When Pay Per Click Advertising Goes Wrong

I’ve been working with a client on search engine optimization for their website, and as part of that, I’m verifying that keywords used in their pay per click ads are optimized with the rest of the website (especially the chosen landing pages).

They’ve been running Pay Per Click ads using Google AdWords for a couple of years, and spend around $4,500 per month.  Not a small sum for a medium-sized business.  (See what we saved them, below).

It’s an amount that, as a business owner or marketer, I would want to make sure that my spending is as optimized as it can be.  Which is exactly why she requested our services.  She had hired a contractor to handle the initial setup of the AdWords account, but from what I can tell that’s all they had done, and the ads had been running since.  They’ve been getting a LOT of clicks, and spending a lot of money, so she assumed that the campaigns have been effective.  She also realized that Google changes things regularly, so having the account audited during the SEO project made sense.

One of the concerns she brought to me, she was searching on Google for the Sprouts store in her town, and noticed that her company’s ad came up.  It’s important to note that her business is NOTHING related to Sprouts, and those ads should not be showing when someone is searching for Sprouts.

As part of our keyword review, we ran the report showing what search phrases had been used by people that had resulted in ad impressions and clicks.

And found a whole list of phrases that, similarly, had absolutely nothing to do with her business.

What was even more concerning, was that many of these searches actually had clicks.

Clicks – the right clicks – can drive business.  Clicks cost money.

Over half of the search phrases that had resulted in their ad being shown were not remotely related to the business.  We’re talking a difference of, say, searching for a new car dealer, and getting fed an ad for cardboard boxes, and then the searcher clicking on the ad.

Or searching for WalMart and being shown an ad for a hospital.

Some of my favorite search terms listed – which most businesses would NOT want their company to be associated with – included:

  • demon for sale in (town)
  • sex machines for rent
  • shop that sells sex pills in (town)

But my very favorite had to be this gem:

(Googling dude … I understand your phone number frustration!)

These phrases were all times when people searched, were shown the ad, and clicked (which costs the business money).

Perhaps the person searching for WalMart suddenly realized they needed to run to the ER and clicked on the ad – but not likely.

More likely what happened is that the person search wasn’t paying attention and clicked on the first listing at the top of the search results page – which happened to be their ad.

Each click meant money spent.

What likely happened?  The person searching realized that they didn’t want cardboard boxes, or a hospital, when they were taken to that website, hit the back button, and that was registered as a hard bounce.

Those bounces affect the cost of clicks in a pay-per-click campaign, driving the cost higher, because the algorithm assumes that the person didn’t like what they found.  And, in this case, they did not, so the algorithm would be correct.

It also has a negative impact on overall search engine ranking for the actual website (organic ranking outside of paid advertising), because Google also sees that as a hard bounce on the website, and that bounce rating can factor into overall search engine optimization.

The first change we made

We added a ton of phrases to their negative keyword list.  Phrases that we don’t want people to be shown the ad when they’re searching for these terms.  All phrases that had been used, clicked upon, and cost the company money in the past year.

How much did bad keywords cost them?

Over $27,000 of their budget was spent on these incorrect clicks.

This business would have likely still used this $27,000 for the AdWords campaigns – and, since pay per click advertising campaigns run until your budget runs out, the budget would not have run out from unwanted clicks.  This budget would have been more likely spent showing their ads to people who actually were interested in their product or service.

Instead of in buying a demon.

(How do you ship those?  Can’t the demon get out, because it’s, like, a demon?)

While we cannot help them regain any of the budget already spent, cleaning up their keyword list will help them moving forward either spend less money for the same end results (new customers) … or spend the same amount for more new customers.

Need a quick audit of your Google AdWords or other pay per click advertising account?

If you need a quick audit of your Google AdWords account, contact us.  We will be happy to provide a quick overview and make a suggestion or two that should make your advertising more efficient.

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