Avoiding 9 Costly Google Ads Mistakes

Default Targeting Choices for Search Network & Display Network Campaigns

Choose Search Network for lead generation campaigns as Display Network's low conversion rates inflate Cost Per Acquisition without significant benefits. Display Network may divert ads to relevant sites but lacks visibility to active searchers, making it a costly, ineffective choice for relevant conversions.

Summary of what will be covered in this article:

Google Ads offers a plethora of features and targeting options, making it a potent tool for lead and sales generation. However, its default recommendations can sometimes lead to costly mistakes, hindering ROI. There’s a conflict of interest: while you aim for sales, Google prioritizes clicks. Additionally, useful features may be hidden, leading to oversight.

Avoiding these pitfalls is crucial for driving targeted traffic and maximizing marketing efforts. Here are nine common Google Ads mistakes new campaigns often make, along with strategies to sidestep them:

  1. Neglecting the Search & Display Network
  2. Overlooking Negative Keywords
  3. Ignoring Conversion Tracking
  4. Underestimating the Importance of Keyword Research
  5. Not Testing Bidding Strategies
  6. Overlooking Ad Copy Testing
  7. Failing to Utilize Ad Extensions
  8. Disregarding Regional Trends
  9. Neglecting to Experiment and Iterate

Mistake 1 – Search Network & Display Network default campaign targeting options

In search network campaigns, you’re given the choice to opt for the Search Network, Display Network, or both, including Google search partners for both networks. For campaigns focused on lead generation rather than brand awareness, it’s advisable to opt solely for the Search Network. This is because the conversion rate of clicks on the Display Network tends to be notably lower compared to searches, resulting in a higher Cost Per Acquisition without significant benefits.

When targeting a keyword on the Search Network, your ad will appear exclusively on Google and search partners. However, if you also select the Display Network, Google will attempt to display your ad on relevant websites, but it won’t reach individuals actively searching for you. Consequently, choosing the Display Network can be an ineffective use of funds since it doesn’t attract relevant traffic that converts effectively.

Your action item: Uncheck the default search partners and display network when setting up the campaign.

Mistake 2 – Not Using Negative Keywords

Regularly expanding your list of negative keywords on Google Ads is essential, ideally on a weekly basis. Begin by establishing a standard set of negative keywords, which can be sourced from various tools like Semrush’s Keyword Planner, Ubersuggest, Google suggestions, Semrush, or Ahrefs (although the latter two are paid tools). Websites like Techwyse also offer comprehensive lists of negative keywords for immediate use.

Incorporating these negative keywords into your campaigns is crucial for cost savings on Google Ads. They help attract more qualified leads while filtering out searches unlikely to convert, ultimately maximizing your advertising budget’s effectiveness.

Once you’ve uploaded the initial list, navigate to the “Search Terms” section within the Keywords tab. Here, you’ll uncover the precise search terms people use to discover your ads. It’s probable that you’ll encounter keywords irrelevant to your campaign, which should promptly be added to your negative keyword list. Failing to do so not only inflates costs but also underscores the significance of maintaining a robust negative keyword list for various reasons.

Your action item: Aim for a minimum of 50-100 negative keywords upon start and keep refining the list based on actual search term data.

Mistake 3 – Not Optimizing For Conversion Testing

It’s surprising how many ad campaigns lack conversion testing, a critical component for assessing campaign performance.

Without conversion testing, determining the cost per lead or sale, identifying effective keywords, and other vital metrics become uncertain.

Optimizing your Ads campaign for conversions is key to maximizing ROI. To do this, navigate to Settings -> Measurement -> Conversions, and ensure all possible conversion actions are added based on user interactions with your platform.

Examples of conversion actions include sales, form submissions, email sends, phone calls, newsletter signups, and digital asset downloads (such as apps or ebooks).

Google Ads aims to generate leads and sales, and without optimizing for conversions, achieving this objective becomes challenging.

Your action item: setup as many conversion actions as possible.

Mistake 4 – Poor Keyword Research

Failing to conduct thorough keyword research is a common and detrimental mistake in Google Ads. Relying on personal assumptions about search behavior rather than utilizing tools like Google’s Keyword Planner can lead to ineffective keyword selection.

Moreover, choosing the appropriate match type for keywords is crucial. Broad match options, often avoided in about 90% of cases, tend to attract irrelevant traffic, inflating costs and reducing account rank.

Understanding keyword match types is paramount for campaign success. We recommend selecting 10-15 basic keywords and using them in all three variants: broad match modifier (+), phrase match (” “), and exact match ([]), ensuring relevance to the term’s meaning.

