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Are You Making These Five Common Pay-Per-Click Advertising Mistakes?

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Because of the ability to specifically target your unique prospects based on interest as well as geography and because of the ability to tightly control your ad spend and to precisely measure results, pay per click (PPC) is probably the greatest breakthrough to come along in advertising since the launch of television. And, because of those same benefits, it's much more affordable for the small to mid-sized business owner to leverage for his or her business (as compared to television and many other advertising alternatives).

That being said, PPC is not as easy as it seems at first glance. Business owners looking to launch their first campaigns will quickly discover how easily they can spend hundreds-and even thousands-of dollars in wasted efforts while they learn to navigate the PPC waters.

While entire books have been written on the ins and outs of pay-per-click advertising, there are five common mistakes that I see business owners making when I’m asked to evaluate their pay-per-click campaign strategies. These mistakes are easy to fix, and doing so will dramatically increase the effectiveness of your pay-per-click campaign!

The five most common PPC mistakes are:

1. Using your homepage as the landing page.
No matter which search engine you use for your campaign-Google, Yahoo!, MSN, or any other-you can decide where to direct your new customers when they click on your ad. The most common mistake I see business owners make when they launch their PPC campaigns is directing those clicks to their homepages. The thinking seems to be that their homepages are equivalent to the front doors of their businesses, and they want their new customers to walk through-but that’s where they go wrong. With PPC advertising, your prospect is searching for something highly specific-that’s the keyword they’ve entered into the search engine. Having them land at your homepage is the equivalent of having them ask you for a specific item in your store and you telling them, “It’s in here somewhere; it’s up to you to find it.” Obviously, you wouldn’t do that in person with your customers-and you don’t want to do it online, either. By designing what’s known as a “landing page”-the place where visitors “land” when they click on your ad-you can present your customers with exactly what they are looking for when they come to your site. Your landing page should be tightly focused on the keywords you are using for your PPC ad, with no other links or distractions to confuse your prospects. This dramatically increases their satisfaction with your site, as well as the likelihood that they will make purchases from you.

2. Not customizing your landing page to your prospects’ keyword searches.
The way an ideal PPC campaign works is something like this: prospects enter search terms-for my business it might be “email marketing.” They are presented with my PPC ad with “email marketing” in the headline AND in the ad copy. My prospect clicks on my ad and is taken to my landing page that is all about email marketing. (I will have bid on both “e-mail marketing” and “email marketing” to capture searchers entering it both ways). The likelihood that my prospect will become a customer is high because there is no confusion about what the page is about-no wondering if he or she’s in the right place or if we offer what he or she is looking for. A common mistake I see business owners make with their PPC campaigns is to try to combine several products or services into one landing page. This leads to frustration when your searchers click on your ad and land on a page that they aren’t sure offers what they are specifically looking for. Make sure your landing pages are customized to the keyword your prospect is searching for-and quickly turn prospects into customers.

3. Using generic ad copy in your PPC ads.
The tricky thing with PPC ads is you don’t have much real estate to work with. Google allows just 70 characters; Yahoo allows 190 characters (with spaces) in text ads. When every single word counts, you can’t afford to use meaningless words like “high-quality service” or “established in 1903.” While these statements may be true about your business, they don’t target the specific searches your prospects are entering to find the products and services they are looking for. A mistake I see clients make in their PPC ads is including these types of generic statements that don’t set their businesses apart. When you are writing your ad, you’ll want to include specific keywords that your prospects will likely enter to find what you have to offer. Your headline must be captivating and should include your main keyword. The next line of your ad should contain the single biggest benefit you offer to your customers. What sets your company apart from your competitors? That’s what goes in your PPC ad. The third line of your ad should contain a feature of your product or a service or an offer-special discounted pricing or something free works well here. By making your ad specific to the keywords that your prospects will likely enter, you’ll be well on your way not only to increasing clicks, but to turning clicks into cash as well.

4. Not securing high-enough placements for your bids. All of the search engines use slightly different methods of determining the position of your ad. Google and Yahoo use a combination of ad relevancy (how relevant your ad is to the keywords you’ve bid on and the landing page you present to your visitors) and bid price. A big mistake I notice my clients make is not targeting their keywords tightly enough and specifically enough to their products or services to allow them to bid high enough on those keywords to secure top placements on the search engines. It’s estimated that 85% of all PPC clicks occur on ads that appear in one of the top three positions on pages. That means if you aren’t working hard to find keywords that are specific enough to your niche and are not bidding high enough to secure a top spot, you are missing out on a good portion of the clicks that could be yours. Use a keyword tool such as Wordtracker to research keyword possibilities that you may not have considered. Look for a keyword effectiveness of 10 or greater-meaning that the keyword has sufficient search queries with the engines to result in significant traffic without a lot of competitors bidding on the same keyword. When you place your campaign, use these keywords and bid high enough to secure a top spot, ensuring that the people searching for what you have to offer find your website-instead of your competitors’.

5. Not testing your ads to determine their effectiveness. While there is no “formula” for crafting an effective PPC ad, slight changes-even changing one word-can have dramatic impacts on your click-through rate (the percentage of people who click on your ad as compared to the number who see it). A mistake I see business owners make in their campaigns is choosing their keywords and then writing only one PPC ad to display. All of the major search engines offer the capability of creating ad variations so that you can test different ad copy to determine what works best. This is known as “split testing,” or “A/B” testing, as you are comparing the results of two different ads for the same keywords. Google will alternate the ads for you, and you’ll easily be able to see which ad performs better by looking at your click-through rate. When you find an ad that outperforms another, that ad becomes your “control,” or the ad to beat. Put the underperforming ad on hold and create another version, changing one or two words or possibly just the headline. Then test that ad against your control. This is a continual process-you are always trying to beat your control to improve your number of clicks. Not surprisingly, advertisers who test their ads in this method are more successful with PPC, as they tend to know their customers better and are able to target their prospects with captivating ads that turn into increasing numbers of clicks-and customers-for them.

Pay-per-click advertising has enormous benefits for the small to mid-sized business owner. Avoiding these five common mistakes will help you save money and quickly turn clicks into customers-and increased profits-when you launch your next PPC campaign.

About the Author

Entrepreneur and outdoor-photography adventurer Caroline Melberg is president and CEO of Small Business Mavericks, a division of Melberg Marketing. She has more than 20 years of experience creating marketing communications materials and writing copy for some of the largest and most-successful companies in the world. Her small business columns are syndicated online, and she publishes the popular e-zine Small Business Maverick Secrets. Learn insider Maverick marketing secrets you can use immediately to find new local customers and increase your sales. When you subscribe, you’ll also get a FREE copy of her e-book Local Small Business Internet Marketing Secrets-learn insider secrets to marketing your local small business on the web today! Get your FREE subscription at

© 2007 Caroline Melberg
Small Business Mavericks
1161 Wayzata Blvd. E., Suite 246
Wayzata, MN 55391
(952) 473-1007
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