Pay-Per-Click advertising, such as Google’s Adwords and Microsoft’s Bing, can be a remarkably effective, low-cost advertising solution that can almost instantly bring a flood of eager buyers to your website, if done correctly. However, it’s also true that you can take a terrible beating in a very short time if you’re not careful and don’t know what you’re doing.

You see, Adwords and Bing (the dominant Pay-Per-Click platforms) are promoted as being easy to use. In a sense, that’s true. You can sign up for an account and be walked through how to put up a PPC ad in a matter of a few minutes. Yet I can’t tell you how many local business clients have come to me mentioning that they have spent thousands of dollars on PPC, yet have received zero sales for their efforts. They report that money is leaving their pockets — and it’s not being replenished. They have almost given up on Pay-Per-Click advertising.

The lesson? To succeed with this method, you need to know the rules. To that end, here are five things that can go wrong when you try to manage your own pay-per-click advertising efforts.

  1. You target the wrong keywords.
    Some search terms can get a lot of clicks, but very few sales, because they’re too general, and there’s no buying intent. For example, you sell life insurance, specializing in term life for Gen X clients, and you bid on “life insurance.”  That term is searched millions of times a month, so even if your ad wasn’t very good, you could get a lot of clicks. But that searcher isn’t your prospect. He’s in the early stages of looking around, and it’s likely that all you’re going to do is pay for a very expensive click and not get a sale.
  2. You don’t set an appropriate limit of what you want to spend.
    This often happens when you under-estimate the amount of clicks you think you can get. Sure, you can set a daily budget for your campaign, but that’s for all the adgroups in the campaign. You could spend your whole budget early in the day on one poorly-chosen search term, and have all your other ads not get shown at all. Or you could mistakenly set your budget at $3,000 (what you wanted to spend for the month) instead of $100, and come back a few days later to find that you spent thousands of dollars. This happens all the time, and the search engines aren’t user-friendly when that happens. They still want to get paid.
  3. You don’t think local.
    If you have a regional firm, but advertise in geographies that can’t possibly bring you any business, you won’t get the kind of results you want. For example, if your financial advisory business is located in central Denver, and you place an advertisement in Google’s Denver “metro” area, your ads will be shown throughout northern Colorado, including places 250 miles away. That will get you some (probably many) completely worthless clicks. 
  4. You don’t eliminate irrelevant results.
    If you advertise, using broad match, without properly using negative keywords, you’ll pay for a lot of useless clicks. Let’s consider an example from outside the industry: If you sell guns, and you don’t set “Top Gun” as a negative keyword, you’ll pay for a lot of clicks from people looking for information about the movie, not about guns. 
  5. Your branding doesn’t match up.
    Suppose you bid on a keyword, and write a good enough ad to get the click, but your landing page isn’t congruent with the ad or the keyword. For example, you’re a health agent specializing in LTCI, and you bid on the keyword “LTCI for boomers,” but when people click on your ad, you send them to your homepage, which only talks about major medical coverage. Your visitor doesn’t see what he expected to see, so he hits the “back” button, and he’s gone.

I could write about a hundred similar errors, and probably a lot more than that. 

Benefits of Pay-Per-Click

With so many things that can go wrong, should you continue to invest in Pay-Per-Click advertising?

Pay-Per-Click is a fiendishly complex beast, capable of amazing and subtle refinements, and not at all easy to master. One of the most popular PPC manuals is over 300 pages, and that’s just the beginner’s guide.  Not only that, PPC changes all the time, so it’s difficult, even for experts, to stay on top of it. 

Now, I’m not saying you shouldn’t be doing PPC. You very likely should. Done right, expert Pay-per-Click management can improve website results phenomenally. Traffic and sales increases of several hundred percent are common. Moreover, these increases come at minimal cost, leading to a very large return on investment. 

You just shouldn’t do it by yourself, unless you’re willing to devote a lot of time (and money) to learning it. If you’re looking to achieve excellent results from Pay-Per-Click marketing, consider investing in a PPC management expert who can handle all your PPC needs — because in the long run, it pays!