They're going to click on the first search result automatically, and if that happens to be your ad, then you just wasted $0.50-$5.00.
Another issue is keyword match types. If you used the keywords exactly as in the spreadsheet, without any modifiers, then you're giving Google way too much leeway in how they interpret and match search queries to your target keywords. For example, your keyword might be UPLOADCARE REVIEW but your ad will show for the search "uploading review" (I'm just guessing).
You might think "well even if our ad shows for an irrelevant keyword, surely the user would see the difference and not click on it!" Wrong. People click the first X results automatically.
Case in point: A data science platform company I consult once targeted python programmers. Instead they were getting tons of clicks from snake enthusiasts, before I got involved. Oops.
Another company was selling monitoring software for mobile apps but was paying Google (inadvertently) for searchers of free mobile apps. Oops.
Anyway, the other lessons mentioned are still valid, but I feel the biggest lesson (mistake?) was overlooked.
 Quick tip if you're running Google Ads now: Go to your Keywords Report and click on the Search Terms tab. You'll see the actual search terms people used before they saw your ad. If they vary wildly from your target keywords, you need to fix your keyword targeting.
PS - More fun "Oops" stories about Google Ads: https://www.gkogan.co/blog/selling-software-snake-charmers/
My favorite point: "Lesson #1: Test and trim keywords sets before hiring an agency to scale things" - the number one indicator of a successful campaign and client relationship for me is whether the internal team has legitimately tried to use the marketing channel before. I think you can successfully test channels with freelancers but I think a simpler process that likely has a higher rate of success is to test internally before you move it to an external resource.
The core benefit is knowledge acquisition for your team. You'll make better decisions with that knowledge and leverage the time of your freelancer or agency better than if you had to ask about every detail you didn't understand about their work.
The best way I found to qualify leads was, for things I was charging money for, to put in the price. That way people didn't click if they were looking for free. This actually worked pretty well.
The problem was that this means my ads were showing and not getting clicked. This reduced my quality score (although, in my mind, it provided a better experience for the user because they weren't wasting time going to a site that they did not want).
So Google's Quality Score is "quality" as measured from their point of view (high click/view), not yours nor necessarily your customers.
The right solution here is to refine your target market segmentation & keywords so that you're buying ads on searches that only people in your target market make. Then you get a good CTR & quality score and a good conversion rate. Optimize the funnel all the way down to the searcher.
If the user doesn't use the word "free" in the search then there's no way to know a priori that they wanted free. By me putting a price in my ad, I am making the user's experience of the search page better by not leading them astray.
Here's an example: Suppose somebody searched "fix my carburetor." The likely return will have services that fix carburetor for you, youtube videos showing you how, and for-pay pdf instructions. Let's say I'm selling the for-pay pdf instructions. How am I supposed to exclude my page? I could limit my keywords to "fix my carburetor pdf for sale" and hope someone types it into the search box, but I find that unreasonable.
Maybe you can walk me through how I'm wrong. But I submit that Google is working on the hypothesis that more clicks = better user experience, and I believe that hypothesis is false.
There are often other keywords that can indicate purchasing intent - just thinking back to my own search habits, "buy", "product", "cost", "pricing", "comparison", etc.
And it's true that more clicks doesn't always = better user experience, but it's also true that more clicks in the absence of other information usually = better user experience. Google works off the data it has - for many cases, that's only CTR, bounce rate, and time on site. I suspect (I don't have any inside information how Ads Quality works) that when they have information about conversions - like when you've chosen to link your Google Analytics account with AdWords and set up conversion funnels in the former - they use that information too for determining quality score.
Many people optimize for CTR but that's not usually good when you're doing leads and/or sales.
It's easy to write ads that get higher CTR. Then your CPC will usually go down but that doesn't mean you'll get a higher ROI.
So best to focus on CPA not CTR.
On the other hand, if we would lower the CTR by defining the price, we would have higher CPCs or lowered the number of impressions due to a low Quality Score. Even if we WOULD get lower CPLs, that won't bring ROI since users still won't activate on our platform.
The problem wasn't about Google Search Ads settings: we hired skilled SEMs and everything. The problem was about the product-market fit understanding and segmenting potential customers based on related value props and keywords.
I think the most important things are realizing that there is a ceiling on search traffic. For some markets, it is a very, very low ceiling once you’ve optimized out all of the garbage. The giant burst of clicks in the very beginning may be misleading.
VC backed startups often are able to dump a tremendous amount of money in to paid acquisition. If you take an already narrow search channel, the “winner” may end up being whoever raised the most money.
Is it possible to figure out what your competitors are doing, obviously without access to their Google analytics? I'd like to see how they've solved their problems, learn from it and know how to differentiate from their approach.
Specifically, the things that have gotten us to profitable ad spend in the 6 figure range are:
-- VERY tight campaigns going to tight landing pages. The more specific campaigns you can run, the better. The keywords on your ads AND landing pages need to match the keywords people type in. Most common mistake is driving traffic to a vague landing page. We have 200+ landing pages, all matched to specific keywords. I built out an entire custom framework on top of WordPress to manage this for our company.
-- Manage negative keywords. Every 2-3 days, I log in and add negative keywords. Good ones to start out with: free, diy...I have hundreds now. Maybe thousands. It takes a while to scroll through them.
-- Track sales back and add more negative keywords. There were some items we were getting a lot of clicks on, but didn't make any sales with. I blacklisted a common keyword on one of our campaigns thanks to this insight. Google's recommendation algorithm complained that by blacklisting this keyword, I was getting fewer clicks. YUP. Tracked it for a month, 3-4 clicks per day and 1 sale that entire month. Negative keyword!
