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Top 10 Biggest Adwords Mistakes that Kill ROI

Adwords ROII just got back from National Pavement Expo (NPE) in Nashville and from giving my talk on internet marketing tools.  Of all the things we talked about, Google Adwords was by far the biggest topic of conversation.  Fulled by the many (fantastic) questions being asked, here are some points to avoid that will keep you from spending tons of money with little results.  Here they are in no particular order.

1. Setting too Large a Service Area

A good rule of thumb for seeing the target area of the ads is to set it as the same size as your service area. What good does it do to target people outside your service area?

You’ll chew up your budget on prospects you can’t service.

The default target area for new accounts (assuming you’re in the USA) is the entire United States. Unless your service area is the entire United States, you need to restrict where your ads show.

If your ads are showing up in areas you can’t service, you could be wasting money on clicks that will never turn into customers.

2. Using Keywords that are Too General

One word keywords in adwords campaigns are an ingredient for disaster.

While one word keywords like ‘sweeping’ or ‘paving’ have huge search volumes they’re way too broad to drive any cost effective conversions.

Lets use ‘paving’ as our example.

The term if one of your keywords is ‘paving’ anyone looking for the book ‘Pave the Way to Your Success’ or a 5th grader doing a report on ‘The history of paving’ is going to trigger your ad.

Neither one of these people are looking to pull out their check books after click on your ad.

Also, the term ‘paving’ by itself doesn’t indicate any commerciality. Commerciality meaning that the person typing that term into Google is signaling that they’re looking to make a purchase.

Using longer tail keywords such as “parking lot paving St Louis”, while they have a much lower search volume than ‘paving’, has a huge commerciality value.

Someone typing ‘parking lot paving st louis’ is in the buying phase of their search. They’re looking to a specific solution to their problem and would likely purchase your solution.

3. Not using Negative Keywords

Negative keywords are words that you have determined should disqualify a searcher from seeing your ad.

Take the term ‘sweeping service’ for example. ‘Sweeping Service’ is a great term for a street sweeping company.

This term, however, is also going to trigger your ad when somebody searches ‘chimney sweeping service’.

Unless you do chimney sweeping, the term ‘chimney’ should be a negative keyword.

By adding “chimney” as a negative keyword, you’re telling Google that anybody that searches for that term is not somebody you want to advertise to.

This cuts down on clicks (costs) by people that will never higher you.

4. Using Industry Jargon

To pick good keywords, keywords that will lead to your desired outcomes, you need to see your campaign though the eyes of your customer.

Using complicated technical keywords that your customers don’t know means that they’ll never be searching for them.

Use the terms that your customers use to describe what you do.

Once you get them to your site then you can gradually educate them on the finer points of your service.

5. Not Split Testing Ads

The best feature about Adwords is that you don’t have to know how to write a perfect ad.

You just have to know how to test them. Each Ad Group allows you to run multiple ads simultaneously.

That means you can write 2 different ads and some people will see version A and some people will see version B.

The most basic performance metric for your ads will be the ad’s Click Through Rate (CTR).

The CTR is a percentage, how many people clicked on your ad divided by how many times people saw the ad. Ads that are more compelling, that relate to the customer better, will have higher CTRs.

To do this, write 2 ads. Let them run for 30 days.

After 30 days see which one has the higher CTR. Pause the lower performing ad and write a new ad to try to beat the better performing ad. Visit in another 30 days.

Your goal should always be to try to beat your best performing ad.

6. Sending ALL traffic to the homepage

The homepage of your website is great for showing visitors what you do and helping people find the exact service that they need.

Searchers, however, that have already told you exactly what they’re searching for (via their keywords) should be taken the most specific page on your site as possible.

For example, let’s say you’re a property maintenance company and you offer sweeping, portering, and pressure washing.

If you have an adwords campaign for portering, the ad should take people to the page on your website that has the most detail about portering.

If the ad for porting takes them to your homepage, you’re forcing your visitor to take extra steps to find information about porting.

If you don’t have specific pages for each of your services then go ahead and send them to our homepage.

But when in doubt, be as specific as possible.

7. Focusing on Features not Benefits

One of the key tenants of copywriting your ads is to focus on what your product or service does for the customer, not what it is.

Your customer doesn’t care that the seal coat you put down on their parking lot is ‘weather resistant’, they care that they get ‘double the useful life of your parking lot.’

When you talk about a feature of your product or service follow that up with “so that..”.

What follows after “so that” will usually be the benefit your customer will receive from that particular feature.

Benefits are what they get out the product, features are just what gets them there.

Not spending enough to get Real Data (i.e. Decision making power)

8. Tiny budgets get tiny data (usually).

Unless you have zero competitors in your market, chances are you’re going to be competing against people with your ads.

