Google Ads Can be a Big Waste of Money! Here’s How You Do it Right!

Brian Bojan Dordevic
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Brian Decoded

President at Alpha Efficiency

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Despite dedicating so much attention to metrics and data, many PPC advertisers still find themselves unwillingly wasting their Google Ads budget. In some cases, this squandering is so obvious that one look at the Google Ads (formerly known as Adwords) account paints the complete picture. However, more often than not, you can reveal the size of this wastage only by auditing the paid search program more broadly. In today’s article, experienced PPC professionals highlight the most usual problem areas with paid search programs that make your Google Ads marketing campaigns a complete waste of money.

Table of Contents
google ads a waste of money

Obscured PPC Mistakes

Whether you are an owner of a technology company or consumer goods company, running a PPC campaign can help you improve your business. However, even the most experienced Google Ads account managers sometimes make mistakes that prevent them from maximizing the effectiveness of their paid search advertising.

In this section, we’ll talk about mistakes that are not easy to identify through a simple Google Ads account audit. The following problems are not that easy to fix and may require a major shift in how you approach your PPC campaigns. So, without further ado, let’s consider five issues that can make your Google Ads a waste of money.

Conversion tracking missteps

Conversion tracking can present huge issues to both large and small companies, whether it’s the lack of tracking, tracking the wrong things, or even tracking too many things.

It’s easy to guess why the lack of tracking is a problem. You can’t improve or optimize your campaign if you don’t collect data that will tell you what is and what is not working.

Tracking the wrong data can forward you down the wrong path as you will be able to make any meaningful decisions about your future marketing steps. This again makes your Google Ads campaign a waste of money.

Tracking too many things is a story for itself. This kind of practice distorts your numbers and completely clouds your judgment. To better illustrate the point, let’s scatch one of the accounts we inherited. We were puzzled when we laid eyes on over 180K leads that our client generated over the past month. Based on the nature of our client’s business and our experience, this number was way too big. However, as we took a closer look, we could see that our suspicions were justified since the client has made just over 3,000 transactions. We immediately knew where to look for the source of the problem. It was the conversion tracking. As it was set to track every micro-conversion multiple activities were included in the report. Tracking everything from an expression of initial interest, the number of people landing on certain pages, to the actual sales, blew this number completely out of proportion.

Don’t get us wrong; we are not saying that you should stop tracking micro-conversions. But there are other ways to access this data in Google Analytics. Including it in your reporting can make your automation run wild due to numerous irrelevant signals and really make your Google Ads campaign a waste of money. Also, failing to keep your focus on actual sales and shifting it to every little thing along the way can lead to many bad decisions for your company’s growth.

Main Hidden reason why tracking Conversions Leads to Huge Budget Waste

But besides all of these obvious facts in the decision-making process, there is one reason, not often talked about. Conversion tracking poorly set up is sending faulty data to Google machine learning algorithm that is optimizing your campaign. When your conversion tracking is set properly, Google’s machine learning algorithm is making the right decisions in finding you novel leads to click on your campaigns. Without the correct information, Google will keep sending you random, or even worse, poor clicks which you still have to pay for and make your Google Ads campaign a total waste of money.

Through our experience, if you do everything else right with your Google Ads account, and you fail on this step, you will incur insurmountable losses and permanent damage to your account level Google Ads Quality Score across all your keywords. Do not let conversion tracking be left to chance; schedule an appointment with our PPC experts, and get your campaigns on the right track again.

Focusing on saving money

Putting too much emphasis on ways to save money can also cause issues. Instead, you would be better off if you focused on how to optimize your returns. The thing is, focusing on saving money makes your PPC account tighter. Though taking care of your Google Ads budget through lower CPC and CPA is a good idea, there is a certain extent to which you should go. A successful PPC campaign requires a workable budget that will allow it to grow and scale. Also, sometimes you need to fuel the fire to get a higher ROI. As ironic as this may sound, the tighter the budget you dedicate, the more your Google Ads campaign becomes a waste of money. Instead, you should aim to learn how to run a Google PPC campaign in a way that will make every dollar count. With this approach, you will be able to run successful campaigns on any Google Ads budget.

