by Craig Wakefield April 26, 2016

Watch Out for These 3 Common AdWords Mistakes!

After auditing paid search accounts for a few years, you start to notice how most account managers seem to make the same few AdWords mistakes.

At first glance, these oversights often seem like small problems, but they can cost your company tens of thousands of dollars in lost revenue and profit.

I’m a big believer in the power (for good or bad) of incremental changes, so let’s take a look at 3 of the most common AdWords mistakes and see how they can affect campaign performance.

Fortunately, even if you are making these AdWords faux pas, with a little time and consistent effort, you should be able to get your account on track with relative ease.

1. Where’s the Conversion Tracking?

One of the biggest, most common problems I see with AdWords accounts is poor conversion tracking.

At Disruptive, we’ve audited over 2,000 AdWords accounts and found that only 29% of AdWords accounts have effective conversion tracking in place. 42% have never tracked a single conversion!

Let me give you a little perspective on what that means to your company.


A brand new Ford Raptor with a complete off-road suspension racing kit costs $60,000.

That’s a lot of money.

However, I once audited an account that spent $60,000 and couldn’t show one conversion for it! That’s like handing a stranger $60,000 in cash and telling them to buy you a Ford Raptor…and then driving home to wait.

Will you get your truck?

Possibly, but you don’t know if they will bring that souped up 2017 Ford Raptor or pocket most of the money and drop off an old 1989 F150…if they bring you a truck at all.

In other words, if you aren’t tracking what your ad spend is paying for, you might as well just be giving your money away (incidentally, if you’re thinking of giving away $60,000, I can think of a good use for it).

The crazy thing about this whole situation is the fact that setting up conversion tracking is actually quite easy. With a little extra work, you can easily see if your paid clicks are actually becoming something useful (i.e., phone calls, form fills, purchases, etc).

Another serious benefit of tracking conversions is that you can use the keywords, ads and campaigns that produce the most conversions with more budget to drive bottom line results for your company.

2. Location Targeting

I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve been auditing an account for a US client and said something to the effect of, “Were you aware that you’ve spent a total of $5,000 in Iran over the past two years?”

Location targeting is one of the easiest and most often overlooked settings in your AdWords account.

Google doesn’t know (or care) if you only do business in a certain area. If you don’t specify that area with your Location Targeting, your ads will show up in all sorts of strange places and they will get clicked.

So for the love, please go to your settings and specify where you do and do not want to advertise!

These Are Not the Locations You're Looking For | Disruptive Advertising

And, if you want to achieve true Jedi account master status, review your dimensions report on a regular basis.

Select geographic area and monitor where clicks are coming from. This can reveal all sorts of opportunities for you to improve account performance.

3. Ad Extensions

Ad extensions basically turn your small boring ad into a big sexy ad.

ad extensionsIt can also direct users to a specific page where they can access what they want more quickly.

For example, you can create ad extensions for any of the following:

  • App—so people can skip straight to downloading your app
  • Call—so that people can call you without even visiting your site (especially good for mobile ads)
  • Location—so people can find you (or enter you into their GPS) without clicking on your site
  • Review—so people can immediately see how awesome you are
  • Sitelink—so that people can skip the boring stuff and get straight to the content that’s relevant to them
  • And the list goes on…

Despite all of the experience-streamlining and size advantages of ad extensions, most accounts don’t take full advantage of their site extensions.

It’s only a small amount of additional work, but it can yield huge dividends, so there’s really no reason not to include site extensions in your ads.

Do It | Disruptive Advertising


I’ve seen these 3 mistakes in countless paid search accounts, but I’ve also seen how fixing these AdWords mistakes can lead to substantial improvements in account performance.

With that in mind, it’s worth it to take the time to regularly go over your conversion tracking, location targeting and ad extensions to make sure everything is working appropriately.

By the way, if you’d like me to look through your account and give you some recommendations on how to avoid these or other common AdWords mistakes, let me know here or in the comments. I’d love to help!

Are there other common AdWords mistakes you’d add to this list? When have you seen AdWords account managers waste significant amounts of money on simple mistakes?

  • AdWords

Craig Wakefield

Craig Wakefield

Craig is a passionate leader who loves what marketing can do for a business. He's also quite an interesting character with passions that span the spectrum. Bow hunting, horses and barns on one end, and ballroom dance on the other. \n\nRelationships and business consulting are his forte. More than a decade with digital marketing agencies, he spent the last six years here at Disruptive. He was here back when everyone in the company could eat lunch at one table. He's been instrumental in Disruptive's development to date and continues to shape the company and the client experience.

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