Avoid These Seven Common PPC Mistakes for Small Businesses at All Costs

After carrying out numerous free PPC account audits for small businesses currently running PPC advertising, I have come across all kinds of PPC accounts. From large and modest budgets to simple and complex account structures. Ecommerce or lead generation. I’ve seen them all.     

There is rarely a ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to creating a winning PPC account and strategy. However, after reviewing so many small business PPC accounts, I’ve noticed that there some basic PPC advertising mistakes that are made by small businesses. 

Below is a list of my top seven basic PPC mistakes that are often made by small business PPC advertisers.

Poor Keyword Choices

One of the most basic elements of PPC advertising is choosing the right keywords. Despite being a basic element of PPC marketing, it is one of the most important. Choosing the wrong keywords can reduce your clickthrough rate and conversion rate, resulting in your advertising budget being wasted. 

It is common for PPC advertisers to put together a list of keywords that appear relevant on the surface, but they are not likely to perform well. This is because the PPC advertiser didn’t take time to really get to know the business. 

For example, I took over a PPC account where the advertiser, who sells wheelie bins, had been spending a lot of money on the keyword ‘wheelie bins’. While this keyword sounds relevant, it is far too generic and is likely to be searched for by someone who is very early in their sales journey. There are also many sizes, types, and colors when it comes to wheelie bins and some of these products, the client doesn’t stock. We don’t know whether someone searching for ‘wheelie bins’ needs a product variant that my client stocks or not.

No Audience/Age/Gender/Location Targeting Strategy

As PPC becomes more competitive, just choosing the right kind of keywords may not be enough. Most advertisers will understand the importance of choosing the right keywords because it increases the chances of their ads being shown to people who will be interested in their product. But advertisers shouldn’t stop there. In 2020, Google Ads offers so many more ways to segment your targeting so that you can bid on the users that are most likely to purchase your product.

Audiences, age group, gender and location are just a few of the ways that Google Ads allows advertisers to segment their targeting. Some of the targeting options offered won’t be relevant to some businesses. However, it is important to be aware of what is available so that you can tailor-make a targeting strategy that is right for your business.

For example, customers looking to hire a skip care about how far the skip is from their location. This means that a skip hire company based in Leeds should be targeting the Leeds and surrounding areas. It should not be targeting the whole of the UK. Similarly, if a cosmetic surgery clinic knows that most of their customers are younger women, then to put their advertising budget to better use, they may decide to only target younger women. Or they may decide to target all age groups and genders but to put more of their budget behind younger women. Once you know what targeting features are available to you, then you can match these features up with your advertising strategy.

Still Using Last-click Attribution

In 2020, advertisers really shouldn’t be using the default last-click attribution model. They should instead be exploring a multi-touch attribution model. An attribution model will decide which click to give the credit to if more than one click happened before a conversion. 

The problem with the last click is that it ignores all the work done by the upper funnel keywords that generated the interest and gives all the credit to the last click. As an example, consider a customer who speaks to three different salespeople about which Television to purchase on three different days. On the fourth day, the customer goes to the till and tells the person at the checkout that they would like to purchase a Television. In this scenario, a last-click attribution model is comparable to giving all the credit to the person at the checkout. However, we know that the sale could not have happened if the other salespeople hadn’t spoken to the customer beforehand. Similarly, we shouldn’t be assigning all the credit for a conversion to the last click.  

No Negative Keywords

Google’s research shows that 16% of searches every day are new and have never been searched before. Therefore, advertisers must check their search query reports regularly and block out any irrelevant traffic that may be coming through. Blocking out irrelevant traffic will reduce the amount of budget that is wasted. It also means that you have more budget to put towards buying higher-quality traffic that is likely to help you achieve your advertising goals. 

For example, if you’re bidding on the keyword +mens +large + jumper as a broad match modifier, then your ad could show for ‘mens used large jumpers’ or ‘designer mens large jumpers’. If you don’t sell used or designer clothing, then you should block these search terms from your account. Regularly reviewing your search query report can help you find searches to block out and improve the efficiency of your PPC account.

Neglecting the Landing Page

The fifth common mistake that I see is advertisers putting in a lot of thought on their Google Ads advertising but then neglecting the landing page. Your landing page is arguably one of the most important aspects of a PPC advertising campaign. Even if you put in all the hard work to make the right audience click your ads, if the landing page is poor, then your audience is not going to complete your conversion action. 

As a starting point, try to send your customers to the right page depending on what they have searched for, instead of sending them to your homepage. For example, if your customer has searched for ‘children’s tweed’, then you should send them to your ‘children’s tweed coats’ page and not the home page. If you don’t have a specific tweed coats page for children and there is enough volume for searches relating to children’s tweed coats, then you could consider creating a separate page for this.

Little thought Put into Bid Management

It is quite common for PPC advertisers to be bidding on several keywords and assign the same level of bids to them. Each of your keywords is going to perform differently and are therefore not worth the same to your business. You should be looking at the historical performance of your keywords, bidding more aggressively on the better performing keywords and less aggressively on the poorer performing keywords. Before you can do this, you’ll need to make sure that conversion tracking is installed so that you can see which keywords are completing your conversion action.

As a starting point, you can use some formulas to decide on how much to bid once you have a cost per acquisition or a return on ad spend target. Cost per acquisition looks at how much cost is accrued before you typically achieve a conversion. If you decide to work towards a cost per acquisition, then you can use the below formula to help you to decide how much to bid for each keyword.

CPA bid: CVR* CPA Target

A ROAS target looks at how many times greater the revenue is to the media spend. If you decide to work towards a ROAS target, then you can use the below formula as a starting point to help to decide how much to bid for each keyword.

ROAS bid = (CVR * AOV) / ROAS target

Not Understanding Some of the Setting Options

Understanding the settings within Google Ads is very important as they can greatly change the performance of your account.

One of the more common issues that I’ve seen is PPC advertisers not using the location targeting settings. By default, your location targeting settings will be set to target ‘People in, or who show interested in, your targeted locations (recommended)’. This means that your PPC ads can show to people who are in the locations that you’re targeting. They can also show to people who have shown an interest in the locations that you’re targeting perhaps by including the location that you’re targeting on their search term. For a lot of advertisers, this will probably be the best option for them, but I’ve often improved the performance of an account by being more granular with my location targeting.


Another common mistake is accidentally setting the Audience targeting settings to ‘Targeting’ and then being confused as to why there is a loss of traffic. When setting Audience targeting, you can choose to only target people who have searched for your keyword and are part of the audience that you’ve chosen. You can do this by selecting the ‘Targeting’ option when adding an Audience list. A second option is to target everyone who has searched for one of your keywords but to target people in your Audience lists differently. You can do this by selecting the ‘Observation (Recommended) option when adding your Audience lists. 

Google ads audience settings

Wrapping up

So, these are the seven basic PPC mistakes to avoid that I often see on small PPC accounts. If you’re not seeing the level of performance that you had hoped for in your PPC account, then check to see you haven’t made any of the above seven basic PPC mistakes. Once you’ve ticked off the above mistakes, then you can start looking at more advanced PPC optimisation tactics.

Author Bio: With over eight years in digital marketing, Rashed is passionate about all things digital marketing and PPC advertising. Rashed is currently the PPC Director at Pepper PPC Agency - a UK based PPC agency using a profit over traffic approach to PPC advertising.

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