Digital Marketing

Are Google ads a waste of money?

Apr 18, 2019

Google ads (rebranded to AdWords in July 2018) is one of the Internet’s most popularly used advertising platforms, currently employed by around 2.5 million users. AdWords is Google’s paid advertising platform, and are the ads that appear at the side and top of your screen when you are searching for something using the search engine. These ads are paid for by companies on a pay per click basis, so that every time someone clicks through to their website from the ad, they pay Google a certain sum.

If you choose to use AdWords, instead of waiting for your website pages to move up through the rankings organically (which can take a lot of time and energy), you can start seeing results immediately. With Google being the most used resource on the Internet, by far, you could technically reach an audience of millions right away.

What’s wrong with it?

It can be pricey

In the past, the cost per click on Google would have resulted in an almost guaranteed return on investment, but as AdWords became more popular the prices rose accordingly. Businesses can expect to pay, on average, around £5 per click just to get a customer to visit their website. That figure is at the lower end, as well. For some search results pages, businesses can pay vastly more.

This means that when you factor in the chances of accidental clicks, page bounces and even a customer that browses but doesn’t buy, you may end up paying more than you can afford on advertising that doesn’t work.

You have to sum up your business in limited characters

AdWords allows a very small number of characters per ad. You can have 25 characters for your headline and 35 characters in the two lines of text that come underneath. Within these characters you need to grab a user’s attention, ensure that you offer the service they need, and get them to click on your ad.

It takes a lot of time and effort

Whilst companies might choose this option so that they can avoid the hard work and effort that comes with trying to organically grow their Google rankings, AdWords is actually a fairly involved process in itself. You need to really understand what you are doing to make sure that you aren’t wasting your money, and staying on top of it can be very time consuming.

Common mistakes with AdWords

All this doesn’t mean that AdWords is not the right option for you. If you know what you are doing then it can be very lucrative, and this is why so many businesses use it. If you can avoid these common mistakes then AdWords might still be right for you.

Picking the wrong keywords

In the past the accepted rule of thumb for SEO was that the more keywords you had the better, meaning that companies were stuffing their website content with a jumble of unrelated keywords. Thankfully, Google’s algorithms are more sophisticated and this does not work now, so the most effective way to use Google AdWords is to use keywords that assume buyer intent.

For example, if you are a solicitor in London looking to advertise for potential clients, you don’t want to put “solicitor London”, as this could cover a range of searches, including people looking for a specific solicitor, trying to find out information about solicitors, trying to find a job as a solicitor and so on.

Instead you might choose the keywords “hire solicitor London” or “cheap solicitor London” as the people typing these terms into the search bar are looking for your specific service.

Bad post-click landing page experience

If you are paying for people to come to your website, you might as well have a place for them to arrive at that will hold their attention. A bad website is the cardinal sin of Google paid advertising – you are just throwing your money away.

Examples of a bad landing page would include:

  • Slow loading pages. Studies have shown that pages that load within two seconds have a bounce rate of around 9% whilst pages that take five seconds to load have bounce rates of around 38%. Time is money when it comes to the loading time of your page.
  • Uninteresting content. You need your landing page to grab the attention of the user and make them want to find out more. They don’t care about your deals and discounts, they want to know why this page deserves their attention.
  • Ugly design and layout. Human beings are visually driven, and require pleasing aesthetics to feel a connection to a page and stay put.
  • Not mobile optimised. There is really no excuse for any website not to be mobile optimised anymore. More internet users are using their smartphones to access the internet than ever and to not take advantage of this is to essentially ostracise more than half of your potential clients.
  • No call to action. Make sure that your page clearly signposts whatever it is that you want users to do once they arrive. If you want them to buy something, offer a discount. If you want them to leave an email address, promise a voucher if they do.

Not keeping an eye on the competition

Just because something is popular now doesn’t mean it always be, and just because you are top of the pile now doesn’t mean you can take your eye off the ball. Many major companies have struggled and lost custom because they stopped paying attention to what others were doing. Just think about how Uber and Lyft managed to steal custom from traditional taxi services that had been on top for decades.

Tips for success with Google ads

Advanced audience targeting

Instead of relying on social media to target more diverse audiences, AdWords can help you to do the same with remarketing lists for search ads (RLSAs). These allow you to target previous website visitors and customise your search advertising campaigns based on their online behaviour.

For example, an RLSA allows you to target and display ads to users who are spending more than they would with you, with a competitor. You can target a regular customer of your site, for example, an online furniture store, who is searching for furniture elsewhere online. In this case they may be swayed back to you by a targeted ad offering them a discount back to your store.

These campaigns target and bids on competitor terms but only does so when the user is searching, thus not spending budget unnecessarily.

Single keyword ad groups

If you put in lots of keywords your ad will show for every single keyword in this group. But that also means your ad will not be relevant for half of them. It is better to create ad groups based on single keywords that can target your audience specifically, using keyword variations with different match types to ensure more relevant search clicks.

For example, using the keyword “cheap solicitor” you can still create different ad groups such as:

  • Modified broad. +keyword – contains the modified term or close variations but not synonyms in any order (you will enter “+cheap +solicitor” which will still get a result if the user types in “cheap solicitors”)
  • Phrase match. “keyword” – phrase and close variations on the phrase (you enter “cheap solicitor” and this will get a click if the user types “cheap solicitor london”)
  • Exact match. [keyword] – exact term (this is your basic keyword and will come up when someone types “cheap solicitor” exactly)


You could fill a library with books dedicated to the theory and practice behind AdWords. By conducting thorough research and by correctly operating the platform, you can achieve the results you want.

If you have not got the time to do this and run your business at the same time then why not speak to the friendly and knowledgeable staff at MaxWeb, who can take the reins on your behalf. To find out more please call us on 0151 652 4777 or email and ask to speak to our website development team.

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