PPC advertising is confusing as ever. It really is. It may not be right up there with SEO in terms of the complication factor, but it’s pretty stinking close.

I’ve written a bunch of articles on PPC advertising. And every time I come up to write another one, I still have to do some research.

But apparently, I’m not alone. Even battle-hardened marketers have told me that they’re always learning and always adjusting their campaigns.

It’s not as if you need a PhD in astrophysics to understand PPC advertising. It’s just that you have to cut through a landfill of marketing misconceptions to make a PPC campaign work.

So, today I’ve decided to sit down and talk with you about a few of those misconceptions. Then, I’ll guide you through some corrective measures for your PPC campaign.

1. SKAGS Aren’t Even on Your Horizon

Google may be the top PPC advertising service out there. I mean, about 80% of companies focus solely on Google for their PPC needs. After all, Google’s principal stream of income is advertising.

Yet Google doesn’t always give out the best free advice when it comes to their own ad groups.

Google tells people that they should bundle a full 10-20 keywords in one ad group. And it makes sense, right? They all fit a common theme.

That’s fine if you don’t really care who sees your ads and paid search results. You’ll catch some of your target audience. But just like net fishing, you’ll catch a lot of odd and useless fish, too (maybe even an old boot.)

Message Match

Instead, you need to ensure the ad group is exact enough to message match. What is message match?

Message match is the ideal ad suited to a particular search string. When someone searches for a Parmesan Macaroni and Cheese Recipe, they don’t want a parmesan pasta recipe website. They want a Parmesan Macaroni and Cheese Recipe.

But if you sold parmesan, for example, and you created an ad group with a list of parmesan-related keywords, like these:

  • Parmesan Pizza Recipe
  • Parmesan Macaroni and Cheese Recipe
  • Parmesan Penne Recipe
  • Parmesan Pasta Recipes

You would possibly end up with a Parmesan Pasta Recipes ad. This is because the rest of the list might be on your landing page as well. The ad will be all the keywords you grouped. However, it won’t ever garner clicks.

SKAGs — It’s Not What It Sounds Like

Yeah, it sounds like some STD or a skanky dance, but SKAGS simply stands for Single Keyword Ad Groups. It’s a simple way to make sure you message match with your ad.

How do you go about performing this strange magic? Simple. Set up your ad group so that only one keyword will trigger a specific ad.

Using two ad variants per keyword is the best way to utilize your SKAGs.

The better relevancy is higher click through rate. Higher quality score. Lower Cost per click. Lower cost per conversion.

Since you have a headline and two description lines, you should set up your ad as follows:

The keyword in the headline once. Only benefits and features in the first description line. And the benefits and a CTA in the second description line.

Lastly, you want to make sure your keyword is in your Display URL. This method will ensure message match. And this ad should only be triggered by a single keyword string.

2. PPC and SEO As Far Away From Each Other As East is From West

Some PPC experts might tell you that if you’re focusing on PPC advertising, you should only focus on PPC advertising. But to me, that’s like saying that if you’re focusing on foreplay, you should only focus on foreplay.

While you might get some payoff, you’re not going to the next level.

That’s how it is with PPC and SEO. You can get a lot more out of your PPC campaigns if you add some SEO techniques.

While organic search results are the best way to increase your SERPs. Paid ads are at the top of the page. Even if Google half ignores your click throughs there, you’re getting traffic on that page.

Optimizing your landing pages with SEO is going to help them rank higher organically. It will bring up your overall SERPs as well.

And, if you’re doing both SEO and content marketing along with your PPC campaign, you’ll have even better landing pages.


Because both SEO and content marketing now focus on quality.

You have to possess quality content to get ahead in the SEO and content marketing worlds. Otherwise, you quickly become obsolete.

Lastly, you’re already doing keyword research for your PPC campaigns, right? Why not make those keywords work for your content and SEO strategy, as well.

Doubling your keyword research will help you in the long run. After all, the more data you have the better you can know your audience. The better you know your audience, the more you can improve on your campaigns.

3. You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know

What mama don’t know won’t hurt her, right? But what the search marketer don’t know can hamper their results.

This especially applies to how one set of keywords might be affecting another set of keywords. In both the PPC world and the SEO world, we talk about long tail keywords.

But not all long tail keywords are equal. Some are more effective than others.

And if you’re using ineffective long tails, then these might be stealing impressions from your more effective and specific long tails.

What’s the solution? Ad group level negative keywords.

As you probably already know, negative keywords tell Google where NOT to place your ad. You can use this to keep your short tail keywords from stealing from your longer tail keywords.

Let’s say you have keywords in your report you want to show for and yet they don’t exactly match up with the keyword you’re bidding on. When this happens, you want to add that search term as an ad group level negative keyword.

Wrapping Things Up

If your PPC marketing campaign is flailing, you might want to check if the above advice might help. I know how confusing PPC can be. And hopefully, now things are bit clearer.

Do you have some excellent PPC advice? Let me know in the comments below.

By Ben Mattice

Benjamin Mattice is a freelance writer/editor, horror and sci-fi writer, SEO and affiliate marketing newbie, dog wrestler, cat wrangler, capoeirista, and long distance runner. He lives in the Palouse with his wife, three dogs, two cats, and two rats. Yes, that would probably be considered a mini-zoo.