7 Reasons Why Newbies Fail to Make Money from AdWords

Posted on 14th November, 2007

Those who have been using AdWords for sometime know that it takes some trial and error to achieve some level of success. Newbies may find their AdWords experience frustrating when they continue to get low CTRs, losing money.

Then, having their campaign slapped which results in a low quality score increases their minimum CPC bid to $5 or more. Often this could mark the end of their plan to make money with AdWords.

So they wonder if there’s a well guarded secret used by all the other affiliates who have been making tidy profit from AdWords. What did I do that was not right?

The good news is, (or bad news depending on how you see this), there’s no secret to crack. Everything comes down to trial and error and doing enough testing to find out what works and what doesn’t.

So if you are not making money promoting products or services, here are 7 things you need consider:


1. Are You Promoting the Right Products and Services?

Often, successful affiliates suggest that you should start with a product or service that you are passionate about. Your interest will keep you going when things don’t go exactly as planned. However, you also need to be realistic in that you have to make sure the products and services are in high demand.

For example, there’s no point selling refrigerators to the Eskimos no matter how passionate you are about the new line of refrigerators coming out from South Korea.

Try to find top selling products or services to promote instead of trying to educate the market that they need a new product. Focusing your effort to promote popular products and services will make your job easier. You don’t have to invent the wheel, just identify the market leaders and focus on promoting them.

Sure, the competition can be tougher in some niches but the demand is already guaranteed. You just need to be a little more creative and offer something that differentiates you from your competitors. Keep in mind that the number of competitors is not as important as the quality of their sites.


2. Are You Creating the Right Landing Page?

In certain niches you may be able to do direct linking to the vendor’s landing page. However in most cases when you are promoting a popular product or service, you’ll need to create your own landing page.

Creating an effective landing page is a big topic in itself. This is something that I’d like to write more about in my future posts. Suffice to say that you will need to create a landing page that offers exactly what your AdWords ad says.

If your ad says you’re offering a Free MP3 Download, your landing page must offer exactly that, and not free MP3 player, or cheap MP3 songs. Your landing page must focus on a SINGLE call to action. A call to action is an activity requested of the visitor, it could be buying a product, download a trial software or subscribing to a newsletter.

Remove all unnecessary choices such as AdSense ads, unwanted banners and excessive content. Remember your goal is to convert the user and depending on the price of the products and services, having more content may hurt the conversion rates especially if you are selling low price items.

Once you have identified what your visitor wants to do, you need to lead them down the right conversion path. If you give too many choices, they will end up choosing none.


3. Optimize Your AdWords Campaign

This is one of the thing newbies often neglect to do. It’s better to have many keywords in many ad groups than having many keywords in fewer ad groups.

For example if you are promoting handphones (a.k.a. cellphones or mobile phones), you may come up with the following keywords:

Nokia Nseries
Nokia N90
Nokia N-Gage
Samsung E700
Samsung SGH-X820
Samsung Mobile Phones

In order to improve your keywords and ad text relevancy, you should create two separate campaigns; each contains individual ad groups for each handphone model so that you have the following:

Campaign 1 – Nokia
Ad Group 1: Nokia Nseries
Ad Group 2: Nokia N90
Ad Group 3: Nokia N-Gage

Campaign 2- Samsung
Ad Group 1: Samsung E700
Ad Group 2: Samsung SGH-X820
Ad Group 3: Samsung Mobile Phones

So the keywords for the Ad Group 1 (Campaign 1) could be “buy nokia nseries”, “nokia nseries website”, “where can I buy nokia nseries”.

Similarly, the keywords for Ad Group 2 (Campaign 1) could be “buy nokia n90”, “nokia n90 website”, “where can I buy nokia n90”. I know I could have targeted better keywords but you get what I mean.

Once that’s done, remember to link the ad to a landing page that offers exactly what the ad says; Nokia NSeries and Nokia N90.


4. Improve Your Landing Page Quality Score

Instead of repeating what I’ve written about this in my earlier posts, check out my earlier post here: 10 Tips to Improve Your Google AdWords Quality Score


5. Identify the Best Keywords to Use

The keywords you use can make or break your PPC campaign and thus finding the right ones is crucial. You can start with the low hanging fruits, i.e. keywords that include the exact product names, brand names, model number and so on.

Depending on the merchant’s policy, you may or may not be able to bid on brand names. Start small and when you know what keywords convert well, start branching out to find more related keywords.

Depending or how much you get paid for each conversion and your conversion rates, you many be able to expand your keywords list by including more general terms that relate closely with the products and services.

In addition, you can start adding long tail keywords, which are multi-word keyword phrases, typically four or more words and very specific. When a searcher uses long tail keywords, they are actually looking for something very specific and often can be converted easily if they find EXACTLY what they are looking for. Thus, long tail keywords can be the best ones to target.

As an example a searcher using “free dating site new york” is more likely to become of a member of a dating site targeted towards New Yorkers than someone who may search using “free dating site”.

Check out a related post here: 5 Tips and Tools To Help You Create A Killer Keyword List For Your AdWords/PPC Campaigns


6. Use Negative Keywords Effectively

Negative keywords are those keywords that prevent your ads from showing up when used as part of the search queries. For example if you use -serial code as the negative keyword, someone whose search query containing the terms serial and code won’t see your ads.

