12 Best Practices to Reduce Wasted Ad Spend in Google Ads

Wasted ad spend is invisible which makes it easy for any advertiser to waste their budget without realizing it.

However, you can estimate it based on a few different components that can be measured.

If you’re using Google Ads, Microsoft Bing Ads, Facebook Ads, or any other Pay-Per-Click (PPC), platforms, there are a few things you must do to minimize your wasted ad spend.

In this article, we’ll cover 12 best practices you need to follow to maximize your return on ad spend while reducing wasted ad spend in Google Ads (formerly known as Google AdWords).

Click any section if you wish to jump straight to it.

  1. Search Terms Report
  2. Keyword match types
  3. Negative keywords
  4. Optimizing keywords
  5. Setting up Ad groups
  6. Landing pages
  7. Device targeting
  8. Location targeting
  9. Ad scheduling / Dayparting
  10. Optimizing Quality Score
  11. Prioritizing high-impact keywords and ads
  12. Account review & Optimization

1. Search Terms Report

Your search terms report provides real-life insights on what terms people used to search when they saw your ad.

According to Google’s May 2019 internal data, 15% of Google searches are new. This means that no matter how thorough or knowledgeable you are in your market, you can’t possibly have a complete list of keywords.

Instead, you can add keywords as you go by reviewing your search terms report to identify the actual search queries used to trigger your ads.

By adding the exact terms being used as keywords and showing ads to more relevant audience, you can reduce irrelevant clicks leading to a wasted budget.

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2. Keyword Match Types

Whether you’re adding your keywords based on your keyword research or search terms report, each keyword needs a match type set up strategically.

Keyword match type is a way to tell Google how to filter the search queries before showing your ad. It also impacts your Cost-Per-Click (CPC) because your competiton changes between match types.

Google has the broad match type as a default for all new keywords. Be sure to change it unless that’s what you’re targeting.

Here’s a quick summary of each type:

Broad match- your ads may show for any misspellings, synonyms, related searches, or other relevant (not close) variations. Use this for keyword mining and to reach the widest audience.

Broad match modifier- your ads may show when a query matches all words marked with + or its close variants. Use this for keyword mining and to reach a wide audience and new keywords.

Phrase match–  your ads may show when a query matches exact keywords and close variants of those exact words with extra words before or after. Use this with your exact match to capture additional audience.

Exact match- your ads may show when a query matches your exact keyword or its close variant. Use this for your highly-relevant, high-performing keywords.

Having appropriate match types will help reduce irrelevant clicks and wasted ad spend from controlling who you show your ads to.

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3. Negative Keywords

Google tries to determine if a search term is either relevant or a close variation of your keyword but it’s not always correct.

Or in some cases, you may want to exclude certain variations of your products or services because that’s not what you offer. Such examples are specific sizes or colors of your product or related service you’re not offering.

You need to add negative keywords to prevent these variations from triggering your ads because those clicks are considered irrelevant.

When reviewing your search terms report, you may see terms that are not relevant to your products or services. Be sure to add those irrelevant terms as negative keywords to prevent any future clicks.

And be strategic about where to apply those negative keywords: on a campaign or ad group level.

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4. Optimizing Keywords

You now have a system in place to add relevant terms to keywords and irrelevant terms to negative keywords. But where do you start with optimizing keywords so you know you’re not overpaying?

With dozens and possibly hundreds of keywords, it’s important to eliminate any keyword that is an obvious waste. One keyword wasting one dollar each day is already about $365 a year you could have saved.

One way to optimize keywords for a wasted ad spend is to eliminate or bid down on low-performing keywords.

Review important metrics depending on your advertising goal, i.e. Click Through Rate, CPC, Impression Share, conversions, etc, and identify which keywords are either performing low or not performing at all. Target those first to either eliminate or bid down.

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5. Setting up Ad Groups

Google values relevance and wants your ads and landing pages to stay relevant to search queries.

Keeping a tight theme in each ad group will ensure your keywords, ads, and landing pages are closely related, leading to better costs.

The easiest way to do it is to group keywords by a closely related theme.

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6. Landing Pages

Landing pages are often overlooked, but a high performing landing page will directly impact ad positions and ad costs.

As part of your account’s Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO), the following are some factors that improve your landing pages:

  • Use of your keywords to match the ads and search intent
  • Site speed
  • User-friendly navigation
  • Mobile-friendly

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7. Device Targeting

Mobile and desktop searches perform differently.

Review your devices report to see where you’re getting your impressions and clicks from.

If you’re getting a good amount of traffic from mobile or tablet devices, be sure to target them aggressively.

If you’re not getting much traffic from mobile devices, you may even consider bidding down on mobile to reduce your ad budget being spent inefficiently.

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8. Location Targeting

Location targeting, or geotargeting, allows you to either target or filter out certain locations to show your ads.

It also allows you to bid up or down for specific areas using bid adjustments so you can become more or less competitive.

For example, if your account targets the entire US, you can add all 50 states so you can easily make bid adjustments to target specific states you want to focus on based on its actual performance. You can also easily scale down on low-performing states so you can reallocate that budget to higher performing states to get the most out of your ad spend.

Be sure to include all relevant locations, exclude specific areas if irrelevant, and utilize bid adjustments to reallocate your location targeting.

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9. Ad scheduling / Dayparting

Ad scheduling, or also known as dayparting, allows you to schedule when to show or hide your ads.

By adding the days and hours you want to target, your ads will only show during those times and not show outside of those days and hours.

Another feature you can utilize in ad schedule is bid adjustments.

Just as in location targeting, you can bid up or down during certain days or hours to make your ads more or less competitive.

Read more on Google Ads ad scheduling including best practices.

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10. Optimizing Quality Score

Quality Score, or QS, is an important metric in Google Ads that can help you pay lower costs and get better ad positions.

By closely monitoring and optimizing your Quality Score, you can easily spot any keyword that has a low expected CTR, ad relevance, or landing page experience which all impact your cost and ad position.

Start with keywords with high impressions but with Quality Score lower than your total average first because those are wasting your ad spend right now.

Read more on Quality Score and how to improve it.

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11. Prioritizing high-impact keywords and ads

Optimizing your account can feel like a daunting task. With bigger accounts, you can spend hours and days trying to optimize your account.

Instead, minimize your wasted ad spend by tackling high-impact keywords and ads first.

High-impact keywords and ads may include anything that has a high visibility (impressions) or traffic (clicks) that are under-performing in your key metrics. Start with those that are under your average because those should be easier to pick up.

This will help you better utilize your limited time and resources and start seeing the impacts sooner.

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12. Account Review & Optimization

No matter how perfect your account seem to perform, there’s always room for improvement for better performance and lower waste.

However, understand that there is no 0% waste although we can all work towards it.

A consistent and continuous monitoring and optimizing ensure your account is working hard to maximize your return while minimizing any waste.

See below for a helpful resource tool.

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 ➡️ Use a free Instant Google Ads Audit tool

To help advertisers evaluate their Google Ads account quickly, we developed a free Instant Google Ads Audit Report. This will allow you to log in using your Google Ads credentials (fast & secure) to get relevant actionable insights and best practices instantly online so you can start optimizing your account.

Learn more about this audit tool or get your report now by clicking the banner below!

Instant Google Ads Audit report tool

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