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5 Bad Habits That Waste Your Paid Search Budget

Nobody likes to waste money. But when you’re doing PPC advertising it’s really easy to do.

Fortunately, there are a lot of tools that help minimize the losses. Google and Bing routinely release features that help to reduce wasted ad spend, and our own bid and budget management tools can decrease cost per click by 10% or more.

Despite those advantages, there are some structural mistakes advertisers make that the algorithms can’t fix (yet). So take a look at these common pay per click bad habits. Hopefully, you haven’t fallen into any of them. But if you have, it’s time to fix them – fast.

1. You’re Either Ignoring or Always Following the Suggestions From Google Ads’.

When Google Ads suggests you should do or change something in your account, do you just make the change or take the action it recommends? Or do you ignore the recommendation? Or do you evaluate it based on your campaigns’ performance?

Simply ignoring the recommendation isn’t a good idea. Nor is blindly following it. This is because some of the suggestions the algorithm makes are good, and some (like adding 5,000 broad-match keywords to your account) aren’t so good.

As Brad Geddes says in our Digital Marketing & PPC Predictions 2019 AdVent calendar,

“So far we’ve seen three camps of users: Those who blindly accept the machines, those who totally ignore the machine, and those who think a little bit about the recommendation and then choose based on what sounds logical.”

So you’re not off the hook just because the algorithm is there. In fact, you just got a promotion: Now you’re the machine’s boss. You have to evaluate each suggestion to be sure it’s actually a good idea. Because the machine is your assistant. It’s not smart to just blindly do (or not do) what it suggests.

As Geddes also says, “Never forget to use your brain, as that’s your ultimate marketing tool.”

2. You Aren’t Doing Competitive Research on a Regular Basis.

Competitors can have a huge effect on campaign performance. In fact, the next time you see a significant shift in your campaigns, go check the SERPs and see if you’ve got a new competitor.

Of course, to know you’ve got a new competitor, you have to have been tracking the search results…

There are plenty of tools that let you do this sort of competitive analysis. If you aren’t using one (or you aren’t at least manually checking which ads are running on your primary keywords/audiences) then you’re definitely missing out on some performance gains.

See Chandal Nolasco Da Silva’s blog post, How to Analyze & Capitalize on Competitive PPC Analysis in the Age of AI, for a deep dive into how to do competitive research.

3. You Aren’t Optimizing Negative Keywords.

Adding negative keywords can save you a ton of money and dramatically reduce wasted ad spend. These are keywords you can add at the campaign or ad group level so your ads don’t show when someone searches for them. By preventing your ads to be shown for irrelevant searches, you can increase click-through rates and conversion rates. And that, in turn, saves ad budget.

You can just brainstorm your own negative keywords list, or you can run a “Search Terms” report and see all the terms your ads are showing for. If you’ve never done it before, brace yourself… you may be a little embarrassed and dismayed by how many unrelated search phrases your ads have been appearing for. And if you haven’t run a Search Terms report in the last month or so… add that to your to-do list.

To learn more about how to run and use Search Terms reports, see this post.

4. You Aren’t Checking on Text Ad Copy Tests or Disabling All Underperforming Text Ads.

If you’re a one-person marketing team (or you’ve just got a crazy workload), it’s really easy to let your Google Ads and Bing Ads text ads slide. Sure, you know you should go check those ads every week (and at least every month) to see which ones are underperforming… but you’ve got deadlines… and a demanding boss. And…

Too many excuses.

Tough love aside, we sympathize with how daunting it may be to go in and manage every single ad in your campaign. So until you’ve freed up the time to do that (or found the budget to hire somebody to do it for you), cheat.

Yup: Cheat. 80/20 this problem away.

80/20 refers to the Pareto Principle, which is basically that in a typical system (anything from PPC accounts, to the clothes you wear, to city traffic flows) 20% of the inputs tend to result in 80% of the outcomes.

In other words, some of the things you do have outsized effects. This works in PPC ad copy optimization because you probably have just a few ad groups that are responsible for most of your ad spend – and much of your wasted budget.

So instead of going in and managing the ad copy for every single ad group, sort your ad groups according to spend. Fix the ad copy in the top-spending ad groups first. This doesn’t have to take much time – simply checking the ads for one ad group can be done in 10 minutes. Add five minutes to write a new ad (or to snitch a phrase or two from one of your competitors) and you’re done.

Work your way down through the ad groups as best you can. And if you really can’t get to some ad groups, and they really are accruing a lot of spend and potentially a lot of wasted ad spend, speak up: Tell your boss what’s going on.

Quantify what you think you may be losing in budget so your boss understands that you not being able to optimize those ads is costing $X per month. That may be enough for them to agree to get you some help, or enough for them to stop burying you in work so you can go manage the PPC accounts better.

This 80/20 strategy can often be applied to other routine PPC campaign management tasks, like keyword research, adding negative keywords, optimizing audiences, creating dedicated landing pages and other good deeds.

5. You Aren’t Participating In PPC Continuing Ed.

Do you make it a habit to learn something new about PPC every week? You should. We all should. PPC is a complex thing, and it’s evolving all the time.

So try to shift your daily habits more towards PPC education. Google, of course, has crazy comprehensive training resources in their Google Academy for Ads. And there are a slew of great webinars put on by tools like SEMRush and others. Or listen to a podcast once a week on your way to work.

All of us digital marketers need some continuing ed. This is the ideal industry for anyone who loves to learn new things.

Back to You

What are your PPC bad habits – or the worst habits you see other PPC marketers fall prey to? Leave a comment and tell us about them. And if you can, explain how to break them.


Image Credits

Feature Image: UnsplashSharon McCutcheon

Pam Neely

Pam Neely

Pam Neely has been in digital marketing for 20 years. She's a serial entrepreneur and content marketing enthusiast with a background in publishing and journalism, including a New York Press Award and a Hermes Creative Award for blogging. She has a Master's Degree in Direct and Interactive Marketing from New York University. Follow her on Twitter @pamellaneely.

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