Bad Ads, Worse Ads, and Very, Very Bad Ads: The Worst of PPC

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Bad Ads, Worse Ads, and Very, Very Bad Ads: The Worst of PPC

Larry Kim has been sharing a lot of research lately on the traits and features of winning AdWords campaigns, from those with mega-high click-through rates to those with best-of-the-best Quality Scores. In the course of seeking out examples of advertisers doing all the right things, we found many more who are getting it oh-so-wrong. From dynamic keyword insertion abuse to crappy headlines and nonsensical ad copy, we’ve seen it all. What follows are a few epic fails I refuse to feel bad about pointing out, because someone really should have caught these by now. Is anyone home on the other end of these campaigns? Come, marvel at the mistakes, the missteps, the wasted opportunities. We’re not just here to poke fun, though; there are important PPC lessons to be learned from each of the bad ads below. You’ve learned from the best, now let’s see what we can learn from the worst. This is your PPC campaign on drugs.

Bad Ad Practice #1: Dynamic Keyword Insertion Is Your Friend…Unless It’s Not

DKI is a really useful feature that allows you to appear as an exact match for a variety of terms by using syntax to tell Google to insert the search term directly into your ad. It can help you achieve higher CTRs, as searchers recognize their exact query in your ad, which strengthens the appearance of a match in intent. However, like all good things, it can turn very bad if not used properly.  Like this: Bad Ads, Worse Ads, and Very, Very Bad Ads: The Worst of PPC

Oops! You should probably look at your AdWords dashboard once in a while and make sure you don’t see any ads like this. Better yet, preview your ads so wonky syntax doesn’t actually appear in front of your potential customers. Even when set up correctly, you have to make sure each of your interchangeable terms makes sense within the ad copy. You don’t want this to happen: Bad Ads, Worse Ads, and Very, Very Bad Ads: The Worst of PPC What on earth is a wall stickers nursery? Is this where sickly, newborn decals go to be nursed back to good health? Need I remind you: Bad Ads, Worse Ads, and Very, Very Bad Ads: The Worst of PPC Reminds me of the time eBay told me I could buy babies and perpetual motion machines.

Bad Ad Practice #2: Don’t Tell Me Not To Click Your Ad

What is it about this ad that would entice me to click to learn more about what they offer? Bad Ads, Worse Ads, and Very, Very Bad Ads: The Worst of PPC So far, all they’ve told me is that they’re cantankerous old meanies who don’t like school dances and frown upon prom. You’re supposed to get in front of my subliminal objections and use this space to convince me to just give you a shot. That is better achieved by sharing a little bit about what you do do, as opposed to what you don’t. Yes, it can be valuable to qualify your clicks with your copy, but try to stay positive and use the limited space in your ad to explain what you can offer potential customers.

Bad Ad Practice #3: Let Me Guess…It’s Called The Mendieta Technique?

Most of this ad is wasted by telling me the same thing 3 times. The URL appears in the headline and right below, while the headline is the same as the business name, which is also the URL. And what the heck even is it? This ad makes my brain hurt. Bad Ads, Worse Ads, and Very, Very Bad Ads: The Worst of PPC Elisa Gabbert has been preaching great headlines for years and generic headlines are right up there with wasted characters on her list of “Don’ts.”

Bad Ad Practice #4: Mispellings [Sic]. Spellcheck Saves Lives!

Here’s another advertiser who has committed the cardinal sin of repeating their business name/URL to the point of ridiculousness, but let’s forget about that for a minute. We might even be able to overlook the missing period between “seafood” and “Best.” Unforgiveable, though, is that they failed to capitalize the name of their city…and also spelled it wrong. Bad Ads, Worse Ads, and Very, Very Bad Ads: The Worst of PPC This is important stuff, guys. You don’t want people to think this guy is running your business.

