Before You Quit Pay-Per-Click, Follow These PPC Tips

The thought of advertising your small business is both exciting and unnerving.  Many business owners are proactive when it comes to marketing their own business, using pay-per-click (PPC) advertising for instant results. When business owners try to handle their own PPC ,  they can spend  hundreds or even thousands of dollars on pay-per-click advertising  only to see little return on their investment.

Before you give up on PPC, consider the common mistakes that business owners make when managing their own advertising campaigns:

  1. Having Unrealistic Expectations
  2. Not Checking the Terms They are Actually Paying For
  3. Not Adding Negative Keywords
  4. Creating Ads Without Keyword Relevant Landing Pages

Having Unrealistic Expectations

Small business owners need to be broken out of the traditional advertising mindset.  For years, small business owners advertised on printed media, radio, and television. They are used to seeing and hearing their own ad constantly.  With  PPC advertising,  your ad will not be up 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Often, business owners will set up a PPC campaign, search their keyword, and not find their ad. When this happens, their first thought is, “Where is my ad? This is not working!” PPC is a lot different than traditional advertising.  You pay for performance.  

There are a few reasons why you might not be seeing your ad:

    NOT A

  1. Your ad  might have already been clicked on a few times today. Once you reach your daily budget, your ads will stop running for the rest of that day.
  2. You may be targeting too many keywords or not the right keywords.  In general, the more specific the keyword, the better the results. See my post on longtail keywords.
  3. Your daily budget may be too small. If your spending less than $10 a day, your budget might not be enough to provide meaningful results.

Not Checking the Keyword Details (Query String Report)

When I have talked to small business owners that manage their own PPC, I was surprised to learn how few people actually use this. The keyword details are the actual search terms that you paid for. You can also think of this as keywords driving traffic.  Lots of valuable information can be found in this report. You can quickly see if you are wasting money or may see opportunities for new keywords. Hands down, this is my #1 PPC tip.

Here is how you can see the query string report:

1. Click on the keywords tab. This will show you all the key terms you are bidding on.

PPC Keywords

2. Select all keywords to see every search term that you paid for.

Select all keywords to see every search term that you paid for.

3. Click on view keyword details.

See ppc keyword details

 4.See which search terms are actually driving traffic. Notice that this list doesn’t exactly match your keyword list.

Look for keywords that will never result in new business and add them as a negative keyword.

Look for keywords that will never result in new business and add them as a negative keyword.


When you look through this report, you should ask yourself one question- could this search term result in business?

For example,  I was recently looking at a PPC campaign for a maid service company. One of their targeted keywords was “housekeeping.” I looked at the query string report and I saw that she had a lot of traffic coming from people searching for “housekeeping jobs.” The business owner was paying for this traffic and didn’t even know it. I also found something rather amusing.  One of the search terms was “arnold schwarzenegger housekeeper”. I am not sure why a person searching for this ended up clicking on an add for maid service; perhaps it was an accident. Anyways, after I checked the query string report, I added 71 negative keywords to this campaign. One was “jobs” and the other was “arnold schwarzenegger”. with the addition of negative keywords, the business owner does not have to worry about paying for these terms that will won’t result in a sale.

Not Adding Negative Keywords Every Month

This is somewhat repetitive to the step above, but it is so important I wanted to break it out into its own section. Negative keywords are terms that you don’t want to advertise for. This is almost as important as choosing the words you do want to advertise for. Here is a negative keyword list to get you started.

Let me illustrate with an example. If you own a carpet cleaning service, you might have “carpet cleaning” and “cleaning service” as keywords. Without negative keywords, someone searching for “window cleaning service” might see your ad and call you to find out that you don’t offer window cleaning.  Not only is this annoying for both the customer and the business owner, it also eats up your PPC budget.

Many small business owners running their own PPC campaigns don’t create a negative keyword list.  PPC platforms like Adwords and adCenter are designed for anyone looking to get started ASAP. There are few requirements in the actual interface. You need a budget, some keywords, and an ad with a landing page.  Because negative keywords are not required, most small business owners don’t set them up. Adding negative keywords will make your campaign much more effective by spending your budget only on keywords that will drive  new business.

Creating Ads Without Keyword Relevant Landing Pages

One of the biggest mistakes is not having the actual keyword you are targeting on your landing page. For example, say you are an HVAC company. You have a home page that talks about your company with some marketing language about “why choose us.”  You want to advertise your business when people search for “Water Heater Repair In Houston,” but no where on your home page do you have those keywords in that order. This is like shooting yourself in the foot. If you want to get results for this keyword, this is how you should up your campaign:

  1. Sign into Adwords and create a campaign. Set your daily budget and target your ads to be shown in Houston.
  2. Create an ad group called water heater repair.
  3. Add keywords specifically about water heater repair (water heater service, water heater not working, broken water heater, etc.)
  4. Add negative keywords related to this service (jobs, etc)
  5. Create ads specifically about water heater repair.
  6. Create a landing page specifically about water heater repair using the keywords from step 3.

Follow the above tips to get the most out of  your PPC, increase conversions, and drive potential customers to your website. You’ll enjoy the boost to your bottom line that a properly executed PPC campaign can create!