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Easy Ways to Waste Money with Google Ads

Photo of money on fire for Easy Ways to Waste Money with Google Ads

To be clear, Google Ads can be a useful way to attract qualified prospects to your website. That's if the campaigns, bidding, ads, keyword focus, and geographic targeting are well optimized.

I've worked with Google Ads since 2012 and have audited more Google Ads accounts than I can count. If I had to guess, I'd say that maybe 5% of the audits I did were with well optimized accounts. Most were a mess.

I'll give you an example.

I recently did a Google Ads audit for a large self-storage business. For a long time, they were getting a lot of new customers from Google Ads. Then, someone decided to save some money and found a consultant who told them he could produce the same results for less money. They hired him. After a year of diminishing results, they fired him and found another low budget consultant. The results continued to decline.

At that point, they brought me in to conduct an audit.

They were spending around $700 per month on Google Ads. Considering that their average storage space rents for $250 and the average renter stays for three years, their average lifetime value of a customer is $9,000. If they could acquire just one new customer each month, it would be a very profitable marketing campaign.

However, based on my audit, I didn't believe they were acquiring any new clients from their Google Ads campaigns.

Here's why:

Keywords vs. Search Terms

In short, keywords are what you ask for, and search terms are what you actually get. Keywords are words or phrases that are selected to trigger ads based on predictions of what users might search for when looking for specific products or services. These keywords should be chosen as part of a strategic approach to target ads to relevant audiences.


The keywords can be manually added to a campaign in Google Ads, or you can allow Google to scan your website and identify the keywords for you (don't let Google do it). In the case of the self-storage company, their consultant allowed Google to do the work, and it pulled in several good keywords such as "self storage" and "indoor car storage." Sounds good right? Well, Google also found a reference to a "moving van" on their website and decided to target keywords such as "moving company" and "moving services."

Wasted ad spend.

How?  If your ad is being served to someone searching for moving services and they click on it. Guest what, you just paid for that click (PPC). The person clicks on your ad, goes to your website and either immediately bounces (not good) or gets frustrated because they can’t find anything about moving services (poor user experience).

When I begin an audit, I start with the search term report. Search terms, or search queries, are the exact phrases that users type into search engines. The search terms report will reveal the actual searches that lead to clicks on ads.

Instead of finding search terms related to self-storage, I found "moving companies near me," "moving services," "storage container," and "garage for rent." Anyone who was searching for a moving company and clicked on their ads would quickly leave as the business didn't match what they were looking for.

Ad Copy

The next place I review is the ad copy, which is the content displayed on Google when the search ads are shown. For the storage facility, it's important to note that it is considered high-end. It has high-tech security, a clean well kept facility, and temperature controlled storage units. Their goal is to be the best storage facility in the county.

The content of their ads did not reflect that. It included words such as "cheap" or "low cost." This business is neither of those. Ads that use terms such as “cheap” or “low cost”  attract customers who are looking for the lowest rate. The self storage business doesn’t t offer the lowest rates. Their ads should have been focused on attracting the type of customer that values things like high-tech security, a clean well kept facility, and temperature controlled storage units.

Bidding Strategy

The bidding process is central to ad placement and revolves around an auction system activated each time a user's search triggers ads. Businesses choose a bidding strategy, such as Cost-Per-Click (CPC) for traffic, Cost-Per-Mille (CPM) for impressions, or more sophisticated automated options, to align with their campaign goals. 

Most businesses use a CPC strategy, which works well if done correctly. The cost of each click depends on how competitive the auction is. The more your competitors are willing to bid on a click, the more you will have to bid to get placed in the search results.

It's also possible to set a maximum bid limit. Most businesses set theirs too low, so they only show up for the low-value keywords, e.g., "garage for rent." Your time should be focused on the high-value keywords as they are much more likely to convert into customers.

Geographic Targeting

Geo-targeting enables advertisers to display their ads to users based on their geographic location. This can be as broad as a country or as specific as a city, neighborhood, or even a radius around a specific point.

I remember seeing an ad for a plumbing company that accidentally set its geo-targeting to the United States rather than the city it operated in. This might be the fastest way to burn through your budget.

In the self-storage company's example, they were targeting a 10-mile radius. While that may seem reasonable, it's based on how the crow flies rather than how long it takes your customers to drive to your location. In this case, we recommended reducing the radius to 3 miles and expanding slowly if their budget allowed. In this type of business, proximity significantly affects conversion rates.

Optimize Your Google Ads and Stop Wasting Money

Google Ads can be a great way to promote your services. When optimized correctly, it can put you in front of customers while they are looking for the services that you provide.

If you're not sure if your Google Ads campaigns are as productive as they should be, contact us for a consultation. We're happy to help

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