Setting the record straight on Adwords misconceptions

Paid Search has certainly become a difficult field of advertising to master. Yes, managing a Google Adwords account while having limited knowledge is still possible. However, to yield the best results, the understanding and use of advanced features is absolutely necessary. Staying on top of the latest developments, features and best practices is a full-time job.

Google’s algorithm which ranks websites organically is a secret recipe. Whilst it is partly known, there are a number of influential factors that are yet to be discovered or fully understood by search marketers. This is what makes it both a science and an art.

However when it comes to PPC advertising, the mechanics are well-documented in Google’s very own Help Center and the Adwords Certification Exam Study Guides, leaving very little room for guesswork.

Despite all of the above, there are still a number of misconceptions too widely spread, which causes non-Adwords savvy marketers to make bad recommendations or set the wrong expectations.

I will attempt, in this article, to cover some of these misconceptions I still hear on a regular basis, and set the record straight to benefit the greater good!

Adwords Misconception #1: I need to be ranked first

There are 11 ads on each Google search result page, and only one spot in the first position. Does this mean that only one advertiser sees positive results? No!

There is no doubt ranking number one will give you more visibility and will lead to a higher click-through rate. It will also allow your ads to show more often (increased impression share due to rank). However, some of your competitors might be wrongly bidding very high on keywords because of this very misconception, without realising these particular keywords are not delivering a positive ROI.

Good search marketers understand that keyword-level analysis is a crucial part of what we do, as it delivers valuable insights on whether you should rank #1, or if another position is more appropriate.

I have seen – on many occasions – keywords perform best in position 2 or 3 than in position 1, simply because the average CPC was more affordable, lowering the average CPA in these positions.
Also do note that in many industries, prospect clients or customers will not click on just one result but will compare prices/quotes on various websites. They will open the first X results in different browser tabs, giving you a chance to sell to them even though you’ve spent less on acquiring that visitor.

For advertisers with very small budgets, sometimes ranking even further down, in position 4 to 11 (on the right-hand side) might also deliver results. It is true that your ads won’t show as often and your click-through rate will be affected, but Google will not discriminate you from a Quality Score perspective as it takes the position into account. Eg. a CTR of 3% might be low for a number 1 position, but very high for a number 10 position.

Adwords Misconception #2: Top rankings are for advertisers with deep pockets

This one is my favourite.
Many people believe that only advertisers with incredibly large budgets can dominate the top results.
Yes, being able to afford larger bids will help you rank higher, but it is only part of the equation.
You need to understand the Ad rank formula, which is what Google calculates to determine how to rank ads every single time a search is performed.

The Ad Rank formula is a combination of three factors:

  • Your maximum bid (or max CPC), or how much you are willing to pay for a click
  • Your keyword Quality Score, or how relevant Google thinks your keyword is to your ad copy, your landing page, other keywords in your adgroup, etc
  • Your usage of ad extensions, which will have a great influence on how your ad is displayed and your click-through rate

As you can see, the maximum bid is only part of the answer.

If your account structure, keyword research (both positives and negatives), your ad copies and extensions and landing page quality & relevancy are all set properly, you will be able to achieve a top position while paying much less than some of your competitors.

Do remember that if you sell similar products to your competitors, your cost-per-acquisition target will also be relatively similar to your competitors in many cases. Which means that if you cannot afford a high CPC, they probably won’t afford it either.

Where deep pockets come in handy, is when your budget is exhausted before the end of the day. But with well-optimised campaigns, you should see a positive ROI on your Adwords activity, which should lead to a gradual increase in investment. Over time, you will be able to not only rank high, but rank high most if not all the time.

Adwords Misconception #3: Adwords just isn’t for me. I’ve already tried.

I try not to let frustration take over when I hear this one, and attempt to educate the person as best as possible

Adwords is a direct response channel. In other words, people are expressing a clear interest in your brand, product or service. Unless your ads are showing for irrelevant keywords (which is a separate issue that would need fixing), someone seeing your ad should – in theory – be interested in what you have to offer.

