XOVI Experts

Top five AdWords mistakes that webmasters make

Christian Feneberg | October 3, 2017


Google AdWords offers a wonderful opportunity for webmasters to “buy” new visitors to their website. It’s particularly useful for smaller businesses who may not have a big enough budget for a professional ad campaign and who can set up their own AdWords campaigns quickly and easily.

In principle, there is absolutely nothing wrong with setting up your own ads in a DIY style – it takes minutes to put together a new AdWords campaign. And yet users frequently end up finding that AdWords isn’t functioning as they had imagined and money is thrown down the drain.

This is usually not the fault of AdWords itself but rather the wrong set-up. Specialist AdWords agencies and advisors exist for a reason! So, when I analyse existing AdWords campaigns, I often identify the same mistakes over and over again. In this article, I run through the five most common errors.

1. No AdWords account structure

I notice time and time again that webmasters fail to set-up a logical structure in their AdWords account. This starts right at the beginning. Often, users select the “search network with display choice” option, which leads to the search and display networks getting mixed.

Instead, you should be looking to set up different settings and content for each network. What’s more, it’s difficult to carry out proper optimization since the target audience language for the search network is different to that in the display network. To achieve maximum success, set up a separate campaign for each network.

Another common mistake when setting up campaigns is a failure to logically divide up the different ad groups. Frequently, a small number of groups contain a large number of different keywords for a range of different topics. Ads are generally placed per ad group, meaning that each keyword such match specific group ads as closely as possible. If not, quality and click-rate suffer and the click price increases.

Tip: To set up a logical structure in your AdWords account quickly, install Google’s free AdWords Editor.

2. Too common keywords and the wrong keyword option

Another popular mistake is the selection of keywords which are far too common. Linked to this is the mistake of selecting the “as suitable as possible” keyword option.
When choosing the search terms you want to advertise for, make sure you choose keywords with a clear purchase intention or which clearly indicate the solution to a problem. Basic, common keywords might receive a huge number of searches but they rarely generate new customers.


You own a local cycle shop in Brighton and are using the common keyword “bike.”
Your advert will therefore appear every time a search contains the word “bike.”

For example:

  • “Buy bike online“
  • “Bike hire Brighton”
  • “Bike transport”
  • “How to clean a bike”
  • “Learn to ride a bike”
  • “Buy bike Brighton”

Straight away, you can see that your ad will appear for a whole range of different searches but will rarely actually correspond to the user’s intention. Instead, always try to ensure that your targeted keywords and phrases are as precise as possible – ideally targeting visitors with a clear purchase intention.

The second mistake when choosing keywords is selecting the “as suitable as possible” option. This setting is generally applied to all keywords when you select no other option, and means that your ads will be displayed automatically whenever even half-relevant variations of your keywords are searched for. In other words, if Google thinks that your keyword is even vaguely related to a search query, your ad will be displayed – even for synonyms, similar (miss-) spellings and related words.

As a result, you end up with a high number of unqualified clicks, your ads won’t satisfy user intention and your cost-per-click will rise. Even on a basic level, your ad texts will have nothing to do with the searches, which is never a good sign.


Keyword: cats
Matching searches: cats, cat photos, cat babies, cat accessories, buy cats
If possible, you should use the “exact match” option. Of course, this demands more time researching and planning but the results will speak for themselves.

3. Wrong landing page

Make sure every ad has a suitable landing page.
I notice time and time again that ads simply link to a homepage, where only in the rarest of cases a user will find what the advert is promising.


You’re placing an advert for your bike business and are promoting an offer for racing bikes. But when the user clicks on your advert, they land on the homepage, where they need to look for the racing bike offer themselves. But users are lazy and are more likely to just click “back” and your money is down the drain.

So, before placing your ads, make sure they have suitable landing pages which should be entered as the target page for your ad. Ideally, each ad group will have its own landing page, indicated clearly by the advert text so that users know immediately what to expect after clicking on the advert.

4. No ad tracking

How do you know whether your AdWords campaign is successful or not? Without a decent ad tracker, you’ll never know!

If you use Google Analytics, you should make sure that your AdWords account is linked to your Analytics account. Set specific aims by which you can accurately measure the success of your ad campaigns.

If you use an alternative such as Piwik, then make sure you add the relevant parameters to your links so that keywords are transferred to the URL. This also allows to you define set targets.

Conversion-tracking is equally important. Embed a code snippet on your website in order to track pre-defined conversion targets. A conversion doesn’t have to be a purchase. It could also a subscription to a mailing list, a successful request or a download, depending on your business plan. Whatever it is, a good conversion-tracker can help you see exactly how well your campaigns are performing.

5. No control, no optimization

Set-cup complete, job done! Unfortunately, it’s not that simple when it comes to AdWords. Click prices fluctuate and adjustments are often necessary. Furthermore, certain ads may no longer be displays or, while generating clicks, may not always lead to a purchase or conversion.

In some cases, AdWords accounts are simply forgotten about while Google continues to debit funds month after month – and nobody wants that! Of course, AdWords also provides options to prevent that from happening but many beginners are often unaware of them and Google frequently change their regulations. For example, there are no longer text ads on the right-hand side of search results pages.

If you don’t keep up to date, you risk losing your ad potential.

Therefore, for smaller ad campaigns, I recommend investing around 1 hour per week. For larger campaigns with bigger budgets, you should obviously be logging into your AdWords account more often.


Beginners with little or no experience of AdWords tend to configure their ad campaigns based on gut feelings and end up disappointed when Google AdWords appears not to work properly. But it’s not Google at fault …

My advice
Start with a lower daily budget and a smaller number of precise, suitable keywords. Optimize your ads accordingly and monitor them closely. If you notice that your parameters seem to be working, slowly increase your budget step by step.
In my opinion, AdWords is as useful a tool as ever when it comes to targeting new users and generating new customers – the campaign just needs to be configured properly. Good luck!