The Top 5 Mistakes Small and Medium Sized Businesses Make in Paid Search

Updated on | By | Under the Category PPC

One of the most celebrated things about Google’s Adwords PPC advertising system has been that it should level the playing field between large and small advertisers. The barriers to entry in PPC advertising are much smaller than in traditional media advertising but just because you can do it as a small business doesn’t mean you can necessarily compete!

When you are competing with larger advertisers and their deeper pockets, you need to be hyper efficient with your campaign to make every impression and click count with your limited resources.

Below are the top 5 mistakes that SMBs make in PPC search that limit their ability to compete… and what you can do to avoid these pitfalls!

Mistake #1: Blending Display and Search traffic.

This is a common mistake that small advertisers make when creating their first campaign. It is no surprise that many new campaign mix display and search traffic since that is Google’s default in the campaign creation process. While display traffic may be a good way to meet your online marketing goals lumping it together with search is a strategy that is more likely to benefit Google than your business. With the two networks mixed in a single campaign you cannot control how much of your budget is going to high value search clicks and how much maybe spent on more brand awareness display clicks.

As a small business with a limited budget I recommend that you start with a search only campaign (or adjust your network settings on your current campaign to search only) If you are not driving enough traffic to fulfill your budget or you want to allocate a separate budget for raising brand awareness then consider starting a separate display only campaign. As a bonus this keeps your data separate which will help you to more easily evaluate the efficacy of each campaign.

Mistake #2: Incorrect Geo Targeting

As with combining Search and Display Google defaults all campaigns to US and Canada. This creates two levels of problems for SMBs as they are starting out. The first and most severe is when businesses that are truly local do not realize this is the default and they waste money on out of area clicks. The second level of problem this can create is more philosophical about how businesses spend their limited resources. For web businesses that can potentially serve customers in the entire US or Globally the question becomes; Should you try to extend you marketing to all of those areas?  If you are currently maximizing your budget I would say no you should not. Are there geographic areas where your products or services are more popular? You will be able to tell where your traffic and conversions come from using Google Analytics, if you have it properly installed. If you do not have Google Analytics or it is not properly configured you can test limiting your reach using your knowledge of your customers. Some possible reasons to exclude certain geographies are:

  • States that are costly to ship to

  • Areas that have seasonal or climatic bias against your product or services

  • States whose demographics are not your ideal customers

  • Major metros (they drive high search volume) if they result in lower value conversions

By either concentrating on your most meaningful geo locations or excluding potentially poor converting locations you can spend more of your precious budget on areas that matter and drive a better ROI for your campaign.

Mistake #3: Too High Keyword Counts

Many popular blogs and forums on PPC marketing have long promoted deep and diverse keyword strategies. While keyword exploration can yield some additional conversions and new valuable terms, it takes a high amount of data and PPC spend to test.  For many small businesses it may be best to take a more limited approach to keywords focusing on 100 or less highly targeted terms and grouping them into tightly themed adgroups.

With a smaller amount of keywords will allow you to collect more data for each term informing you to whether they are effective for your campaign. By having too much content the amount of clicks and impressions garnered are spread over more terms making it difficult to determine how effective any of these terms are at driving positive ROI.

Mistake #4: Device Targeting When Your Site Isn’t Mobile-Friendly

In July of 2013, Google upgraded all campaigns to what they call Enhanced campaigns.  With Enhanced campaigns, all campaigns became eligible for mobile traffic. As mobile search usage continues to grow exponentially this helps increase Google revenues, but it may not be the best for your business. Before you make any decisions on your device strategy you should first try and visit your own site (preferably your most popular PPC landing pages) on your mobile device.

Can a user easily navigate your site? Can they complete your desired action? (purchase, sign up etc) If the answer is No, or Not Easily, then you should consider adjusting your mobile bid multiplier. This can be done under the device tab of your campaign settings. Depending on how well or poorly you feel your site renders on mobile, it is recommended that you decrease your bids between 50-100%

Mistake #5: Not Defining and Tracking Conversions

One of the most frequent and egregious mistakes SMBs make is not putting the correct analytics in place to track and improve their campaigns. If you are spending important marketing dollars on SEM then you should be tracking every aspect that you can. For most that means implementation of Google Analytics as well as placing an Adwords conversion tracking code. If you have take the time to implement the two types of Google tracking you should also take the steps to link the two accounts.

Having actionable information in your adwords account on conversions, and bounce rate can help to inform many decisions from keyword and bids to day parting and device type bidding. It is also paramount to understanding if your campaign is delivering positive ROI and if you can grow it or if you would be better off testing different marketing mediums

Final Thoughts

If you avoid these five pitfalls you will have created a reasonable foundation for your campaign that can help you to compete against bigger businesses. If you are interested in learning more about SEM best practices and using our free Adwords evaluation tools check out PPCPath today!

About the Author: Matt Hessler

Matt Hessler isn’t just a men’s fashion designer, rebuilder of vintage motorcycles and Director of Search at Trada and PPCPath. He’s also the author of the new ebook The Ultimate Guide to PPC Landing Pages! Matt says PPC gives him a holistic view of the customer lifecycle, reminding him that conversion marketing requires patience and persistence.

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