Adwords is not a miracle solution however. It needs to be well looked after, optimised, and more importantly, results don’t usually occur overnight. Whilst turning your campaigns on and displaying your ads will be close to immediate, you need to start collecting performance data. This data then needs to be analysed in great detail so that what works and/or doesn’t work in your account can be identified and optimised. It can take weeks if not months to get your account to a level you are satisfied with, but it will eventually work.

Once the above has been done and the quality of the traffic you generate through Adwords is high, and you are still experiencing low performance, then ask yourself if there are no other reasons as to why your conversion rate may be too low.

A great first step is to explore and analyse your onsite data using your web analytics tool. You may consider creating landing pages , or conversion rate optimisation may be the solution. Look into tools such as AB Tasty to test new variations of your page layouts, calls-to-action, product images, etc.

Adwords Misconception #4: My target audience doesn’t use Google

Look, unless you are trying to sell Santa Claus costumes to North Koreans, it is highly probable that your target audience uses search engines.

Some audiences may be very niche, however, so search volumes will be limited and your SEM budget will be lower. But if you are located in Australia, you will find prospects out there. The key is understanding exactly what search queries they search for. Keyword research is, again, a crucial step in setting up a high-performing account. It is also an ongoing exercise to identify new keyword themes to cover.

Adwords Misconception #5: My Adwords campaigns influenced my SEO rankings

I can tell you with absolute certainty that PPC ads do not influence your organic rankings. Yes, both show on the same page, but are governed by two independent algorithms.

We do recommend having both paid ads and organic listings show on the result page, as it will double your brand’s presence, consequently reducing your competitors’ presence. Some of this was discussed in our Rapid Immersion episode about Brand Bidding which I encourage you to watch.

The only influence between the two that you may see is at a click-through rate level, since prospect visitors will most likely click only on of your two listings (paid or natural). But from our observations, the combined click-through rate of both will be higher than if you had just one channel. They work hand-in-hand.

Adwords Misconception #6: My click-through rate (or conversion rate) is below/above industry average

I’ve heard this statement, or variations such as what is a good click-through rate? many times.
The best answer to this question is: it depends!
In fact, unless you have some insider information, there is no way to know your competitors performance so using them as a benchmark is irrelevant.

Do not focus on your competitors’ CTR or conversion rate, but how you can improve yours.

Adwords Misconception #7: Click/impressions volumes are down, something must be wrong

The mission of a search specialist is to ensure your PPC campaigns are performing at their best.
This means making sure that your ads are only showing in front of the right audience. Many of our optimisations are aimed at reducing the number of times your ads are displayed for irrelevant searches.

Reviewing search queries will provide insights on the traffic quality. Identifying irrelevant terms and adding those as negatives will reduce your impressions, and therefore clicks.
However, by doing so, the clicks that do come through (and that you are paying for) are more relevant and you should see your conversion rate increase and your cost-per-conversion decrease.

Adjusting bids based on the region (location-targeting) or time of the day/day of the week (ad scheduling) will also influence (and decrease) your impression and click volumes.

I have seen accounts where impressions, clicks and cost have decreased by over 30% whilst conversions went up. Happy clients.

To conclude, don’t believe everything you hear. Remember that every Adwords account will perform differently, because of the way it is setup, because of the competition it faces, because of the brand, service or products it advertises, or simply because of the strategy employed by your search manager.

Ask the latter for his thoughts or opinion about a specific question you have. If you are unsure, or if their answer is different to what you’ve read, ask them about it. It makes a great discussion topic and will often help you get a better understanding of your own account and performance. If you are still not convinced, ask us for a second opinion!

Educating people about what we do is a big part of our job. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, it is likely someone else will have already asked us this question before!

If you have any question or have heard of other myths, please feel free to comment below and we’ll be happy to discuss!

Image source

Share your opinion

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Also check out