisers doing this again you have a chance of getting your account closed.


    Thanks J.R. for the good words.

    Igor Mordkovich | Jan 5, 2007 | Reply

  22. I haven’t been into PPC yet… I think this list really makes wonderful sense! I think being able to advertise well and having an ad that stands out among others is an art! 😛

    Kian Ann | Jan 6, 2007 | Reply

  23. Good articles written.

    PPC advertising this days are getting more and more challening in term of cost wise. For me I am looking more for viral marketing and other mean of traffic generation and not depend one PPC traffic generation method.

    John Tan

    John | Jan 6, 2007 | Reply

  24. John, thanks for commenting.

    It never is a good strategy to fully rely on one means of traffic, be it PPC, SEO or any other form of it.

    For many, PPC is a dead end road, but for others it’s their 90% revenue generator. It all depends on the industry, product and competition.

    Igor Mordkovich | Jan 6, 2007 | Reply

  25. This is a great post for anyone who is into PPC or just starting out for that matter. Linking to this post.

    Leonard | Jan 7, 2007 | Reply

  26. Never read such an interesting PPC management article for some time now.

    Natural writing, wrote word by word, empowering readers with quality advice about their PPC campaigns.

    Good job.

    Cristian Mezei | Oct 14, 2007 | Reply

  27. Ahm..about putting telephone numbers, I am also asking my self about that. Many people usually put contact number wherein most of the time it is something not given value by people. They prefer to just visit websites.

    Richard Butler | Mar 18, 2008 | Reply

  28. Igor,

    What a breath of fresh air and spot on.

    As a Realtor, I find it difficult, to say the least, to run PPC campaigns and SEO and the multiplicity of marketing efforts one needs/wants to build a business but nonetheless, this is the world we all live in and therefore “reliance” on one campaign or another is akin to going a long distance on a unicycle, it works, but only until your are exhausted.

    Eric Pointer
    Ann Arbor Real Estate

    Eric Pointer | Ann Arbor Real Estate | Oct 17, 2008 | Reply

  29. In the first year of marketing, I must have spent at least $1,800 and made about $600 back on it. It didn’t take me long to find something else instead of giving Google all that money. I prefer article marketing.

    James A

    James Anderson | Jul 29, 2010 | Reply

  30. There are some pretty great tips, I had no idea the #3 spot in adwords might actually leave me better off. I’ve already started making my keywords more specific.

    Mike Johnson - Realtor | Aug 13, 2010 | Reply

  31. Thanks,

    This is a great article and a great website. I liked it very much. It will help me to optimise my websites in europe. I have website in travel and that meens a lot of seo work !!

    Thanks a lot and greetings,

    Dave and Carol
    Seo and Travel Website in Europe, France

    gite | Aug 28, 2010 | Reply

  32. This article is a little dated, but still has valuable information. I haven’t had much success with PPC campaigns, but trying to learn a little before trying it again. Thanks for the useful info!

    Sacramento Bridal Photography | Oct 21, 2010 | Reply

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