9 Common PPC Mistakes Making It Impossible for Your Ads to Generate Sales

by | Oct 16, 2023

How good does it feel to sit at your computer, open your calendar, and see it stacked with sales meetings? Or to check your Google Analytics dashboard with the “leads and meetings booked” metric spiking up and to the right?


There is simply nothing else like it.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t just happen on its own.

Not only do you have to get your ads in front of qualified potential customers but you also must convert that ice-cold, who-the-heck-are-you traffic at a high rate so that your PPC remains profitable. And then you have to scale that PPC program to deliver reliable inbound lead flow going forward.

I’ll be the first to admit: that’s no easy feat.

But it doesn’t have to be as challenging as you think. Far from it, in fact.

Simply by implementing the right tried-and-tested (but rarely properly implemented) techniques, you can steadily drive highly-qualified and cost-effective inbound leads and sales meetings from PPC ads—without spending more money than you make, taking forever to ramp up, or playing endless guessing games about what will actually convert. These practices aren’t well-known, but for the few who implement them, they change everything.

How do I know this?

Because at Upgrow, we’re experts at building scalable B2B tech lead generation through PPC, and our results are rapid and consistent. Over the past five years, we’ve helped hundreds of clients earn breakout growth without the years of hard work and trial and error most people have to endure.

And before Upgrow, I led digital marketing programs for Samsung, Microsoft, and others since 2006.

I’ve written this eBook to share some of the unbelievably powerful industry secrets I’ve accumulated in digital marketing—specifically, the B2B tech industry.

The information you’re about to read will help you build a cost-effective PPC channel that smashes your competitors while skipping the expensive and slow learning period.

Quick note: In this guide, I’ll speak to Google Ads and LinkedIn Ads—these are the 800-pound gorillas for B2B lead generation and, in most cases, the only paid ad channels needed to keep your sales calendar overflowing with meetings. But these strategies do also apply across channels and industries, so if you use other PPC channels, you can apply them there as well.

You’re about to discover:

1. The #1 reason why tech marketing and sales teams can’t drive qualified inbound leads with PPC, no matter how hard they try

2. Why you should NEVER trust people telling you Google Ads doesn’t work for enterprise tech and what you should do instead

3. The dirty default settings that Google Ads uses to burn ad spend and how to fix them

4. The dead-simple Google Ads copy fixes that will multiply your clickthrough rate and slash your cost-per-click

5. Why tech audiences HATE ads…and the one trick that makes them forget they’re looking at an ad in the first place

6. The honest TRUTH about making LinkedIn Ads lead generation cost-efficient and why it can be so much easier than you ever imagined 7. The missing piece between a click and a booked call (hint: it’s what your landing page isn’t doing right…yet)

8. How to INSTANTLY increase booked meeting show rates by 200% 9. Why content download leads aren’t turning into meetings—and an easy fix

Putting these nine fixes in place will put your PPC program on the fast lane to surging past your competitors, driving a hungry inbound sales pipeline, and making sure every ad dollar spent is maximized.

Let’s get started!

PPC Mistake #1: Not matching your ads to your audience

This is the #1 reason tech marketing and sales teams fail to drive qualified inbound leads with PPC, no matter how hard they try.

And believe me, they try! I’ve seen it many times… companies will create landing pages, write ad copy, do keyword research, build their campaigns, and set up budgets, bids, and targeting… only to see little or no consistent flow of meetings.

Why does this happen? They didn’t take the time to match their ads and offers to the audience they wanted to reach. So that audience either never saw the ads, or didn’t know the ads were for them.

Here’s an example of what this looks like with a database company Upgrow worked with last year. This company primarily sells to large software and finance companies. To make a sale, they need buy-in from the end user and that user’s company leadership. And their audience is a mix of people who already know their brand (hot) and people who have never heard of them (cold).

There’s nothing about any of those conditions that would prevent this company from booking plenty of sales meetings. The problem was, they only had one LinkedIn ad for that entire audience, which led to precisely one offer to “Book a Demo.”

Do you see the problem?

Their audience isn’t one type of person, it’s a bunch of different ones. Software companies and finance companies, end users and leadership, hot and cold…there’s no way a single ad or offer could speak to all audience members’ individual needs and pain points.

Yet this is precisely what most B2B marketers are doing! They come up with an offer, write an ad to push people toward that offer, pump a bunch of money into the ad…and then wonder why no one’s converting from it.

Here’s a better way to do it:

– First, segment the target audiences into campaigns—in this case, a software campaign and a finance campaign.

