4 Common Mistakes to Avoid When Managing Google AdWords Campaigns

/4 Common Mistakes to Avoid When Managing Google AdWords Campaigns

Launching a Google AdWords campaign is a lot like babysitting a toddler…  They both require constant vigilance and often advice from experts to keep the child (or campaign) happy and healthy.

If you’re already “babysitting” a campaign, or just about to, then you’ll want to avoid the 4 common mistakes in this article.  This will ensure all that hard work building the campaign doesn’t go to waste after you click Enable to launch your ads.


Launching a campaign is a lot like babysitting a toddler... They both require constant vigilance and often advice from experts to keep the child (or campaign) happy and healthy.

Before we dive in, it’s important to understand this fact about advertising…

Perfectly Set Up Campaigns Do Not Always Work

About 2 years ago I helped a consultant who was banging his head against the wall trying to optimize his client’s AdWords campaign.  From a campaign setup perspective, everything looked perfect.  He was using the right settings, the keywords, ads, and landing pages were organized nicely, and tracking was in place.  I eventually exhausted my setup checklist without finding a single flaw.

Then I switched gears and started to assess how the campaign was being managed.  Ah ha! That’s when I found the problem (which I’ll explain below).  Setting up an AdWords campaign is only half the battle…

The other half is campaign management.  A lot can go right or wrong after you enable an ad campaign, and it can depend on avoiding these mistakes.


Mistake #1: Analyzing Aggregate Campaign Data

By far the most common mistake is trying to analyze and make decisions based on aggregate data.  For example, when you log into AdWords, the first screen you see lists all of your campaigns.  If a campaign is performing poorly, then it’s nearly impossible to determine what’s wrong by looking at the aggregated campaign-level reports.  That’s like looking at a large company’s P&L report and trying to determine how to turn the business around.  You’ll need to dig a little deeper than that.

For a Search network campaign, digging deeper means looking at individual keywords.  For a Display network campaign, digging deeper means looking at individual placements (placements are the websites where your ads were “placed”).  Now you’ll be able to see which keywords and placements are performing well, and which ones need to be improved (or paused).


Mistake #2: Not Segmenting Your Reports

This mistake is really a subset of mistake #1 above.  Even if you run keyword and placement level reports, you’re not going to see the entire picture.  That’s because there are a LOT of factors at play.  For example, even the Search network can be segmented even further into two buckets:

  1. Google.com
  2. Search Partners

I’ll talk more about this later, but for now just realize that your performance may vary across Google and the Search Partner network.

In addition to segmenting by network, look at performance by time of day, day of the week, geography, and device.   You’ll likely find that performance varies by all of those segments and by reviewing them you’ll find ideas to improve your campaign.


Mistake #3: Treating Computers, Tablets, and Mobile the Same

As I mentioned above, you’ll likely see big differences in performance across devices.  Ever since Google switched over to Enhanced Campaigns, it’s impossible to block your ads from showing on tablet devices.  In fact, you can’t even adjust your bids, which makes it very important to make sure your pages function properly on a tablet.

It is still possible to block your ads from showing on mobile devices, which I typically recommend when you’re just getting started.  If you do target mobile devices, then make sure you optimize your pages for mobile.  Users have come to expect mobile-friendly pages, so your standard “desktop optimized” website probably won’t cut it.


Mistake #4: Ignoring Search Partner Traffic

In mistake #2, I explained how the Search network is really a combination of Google.com and Search partners like AOL, Ask, and even Amazon.  It’s possible to opt out of the Search Partner network. So if you find that performance is really poor here, then simply turn it off.  There’s no way to dig deeper into the Search Partner network to see which partner websites are working/not working.  But that doesn’t mean you can’t optimize your Search Partner traffic.

This brings me to the campaign I reviewed for the consultant I mentioned at the beginning of this article.  When I ran the search query report to see which keywords were driving sales, I noticed a tell-tale Search Partner sign: very long search phrases that no one would actually type into Google.com.

As I dug deeper I found that the majority of the sales for this Search campaign were not coming from Google… they were coming from Amazon.com!  That’s why it was so hard to figure out how to optimize the campaign.  Knowing the sales were from Amazon, not Google, meant he would need to use a different strategy for keyword selection and ad copywriting.

So while it’s fresh in your mind, go log into your AdWords campaign to see if you’re making any of these 4 mistakes.  AdWords can be overwhelming, but when you’re looking at the right reports, then things start to look a whole lot clearer.


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  1. Raphael February 27, 2014 at 10:08 pm - Reply

    Hello Phil,

    How did you find out that your sales came from Amazon.com? Can you please elaborate on that?

    Thank you!

    • Phil Frost February 28, 2014 at 8:59 am - Reply

      Hi Raphael,

      Great question. If you run a Keyword Details report, then you may see some very long, crazy looking keywords. These are phrases that you know no one is actually typing into Google. Note that this will only happen if you’re targeting Google’s Search Partner network.

      Those crazy looking keywords are not actually “search” keywords. They are from Google’s partner websites. One of Google’s partners is Amazon.com. The way I discovered the sales were coming from Amazon is simply by going to Amazon, searching for some of the keywords in this account, then clicking to some of the product pages. On that page I saw my client’s ads. Plus, if you look at the webpage Title () then you’ll find that the crazy “keywords” in the Details report match Amazon’s product page Titles.

      That’s the process I used. Hope that helps!

  2. Raphael March 2, 2014 at 9:34 pm - Reply

    Hey phil,

    Thank you for your response.

    Can you give an example of a phrase someone would not type in Google but would in Amazon?

    Could you have found that information by analyzing your traffic source in Google analytics?

    Did you consider signing up for Amazon’s ppc program after you found out you were getting good sales from them?

    Sorry for all the questions. I have a great interest in being able to segment the google search partner’s data.

    Thank you.


  3. Phil Frost March 4, 2014 at 11:48 am - Reply

    Hi Raphael,

    here’s an example, “Call Center Headset for AASTRA, Allworx, Altigen, Avaya, NEC, Nortel meridian, Norstar, PolyCom, ShoreTel, Samsung and Talkswitch Telephones with RJ9 headset jack” – that’s from this page http://www.amazon.com/Headset-meridian-ShoreTel-Talkswitch-Telephones/dp/B001EM4D4C/ref=sr_1_cc_1?s=aps&ie=UTF8&qid=1393950775&sr=1-1-catcorr&keywords=ovislink+headset

    The ads are below that page labeled, “Customers viewing this page may be interested in these sponsored links”

    If someone clicks on your ad there then your keyword report will show something like “Call Center Headset for AASTRA, Allworx, Altigen, Avaya, NEC, Nortel meridian, Norstar, PolyCom, ShoreTel, Samsung and Talkswitch Telephones with RJ9 headset jack” which is obviously not typed into Google.

    Good question regarding Analytics. You can segment this traffic using advanced Segments. Here’s a good article http://www.periscopix.co.uk/blog/underused-google-analytics-features-part-eight/

    I have not tested the Amazon ad network so I can’t comment on that platform.

    – Phil

  4. Raphael March 7, 2014 at 12:07 am - Reply

    Thanks a lot Phil!

    If possible. Let’s connect on LinkedIn.




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