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Google Ads is a powerful platform for driving awareness, traffic, and conversions.
A finely tuned and optimized account can provide a tremendous return on investment and deliver against digital marketing goals.
Odds are that you have a dedicated resource on your team, an outsourced resource, or maybe you’re that person or team that’s charged with properly managing the Google Ads account.
Regardless of structure and responsibility, it is important to remember that no matter how well our Google Ads account is performing and returning (or not) on investment, Google will gladly accept our payments.
There are eight important things that you need to make sure you’re not overlooking or doing wrong.
I have outlined those items and ways to make them right if you find that you’re losing money or oversight in any of these areas.
This topic resonates with me as I have previously shared ways that you’re wasting money on your investments in content marketing and SEO.1. Assuming the Previous Manager Had Things Optimized
If you’re taking over an account or did at some point and didn’t blow it up and start from scratch, you might have some hidden baggage.
There are plenty of valid differences of opinion and ways to strategically operate a Google Ads account and do paid search.
However, even the best occasionally forget a setting or miss something when Google updates the system.
I strongly recommend auditing the account and not taking things for granted.
Even if you’re taking over from your best friend or most trusted colleague, you need to spend some time understanding all of the settings, account structure, negative matching, and to get a handle on the what and why of how they are configured before you get too deep in your own process and strategy.2. Not Customizing Settings for Your Needs
Google Ads accounts start out with a lot of defaults and one-size-fits-all formatting. There’s danger in ignoring settings and not routinely reviewing them.
A quick example of one of these settings comes into play if you’re targeting a specific country, region, or radius.
Another example of settings to beware of are the “auto-applied” ad settings.
If you receive the automated Google created ad adjustment recommendations and don’t review, edit, or turn them off within 14 days, they’ll automatically be applied to your account.
You should always want to have full control of your account so owning the settings and keeping automated things out (if you don’t want them or agree with them) is critical.3. Not Conducting Regular Audits
It isn’t enough to perform just an initial audit when you take over an account.
You need to perform regular audits at least annually.
Even the best need their accounts and work checked.
Just like a writer, it is hard to work on something for a long period of time and see a typo looked over many times.
The more you’re looking at an account, the more you need someone else to take a periodic look.4. Skipping Competitor Research & Monitoring
Audience research to uncover the right targeting for keywords, placements, remarketing, and matched lists are a big part of setting up an account and strategically optimizing it over time.
This is a natural approach.
Beyond the audience though, we need to put a focus on our competitors.
What they’re spending.
What keywords they’re targeting.
How to make adjustments.
Go in a different direction or prepare for what it will take to target the same audience.5. Overusing Broad Match & Lacking Match Type Strategies
Find a match type strategy that works for you.
Know where you’re prospecting and learning versus where you’re targeting the bottom of the funnel, ready to convert prospects.6. A Disproportionate Focus on Quality Score
Quality score matters, but it isn’t the only thing to focus on.
If you’re obsessed with it, consider how it might be blinding you from other factors.
If you’re feeling guilty of not looking at it enough now that I’m mentioning it, well, it is time to take a look and make sure you’re doing well enough to not waste spend compared to competitors with low scores.7. Being Too Hands-Off
I’ve learned some lessons over the years about what happens when not enough oversight is given to a campaign.
I audited a large bank and found that their auto-pilot efforts had wasted more than $13,000.
In another, more personal case, I was managing a campaign for a local mortgage company with branches around a specific metropolitan area.
All of the best practices and strategic optimizations were in place and we were getting close to their cost per lead goals a few months into the campaign.
What happened next, I couldn’t have predicted.
I had all of my competitor monitoring set up and running.
However, I found that overnight I was losing traffic and that my costs had gone up significantly.
Thankfully, I caught this in a 24-hour period, and over the next few days was able to tell exactly what had happened.
One national lender was present in the market and was willing to bid crazy amounts to win the auction.
A second national lender entered the market also willing to bid really high.
Those accounts were on auto-pilot and were running an automated bidding war against each other paying more than twice what the norms had been per keyword.
That second competitor entering started the cycle.
To this day, their compliance and legal teams would cringe to know they were showing up for things like “payday loans” with how loose and quick they were trying to spend money.
Had I just stuck with my normal competitor monitoring and reports (as noted and encouraged above), it would have taken me weeks or more to understand why my numbers were off and it would have been harder to correct from.8. Operating in a Silo
At some point, and maybe on an ongoing basis, your company has invested in branding and content.
Paid search can operate in much more of a silo than other digital marketing channels.
