How To Cut The Fat Off Your Google Account & Reduce Wasted Ad Budget
The term “wasted ad spend” is used often in pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns, especially on the Google Ads platform lately. Advertisers have been noticing that their PPC ad campaigns are gettings lots of clicks but little to no leads or sales, and the few leads they are getting are junk or unserviceable despite your targeting.
What many think is happening is Google is just taking their money in order to hit their new revenue goal, focusing on their success over their clients and small business owners. They are purposely showing your ads to spammers (or they are the spammers) and people outside your target audience in order to get paid for those clicks.
Others think spammers, fraudsters, and competitors are so out of control today that the Google Ads platform just simply can’t keep up with blocking and filtering them out. With every PPC algorithm update that is designed to reduce fake clicks, spammers are figuring out workarounds faster and faster to continue wasting your ad spend budget.
And with paid ads taking up more real estate on the first page of Google’s search results, business owners feel stuck, keep feeding the machine, and take the financial hit in hopes that this issue will improve soon or the spammers will move on and stop clicking on their ads.
Well, we have some good news for you. Whatever is happening, we have six proven ways to significantly decrease your wasted ad spend by cutting the fat immediately on your PPC campaigns. As long as you follow these super easy steps, you should start seeing higher-quality leads and more sales within the same exact budget you were using.
Five of these are free methods to reduce your wasted ad spend and one method is paid but is so powerful in decreasing wasted ad budget that it pays for itself. Trust me, I’ve implemented it on all of my client’s PPC campaigns including my own ad account.
6 Super Easy Steps To Stop Wasting Ad Spend On Google
All you have to do is literally check a few boxes and radio buttons on the first five steps!
- Do not let Google automatically apply ad suggestions.
- Exclude your campaigns from showing up next to sensitive or negative content.
- Exclude your ads from displaying among content that doesn’t fit your brand.
- Properly adjust bidding on certain devices.
- Make sure your location settings are targeting correctly.
- Implement a click fraud software to detect and protect your budget.
1. Turn off auto-apply ad suggestions
When Google can’t find your good fit audience or get them to click your ads, they start throwing some hail marys or take advantage of the forgotten automatic setting in your PPC account in order to use up your budget. The auto-apply ad suggestions feature is enabled by default and most business owners and novice PPC managers don’t turn it off. Either because they think Google knows best or they don’t even realize it is adding keywords to target in their ad campaigns.
What this Google algorithm often does is target very broad or irrelevant keywords in order to use up your entire ad budget. Of course, Google is going to use the entire budget up (plus the 20% you agreed to in the terms and conditions you signed when setting up the account) if they could in order to hit that revenue goal they set this year. Sometimes they get lucky and generate some leads, but in my experience, those leads are low-quality or outright junk and don’t lead to a sale.
Click don’t automatically apply ad suggestions to decrease wasted ad spend. This allows you to manually review every suggestion and gives you the ability to pick and choose which suggestions to apply and which to deny. Take back some control over how Google spends your budget. Give your ads a better chance at generating high-quality leads and actual sales without raising your budget.
2. Opt out of showing your ads on sensitive websites
If these topics don’t match your brand, then why pay to advertise on those websites? You will waste a lot of ads spend on traffic that won’t convert while also damaging your brand by correlating your business/product/service with sensitive or negative notions.
Your PPC ads will automatically show across these types of websites unless you tell Google not to.
I almost always exclude all five of these categories by checking the box. Here are a few exceptions to the rule:
- Tragedy and conflict – I advertised on this for an insurance claims adjuster who helps people fight insurance companies and temporarily relocate families when their house burned down or was destroyed in a natural disaster.
- Sensitive social issues – If you are running ads regarding politics or driving traffic to a blog that deals with social issues.
- Profanity and rough language – I advertised on this for a motorcycle parts manufacturer, because it fit the biker, rough rider, bad-boy, tattoo, and aggressive image of the industry.
- Sexually suggestive – If you are selling something in this space such as a sex toy or erotic book or along these lines where sex sells.
- Sensational and shocking – This is kind of a tabloid category if your audience eats up this kind of thing.
