Popular PPC Pitfalls, and How to Prevent Them

As features and functionality of the major PPC engines grow and develop, so does the complexity of managing a campaign. A growing number of advertisers have expressed concern about underperforming PPC accounts. A closer look reveals some glaring, yet not always easy to find, errors and omissions.

Of course, hiring a professional PPC manager, whether in-house or agency, is always recommended. But if you’re not in a position to do that, here’s a checklist of three of the most common PPC pitfalls, and how to fix them (or prevent them).

Poor Account Setup

I’ve seen more than one PPC account recently that consisted of one campaign and one ad group. This is almost never the best way to structure your PPC account. This hurts your quality score and makes the account more difficult to manage.

Setting up multiple campaigns allows you to manage each to its own objective, and provides the ability to adjust settings based on performance, without affecting the performance of your entire account.

Not Editing Account Default Settings

Many PPC advertisers forget that default account settings, especially in Google, are designed to maximize profit for the search engine. This doesn’t necessarily mean maximum profit for the advertiser, however.

The first thing you should do after setting up a campaign is to check the default settings. In Google, you’ll find these in the Settings tab. In Yahoo, you’ll need to go to the Campaigns tab, select a campaign, and then click Campaign Settings. For Microsoft adCenter, click on the campaign name, and then click Change Settings.

First, opt out of the Content Network. The Content Network can be an affordable source of additional traffic and conversions, but it requires a different optimization strategy and campaign setup than search. In Google and Yahoo, the opt-out setting is at the campaign level. In adCenter, it’s at the ad group level.

Another important setting to change is your ad delivery. The default setting in both Google and Yahoo is “optimize” — Google even goes so far as to term this the “recommended” setting.

If you’re running more than one ad variation in an ad group (which you should be), the “optimize” setting will show the variation with the higher CTR more frequently. This is good, right? Not necessarily.

It’s good for the search engines, because it gets them more clicks. It may not be good for you — the ad with the most clicks may not be converting the best for you.

The only way to tell with any certainty is to change the setting to “Rotate.” This will ensure that each ad variation gets approximately the same number of impressions — and enough data for you to decide which one converts better.

Sending all Traffic to the Home Page

It seems obvious, and yet I’m continually surprised by how many PPC campaigns send all traffic to the home page. The home page is almost never the right PPC landing page because it essentially forces the visitor to search again (remember, they already searched once on either Google, Yahoo, or Bing).

This is where good account setup really pays off. Take the time to create distinct ad groups around a theme, be it product, service, or whatever. Use the most relevant page of your Web site as the PPC destination URL.

For example, if the theme of your ad group is “buy red widgets,” use the red widget page of your Web site as the destination URL. Don’t use the home page and make the visitor search again for “red widgets.”

If you’ve made these mistakes, it’s not too late to fix them. Tools like Adwords Editor and adCenter Desktop make it easy to create new campaigns and ad groups, and to move keywords and ad copy from one to another. Editing destination URLs is as easy as find and replace. In less than an hour, you can be on your way to improved PPC performance.

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