Paid advertising red flags: Common issues with PPC and Display Ads

Paid digital advertising like pay-per-click (PPC) and display ads are some of the most efficient and effective ways to reach your target audience on the internet, and they should serve as a critical component of any robust digital marketing plan.

However, managing these campaigns can be tricky; there are a lot of components to keep track of, and if you don’t understand how to optimize your ads, paid campaigns can begin to feel like a money-sink rather than the effective tool they were meant to be.

At LaFleur, we have full-time staff who specialize in all things paid advertising. We’re no stranger to running to campaigns of all sizes, and we’re familiar with the challenges that arise in the process. In this article, we’ll talk about a few red flags to look out for in your own paid campaigns and explain what to do when they come up.

Why is my Google quality score so low?

Quality Scores are a Google measurement that assesses the quality of your ads, landing pages, and keywords. Quality Scores are reported on a scale from one to 10 and are based on the projected clickthrough rate, ad relevance, and landing page experience. A Quality Score that approaches 10 means all three aspects of your ad are working effectively together, and the ads are relevant to the user. If your Quality Score is low, this indicates that your ads, landing pages, and keywords aren’t working together as effectively as they should.

A common issue we see is companies recycling landing pages or directing multiple ad campaigns to the same landing page. Why is this problematic? Because Google recognizes when landing pages are written specifically for your ad campaign, and the search engine will score landing pages better when they are tailored to the ad campaign.

The solution? Write unique landing pages for each ad campaign and optimize those pages for the keywords you’re using in your PPC ads.

Why do I keep getting out-bid?

In the olden days of paid advertising, campaign managers used to do manual bidding for each keyword. Now, we use an automated bidding system to bid on keywords. If you find yourself constantly getting out-bid, there are solutions.

The first is to look at your budget. Setting a daily budget that is too low compared to your competition will mean you will consistently get out-bid. When your budget is too small, your bids will fall short of people with a higher budget and better Quality Scores.

The other common issue you may need to address is ad rank. If your Quality Score is low, your ad rank is probably lower as well. A lower ad rank will force you to bid higher to get your ad on page one of Google. You could address this issue by upping your budget, but the more cost-effective solution is to improve your quality score. Once you’ve upped the Quality Score for your campaigns, you can properly evaluate whether your spending is sufficient to help you reach your goals.

Am I using the wrong keyword match type?

When you create your ads, there are three different match type categories, you can use to tell Google which search terms should cause your ads to appear. The three categories are:

  • Broad match: Broad match is the broadest category of match. Ads may appear in searches related to the keyword, even if they don’t specifically include any keyword phrases you’ve specified. For example, an ad with a keyword like “frying pan” might also display for search terms that are related but not the same, like “skillet,” “stockpot,” or “cast iron pan.”You can also use broad match modifiers to exert a little more control over your broad match keywords. To use broad match modifiers, you place a plus sign before desired keywords. Then, any search term that includes the broad match modifiers you’ve selected (in any order) will trigger your ad. So, if you set +frying and +pan as broad match modifiers, your ad would trigger when someone searches “nonstick pan for frying.”
  • Phrase match: Phrase match will cause your ads to trigger when someone searches for the same or very similar keywords, plus relevant additional words. Using the same frying pan example, phrase match could cause your ad to appear for searches like “nonstick frying pan” or “small frying pan.” The words must appear in order, so unlike with broad match modifiers, your ad will not appear if someone searches “pan for frying.”
  • Exact Match: Exact match keywords will cause your ad to trigger when someone searches for exact, extremely similar, or the exact phrase but with minor variations (for example, spelling errors). Words added in the middle of the phrase won’t trigger these ads. So, an ad with “frying pan” as a keyword would show up for a search of “frying pan” or “fryeing pan” (if Google recognizes that “fryeing” is a misspelling of “frying”). However, your ad will not trigger when someone searches a longer phrase that includes your keyword, like “nonstock frying pan.”

Your ads will be labeled broad match by default. However, this might not be the best category for your ads, depending on your goals. It can be tempting to heavily restrict your keywords from the beginning, but this isn’t always the best route.

Instead, we’ve found success opting for a broad keyword match type and choosing negative keywords and other restrictions to limit ads from appearing in irrelevant searches. Finding the right combination usually feels like a puzzle, but experimenting with different keyword combinations is a reliable way to improve your results over time and make sure you’re choosing the correct keyword match category.

How do I stop my Display Ads from showing up on the wrong websites?

You have different options for choosing which websites will display your ads (and which won’t), depending on the types of paid advertising campaigns you run. For display ads, you can specify the websites on which you’d like to appear. When running programmatic campaigns, you’re targeting users by interest, location, and other demographic, so Google’s management system chooses for you.

For both types of ads, you have the ability to exclude websites or apps you don’t want your ad to appear on — think news outlets, political sites, or websites that are outside your audience’s geographical region. You can also choose which websites you’d like to appear on based on the criteria you specify.

If you’re concerned about your ads showing up on the wrong sites, start by creating a clear list of criteria for which sites you do and do not wish to appear on. Working from that list, note sites you don’t want your ads to appear on, and sites you do. Then, modify your campaigns accordingly to ensure your ads are reaching the correct audience.

RELATED: How negative keywords can help advertisers better target their ads

How much of my budget is going toward ads?

Paid campaigns are some of the most versatile and effective digital marketing tools available. You have a fantastic amount of control over your ad targeting and can constantly fine-tune your efforts.

However, because the process of refining paid advertisements can be complex and time-consuming, many companies or law firms choose to buy ads through a provider or marketing company. One of the biggest drawbacks with this approach is a lack of transparency. Often, companies will charge a flat rate for their work, but neglect to communicate what percentage of this cost goes toward management fees. In some cases, these fees can be as high as 30–40 percent of your spending. That’s not a great way to use your paid advertising budget, especially if you don’t even know you’re spending that much on management fees.

If you’re currently running campaigns with a third-party manager and don’t know how much you’re spending on management, ask for a budget breakdown. At LaFleur, we typically charge a 15% management fee for paid campaigns.

Ready to get started on your paid advertising campaign? LaFleur is here to help

At LaFleur, we work to help businesses like yours achieve their digital marketing goals. We have full-time paid advertising specialists on our team who have years of experience running display and search campaigns that are efficient, affordable, and transparent. If you’re ready to get started or have questions about how we can help, please get in touch. You can call us at (888) 222-1512 or use our online contact form.


Chip Lafleur

Chip is an entrepreneur, organizational leader, and marketing expert who combines experience in web development, marketing tactics, strategy, and team leadership with a strong ability to harness talent and hone complex concepts into concrete deliverables.