– Then, segment the buyer personas (end user and leadership) within those campaigns, and then separate the hot and cold traffic into subgroups of those segments.

– Create offers that align with each segment.

– Create ads that specifically speak to those segments promoting the offer you created.

For the database company, that looked like writing an ad for “How XYZ Company scaled their database 3X in 45 days while reducing costs by 40%.” This ad was specifically targeted to C-suite execs (CEOs, COOs, CTOs) of software companies who were cold leads, and offered a free case study of XYZ company in return for the executive’s contact info. After a CTO downloaded the case study, they would be nurtured through an email sequence that eventually offered a free demo of the database company’s services (and start seeing retargeting ads also offering the free demo).

See how much more specific that is? And that’s just one segment—the company also wrote offers and ads for all the other segments in their audience with similar specificity. And by doing that, they increased their lead volume by 775% while lowering their cost per lead by 91% over just a three-month period.

This is the power of getting the right ads in front of the right people.

PPC Mistake #2: Thinking Google Ads doesn’t work

I often hear this: “Google Ads doesn’t work for enterprise tech because our solution is too niche, the leads are unqualified, and the costs per click (CPCs) are insane”.

These “expert” tech marketers would have you write Google Ads off as a lead generation channel and move on.

That’s just silly.

Google is the biggest search engine on the internet. So you know your customers use Google to research their challenges, find solutions, and make vendor decisions. Even enterprise-level tech companies aren’t above Google searches.

The truth is that Google Ads is generally the first and best PPC channel to start with for enterprise tech—for exactly the same reasons these so-called marketing experts say it’s the worst option.

Let’s look closer at why these liabilities are actually assets for you. The search volume is low for your niche.

That’s true: there is less monthly search volume for “MQTT monitoring solution” than for “iPhone charger.” The good news is your solution is enterprise, so you don’t need hundreds or thousands of sales to move the needle. There may be fewer people searching for your services, but the ones who do represent a LOT more interest—and thus much better conversion rates and much higher revenue per sale.

Pro-tip for low search volume: explore non-traditional keywords. One of my favorites is to bid on conferences, eg, “MQTT Conference 2023”. The more specific and unique the keyword, the more interest and engagement people searching for it will have.

The leads are less qualified.

This goes back to Mistake #1. If you aren’t matching your ads and offers to your audience, then yes, the leads you get from Google Ads will be less qualified. And to be fair, since Google Ads is more based on keyword searches, you don’t get to pick and choose who sees your ads there. You’ll probably attract some unqualified leads for that reason as well.

The good news is, there are strategies to drive more qualified leads, specifically on Google Ads. For example:

– Utilize Google’s audience targeting to reach B2B buyers and audience list uploads.

– Use qualifying language in your ad copy, like “Starting at $100,000 Annually” or “#1 Enterprise MQTT Monitoring Solution” so the right buyers will self-identify.

– Use keywords and negatives to sculpt traffic, like negative matching “free” or “cheap” to eliminate prospects without the budget for your enterprise-level services.

CPCs are insanely high.

Here’s the thing about CPCs: a high CPC means some advertisers believe it’s worth it or they wouldn’t be paying it. That means it’s possible to get results that cover even high CPC investments.

Not to mention that just because CPCs CAN be insanely high, doesn’t mean they HAVE to be. There are plenty of ways to lower CPC without losing the effectiveness of your ads. For example, the biggest volume opportunities lie in turning the top-of-funnel research traffic into leads, these are much lower CPC and just require more informational content offers and nurturing. And having a great quality score can dramatically lower your CPC.

So yes, Google Ads might be less straightforward with B2B tech lead generation than e-commerce, for example, but there are still massive opportunities there. Don’t let others tell you it’s not a viable channel! We have driven hundreds of thousands of leads to say otherwise, and you can have the same kinds of results.

Speaking of Google Ads, the next mistake has to do with them as well…

PPC Mistake #3: Using the default settings on Google Ads

Think of Google Ads as a frenemy. They are a fantastic platform to generate leads and sales, but their incentives are only to get advertisers like you to spend more money. This means their default settings are set up to maximize your ad spend, not your results.

Adjusting these settings will help optimize your ad performance, improve your conversion rate, and save your budget. If you do these simple things you will improve your ROI and cost-per-lead in no time.

Avoid Using An Express Account

When creating a Google Ads Account, avoid the express account and smart campaigns as much as possible. Instead, go through the expert mode and build everything independently. See, the express and smart routes basically take your control over your ads and account and give it over to Google, who definitely does not have you saving money as a goal. Don’t be intimidated by the “expert mode” name, it’s actually pretty intuitive to figure out—and the savings will be worth it.


