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9 PPC Mistakes That Impact Success

Make sure your PPC campaigns are set up for success. Learn the top factors that can hold back paid search performance and how to address them.

Are your PPC campaigns performing at the highest level possible?

Maybe. Or maybe not.

It doesn’t matter what type of company you work with, their industry, or their size.

There are many specific mistakes that impact your PPC success. This article will highlight nine such mistakes.

Some of these PPC mistakes obvious, while others lead to hidden issues that are holding back the ultimate performance.

Note: this article won’t go through the Google Ads mistakes in fine detail here. If you’re looking for that, check out Susan Wenograd’s great work on that topic.

PPC Mistake 1: Not Defining Success

If you don’t define what success looks like, then you can’t make decisions that are objective and factual when you set up, manage, and measure your PPC campaigns.

Start with top-line business goals, marketing goals, or more granular goals.

Then work backward to get the point where you can see how PPC will impact the organization.

Get to the ultimate number of leads, sales, visits, impressions, or other key metrics that matter.

If needed, create a PPC media projection.

Work the numbers to make sure that you properly set budgets and performance expectations.

PPC Mistake 2: Not Understanding the Funnel

While priority one should typically be to turn on PPC efforts and capture the low-hanging fruit – bottom of the funnel conversions – that’s a shortsighted approach if you stop there.

It’s naive thinking that all of my website visitors are going to come to the site and convert on that visit.

Sure, there are some unique circumstances where high percentages will convert and certain keywords or display targeting will perform at a high level.

However, ignoring the rest of the funnel is leaving a lot of opportunities on the table.

Build out your funnel.

Use analytics, heat mapping, and UX tools to understand what the customer journey looks like.

Leverage PPC to open, support, and close the deal with conversions.

Put different values, budgets, and focuses on campaigns, ad groups, ad content, and landing pages for where someone is in the funnel.

Use remarketing to move them through it.

Go beyond just bottom-of-the-funnel direct response targeting.

PPC Mistake 3: Lacking Conversion Tracking or KPIs

The funnel doesn’t matter and our efforts are hard to prove as successful (or not) without the right level of tracking and measurement.

Not all PPC campaigns are driving to a sale or lead.

Whether it is top of the funnel awareness, middle of the funnel engagement, or in support of a business objective that isn’t measurable online, there’s always a measure of success.

If you have conversions, track them directly.

If you have engagement goals, define and track them.

If you have awareness goals, define and track them.

With PPC and other digital marketing disciplines and channels, we have the ability to know.

Not knowing is a big mistake that gets PPC campaigns squashed or holds back the opportunity to get the budget needed to maximize it over the long-term.

PPC Mistake 4: Budgeting the Wrong Amount

Hopefully, we do our homework and do our best to project what we need.

One of the biggest challenges with PPC is wasted spend.

Conversely, not spending enough is also a challenge.

One of the first things I do when taking over an existing PPC campaign is to look for ways to cut waste before trying to increase the budget.

This relates to targeting, bids, and a wide range of performance best practices, competitive elements, and more.

I’m not going into those here, but please know that you should embark on an audit and search for waste if there’s any question of how efficient the spend is.

On the flip side, PPC managers always want more budget.

There are several keys to unlocking more budget. Hitting goals is one of them.

Being honest with what the outlook is, making sure you haven’t hit diminishing returns, and working toward KPIs like ROAS are critical.

It’s a mistake to not know what the opportunities are for increasing budget and having open communication about it with the stakeholders that control the overall PPC budget.

PPC Mistake 5: Making Landing Pages an Afterthought

Running the show in Google Ads, Microsoft Advertising, and others is step one.

However, staying focused only on those platforms is a problem.

I mentioned that SEO professionals have to go deeper in collaboration.

That doesn’t mean that PPC is off the hook.

If you aren’t highly focused on where you’re sending traffic and how it is helping do the job of getting to the next step in the funnel or to the conversion, you’re making a mistake.

We can have the most finely tuned account structures, research, targeting, and engagement in our campaigns.

However, if we’re sending traffic to the wrong pages, inducing bounces, and not thinking through to the next step or conversion, our efforts will be watered down or wasted.

Focus on the landing page, user experience, content, messaging, and goals for each ad that you’re using to direct traffic to the site.

Yes, you’re likely focused on quality scores, but think beyond that.

What is the goal here and how can I drive toward it once they took step one and clicked through from my ad.

PPC Mistake 6: Thinking Only About Ourselves

Don’t skip researching your competition.

Yes, we do have unique messaging, branding, and competencies in our industry.

No, we’re not likely the only ones out there advertising in our space.

It’s a big mistake to only look inward at our own vocabulary, products, services, and content.

We have to look at what is being advertised on the same keywords we’re targeting.

We may have to take a step out of our own arena to reach our target audience.

If we have our own branded terms, terms that are really narrow, or don’t generate a lot of search volume, we have to branch out.

It may feel wrong to use a term that isn’t in our vocabulary.

There are a lot of creative and smart ways to target terms that are common, but aren’t those that we want to use.

For example, if you’re a high-end retirement community that offers independent living, assisted living, and skilled nursing – and you’re against the terms “nursing home” and anything that has “facility” in it – then you need to think about this.

The reality is that people search for nursing homes.

You may need to target that term.

You can then use your brand to talk about why you aren’t a nursing home.

You’re a cutting edge, differently positioned community.

You have to be found, stay in tune with the market, and then sell your unique brand and propositions.

PPC Mistake 7: Targeting Improperly

If we have any gray area or fuzziness on the answers to the following questions:

  • Who are we trying to reach?
  • What are the personas?
  • What do they search for?
  • Where are they located?
  • How do they behave?

Plus a host of more questions about our target audiences – we are in trouble.

Google, Microsoft, and others will take our money whether PPC is working or not.

That’s a fact and a reality.

There are no refunds for mistakes or poor targeting.

PPC Mistake 8: Running on Autopilot

Yes, there are some great software platforms that use machine learning to manage your accounts.

However, those tools and robots don’t sit in marketing meetings, client meetings, and have to be personally accountable for results.

You, your team, or vendors do.

Don’t make the mistake of turning too much over to the robots.

Know what decisions are made by tech and which ones are made by humans.

Know what you have to own, what you can control, and how often you need to intervene.

Doing your PPC totally manual with humans?


Using software and having a process for oversight, updates, and corrections?


Looking at it once a month or quarter and reacting to the data and performance?


PPC Mistake 9: Ignoring Google Ads Updates

So much is made of organic search algorithm variables that search news may seem like it never touches on PPC updates.

Know that Google, Microsoft, and the others do change their systems.

There are notable updates and announcements.

Ignoring news about changes to auctions, bids, ad structure, SERP page layouts, and much more is a big mistake.

Stay up to date and don’t neglect the fact that the search engines are updating and changing their platforms to help their core audience (searchers), advertisers, and themselves overall.


PPC requires technical skills and experience for success.

It may seem like it doesn’t work for certain companies.

Or, it may work to a certain degree.

Mistakes that are obvious are rightfully blamed.

However, there are a lot of under the hood types of mistakes that happen and often compound on each other.

By knowing and working through specific mistakes or potential mistakes, we can make sure PPC gets a fair shot, reaches its full potential, and isn’t written off or siloed away into a corner of the digital marketing or marketing teams and budgets.

More Resources:

Category PPC
VIP CONTRIBUTOR Corey Morris President / CEO at Voltage

Corey is the owner and President/CEO of Voltage. He has spent nearly 20 years working in strategic and leadership roles ...

9 PPC Mistakes That Impact Success

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