We’ve talked before about the challenge business owners have to get their website showing up in Google’s search results. The bad news is that it’s not getting any easier. More and more of your competitors are finally getting around to getting online, which means website owners will have to work a little harder to make sure they stay visible.

One effective way to let people know you exist online is Google Adwords. This ad service makes Google around $72 billion dollars a year (based on estimated 2017 earnings) so it’s really important to Google they make it work for advertisers. There have been a lot of updates over the years to make ads more clickable, including making them look more like organic (regular) search results or remarketing (where specific advertisers start following you around the internet).

If you want to promote your business it’s worth looking into – but there are some traps you should know about. Based on our experience over the years here are five common (expensive) mistakes a lot of businesses make when using Google advertising.

Five big mistakes when using Google AdWords

1 – Not having a plan

It sounds simple enough but you’d be surprised the number of people who dive right into AdWords without much clue about how it’s all going to work. Of course, Google doesn’t mind – they just make it super easy to enter your credit card details and hit the go button. If you’re that free and easy with spending money then maybe you should get into bitcoin.

Before you jump in with all your billing details at the ready, stop! Sit down with a pen and paper, and make notes about how much you want to spend and what outcomes you want. Who do you want to advertise to (target audience – where do they live, what are they interested in, what will make them buy your product or service), what do you want to advertise (your most profitable product or a loss leader), your overall sales process (from click to completion) and your maximum daily spend, or monthly budget.

Be specific with your planning – one of the advantages of digital advertising is that you can be very granular with how you segment your advertising. Unlike traditional advertising (see our comparison with digital) which is more of a ‘spray and pray’ approach, you can be very targeted with AdWords, to the point of chasing individuals who have visited your website all around the internet (Google has recently allowed people to stop these ads from following them – probably because a lot of advertisers didn’t put impression limits on their remarketing campaigns).

After you’ve drafted up your plan discuss it with a professional and get their opinion. We can do this for you, and give advice based on years of experience managing accounts for both small and large businesses.

2 – Not limiting ad spend

This is probably one of the most dangerous traps for rookies – just accepting the defaults, or recommended budget, without thinking it through, or monitoring it in the early stages – can be a horribly expensive mistake to make (and sometimes puts advertisers off for life).

While setting a daily budget is important, it’s also important to understand that Google takes this as a guideline. Daily budgets can be exceeded (by up to 100%) to meet other campaign targets. This is known as overdelivery – however Google promises to not exceed your daily spend (x 30.4) in any given month, so spend will be reduced on other days to meet the requested budget.

The other part of budgeting is thinking about a limit for individual keyword spend. The cost per click (CPC) of some keywords, especially if a lot of advertisers are targeting it, can be very high (e.g. $60 per click) so it might make sense, if you are in a competitive industry, to set a max CPC on popular keywords. Having said that Google will not show your ad for any keywords where your daily budget is below the expected bid. It does mean, however, that your total daily budget could be used up in a single click if you haven’t set a maximum CPC.

3 – Not using tracking

Before you start any campaign you should have the relevant tracking in place – specifically this means Google Analytics (GA), and ideally the Google Search Console as well. We have seen a lot of advertisers who have no idea what happened to someone who clicked on their ad; which means they don’t have a clue if they’re bidding on the right keywords, if their ads need to be rewritten or they need to change their website.

Your GA account should be linked to your AdWords account (we take care of all of this when setting up your advertising). Part of setting up tracking includes creating conversion goals. A conversion goal is an event that happens on your website after someone clicks your ad. It might be completing a contact form or buying a product. By tracking successful conversions you can optimise your ad campaign to spend more of your budget on keywords and ads that are leading to conversions.

Tracking reports give you helpful insight into where your customers are coming from, what devices they use to view your website (if most are coming from a mobile device, is your website mobile friendly?) and what pages they view while on your site.

4 – Not actively monitoring ad campaigns

While much of Google AdWords can be automated (there are lots of rules you can setup to adjust your campaign based on triggers) it’s important for you, or someone you nominate, to regular monitor and review your campaign performance. Don’t set and forget!

By regularly checking to see where your spend is going, what keywords are being clicked, what ads are showing the most and what goals are being completed, you can fine-tune your campaign to get the most bang for buck.

5 – Not having a clear path for clickers

While AdWords is managed separately from your website, it’s critical to see the big picture, particularly for your targeted audience. See the entire process – from ad click to conversion – holistically and as a single united flow.

How often have you seen an ad, clicked on it and ended up somewhere completely unrelated? No doubt, you didn’t stick around long to figure out what had gone wrong. That advertiser just wasted a few dollars because they didn’t offer clickers a clear path from the keyword they searched on, to the ad they clicked on, to the landing page the ad clicks through to, and finally the conversion action they wanted you to take (such as completing a form or buying the product).

Everything about your campaign needs to have a single golden thread that flows seamlessly from start to finish, otherwise you risk losing a potential customer and wasting your ad spend.


There are lots of other mistakes new advertisers make but these are some of the fundamental ones. Google AdWords offers a huge amount of potential for businesses to advertise in new and exciting ways that can be laser targeted to hit your demographic – you just need to take the time to learn how to do it or get a professional involved, so you can start talking about some of the things you’d like to be able to do, and how you want to grow your business.

Yes, AdWords does work – just avoid the pitfalls and you can make it work for you.

How do I get started with Google AdWords?

Plan! You need to sit down and think about your business and ultimately what you want to achieve. Step away from your laptop, grab a notepad and jot down some ideas:

  • Promotions – What would you like to promote – do you have any specials?
  • Target audience – Is there anyone in particular you want to reach e.g. local shoppers vs. nationwide shoppers? Do you have any preference for what ads are showing during working hours vs weekends & after hours?
  • Budget – What is your daily (or monthly) budget? (You can change this at anytime)
  • Objectives – What action would you like people to take – complete a form, call you, subscribe to a mailing list etc (dedicated landing pages work best instead of just sending them to your homepage)

This will help you start to visualise how your ad campaign will work, if you need to make any adjustments and what AdWords features you will take advantage of (YouTube, remarketing, click to call, partner network etc.).

AdWords services from a Google-certified provider

We have plenty of experience with PPC (pay per click) ad services like AdWords, and have been through the necessary Google certification. We’re happy to advise you on the best options for your business or setup your website and AdWords account to get you off to a great start – and avoid wasting money on ads that aren’t working for you. Learn more about our Google AdWords service.

$100 Google ad voucherscheck with us if we have any to give away.

Google Ads – 5 Common Mistakes (and how to avoid them)
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