Creating specific ad groups targeting individual landing pages with their own set of keywords is essential. Avoid lumping all keywords into one group; instead, distribute them across ad groups strategically.

For experienced advertisers, Single Keyword Ad Groups (SKAGs) are likely already in use, but if not, it’s advisable to explore their benefits for campaign optimization.

Your action item: Select the right keywords and the right match types; the quality of clicks is far more important than quantity.

Mistake 5 – Not Testing Bidding Strategies

In 2018, the array of bid strategies available might seem overwhelming, but testing a few is crucial to finding the most suitable one for your needs. While manual CPC is favored by many advanced advertisers for its long-term bid control, options like maximize conversions or enhanced CPC are preferred by others, particularly for short-term campaigns lasting one or two weeks. These strategies enable Google to secure the most clicks at optimal prices.

For targeted bidding, focusing on Cost per Action (CPA) and Return on Ad Spend (ROAS) bid strategies is key. These strategies allow bids aligned with your desired cost per action or return on ad spend, ensuring you spend just enough on ads to meet your ROI goals and maximize your investment.

Your action item: There is no one-size-fits-all bidding option, so test different bidding strategies to find your sweet spot.

Mistake 6 – Creating Only One Ad Variation

Creating just one ad per ad group or having only one ad variation is a common Google Ads mistake. To improve conversion rates and reduce costs, it’s crucial to develop multiple ad variations per ad group.

Even if using the same headline or description, having several ad variations is essential for testing and determining which performs best. Once you identify a winning ad, you can pause the others and create slightly different versions for further split testing.

Continuous testing and refinement are necessary to find the optimal ROI for your campaign. Rarely does a campaign immediately generate leads or sales; it typically requires extensive testing and adjustment to achieve success.

Your action item: Aim for a minimum of 2 (3 is better) ad copies per ad group.

Mistake 7 – Not Adding Extensions

Ad extensions are like the extra features that enhance your ads, making them more appealing and driving qualified traffic to your site. Google offers a variety of extensions to optimize your ads effectively.

Sitelink extensions allow you to display additional links to relevant pages on your website, while callout extensions highlight unique selling points. Structured snippet extensions, message extensions, location extensions, and price extensions are other valuable options.

For mobile targeting, call extensions or message extensions are essential, enabling users to easily contact you directly from their mobile devices.

It’s important to note that Google determines how extensions appear, and your goal is to monitor their performance regularly. By assessing which extensions yield better conversions, you can deactivate underperforming ones or improve them for better results.

Your action item: Setup as many ad extensions as possible; the more real-estate your ad takes up, the higher your CTRs.

Mistake 8 – Ignoring Regional Trends

There seem to be two main approaches among advertisers: some focus intensely on targeting a small area, like a single city, while others adopt a more aggressive strategy, targeting nationwide or even internationally.

The primary consideration is the geographical area you serve. Local businesses, such as restaurants, typically advertise only within their immediate vicinity or in new areas they’re trying to penetrate.

For businesses with broader geographical scope, testing a larger area can be beneficial. This approach allows for analyzing ad performance on a city/town basis. For instance, you might discover that the cost per conversion is lower in one city than another, prompting adjustments to budget allocation.

Similarly, examining Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) by device can provide valuable insights. If mobile conversion costs are too high or tablets are consuming budget without converting, adjustments can be made accordingly.

Your action item: Test different locations to find where you can get the most cost-effective leads and sales.

Mistake 9 – Not Using Experiments

The Experiments feature in Google Ads is a highly valuable tool, yet it remains underutilized by many advertisers.

This feature enables you to conduct split tests to identify more effective variables. Whether it’s testing different landing pages, ad copies, keyword match types, or keywords themselves, the possibilities are extensive.

One of its key benefits is the ability to control the amount of traffic directed to each experiment, minimizing risks while maximizing potential rewards. This level of control makes it a powerful tool for optimizing campaign performance.

Your action item: Give experiments a try; your bottom line will thank you for it!


Running a successful Google Ads campaign requires time, patience, and extensive testing, as emphasized throughout.

Investing additional time upfront to set up your campaign correctly and avoid common pitfalls—such as creating multiple ad variations, carefully selecting keywords, organizing ad groups with precision, and refining keyword mix—can significantly enhance your campaign’s effectiveness.

By prioritizing thorough setup and ongoing optimization, you can generate leads at a cost-effective and sustainable level, maximizing the return on your advertising investment in the long run.