31 Scary PPC Mistakes

(And How to Fix Them!)

Some errors can haunt you…


October is commonly associated with pumpkin spice lattes, fall decorations, and Halloween movie marathons (Hocus Pocus, anyone?). But for anyone in an industry affected by seasonal changes (retail, Ecommerce, travel, health insurance for open enrollment, etc. ), October is a month where the performance of your online advertising efforts becomes critical.

Paid search advertising is complex, though. Especially if you’re running ads for the first time, trying out a new channel, or making a significant change in delivery, there are many things that you have to keep track of and optimize. It’s easy to make mistakes. But the thing about PPC mistakes is that they cost you real money. (The consequences are more significant than making a typo on your website, for example.)

PPC mistakes can cause you to lose revenue in two ways; either you make a mistake that leads to unqualified clicks, or you don’t optimize enough to gain a conversion from a qualified user.  Losing tangible money is really terrifying. But what wakes us up sweating in the middle of the night, and what should horrify you as a business owner or marketer, is the possibility of missed opportunity. If you make certain mistakes, you may not even realize how much money you’re missing out on!

Empirical360 recently achieved Google Premier Partner status, meaning that Google recognizes us as a leading agency when it comes to PPC account management. We are also Microsoft  & Facebook partners, and we have produced millions of dollars in revenue for our clients, so we’re familiar with the most commonly made mistakes, and we’ve also made several of our own on our journey to becoming expert marketers! Some mistakes are nothing to be afraid of, but most of them are enough to send shivers down the spine of anyone experienced in PPC. 


Here are 31 PPC mistakes (in no particular order) that give us nightmares:


Some of these are scarier than others….but they’re all pretty chilling. 

Forgetting to pause a campaign before you finish making it

Don’t make the mistake of creating a campaign and then just letting it run before you’re done with it. Been there. Lotsss of wasted spend. Make sure you pause all campaigns before they’ve been checked and double-checked and are cleared to go live! 

Not correctly tracking conversions (or not tracking them at all)

This is one of the most spine-chilling mistakes we see…and the worst part is we see it often (the horror!). We did a video/blog series on this (read the introduction here. If you’re not tracking form submissions, phone calls, and offline sales (using Gclids), you have no way of knowing where anything is coming from or what’s working and what’s not working. You will absolutely lose both tangible and future revenue. Track your conversions. It’s one of the cornerstones of good paid search marketing! 

Not updating your negative keyword list regularly

If you want to steer clear of the PPC monster (wasted spend), you need to avoid irrelevant keywords that might trigger your ads, but have nothing to do with search intent. For example, we partnered with a tree-removal company and filtered out all the “DIY” keywords that suggest the user was looking for resources to do take care of the problem on their own. If you don’t add negative keywords like that to your lists, you are going to get clicks that won’t convert. And you may think you can just do it once and leave it alone, but the digital landscape is always changing, and you may have new competitors, or your current competitors may alter their service offerings. It always amazes us the amount of marketing agencies or business owners that don’t do this on a regular basis. 

Failing to closely match ads and landing pages/directing users to a home page

Relevance is key when it comes to leading users to convert. Online customers don’t want to work hard to get what they want, and if you make them hunt for information, or confuse/frustrate them at any point in their journey, they’ll abandon you and go find another brand that knows what they’re doing. Your ad copy needs to match their search term, and when they click on your ad, you need to take them to a landing page that they would expect to see. Use the same language as in your ad and offer them what you promised them. Don’t just send everyone who clicks on any of your ads to your website’s front page and think that they will hunt around to find what they’re looking for….they won’t. 

Not optimizing your landing pages

Landing page design really is vital to the success of your PPC campaigns. If you don’t have a responsive, clean landing page, where the form is above the fold, the contact information is clearly accessible, and the call to action is clear, then you’re missing out on conversions. If you’re not experimenting by testing your landing pages to see different design elements that perform better, then you’re missing out on conversions. Missing out on conversions is the scariest. 

Guessing. About anything.

Every single decision you make in the world of PPC should be data-driven. If you’re not running AB tests, you’re just making your decisions based on your best guess, the highest paid person’s opinion, or industry best practices (which can be misleading, since you’re a unique business). You’re essentially blindly investing your money without any sort of guarantee on a return. *Insert bloodcurling screams*

Not scheduling ads

If you don’t set an ad schedule, your ads can run whenever Google/Microsoft chooses, which may be after business hours or on the weekend, when no one is in the office prepared to answer phone calls or emails. It’s always an “oh crap” moment when you realize how many expensive clicks you wasted.  

