Halloween is coming up, so I’ve collected what I consider to be five of the most scary AdWords mistakes. This is not a list of the most common AdWords mistakes, but five mistakes that are scary in the sense that they can wreak havoc while being all too easy to commit. By knowing these mistakes, hopefully you’ll stay clear of committing them in your own AdWords account.
Most clients operate with some kind of budget, and as their PPC consultant it’s your job to stay within the limits of this budget.
But sometimes mistakes happen. Imagine that you’ve added an extra zero to the daily budget by mistake or that you forgot to include a newly created campaign in the shared budget.
Hopefully, this doesn’t happen too often, but the consequences of overspending can be truly scary. While writing this post I read a thread on Reddit by a guy who overspent by $4,100 for a client in a single month and then his boss wanted him to cover the whole thing!
If you do end up spending more money than your client has budgeted for, I would advise you to investigate the following:
- How did the extra spend perform? If it performed well, it might not be a bad thing. Try showing your client the value of the extra money you spent on AdWords.
- Can you reduce the budget for the next month? Or maybe you can spread the reduction out over several months?
After all, it may not be the end of the world if the extra money you spent brought in value or if you can reduce the budget a little in each of the following months.
If the money was straight-up squandered, things would be much more scary, which brings me to the next AdWords mistake …
2. Setting (Completely) Wrong Bids
While setting bids too high won’t necessarily result in overspending (as long as your budgets are under control), it could easily waste a lot of your client’s money.
Google will gladly accept your high bids and eat away your daily budget faster than lions feasting on fresh kill. If you don’t catch this mistake in time, you’ll most likely end up spending a lot of money on very few clicks, resulting in more expensive conversions.
But why is this scary? Isn’t it just a stupid mistake? Not necessarily – at least, not for all my fellow international PPC specialists. Sometimes you’ll find yourself shifting between the English account interface and your local language. The problem is that the decimal separator will shift from being a period to being a comma depending on the account language settings.
Why is this a problem? Because if you don’t realize you’ve just gone from an account using a decimal comma to one using a decimal period, you may end up setting your bids an order of magnitude higher than intended – and then you’ve got a problem.
But won’t Google warn you? Yes, fortunately Google will warn you if you try to change the bid for a single keyword and they think you’re using the wrong format. Below you can see how my bid of 2,0 Danish Kroner is interpreted as 20.00 DKK instead of 2.0 DKK as was my intention (in Denmark we use the decimal comma).
Also, if you select more than one ad group in order to do some bulk editing, Google won’t give you this warning. In the image below, my intention is to set the bid to two and a half Danish Kroner for two ad groups but because the number format setting is set to English instead of Danish, Google will interpret it as twenty-five Danish Kroner – a significant difference!
Language settings aside, there are other ways you might set completely wrong bids. For instance, you could mistakenly think you can rely on the ad group bids in Shopping campaigns. Shopping campaigns use ad groups like any other type of campaign does, but the ad group bid doesn’t work the way you might expect. Frederick Vallaeys has also written about this problem:
“While you have to set a max CPC for each ad group, it doesn’t do a lot… it only serves to set a starting bid for any new Product Group created under it. Once the Product Group is created, it gets its own bid and loses all connection to the ad group bid. In other words, Product Groups do NOT inherit the ad group bid the way a keyword does.”
And while we’re on the topic of Shopping, let’s take a look at another scary Shopping related mistake …
3. Not Excluding “Everything Else” in Shopping
When you start to subdivide the standard All Products product group inside every Shopping ad group, you’ll find a new product group called Everything else in ‘All Products’. The Everything else product group is created automatically and lets you set a bid for all the products that are not part of your other product groups.
This is all fine if your Shopping setup consists of a single campaign with a single ad group as shown in the image above. Here, you can use the Everything else-group to catch any product not in any of the specified product groups.
But as soon as you move on to a more advanced setup with more than one ad group, you’ll have to check the Excluded field for the Everything else product group.
If you don’t do this, all your beautifully segmented ad groups won’t matter, because Google will just use the one ad group with the highest bid (unless the ad groups are in their own campaigns with different priority settings).
Below, you can see how the Shopping campaign has been split up into 4 ad groups depending on the price of the product. The Everything else product group is excluded in order to limit each ad group to only show products from the chosen product group.
The problem is – and this is what makes it scary – even if you always remember to exclude the Everything else group when creating new targeted ad groups you may unknowingly activate it again later. For example, if you want to bulk edit bids for all product groups inside an ad group and therefore click the top checkbox in order to select everything, you’ll also select the Everything else group and thereby reactivate it. To prevent this, you’ll need to uncheck it manually every time. If the list of product groups was long, you might not realize that you’ve also checked the Everything else group hidden at the bottom.
Kirk Williams called this “the All Products Trap of Optimization Death” and I think this is a fitting name.
4. Choosing ‘Target and Bid’ by Mistake (RLSA)
When using the terribly named Remarketing Lists for Search Ads (RLSA), you get to choose between two settings. Which one you choose depends on what you’re trying to accomplish. Most often, you’ll pick the Target and bid option when you are targeting more generic keywords or if you want to tailor the ad based on users’ previous behavior. On the other hand, you can use the Bid only option as a kind of overlay on existing ad groups in order to raise the bids for certain users.
It’s important to know the difference between these two options, as choosing the wrong one could either leave you targeting very generic keywords without the audience applied, or you could end up cutting off all new traffic to your existing campaigns if you were to choose Target and bid over Bid only.
If you meant to set up a Bid only campaign and accidentally set up a Target and bid ad group, you’ll see your traffic from that ad group drastically reduced as you narrow down your audience to only returning visitors, buyers, or whatever audience you’ve chosen. If not detected in time, this will result in a period of significant underspending, which can be just as big of a problem as overspending.
This is a scary mistake because it’s all too easy to commit. The option is set at the ad group level and will often have to be done in bulk through the AdWords Editor. This way, you can copy the audiences from one group and paste it to all your groups. But here comes the problem: Even though you copy the audiences (and the associated bids), you don’t copy the targeting setting. It’s my experience that sometimes you’ll find some of your ad groups set to Target and bid while the rest are set to Bid only as you intended.
When you’ve pasted the audiences to all your ad groups, I recommend you check the Audiences area in the editor to make sure everything is set to Bid only as in the image below:
If you do find any groups set to Target and bid instead of Bid only, you should go to Ad groups and choose the Flexible reach tab as shown below. Here, you can select every ad group and then make sure Bid only is selected under Interests and remarketing.
5. Failing to Follow Up on Recent Changes
This is actually the one mistake that amplifies all the other mistakes mentioned in this post. It’s limited how much damage can happen to an account if you follow up the next day and manage to spot any mistakes you might have made.
Scheduling a follow-up is especially important if you know you won’t get to review the account for several days or maybe even weeks. Make it a habit to schedule a quick follow-up a few days after you make important changes to an account.
Enough scary stories from me. What do you fear? I hope you’ll share your biggest AdWords fears in the comments below.
Have a happy Halloween!
About the author:
Frederik Hyldig is a search specialist at s360 – one of the leading search agencies in Denmark. He is currently focusing 100% on the ever-changing Google AdWords platform. Follow him on LinkedIn or his personal site.
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