Bad Ads, Worse Ads, and Very, Very Bad Ads: The Worst of PPC

Image Credit: College Humor

Bad Ad Practice #5: Intent Matters In PPC Targeting

Sorry Mazda, but this ad is God-awful simply because it makes no sense for me to see it when I’m looking for brakes for my Ford. When was the last time you went looking for a $35 pair of brake shoes and were convinced to upgrade to a $21,000 car instead? It might have made sense – maybe – if they had targeted “ford focus breaks,” but even that is a stretch for gauging intent to purchase a vehicle. Even if you’re so big you can afford to throw money away, don’t throw money away like this. There’s no way this bad ad is getting clicks for this query, so all it’s doing is dragging their relevance and probably their QS down.

Bad Ad Practice #6: Don’t Bid On Keywords For Items You Don’t Actually Sell

Well, this was annoying. I’m super stoked for Walmart’s ‘Big Brands Event’ now that it appeared in front of me while I was searching for a Black & Decker snowblower. Which they don’t sell. Have you ever said something out loud and immediately thought, “Wow…did I really just have to say that? For reals?” That’s how I feel about having to tell an e-commerce and real-world business giant like WalMart that they shouldn’t pay to advertise things they don’t sell. This ad takes me to a power tools accessories product page with 55 items I wasn’t looking for. My intent as a searcher was crystal clear; I’m looking for a specific product. This is not the user experience you should be spending money on. Postscript: After a little digging I found that WalMart actually does sell snowblowers, from their Outdoor Power Tools page. Why didn’t they send me there? (This is one of the landing page mistakes that Meg Marrs covered yesterday.)

But Wait, There’s More…

They’re everywhere. Search for just about anything and you’ll see extremely bad ads, whether as a result of neglect, carelessness or simply a lack of knowledge. I can’t go into anymore; they’re making my brain hurt. Just make sure these misspelled, lazy, silly, wasteful ads aren’t in your own campaigns!


This post originally appeared on WordStream, and is re-published with permission.

Miranda Miller

Miranda Miller

Writer and Marketer at
A member of the Professional Writer's Association of Canada, Miranda has authored more than 60 e-books, 300 client projects, and thousands of articles and blog posts for clients ranging from SMBs to government agencies and Fortune 100 companies.
Miranda Miller
Miranda Miller

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  • truenorthbrad

    I love the don’t bid on stuff you don’t sell. I was explaining negative keywords to a client telling them we don’t want to pay for clicks on items we don’t build or sell, the response: “let’s keep bidding on them even though they are outside of our product line, it could give us a good idea of stuff we might want to think about in the future.” Huh?

    • Miranda Miller (@MirandaM_EComm)

      Lol that’s definitely an odd strategy.

      • Alexander Hemedinger (@AlexHemedinger)

        The real winner at the end of the say is still Google haha!

  • Patrick Coombe

    lol Miranda some funny ones here for sure. a lot of these are definitely a result of ads being produced in mass quantity and poor attention to detail.

    • Miranda Miller (@MirandaM_EComm)

      Hi Patrick, definitely. It amazes me… if you’re that big and spending that much, don’t let accountability go out the window! It might benefit those with larger budgets to act like they’re still small and starving.

  • http://VoovaGroup Gemma Purnell

    I have absolutely no idea why people feel the need to waste their headline by inserting their url.

    • Alexander Hemedinger (@AlexHemedinger)

      You’ll see it often. =)

  • Deepak Kundu

    Ads such as these make me install an ad blocker. I don’t mind clicking on an ad that makes me interested in what is behind the link.

    If such is the quality in Google, you don’t need to talk about the condition of other ad networks.

  • Deep

    To reduce the chances for bad results for dynamic keyword insertion, I think doing some homework by looking for search term combinations in Google by typing the keyword you want to bid on and then adding the unwanted results as negative keywords. Impressive article and I am surprised to see big companies doing it wrong!

  • Adam Ostopowich

    Bad ads are all too common, and it gives legitimate ads a negative reputation as people often write them off as just another scam.