3. Opt out of showing your ads on specific content labels and types
These content labels and types pretty much speak for themselves. I recommend you check the boxes for websites that don’t fit your brand just as we did in step two.
I almost always opt out of live streaming and embedded videos for text ads because why waste budget with text ads on YouTube where videos are king. They don’t want to read, they want to watch.
Also, parked domains scream spam to me. Have you ever clicked on a link on these types of pages and filled out a form or bought a product? I sure haven’t, and in my experience, it has always wasted ad spend with spam clicks and junk conversions that lead to zero sales so I opt out of this immediately.
Below the fold is for display ads only. It can be good for you if you want a cheaper cost per click (CPC) or cost per thousand impressions (CPM). Using the ladder model CPM, advertisers don’t pay for clicks on the ad, they pay every time the ad is shown, which is cheaper. When a browser window loads the webpage, what’s displayed is considered above the fold. When you start scrolling down to reveal more content, that is considered below the fold. Even though Google says this is for display ads only, I still check this box for my text ads as an extra layer of protection to avoid wasting my ad spend if Google’s algorithm gets desperate to use up the budget.
4. Adjust bidding based on devices
There are three options: mobile phones, computers, and tablets. In this day and age, the tablet audience belongs mostly to children and businesses whose employees walk around with a tablet all-day and therefore will search for products and services while at work. Some tablet users are also parents who have it next to them when their kids are done using it, so out of convenience they shop or research using it.
Some examples of businesses and industries that use tablets to surf the internet are logistics, auto dealerships, restaurants, healthcare, education, consumer electronics, hospitality, and manufacturing. So if your target audience is not related to any of those, then changing your bidding to -100% will stop your PPC ads from showing up on tablet devices.
If your target audience might be tablet users, you should run your ads for 1-3 months to collect a decent amount of data, and then you can determine how to adjust your bidding based on the device.
- If you are getting zero conversions and sales via tablets, then turn it off.
- If tablets are producing better than mobile phones or computers, then you can increase the bid. I like to start with a 10%-25% increase and see how it goes for a while.
- If you are getting a few conversions, but way less than the other devices and the cost per conversion is way higher, then you can decrease the tablet bid. When decreasing bids, I’m usually a little more aggressive than increasing. I generally start with a 30%-50% bid decrease and see how that goes for a while.
In this example, tablet devices were wasting a lot of ad budget with zero conversions so my decision to turn this off (decrease -100%) was an easy one. Mobile is doing great with lots of conversions and a much cheaper cost per conversion, so I bumped it up 25%. After running these ads for a few more months, computers really started to become expensive. So that is the next device I will turn off. This will put 100% of my PPC budget for this campaign into mobile devices.
P.S. these are high-ticket items, so don’t be alarmed at the cost per conversion. A lead for under $1,000 is almost unheard of but we got them there! In this industry, the cost per acquisition is high because a sale means six figures to this company and the lifetime value (LTV) is incredible.
In example two below, it looks like my client (a manufacturer) already has TV screens turned off (decrease -100%). I took over their PPC management, so I am going to turn off computers as well because mobile phones are their bread and butter with way more conversions than tablets and computers combined. Plus mobile and tablet conversions are way cheaper than on computers.
5. Set the proper location targeting and exclusions
The location-targeting setting is a major culprit of wasted PPC spending. Some clicks are pure spam from overseas. Others are outside your service area, so you can’t service them even if they are a real person interested in your services. So having the right GEO targeting and exclusion list set is very important to reducing wasted ad budget.
There are 3 target options:
- Presence or interest: People in, regularly in, or who’ve shown interest in your targeted locations.
- Presence: People in or regularly in your targeted locations.
- Search interest: People searching for your targeted locations.
Option number one is for anyone present in or showing interest in your target area, which is very broad. If you are open to the world, then this might be your best option. Or if you’re running a PPC campaign for a famous attraction or event such as a museum or national football game, this would be my pick since people outside my target area, regularly in my area, and local residents would all be suited as potential customers. It’s something that people are known to travel for, therefore worth targeting.
