1. Running both search and content network campaigns together – Split search and content campaigns so you can control their budgets separately. These are two very different animals.
  2. Not using analytics – Analytics and conversion tracking are musts. If you can’t track it, how do you know if you are making money or losing it?
  3. Starting with too many keywords – Start with few keywords (5-10) per ad group, then grow slowly.
  4. Using broad match options – Stay away from broad match. Stick to phrase and exact match options.
  5. Using only one landing page or sending all clicks to the homepage – Each ad group should go to a specific landing page targeted for the keywords in the group.
  6. Not targeting countries – Start with USA. Don’t branch out unless you can show conversions at home.
  7. Bidding and budgeting according to Adwords/Adcenter recomendations – Take ad and bid optimization recommendations with a grain of salt. After all, they are coming from a company who has a financial interest in getting you to bid more.

Bottom line… start out as simply as possible. This will allow you to learn and understand before moving on to more advanced techniques. It is your ad budget that will be wasted by jumping in to the deep end of the pool before learning to swim.

Split Search and Content Network Campaigns

Search campaigns and content network campaigns are two very different animals. Search users are generally further along in the purchasing process. They entered in your specific search keywords into a search engine after all.

With the content network you usually need to inform more before you start selling as they most likely weren’t expressly shopping for something when they clicked the ad. They were reading the news or their email when they saw your advertisement.

These two big differences mean huge CTR differences for each of the campaigns. Good CTR for a search campaign is generally in the 3%-5% range. For a content campaign, good CTRs may be more likely 0.5%-1%.

Another difference is the methods in which your ads are triggered for each campaign. With search campaigns, ads are triggered based on the keywords you are bidding on. Content network campaigns are not so straight forward. Yes, the keywords you supply come into play, but in most cases, these are a rough guide, not a rule as in the search campaign. Google, Bing and others may try to place your ads on as many sites as possible to fill their inventory of ad slots available.

Use Analytics and Conversion Tracking

This one is so simple. If you aren’t tracking your performance, how do you know if you are wasting your money? Are you profitable paying $1.00 a click to get someone to your site? Or is profitability only possible with $0.25 clicks. How do you know what your break even point is?

Without basic analytics and conversion tracking, there is no way to judge ROI for your campaigns. You quite possibly could be spending more money to get that customer than they could ever return to you in sales. Not Good Business!

It’s also worth mentioning here that conversion tracking should be verified as properly functioning before launching any sizable campaigns.

Start With Few Keywords Per Ad Group

In the beginning, you have so many variables in play there is no way anyone could keep the relationships between them straight, much less a PPC novice. Between the keywords themselves, CPC bids, the actual ad text and the landing pages, how do you know how each effects the other?

Sure, a high CPC bid will usually get your ad higher and better placement and more views. This in turn should result in more clicks, but are these clicks leading to more sales? The trick isn’t to pay the most money to get the most sales. The goal is to pay the least amount of money to get the most highly targeted clicks.

Which keyword group converts best with which landing page? How does the keyword quality score affect bids and ROI? Which ad text gets the most clicks for which keyword group?

It can be daunting to keep all of this in your head at once. Now multiply all of these questions by dozens and dozens, or even hundreds of keywords and it will be impossible to wrap your head around. If you are just starting out, the goal should be to learn and to make money. The learning part will be much easier by limiting the variables as much as possible and sticking to several tightly targeted ad groups with only a dozen keywords each.

Stay Away from Broad Match

Broad match means that if your given keyword is auto insurance, using broad match, your ad could be shown for auto insurance fraud, how to scam my auto insurance, auto insurance agents in Timbuktu and thousands of others you never intended. Unless you can convert that traffic, you are wasting your ad budget on these placements.

Stick to phrase match and exact match bidding for your keywords until you have a better grasp on the potential placements with broad match. Your ad budget will thank you.

Use Landing Pages Targeted for Each Ad Group

As we discussed earlier, search and content network users most likely aren’t in the same stage of making a purchase decision. Searchers more often are closer to the purchasing mindset, while content network traffic is most often still in the information gathering stage.

Trying to close the sale to both using the same landing page is most likely going to leave one of your campaigns with a dismal conversion rate.

Target Your Home Country First

This is a simple checkbox in most advertising platform’s campaign setups. If you don’t already sell to folks outside of the USA, why would you pay for clicks to get them to your site?

Prove your campaigns and landing pages on your best target demographic before hitting the road and going international.

Don’t Rely on Advertiser’s Recommendations

In setting up hundreds of campaigns, I have never once followed the recommendations of Google Adwords or Adcenter as to my budget or bid prices. While I’m not saying these are highly suspect, it is worthwhile to remember that they make more money when you spend more with them. Their recommendations may get you to the top of their placements, but they may send you to the poor house too without many more sales.

Bid what you are comfortable with and budget what you can spend each month.

If you can eliminate these easy mistakes from your campaign you will be much more likely to see early successes in you PPC campaigns instead of wasting a whole month’s budget without seeing a sale. We do provide campaign setup services and ppc management services if need just a helping hand or would like us to take over your PPC marketing efforts.


Headline Writing Basics

We see thousands of advertising headlines every day; billboards, signage, television, newspapers, Google and almost every website we visit. Life inundates us with countless messages every day and with every page. Early on we learn to tune out the things that we don’t think is applicable to us or feel the need to deal with at the moment. We learn to ignore mom while playing a video game or talking on the phone. We automatically start talking or leave the room when a commercial comes on television. Online, we learn to navigate Google and our favorite sites without noticing anything that doesn’t immediately speak to us in that moment.

