8 Common Google Ad mistakes that lead to poor performance & profitability

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Joshua Barr

We regularly audit Google Ads accounts for new prospects, which have either been managed by internal teams or other agencies.

Whilst the general quality of account structures and strategies are comprehensive and well thought through, we still find that some accounts lack basic fundamentals which lead to poor performance and/or lack of sustainability.

We understand that managing PPC campaigns can be daunting, especially in industries where competition levels are high and therefore marginal gains play a major part in gaining successes. By avoiding these 8 common mistakes, you can accelerate your PPC success and growth.

1. Lack of Keyword Research

If you fail to prepare, you are preparing to fail. Keyword research should be the starting point for most campaign types, even if the campaign type isn’t inherently keyword targeted, such as Shopping or Performance Max. This is because it can both inform keyword ideas to target directly via search campaigns, as well as informing on page content for the product or service in question.

We often find accounts only adopt top level keywords with either a “phrase match” or broad match keyword strategy in a single ad group, meaning that the account shows for a huge variation of keywords which are not relevant to the business. Moreover, there is lack of ability to show very specific ads for very specific user queries, in favour of showing generic ads to a wide range of users with various intent.

By conducting thorough keyword research, campaigns and ad groups can be segmented into logical themes, with more control of which ads show to which users, as well as more insight into individual keyword performance. Moreover, if some keyword themes perform less than others, they can be optimised more effectively in their own ad group and in some cases, stripping them into their own campaign can be wise, in order to not affect the performance and budget depletion of better performing “bread and butter” search terms.

2. Search Term Reports Under Utilised

It’s quite common to utilise “phrase match” and broad match keyword matching types as we have discussed, which in turn show ads for your target keywords and variations thereof. Because Google will show ads for variations of your keywords, it’s important to comb through search term reports to assess which variations of your keywords your ads have shown for.

Within search term reports, you can then add or exclude keywords depending on their relevancy to your business and goals.

Google doesn’t understand your business inside and out, so keyword variations are often not related and therefore spend can be wasted on irrelevant users clicking. By adding and excluding the keyword variations your ads are shown for, over time you can hone down on user relevancy and utilise budgets more efficiently.

3. Inadequate or Outdated Bid Strategies

There are a wide range of bid strategies and over time, they have become more comprehensive and sophisticated. We often find that accounts utilise outdated strategies such as Manual CPC or Enhanced CPC, which generally discount Google’s machine learning abilities and therefore don’t hone down on efficiencies, the same as a bid strategy that aligns more with your business objectives.

Instead, we would typically utilise bid strategies that are specifically tailored towards business goals, such as “maximise conversion value” with a target ROAS (Return On Ad Spend) for an e-commerce business, or “maximise conversions” with a target CPA (Cost Per Acquisition) for lead gen businesses.

There are of course a wealth of other options, for example if you wanted to gain prominence over anything no matter what the cost, then an alternative bid strategy should be utilised which prioritises prominence, over user action and cost efficiency.

4. Lack of Search Ad Content & Variations

Ads are one of the most important aspects of any Google Ads campaign, as they are the single element which entice a user to click through and take action on your website.

It’s recommended that a single ad group for search text ads should have 2 to 3 ads, and that Responsive Search Ads are utilised. This is so that Google has a number of variable assets to deploy, gauging which of those assets perform best and then prioritising the better performers to show more over time.

However, we often find that ad groups only have a single ad and moreover, accounts which have existed for some time have not adopted the change from standard text ads to responsive search ads. This in turn, leads to excessive click costs, lower CTRs and generally a far less positive outcome than those more sophisticated accounts, utilising the latest ad formats.

5. Inadequate Budgets

It’s important that your budget matches your account’s potential. In essence, if your ads stop showing at a certain time of day due to lack of budget, then you should pull back some activity or increase your spend.

For example, we have appraised consumer e-commerce accounts before and found that ads stop showing before the evening. This means that ads stopped showing at the time of day that users are most likely to convert; therefore, gaining efficiency and sustainability was almost impossible.