Please resist the temptation to stay too deep in it.
Branded content, messaging, and specific calls to action that align with the brand overall can help you.
While you might be focused on generic keywords, you can often benefit from being consistent in voice and wording of ad copy, ad creative, and landing page messaging for those that have had other touchpoints and exposure to your brand.
Calls to action.
Other brand assets.
Leverage these so you don’t have a disconnected experience for your paid search traffic and audience.
This requires collaboration with sales, product managers, and more.Conclusion
We all want to have the most strategic and optimized Google Ads accounts possible.
Whether we build the accounts from scratch, inherit them, or put all of our time and attention into them, there’s always a risk of not being aware of the things that can waste money.
Time and money are our resources and we need to invest them to get the greatest return on investment possible and to ensure we’re not missing anything.
You're reading 8 Ways You’re Doing Google Ads Wrong & How To Make It Right
In this way, both physical and website traffic is bound to increase at your storefront, but only if you take note of these updates and make the necessary strides to get involved with the updates ASAP.#1 Utilize Promoted Pins to Advertise Location & Rank First
Promoted pins utilize a company’s logo to mark it on the map. The company’s logo will only occur if the business decides to buy ad space, but will occur on the physical location as soon as the user does a search. These promoted pins are meant to blend well with the existing regular pins and be streamlined with the existing platform (Google doesn’t want them to be an eyesore).
Another bonus of promoted pins is they are marked by a purple pin, instead of a red pin. They will also be the first spot in the organic search results on the app.
You might be wondering what happens if there is a lot of competition for this spot, but Google has made it so that only two can actually rank in this position in a local search. This means it will not only be a highly prized position, but it will also gain more user attention.
To get started with Promoted Pins, you have to be eligible and you can check to make sure you meet Google criteria by doing the following:
Enable location extensions for AdWords
Update your Google My Business listing
Target a location / address and increase bids for locations near your business
Target keywords that relate to your location and what people look up in your area
Once you meet Google’s eligibility criteria, you can start thinking about ad payment.
Payment is ultimately the same principle behind standard AdWords PPC. If someone interacts with your ad, you pay for it.#2 Create a Business Page to Show What You Have to Offer
Learn more about business page optimization here.#3 Local Search Ads for the Win The Takeaway
The combination of a low average CTR and a fierce degree of competition makes for a high average CPC in the office & business needs industry.
Looking at this chart as a whole, it makes a compelling case for running Google Shopping campaigns.Average Shopping Conversion Rate (CVR) by Industry
Typically, when a consumer needs something urgently, they’re going to convert more quickly than someone who’s casually poking around.
For example, whereas a New Yorker who’s suffering in the July heat is inclined to buy that air conditioner unit right now, a man who’s browsing ferns during his lunch break probably isn’t going to make a purchase just yet.
At the same time, though, businesses that sell clothes and beauty products are doing relatively well, too. That’s likely the result of affordable prices and familiarity – a cocktail that makes for low-risk purchases.
Remember when we mentioned the prevalence of Microsoft computers (and Bing users) in corporate offices?
People tend to shop for office supplies while they’re at work, and those transactions tend to take place through Bing.
The average shopping conversion rate (CVR) across all industries is 1.91% for Google Ads and 1.74% for Bing Ads.Average Shopping Cost per Action (CPA) by Industry
Generally speaking, there’s a positive correlation between the price of your product or service and the amount of money you’re willing to pay to win a conversion.
To be more precise, there’s a strong positive correlation between your profit margins and the amount of money you’re willing to pay to win a conversion.
At the other end of the spectrum, sweaters, CDs, and packages of dog food aren’t the most expensive products in the world – hence the CPAs for clothing, arts & music, and pet care living well under $30.
The average shopping cost per action (CPA) across all industries is $38.87 for Google Ads and $23.05 for Bing Ads.Average Monthly Shopping Budget by Industry
If your business is just getting started with shopping campaigns, or if you’ve recently inherited a couple of SEM accounts, knowing how much your competition is spending is incredibly helpful.
Use the average monthly budget within your industry to give yourself a logical starting point.
In fact, due to relatively low CPCs (compared to standard search), you may be able to drive strong results with as little as a couple hundred bucks a month!
In other words, failing to complement your Google Shopping presence with a couple Bing campaigns is a surefire way to miss out on valuable, inexpensive conversions.
The average shopping monthly budget across all industries is $770.41 for Google Ads and $392.53 for Bing Ads.What Does It All Mean?