Forgetting that Google can spend up to 2x your budget

Did you know that? Yup. Whatever budget you set, Google can spend up to 2x that. And it is INCREDIBLY and frighteningly easy to forget that detail. So if you set your budget to what it actually is, there is a high possibility that you’re going to end up in the red and spend twice as much as you originally planned. Might be the scariest mistake on this list, honestly. 

Operating with broken site elements

If you have a broken form on your site, or the wrong phone number, or a page that’s not loading, and you don’t realize it because you’re not checking for that regularly, you’re in deep trouble….you’re not getting any of those microconversions, and sometimes you’re losing leads entirely. 

Not segmenting by device

Shudder! If you’re not segmenting by device, you don’t know if more people are finding you and converting on smartphones, desktops, or tablets. If you segment your campaigns by device, and see that mobile is getting you more results for a lower cost, pour more of your money into mobile and watch your ROI grow.  

Ignoring PPC education (not keeping up with trends)

You should always, always be seeking to grow your business, your marketing, and yourself as a marketer. And the PPC world changes fast. If you’re not constantly reading and watching educational material that’s going to keep you up-to-date with what’s going on in the digital marketing industry, you’re going to fall behind and watch your competitors outdo you. Like a horror movie. 

Believing everyone who is anti-SKAG

Because they’re not right. Even though Google has changed the rules a little…implementing a SKAG account structure will still help you win. SKAGs are single-keyword ad groups. They increase relevance, make it easier to see your ads in your account, and ultimately make you more money than a traditional account setup would. Test the SKAG method out and see how much better it performs! 

Not having a mobile-first mindset

52% of global internet traffic comes from mobile devices. That’s taking into account a lot of factors….if you are targeting a younger audience, for example, the amount of traffic from mobile is probably higher. Google gets 95% of all mobile searches, and  mobile advertising currently accounts for 72% of all U.S. digital ad spending. Those numbers aren’t scary unless you have a sucky mobile experience. Your site needs to be mobile-responsive at least. At best, you would consider mobile in every aspect of the customer journey. 

Having a slow website

If your site takes over 3 seconds to load, you’ll lose half your users. And as landing page load time increases from one second to 10 seconds, the probability of a mobile site visitor bouncing increases 123%. Read that again and hear your heartbeat quicken with dread. We live in an instand gratification age – make sure that your site is fast enough to keep up!

Not bidding on your own brand name

A simple, and fatal, mistake. Why in the world would you NOT bid on the one search term that represents the highest level of intent? If someone is searching for your company’s name, don’t make it hard for them to find you! You might show up in organic search results, but there may be clutter (e.g., other, smarter competitors who are bidding on your brand name) that’s pushing you further down the page. Ads are at the top of the SERP, so if you don’t bid on your brand name, when someone searches for it you are going to be the fifth result on the page. Boo. 

Not religiously checking the Search Terms Report

The Search Terms Report shows you what users typed into Google to search for what you had to offer – what search terms triggered your keywords. If you don’t check your Search Terms Report often, you will not identify opportunities to introduce new keywords to your lists (including negatives).  

Using broad match if you haven't really considered it

Broad match targeting will get you the most traffic because Google throws out a “broad” net that is sometimes only distantly related to your keyword.  It includes synonyms for your keyword or a search term in any order. You’ll get more traffic with a broad match type keyword strategy, but that’s not always a good thing….this traffic will, in most cases, be completely unqualified. You could severely hurt your ROI this way; we’ve seen it happen! Choose broad match modifier if you want the reach without sacrificing relevance, or choose another match type instead. What would you rather get when go trick or treating, two bags full of an assortment of candies you don’t even like or one bag filled with Reese’s Pieces? Exactly. 

*P.S. – This is Google’s default match type. So it’s even easier to make this mistake because you have to intentionally fix it. Users, beware!

Entering URLS with "http" instead of "https"

This little typo breaks your tracking, and is a really easy mistake to make if you’re not careful.

Including multiple locations in one campaign

Sometimes your product offering can be marketed the same way in all locations in the U.S., but this is often not the case, and even if it is, you can’t speak to people in one location and grab their attention if every location is included in the same campaign. Run different campaigns for different cities and states you’re targeting. If you’re marketing internationally, this becomes even more of a demand because of time differences. Scheduling your budget based on U.S. business hours could mean that you aren’t visible in other countries when they’re searching for you. 

