Five Common Mistakes Made When Managing Paid Search Campaigns


The slightest oversights can make or break a paid search campaign. Even after managing paid search for five years, I learn something new every day.

You’ve probably read articles on quick paid search campaign fixes, but I am going to talk about things you should not be doing and how to fix them. If you’re a brand manager, you may want to make sure your agency is not making these mistakes. If you’re a paid search marketer, you may want to take some notes on these five mistakes.

1. Poor Keyword Selection

Step one in any search marketing campaign is choosing which keywords to bid on. Sure, it’s easy to go to the Google Keyword Planner Tool and let Google tell you which keywords to bid on, load them into AdWords and then turn it on. But a marketer’s job exists for a reason. Don’t let Google waste your money on broad, high cost-per-click terms.

Instead, choose keywords that follow the structure of your website. Create buckets that apply to each one of your pages. Then fill those buckets with as many keywords as you can come up with on your own. Once you’ve done this, you can use the keyword planner to fill in gaps. However, I advise you go through those keywords with a fine-toothed comb. This is a tedious process but you’ll be happy you didn’t spend $5,000 in one week on one keyword with no return on investment.

While there is no limit to how many keywords you should have and there is no such thing as “not enough keywords,” the rule of thumb is quality over quantity. As your campaigns run, the front runners and poor performers will become more obvious and based off that, you can start making optimizations.

2. Ineffective Bidding And Budgeting

A common bidding setup error is choosing a really high bid ($10) across all keywords to get us as much inventory as possible. This is the same thing as throwing money out the window.

You want to set the highest bid necessary to achieve your desired share of voice – and not a penny more. When you lock bids in before the point of diminishing returns, you are preventing unwarranted spend. You can find this bid by using the keyword planner and setting your bid at the top of the curve or keep on increasing the bid until your impression amount stops increasing. This puts you at 100% share of voice. But be mindful that the estimations you see are not guaranteed due to external factors (competitors).

3. Bad Campaign Structure

One of the worst mistakes is bad campaign structure – high volume, more expensive keywords mixed in with longer tail, less expensive, low-volume keywords. This setup is allowing Google to spend the entire campaign budget on the more expensive terms. This doesn’t allow the longer-tail terms to have a chance.

Trademark terms should be isolated into their own campaigns: one keyword, one ad group, one campaign. Match types by campaign, not by ad group. Combining match types within campaigns is a surefire way to spend your campaign’s budget solely on broad match terms. And the most common rule of thumb, brand and non-brand separated. Non-brand will always be more expensive and more competitive, so you don’t want these terms taking budget away from your most important brand keywords.

With just a restructure after a client acquisition, we were able to double traffic and conversions, and lower impressions with the same budget. Remember to use inventory amounts in the keyword planner as a way to inform you which keywords are high volume. You can also use pre-existing data and tie in your share of voice to get the impressions lost. This clever post is helpful to calculate lost impressions. Most importantly, organize your keywords into tightly knit ad groups. This will allow for writing the most relevant and descriptive ad copy possible (which we will talk more about later on).