If you’re unhappy with the way you stack up against the figures in this report, don’t sweat it. Paid search is particularly tricky for ecommerce businesses.
Between keeping your product data feed clean and up-to-date, managing your shopping campaign structures, and optimizing your on-site experience to maximize conversions, you have a lot of moving parts to keep track of.
If you don’t have the time, resources, or bandwidth to take all of that on, we’re here to help.
At the beginning of the month, we launched our brand new shopping software solution – WordStream Advisor for Ecommerce.
With this tool, we’ll help you optimize everything from your data feed to your campaigns to your landing pages.
You can start your free trial here!Data Sources
Google announced today what is potentially a large change for certain paid search managers: the broad match modified version of keywords will be going away.
This change will start rolling out in two weeks.What’s Happening to Broad Match Modified?
Phrase match will now expand to cover broad match modified instances. Google notes it will “continue to respect word order when it’s important to meaning.”
Advertisers will not have to take any specific action. Performance data will stay where it is, but the new matching behavior will start to take place.
Broad match modified keywords can continue to be added until July. At that point, it’s anticipated the full roll-out will be completed and no new ones will be added. Existing broad match modified keywords will continue to serve, but will be matched based on this update.
Google notes this streamlining helps save account management time so brands are spending less time managing specific keywords.How Does this New Matching Mechanism Work?
Currently, broad match modifier tells Google “these terms must all be present in the search query.” It’s expressed by putting a plus sign in front of the keywords required in the search.
Phrase match traditionally tells Google “the words must appear in this order.”
While Google isn’t specific, they note that Phrase Match will now cover both of these needs, while considering whether word order is important.
The example they use is if a moving company wants to help people move from New York to Boston, but NOT from Boston to New York.
Here’s how the keywords for “moving services nyc to Boston” (phrase match) or +moving +services +NYC +to +Boston (modified broad match) would be treated in this new era:
In other words, it can distinguish intent.
Additional examples of before and after include:How Should Advertisers Prepare?
This will likely also affect budges, especially for accounts that allocate budget by match types or divide match types by Campaign or Ad Group.What Does This Mean?
On the face of it, consolidation of platform complexity.
In the past, Google’s automation features were lacking. It was hard to justify taking your hands off those controls.
Brands have wondered for years if Google will achieve a “no keyword needed” environment. While that is still up for debate, they are certainly trying to consolidate and streamline that part of their platform.
Google’s announcement can be read here.
Looking to maximize your return on ad spend and boost conversions for your business?
Want to start seeing significant increases in your Google Ads profits?
Sometimes minor improvements can make a big difference.
Learn how to tweak your strategy and get the most gains from your Google Ads campaigns in three simple steps.
On April 26, I moderated a webinar with Corey Zieman, CEO/Senior Strategist at Guaranteed PPC. Zieman shared three powerful changes that you can incorporate immediately.
Here’s a summary of the webinar. To access the entire presentation, complete the form.Ecommerce PPC Tweaks
80% of the performance of your shopping campaigns will be down to your image and the price that’s showing on that product.
By following these tweaks, you can triple profit or lower expenses.Tweak 1: Test Product Images In Google Shopping
Go to Google Shopping and search for how other products you’re competing against appear for your keywords.
Then, figure out how to make your product images stand out without taking any new photography.
[See examples] Instantly access the on-demand webinar →Tweak 2: Test Price In Your Feed
You’ll end up making 3x more money by:
Increasing visibility by double.Tweak 3: Change Your Price’s Ending Digits
Why? Because consumers are psychologically trained to be drawn to figures that end with odd numbers, precisely the number 7.
[Discover the impact of changing the ending digits] Instantly access the on-demand webinar →National & Regional Service Provider PPC Tweaks
You can apply these tweaks to sales training or product design firms that are operating nationally.Tweak 1: Use Buyer’s Keywords
[See examples] Instantly access the on-demand webinar →Tweak 2: Use Keywords In Landing Page Headlines Tweak 3: Use Location In Ads & Landing Page
[Discover why this works] Instantly access the on-demand webinar →Local PPC Tweaks
These tweaks apply to local brick-and-mortar stores.
85% of your results on Google Ads will be based on your keyword selection and the landing page you design.Tweak 1: Use Product Keywords To Scale Results
85% of customers come from one keyword type.
So, your opportunity to own more market share in your local area exists within your ability to pick up new long-term buyers as they search for individual items you sell.
[Learn more] Instantly access the on-demand webinar →Tweak 2: Use Location In Your Ads
As people are searching for items online, you can drive customers into your store by being able to get your product now or much sooner.
