20 PPC Experts Reveal the Secrets to Winning at Google Adwords




Written by Richard Protheroe
7th August 2015 • 25 min read

Google Adwords can be a very lucrative source of revenue, if managed correctly. Over 1.2 million businesses worldwide use the service and spend increases on average between 15-20% year on year.

Most companies are aware that they need to be utilising Adwords, but perhaps you are a little cautious and overwhelmed with the task ahead. In order to help you with this, we’ve acquired 20 PPC Experts, who range from best selling authors, PPC Managers and founders of PPC companies. All of which have a fountain of knowledge when it comes to the subject.

We asked them what mistakes are companies continually making, and are there perhaps things that Google doesn’t make very clear, in order for them to rinse vulnerable companies of their money. Interestingly, some agreed and some disagreed with that latter point. Read on to find out what mistakes you might be making, and what tips and tricks there are to help you win at Google Adwords.

Brian Carter, International Best Selling Author @ Carter Group

Brian CarterThe number of keywords you’ll find that are profitable for you is probably less than 10, unless you have 100’s of ecommerce items. Second, broad keywords often are a waste of money because of expanded broad match, and because it takes time to discover what negative keywords to put in to control those broad match keywords.

The CPC is really high and you can’t bring that down much. Many offerings don’t have the margin to profit with AdWords and optimizing your conversion rate is critical, because it’s the lever you have the most power over.

Nick Noble, Digital Marketing Manager @ Verisque

Nicholas NobleOne thing Google doesn’t tell you is that the majority of websites in the Google Display Network are websites set up for tricking users into clicking on ads by accident. These unwanted clicks get the websites owners using AdSense paid (as well as Google), but can be expensive to the company advertising.

If your display campaign is not configured correctly to filter these sites out you can accrue a lot of cost with very little return. SEER Interactive has compiled a list of 123 website to block on the Google Display Network. It is important to set up the necessary filters when configuring any campaign in Adwords and even more so when advertising within the Google Display Network.

Brian Gatti, Partner @ Inspire Business Concepts

Brian GattiThe problem with display advertising is that it defaults to showing EVERYWHERE and if you’re not a savvy user, you may find yourself spending hundreds or thousands of dollars on clicks that you didn’t want.


An excellent example is a company we worked with. They were spending almost $7,000 per month on clicks from display ads showing in games on mobile devices. These clicks were essentially unintentional clicks from kids playing games but it racked up huge waste which was masked by the success of the search advertising results.

If you’re looking at display ads, consider the following: Who is my target audience? Why will they buy? What is my offer to them?. And if you’re not sure, start with search and work your way up from there.

Mark Prosser Co-Founder @ Fit Small Business

Marc ProsserOne thing Google doesn’t tell you is that the quality of PPC traffic will depend heavily on the device. The device affects who’s looking, and how they engage with your content. Many mobile users are often in transit, for example, or already out doing something. In some cases, this can be useful – it can make it easier to engage someone out looking for food or in need of emergency services, for example.

For a B2B company, though, you don’t want to target mobile users because they have a lower attention span and are much less likely to give you the room to sell yourself.

Google also presents an option to advertise with their partners. What they don’t say is that this will dramatically decrease the quality of your traffic. This option is also much cheaper, but don’t expect to get nearly the same amount of conversions.

[bctt tweet=”B2B companies shouldn’t target mobile users as they have a lower attention span”]

Mike LaLonde, PPC Expert @ Londes

Mike LaLondeThe biggest mistake we see when setting up an account is using all broad match keywords. It leaves advertisers open to targeting on a lot of keywords that aren’t very relevant to their business, when that budget would be much better spent on a handful of very targeted phrases. Google doesn’t push exact and phrase match because adding more advertisers to broad search auctions lifts CPC’s for everyone involved. If you’re an advertiser just starting out, focus on a core group of exact and phrase match keywords and expand from there as you see success.

Makenzi Wood, Acquisition Marketer @ Visual Net Design

Makenzi WoodYour ad may show more on some days than others, Google spends up to 30 percent more of your approved daily budget – without notifying you first. This is mentioned in the terms of use, but most people don’t read them before starting an Adwords campaign. This has resulted in quite a few panicked emails from clients asking how their daily spend jumped so high. It’s always important to keep over and under delivery in mind when setting up an Adwords campaign. You need to calculate that extra 30 percent and budget for it just in case. It’s easy to go over budget when you don’t understand how Adwords shows your posts.

Gabriel Kuperman @ Huge Impact

Gabriel KupermanIt isn’t clear initially which types of campaigns generate the best results for your business. If you’re looking for conversions then it’s best to stick to a search campaign. If your goal is to spread the word about your brand and you’re not worried about conversions than you can consider display advertising.

