5 Top Mistakes That Contractors Make with Google Ads (PPC)

Halstead Media offers marketing services including website design, SEO, & social media for general contractors and those in home construction, landscaping, roofing & siding, pool builders, HVAC, and smart home.

Let's get something straight: PPC (pay-per-click) advertising is hard. Creating a strategy, implementing it, and getting results seems impossible the first several times your design/build company gives it a shot. There are hundreds (thousands actually) of settings and combinations to try. If you're getting it wrong (not getting any results) then it's likely that you haven't yet figured out how to work the options. So if you're one of many that has turned to Google Ads (which runs on PPC) for lead generation, then here's a few tips for the road ahead.

1. Not understanding geo-targeting (location) well enough. Google provides location-specific search results in two possible ways. First, it's based on the actual location the searcher has entered. For example, a searcher in Newburgh, NY, will look up general contractor in Newburgh, NY. Google will respond with a list of general contractors in that city, sorted by their distance from Newburgh.

The second way the searcher looks up general contractor doesn’t involve typing in Newburgh, NY. Google will still provide results for general contractor in Newburgh and sort by distance from that location — even though the searcher has not specified the city. Google takes the location of the searcher into consideration every single time. This is only untrue if the searcher has turned their location tracking off. (Related: The 2016 Google Ads Changes You Need to Know About.)

2. Too few of keywords. This is a scary one and the biggest money-sucking mistake. Let's say you want to target the keyword landscape for your design and build company. You set the target to your coverage area (or maybe you skip this part and the problem is even bigger). Everyone who searches landscape in, let's say, Newburgh, NY, will see your ad. But what if someone searches landscape business software or landscape marketing and they're based out of Newburgh, NY? They're most likely not your target market! And you guessed it, you might still be showing up and paying for a click from someone you don't want and who doesn’t want you!

Always consider other ways that your keyword might be used. In the landscape example, this one has quite a few ways it can be used. Merriam-Webster dictionary writes one of the definitions of landscape to be "the distinctive features of a particular situation or intellectual activity: the event transformed the political landscape." So if someone searches marketing landscape, you guessed it, your design/build company will show be showing up... and paying if it converts. The lesson here? Add keywords to your PPC campaigns and use the negative keywords field (to tell Google which words to not bring your company up for in searches).

3. Inconsistent keyword usage and messaging. To get searchers to click, your two line description says something like, "Get 10% off your spring landscaping project if you sign up by December 31." When the person clicks, they are taken to your homepage — where there is no reference of such discount. The visitor immediately feels tricked and leaves... but you still paid for the click. 

Here's another unfortunate scenario. Let's say you're pushing your snow management services, so your description in your Google Ads campaign mentions this service. Again, the searcher is taken to your homepage, which only briefly mentions snow management. Yes, it mentions it — but the searcher is specifically looking for snow management. You can give it to them, easily, quickly, and clearly by linking your ads campaigns to topic-specific landscaping pages designed to convert such visitors.

The lesson is to spend the time to create a landing page, which will also boost your free organic traffic volume. Then make sure that your keywords and messaging are consistent in the description on the campaign and on the landing pages. (Related: SEO for Landscaping and Pool Companies: Inbound Marketing Drives Leads.)

4. Not spending enough time tracking and editing the PPC campaign. No one gets a Google Ads campaign right the first time. It takes a significant amount of time to review the progress and make adjustments along the way. How much review? Daily, at least.

PPC can be very expensive. Even if your outdoor living company has marketing budget limitations, the results you end up with can be very disappointing if you're not constantly reviewing which campaigns are working for most clicks and cost per click. Review analytics to understand how long people stayed on your site after clicking, what they searched, and what pages they viewed. This will help you understand if you're targeting the right people with your campaign and if the pages they are clicking on are well developed.

5. Thinking Google Ads will book up your season. It won't. Well maybe it will, if you spend way too much money on it. The reality is that pay-per-click advertising is among the least effective ways to drive leads. Using this strategy temporarily while ramping up other marketing approaches (e.g. inbound marketing) can be a great short-term solution.

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