Google Ads – Most common (avoidable) mistakes.

James Miller

Account Manager

If you’re new to Google Ads, getting to grips with its structure and its ever evolving platform can be a pretty daunting prospect. Campaign settings, bidding strategies, keyword types, ad extensions – the list goes on. Google does make it pretty easy to get your campaigns up and running straight out of the box, but you may or may not be surprised to read that, as it turns out, this really isn’t your best bet for achieving a cost effective performance. Far from it in fact.

If you don’t spend your days in Google Ads, testing, tweaking and optimising campaigns like we do, it’s pretty likely that you’re making a few easily avoidable mistakes. So to demystify things a little, we’ve laid out some of the most common mistakes we see, and how to get them tidied up to improve your performance.

Using Maximise Clicks

We recently published a blog about our distaste for the Maximise Clicks strategy – and with good reason we think. Sure, maximising clicks sounds like the ultimate goal for your Google campaigns, but the truth is not all clicks were born equal. A click for a super-relevant and intentful search is far more likely to convert, and as such is going to be more expensive as your competitors will be vying for the click too. A poor quality, less qualified, slightly irrelevant search will be less competitive and thus a lot cheaper. You can get way more of these for your money. You’re maximising clicks. But suddenly these clicks don’t feel so appealing.

We recommend starting with manual CPC to get a better handle on what you’re paying for and how much you’re paying for it. Once you’ve got some conversions under your belt and are comfortable with your costs vs performance, it might be worth moving to other strategies. You can check out our bidding strategy breakdown here.

Using Search Partners

Enabling Google Search Partners lets your ads show on search engine results on third party sites all around the internet. While you might think that extending your reach can only be a good thing, we very rarely see anything meaningful come from Search Partners traffic (other than a dent in the budget), so by default we recommend keeping this setting firmly switched off.

Using Auto-Apply

This is a bit of a sneaky feature from Google as it hides deep within the recommendations menu and is switched on by default. If you’ve ever found yourself thinking ‘where did this bid adjustment come from?’ or ‘who added this keyword?’, there’s a good chance your change history has Auto-Apply’s prints all over it. As the name suggests, this feature automatically applies recommendations that it claims will improve performance. Sounds great, but in reality this takes away your control and muddies the waters when it comes to testing and optimising your campaigns (we also aren’t convinced it improves performance). We say switch this one off too.

Incorrect Location Targeting Settings

Easily overlooked, the default location targeting setting for campaigns is set to include ‘people who show interest in your target location’. This essentially means that your ads might be serving to people who aren’t even able to visit your business right now, so you’re likely wasting a click with them. For some businesses this could be somewhat useful, but in most cases we find performance is better when we’re only targeting those who are in a realistic position to convert.

Dodgy Conversion Tracking

We often find when we take on a new account, that conversion tracking across campaigns is either inconsistent, or incorrectly set up. Consistent conversion tracking is truly essential for understanding performance, and without it you’re relying on guesswork and a general feeling to gauge your campaigns’ impact on business. As an initial step, we work to get this right from the get go, as it underpins all performance based decisions going forward.

Ineffective Responsive Search Ads

Responsive Search Ads will soon be the only option available for standard search campaigns, so it’s important to get this one right. RSAs build your ad each time it’s served from a combination of headlines and descriptions that you give it to play with. You’re going to want to guide it a little by pinning your text to the position you want it to show if it does get used.

Our tried and tested headline format is as follows:-

Headline 1: Keyword Focused

Headline 2: Features & Benefits (or any special offers)

Headline 3: Calls To Action

Description 1: Key service/product description, with benefits. Include keywords where possible.

Description 2: More generic company focus. Include a Call To Action.

Using Broad Match Keywords

Broad Match keywords are the least picky keyword type around. They’ll trigger under any circumstance as long as the word appears somewhere in the search. While you might get significantly more reach with Broad Match; the likelihood is that you’re wasting a lot of your budget on searches with very little relevance to your service. Keep a tighter leash on your keywords by using Exact and Phrase match and watch your campaigns get considerably more cost effective.

Neglecting the Search Terms Report

This is a part of ads management that often gets overlooked if you’re not blessed with the time to put into getting your PPC right. The search terms report shows an (almost) exhaustive list of the search terms that triggered your ads. It’s a great way to learn whether your keywords are working for you, and it’s our go-to for spotting terms that are wasting budget and need to be added as a negative keyword. Keep your eye on this and you’ll definitely find some irrelevant searches coming in that you need to nip in the bud.

So there you have it. Hopefully you spotted a couple of quick fixes that look familiar. Over the years we’ve become pretty eagle-eyed at spotting opportunities for improvement, so if you need a hand with your PPC campaigns, please feel free to get in touch for a chat!


James Miller

Account Manager

James joined us at Enable in 2021 following 3 years prior experience in paid media, account management and data analysis roles. He manages the paid search and paid social channels for a number of our clients and also looks after a lot of our conversion and event tracking across Facebook, Google and client websites.

Away from the office you’ll find him either enjoying live music, perfecting his ramen recipe, or mixing some neo-soul and disco classics.