Starting off with too small a budget can mean that you don’t get an accurate representation of how effective your campaign is.

When I’m starting with a client I recommend starting with a minimum budget of $500 per month for two reasons.

One is that I know what I’m doing an can easily show a return on investment in the first month.

Secondly, larger budgets means more data points.

I can make better decisions sooner because we’ve taken a better sampling of the market.

Most business owners don’t want to start growing their business 6 months from now.

They want to start growing it today.

Invest more today to get more out of your campaign tomorrow.

9. Ignoring Quality Score and how it Impacts Costs

Quality score is a 1-10 scale of how relevant your site, ads, and keywords are to a searcher.

The more that all of elements are inline, the higher the quality score.

Campaigns with high quality scores pay less per click and get placed higher in the Ad placements.

Look for keywords in your campaign that rank a 4 or lower.

Consider updating your ad for that keyword and the page on your website that ad is pointing to.

All three elements should be representing the same idea.

10. Not Connecting Google Adwords with Google Analytics

Adwords gets visitors to your website. Analytics tells you what they did once they got there.

Because Google Analytics is a free product there’s no excuse not to do this.

By connecting the two services (which is easy to do if you’re an administrator of both services) you’ll get to see more detailed data about each of your campaigns.

Are visitors via Adwords bouncing off your page as soon as they get there?

Are visitors visitors via Adwords engaging with your content? By seeing some of these data points you can make more informed decisions about campaigns.


The key to good Adwords Campaigns is giving the searcher a good search experience.  The more your product or service is the best solution to what the searcher is looking for, the more Google will reward you with better pricing, better positioning, which should lead to better results and better ROI.

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Crowd Sourced Lead Generation

Crowd Sourced Lead GenerationIt wasn’t until recently that I understood the power of “crowd sourced.”  I guess it had never occurred to me that it was possible to cherry pick the best of the collective knowledge/expertise/skill set/ wisdom of a community.

My first experience of this was using 99Designs.com, a crowd sourced design website.  Need something designed? Business Cards? New logo? Updated Website?  Post a description of what you need done and dozens (and sometimes hundreds) of designers compete to provide you with the very best design.

The upside is that you have tons of designs to pick from and only pay for the very best design (at a price you set at the beginning).  Its like the ultimate gladiatorial death match with only top contestant left standing.  (ok maybe its not that dramatic)

The downside if that you’re too picky you’re on the hook to pick at least one of them.

So after completing out first contest and getting some great designs from it, I started thinking, “What else can this be applied to? Say Lead Generation?”

Sometimes the best answers are staring you right in the face

It was around the same time that I was struggling to get a bird dog program started in our company.

We needed more leads but didn’t have the cash to invest in hiring a sales person, increasing Adwords spending, buying a list, or any of the hundreds of other ways to generate leads.

Using our own employees, who already understand the business, who we already pay, and who would probably prefer for the company to do better than do worse, were the perfect people to turn to for help.

For nothing more than a little extra awareness on their part they could be reporting back new business opportunities for the company.

It would be like crowd sourcing our community of employees to do lead generation for the company.

Boom, the crowd sourced lead generation light bulb when on.

And to be honest, it worked out great, at first….

Operating at Scale

The bird dog program, essentially crowd sourcing our own employees to do lead generation was really effective.  The problem was running it at scale.

It quickly became overwhelming to manage the whole process.

Even a dozen employees each reporting back a couple of lead each week become unmanageable.

Which ones did I follow up on? Which ones are new? How qualified are they? Do you have pictures of it? Should I revisit certain leads at a later date?

Drowning in leads is a great problem to have but it can be disruptive with long sales cycles.  There’s a tendency to not qualify leads as well and assume that quantity that overcome quality.

There had to be a better way to manage the process.  Unfortunately, there wasn’t.


Scratch Your Own Itch

I finally got tired of dealing with the overwhelm and decided to scratch my own itch and build the product I needed to help me.

But it couldn’t just be another CRM.  It had to be location based with a seamless mapping integration so that I could see, at a glance, where these leads were in relation to one another (To keep me from crisscrossing my routes all over town to visits these leads or job sites.)

It had to integrate images.  A picture is worth a thousand words couldn’t be more true when managing a subjective service like street sweeping.

Crowd Sourced Lead Generation via BirdDogLead

And with that, BirdDogLead was born.. well being born (we’re currently in private beta release)

BirdDogLead is a cloud based web application specifically for employee sourced lead generation and tailored to the pavement maintenance industry.

Visit http://www.birddoglead.com to get on the waiting list.

Companies on the waiting list will get exclusive pricing discounts when the product is publicly launched.

With this simple web and mobile app, companies can implement an effective bird dog program in their company and actually take advantage of the power of crowd sourcing their lead generation.

