Avoid the pitfalls of Pay Per Click

Pay Per Click advertising has the potential to generate a lot of new business for small and medium sized companies.  It also has the potential to be an expensive mistake if it is used incorrectly.

Gareth Edwards of the National B2B Centre outlines some things to look at if you are considering your own Pay Per Click campaign – we’ll focus on Google AdWords but the lessons apply across the board.


Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising can be a great way of driving well targeted, sales oriented traffic to your website…if it is done properly.  PPC seems to have something of an allure at the moment because it looks as though it could be a bit of a short cut to success. Perhaps it just sounds a whole lot easier than all of that SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) stuff?

At the B2B Centre we have had a lot of experience recently with SME clients who found that PPC hasn’t worked as well as they hoped and in some cases has also cost a serious amount of money.  Fortunately we have been able to rescue the situation for these companies and this set of tips highlights some of the pitfalls to avoid.

Optimise your website FIRST.

No website should ever be launched without at least some basic search engine optimisation work being done.  This can be as simple as adding relevant keywords to page titles or developing some inbound links.

If you optimise your site properly you either might not need to pay for traffic at all or you will be able to invest your pay per click budget more effectively.

We have had some clients who have spent serious amounts of money to generate traffic using keywords that they could easily have optimised their site to get page 1 Google listings.

Set up your web pages correctly.

Each page should have a clear purpose, a flow or process and a call to action.  It also needs to be understood in a quick scan.  Why? Because if a visitor lands there you have 10 seconds or less to help them understand what the topic of the page is, how the information is going to help them, whether they want to make a purchase and then work out what to do next.

This is pretty important however visitors are getting to your site.  It is particularly important if you have directly paid for them to be there.

And yes we have seen some sites that are so horrible that no visitor would want to stay for more than a millisecond.

Check the “Match Type” setting for your keywords

The biggest issue that B2B Clients seem to have had with PPC is in setting the right match type for keywords.   There are 4 choices:

  • Broad match – your ad might appear if any of the words in your keyword phrase appeared in a search query in any order and possibly in combination with other words.
  • Phrase match – your ad might appear if the words in your keyword phrase appear in the right order but possibly in conjunction with other words
  • Exact match – your ad might appear only if your keyword phrase is exactly the same as the search query
  • Negative match – your will not appear for any search that contains that word/phrase

In Google AdWords the default match type is “broad match”. This means that your ads could appear for some searches that are totally irrelevant to you (and often downright odd). As some B2B Centre clients have found out it also means that you will get spurious click throughs that cost you money but don’t generate any business.

In the first instance use exact match and choose the most precise keywords and phrases that you can that are relevant to what you do. Use Google Adwords keyword tool to get an idea of what people are searching for and use Google Analytics (see our article Google Analytics – First Time Through) to find out what keywords people have already used to find your site.

Test different versions of ads

Google AdWords provides an inbuilt facility that allows you to define different adverts for the same campaign and test out which one are the most effective.

It is a good idea to use this facility and let the market decide which the most compelling advert is.  This allows you to try out different propositions and use different words to attract attention.

Switch off the “content network”

By default your ads will appear both Google search results and on the “content network”, which is where ads appear in a variety of “relevant” websites, directories and blogs.   There isn’t anything wrong with using the content network.  It does seem, from experience, to provide different traffic profiles from the standard Google search.

So when you start off we suggest you switch off the content network for your campaigns (under campaign settings>networks, devices and extensions). Then experiment with some specific campaigns for the content network so you understand how it performs for you.

Make sure the Landing Page is relevant

Make sure that when people click on an ad that it takes them to page on your website that is related to what your advert is about.

We frequently find people directing all click throughs to the home page of their website.   If you have created an ad for a specific product or service then the home page may not even specifically mention it.  As a result visitors may simply click the back button and look for another ad or search result that seems to meet their needs.  One ad I looked at, from a leading department store chain, when writing this article actually had a broken link!

If you followed the advice about setting up your pages then they should work for you to help convert visitors into prospects or purchasers. To be more sophisticated then set up a specific landing page that is completely focused on the product or service mentioned in your ad.  In this case you might cut out all but the most relevant information and make sure that the page includes the same messages as in the advert (e.g. “20% off” or “Available in blue”).

Measure Results not just traffic

One B2B Client was initially unimpressed by the results of our advice (which basically followed the points raised above) because the number of page impressions and click throughs declined.

They were more impressed when we pointed out that despite the reduction in traffic the number of conversions (in this case registering for a service) had actually increased.  The bonus was that the overall cost of the campaign had gone down too.

This raises two points.

Firstly it is vital to have Google Analytics (or similar analytics package) installed on your website to help track what happens when people click on your ad.

Secondly it is also important to have a clear goal to guide visitors to.  It is easier if you are selling product on-line because your aim is to make a sale.  For services then perhaps a goal could be for people to contact you (maybe by entering their requirements on a form), to sign-up up for a newsletter or perhaps to download a document.

This highlights why it is so important to set your website correctly so that you guide people towards your goal.


PPC is a great tool but it is more complex than it first looks.  One click of the mouse can mean the difference between success and failure and mistakes can be costly.  So take it slowly at first, try things out and measure what’s happening.  Look at how other people are using Pay Per Click and if you don’t understand something…check it out.

We have outlined just a few things to look out for.  Google’s own help material is very good (AdWords Help Centre ) and worth reviewing in some detail.  There are also lots of sources of information on-line and some good books too (for instance, “Winning Results with Google AdWords” by Andrew Goodman).

I look forward to your comments and suggestions.

Gareth Edwards, eMarketing Specialist.  Gareth.edwards@nb2bc.co.uk