4 Google Ads Gotchas to Watch Out For

by Aden Andrus February 11, 2021

When you’re new to Google Ads—whether you’re looking to launch your first campaign or are wondering why your first campaign or two isn’t producing results—it’s easy to make mistakes.

Don’t worry, we’ve all been there.

The good news is, after auditing thousands of Google Ads accounts over the past few years, I’ve found that most Google Ads mistakes fall into a few simple categories. By making the right tweaks to your marketing strategy, you can get things back on track and running smoothly.

In this article, we’ll go through each of these mistakes and what you need to do differently to fix things and avoid these problems in the future. Sound like a plan? Let’s get started.

1. Failing to Create a Marketing Funnel

One of the most common problems that I see is that people expect Google Ads clicks to immediately turn into conversions. They assume that because Google Ads is user-initiated, anyone who clicks on their ads is ready to buy now.

While Google Ads is certainly more intent-driven than Display Ads or Facebook Ads, people who search for something on Google and then click on your ads are still on a journey. They might be closer to converting, but it’s foolish to assume that they’re ready to buy right now.

With that in mind, your Google Ads marketing needs to be part of a seamless series of steps that lead potential customers to making a purchase.

For example, if someone is searching for moving truck prices, they might see an ad like this:

Clicking on that ad brings up the following landing page:

This landing page is direct and to the point. If you happen to be looking for an actual quote, this landing page is great, but what if you are just trying to get a general feel for pricing and don’t want to put yourself on a sales person’s radar yet?

If you’re in the latter category (and a lot of people are), this landing page isn’t a good fit for your needs. That being said, that doesn’t make this landing page wrong, but the advertiser needs to have a plan for the people who don’t fill out their form.

For example, they might have a pop-up offering a moving costs guide to people who don’t fill out their form. That guide offers value that is better matched to what these visitors want and can get people into a nurturing email drip designed to get them to choose the advertiser’s business when they’re ready for a moving quote.

Lead magnets, pop-ups, remarketing campaigns…there are a variety of ways to handle people who click on your ads and don’t convert right away. Since most people won’t be ready to commit today, it’s critical to think through your overall marketing funnel and figure out how to handle everyone who visits your landing pages—not just the ones who are ready to buy.

2. Underestimating What it Takes to Get a Sale

One of the easiest mistakes to make with Google Ads is underestimating what it takes to get a sale. Sometimes, people simply don’t understand their sales process well enough to know what percentage of their leads will turn into paying customers. Other times, they have trouble estimating exactly how many clicks they’ll need to produce a purchase.

To figure out how much you need to spend on Google Ads to get meaningful results, you have to start by looking at the lifetime value of your customers. If a new customer is only worth $100 to your business and the keyword you’re bidding on costs $10 per click, something needs to change.

Another thing to keep in mind is attribution. Google Ads seems so linear that everyone expects their advertising to follow a search-click-convert model. However, as we mentioned in the last section, that often isn’t the case.

This is where attribution modeling comes into play.

By default, Google Ads uses a last-click attribution model to track the results of your advertising. That’s great if your customers follow the linear model we just mentioned, but if they don’t, you could be seriously underestimating (or overestimating) the effectiveness of your campaigns.

What if someone clicks on your ad, signs up for your eBook, clicks on a link to a blog post in an email drip and then converts? Your ad won’t get any credit for bringing them into your funnel in the first place, so it might seem like the ad isn’t working. 

However, with a different attribution model, it would become clear that your ad is playing an important role in your funnel—even if that role isn’t as direct as you’d like.

To try out a different attribution model, click on “Tools” in the Google Ads dashboard, and then choose “Search Attribution.”

Here, you’ll have a variety of different models to consider:

Again, big picture thinking is important, because many customers often need to interact with multiple touch points before they’ll be ready to convert. Choose an attribution model that takes those different touch points into account, like a Linear or Time Decay model, which give you a fuller picture.

3. Going Too Big, Too Soon

You have to spend money to make money, right? While this is definitely true, if you aren’t smart about how you spend your money, you won’t make any.

Often, new advertisers believe that the key to Google Ads success is spending a lot of money. So, they run a ton of ads without setting proper budget limits. Worse still, sometimes they launch campaigns and then check out for a week or two while they wait for the data to accumulate.

Bad idea.

While Google likes to present Google Ads as a simple, straightforward advertising option, in reality, it can be very unpredictable. You should run a careful analysis of every new campaign before launch, determine what you’re willing to spend to test out that campaign and then keep a close eye on things throughout the first few days after launch.

When it comes to Google Ads, no one bat a thousand. But, if you are thoughtful about your goals for a new campaign and watch your progress closely, you can often catch problems before they cost you big time.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told, “Google Ads doesn’t work for my business,” only to eventually find out that it was really a poorly designed and executed strategy that didn’t work for their business.

Personally, I’m an advocate for pushing your ad campaigns hard at first to see what works and what doesn’t. But, that has to be tempered by smart planning, a solid knowledge of what you can and can’t afford…and watching your campaigns like a hawk to ensure that things are working out properly.

4. Bidding On Too Many Keywords

When it comes to paid search advertising, many advertisers fall into the emotional trap of bidding on any keyword that seems even remotely related to their business. After all, you don’t want to miss out on a sale just because you didn’t bid on a random, yet relevant keyword, right?

Unfortunately, this strategy is much more likely to waste money than to make it.

In my experience, the tighter your keyword lists are, the more profitable your campaigns will be. Generally speaking, most Google Ads clicks, conversions and sales come from just a few keywords. We’ve even had clients that spend (and make) tens of thousands of dollars a month on less than 20 keywords!

Often, when I work with clients with long keyword lists, I ask them what their best keywords are. Almost inevitably, they can quickly name their most profitable keywords off the top of their heads without even looking in their account. Why? Because your best keywords are usually your most obvious keywords.

Overthinking your keyword lists is a great way to waste money—especially when you’re just getting started with Google Ads. 

Instead, it’s best to start with your top keywords and then test adding additional keywords over time. That way, you keep your budget focused on the keywords that are most likely to produce results while carefully evaluating other potential keywords that you can add to your top-performer list.


Google Ads is one of the most powerful and effective ways to market your business, but if you aren’t careful, you can easily burn a lot of money on a few common (and easily avoided) mistakes. Fortunately, by following the advice in this article, you can save yourself from all that frustration and start your campaigns off on the right foot!

  • Google Ads

Aden Andrus

Aden Andrus

Over his career, Aden has developed and marketed millions of dollars of successful products. He lays awake at nights figuring out new marketing tactics and is constantly upping Disruptive's internal marketing game. He loves to write, dance and destroy computer monitors in full medieval armor.

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