common ppc mistakes to avoid in digital marketing

Common PPC Mistakes to Avoid

In Paid Search by Dewan Chapman

It’s been said that a successful marketing campaign focuses on today and tomorrow. SEO is brilliant for tomorrow’s business but Pay Per Click ads (PPC) are your best bet for today’s traffic.

But (yes there’s always a “but”) PPC can also be a black hole of time and money if done badly. However, because we’re a super bunch of people and we don’t want you to waste either your time or your hard-earned cash, we’d like to offer up some of the most common PPC mistakes that we’ve noticed in the wild. 

Let’s explore the benefits and pitfalls of PPC and unpack how we can win at online advertising. 

What is PPC?

Pay per click (PPC) is a method of internet marketing whereby advertisers pay only when their ad receives a click. It really is that simple. 

PPC is often referred to as bought or paid traffic as opposed to free organic traffic.  

What Are the Types Of PPC?

While we’re mainly focused on Google PPC search ads in this article, other types of PPC are available to online advertisers. 

Paid Search (Search Engines)

A user enters a search query, and the search engine returns the best results. If your ad appears and the user clicks on it, then you pay for that click.

Display Ads

Display ads can be made up of images or text, or a combination of the two. They are shown to a selected audience and aren’t triggered by search queries. 

Social Channels

Facebook and other social channels have developed excellent PPC platforms which allow advertisers to focus on key factors such as interests, demographics, and location.


As you would expect from the name, retargeting will display search or display ads to users who have been to a specific site or completed a certain action online. 

Why is PPC Important?

When a company is looking for traction in a saturated digital market, they need all the help they can get. Developing a good SEO strategy to produce quality content and being active on social channels is just not enough to get a business the awareness it needs. 

Enter PPC.

Paid ads give you same-day results as well as:

  • Being cost-effective
  • Having a manageable spend limit
  • Being quick to set up
  • Having a wide reach
  • Not relying on Google’s algorithms

In particular, Google Ads offer an incredibly comprehensive set of variables that allow you to create highly targeted ads and on a tight budget.

Now we know how valuable PPC is, let’s look at the other side of the coin.

Common PPC Mistakes

PPC is a massive topic, so we’ll skim through the most common mistakes that can cost you money and a degree of sanity, but if you have questions, please feel free to contact our team for more information.

Incorrect Match Types

Google Ads has differentiated five different match types when we are setting keywords or phrases for our ads. 

Broad Match

Results on broad match keywords will loosely match your word or phrase. Google will look for related words or synonyms to extend your reach and include misspelt versions of your desired term. 

For example, if your keyword is red girls jeans, you’ll appear in searches such as red girls pants, maroon boys jeans, red children’s leggings, etc.

Modified Broad Match  

A modified broad word will be preceded with a + sign with a lower reach but enjoying greater relevance. This indicates to Google that this word must appear in the search result but can appear anywhere in the phrase. 

By way of example, if our key phrase is +red girls jeans, then we can expect to show up in results such as red girls leggings, red girls pants, or jeans girls red

Phrase Match

Narrowing down the parameters even further we have the phrase match. Indicated by quotation marks, a phrase match will show a set of words in the order that they appear or close variants if the meaning is not affected.

For example, “red girls jeans” as a key phrase will show up in searches such as red girl jeans, girls red jean, best red girls jeans, red girls jeans small, etc.

Exact Match

Denoted by square parenthesis, exact match keywords are useful when looking to appear for – well – an exact match. Google will help us out in that it will accept exact match keyword phrases if they are ordered differently, misspelt, or contain function words like for or to.

Our search in this instance would look like this: [red girls jeans] and would trigger for searches such as girls red jeans, girl red jean, red jeans for girls.

Negative Match

While not specifically listed as a match type, negative keywords can be defined in our ads. They will have a – sign preceding them and tell Google that you don’t want this word to trigger your ad. 

Therefore, as per our example above, we may add the word red to our negative keyword list, which means that no matter which phrases trigger our ad, none of them will contain the word red.

Match types are a critical component of a successful PPC campaign. Too broad and you’re getting loads of traffic but wasting money on clicks which are going nowhere. Ignoring negative keywords? You’re paying for totally irrelevant clicks. 

Not Geotargeting

Let’s say you’re a local business selling fresh, organic vegetables. If you’re running an ad and not specifying a target radius around your business, then you will be throwing money down the drain. Why? Simply because people who are 50km away are not likely to come to your store, whereas narrowing your ads to display to an audience within a 5km radius makes it far more relevant.

Ignoring Long-Tail Keywords

Long-tail keywords are the unsung heroes of the keyword kingdom and will prove incredibly beneficial to your PPC ads. Long-tails are phrases of three or more words, and their value lies in their specificity. Which search query would you like to appear for: “hotels Durban” or “family hotels in Durban December 2020”? ‘Nuff said. 

Aiming Too High?

You may want to rank for what you think are the best keywords for your business, but it’s well worth looking at the competition first. Big companies have deep pockets and a lot of weight behind their ads, so if you’re competing with them for the number one spot you may be throwing money away. 

This is where long-tail keywords may be your best friend. Consider this: the phrase insurance is one of the costliest words in PPC, and bidding on this is foolhardy. However, what about something like cheapest business insurance for SMEs South Africa? 

Something to add to your newly acquired arsenal of knowledge.

Forgetting Quality Score

Google has your number – literally. Your ads plus your landing page/website are given a quality score based on the relevance of the ad, the keyword selection, the quality of the information, user-experience and more. A lower quality score will see you spending more money per click, thereby driving up your costs. 

Not Using Ad Extensions

Ad extensions are additional pieces of information displayed in your ad and can include useful links such as location information, telephone numbers, special offers, or direct site links.  

The UK Domain sums this point up nicely saying, “When calculating your ad rank (the position of your ad in the search results) Google considers 3 factors: The maximum cost-per-click bid that you set, quality score and the expected impact from ad extensions.  It is good practice to add as many ad extensions to your campaign as you can but make sure they are relevant.”

Not Testing and Measuring

Is your ad working the way you want it to? How do you know? When setting up PPC ads, we have a range of tools which allow us to track conversions, follow the user flow, and see which text or images are working best.

Your ads need to be measured frequently and optimised as often as feasible to make sure you’re not flushing your cash. Mistakes can and should be picked up as quickly as possible, remove what’s not working and put more money on what’s performing well.

The Importance of Your Landing Page

This PPC mistake may be last on the list for today, but it is worth taking note of. 

Your ads may be picture-perfect, but what happens after the user clicks on your ad is of great value in the eyes of Google. Your PPC ads will have generated an expectation of what’s to follow; if you click here you will see information on how to create SEO-friendly content.  

If that’s what you’ve promised, then that needs to happen! 

If your user is faced with something other than what they’ve been promised, they’re going to bounce, not in a good way. A high bounce rate on a landing page sends the signal to Google that this page is low-quality and up your ads’ cost. Sad, but true. 

Your landing page should be:

  • Easy to navigate
  • Relevant
  • Informative
  • Include a call to action

Summing Up

PPC ads are an incredible source of leads, are excellent for brand awareness and special offers, and can immediately increase traffic to your website. Instant gratification – we love it!

As you may have discovered for yourself, though, it takes patience and skill to master the art of PPC ads. If you don’t have money to waste in school fees, then now is a good time to call in the professionals (that’s us!) who can help you to avoid the PPC tripwires and get the most out of your ad spend.