But if you are targeting a specific area such as a city, and you can’t service anything outside of this area, you will waste a lot of your ad budget with option one. Option two would be your best choice. For instance, you own a restaurant and you are running PPC ads for delivery. Well, you can only deliver so far, so that’s your target area. You wouldn’t want anyone outside that area to click your ad because it would just waste your budget, right? You are only going to target locals or people who might work or travel to your service area often.
Search interest is the least chosen option in my experience, but it does have its use. If everyone in town knows who you are and you want to extend your reach further out, you wouldn’t want to show your ads to locals then. You would want to exclude your locals. Which is what option three can do. Or maybe you are hiring for a remote position and your small town doesn’t have the talent you need. Then this would be a good option because the talent you are looking for can be from anywhere since they don’t have to drive to an office.
Be careful with options one and three. They can waste your ad budget fast with low performance if you don’t set up the GEO exclusions well. Not just the excluded setting that I’m about to go over, but the actual physical areas need to be excluded under target locations exclusions.
There are 2 exclude options:
- Presence: People in your excluded locations.
- Presence or interest: People in, regularly in, or who’ve shown interest in your excluded locations.
When you exclude an area, you are purposely excluding them for one reason or another. It’s either because you don’t want to target people in those areas, or you don’t want to target people who are in, regularly in, or have shown an interest in those excluded areas. Basically, completely cutting those people out with option two. Whereas option one leaves the door open to people showing interest in your excluded areas.
For instance, if your excluded area is a very popular travel spot for Americans such as Mexico, and you’re targeting the U.S., then excluding people who have shown interest in Mexico for a vacation will also exclude them from seeing your PPC campaign. In this scenario, option one would be your best choice.
Option two is a little trickier, but let’s say you own two storefronts and you want to run an ad campaign for each location. You wouldn’t want your ads to be shown in the wrong area and tell your Elgin audience to visit your Schaumburg location. Why would you tell them to drive 25 minutes away when they are only 2 minutes from your other location. So you would exclude location 2 from location 1’s ad, and location 1 from location 2’s ad, so your ads don’t get crossed and waste ad spend on a much less converting potential.
6. Implement click fraud software
Click fraud will waste on average 20% of PPC advertisers’ budgets. Competitors and bots can click on your ads and waste your ad budget quickly.
ClickCease™ Google Ads click fraud protection and prevention software will block fake impressions and clicks in real time. Plus, those disgruntled ex-employees or haters will not be shown your ads after they reach the click threshold you set. It only takes a minute to implement, literally just a few clicks and a snippet of code that you copy and paste into your Google Ads account.
Here are some settings that you can set to dramatically reduce wasted ad spend:
- How many clicks are allowed within specific timeframes – allow up to 2 ad clicks within 1 hour / 3 clicks within 7 days / 4 clicks within 30 days.
- Block out-of-country IP addresses.
- Block IP addresses that spend less than 5 seconds on your website.
- And MORE!
I can assure you it actually works! Here is a screenshot of my saved ad budget in the past 30 days with an ad spend budget of $500 per month on a campaign we are currently running. Yes, you are seeing that correctly. Just by implementing ClickCease on this PPC campaign, it blocked 198 fraudulent clicks, and at $2.34 per click, it protected $463.30 from my ad spend from being wasted. That’s almost my entire 30-day budget! This gives us a lot more of an opportunity to get those high-quality leads we want that actually convert into a sale.
We felt like a lot of people, that spammers and competitors were clicking on our ads and our client’s ads. After installing ClickCease, our suspicions were confirmed. Even after I broke out all the tricks I knew to reduce wasted ad spend, we were still getting attacked with lots of spam clicks and super obvious junk leads. We couldn’t figure out how to stop it and Google’s ad support didn’t help at all. So we searched hard for a solution and did our homework comparing software.
We have officially implemented ClickCease on every one of our client’s Google PPC accounts as well as my own business’s accounts, and we couldn’t be happier with all the great results.
I hope this helps save you all a lot of wasted money and frustration. If you need help with managing your PPC ads or have any questions about the steps we discussed, we have your back.
If you prefer to focus on your business and have a professional setup and manage your campaigns, view our transparent PPC marketing pricing here.