[See an example] Instantly access the on-demand webinar →Tweak 3: Create A Hybrid Landing Page Strategy
Just as before, you want to illustrate the immediate nature of shopping in person, rather than waiting online.
In this case, you’ll want to include local hints on your landing page.
Here’s an example:
[See conversion stats] Instantly access the on-demand webinar →Local Service PPC Tweaks
Doctors’ offices, massage clinics, tattoo removal clinics, and other service businesses can use these PPC tweaks.
75% of your performance will be due to your keyword usage and landing page design.Tweak 1: Put Keywords In Ads
[Find out how many keywords you need] Instantly access the on-demand webinar →Tweak 2: Put Location In Ads Tweak 3: Optimize Landing Page Layout
Prospects want to know three basic things when they search:
Can your business fulfill its needs?
Do you cover their area?
Can they trust you?
Be sure these answers are included on your landing page.
[See the anatomy of a good landing page] Instantly access the on-demand webinar →Local Home Service PPC Tweaks
For these types of businesses, 90% of the performance of your Google Ads will be down to the ad copy and the landing page design you’re using.Tweak 1: Put Keywords In Ads To Double ROI Tweak 2: Put Location In Ads Tweak 3: Optimize Your Landing Page
A proper landing page will convey the three things the user needs to know to reply in 5 seconds or less.How Much Are You Leaving On The Table?
The company that’s big on Google Ads started small and reinvested its profits into the algorithm to get more returns over the years.
If your competitors can do it, you can do it, too.
Start small if necessary.
[Instantly boost sales with these Google Ad tweaks] Instantly access the on-demand webinar →[Slides] 3 Simple Google Ads Tweaks That Immediately Boost Sales
Here’s the presentation:Join Us For Our Next Webinar! KPIs, Metrics & Benchmarks That Matter For SEO Success In 2023
Reserve my Seat
Featured Image: Paulo Bobita/Search Engine Journal
Search engines are among the most important and most mysterious pieces of online infrastructure.
Their role (complex as it is) is to bring some semblance of order to the otherwise chaotic, unimaginably large and constantly shifting corpus of information that is the web, so that when you or I are looking for something online, we can find it.
The exact process and factors that search engines use to accomplish that monumental task are shrouded in secrecy, protected by thousands of patents, and may well be unknowable.
But this combination – the pervasiveness and centrality of search engines to our daily lives mixed with the mystery in how they operate – has fueled feelings of confusion and distrust, not to mention more than a few conspiracy theories (many of which, thankfully, have been debunked).
To be fair, there are real and legitimate concerns about how “big tech” in general – and search engines like Google specifically – wield their vast power to shape our world.
There are legitimate criticisms that many in the SEO industry have leveled at Google, ranging from their proclivity to take content from publishers to their data collection practices and their apparent penchant for favoring their own products/services, among others.
No organization is perfect, and Google is no exception. But none of that justifies the use of shoddy, agenda-driven journalism to propagate a false narrative.
Unfortunately, that is exactly what the Wall Street Journal has done by embracing many discredited conspiracy theories to weave a baseless narrative that the world’s largest search engine, Google, abuses its power for its own nefarious purposes.
Their story (you can read the non-paywalled version here) belongs in the cheap fiction section at the airport, not on the cover of one of the country’s most esteemed news outlets.
In what follows, I’d like to rebut five of the most egregious errors found within the WSJ article; this is certainly not a complete list, but if you’re curious, I did cover all 34 errors here.
And with that, let’s get to it.Debunking 5 of the Most Egregious Myths from the WSJ’s Piece on Google Myth 1: ‘Google made algorithmic changes to its search results that favor big businesses over smaller ones.’
This is a dangerous accusation that unfairly calls into question the credibility of both Google and the entire search community. It’s a textbook example of the correlation-causation fallacy.
And, to put it bluntly, there is no evidence offered in the article that Google modifies its algorithm to favor larger companies over smaller ones.
In fact, (and to its credit) Google has been fairly transparent over the years about what it takes to rank well:
Produce great, original, high-value content that is responsive to the needs of your users and facilitates task accomplishment.
Secure high-quality backlinks from authoritative, reputable sites.
Present that great content on a website that is easy to use (for both people and search engines) and adheres to the current technical standards/protocols.
Does it just so happen that bigger businesses tend to be better at doing those things than smaller businesses? Sometimes.
But does any of that entail that Google is “favoring” big businesses?