Avoid Using Goals Guidance

Even when using the expert mode, Google Ads will attempt to get you to select a goal guidance. This will push you into an automated setup similar to setting up an express account, leaving you with less control over your campaigns and ad groups. So don’t do that. Instead, either create an account without a campaign or create a campaign without goals guidance.


Don’t Use Maximize Clicks Bidding

Google Ads sets the bidding to Maximize Clicks automatically. This is basically handing over your entire budget to Google and letting them decide how much to use…which is a lot like handing your wallet to a kid in a candy store.

In theory, Maximize Clicks is a good bidding strategy because it does, well, maximize your clicks, but in my experience, you end up getting so few conversions from those clicks that it is not worth it. I suggest using Manual CPC instead, as you will have the ability to fully optimize your ads by setting up each keyword or ad group bid to precisely what you want.

Don’t Use Broad Match Keyword Targeting

By default, Google Ads will have you using Broad Match (also called Pure Match) for your keywords. This gives a lot of control and liberty to Google, and more often than not it will make your keyword targeting too broad to connect with the audience you want to reach. (Remember Mistake #1!)

One of the only times when you’ll want to use this is if you are being extremely aggressive and don’t necessarily care about efficiency. But for targeted B2B ads, that won’t happen often. So instead of Broad Match, go for Exact Match or Phrase Match.

Pro tip: For Broad Match Modifier, you simply put a plus sign in front of the keywords that you want to be in the search, e.g., +marketing +agency. For Exact Match, you put brackets around the keywords you want to rank for precisely as they are, e.g., [marketing agency]. For Phrase Match, you will put quotation marks around the phrase you want to rank for, e.g., “marketing agency.”

Don’t Run Search Ads & Display Ads in the Same Campaign

Google Ads likes to lump together search and display ads. This is a dangerous default setting and one that you will definitely want to turn off right away.

Why? Because these two campaign types behave entirely differently. Combining them is like trying to advertise to two different segments simultaneously, except this time, the segments are ad types rather than audience types. At the very

least, your conversion rates will be different between the two ad types, which alone is enough to make separating them hugely important. Even worse, combining them is deceptive—it will increase your impressions, which seems good, but actually lower your click-through rate.

So make sure you don’t let Google combine the two ad types by default. Make sure your budget and your bid are different for each of them.


Exclude Search Partners

When starting a campaign or ad, you want to control the traffic as much as possible. The default Google Ads settings include their search network. This means you will get traffic from lower-end search engines and search results for e-commerce stores. In some specific circumstances, this could be good, but in general, when first starting a campaign or ad, it’s not helpful.


Disable Mobile Apps from the Google Display Network

If you have a display ad, the network associated with it automatically includes a lot of junk categories and websites that you will want to exclude.

The biggest one to get rid of right away is the mobile app ads. You will get a lot of erroneous clicks from these because the ads pop up on a small screen right under people’s fingers. (I like to call them fat-finger clicks…and I bet you know why!) These ads are going to drive up your cost with very few users actually converting. Don’t bother with them.

Switch Geo-Targeting

By default, Google Ads has you automatically targeting people who are in, searching for, or who show interest in your location. One of these works well for you, but the other two waste your money.

Obviously you want people who are IN your location to see your ads, but people searching for or interested in your location may not actually be in it! You can have people in different countries clicking on your ads simply because they showed interest in your location at some point recently. This drives up your costs without leading to a potential conversion or a client you can even service.

So unless you’re actually running a global services company that can serve customers anywhere, make sure your location options are set to “People in or regularly in my targeted location” for each campaign.

Turn Off Automated Ad Extensions

Last but not least, make sure you turn off Google’s automated extensions and replace them with your own. The automated ones are weird and clunky-looking—they don’t look good or read well and they deplete from the ad instead of adding to it. Plus, you will be losing out on one of your nonautomated extensions if one of the automated ones is being shown.

PPC Mistake #4: Writing mediocre ad copy

Here’s a mic-drop statistic: 2% of the ads on any PPC platform—especially Google and LinkedIn—get 50% of the clicks. And if you expand that using the 80/20 principle, the next 18% of ads get another 30% of clicks. This leaves the remaining 80% of ads to fight over the last measly 20% of clicks.

I bet I can guess which percentage you want to be in…but what makes the difference between a 2% ad and an 80% ad?

The ad copy.

When you write a great ad, you absolutely dominate your competition. It’s shocking how big a difference compelling ad copy makes in a sea of humdrum, boring ads. When you get it right, it’s worth the extra time and thought to craft something that stands out and speaks to your audience.

