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10 common mistakes people make in Google ads

Today we’re going to talk about 10 common mistakes people make in Google ads setup and management that winds up costing them a ton of money.

We’ll also have 3 bonus tips at the end, so stick around for every valuable morsel.

Mistake #1. Poor Location Targeting Setup

When you set up your ad campaigns, one of the setup boxes asks for your location and audience targeting.

All countries & territories
US & Canada
Enter another location

You should have set up your exact city names and/or zip codes that don’t provide service but border your service as an area to “exclude.”

You should also set every city that borders your target service area but is outside of it as “excluded” locations.

I would even recommend excluding the entire counties of areas near but outside your service area and every state you’re not in.

The next very important step in location setup is the “Target” option just under these location options.

Click on that, and you’ll have three options:


Presence of interest: this is people in, regularly in, or who’ve shown an interest in your targeted location (recommended by Google).

But NOT recommended by us or anyone else we know.

The second option is to “Presence” people in or regularly in your targeted locations.

THIS is the option to check because you only want clicks from people IN your service area – NOT people interested in your service area that option one allows for.

The last option is “Search Interest” for people searching for your targeted location. You don’t want that either.

Check every one of your ad campaigns one at a time by clicking on that campaign, then on “settings” on the left side menu, then location, then location options.

Make sure each is using the correct setting.

Mistake #2. Not tracking conversions properly for each campaign and potentially each ad group or ad.

You’re in the service business so we’ll assume that all of your ad campaigns are designed to generate leads – not website clicks or impressions.

If you’re not tracking how many leads you get from each ad and ad campaign, then how do you know if that ad campaign is performing for you and worth continuing to spend money on?

The answer is you can’t.

You need this info not only to decide whether or not to keep spending money on a campaign but also to test two similar campaigns or ads against each other with different landing pages, calls to action, headlines, button colors, and more.

Go to Settings -> Measurement -> Conversions and set up conversion goals for phone calls, form submissions, email address clicks, digital downloads, or other conversions you need to track.

Follow the instructions on how to install the tracking code on your site or using Google Tag Manager.

Don’t run ads without tracking conversions – you’re just shooting blind and wasting dollars.

Mistake #3. Not using click fraud protection

Your competitors are clicking on your ads and costing you money. If you’re in a largely populated area with a lot of competition this could amount to some serious costs.

There are also click farms and click bots out there being a menace to ad campaigns and costing you money.

So you need a third-party tool that connects to your Google Ads account and installs rules such as:

  1. more than ___ clicks in a day from the same IP address, then ban that IP address for ____ days, weeks, or months.
  2. more than ___ clicks in a week do the same
  3. more than ___ clicks in a month, then do the same


We use Click Guard to take care of this for our clients and it results in 5 to 30% savings on their monthly ad spend, depending on the area, population, and competition.

We’ll leave our affiliate link to Click Guard in the show notes and description below.

Google ads

Mistake #4. Not doing extensive keyword research for each ad campaign.

This probably should be mistake number one because it’s so important.

Assuming you’re a home services company that runs ads to generate leads from people who need or want your service, then narrow your ads to show up only for keyword phrases that reflect ready-to-buy intent from the searcher.

For example:

Let’s say you’re a plumber and you’re setting up an ad campaign to attract water heater repair jobs.

You would not want to use the words, water heater, together just like that because depending on the match type you’re using, which we’ll talk about next, then those two words together would show your ad for searches that were not from people looking to repair or replace their water heater.

Such as:

solar hot water heater
water heater blanket
how does a water heater work
and so on.

None of those are searches from people ready to hire you for a service call.

If you show your ads to them and some of them click on your ad, you’re wasting money.

So you have to really zero in on the best keyword phrases that apply to your ad campaign that will bring you people that need or want your products or services.

In Google Ads, you can and should use their “keyword planner tool” to input words or website URLs to identify the best keywords to use for your campaigns.

You’ll also be able to see average bids and approximate search volume for each keyword through the average bids varying a lot by time and day.

This is where you should spend most of your time when preparing and setting up your ad campaigns and ad groups.

You can also set up different ad groups within the same campaign and target different keywords in each ad group plus some of the same keywords at the campaign level.

For example, let’s use that same water heater repair campaign.

You could set up a separate ad group within that same campaign but this ad group will target “tankless water heater” keywords.

So the two ad groups would share some of the same water heater keywords but then also have specific keywords that apply only to tankless for its ad group.

You would also set up “negative keywords” specific to each ad group as well as the whole campaign.

We’ll talk more about negative keywords in a minute but first let’s discuss mistake number five.

Mistake #5. Not using proper keyword match types.

Google currently uses three different keyword match types which play a major role in what related keywords your ads will show up for.

Broad match – ads will show for keywords that “relate” to your keyword – avoid using this in most cases.

“Phrase match” – ads may show for searches that include the meaning of your keyword.

[Exact match] – ads may show on searches that have the same meaning as your keyword.

For the most part we use phrase match and exact match exclusively on our campaigns.

Broad matches can be used to target audience lists that you’ve provided and uploaded.

Otherwise, a Broad match is best reserved for smart bidding campaigns that target cost-per-action (CPA), return on ad spend (ROAS), or maximize conversions with a target CPA or ROAS.