Not considering your users’ post-click experience

Imagine this scenario. You’ve done everything right while setting up your campaign. Your keywords and messaging are on point, and you lack no budget. However, your Google Ads campaign is a waste of money as it drives no meaningful results. Everything looks great, but you’re not selling. Why could this be happening? Well, more often than not, it’s because you focused too much on the pre-click experience and failed to consider what happens with users once they click on your offer after seeing it in search engine results pages.

There are many things that can make users change their minds. One of the most common things that repel them is a landing page that takes too much time to load or using your homepage as a landing page. Also, failing to match landing page messaging with the ad itself won’t do you any good either.

Keep in mind that a vast majority of people will search your business online before deciding whether to interact or not. You mustn’t give them any reason not to. They are bound to look for red flags as they expect premium service for whatever they’re paying. This is why everything from the ad to the landing page, from CTA to forms, your entire sales funnel needs to provide a seamless experience.

This post-click experience may sound like something that’s easy to fix. By the look of it, all you need are some landing pages. However, all the internal friction among different departments working on a single landing page shows just how much looks can be deceiving. The PPC person may want things done in a certain way, the SEO person may want something completely different, while the developer could already be piled up with work. And once they all manage to synchronize their needs and wants, you have to go through an overly complex approval process. In the fast-paced world of online marketing, time is of the essence.

And you should not stop investing efforts into establishing relationships with your customers even after they convert. PPC advertising is a powerful way to connect with a wider audience, but you should aim to increase customer lifetime value in order to take the most out of your search engine marketing. By providing a great overall experience and encouraging interactions with your brand, you will secure more returning visitors who are ready to buy products and services from you – and you won’t have to pay for their clicks anymore.

Lack of fortitude

The reluctance to push back a bit on your client’s requests can also make a Google Ads campaign a waste of money. After all, as opposed to your clients, you are the one that’s prolific in Google advertising. However, they often have plenty of unhelpful requests like using Google Ads targeting expansion in cases where it simply doesn’t make sense or bidding on keywords that won’t get them any clicks. Though sometimes these requests make sense, other times they go against a wider picture that your client lacks the experience to see.

Of course, we understand that you don’t want to annoy your client by going against their will. But you have to be willing to open up a discussion and explain why following the directives in question can put their Google Ads campaign at risk of being a complete waste of money.

The most obvious example is one of our clients that wanted to invest more in branded terms. We explained that in order to stay within the budget, we would have to pull back from bidding on some of their highly converting non-branded terms and that their revenue would suffer. Luckily for our client, the company has put its faith in our assessment, and the campaign continued its upward spiral. This shows that open communication between agencies and their clients can go a long way.

Too much tinkering with your account

Making small adjustments to your account is a positive thing as long as they make sense. The problem emerges only when tinkering becomes a symptom of not knowing exactly what to do.

You could be increasing your ad spend by a couple of percents on weekends and excluding a few states from targeting all day long. If major PPC problems are present, these little tweaks won’t prevent your Google Ads campaign from being a waste of money. Also, if a solid foundation is in place, the tinkering won’t add to it much. Sticking to what already works is usually the smartest way to avoid wasting money – this approach will allow you to reduce both search engine marketing and display ad spending and maximize your ROI. It will also save you a lot of time. Instead of keeping yourself busy with irrelevant things, you should be working on ways to prevent Google Ads click fraud, improving landing pages, or reevaluating your messaging.

Easy to Fix PPC Mistakes

So far, we have talked about not so evident and often hard to fix mistakes in search engine marketing. Now, let us dig into some of the most common mistakes that are fairly easy to notice if you know where to look for them.

Search terms

Though perhaps the most obvious, bidding on the wrong search terms is also the most common PPC mistake and one that can really drain your Google Ads budget and make it a total waste of money. We advise taking time to better understand different Google Ads bidding strategies before even investing a single dollar in your search engine marketing campaigns.

