Most Common Google Ads Mistakes Made by the Pros

By Brad



Everyone makes mistakes. For new accounts, it’s usually missing conversion tracking, not using negatives, using excessive broad match, and so forth.

The pros know what they are doing; so their mistakes are generally those of a poor UI, engineered organization, and overlooking the obvious.

1. Keyword Conflicts


Keyword conflicts occur when you have a negative keyword blocking one of your keywords from being displayed. I don’t think we’ve had a single account that is employing more than 2 negative keyword lists not have this problem.

In Google Ads recommendations, you can see negative keyword conflicts if they are occurring at the ad group or campaign level. However, there are two scenarios where Google doesn’t understand marketers:

The keyword is in a negative keyword list: Google doesn’t check negative lists for conflicts. If you are using campaign negative lists or MCC negative lists, you need to check negative keyword conflicts yourself.

There is another keyword with a more restrictive match type showing: It is pretty common to have an ad group where you have a broad matched keyword with the negative exact or phrase matched keyword and then another ad group you have the exact or phrase matched keyword. Google will call this a conflict, when in fact, it’s an organization choice as you aren’t actually blocking anything from being displayed, you are just ensuring the most restrictive match type is being displayed.

2. Missing ad extensions


All the pros know the importance of ad extensions. What they don’t see is when they have 50+ campaigns the fact that there is one campaign without sitelinks and 2 without a call extension and a different two that are missing structured snippets.

You can manually check extensions for yourself (or automate it with a system like Adalysis). Just make sure you are using the proper number of ad extensions.

3. Not Pausing Losing Ads

Most of the pros do a lot of ad testing. Unfortunately, a lot of that involves creating multiple ads per ad group and turning on Google’s ad rotation and never pausing ads or pulling insights from the ads.

Using ad testing hypothesis and multi-ad group testing, you can learn a lot from your ads and even use those insights in another part of your marketing, such as email, organic title tags, and a lot more. Google’s ad rotation is broken and RSAs aren’t performing very well, so you do need to watch your ad test results and pause those losing ads.

In addition, if you have created thousands of ads via templates (every pro has done this multiple times), then you already have patterns in place that you can analyze to pull insights out of your data.

4. Over Engineered Bid Structures

Recently we were doing an audit for someone with 10+ years of experience in PPC. Here were the bid modifiers being used in just one campaign:

  • Time of day
  • Geographic
  • Age
  • Device
  • Income
  • Audiences

There were many conditions in which the final bid was 900% above the initial CPC and many others where the bid was almost $0. The bids were so convoluted that trying to understand the CPC of any single click was useless.

This is common in accounts using a lot of scripts. You install a script that looks at your conversion rate by time of day and sets a modifier. Another script sets a modifier based upon locations. Within even thinking, you could already have multiple thousands of bid combinations. Where this gets really messy is when the script doesn’t use minimum data before setting a modifier. 1 click and 0 conversions mean the CPA was $0 and the ROAS was 0%; therefore the bids need to be lowered.

Most accounts that are using bid modifiers wisely have picked 2-3 that have large impacts on conversion data and are ignoring the rest as to have some idea of how bids are being maintained and structured.

5. Empty Ad Groups


Account are living things. Ads get paused, keywords get paused, new campaigns get built in bulk, and among all this chaos you end up with ad groups that are missing either keywords or ads. As Google’s Time Frame Comparison Tool is very tricky to work with,  it’s hard to diagnose these ad groups that are no longer showing ads.  In large accounts, the pros miss these and sometimes find it hard to diagnose why an account has fallen in volume.

6. Malformed Match Types


What do these keywords have in common?

  • “keyword]
  • [key term”
  • [key search
  • words”
  • “keywords’
  • key + words
  • + keywords

Everyone one of those terms is a true broad match word. None of them are exact, phrase, or modified broad match. This is most common when you are doing large Google Ads Editor imports or writing long strings of keywords in the interface. It’s in Google’s best interest to make these all broad matched words, so this error doesn’t come with any warning in the Google Ads interface.

7. Not Using Fast Comparison/Diagnostic Tools

Most people have heard their client or boss ask one of these questions:

  • My CPA went up 22% last month, why?
  • Why did our spend go up so much last month?
  • Our conversions tanked, what’s going on?
  • Where are all these new conversions coming from?
  • and many, many more

It’s not uncommon to see an account have a 20% drop in conversions where the managed did their job. A 20% drop in conversions when there’s a 50% drop in search volume was a highly effective month.

In this account, spend was up 102%, which could make a lot of people nervous. When you add in that volume was up 90% (seasonality is starting to set in), the conversion rate is up, and ultimately, conversions are up 142%, then it was a very successful month even though the spend was doubled. These types of questions should take minutes to answer, not hours of research.


(click for larger version)

8. Not Realizing Quality Scores Changed

Quality Scores can have a large impact on your revenue. A high converting keyword suddenly drops in Quality Score and no one realizes the change. If untreated, this can cause the CPA to go up, the bid system lowers your bid, and suddenly this great keyword is nowhere to be found.

This is where trends are easy to miss. In November, the landing page experience and expected CTR flipped scores, so the number was flat lined but the factors actually changed. Then there’s a big drop in February for landing pages and expected CTR. As they were just heading into their top season, this can have a big impact on their account if this isn’t caught and fixed quickly.


When you have thousands of keywords and ad groups, it’s difficult to watch every Quality Score, and you don’t need to. The pros just need to know when something changed so they can diagnose the Quality Score trend and put a fix into place.

Being a Pro Doesn’t Mean 0 Mistakes

Everyone makes mistakes. The beginners make mistakes with tracking, excessive broad match, poor landing page choices and so on. The pros make mistakes as well. In most cases, these are due to managing a large number of campaigns and not having good diagnostic tools to help watch their back and point out where something isn’t quite right so they can fix the problem.

Everyone with 3+ years of experience has probably made at least one, if not all, of these mistakes. Everyone with experience also knows how to fix all of these mistakes.

It’s OK to make a mistake. It’s not OK to miss the fact you made one. As long as you find and correct them, then your account proceeds forward and can continue to grow and provide profits. Just make sure you are using the proper diagnostic tools to find and quickly fix your mistakes so your account continues to be profitable.

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One Comment

  • Otto

    Epic post! Your blog is a mastery and powerfull guide for sem operators.

    Thanks in advance

  • Leave a comment

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