Pay Per Click (PPC) is one of the fastest ways to gear up internet traffic. While SEO, social media, brand building and other types of traffic often take months to scale, PPC can go from zero to tens of thousands of visitors in just a matter of weeks or even days.
Of course, the flip side to this kind of scalability is that you can lose a lot of money just as easily. If you’re not careful and you end up buying traffic at a loss, you can easily end up hundreds or thousands of dollars in the hole.
If you ask business people about PPC, they’ll often tell you: “I’ve tried it – It didn’t work.” This experience is so common among business people because very few people truly understand how to make PPC profitable. They often make mistakes that trip them up, reduce their profitability and ultimately sabotage their campaigns.
These are 10 of the most common mistakes people make when they first foray into PPC. Avoid these mistakes and you’ll be way ahead of most of your competitors.
Mistake #1: Not Split Testing Enough
This mistake comes in two forms.
First are the people who don’t split test right from the beginning. Some people simply want to set up an ad to see how it performs. Others are just lazy, or figure that they’re not spending enough money to get data anyway.
That’s a mistake. Any time you’re buying PPC traffic, you should be split testing. You should be split testing the ad and the landing page. You should always be gathering data, trying to improve your conversions and your ROI.
The second group of people are people who test for a period of time, then stop testing. For example, they might start off with an ad that’s getting a CTR of 0.7%. They get the CTR up to 1.5%, then they stop split testing. They figure they’ve already done a good job.
What they don’t realize is that if they kept testing ad after ad, they could get their CTR up to 2.5%, 3% or even higher. If you’re sending traffic and not split testing, you’re wasting money and missing out on valuable lessons.
Mistake #2: Too Many Keywords Per AdGroup
In Google AdWords and Microsoft AdCenter (which manages Bing and Yahoo! Search,) keywords are separated into AdGroups. You write a different ad for AdGroup.
If you put 100 keywords in one AdGroup, that means that whenever any of those keywords is triggered, your one ad will show. The same is true if you put just three keywords in an AdGroup. Whenever one of the three keywords is entered, your ad will show.
Most people make the mistake of putting far too many keywords in one AdGroup. It’s very difficult to write an ad that’ll truly hit home if you’re trying to write for 100 keywords at once. People who stuff too many keywords in one AdGroup invariably end up with ads that are far too generic.
To optimize your CTR and improve your keyword relevance, try to keep your keywords per AdGroup as low as possible. Group only very tightly related keywords together in the same AdGroup.
Mistake #3: Targeting Only Mainstream Keywords
If you’re targeting only mainstream keywords, you’re in for a tough fight. The only companies that can really profit from mainstream keywords are those that have extremely streamlined conversion funnels and very high earnings per customer. If you’re a newcomer on the scene, you probably won’t be able to compete.
Even if you could get it profitable, you’re usually looking at razor thin margins. Since most payment processing companies will hold your cash for a few days to a few weeks, most small to mid sized marketers will have a hard time funding a campaign with such a low ROI. In other words, if you have a 5% positive ROI, that means that to make a $500 profit you need to tie up $10,000 for as long as it takes for the money to circulate back into your account.
The best approach for most marketers is instead to use deeper keywords, more targeted keyword and more unusual keywords. Look for keywords that other people aren’t pursuing and optimize your campaigns around them.
Mistake #4: Ignoring Brands and Product Names
People often mistakenly think that it’s against the rules to bid on brand names or product names. For example, if you run an insurance company, is it illegal to bid on the name “Geico” or “Allstate?”
The answer is “no.” Though brand names are trademarked and copyrighted, bidding on the name does not violate their intellectual property in any way. You just can’t use their name in your advertisement. As long as you don’t use their name, you can still bid on their name so ads appear when someone types it in. The same is true for product names.
Product names and the brand names of your competitors will often be your highest converting keywords. Don’t make the mistake of leaving these out.
Mistake #5: Only Going to the Home Page
Your PPC campaigns should take people to the most relevant page. If you sell food online and someone types in “noodles,” they should be directed to your noodles page, not to your home page.
