Common PPC mistakes and how to avoid them

Common PPC mistakes and how to avoid them

I was once asked to list my favorite PPC mistakes. To me, this seemed like a contradiction in terms; I don’t hold any of the mistakes I’ve made in particularly high regard. Perhaps a better phrase to use would have been common PPC mistakes. Because mistakes, no matter how hard we try, are common.

We’re all human and therefore capable of human error. And the world of PPC is rapidly evolving with new, ever more sophisticated features and updates. With all those shiny new bells and whistles to explore, it can be easy to forget the basics.

Here I take a look at what I’ve found to be the most common mistakes in PPC accounts, along with some guidance on how to avoid them.


There are two main categories into which the mistakes I’ve listed below could fall: accidents, or misuse of best practices.

Accidents are the result of human or occasionally technological error, where there is no question that a mistake has been made.

On the other hand, some readers may find themselves disagreeing with some of the best practice “mistakes” I’ve included in here. A lot of people run PPC campaigns differently, whether we’re comparing agency-level best practices or individual account management techniques, but I believe avoiding the mistakes I’ve listed here will benefit the overall health of your campaigns.


Many people — including Googlers — would disagree with me here, but I think using broad match is a mistake. When auditing or taking over new accounts, it’s consistently the biggest cause of wasted spend and irrelevant traffic. It simply doesn’t provide you with enough information about a user’s intent to serve them the most appropriate ad.

Even if we take ridiculous search queries out of the equation for a second (I once saw a search for “margarine” matched to “body butter” in broad match), there are still problems. Broad match leads to regular cross-matching between ad groups.

The example below shows how a search for “red dresses” could trigger an irrelevant ad for red skirts. The keyword “red skirts” has a higher ad rank than “red dress” and is broadly related to the search query “red dresses.” This means the user is served the wrong ad, meaning they’re less likely to click through — and if they did, they’d end up on the wrong landing page.

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