In many of my campaigns where I promote Windows software products, I usually add the following as negative keywords


Adding negative keywords into your campaigns can reduce click cost and improve your CTRs.

Like normal keywords, negative keywords can also use different keyword match types (broad, phrase and exact). If you are using broad match for your negative keywords, you may accidently filter out too many potential queries including the ones that you would have wanted your ad to show on. You can learn more about AdWords keyword matching options here.

The following table better illustrates my point:


You can find the full explanation about this here.



7. Split Testing To Identify the Best Performing Keywords, Ads and Landing Page

The most important elements you could test are your ads, landing pages and keywords. Ok, you don’t split test your keywords but through split testing of your ads and landing pages, you’ll know which keywords convert the best in a particular situation.

Split testing, sometimes called A/B testing helps to determine which elements are helping in improving your conversion rates and which aren’t.

Creating multiple landing pages, each with a different layout, colour, headline and so on will help you further improve your conversion rates. Begin by testing the obvious such as using a variation of headlines, copies, images and so on.

Check out the related post about split-testing here:

10 AdWords Split Testing Ideas for Better CTR

How “Statistical Significance” Can Help You Optimize Your AdWords

You may want to learn more about Google own landing page testing tool here


The checklist is by no means definitive and I can’t guarantee that you will become successful overnight by following them. However, I’m sure that you’ll have a better chance of becoming profitable over some of your competitors who probably have no idea what they are doing 🙂


An engineer by training, Victor has been working full-time online as an Internet marketer, a programmer and an app developer since 2001. He has been blogging at Sabahan.com since 2006 sharing his experience and teaching people how to make money online. Click here to join his private Facebook Group for bloggers.

  • I Have to enjoy read couple of your article tips, keep it and give other tips for people.

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  • Fantasia says:

    Adwords is slowly going down as Adsense improves. This is a very well written guide as to how to efficiently utilize Adwords to generate income in advertising. Adwords can make you lose money if you’re not careful.

  • […] At Sabahan.com post about top 7 reason why newbie’s fail to make money from Adwords caught my eye. I agree with him because just throwing some keyword won’t help you in your PPC […]

  • Kay Kastum says:

    Chief. What reading do you recommend for someone who has ZERO knowledge on doing Adwords campaign?

  • Hi gaman,
    You are indeed a fantastic guy. Your post is informative and reflects one who knows what he is saying and doing. Thank you for your tips. This post will be my one of my resources when I start adword campaign. Thanks

  • papajoneh says:

    Wow! This is deep for me but nevertheless sticky post. Thanks. I will probably use this for my other projects. Thanks in advance, Gaman 🙂

  • This is a great post, and very comprehensive. On the bit about Quality Score, I guess we have no choice but to create our own landing page, and not link directly to the affiliate sites.

    I once promoted an affiliate site with Adwords, and was slapped with a minimum bid of $5 due to poor quality score. Guess this was something beyond my control.

    Another thing I noticed was that the ad ranking and minimum bid changed during different times of the day. Your ad that appears in one country, may not appear in another.

    Cheers, Samantha

    • Gaman says:

      In some cases, we can actually benefit from the merchant’s good landing page quality score. I guess in your case, it just happened that that particular landing page had a poor quality score.

      I read somewhere that the quality score is evaluated daily. And there are two scores, one is for the landing page and one is for the ad.

  • mrBadak says:

    last year I got burned playing with adwords.. tu lah kao gaman, lambat kasi luar tips 😛

    anyway, im currently concentrating on getting organic traffic to my aff sites… returns is low but at least not much overhead…

    one thing that you need to commit is your time, once you activate your campaign, you have to monitor it.. if possible every hour! 🙂

  • eshark says:

    Waah! really great tips. which one would u think normally the fastest making money.. Adwords or Adsense?

  • Stephanie says:

    Hello! I was using StumbleUpon today and happened to come across your site. I really like what you’re doing here! Keep it up!


    Why stay home when you can escape?

  • nadzal says:

    Ehm, i will try it and i think keyword is important think when you want to promote your site with adword right?

  • pinolobu says:

    Gaman, do you recommend using Adwords to promote blogs?

    • Gaman says:

      I would if my goal is to attract traffic, get some exposure or increase my feed subscribers. But keep in mind that you won’t get your money back immediately, unless you are strictly doing AdSense arbitrage for example and somewhat manage to become profitable.

  • skyjuice says:

    wah gaman this is the tutorial what i looking for because right now i want to try to join CPA marketing world and this post really give me a light what action should i take in future 🙂

  • Good tips, indeed there are many that have given up on Adwords after a few weeks or months, the potential is there and with this article i’m sure some ppl out there are going to make some $$.

  • That’s comprehensive post you made.I’m also had experienced that my keyword land on low quality score and eat up all my money in the first try I use Adwords to drive traffic to my affiliate site.

    It’s all about trial and error. You never know which keyword could translate a better click-through until you
    experienced the situation first.

    It took me 4 months to achieve good return in my investment with Adwords.And now,I’m still not stopping to learn new things and increase my click through and also decrease the money spend bidding on a keyword to make more money.

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