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Top 11 Money-Wasting AdWords Mistakes

In my daily interaction with search engine marketing clients, I come across bad habits that businesses and individuals continually repeat.

I see a very high percentage of website owners with little to no understanding of how to build a search engine-friendly site. That's typically my first encounter. The cash drain isn't as apparent then as during my second encounter: pay per click, specifically Google AdWords.

This column assumes that you're fairly new to Google AdWords. If you want to educate yourself further, the 10 to 20 hours you can spend at the Google AdWords Learning Center is well worth it. You also can take the certification exam if you meet their requirements. You need to manage at least one AdWords account and keep at least $1,000 "spend" for 90 days to be allowed to take the exam.

For more information, review the following websites:
adwords.google.com/support
adwords.blogspot.com
groups.google.com/group/adwords-help

They contain additional tips, as well as real-world comments from professionals and others in the field.
Once you've familiarized yourself with AdWords and are ready to set up a campaign, be sure to avoid these top 11 money-wasting mistakes.

1. Not turning off the content network.
When first setting up a campaign, turn off the content network. This option is "on" by default, and you're lucky if it works for you in the first run. It's a form of contextual advertising and tries to position your ads on sites like About.com, The New York Times, Food Network and others.

You typically will see high impressions in your system, but often low CTR--click-through-rates, as determined by impressions to clicks--and low-quality clicks. These aren't serious buyers; they're wasting your dollars and time.

2. Using too many keywords.
When creating new campaigns and ad groups, many people begin by entering every keyword under the sun. Don't. Targeting is key; think about your niche and the categories within it. You can use tools like the Wordtracker Free Suggestion Tool to determine which keywords to begin with. Then, when you have a list together, refer to tip No. 6 below.

3. Ignoring the competition.
Analyze your competitors. One way is to use the Google Keyword Tool. Select "site-related keywords" and enter the competitor's website to pull keyword groups from their pages. Also, check their sites for an overall impression and for content. Do some more digging at SpyFu.com to find more on rankings and competitive PPC spending. Look at the search results pages after entering their top keywords in Google, review their ads, think about text and prepare for tip No. 4.

4. Not including keywords in the ad text.   
Use keywords in the title of the ad, but also in the ad copy. So many ad copywriters forget to include the keyword phrase in the actual body of the ad text. Write clearly and provide relevant content for both users and the Google AdBot. Create a matching, relevant landing page to satisfy users and obtain a higher Google Quality Score.

5. Sending visitors to your homepage.
Most PPC accounts I come across send traffic and visitors to their homepage. But there's simply too much information there, and visitors may leave your site. Read my blog entry on money-making landing page tips and test the pages for content. Realize that narrow-casting is better than broad-casting in almost every case.

6. Using too many broad keywords.
Creating ad campaigns and ad groups with tightly matched keywords is necessary, but most folks don't do it. You should place only a few keywords into each ad group and add more groups to accommodate new "themed" keywords. Google maxes out at 100 ad groups per account; I believe they'll raise this at some point.

7. Using broad match.
When you set up Google AdWords for the first time and input a keyword, the default type is broad match. While broad match can work for you, I always recommend using phrase and exact match types to start and track the performance from there.

AdWords also has a negative match type, which is overlooked most of the time. Examples of match types are:
Broad: leather jacket (any order, any word, not as targeted, more clicks)
Phrase: "leather jacket" (this order, words before and after, more targeted, OK clicks)
Exact: [leather jacket] (this order, no other words, highly targeted, least clicks)
Negative: - pink (this would not show ads for "pink leather jacket")

Yahoo! Search Marketing includes match types as well. Make sure you understand them and where they're different. Begin with the standard match type, which is not the default.

8. Using the default "optimize" option.
The default setup for AdWords is to let Google "optimize" your ads for you. It's better to select the "rotate" option, so you can test your ad performance in a much cleaner manner.

9. Not tracking ads and keywords.
If keywords and ads aren't performing, you're wasting money. You can use the free Google Analytics tool to help you track activity. Keywords should also be tested and tracked with misspellings, plurals and stemming(-ing) options.

10. Not properly testing ads.
A/B testing has been around in the advertising world for decades, and the concept is the same online. Write at least two ads within an ad group, and AdWords will rotate them automatically for you. This will reveal the winning ads based on performance. As you continue, pause the loser and write a new and better one; try to outperform the winner again. Don't change it immediately, though; let it run for a while to get some trending data.

11. Not applying the "conversion code."
Be sure to apply the "conversion code," which is a simple JavaScript set that goes into your landing page or thank you page. This information will show up in a column on your AdWords dashboard when you log in, and is a quick way to check for lead counts and important for tracking return on spend.

The Perfect Google AdWords Model
Now that you've read the tips above, here's how to set up a high-quality campaign.

Set up campaigns using keywords + geo (geographic) targets; content network turned off.

Set up campaigns using keywords + geo targets using Google's own internal selections (regions, territories); content network turned off.

Set up a separate, content network only (Google Search/Network is not checked). Only do this after you have tested the first two items for performance.

Create a new "placement targeted campaign" and use "section targeting" to avoid exposing your ads to "run of site" matching. When you research your keywords, find the top searched phrases and type them into Google. Click on each of the top resulting five to eight listings, and check to see if they have Google ads. If they do, use placement and section targeting to drive traffic with a highly targeted, cost-savings approach.

Create "exact" and "phrase" campaigns to start, and create ad groups with one to four keywords, tightly matched.

Create two ads within each group.

Show ads more evenly (campaign settings) and select "rotate" option.

Google is the most advanced, most used search engine, and the AdWords advertising platform, can generate business for you. The company also has expanded into audio, print, mobile and pay-per-action models. However, make sure to test for performance before scaling out to these additional services. If you're into advanced landing page testing, you can try the new Website Optimizer (video) options, which use advanced page and elements optimization.

These tips have helped me a lot, and although I spent a fair share of my own money to discover them, you can apply these tactics immediately and start saving money. You'll also receive more quality clicks and better tracking for yourself and clients.

Jon Rognerud is a recognized authority on the subject of search engine optimization and has spent more than 15 years developing websites and marketing solutions at companies like Overture and Yahoo!. His website, www.jonrognerud.com, provides a wealth of informative articles, resources and complimentary e-mail courses on everything you'll ever need to know about SEO and search marketing

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