(Even if this doesn’t seem right for your company yet, sign up anyways and get a sneak peak of how a software product is designed, developed and marketed)





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Cell Phone Contracts Gone Bad

how to get out of a cell phone contractThis post is the response from a friend of mine in the telecom industry.  We’ll just say her name is Sarah to protect her identity.  I reached out to her about some ongoing problems I was having with our AT&T cell phone contracts and wanted to know how to get out of a cell phone contract.

After spending 50+ hours on the phone with our AT&T account “rep”, various tech “support” departments, and dozens of emails, I’m still having problems with our account and no end is in sight.  I reached out to Sarah to ask what my options were for terminating our cell contract a year early.

Begin Sarah

“What you are going though is unfortunate and truly not ok. I completely understand the frustration that goes along with it. I want to address each point so I apologize if I ramble.

Simply, AT&T does not want to lose 10 lines of post paid business. While you may feel worthless I can assure you they would do what it takes to keep you if it comes down to it. The key is knowing what you are going to ask for and the approach. Their customer care associates are trained to deal with threats, (I am calling my lawyer, etc) you will never get anywhere that way. But the more passive direct approach works very nicely. Here is what I would do.

Calling standard customer care ask immediately to be transferred to the cancellations department. Ask for your account number as well as the contract end dates and ETF (Early Termination Fees) of each line. When they ask why, and they will, explain that you have ten lines and have had a terrible experience managing them. Share that you could move all ten to T-Mobile for $180 less a month or Verizon for the same price and better coverage. Explain that you want to know with ten lines how long it will take to recoup the ETFs. Share that you do not want to cancel yet as the port will automatically take care of that. Then ask when the ETF’s get smaller based on their new prorated ETF policy.

All that you are doing is placing the fear of you leaving in their mind in a super calm way.

What will happen is they will transfer you to a loyalty department. This is the one group that can really make a difference for you. They have the power to waive ETF’s, credit months of service, and actually merge the accounts. They will generally do whatever you ask. But realize they are paid on renewing your contract. Losing you costs them money. So expect the solution to be we will pay for two months of Service and merge the accounts if you renew more than we will pay for you to leave.

Now for the how to actually get out. If getting compensation and staying is not the option then you could try some ways out. This will require a lot more pressure and time and lacks certainty but here are the best methods from my experience.

1.  800-498-1912  Office of the President.

This is the number to their executive customer care.   They are more apt to help you and with a calm direct complaint you can usually get things done.  You can also send a letter.   The downside: not quick and you will spend a long time on the phone.

[Grayson’s Note: I did this.  I called the office of the president and spoke with somebody with the power to get something done.  Didn’t get a 100% solution but it did push me in the right direction]

2.  Port out and pay the ETF on American Express via auto-pay.

It is not uncommon for someone to do this.  They set up Amex as their auto-pay and they cancel.  The cell company bills Amex and they dispute the charge.  Amex sides with the consumer and they rarely recoup the money.  Downside: Amex doesn’t agree and you owe a lot of money.

3. I am moving.

If you move outside of AT&T’s coverage area you can nullify your contract.  If you can show citizenship or land ownership in a different country they will let you out.   Downside: They have caught on to it a lot so it may be harder.


4. Regulatory change.

You signed a contract with AT&T agreeing to a certain price and service.   Multiple times a year they will amend that promise.  For example in January they raised the regulatory charge $0.20 per line.   That is a material breech of contract.   In doing so you could have left AT&T with zero penalty.   The way they prevent it is in your bill it said “by paying this amount you agree to the new change to your contract.”   So you could essentially wait for another one of these changes, not pay your bill, and port out.  Downside: I don’t know when they will do that again.  But it is fairly regular.  Check the fine print on you bill for these changes.

5. Blog it up!

Twitter is a very powerful tool for this type of stuff.   Every major company employees someone that trolls twitter for complainers.    If you say @attwireless stinks enough they will respond and ask why.   Again it isn’t a quick solution but you can get someone that you probably wouldn’t have gotten before.
I realize nothing I said is magical or solves the problem quickly but hopefully gives you some ammunition.   Combining your knowledge of a few of these may be able to make the difference for you.     Let me know if there is anything I missed or can assist with beyond that.     The only other advice I would give is to go bother a retail manager.   Going to an actual store and asking for the store manager will at least get you a face to share with. They can call care for you and probably get some assistance.
Sorry for all of the stress.  That is extremely disappointing.   I hope you get some resolve.”

End Sarah

Cell phone contracts are a necessary evil in today’s world.  And while I don’t condone skipping out on contracts on a whim, being subjected to terrible service because you’re “locked into a contract” is simply unacceptable.

I hope this provides some support to anyone who may need to get out of a cell phone contract too.

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