Display advertising is not the best bang for your buck, if your goal is to get your cost per conversion as low as possible, which is a very important goal for most small businesses.

Drew Brinckerhoff, Digital Marketing Specialist @ Marcel Digital

David BrinckerhoffI don’t think the issue is Google telling or not telling advertisers things. They have a wealth of information to train new users on their system and a great support channel on Google+ for North American Partners. The issue is really new advertisers taking the time to consider the possible implications of the way they build their accounts. There are many nuances to account structure such as measuring effective headroom or compensating for keyword crossover. Many new advertisers simply do not consider things like this which leads to reduced quality scores and ultimately higher costs.

Marcus Miller, Head of Search @ Bowler Hat

marcus-millerIt is not fair to say that the mistakes are down to Google withholding information. The big mistakes that we see are directing all traffic to your homepage. This creates a scenario where the search term, advert and landing page experience is not aligned and as such the user does not see what they expected.

With broad keywords, Google will show your adverts for a variety of phrases that they believe to relevant to your search term, in almost all cases this shows your adverts for far too many variations and many that are of no relevance at all. At best this drives down your campaign performance and at worst you waste all your clicks on irrelevant terms.

Lastly where folks use the default search & display select option they will often see their budget and clicks mostly coming from the display network which effectively starves the search campaign.

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Michael Maven @ Carter & Kinglsey

Michael MavenMany people think Google charges per click. They actually charge for which ads make them the most money, per 1000 impressions (which is basically exactly how all other advertisers charge online, per 1000 impressions, or CPM as we call it in the industry).

So Google has a position = bid x CTR formula. The ad positions are really being sold on what makes Google the most money for every 1000 impressions.

[bctt tweet=”Google actually charge for which ads are gonna make them more money”]

Brandon Seymour @ Beymour Consulting

Brandon SeymourOne thing I see all the time is where clients forget to use ad scheduling to optimize their bids by time of day. Most aren’t aware that the feature exists. One of the benefits of using an analytics platform is that you can see which times of day perform well vs. the the times that don’t. Once you find the sweet spot, you’ll hopefully see an increase in conversion rates. The benefits here are two-fold: you improve ROI and reduce wasteful ad spend, and you can actually increase your quality score by improving your account performance.


Michael Weiss, Partner @ C-4 Analytics

Michael WeissAdd negative keywords to all of your campaigns.  For example, if I am running an ad for a new Ford F-150 Pickup Truck, I want to show the customer a sales ad for that vehicle. That click may cost me $4 in some markets. However, I don’t want that sales ad to show up if someone is searching for “Ford F-150 wipers.” So, adding the term “wipers” to my negative keyword list.


Match your keywords to a custom ad to a custom landing page. Google search has gotten so specific. Have the correct budget allocation. All of your clicks don’t carry the same value. Place a higher budget for your higher revenue item.

Anthony Myers, Founder @ Preeminent Productions

anthony_myersIf you pick the “Standard” setting over “All Features” setting when starting a new campaign, you’ll never see that you can refine the location settings to be, “People in my targeted location” only. Standard doesn’t give you this option, so instead your ad is set to “People in, searching for, or who show interest in my targeted location” by default. There will be times that this option is useful, but for most beginners this is too broad. A perfect example of something “hidden” by Google when starting out.

James Elliman, Head of PPC @ Engage

James EllimanThe AdWords system will suggest a bid that will get you onto the first page of Google. To be honest, this is where you need to be if you want effective ad campaigns. However, these estimates are just that, often you will find that they are vastly inflated. Raising your bids to the upper estimate may be costing you money you don’t need to spend.

Often those top 3 ad positions are clicked on because they are the most visible and not because the content of the ads is relevant to the user’s search query. Users who take the time to scan through the results and click on an ad down the right hand side of the page are likely to deliver better quality traffic, because they have taken the time to read and decided yours is most relevant to their query.

Erin Porter, Digital Advertising Analyst @ Method Savvy

Erin Porter

Features such as enhanced CPC bids, conversion optimizer and search network with display select make campaign set up easy, but could be wasting hundreds or thousands of dollars.

Use Google’s suggested bids and budgets as a guideline. Many brands think that advertising on their brand’s name is a waste of money. However, along with very inexpensive CPC’s due to low competition and high conversion rates, there are several ancillary benefits as well. Showing up for brand queries can help reinforce brand recognition and sentiment, as well as helping to boost the account-wide quality score.

Edward Leake @ Midas Media

Edward LeakeWhen creating an Ad Group in the AdWords dashboard, Google recommends you start with 10-20 keywords. When you bundle 10-20 keywords in a single Ad Group it becomes inefficient – you hinder performance.

You should ignore Google’s advice because it fails to mention having too many keywords per Ad Group will make search message match hard to achieve. Instead, focus on extracting the most you can from a few very closely related keywords, with the Ad copy tightly aligned to them.

