Common PPC pitfalls and how to avoid them

We’ve spent a few quid with Google over the past year on their pay per click service. It drives traffic to our website and it has generated conversions, but boy have we wasted a lot of money on trial and error.

Here’s an overview of the mistakes we made initially, so you can skip the learning curve…

What to turn off:

  • All countries but your own
  • Display network
  • People searching about your location rather than in your location
  • Non-business hours
  • Mobile traffic

All of the above are potential PPC money pits, and so it’s best to disable them when you first start out.

Turn on:

  • Your location, start as small as possible

Start small, and test. Too often we thought “screw it, let’s target all the big cities in the US and the UK and hope the numbers work out”. They don’t.

The Ads themselves:

Use exclusive and SPECIFIC language and be sure to include the call to action like “contact us”, “call us”, “sign up for a quote”. You want to dissuade people who won’t convert. Don’t be vague about what you do.


Start low, and SET A DAILY BUDGET to a tiny amount to start. We set our initial daily budget way too high, and burnt through much more advertising spend than I would have liked on a campaign that hadn’t been properly tested.

Your choice of keyword:

  • Broad match modifier only – this gets you 90% of the way with 10% of the effort
  • You only need a few keywords
  • Add negatives that don’t fit your business (“free” is usually a big one)

Landing page:

Do not under any circumstances point your ads at your home page. You need a landing page with a clear call to action. If you’re feeling particularly cute you could even create different landing pages for different ads. So for example, that Ad that you’ve pitched at the construction industry should send visitors to a landing page all about why your <widget> is so great for the construction industry. You will see a huge leap in conversions if you get this right.

On your landing page have just the one call to action.  Make it clear that they can only do one thing, whether that’s sign up, leave their email address, or call you for more info. If your landing page asks for people to call you, tell them to speak with “Chad” to obtain a quote so you can track who is calling from one of your PPC ads.

Testing and optimising performance of your ads:

Look through the keywords that are coming in on a regular basis, and perform the searches yourself to see what comes up (make sure you do this with personalisation turned off). If the query isn’t relevant, use a negative keyword to exclude that traffic. If none of them are relevant, you need to pick better keywords to start with.

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There’s no enforceable law to stop companies spamming other companies in the UK

The ICO is in charge of amongst other things managing spam complaints here in the UK.  It’s a government organisation funded partly by businesses paying them an annual fee.

I was recently subject to some spam from a recruitment company.  After numerous requests for them to stop sending me their generic “we’ll find you the best employees in the world for the bargain basement price of your left arm and a leg of your choosing” I’d had enough and wrote off to the ICO to complain about them.

I was diligent and carefully submitted evidence of the spam to the ICO and waiting three weeks each time for them to respond.  On both occasions they advised me that my attachments were not getting through and suggest I used snail mail.  So I printed them off and sent them via recorded delivery.

Another three weeks passes and I finally receive a response.  Here’s an excerpt:

Firstly, I must clarify some information given on your complaint form. When asked about the email account that you are receiving the marketing messages to, you have stated that the email address that these emails are being sent to is your own private account not that of a limited company. Can you confirm that this is correct, I will explain below why this is important.

Uhoh…this isn’t going to end well…

…if you work for a corporate body, such as a limited company, and are receiving unsolicited marketing emails to your work email address, there is no enforceable opt-out right provided by these regulations.

So basically, the ICO is powerless.  Mind. Blown.  What’s most annoying about this is that due to spam a large number of e-mails I actually wish to receive are automatically junked while the e-mail I don’t wish to receive fills my inbox.  Which leads me on to the subject of my next post due next week entitled – why did you spend a fortune writing your new web app if the e-mails your site generates are getting spammed?

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Using Twitter for business – the basics.

I see a lot of newcomers to Twitter using a dedicated Twitter business accounts.  While this is great, the people behind these accounts make lots of mistakes.  So here’s my Twitter do and don’t list, send this to everybody you know and let’s make the world a better place:


  • Start each day with a tweet commenting on the weather, your breakfast or even worse tell me you’re going on holiday or you’re glad to be back.  I don’t care.
  • Some new twitter clients (I’m looking at you Tweetdeck) allow for tweets longer than 140 characters which are difficult, nay impossible, to read on my mobile twitter client.  Don’t do it.
  • Don’t tweet or retweet random charities from your business Twitter account unless of course your organisation publicly endorses said charity and better still donates money to said charity from time to time.
  • Retweet the nice things people have tweeted about you to you.  I know you’re amazing, that’s why I’m following you, so this much we already know.  The 2010 apprentices were incredibly guilty of this behaviour.
  • Request a retweet, it’s annoying and the people who accept these requests are breeding this behaviour.  Stop it immediately.

Now with those basics out of the way, here’s things you should do

  • When you follow somebody new, talk to them.  I presume you’re already interested in that person because you followed them right?  So ask them about something you always wondered about them and stand out from the crowd.
  • Talk about what you’re doing in a professional capacity.  Who’s your latest client?  What’s the latest idea you’re working on?  What’s the last project you completed and launched?
  • By all means start a poll.  Ask people for their opinions.  For Atlas, a software company, I might ask what really pisses people off about web developers.
  • Ask your employees (to their face, or Skype if you have to, definitely not by e-mail) what they’re up to.  What cool stuff did they find out recently that you can tweet about?  Better still, get your employees on Twitter.
  • By all means retweet useful and relevant information, add additional commentary to it if you can and if it doesn’t take you over the 140 characters limit
  • Engage with other people.  Challenge their opinions, stir things up.  You’re not on Twitter to be liked, it’s not a talent contest – make some enemies.
  • Finally, use the twitter search facility, to find people who are talking about topics of interest and relevant to your business.  If overall their timeline of tweets is interesting, follow them and introduce yourself.

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