Choose your search terms wisely, you don’t need to include every search term that appears in your keyword suggestion tool. Experiment with match types, stay true to keywords that are relevant to your line of business, and don’t forget to add negative keywords to your account. Including negative keywords with adequate negative keyword match types in your campaign ad groups can help you avoid bidding on keywords that are unlikely to lead to conversions, thus making your Google smart campaigns more efficient and saving you money. For example, if you are only providing kitchen steam cleaning services, you should include search terms related to kitchen steam cleaning products in your negative keywords list, and make sure to carefully pick either exact, phrase, or broad match type for each. Once your PPC campaign is up and running, make sure to monitor the search terms report in order to gain a better insight into your keywords are performing.

Also, keep in mind that as brand keyword ads usually don’t bring short-term benefits and make Google Ads a waste of money, you should carefully consider the budget you are going to dedicate to brand keyword advertising.

Optimization score

Trying too much to implement all of Google’s optimization recommendations is another way to drain your advertising budget. That is why you shouldn’t follow these blindly and aim at 100% optimization. At best, you’ll get mixed results. At worst, it will make Google Ads a waste of money for your needs.

Instead, you’ll be better off testing each one of their recommendations and implementing only those that are in line with your marketing strategy. This practice will get your optimization score at around 80%, which is great.

Enhanced CPC (ECPC)

Enhanced CPC is a type of automated bidding. When this option is turned on, Google automatically adjusts your bids for clicks that are more or less likely to lead to a conversion.

While this may work for some campaigns (rarely, from what we’ve seen so far), it can be a waste of money for other Google Ads campaigns. The question here is how much do you really trust Google’s bidding algorithms, and are you willing to leave your ad budget unsupervised. Keep in mind that this option is set to on by default. So, unless you manually turn it off, it can eat most of your coin.

Ad extensions

Ad extensions are your opportunity to reach a wider audience. However, we have seen way too many campaigns failing to use these as well as using them in the wrong way.

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to use ad extensions properly, but you do need a comprehensive strategy. Make sure to wisely use the ad real estate at your disposal. For example, if each of your extensions includes free shipping, you are wasting the real estate on repetitive messaging instead of including other relevant information.

Using Google Ads sitelinks not only can make your ads appear bigger on search engine results pages but also provide quick access to various pages that potential customers might find useful, which is a powerful way to improve ROI. You should also consider setting up product listing ad campaigns to allow customers to see product images and prices before even visiting your website. This is a trick experienced account managers use to improve conversion rates and save money for their clients.

New ads and campaign types

Google Ads often introduces new features and updates, such as new types of ads and campaigns. For example, Google smart campaigns allow you to advertise your products or services across Google Maps, Google Search, YouTube, and Google partner websites. It is wise to test these new features and see if they can benefit to your marketing efforts. We strongly suggest you include everything that works for your campaign. On the other hand, if the latest feature brings no significant improvement, you should stick to the tried and true ones. Running ineffective campaigns makes Google Ads a waste of money, so you should stick to what is giving results.


To avoid your Google Ads advertising being a waste of money, we advise that you revisit your audiences each time you build a new campaign. Check whether all of them still apply or if there are some opportunities you may have missed. If you find some likely candidates, put them in observation mode to gain knowledge on how they perform. Learning as much as possible about your target audience is crucial in all types of digital advertising – from display ads to search engine marketing. Those who fail to understand what drives specific emotions in human beings often perceive Google Ads as a waste of money.

Final thoughts

As you can see from today’s article, there are many ways you can waste your Google Ads advertising budget if you are not extra careful. Luckily, being aware of these hidden obstacles gives you a better chance to avoid problem areas and fix shortages in your campaign. From there on, you’ll have more money in your budget, which you can spend to drive meaningful results and set your campaign as well as your company for growth and scale. If you have any doubts about the setup of your Google Ads account or you require further guidance, we’ll always be there for you. So, don’t be a stranger and give us a call.


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