Top 5 Paid Search Ad Mistakes Small Businesses Make

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I’ve spent years evaluating paid search accounts and I always come across the same few common mistakes. I decided to dedicate this article to those top mistakes. Hopefully, you aren’t making these mistakes, and if you are, you now know how to fix them.

1. Where is your product?

You’re sending people to your homepage when you’re bidding on a specific terms. For example, your bidding on the term “Yoga Ball” and you send visitors to your home page, don’t expect them to search your site for it. It’s easier to hit the back button and click another ad.

Increase your conversion rate by sending them to the exact page that contains all your “Yoga Balls.” If you want to take it one step further—if you bid on the term “Blue Yoga Balls”—send them only to a page with, you guessed it, “Blue Yoga Balls.”

2. You cost too much!

If your competitors list their prices in their ad, so should you. If their prices are lower than yours, match theirs or go lower. People do comparison shop. Don’t fool yourself into thinking, that just because you have the top spot in search ads, you will automatically make more sales.

3. Tell them what to do.

You have a great product or service and you know it, but how do you turn an impression into a click? You give them a reason to. Calls to action are the key with paid ads. Phrases such as Order Now, Limited Offer, and Shop Now all work well. Benefits also sell. Use, Free Trial, Free Shipping, Guarantee, and Save & Free all do great as well. Experiment and see which works best for you.

4. Stop repeating yourself.

Don’t repeat what’s in your headline in the body of your ad. Use that space to sell your features and/or benefits. Too many novices make this mistake and waste valuable ad real estate.

5. Capitalize and punctuate!

You want to know the difference between ads done by a professional and a novice? The first letter of every word is capitalized. It gives your ad a clean look. Exclamation points give a sense of urgency. Try using dashes and commas. I usually stay away from using periods and substitute them for dashes and exclamation points. Also, using ampersands help save on precious ad space.

These are just a few of the issues I’ve come across. What campaign mistakes have you made? How did you correct them?

Image credit: Shutterstock / Esteban De Armas

Joe Balestrino
Joe Balestrino is a Internet Marketing Consultant located in New York City and is available for consulting on all forms of search marketing and internet... Read Full Bio
Joe Balestrino
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  • Good day:

    “If their prices are lower than yours, match theirs or go lower.”

    Small businesses can ill afford getting into price wars.

    Thank you.

    • I tend to agree ! I would suggest if this was the case have a damn good benefit as to why they should order from you in the ad or run the ad for another product you can compete on, then you have a chance to impress them with your service.
      Ads to Homepage is done so often !!!!

    • Pete,

      Very true! Then you need to justify the higher cost. Maybe, personalized service or experience, added features and so on.

    • I completely agree with you. Small businesses just don’t have the space to get into a price war. All they can do is merely justify the higher costs – simply make your customers believe that the higher price is worth something.

  • A frequent error I see in paid search ads is getting the destination URL wrong. It kills me that they’re paying for the click but not getting the visit because they failed to proofread their ad.

  • Very good basic tips. In terms of competitors, I agree it’s hard to challenge a lower cost provider. The value in our service can’t be touched, and yet we know we are loosing leads to another advertiser who’s product is cheaper. Others have made some solid suggestions on how to approach this. I would only add, TEST, TEST, TEST. Keep A/B testing your ads and go with the winner.

    Also, one thing I am discovering is the Auction Insights feature under the Keywords Tab > Keyword Details button. This feature can really give you a handle on how your impression share compares with your competitor for your most important keyword. This will help understand how hard the competition might or might not be, and help you decide the best course of action.

  • Mike

    I have to respectfully disagree with your 5th point. I’ve done extensive research o n the value of capitalizing and found no conclusive evidence that it’s better than writing with proper casing. I personally think capitalizing the first letter of each word looks silly and unprofessional so I don’t do it and my campaigns have never suffered because of it. I hear this advice time and time again from so-called “SEM experts” but I encourage anyone who is considering this approach to test it for themselves first and don’t just assume it’s the best way to write an ad because the internet said so.

  • Thanks for the info. I would also have to agree with some of the comments in this post that says you need to test and see what works best for you by doing a/b testing.

  • Pt 5.. I think you need to point out you can only use the exclamation point once..

    My worst is no tracking… If you don’t track it… Don’t it it!

  • Pt 5.. I think you need to point out you can only use the exclamation point once..

    My worst is no tracking… If you don’t track it… Don’t do it!

  • Ryan Patrick

    I think the biggest mistake I made early on was not looking at the competitor’s ads. This is a huge part when crafting your marketing message. What are your competitors saying? How did you respond to their ad? If you liked it then you need to mimic it to gain the same effectiveness. If it sucks then you know what not to do plus you’ll probably come up with a few more ideas on your to capitalize on their mistakes. Great article Joe, thanks for putting this together for us.