An advertisement has at most a second or two to grab a viewer’s attention with most PPC text formats. Think of all of the distractions there are in any one pageview. On a Google search results page, stiff competition comes from the other six to ten text advertisements on the page; not to mention the search results themselves. If you run ads on the search or content networks you could be competing with visual elements such as content images and banner ads as well.

Clear and Concise

First, do be clear and concise. You have only twenty-five characters with a Google text ad headline. Use them wisely. Don’t waste headline space on words that don’t relate to your product, offer or the keywords being bid on.

In general text ads contain their main point in the headline. Each line below in decreasing order of importance emphasizes or expounds on the main point proposed in the headline. If a potential customer doesn’t understand your ad, they most likely won’t be clicking to visit your site… it’s simply not relevant to them and forgotten. What does this mean for the advertiser? Lower click through rates and higher cost per click.

A good way to start testing ads for a new campaign is take your highest traffic keyword phrases and work them into the headlines of separate ads targeted to narrow groups of similar keywords. In addition to the keywords, state simply a unique value proposition in the headline to give your ad more context relevancy. If you craft a value proposition so that it adds urgency as well, you can greatly increase your click through rate.

Let’s say you are bidding on the keyword and close variations. A user types in weight loss and searches. They see the following headline for the top PPC ad:

Simple Weight Loss

This headline is deceptively simple, but can be very powerful if you can follow through on the statement. The keyword weight loss is displayed in bold because it appeared in the user’s search query. There is little confusion about with should be on the other side of this link. There can be a lot of different and personal definitions of such a generic word as simple, though. What is simple to one is not necessarily simple to someone else. However, you’ve set everyone’s expectations that you have the simple answer, so be prepared to prove it on your landing page.

A positive side effect of having a clear message and giving the viewer an accurate idea about what to expect after they click through your advert is pre-screening your visitors. For example, if you are creating a new campaign to sell supplements and exercise videos to men. Which of the following headlines will likely convert better?

Simple Weight Loss
Simple Weight Loss For Men

I’ll bet you dollars to donuts, all other things being equal, that the second, more specific ad will convert better once you get a visitor to the site. Why? For the simple fact that with the first one, there is over double the audience, men and women. It would be just as likely for a man or a woman to click through. If a site caters to men only, a large portion of women clicking their ads are wasted ad spend costing real dollars.

If a site caters to both men and women, specificity is still important. Direct the male ad to a men specific landing page and similar for the women specific ads. The final conversion rate will most likely be better for each. Pre-screening a visitor as such can be a powerful tool in increasing the overall profitability of your account.


Do know your audience. Making a purchase decision is a largely emotional experience. Men and women have different emotional triggers as well as the differences inherit in different age groups, geographic locations and ethnicities.

Let’s look at another overly simplified example involving our weight loss campaigns. This time, he is selling exercise videos aimed at women. A women looking for diet and exercise information most likely doesn’t feel good about some aspect of her body… otherwise she wouldn’t be searching. That is a negative emotion. Turn the negative around and sell the positive vision. Sell symptom relief not facts. Sell the hope that fitting back into that ‘little black dress’ is attainable. Hope is positive. If you can link that hope with your product… SOLD!

Women typically want benefits, men want features. Women want to picture themselves with the product and how it benefits them. Men have problems that need solving and each feature can solve one or more problems. Everyone wants quick and everyone wants easy. Whatever you do make it about them; the headline should be about the reader first, not about your product.

Which of these headlines are emotional pleas and which are problem solving statements?

  1. Tongue Tied at Parties?
  2. Stop Stuttering in a Week
  3. How to Flirt on Facebook Safely
  4. Get a Date Tonight on Facebook
  5. Wear That Little Black Dress Again
  6. Rock Hard Abs Without Crunches

The odd-numbered ones attempt to elicit feelings in the reader. Headlines #1 and #3 attempt to connect to the reader through the emotions of fear and anxiety. If a reader identifies with either of the groups spoken to, the message rings even louder on an emotional level. Headline five promises a happy ending and leads a reader to visualize themselves in that dress. What could be better?

The even-number headlines above, speak on a more direct problem — solution level. They identify or infer a problem and tell the reader they have the solution. Just as important, each headline promises the reader something specific about their solution; quick, immediate or easy.

Problem: Stuttering
Solution: Use this product for one week and be cured

Problem: No dates
Solution: Use this product and be cured tonight

Problem: Flabby Abs
Solution: Use this product… and it’s easier than crunches.

When employing a problem solving headline, especially on a common problem with many solutions available, it is important to give the reader a reason why your particular solution is any better than the next. Common areas where products can try to set themselves apart from the pack are:

  1. Price
  2. Ease of use
  3. Speed of results
  4. Convenience
  5. Best / Optimum / Paramount Solution

There are certainly many others. Depending on your market and competition, some will speak more directly to the intended consumer and provide the right amount of urgency to get more relevant and targeted clicks to your page. This in turn will lead to more conversions in fewer paid clicks and lower overall cost per conversion, making you more money every day.


These generalizations will never approach the accuracy of a controlled test of two different headlines head to head. With some products and markets, gender and age metrics may not follow any decipherable pattern. Knowing and understanding that there are differences should allow you to look outside the box and find more profitable headlines and niches to exploit.

A headline that draws a lot of traffic but doesn’t convert well, shouldn’t be discounted fully without further examination. From the amount of traffic, you have found an obvious hook to pull people to your site. That is half of the battle in any online sales funnel. The problem now is converting more of those users. If the headline is appropriately targeted, the traffic should be similar to your target demographic. In many cases, it may be a product already in your catalog or closely related. Ask yourself a few questions:

What were those users really looking for?
Can we sell it to them profitably with PPC?

Answer both of those and you’ve just created another profitable sales channel!

Image: Damian Brandon

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