When used effectively, Google Adwords can be extremely profitable to your business. Unfortunately, there are often mistakes that end up costing your business and leaving you extremely unsatisfied with your ROI from Google Adwords.

1. Using Too Much Broad Match

When choosing your keyword targeting, Adwords gives you four different options for how you can target each specific keyword. These match types are exact, phrase, modified broad, and broad match. Each of these match types serve a purpose depending on the structure and goal of your campaign, but the one match type I try to stay clear of as much as possible is broad match. Here is a statement from Google about why using broad match in your keyword targeting is beneficial:

google-adwords“When you use broad match, your ads automatically run on relevant variations of your keywords, even if these terms aren’t in your keyword lists. This helps you attract more visitors to your website, spend less time building keyword lists, and focus your spending on keywords that work.”

Initially, this sounds great. You get to spend less time building complex keyword lists, and you are able to bring in more traffic to your website. This is all fine and dandy except for the fact that a sizable portion of this “additional” traffic you are bringing in may not even be in the market for your product or service at all. A prime example of this is an Adwords campaign I took over for a company that sells products related to horse jumping and dressage. They had been bidding on the keyword “horse jumps for sale” using broad match. When I dove into the search terms that were triggering this keyword I noticed there were many search terms where it was obvious people were looking for something other than the products this company sold. Some of these examples were: “horse jumping simulator”, “horse games for girls”, “girl horse for sale”, “toy bouncing house”, “3d horse games”, and the list just kept on going. This company had been wasting money for months on end, simply because they put too much faith in broad match.

So how should you go about combating this? I am a big fan of using the modified broad match type. This still gives Google some flexibility so you don’t have to spend days of your life building exhaustive keyword lists, but it still gives you enough control to eliminate the irrelevant searches.

2. Not Tracking Conversions

google-adwords

One of my favorite things about Google Adwords is how well you are able to track the effectiveness of this advertising method. Which is why you may be shocked to learn that not tracking conversions is the most common Google Adwords mistake I see. You would be amazed at how many companies are spending thousands of dollars a month using Google Adwords, without tracking what benefit they are getting from that traffic. Are they buying products? Are they filling out the ‘Contact Us’ form? Are they requesting a free demo? Without proper conversion tracking your guess is as good as mine. Tracking what the users do on your site after clicking on your ad, is key in determining if Google Adwords is profitable for your business.
Not only is this an essential step to determining overall ROI of the campaign, but it also gives you insights into which keywords or ads are performing best for you. With conversion tracking in place you are able to see which keywords are bringing in visitors that convert, as well as, which ads have the highest chance of bringing in a converting user. You may learn that people who are searching for “maids in salt lake city” are much less likely to convert than people who are searching for “cleaning service in salt lake city” or that your ad mentioning Free Shipping is bringing in more converting users than your ad talking about Quality Guarantee. The goal of Google Adwords is to bring in converting users for the lowest price, but if you don’t know which users are converting, how will you ever achieve this goal?

3. Using Poor Landing Pages

The homepage of your website looks great. No really, it does. However, it may not be the best page to send your Adwords traffic to. When evaluating a landing page I look at three criteria; is it relevant to the search of the visitor, does it provide enough information to answer their question or solve their need, and does it have a prominent call to action? If your homepage is built to do this, then I encourage you to use this as your landing page, but in many instances this won’t be the case. This is especially true with a company that has different categories of their product or service.

If you are an eCommerce clothing store that is bringing in traffic for people searching for men’s shirts, men’s hats, and men’s pants, then I implore you to send that traffic to those relevant category pages rather than the home page. If there’s one thing I have learned throughout my time of being a digital marketer, it is that people on the internet are inherently lazy. When they click on result for their search term, they want the answer to be in front of them immediately. They do not want to have to click into the category page, regardless of how easy you think it is to navigate there. If someone clicks on your ad and is sent to a page that doesn’t solve their need, they will more than likely click on the back button and try a different listing. This is a wasted click that costs you money.

Sending traffic to the most relevant landing page possible in relation to the what they are searching for is key to Adwords success.

4. Not Using Proper Location Targeting

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There is no easier way to waste money on Adwords than to show your ads to people who are outside of your serviceable location. If you are an online store that only ships within the USA or a local business who only operates in a particular city, then location targeting is a must. Adwords makes it easy to target either a particular location or a radius around a particular location.