You don’t even need to be a great copywriter to do this better than most everyone else. Here are my top three copywriting tips:

Make sure your RSA combinations make sense.

Google has moved to Responsive Search Ads (RSAs), which means you’ll put in a bunch of headlines and a bunch of descriptions, then the algorithm serves up what it thinks is the best combination of those. The mistake I see most often is that a lot of combinations look silly and redundant. To combat this, use Pins (consistent headlines and descriptions), and don’t repeat the same lines.

Remember that ads sell the click, not the product.

No one buys from the ad; they buy from the landing page. You must create enough interest and intrigue with the ad to earn the click. Learn what your customers want and their challenges, then put it in the ad.

Here’s an example for a top-of-funnel search “best CRM,” where we know sales reps need to maintain good notes to make it work.

– Bad: Complete CRM Software Solutions | Affordable Plans from $100/mo to Start

– Good: Automate Your CRM in 3 Steps | No More Lazy Sales Rep Notes

Use Better Ad Extensions. Ad extensions make your ad bigger and give you more messages to compel a click. Do not waste this with an account-level “Contact Us” link extension. Take the time to tailor your ad extensions so they are as relevant to the keywords as your ads themselves.

PPC Mistake #5: Writing ads that look and sound like ads

Repeat after me: Tech audiences HATE ads!

While few people can say they love seeing ads, tech audiences are particularly bitter towards being marketed to and can sniff out an ad a mile away. The moment they think your ad wants to sell them something, they’re gone.

So how do you bypass these mental walls to reach and engage tech buyers?

Provide them with value and solutions relevant to their problems BEFORE you ask for anything.

Going straight for the sale in a direct response ad on LinkedIn or in an informational search on Google Ads generally falls flat. It’s akin to asking for marriage on a first date.

Many B2B marketers have figured this out, so they often lead with informational content—webinars, whitepapers, research, etc. That’s a good start. But we can do even better.

If you can make your ad feel more informational and educational, then you’ll get your prospects’ attention long enough actually to speak to them. This positions your brand as an expert, helpful resource and puts you in a place to nurture them after they sign up for the content offer.

When your ads look like insightful articles and content instead of just another blatant ad, the clickthrough rates go way up, the cost-per-clicks come down, and the cost-per-lead comes way down.

Here’s a step-by-step strategy:

1. Determine the burning problems your target audience has. 2. Create a purely informational resource to take them close to solving that problem.

3. Design an ad that appears informational (native) and not like an ad. It should look like a news story.

4. Position the offer as a continuation or expansion of the information you’ve already given them, so that downloading it or signing up for it doesn’t feel like a sale.

5. Put the user on a high-value informational 5-10 email drip over the next 1-2 weeks that offers them top-notch education to solve their issue. This builds trust, establishes your expertise, and primes them to want to hear more from you. Simply end each email with a convenient CTA to book a meeting or get a trial if they want your help to further solve their problem.

6. Activate your sales outreach and direct response marketing campaigns to what is now a warm and brand-familiar audience.

For the 3% of users already aware of their problem and ready to buy, you can just funnel them into a product overview with your “book a meeting” offer. But for the larger, addressable market you have to establish trust, educate them, and provide value before they’re ready to have a conversation about buying. This process gets you there.

PPC Mistake #6: Not using LinkedIn lead form ads

Okay, we’ve talked a lot about Google Ads so far, but I don’t want to leave out LinkedIn Ads either. The good news is, LinkedIn has the most qualified and targeted prospects you can reach online—full stop.

But I will tell you the hard truth…LinkedIn Ads are undeniably expensive. It can cost $10, $20, and sometimes $40+ for a single click.

I largely shied away from LinkedIn Ads a few years ago due to these brutally high costs. The only way to justify the expense was partially as a brand awareness exercise since the cost-per-lead wouldn’t balance out. But now I teach them as one of the best PPC channels out there.

What changed?

Lead form ads.

When LinkedIn launched its lead form ads, it really changed the game. This feature allows users to fill out a lead form directly in the LinkedIn feed—skipping

the step of visiting external landing pages. This lets advertisers drive opt-ins, bookings, and even sales without needing a buyer to click through to a different page.

I can’t overstate how huge this is. Eliminating that one step single-handedly multiplies every possible conversion rate (CVR) you could think of.

Even better, LinkedIn prefers showing these ads to users, since the users stay on LinkedIn longer and can click on even more ads from other advertisers.

So lead form ads are the tip of the spear for any built-out LinkedIn PPC account. Don’t ignore them.

