Anyone who’s spent more than a little time in paid search can share a few horror stories of accounts that are in horrendous shape. Those PPC disasters can range from  the small business owner who sells Flag Poles and spent $100,000 in 6 months advertising on Stripper Poles (true story) to the children’s clothing store who unintentionally advertised with headlines of “Babies For Sale Online” (also a true story). These tales can be hard to believe, but mistakes like this are still very common. Here are a few errors that I run into frequently while browsing the web that aren’t your average ‘broad match running wild’ or the common Dynamic Keyword Insertion (DKI) that is set up incorrectly.


Not a Broad Match Problem, But Still Irrelevant

Even if you have a tight-knit match type strategy and you are only using a handful of broad match keywords, it’s still essential to run through your search query report and mine for negatives on a bi-weekly basis. For example, did you know that the word “bleach” can refer to a hugely popular Anime series? I didn’t either.

Take a look at this query and the irrelevant ad below for personal checks:


The harder part here is adding a negative keyword that won’t cut off the relevant traffic that we do want. Adding “checking for breast cancer” as an exact or phrase match negative (personal preference) will eliminate this particular query from appearing again, but you’ll still have to monitor for irrelevant variations that pop up.


Are You Being Crushed by Competition?

How are you measuring up to the competition? Are you the only ad on the SERP not offering Free Shipping, or are you stating your air filter is $125 and everyone else is offering the same thing for $60? If you aren’t price competitive, that’s not something you want to highlight in your ad copy.


Don’t forget to take a step back and take a look at what your customers are seeing. A competitive analysis is an important part of running a successful PPC campaign that often gets neglected.  


Are You Inadvertently Cutting Off Potential Conversions?

Men’s shoes, snow shoes, kids shoes…what does this searcher below really want? Who knows, but it’s not necessarily women’s shoes:


Serving very relevant and targeted ad copy is a PPC golden rule – on the flip side, you can actually be too targeted. Unless your strategy is to qualify your audience, you need to make sure that you’re not limiting yourself or cutting off potential customers by being too specific. In the example above, some broader ad copy and alternative Sitelinks could be worth testing.


Are You Not Even Putting Yourself in the Game?

So you’ve put in the leg work and you’ve built out granular ad groups: you’ve got yourself a “Brand Purses” ad group and a “Brand Watches” ad group, etc. However, when someone conducts a search for a “Brand Purse” query, your “Brand Watch” piece of ad copy appears. What happened? This is what we at Metric Theory call a flow of traffic issue.


Not only are you hurting your chance of winning this click, but you already have a better piece of ad copy that would crush it here. Aside from that, you’re hurting your conversion rates and probably seeing some pretty high bounce-rates because you are taking this user to a page full of watches, not purses. This can easily be prevented by making sure you’re filtering traffic to the most relevant ad group by using negative keywords to sculpt traffic, and also keeping an eye on any broad match that could cause this type of ad group competition.

Hopefully these were insightful examples, and give you a few pitfalls to look out for. I find it helpful to occasionally run through a quick external audit and take a look at the forward-facing aspects of your campaigns. This can turn up both red flags and missed opportunities. After all, you really don’t want to end up like these guys…