Ensure that all of your campaigns are only targeting the locations that make sense for your business. You can also double check that this is the case by going into Google Analytics. If you segment out only traffic coming in from Google Adwords, and look at where these users are coming from, you will quickly be able to tell how effective or accurate your location targeting is.

5. Not Using Enough Negative Keywords

In Google Adwords, negative keywords are your friend. Hell, they may even be your lover. Adding negative keyword lists allows you to filter out traffic that may fit your keyword targeting but doesn’t fit your target demographic. In other words, they save you money. For instance, people search online for many products or services using the word “free”. If you do not offer a free option for users, then this may be a great opportunity for a negative keyword.
When building out campaigns, think about what keywords may trigger your ads that you want to block out. Do you not sell used items? Are your products specific to either men or women? These are examples of things to think about when building your initial keyword list. Once you have your campaign built out, the negative keywords don’t stop there. I routinely examine the Search Terms Report looking for search terms that don’t fit my target customer. If there is a word or phrase that you routinely see that makes these users not your ideal customer, simply add that word or phrase to your negative keyword list. The more you build out this list the less irrelevant traffic you will be paying for, saving your money for the customers that matter.

6. You’re Trying To Be #1

talladega-nights-the-ballad-of-ricky-bobby-5052bda01243bRicky Bobby from Talladega Nights lives his life by the phrase, “if you ain’t first, yer last.” This may be true in some instances, but definitely not when it comes to Google Adwords. Being the top position may be a great confidence booster, but it doesn’t always mean you are getting the best ROI out of your Adwords campaign. For many highly competitive markets, paying for the #1 spot means you are shelling out some serious cash. Many times you will be able to get enough clicks to exhaust your budget by routinely being in the #2 or #3 spot. This means you are getting clicks at a cheaper cost than the #1 spot. There have also been studies done to show that conversion rate does not vary with ad position.

Too many people keep raising their bid price until they see that average position hit 1.0, which is a great way to overpay for your clicks. I like to keep my average position somewhere between 1.8 – 2.5 to ensure that I am not being buried at the bottom of the page but I am also not overpaying for my clicks.

At Pubcon Las Vegas 2016, Gary Illyes sat down with author Eric Enge for a casual conversation about a not very casual topic.  Gary answered direct questions about the Penguin 4.0 integration into Google’s core algorithm and how real time processing will affect ranking changes going forward.  Gary also took many questions from engaged viewers on a wide variety of topics.  The following are highlight topics that were discussed in the morning segment.

Real Time Updates in Penguin 4.0

Gary clarified the concept of “real time” as is applies to Penguin’s new processing power.  Although Penguin 4.0 is identifying problematic links faster than ever, Google still may look deeper into certain links and a sites overall link profile.  Your websites historical link profile still plays the major role in your ranking and is not necessarily altered or discounted by new real time capabilities.  Sites that have a history of poor or spammy links won’t be saved by Google’s new real time link processing.  New links will be instantly taken into consideration but actual ranking changes will occur slowly over time.  The calculation process has become more advanced but faster processing doesn’t equate to erratic or frequent changes.  With the increase in links processing is a greater need to disavow poor links by webmasters and the disavow tool is an important way to do so.

Negative SEO Calculations by Penguin 4.0

The questions about negative SEO once again were raised.  And, once again there was a general tone of “What negative SEO?”  It was explained that poor links will still be evaluated as poor links and great links will still hold their value.  Reviewing your sites link profile is an important exercise in managing your website.  The cases of nSEO are so sparse that almost no one at Pubcon Las Vegas 2016 has had a great example with an accompanying prescription.

Machine Learning isn’t the Only Solution

Machine Learning is great for some tasks but is not the solution for all algorithms.   Many times manually built algorithms out-perform machine learning pieces.  Gary used the analogy of the multi tool pocket knife.  You wouldn’t use a multi tool for burrowing into concrete.  As such, machine learning isn’t the right tool for every operation.  There are many components of search algorithms that are more efficient when they are built by humans.

The Future of Search Engine Optimization

A smaller but very engaged group of Pubcon Las Vegas 2016 attendees posed several questions to Gary Illyes about topics affecting the future of website rankings.  In no particular order, these are some of the responses that we given by Gary on issues facing websites moving forward.

