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4 Common Misconceptions of Google AdWords Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Advertising

Most local businesses have run or at least thought about running advertising campaigns on Google AdWords. We all have our own assumptions as to what we can expect from a campaign, including everything from how much we should be spending, right through to the placement and visibility of our ads, and the results we can expect. I feel like a lot of perceptions creep in as a result of people’s discussions with pay-per-click marketing experts and what they believe is right for your business. Invariably, that equates to entering a spending race with your competitors – producing great visibility but costing a fortune in the process. This is not a wise marketing strategy for many small local businesses – so let’s look at some misconceptions (and opportunities) for adwords advertising:

Misconception #1: I will be able to search and find my own ad

advertising in search resultsIt seems intuitive that to prove whether your ad is working is to search and find it – but there are a few reasons this is often impossible. Consider this situation – someone does a search in Google “heater repair Dallas”. Search. The results appear, along with about 8 ads on the page. Does that mean only 8 people wanted to advertise in these places? Of course not. So why could other ads have missed out?

Bid was too low – the ads appearing may have been bidding $20 for a click from heater repair Dallas. Plenty of advertisers would have put in bids well below that.

Out of budget – consider an advertiser who was limiting their advertising budget to $3000 a month. They would control that by setting a daily limit of $100 per day ($100 x 30 days = $3000). So they may have already spent $100 on clicks in the morning and used their budget for that day. This new search may be occurring in the afternoon, so they are not in the running to appear in the ads.

Quality score – There may be an ad that talks about heater installation, and links to a page about air conditioning. No one is clicking it because the ad is not related to “heater repair Dallas”. And those that click on it hit “back” all the time because their website is not related to heater repair. Even if this advertiser is bidding more than anyone, their ad won’t appear because Google has calculated (either from past experience or by analyzing words) that no-one will click on it and Google won’t make any money from that!

Misconception #2: I can bid a high price and appear in the first ad position on google.com

pay per clickThe click bidding process is not designed to give you certainty in ad position or rankings. It’s designed to ensure you don’t pay more than you are bidding for a click, and that you only pay when someone clicks on your ad. They are the certainties you have to work with. So one possibility is that someone outbids you- which is out of your control. Another possibility is that you are the highest bidder but your ad has lower quality than other bidders, so they get shown instead of you (see the previous section about quality score).

Google offers top-of-page bid estimates, but they are careful not to guarantee your appearance:

“While we will do our best to estimate the bid you’ll need to get your ad at the top of the page, we can’t guarantee that it will appear at the top of the page. This is because other advertisers are continually changing their bids, which means that your ad might be pushed down.”

Of course you can check back daily and keep upping your bid to overcome that problem, but this is obviously not a strategy worth discussing because we’re all aiming for value for money, not just ways to spend it!

Misconception #3: My ads on Google AdWords will appear on Google.com

content network exampleOk, this is right in some situations. It’s important to know that the Google search network refers to ads on google.com itself. But another option often used in advertising is the content network. For the content network, even though you are ordering your ads through Google, your ads won’t appear on google.com. You have probably seen related ads on all sorts of websites out there (like gmail, youtube, ehow, online news sites and others). Google has millions of sites that are signed up to show Google ads and get paid when a visitor clicks. If your ad is about air conditioning, and Google shows your ad on a website page about air conditioning, a user may be interested and click. With that action, Google delivers the visitor to your site, charges you as an advertiser, and gives a cut of that charge to the website owner where the ad was showing up – pow! It’s Google advertising, but your ad never appeared on Google.com

Misconception #4: To run a meaningful ad campaign, I need to spend thousands each month

There are certainly people competing against you that are spending that kind of money. The key is to not try to get into a bidding war for 1st position on Google with people who have deeper pockets (I always picture my competitors as having more money than me!). Some ideas on how to get by on cheaper monthly budgets are:

Bid on more specific keywords – of course “attorney Orlando” will be highly competitive and therefore expensive to bid for. But something really specific like “female family law attorney Orlando” may be much less competitive. And the people who search it may be looking for something really specific that you offer

Beat ‘em with good ad copy – you only get a title and 2 short lines of text to work with, but ads that explain why someone should click your ad over the others may give you an advantage money can’t buy

Best landing page – you may only be able to afford 50 clicks to your page each month, but imagine if your page led to 10% of visitors calling you, rather than 4%. That’s the smart-guys alternative to spending 2.5 times as much! Great features on landing pages include

  • a prominent call to action and visible contact details,
  • a strong title that explains what you offer and relates to the ad the user just clicked on
  • helpful detail about your service
  • a quote/testimonial from a happy client
  • a special offer that encourages the reader to call you now

Time of day – this may be relevant if you’re a 24×7 emergency plumber and bidding for clicks all through the night may put you in a less competitive auction

Use content network – to recap, this is where your ads are put on related web pages, not google.com results pages, and you can attain clicks for a much lower price. Let’s just say it – for a lot of people, seeing their own ad on Google.com is an ego boost. But if you are honest with yourself, your goal is probably to gain a paying customer. Our WordJack research team recently ran a test campaign where we setup 5 businesses with 4 landing pages, each with a different phone number. Then we generated leads to each of the 4 pages from 4 different ad networks (google search, google display, BING and eZenga) simulating a $200 budget per client on each ad network. Even though the Google display network generated plenty of visits that led to nothing, it out-performed all other ad networks in the final cost-per-call analysis. So if you can think back to the real goal of your advertising, you may be less concerned about search appearance, as much as getting potential customers to your website page so you can pitch them on giving you a call.

I’m interested in hearing from you too! Do you feel like there’s a misconception about PPC that you feel is blocking local businesses from a realistic and positive experience of paid advertising – and AdWords in particular?

WordJack Media provides a wide range of website design and online marketing solutions to clients throughout Canada and the US, including Collingwood ON, Ottawa ON, Barrie ON, Miami FL, Lakeland FL, Orlando FL, Charlotte NC, Hickory NC, Asheville NC and more. Contact WordJack Media today for more information about how we can help your business win on the web!


  1. This was an interesting read. I definitely find myself searching for my ads, and getting discouraged when I can’t see them.

  2. There are a lot of common misconceptions when it comes to all forms of PPC advertising, and this article does a great job at explaining the some of the most common ones. Great article!

  3. Misconception #5 – The First 2 Weeks Of My Ad Campaign Will Be Indicative Of My Campaign Performance Ongoing

    The truth is, it takes time for your PPC campaign to settle, and most of the time you don’t hit the nail on the head on the first attempt. It is very hard to get an idea of your campaigns performance, most effective ads/keywords & average cost per click in such a short period of time. In most cases you will need to spend about $250+ a month for ~3 months before your campaign really starts to settle, letting you get an idea of where your campaign stands. This time will allow patterns to emerge and opportunities to present themselves, allowing you to make needed adjustments so your campaign can be constantly improved. The fact is a good PPC campaign will always be subject to ongoing variations and improvements (which is good), but it does take time for your campaign to build up a bit of a history before these trends/opportunities start to really present themselves.


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