Google Ads can be very confusing for small business owners.  They know that. That’s why they call you all the time to try to tell you what to do and why they try to take over your decision-making with Smart Campaigns, etc.  They are trying to make it a bit easier, but also trying to let you turn over the reigns so that they can control how you spend money with them, which is not necessarily in your best interest. Their goal would be for you to succeed just enough to keep giving them money. Your goal is to be efficient.

I spend a good amount of time analyzing what businesses have tried to build for themselves in Google Ads or even not-so-talented agencies have done to build campaigns for them.  Below are some of the more common mistakes I see made that can be fixed fairly easily. If your campaigns aren’t performing, these are some of the basics to look at getting right.

Common Google Ads Mistakes by Small Business Owners

Being Too General

One thing I see happen is people get excited by all of the keywords and just try to show up for everything they can think of, and then send the users to one generic page.  Search and Google Ads has constantly evolved to more specificity.  Before you build your campaign, think of the specific concepts you want to advertise for and break them into groups. If you don’t have a page on your site that is specifically about the keyword you are advertising for, your success will be greatly limited. Searchers don’t want to search for something and then land on your site and not see what they were looking for right away. They will typically leave.

Google Ads Adgroups

Google has the functionality to break your campaign into adgroups. These allow you to use the same budget but provide different paths for different types of searches. You will have far more success if you use these. Create an adgroup for each different concept or service you are advertising for. Use those keywords and provide ads that speak directly to those search terms. Put the search term in the headlines and be sure to sell how you can specifically help that specific problem. Then send them to the page on your site that speaks to that issue, not a generic page. Give them a headline that lets them know they have found the solution to their problem.

Not Measuring Goals Properly

Another very common problem I see with small business ad accounts is not measuring any, or the correct goals. If you are going to advertise with Google, you should have some way of measuring what is working. Define what you are trying to do and then figure out (or have someone help) how to measure that.  If your goal is to get people to fill out a form on your site, you can set that up as a goal in Google Analytics. Same if you are looking for people to click your phone number. We offer basic goals setup for a few hundred dollars that can save you thousands in the long term.

Once you have goals set up in your analytics, you can make better decisions going forward on what types of traffic make you the most money. Not just with Google Ads, but all of your traffic. It will all be tied to your conversion goals.  You can use this to make marketing spend decisions going forward. You can also import your analytics goals to Google Ads and have Google’s AI assist you (be careful with this) in operating more efficiently toward target costs per acquisition or return on ad spend.

Unless you only want traffic and don’t care about converting traffic, don’t just set up a maximize clicks campaign and let it run.  Google will take a lot of money from you and not spending it the best way to make you money.

Use of Keywords

At one time this may have been at the top of my list. It still is a concern for small business owners. The default “keyword match” for Google Ads is broad. This means Google can take that word or phrase and show your ad (spend your money) for anything that they deem relevant to that search phrase. This can lead to a lot of waste. I would say over the years it has improved slightly, but it is still something to be very careful with.

Keyword Match Types

Check out keyword match types at Google. There are choices between that default broad and the choices of phrase or exact match.  Just a warning, even an exact match lets in what Google considers close variants, so you still need to be careful.

Many large corporations can learn through spending. They spend a lot of money on broad matches and learn what works and then target the ones that convert better.  I find it better to be more careful as a small business and use less broad matching. Try to be targeted in what you advertise for. There is a lot of room for budget leaking in the way you set up keyword matching.

Negative Keywords

Also, negative keywords have grown in importance. They show up in a different section, but it is important to regularly review your search terms that you have paid for (or at least the ones Google lets you see) to find things you don’t want to show up. The negative keyword list lets you add words or phrases that you don’t want to show up for, like “free” or “jobs”, associated with your keywords. Sometimes these modifiers have a high search volume and waste your money and you will find new ones regularly. It is a good idea to keep an eye on your terms and update your negative list.


If you need help with any of this, we have been doing it successfully for over 15 years. The cost to have someone that knows what they are doing run your campaigns is typically easily made up for with the improved performance of your campaigns.