There are countless examples of small businesses ranking extremely well for high-value queries. The reason for that?
Those businesses did the smart, hard work required to produce uniquely valuable, high-quality content, secure authoritative links, and present that content on a well-built website.
It’s not “black magic” – it’s consistently brilliant execution of sound SEO strategy.
The corollary to this is the sad tale of woe spun around how certain businesses can be materially impacted by changes to Google’s algorithm.
This is 100% true – but it ignores the fact that:
No company is entitled to organic traffic from Google (or any other search engine); organic traffic is earned through the hard work detailed above.
If a business is that reliant on organic traffic from Google, it’s probably a good idea to address that risk factor via other marketing investments.
Google makes it relatively straightforward to stay current via their webmaster guidelines and Quality Rater guidelines.Myth 2: To evaluate its search results, Google employs thousands of low-paid contractors whose purpose the company says is to assess the quality of the algorithms’ rankings. Even so, contractors said Google gave feedback to these workers to convey what is considered to be the correct ranking of results, and they revised their assessments accordingly.
If one were to read that statement without context or knowledge about how Google works and the role Quality Raters (QRs) play, it sounds pretty bad.
Let’s start with the facts:
Google indirectly employs ~10,000 QRs (who are paid ~$13.50 an hour, for the record) all over the world at any given time via a network of contracting firms.
Google has been running this program since at least 2005.
QRs are basically no different from reviewers or quality-controllers, who assess results using a publicly-available set of guidelines. They do not have access to or control over any components of Google’s algorithms – QRs are just testers who validate that the product (the search algorithm) is working as intended.
But what of the claim that Google tells QRs how to rank pages for its own nefarious reasons?
Assume, just for a moment, that it’s true. How do the logistics of that work?
Over the 15-year history of the program, Google has likely employed millions of QRs. The tenure of most QRs is short (the individual included in the WSJ article was there for just 4 months), which limits loyalty and complicates any efforts to interfere.
So, Google is engaged in a vast conspiracy to manipulate the feedback that they are paying hundreds of millions of dollars each year to obtain?
Two problems with that:
The math behind keeping a conspiracy of that size secret for this long is problematic.
It seems to run headlong into myth #3.
This claim actually contains three false claims weaved together – so let’s take each in turn.
The first is that Google’s Ads & Organic teams are not independent of one another, which is demonstrably false.
As with many of the claims made by the WSJ, this claim is dangerous to the entire search industry, which has continually battled to dispel the myth that companies can pay for organic rankings (a myth that is often propagated by less-than-reputable companies who take their clients’ money with the promise that they “know someone” at Google who will help).
This isn’t the case. It has never been the case.
Assertions like this one continue to give bad actors in the search industry grounds to prey upon the companies that hire them.
The second is that something improper occurred in the 2014 eBay situation, which is also not true. If you’re curious, you can read about it here.
The third is the fact that this claim – that Google adjusted its search rankings for eBay in order to retain their $30 million in annual ad spend – isn’t really compatible with Myth #2 (that Google pays hundreds of millions of dollars for QRs, only to engage in a massive conspiracy to alter the QRs’ rankings to suit Google’s own, sinister purposes).
Something doesn’t add up there.Myth 4: ‘Despite publicly denying doing so, Google keeps blacklists to remove certain sites or prevent others from surfacing in certain types of results.’
This myth relies on a masked man fallacy, where a single term (“blacklists”) is used to describe different things. The more nefarious reading of this comes out of the discredited Project Veritas.
It is true that Google “filters” autocomplete suggestions in accordance with their policies. That’s not new – and the guidelines around it are public.
I have not seen any evidence (including the WSJ’s laughably incomplete analysis of 17 searches conducted over ~31 days) that Google is adjusting those in any way that is in violation of their policy.
The same is true for spam sites not being indexed (nothing new there – been happening since at least 2004). Not to mention that Google is pretty transparent in how manual actions work.
There have been instances where Google has run into issues around indexing, but when that happens, it’s in Google’s best interest to fix the issue quickly.Myth 5: ‘CRITICISM ALLEGING political bias in Google’s search results has sharpened since the 2023 election…. Over the past year, abortion-rights groups have complained about search results that turned up the websites of what are known as “crisis pregnancy centers,” organizations that counsel women against having abortions, according to people familiar with the matter.’
Google is not biased against conservative media.The Last Word
My intention in pointing out these errors is not to vilify the WSJ (though they do deserve criticism), but rather to counter the lie that search is “black magic” that is rigged or biased and therefore can’t be trusted.
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