How to Kill off Your PPC – Horror Stories

How To Kill Off Your PPC – Horror StoriesWith pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, you can quickly start driving more traffic to your site and get people to buy. That, at least, is the promise that many marketers are making.

And to be fair, a properly crafted ad strategy can help you cut through the noise and get more attention for your product, service, or event. But things can and do go wrong, and a significant number of ads fail to accomplish their intended goal.

Typically, we’d be looking at best practices to help you succeed in your advertising. But as they say, there’s more to be learned from someone’s failures than their successes. So here are three examples of companies that failed at PPC. Here’s how to kill off your PPC and waste money on advertising.


If you’re looking for examples of PPC ads that don’t work, you needn’t look much further than eBay, the popular online auction website. It is likely the most notorious instance of large companies failing at advertising.

eBay has even been making the headlines in the last few years or so, in part because they claim Google AdWords doesn’t work. (Don’t do that for your PPC efforts).

Here are several things they got wrong:

  • Dynamic Keyword Insertion: On the surface, this seems like an excellent idea. Take the searcher’s query, and put it right into your ad. So what’s the problem? Well, if people are searching for things like “perpetual motion machine,” “baby,” “love,” “loneliness” (and we know that they are), then eBay’s nonsensical ads would show up in search results telling searchers they could buy these things on their website. False advertising?
  • Bidding on Too Many Keywords: They even bid on a lot of very general terms that had nothing to do with their business.
  • Using the Same Ad Copy for Every Ad: Well, sure. They had a few variations on the same theme, but in effect, all of their ads communicated the same thing (“buy it cheap,””“shop and save,” etc.). For shame.

Pizza Hut

We’re not sure whether to call this a horror story or just an example of what happens when you’re trying too hard to outsmart your competition. Either way, this isn’t something you should be doing with your PPC ads, because technically, Google does not allow it.

Pizza Hut put together an ad that just read, “Order Dominos Online.” Of course, their link pointed to their website, and not to Domino’s. This ad, for a time, even outranked Domino’s website. Funny? Sure.

Great for Pizza Hut, not so great for Domino’s. That is, of course, until Pizza Hut gets their AdWords account shut down by Google.


Andrea Wien is the founder of Aviator. She runs a global gap year community called Gap to Great. On Forbes, she shared how her first AdWords campaign ended up being a total failure.

Her goal was to offer a resource to help parents figure out whether or not a gap year is a good idea for their kids.

Her keywords, ad copy, and overall strategy were sensible enough (always good for your PPC strategy). But even though her ad got more than 85,000 views, it only got 232 clicks and no sales. After spending $139 on this ad, she put it on hold.

As it turns out, the key term generating the most views for her ad was “stories for kids,” which has nothing to do with taking a gap year.

Horror story? Perhaps not. But this is an excellent example of what happens to most people when they initiate their first campaign. The AdWords platform’s not beginner-friendly, and optimizing your ad for conversion can be a complicated process unless you know what you’re doing. It would be a good reason for you to work with a qualified expert to figure out your ad strategy.

Final Thoughts on Your PPC

Advertising is not a hack, despite what some experts might have you believe. You can drive a lot of traffic and sales using advertising, but this doesn’t happen by default, and unless your offer is well-matched to your target audience, there are no guarantees. Plus, you still have to figure out your ad copy and what keywords to bid on.

Do you have any AdWords horror stories?

We would love to hear about it. Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

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