[bctt tweet=”When you bundle 10-20 keywords in a single ad group it becomes inefficient”]

Andy Groller @ Dragon Search

Andy Groeller

The ‘Search Partners’ are a mix of non-Google websites (e.g. AOL), as well as other Google properties such as Maps, YouTube, and others. However the issue is that you can’t exclude certain search partners from targeting thus it’s either all or none. Furthermore, there is no data into individual search partner performance. A best practice would be to not target the search partners with an initial campaign and only test them out after enough data has been accrued from Google Search to begin making optimization decisions.

There’s so many times where a new advertiser overlooks linking their AdWords account to their Google Analytics account, which results in a significant loss of data to base decisions on. Passing  through AdWords data into Google Analytics allows for much deeper analysis and reporting, which in turn will lead to better short and long term performance.

Todd William, Founder @ Reputation Rhino

Todd William

The biggest mistakes advertisers make when starting with Google Adwords is not thinking about the entire user experience – from ad-click to conversion. Creating an ad with a good quality score, occupying a high ad position and generating a strong click through rate is only the beginning. Leverage the bold title to draw the visitor to the ad and if you are offering the best price or the closest location or a special offer or promotion, include in your ad copy.

Once you get the coveted click, the advertiser needs to think about what page on the client site is the user being directed to and what actions the advertiser wants the user to take once he arrives on that page.

Tim Jense, Director of Digital Strategies @ Overit

Tim JenseLeaving the default geotargeting setting on when building a campaign for a local business. If you’re in the US, you end up targeting the entire country, wasting money on clicks outside of your service area.

Not separating search and display campaigns. Each of these types of campaigns requires vastly different tactics for targeting, bidding, and messaging, and it’s very difficult to achieve optimal results with a combined search/display campaign.

Dana DiTomaso, Partner @ Kick Point

Dana DiTomasoOne mistake that people make is only using very broad phrases to describe the product or service. We worked with a client who sold educational posters to teachers, and their Google configured AdWords campaign was bidding broadly on the word “posters”.

You can imagine how low their quality score was and how quickly they burned through their initial budget. By the time we talked to them, they were convinced that AdWords doesn’t work. Rarely is guidance provided on how to integrate conversion tracking, and many small business owners don’t know enough about their websites to set it up themselves. Ad copy is often generic and not representative of the client’s brand. One thing they do get right is setting up ad extensions, especially for local businesses.

Colin Williamson, Head of PPC @ iD30


Change your campaigns to Manual Bidding. If left on Automatic Bidding Google will get you the most clicks for your money. Sounds great, but these are not necessarily the best clicks. 80% of all sales and enquiries come from top 3 ad clicks and to get these positions you’ll almost always need your campaigns set to manual bidding.

Use Auction Insights. Look at Auction Insights to see how you are doing against your competitors that are using the same keywords in the same targeted area as you. This is a great way to monitor your impression share, advert rank and top of page share, against your direct competitors.


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Richard is a Content Specialist at Veeqo. He loves writing about ways for ecommerce retailers to increase their sales with marketing tips, advice on website optimisation and social media best practices.

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  • First off, thanks for including me in this fantastic list of experts.

    One thing I’ll respectfully disagree with is advertising on mobile for B2B. Do mobile users have a shorter attention span? Sure, but it’s how you target mobile with different messaging and goals that will make the difference. Don’t expect to convert on a demo or trial with mobile, but instead focus on top of funnel conversions like ebooks or video views (this is huge in social ads and YouTube) that will drive awareness. Also, these engagements will create retargeting audiences that can be used for mid to bottom of funnel conversions.

    • Richard

      Thanks for taking part again Andy and for your additional feedback.

      I agree that mobile can be used especially to drive awareness. Also with mobile, people tend to view an ad there first and then bookmark it for later. They will then complete the purchase on their desktop.

      Although the sale may not suggest it was from a mobile device, it’s likely it would have got the ball rolling. Over 80% of internet users own a smartphone and this can’t be ignored.

  • Colin Williamson

    Thanks for including me in this post Richard 🙂

    Just reading down the list there is a lot of great advice some of which though I would have a different opinion, so I thought I would go down the list and exchange views, starting with my own;

    Colin Williamson, Head of PPC @ iD30

    I would firstly like to clarify one of the points I made. To
    get to the top of page bid you don’t have to necessarily use manual bidding you
    could use top of page bid strategy in flexible bidding. Although with manual
    bidding you do have more control, which with Adwords is very important.

    Brian Carter, International Best Selling
    Author @ Carter Group

    Great post. I think it is wise to set some budget aside (if money is tight) for test campaigns where you can use Modified Broad Keywords and expand your reach. One of those keywords may be the missing link to enable the business to get a good ROI.