These smart bidding campaigns target a cost per lead or return on ad spend instead of a cost per click or maximum conversions for the budget amount.

Be super careful what match types you use and then watch them like a hawk to see what’s working and what’s not.

Mistake #6. Not using an extensive negative keyword list and building upon it.

Google ads let you build a negative keywords list for each ad group or campaign or ad.

This list stops your ad from showing when any of these words or phrases are included in the search phrase that would have otherwise shown your ad.

For example, let’s say we built out our water heater repair ad campaign example and include the phrase match keyword, “water heater repair” to trigger our ad.

Well we would probably want to add some negative keywords that prevent the ad from showing up for terms like:

water heater repair handyman
how to repair a water heater
RV water heater repair
solar water heater repair
cheap water heater repair

So in this example, we would want to add the following keywords to our negative keyword list:

“how to”

You should be building upon this list every time you review your campaigns.

This list should include hundreds of negative keywords over time.

Mistake #7. Not examining the “keyword search terms” your ads are showing up for at least weekly.

Each ad group and the campaign will show you the search terms your ads are showing for.

Review these search terms at least weekly and add all of those that don’t apply to the negative keyword list for that campaign or ad group.

You do this by clicking on the campaign, then the ad group. If you have more than one in the campaign, click on search terms in the left-side menu under keywords.

Review this one by one and add the great ones as keywords to show your ads for, and then add the bad ones, which have zero buyer’s intent, to the negative list for that ad group or campaign by clicking on it and then the menu item “add to the negative keyword list.”

This single act alone can save you a small fortune by removing your ads from searches and clicks that won’t convert into leads.

Mistake #8. Not setting an ad schedule that aligns with your open hours or ability to answer the phone.

Running ads during times your team cannot answer the phone is another good way to waste money.

When people call they want a human being answering the call.

If they call after hours and you don’t have an answering service, they’re most likely going to go to the next service company in the search results and call them.

Which results in you wasting money.

On the left side menu is a “Schedule” option that allows you to set up the days and times your ads will run.

Be sure to set these up so they align with the times you can service customers.

Mistake #9. Not adding audiences for your ads to target.

Google has a ton of information about the people who use its platform. Search history, action history, purchase history, location history, and so much more.

You can search for and include people in your area who are actively in the market for your type of service.

You can search for and include the audiences that your competitors are using.

And you can upload your existing customer list and let Google find people with similar search and purchase histories.

To set them up click on “Audiences” from the left side menu in a campaign or ad group, then click on “Edit Audience Segments”, select the ad group or campaign it will be for then search and browse for audiences that align with your ads.

Note that “In-market” audiences are ideal because they’re people showing active search interest in that topic.

You can also go to “Audience Manager” and upload your customer list to target similar audiences or that exact audience.

Note that your ad account must be in good standing and you must have a lifetime spend of over $50,000 before you can upload and use your customer lists.

Mistake #10. Not using ad extensions

Ad extensions can make your ads perform better with call buttons, website links, address info, images, and more.

If you have a business location that is not your residence, then you can also get your ads to show up in Google Maps for searches that are local to your business location by adding a “location extension” and connecting your Google ads account to your Google Business Profile.

These ad extensions are free to add to any ad campaign, group, or ad and can definitely increase conversion performance.

You should always be using call extensions so prospects can call you directly from the ad without visiting your site.

And you should be using call tracking numbers so you know which ads those calls are coming from.

You should also use image and site link extensions to increase lead conversion rates.

Bonus Mistake #1 is not testing at least two search ads and one call ad per ad group or campaign.

Create different headlines and descriptions for each to see which is performing better over time.

Once there is a clear winner then edit the hell out of the poor performer and keep the test going.

You can also test landing pages for conversions.

Create two different landing pages for each ad group. Test one different factor at a time, a headline, button color or location, image, description, the offer being made, etc.

Which page is converting more clicks into leads?

Bonus Mistake #2 is enabling “automated recommendations.”

These recommendations are generally self-serving to help Google get more of your money and not so much to help your campaigns perform better.

Definitely do NOT enable auto-recommendations.

If you did it by accident because Google is constantly trying to get you to do so in the dashboard, then go into your account, click on “Settings” on the left side menu, then “account settings,” then “And suggestions,” then click the checkbox for “Don’t automatically apply ad suggestions.”

You will also need to go into each campaign and ad group at least weekly and preferably more often, click on “Recommendations” and then review, dismiss, or apply Google’s never-ending supply of self—serving recommendations.

Most of these you will dismiss but review each carefully to see if it would benefit you.

This leads us to our final tip.

Bonus Mistake #3 is to set it and forget it.

You cannot do that with Google ads, or it will cost you a fortune.

You must constantly review ad performance, search terms, and recommendations for every ad group or campaign.

Check your ad spends, daily budgets, click-thru rates, the average cost per click, conversion rates, the average cost per conversion, impressions at the top of page percentage, and keyword performance for each ad, ad group, or campaign.

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Founder & CEO of Battle Plan Marketing, LLC. We customize marketing strategies and solutions for home service companies. Mark has over 30 years experience in sales and marketing, 20 years as a business owner or partner, and over a decade in digital marketing and website design. We offer analysis, strategy, project implementation and management, and marketing coaching. Mark is also host of the new Battle Plan Marketing® Podcast.
Mark Ambrose
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