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5 Ways to Stop Wasting Money on AdWords

Posted by Blaine Peakall in adwords | ppc advertising

Google AdWords is the most popular form of online advertising worldwide [1. Internet Advertising Bureau, Oct 2011 http://www.iabuk.net/research/library/2011-h1-online-adspend-factsheet]. Google generated almost all of their $37.9bn 2011 revenue from AdWords [2. Google Investor Relations http://investor.google.com/financial/tables.html].

But many advertisers have found that running a successful AdWords campaign is not easy.  The reality they discovered is that…..

It’s easy to waste money on AdWords

Wastage is an accepted part of offline and online advertising.  It’s unrealistic to expect every penny you spend on any form of advertising to be targeted at your perfect customer. But with AdWords it is possible to create well structured, highly targeted campaigns that significantly reduce wastage.

Here are my top 5 ways to stop wasting money on AdWords – based on my experience managing AdWords campaigns and delivering AdWords training courses.

 1. Paying for clicks from users outside your target geography

Targeting a broader region than you actually want to reach is the most obvious way of wasting money. Check the Location within your Campaign Settings. There really is no justification for selecting “All Countries and Territories”. If you want to run your adverts across multiple countries I recommend creating separate campaigns for each country or region.

If you are targeting a local UK region then usually the best method is to target a radius around your primary city/town. On the Campaign Settings -> Locations option, click Show Map option and then select Target a Radius (1), enter the city/town and the radius size (2)

AdWords Location Targeting by Radius





AdWords Location Radius




Do bear in mind that the primary method of identifying user location is via IP address. In the UK, IP address location mapping lacks precision and it may be worth extending your radius to ensure coverage for your target locations.

2. Inadvertently running a campaign on the Display Network

The default option when creating a campaign is to target all available sites. Google even recommends this for new advertisers. Sorry Google – but I disagree with your recommendation.

AdWords Network Targeting Options



There is certainly a role for the Display Network and it can extend your reach far beyond Google Search, but it is a completely different concept to Paid Search Advertising and as such I almost always recommend that new advertisers switch it off and concentrate first on the Search Network.

Should you be keen to use the Display Network then I recommend creating it under a separate campaign. I’m more relaxed about running ads with Google search partners, e.g. AOL, as these  properties remain Search based.

AdWords Google Search Only





3. Paying for clicks arising from irrelevant Search Terms

There is nothing more frustrating than seeing that someone clicked on your ad when their search query was completely irrelevant to your company and the products/services you provide.

In a recent post for the East Anglian Daily Times titled Stop Wasting Money on Google AdWords, I explain how to produce a search terms report that shows the exact search queries people used that led them to click on one of your adverts. If these search terms aren’t relevant to your company / products and services then you are wasting money.

The two most common issues causing this situation are broad matched keywords and a lack of negative keywords.

3.1 Broad Match Keywords

For every Google search query, Google has to decide whether to display one of your adverts. It looks at your keywords and your keyword match types. The match type stipulates how specific you wish to be with your keyword targeting.AdWords Keyword Match Types

[Exact Match] – only matches if the user search query is exactly the same as your keyword

“Phrase Match” – only matches if the user search query includes your keyword phrase in that order and without words in between

Broad Match – allows your ad to show on what Google considers are similar phrases and variations to your keyword.

There are no rights and wrongs to setting your keyword match type. If you wish for maximum accuracy go with Exact Match. If you wish for greatest reach then select broad match. However, as your reach is broadened the accuracy of your targeting is reduced – leading to an increase in irrelevant clicks. For more information read the AdWords Help for Match Types

By default when you add a keyword into your Ad Group, you have created a broad match keyword. If you look at your keywords and you see no sign of square brackets [], quotes “” or + signs then you have broad matched keywords (you can also use the add column option and select match type). If you find you are paying for irrelevant clicks because of a broad match type, then try changing to phrase or exact match. Be aware that this will reduce the number of advert impressions (often quite significantly) so as with all AdWords campaign changes – test, monitor and refine.

3.2 Negative Keywords

If you can see your actual keywords in the search terms but the search query includes additional words (either at the beginning, middle or end) that make the search term irrelevant to you, then you need to start adding negative keywords.

When you add a negative keyword you are telling Google that you never want your ad to show if that keyword appears in the search query. Negative keywords can be added at the Ad Group level and/or the Campaign Level.

You should get used to adding lots of negative keywords.

4. Paying more for a click due to a lack of relevance 

The algorithm AdWords uses for determining advert positioning and cost-per-click is complex and outside the scope of this post. But you should be aware that if your keywords are not particularly relevant to your advert then you will end up paying more for each click than if you had closer relevance. When looking at your list of keywords in AdWords, hover your mouse over the speech bubble within the Status column. A pop-up box will appear showing you if you have problems with keyword relevancy.

AdWords Keyword Relevancy Check






If you are having problems with keyword relevancy, create several Ad Groups each with a closely themed set of keywords. Try to include the main keyword from the theme into your ad text.

5. Sending visitors to your website home page

AdWords is a method of delivering targeted traffic to your website. But it is important that you deliver people to the relevant page within your website.

If someone has searched for a specific product or service that your company provides, the user expects that if they click on your advert they will arrive at the page that specifically describes the product/service you are advertising. Sending all visitors to your home page will lead to a high bounce rate (people reaching your website but hitting the back button or clicking away from your site) and will have a negative impact on your Quality Score (see 4).

When creating an advert, ensure you set the destination URL to the most relevant page on your website. If you don’t have a relevant page then I recommend creating one.


These 5 ways to stop wasting money on AdWords will ensure you get more return for your AdWords budget. By regularly reviewing steps 3 & 4 you will go a long way to having an optimised AdWords account.


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  • http://community.archant.net/suffolk/eadt/s/b/search_engine_marketing/archive/2012/02/07/stop-wasting-money-on-google-adwords.aspx Blogs – East Anglian Daily Times

    […] You can ensure you reduce, or even stop, spending money on irrelevant search queries. Follow the steps on this post on my company blog Top 5 Ways to Stop Wasting Money on AdWords […]

  • http://www.peakdemand.co.uk/blog/google-analytics/why-is-my-bounce-rate-so-high/ Why is my bounce rate so high? –

    […] This is more common and easier to diagnose as Google currently provides full details of the searches that led to a click on your advert. Look in Acquisition -> Campaigns -> Keywords -> Paid and then select ‘Matched Search Query’ as your primary dimension. Do these searches look relevant to your site? Are you happy paying for visitors who typed in these searches to visit your site? Check the bounce rates by search query. Lots of non-relevant search queries? Check out our 5 ways to stop wasting money on Google AdWords post. […]

  • Taylor Mason

    A very useful article for a new adwords user, thanks.

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