    Nick Noble, Digital Marketing Manager @ Verisque

    Superb post, one that I am seeing more and more often within
    my display campaigns.

    Brian Gatti, Partner @ Inspire Business Concepts

    Great post Brian, to get away from the app and games side of
    things I usually include as a placement exclusion and
    also site category exclusions such as In-game and GMob mobile app non-interstitial.
    I hope this helps.

    Mark Prosser Co-Founder @ Fit
    Small Business

    Im not sure I actually agree with you on this Mark, the fact
    that 80%+ people research first is a great indication of cross device selling
    and lead generation, this will inevitavely unclude mobile. Also in most cases
    mobile has a cheaper cpc than desktop.

    Mike LaLonde, PPC Expert @ Londes

    Agreed Mike, although I do start with Modified Broad on most
    keywords then use the Segment tab to see the cost on Phrase and Exact match (this
    saves time and energy for the agency as well), I have found that in most cases
    the Modified Broad has a lower cpc so use lots of negatives.

    Makenzi Wood, Acquisition Marketer @ Visual
    Net Design

    This isn’t the case im afraid. Google charges up to 20%
    extra on a daily basis but will never ever go over the monthly budget. Please
    see the link from the Adwords Help Centre
    I hope this helps to reassure yourself and your customers.

    Gabriel Kuperman @ Huge

    The best basic piece of advice around Gabriel.

    Drew Brinckerhoff, Digital Marketing
    Specialist @ Marcel

    I couldn’t agree more Drew, all the advice is there for
    people in the Adwords Help Centre and on Blog Posts, also working with Adwords on
    a daily basis within different industries greatly increases your knowledge.

    Marcus Miller, Head of Search @ Bowler

    With regards to the Search With Display Select; Google will
    put most of the budget to Search around 80-100% if it can’t then the rest will
    go to Display. What is most people need to know is that you will be paying
    Search prices for Display clicks hence why I would always take the effort to
    build separate campaigns.

    Michael Maven @ Carter
    & Kinglsey

    Not too sure about this theory Michael, regardless of which
    Ad is at the Top it will still cost the most although with a great qs the cost
    of that top Ad will be dramatically reduced. It would be interesting to prove
    your theory.

    Brandon Seymour @ Beymour

    Although this is true Brandon, it’s a bit of a catch 22
    situation for me. Business is no longer 9-5, Monday – Friday. People research
    24/7 and often research before they buy. If you get a conversion at 4pm who is
    to say that person didn’t research at 2am? Personally I wouldn’t take the risk
    Ad Scheduling it could be the thing that’s destroys the account. (this is
    dependent on industry, sector and targeting)

    Michael Weiss, Partner @ C-4

    Great Advice Michael, Negative keywords are a must. Use
    Search Terms to generate new ones, I also use the keyword planner to begin with
    as it comes up with some disastrous suggestions some times.

    Anthony Myers, Founder @ Preeminent

    Great advice Anthony, All Features also opens up Delivery
    Method, more Ad Extensions and the Advanced Settings section which contains Ad
    Scheduling, Ad Delivery, Dynamic Search Ads and Campaign URL Options.

    James Elliman, Head of PPC @ Engage

    Exactly James I never go with First Page Bid Estimates
    myself, I change the cpc on a daily basis to get the correct Ad Rank. When
    searching on Google most people look at and effectively click on the Top 3 ads
    hence why 80% of all sales and enquiries come from these clicks.

    Erin Porter, Digital Advertising Analyst @ Method Savvy

    I agree Erin that your brand name is important to use as a
    keyword. More and more these days competitors are using your brand name as a
    keyword. If you are not there they will be!

    Edward Leake @ Midas

    Good Advice Edward, I generally build 1 Keyword per Ad
    Group, this takes time and effort but is the only way to be certain of the best
    possible Quality Score.

    Andy Groller @ Dragon Search

    Totally agree with you Andy, in my earlier years many a time
    did the Search Partners drag down my CTR score thus increasing my Cpc. I hardly
    ever use them now.

    Todd William, Founder @ Reputation Rhino

    Thumbs up Todd for great starter advice.

    Tim Jense, Director of Digital Strategies @ Overit

    Great advice Tim J

    Dana DiTomaso, Partner @ Kick

    Great advice Dana. Often agencies are too scared to tell the
    client the truth because they may lose their business. It’s always best to set
    expectations right from the first second, Adwords isn’t for every company and
    certainly isn’t for every budget.

  • Awesome list! Loved the advice on the google search partners, I usually steer clear of these but the display insights were interesting. I usually only see success with remarketing on the display network but maybe if I am more selective with placements it could work.

    Is there an option to have placements that are only on quality pages? For example a page with over 1000 words or above the fold?

    Great post!

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