-- Start out with 3 ads per ad group minimum. Every week, log in and pause any ad that's not getting good CTR and add a new one. Repeat. After several weeks, you'll be in the "holy ____ I didn't think that was possible" range of CTRs.
It takes a LOT of effort to get to the point where we are now (highly optimized keywords, 12-20% CTR, half the price of most of our competitors.) Still, every couple days I log in and tweak even more things. And I hired a consultant on an hourly basis to get us even better. Totally worth the $ to hire him for a few hours just to see where I could improve!
If you are technical and think you can outsource this to an agency, DON'T. Consistency is key.
One of our partners decided to take the campaigns I'd written and send them to an agency. Their sales dropped 30%. They fired the agency and went back to me. And I'm the business owner, not an agency. No one cares about your money more than you do.
And, being technical, you can do fun things like customizing landing pages based on keywords entered (something most agencies can't or won't do, even though it boosts sales.)
I was amazed at how the biggest RoR was on ads/keywords and not how pretty my site was. Negative keywords were key (free was a big one for me as well) to reducing spend and making ads more efficient.
I was averaging around $3-5 to acquire a customer for a $15 product in a pretty competitive space and it really just took a weekly look at ad metrics to maintain.
Ads aren't going to magically invent demand for your product, but rather magnify it. The smaller the demand for your product, the tougher it's going to be to address the exact segment of people you need to attract to your page, and you may find that more creative solutions are WAY more effective.
Aren't you using [exact match] making negative keywords not an issue? Or is part of your campaign running both phrase, and broad as well?
This is going to vary by market, but contrary to articles I’ve read, I’ve found better results from broad match + lots of negative keywords, with an understanding that some small % of ad spend will be wasted.
Bidding strategy is also incredibly important, as good as Google is getting their recommendation on overall strategy isn't great. Manual CPC (enhanced) has yielded much better conversions and cost per conversion compared to any other strategy. Manually adjusting each keyword, admittingly this does take some time but you set an overall max CPC and then increment where needed. Of course, this can be industry-specific and dependent on your goals. There are also a few scripts I run to automate some tedious things but that's less important.
Like ericabiz I also tried hiring on a few consultants hourly and it's been hit or miss but there were some insights I missed, so potentially worth it. Do not outsource to an agency, they are not worth the money. You need to groom your campaigns over-time and be dedicated. Use that extra cash on bidding for the ads themselves not the overhead of an agency.
You don't know what you don't know. Always be A/B testing.
I would expect a professional SEM company to spend some time generating a reasonable negative keyword list first but the good news is 50k of spend is probably going to have 30k at least of wasted spend to derive negative keywords from!
It makes a lot of sense when you consider that mesothelioma is a type of lung cancer caused by asbestos, is legally actionable, and that there is a whole industry of lawyers who specialize in litigating asbestos cases. The LTV of a customer who goes to trial in an asbestos case can be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Spending $40 for a possible lead is insanely profitable for these lawyers.
Aware of our LTV, I would say a $40 click would still be fine if it brings a customer. As a SaaS, we're A-OK with a CPL of $100 and currently target our search ads hypotheses to $15 or less.
— Tight campaigns going to tight landing pages where keywords match what folks entered.
— No one cares about your money more than you do.
— It's your job to customize landing pages based on keywords entered, SEM agencies simply can't or won't do it.
I'm no expert but this strikes me as strange. Organic and direct traffic is not a low-hanging fruit, it's the result of a product well adjusted to its target market. One would think advertising is the low-hanging fruit (relatively speaking); it's what you do when your offer doesn't show up naturally at the top of the results page.
If you're already winning on SEO it's probably harder to improve traffic with ads than when you have nowhere else to go but up.
-Retargeting/Remarketing - Some of your best ROI campaigns will come from these
-Discount Ladders - for customers to nudge over the edge great to use in combination with the retargeting campaigns.
-Abandoned cart email follow ups - No mention of these here. Again, these backend flows will really help profitability.
Ideally you'll break even on those leading awareness/acquisition campaigns using the things others here have said and the retargeting campaigns will be nothing but gravy.
I know this helps you, but it doesn't help me, as a customer.
If I abandoned your cart, there's a reason for it. Hounding me after I've already decided to take my business elsewhere is only going to make me think even more negatively about your company.
What I would like to see if one of these abandoned cart e-mails genuinely ask me why I abandoned the cart. Did I take my business to a specific competitor? Were the prices not competitive? Did I just get too busy and I'll finish later?
Show a little concern for your customers. Pestering them isn't good long-term business.
People who don't reply are already done with your brand. People who do reply are willing to give you a second chance, and are 100x more valuable than any reply rate would indicate.
We ran retargeting campaigns for those who signed up but didn't make a purchase. However, the problem was rooted in activating within a platform (uploading at least one file).
"We wasted $50K on Google Search Ads, and the insights we got on the way"
- Measure ad effectiveness before continuing to pour money into it (denial is a helluva drug).
- Market to your customers, and know who they are. Make sure keywords are targeting the right audience before optimizing click-through.
- All steps in the funnel are affected by the first. If you're bringing in the wrong audience, it won't matter how much traffic you drive and how many ads you place.
I seem to remember the internet being a pretty fascinating place in the 90s before advertising became mainstream (or Google Adwords was a thing). But then it was user generated content and communities.
Most people who do searches are probably tightly focussed on the answers. Ads are pretty much unwanted distractions in such an environment.
My guess is this is because people go to browse Facebook for a short break from work. Or they browse FB in off hours and making a purchase of a product like this would definitely feel like I was in work mode so I would never do it on nights/weekend.