Top 10 PPC Mistakes

Last month, we told you about the top 10 mistakes you can make in Search Engine Optimisation. Thanks to the power of analytics, we learned that you enjoyed that article lots.

Last month, we told you about the top 10 mistakes you can make in Search Engine Optimisation. Thanks to the power of analytics, we learned that you enjoyed that article lots.

So, to ensure we keep delivering you what you want (and deliver more readers for us); we're pleased to bring you our Top 10 PPC mistakes. Don't say we're not good to you... this is free advice. Your home is not at risk if you do not keep up to date with this knowledge but your paid search profitability may well be...

We've tried to keep these points as simple as possible. However, if any of this hurts your head and you've got a PPC campaign, why not give us a call? We've got an excellent team of Paid Search experts at your disposal that can help with bringing solid ROI to your PPC. PDQ.

1. Poor set up of account

The biggest area for failure in PPC (or at least in making life difficult and making costs higher) is in the way the whole programme is structured. There's no absolutely perfect way to structure a campaign but there's sure as heck a lot of wrong ones. We always recommend that you follow clear and sensible structuring of your account. Break your campaigns and ad groups into relevant themes. Why? Quality Score (QS) is where it is at these days and your campaign structure is a key contributor to making your QS higher and your costs lower.

2. Mixing Content and Search

As much as Google would love you to believe that the Content Network is as easy as the search stuff, it's not. And treating them the same is only going to cause you to burn cash and lose hair. They don't work in the same way; the results will always be dramatically different so treat your campaigns completely autonomously. Enough said.

3. Believing that number one is the only place to be

Again, Google would love to tell you that #1 is the place to be in as many areas as possible. It is after all the most disproportionately expensive position to be in and can deliver a lot of empty clicks too. Don't get me wrong, in some cases, it most definitely will be. For example for your brand terms and perhaps terms where you genuinely "own" the space. But be honest, if you are just as good as the next guy or maybe not quite as good, it can get a little dear. Some markets are ridiculously competitive, and outrageously expensive therefore chose your battleground wisely. Test various positions, find YOUR optimum position. The first position on "cheap hotel" is a different landscape to the first position on "luxury hotel Glasgow"

4. Landing everyone on your homepage

Just as we talked about for SEO last month, don't be so homepage focused. If someone is searching for a particular product or service, take them directly there - don't make them search again on your site. Your landing page also forms part of your quality score, so make sure it is the most relevant page for your chosen keywords. Remember, the only thing your homepage is really good for is typically brand. If you've got a decent website, then you've likely got a page that covers off any other term you'd likely bid on.

5. Only using one type of match

If you've never done PPC, or you have people for that, then the match type might not mean a lot to you but it means a lot to our PPC team. The three key types are broad (match to everything containing the word(s), phrase (match to everything containing the word(s) in the order shown) and exact (match only to the exact word or phrase given.) The various matching options exist to allow you to qualify your traffic; use them wisely. And please, never underestimate the value of negative keywords. You don't want to waste budget receiving clicks for terms completely irrelevant to your offering (and believe me, Google will broad match your ad to some ridiculous offerings).

6. Not testing?

Confident that your PPC account is 100% perfect? We never are - and we've been doing PPC campaigns for a very long time. Chances are it's not (our accounts may come close!) - but generally there is always room for improvement. Even if you think you've covered every base and got every keyword imaginable, the market always changes and you can NEVER second guess the user.

7. Broad brush bidding

PPC campaigns can get big really quickly and this means that you can go from having a handful of terms to track, to thousands. Possibly daunted by the idea of managing these, many people seek to 'simplify' things by only managing the bid strategy in groups of keywords, applying one price and one destination to a whole swathe of terms. This is an incredibly wasteful approach and means that you could have a whole set of keywords at one price resulting in a multitude of average bid positions despite the keywords being themed and similar in nature. Conversely, many folk set the landing page for all terms in a group to be the same - imagine if your group of terms all relate to "cheap hotels" but for different destinations. It doesn't make any sense. If you take profit seriously, you'll need the time to devote this level of attention to your account to ensure you get the return you're looking for.

8. Not checking the live ads?

It's very easy to exist in the bubble that the PPC ad interfaces gives you, where ad copy, price, click through, position and so on are all the interface has to give you. But many people forget there's a real world out there where your ad is actually showing. Not only that, it's likely to be surrounded by competitor ads and a whole lot of other noise. Not understanding this live environment is akin to using a GPS in your car to get you from A to B without ever looking out the window to see if there's anything else that might hinder you getting there. Assess the competitor messages; see if you have unwanted affiliate activity. See if your ad is better or worse, or simply not relevant for the page. At the end of the day, you'll get more out of looking at this space than any other source.

9. Not using Yahoo! and MSN/Bing.

Ok, we will be honest. They are a lot more hassle to deal with, it's unlikely that they will never be quite as big as Google and they are years behind technically - but there is definitely search volume on these systems and you are more than likely missing out on sales. Over 50% of the campaigns we take on arrive on our doorstep without campaigns on both networks. Bearing in mind the click costs can be up to 85% less than on Google for equivalent terms and you can more accurately guarantee a consumer audience, there's real reason to have a fully active campaign on these networks - especially as 2010 promises to be the year they merge to create one "super" system.

10. Relying solely on bid management tools

Many agencies sell their PPC at a bargain basement price. A lot of the time nobody stops to ask how they can sell it with wafer-thin margins. Well, apart from the fact that many such agencies DON'T even follow the other nine points here religiously, they rely wholeheartedly on automation. Bid management tools DO have their place and they can lend a hand when managing a PPC campaign but they are simple pieces of rules-driven software with precious little in the way of experience or common sense.

At the end of day, these tools are only as good as the rules you set up, never underestimate the power of a real live human being analysing your account, monitoring and developing your campaign. PPC automation rarely brings campaign expansion, understands trends, can select the right copy for the right ad and so on.