In one instance, the prospect didn’t want to spend more, so we combed through the account and recommended pausing ineffective keywords, as well as non-core products, ad groups and campaigns. We also recommended allocating the budgets differently to the remaining campaigns. The result was that they then began to show at all times of day for their core offering, with a view to expand back out into peripheral product areas, once we’d taken some learning from the newly optimised campaigns and the client had more confidence to spend more.

Shared portfolio budgets can also be problematic. If you have several campaigns and some are more aggressive or yield larger search volumes than others, then the chances are these campaigns will spend all the shared budget, leaving little left for the other campaigns to gain traction.

6. Lack of Conversion Tracking

We often find that accounts are not tracking conversions effectively, or in some cases tracking inferior user actions as a success.

Conversion tracking must align with your campaign goals, so if you’re running a campaign with ‘maximise conversion value’, then Google expects to be able to track conversions which assign a value to each action. For example, if someone checks out on your e-commerce website with an order value of £150, then provisions must be put in place to pull that revenue data through into Google Ads. Failure to do so, means the bid strategy will not optimise over time and impression share will be limited.

Instances where unrelated conversion actions are assigned to campaigns can be equally as problematic. Quite often we see “website visits” set up as a conversion. Google then sees a single visit as a success and will strive for more of those user types, even if the user bounced off the site or didn’t perform a genuinely favourable action. For this reason, it’s important to assign conversions/goals to campaigns, only if they are deemed a genuine success when the action is performed. So, phone calls, contact submissions and live chats would be favourable for a lead gen business (not exclusively) and revenue generating actions for e-commerce businesses (which could include enquiries in some cases).

7. Missing Ad Extensions

Ad extensions are additional assets applied to ads such as links, phone numbers, images, product pricing and additional text information. They not only give the user more information and therefore more chance of favourable action but also, they increase the footprint of the ad, pushing competitors further down and increasing overall prominence.

This additional information gives Google a better understanding of what you are offering. In turn, this leads to better ad relevancy and therefore lower CPCs and better ad positions.

We always find that accounts which do not utilise these extensions effectively (or at all) demonstrate a lack of efficiency, a lower impression share, and generally convert far less.

8. Not Utilising Geo-Targeting & Regional Trends

Different locations yield different opportunities. This might be because a business operates within a radius of their business location, or there’s more demand for products or services in certain regions. Even if demand across the country remains at a similar level, some locations have a denser population, or more affluent residents – therefore justifying bigger budgets and/or more aggression within a geographical area.

Even if you’re targeting the whole of the UK, having control of specific areas can be extremely beneficial. Therefore, it’s recommended to segment locations, especially for those regions which have a higher level of perceived return or potential.

One of our construction e-commerce clients covers the UK, however within the campaigns covering the UK, we have also added regions such as London, Cornwall, Wales and Scotland, to name a few. The benefit here is that we can optimise for these locations independently within the same campaign.

For example, we can increase bid adjustments for London, where the population is dense and there is a concentration of large building sites and small developments. Moreover, logistically the client can cover this area with ease and create efficiency from multiple deliveries in a single day.

On the other hand, the client can deliver to Scotland, Cornwall & Wales, but there is less demand in these areas, building sites are smaller, and logistics are often more costly because a single delivery might take a full day to complete. Therefore, there is far less revenue and repeat business potential in these areas. This means a decreased bid adjustment is logical, so the client pays less for each click, for a lower volume of users in sparse and logistically more costly locations.

By not adding peripheral geographical locations in addition to your core target area, you miss out on gathering data and controlling locations independently. You can also exclude certain regions within the UK (or your target area) which are proven to under-perform, therefore allowing you to allocate more budget to locations that do offer a profitable return.


Running an effective and sustainable Google Ads account can take a lot of time to come to fruition. If you consider these fundamentals at the strategy and build stage, you can avoid common mistakes which lead to inferior performance. Moreover, the time it will take you to start to generate cost-effective leads and/or transactions will be reduced significantly.

Are you spending more than £1,000 per/month on Google clicks? Then please contact us for a free no-obligation account appraisal today.

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