No Index Tags on Key Pages

Gary Illyes mentioned in his discussion with Eric Enge Wednesday morning that he sends out around 20 emails a week discussing no index tags that are on key web pages on websites.  Often times websites will have the no index tag, which prohibits Google’s crawlers from crawling some of the website’s most important pages.

Server Error Messages

404 errors and other server errors are still an important issue around credibility and “crawlability”.  Gary recommended that webmaster check their search consoles for crawl errors of all types.  Persistent 404 errors will damage your sites reliability.  301 redirects and custom 404 pages need to be in place to correct potential dead ends in user browsing on your sites.

Crawl Data

Is your site easily crawled by Google?  Does your code allow Google bot to easily follow your content?  It would seem that an older topic in the world of SEO is still on the forefront of the minds of Google engineers because of how crawl issues can ultimately affect user experience and lead to lower engagement.  Having pages  cached on the server in simple HTML still remains an important way to increase speed and consumption.

Look into the Future of Mobile Page Delivery – Progressive Web Apps and Google AMP Project

Gary Illyes cautioned digital marketers to look to the future. How can we optimize the experience for the mobile user?  Mobile’s hottest issue right now is speed.  Gary mentioned two important new technologies in serving faster mobile pages —  progressive web apps and the Google AMP project.  Google is focusing a lot of resources on supporting optimized page delivery technologies.

accelerated-mobile-pagesAbout Google AMP

AMP stands for Accelerated Mobile Pages, a Google-backed project designed as an open standard for any publisher to have pages load quickly on mobile devices.

On Feb. 24, 2016, Google officially integrated AMP listings into its mobile search results. Pages making use of AMP coding appear within special places in the search results and/or with a special “AMP” designation.

For more about AMP, see the AMP Project site, our How To Get Started With Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) article and our coverage below. See also our AMP category at Marketing Land for stories about AMP that go beyond Google.

What are Progressive Web Apps?what-is-pwa-img

Progressive Web Applications take advantage of new technologies to bring the best of mobile sites and native applications to users. They’re reliable, fast, and engaging.

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With the updates that have been rolling out as parts of Penguin 4.0 many of the core issues in SEO are being revisited in more advanced ways.  While these are topics that webmaster have dealt with in the past, Penguin 4.0 is tying these factors together tighter and creating more efficient valuation processes that will create further corrections for website that have been managed in accordance with Google guidelines.

Thank you to all that came to the SL Circle Marquee Event at the Zion’s Bank Founders Room.  To facilitate the distribution of information I have uploaded my slides to slideshare.net. Feel free to download and use them as you like. Thank you all for attending.

Our love for the Salt Lake City Arts Council runs deep. Our entire team enjoys working on projects with the Arts Council because the projects are local and they involve the places, people and art we care about.

Twilight Concert Series Website

The Twilight Concert site was designed for mobile accessibility and for quick access to information. Aside from those objectives, the site needed to be exciting and show off the style of this iconic Salt Lake City event. Timelines were short and expectations were high both internally and externally.

Twilightconcertseries2016
A few notes about the site:

With the huge list of dynamic artists that constantly change, we wanted to make sure that the website had an easy backend content management system that allowed the even managers to quickly edit their events and artists. This means that all of the pages and photos can be edited from the admin area. Each artist has a page of their own that is customized with photos and video. Their top level “featured image” is what appears on the homepage.

Twilight Concerts in Pioneer Park

The Twilight Concert Series is a weekly highlight to the summer. On Thursday afternoons the masses begin to descend into Salt Lake City’s Pioneer Park for music, people, food and drinks. The venue is outdoors and the stage and sound are top level. Thousands of people gather each year to hear a mix of musical genres, some that they’ve never heard of before because of the great environment. Twilight brings out the new culture of Salt Lake City to one easy location.

twighlight

See Other Projects with the Salt Lake City Arts Council

The Twilight website was 1 of 4 websites completed for the Salt Lake Arts Council in 2015.  Take a look at the write up on the council’s main site here.  Here is a quick list of the projects:

Salt Lake Arts Council

Twilight Concert Series

Salt Lake Public Art

Living Traditions Festival