Also, it often pays to create custom web pages just for your PPC visitors. If you’re bidding on a high amount of traffic for specific keywords, build a custom landing page for them.
Perhaps the worst place you could send PPC traffic is your home page. Your home page is untargeted, it doesn’t speak directly to the people who just landed on your site and will generally not convert very well.
Mistake #6: Not Understanding Broad, Phrase and Exact Match Types
These three match types are very different. You should never bid on all three at the same time with the same bids without tracking the response of each on a separate basis.
Broad match will give you the most traffic at the lowest cost, but your conversion rate will be much lower. Phrase match is slightly more expensive and converts a bit better. Exact match will give you the least traffic but the highest conversion rates (and the highest cost.)
Test each one. Make sure you know where each conversion you got came from. Eliminate the match types that aren’t profitable and keep the ones that are.
Mistake #7: Only Using One PPC Source
The 500 lbs gorilla in the PPC space is Google AdWords. But to focus only on one PPC source is a mistake. If you can’t get one to be profitable, there’s still a great chance you’ll be able to get another one to be profitable. If you can get one to be profitable, there’s no reason to think you can’t get another to be profitable and drastically increase your traffic.
The other two major networks are Facebook PPC and Bing. Facebook PPC is very, very different than AdWords and requires a very different mentality. Bing or Microsoft AdCenter is more or less the same as AdWords, with slightly more space for your ads.
Then you have a whole myriad of third tier PPC sources. Sometimes your biggest profits will come from third tier networks rather than first tier networks.
Mistake #8: Not Geographically Targeting
Another common mistake marketers make is lumping all English speaking countries into one campaign and blasting traffic at it. What many people realize is that Australia, New Zealand, the UK, Canada and the United States are not the same place and don’t convert the same. A campaign that takes off like a rocket ship in the UK might completely flop in the US.
If you’re targeting multiple countries, make sure you’re tracking each conversion geographically. Figure out which countries are converting for you and segment them out. Stop driving traffic to non-converting countries.
You can take this a step further and even break down your campaigns by state. You can also try targeting non-English speaking countries with translated pages.
Mistake #9: Not Tracking Conversions Carefully Enough
It’s been said many times throughout this article, but it deserves to be said again: You need to be tracking everything. A lot of marketers believe they’re tracking, when they don’t have nearly enough detail to make the kinds of decisions they need to make to improve their ROI.
This is just some of the data you need to get:
- Which specific keyword generated the conversion? You need to track your conversions back to specific keywords, not just broad campaigns.
- What times of day convert? What times of day don’t convert?
- Which days of the week convert?
- What’s your total conversion rate after you account for your email follow up sequence?
- What percentage of people will buy a second product?
- What’s your average customer value?
- What country converts best? Which countries don’t convert?
- At what CPC point does each match type become profitable? For example, exact match might be profitable for you at $0.55, while a broad match click needs to come in at $0.25 to be profitable.
If you don’t have tracking software that can give you this kind of data, you need to seriously look into upgrading your tracking software.
Mistake #10: Having Weak Copy
Mastering PPC is both an art and a science. Most of what we’ve discussed so far is the science. But if you want to succeed in PPC, you also need the “art” piece – The copy.
The copy is in many ways the most important component of the whole campaign. It’s what determines whether you catch people’s attention and whether you get them to click on your ads.
Learning to write great copy is tough. It can take months or years for you to truly master copywriting. Fortunately, you don’t need to be a world class copywriter to buy traffic profitably.
Start by learning the basics of copywriting. Learn AIDA and read a couple books on the subject. Then look at how other people in your industry are writing their ads and landing pages. Copy what’s working for them while adapting it to your own style and audience.
These are the 10 top PPC mistakes. Mastering PPC isn’t easy. It can take weeks or months before you hit your first profitable campaign. Once you do however, the traffic and the revenues can quickly come gushing in. Keep persevering, keep tracking and keep testing and you’ll eventually get to profitability.