Using the "observation" setting instead of the "targeting" one

Specifying a campaign, ad group, or ad for targeting means that only a certain audience/placement will be served your ads. Specifying a campaign, ad group, or ad  for observation means that you will be able to monitor performance for that audience/placement, but it does NOT mean that only that audience/placement is being served your ads. If you don’t change your setting to “targeting”, you’re going to only see the observation metrics and not realize how much your budget has been depleted. 

Rushing AB tests

A good AB test takes time to achieve statistically significant results. It depends on the test, but it may take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months. If you end the test early, you won’t be able to make a fully informed decision and may use up a lot of your time and money making a change that won’t really work. 

Living with a "set it and forget it" mentality

PPC is incredibly involved and complex. You can’t just set something on autopilot (automated bidding strategies, for example) and expect it to perform well for long. You need to check on your performance, in every area, and constantly be looking for ways to improve. 

Not remarketing

We know we said #8 was the scariest on this list, but this one might take the cake when it comes to purely missed opportunity. Rarely do users convert on the first pass. Too many options, and too many conscious consumers who like to extensively research options and compare prices. If you don’t follow them around, they’ll probably forget about you, and you’ll lose their business. But if you serve them ads while they’re surfing social media, checking their email, or browsing other sites, the likelihood of you gaining that conversion increases significantly. You may think it’s creepy to follow someone around…but we promise you that it’s much more haunting to wonder what might have been. (This is only when it comes to marketing, though. Not real life.) Learn how to create remarketing lists here

Not investing in good product/team photography

If you have an Ecommerce business and are running product ads, it is incredibly important that you show your users quality photos of what they’re buying. Good product photography can be a game-changer when it comes to running display ads. And even if you do not sell anything, you’re selling your business on your website – so be sure to have great staff photos (particularly if you are a medical professional). It builds trust and credibility!

Not determining your CLV (customer lifetime value)

When you’re searching for marketing agencies to hire, and they don’t ask you this question, that’s a red flag. Everyone who is involved with your business’s PPC efforts should know the lifetime value of one customer. If not, you’re not going to be able to decide what it should cost to acquire them. In order to create a growing cash flow, you need the customer’s lifetime value to outweigh what it costs to acquire them. 

Not using ad extensions

Ad extensions (either sitelink extensions or callout extensions) highlight your value propositions in your ads. If you’re not using them, you’re just not taking leveraging your full power.  

Spreading your budget too thin or evenly

If you don’t have a large budget, and you’re allocating an equally thin amount to too many keywords or campaigns, you’re not going to get the results you would if you just allocated more of your budget to the best performing keywords/campaigns. It’s better to put more of your eggs in one basket within an Ads account….not all of them, but most of them. Makes for a better looking and more scrumptious basket. Sorry, this sounds more like Easter than Halloween. Next item. 

Not defining your audience

Imagine if everyone was a robot, like in the Stepford Wives (not a Halloween movie but definitely creepy). If that was the case, you’d be justified in sending the same message to everyone indiscriminately. But the real world doesn’t work like that. Different audiences will have varying degrees of interest in and need for your product/service offerings. You can target people by age, gender, location, etc., so make sure you’re targeting the right audience and then creating ad messages that are relevant for them. 

Using the same ads for display and search

Google wants you to show your ads everywhere, because it makes them money. But they’re two different experiences, and you should have different ads for each network. Otherwise you’re going to end up with less relevancy, less control, less clicks, and less money. Scary stuff. 

Not complementing your PPC efforts with other marketing sources

If you’re just running Google and Microsoft Ads, you’re doing the best thing…. but you’re not doing everything you can to succeed. What about SEO (search engine optimization) and blogging? What about creating engaging social media accounts your customers and future customers can interact with? People searching online have trust issues. The more content you have online, especially if it’s the organic kind, the more likely they are to see you as a credible source.  

Trying to do it all on your own

PPC management is a big job, even for small businesses. If one person tries to manage multiple campaigns, things can get messier than pumpkin carving. We strongly suggest hiring a marketing agency, or relying on tutorials, webinars, and other educational materials to help out! If you’re trying to run a business and run PPC at the same time, then hiring a marketing agency to take that weight off of your shoulders is even more strongly recommended. 

PPC can be scarily overwhelming, but ensuring you don’t make simple mistakes, and having an expert marketing agency grow your account, can boost your confidence and your revenue! Contact us to see how Empirical360 can defend you from all of the spooky dangers of Google and Microsoft Ads. 

Shea Antonucci - Author

Director of Content Marketing

Shea is an expert content writer and is a classic literary nerd! She loves writing highly engaging content and has a knack for making it convert!