Pro tip: Don’t forget PPC Mistakes #1 and #5 just because you’re on LinkedIn rather than Google Ads. The key to getting your LinkedIn Ads performing begins with segmenting your audiences and then writing ads that DO NOT LOOK LIKE ADS. Users see ads every two scrolls on LinkedIn, so they’re used to tuning them out.

PPC Mistake #7: Not addressing your customer’s most burning questions right away

Okay, so you’ve gotten a prospect to click on one of your ads, and now they’re looking at your landing page. You’ve got this locked down now, right?

Not so fast.

At this point, your prospect is still a visitor, not yet a customer. They’re interested. They’re curious. They may even be excited. But they’re also skeptical. They are trying to figure out if they can trust you and if your solution can truly solve their problem. And you only have so much of their time and attention to answer that question before they bail.

So how do you make sure they know you have what they need?

You need to know what questions they have—and answer those questions before they even have a chance to ask.

Lucky for you, there’s no mind-reading required here. The questions in these prospects’ minds have likely been asked by hundreds or thousands of other customers across the internet. So you just need to do some research to identify those questions. Then you can address them immediately on your landing page, giving your visitors confidence that you can help.

So how do you identify these questions?

Method 1: Reddit Threads

Reddit is where the internet asks and answers geek-level questions about everything. Simply go to Reddit.com and search for groups and conversations related to your niche. See which topics engage most, what specific questions are asked there, and the challenges and goals users are discussing. Those are your questions to answer on your landing page.

Method 2: Google’s People Also Ask

Remember Mistake #2—no one is above Google. Start by searching for a primary keyword in your industry on Google. Scroll down to the “People Also Ask” section and note those questions and the answers provided. Now you just need to provide a more comprehensive answer than the ones already provided. Pro tip: also look for answers from less authoritative sites you think your site could realistically outrank.

Method 3 (Best): Google Search Console

What’s great about Google Search Console is that the data is specific to your website. These are the questions your website is already showing up in searches about, so you just need to concentrate and expand your efforts in answering them to move to the top rankings.

To identify the questions, just search the queries for those including: who, what, where, how, when, and why. Focus on the ones with the most volume and expand the answers on your already-ranking site pages.

If you build your landing page around answering these questions, your visitors will see you as insanely credible and trustworthy—because you already know

what they need. Not only will this make them more excited to get on the phone with you, but it will also address a lot of their objections to purchasing your services before that call even starts.

PPC Mistake #8: Not using a calendar tool

Tell me if this sounds familiar.

You get an email notification, you quickly click to see what it is, and you just got a request for a demo meeting! Of course, you stop everything and immediately reply to the lead to try to schedule the day and time to meet. And then…


Or worse yet, you agree on a day and time to meet but then find yourself awkwardly sitting in that Zoom meeting all by your lonesome—desperately “checking in” to see if it’s still a good time.

I can’t tell you how often this has happened to me—I stopped counting years ago. But I can tell you (and I bet you already know) how frustrating it can be.

So, instead of all that soul-crushing disappointment, let’s try this instead. A calendar booking tool.

If you’re not already using one of these …it’s time. These tools make scheduling meetings a breeze in multiple different ways:

– No extra step to coordinate the meeting time, avoiding the awkward back-and-forth email dance AND the last-minute confirmation rush. – The customer picks the day and time on their terms.

– You both have confidence that the meeting is booked, often due to receiving multiple automatic confirmation notifications via email or SMS.

There are several great calendar booking tools. I recommend Calendly, ChiliPiper, or HubSpot. Get one of them set up, and never worry about setting up a demo or discovery call again.

PPC Mistake #9: Leaving prospects alone after first contact

Speaking of booking meetings, here’s a mistake that’s all too easy to make…that prevents interested and opted-in prospects from booking meetings with you.

Here it is: not following up.

How annoying is it to have users downloading your content, joining webinars, and making their way into your lead database…only never to progress to a meeting or trial?

It’s like getting lots of first dates but never a relationship!

Fortunately, there are two easy techniques to fix this mistake. Better yet, one of them is absolutely FREE, and the other one uses money you were already spending anyway.

For prospects who have opted in: The upsell thank you page.

After a user signs up for a lead generator, instead of just giving them a dead-end “thank you” message, take them straight to a page where they can immediately take the next step.

They have momentum; they already gave you their contact information, so there is a good chance they would book a meeting or take a trial if you simply asked.

And since all you need to do for this is write one more webpage for each ad, it costs you a bit more time. No additional ad spend is required.

For prospects who have clicked through but not yet committed: Segmented remarketing.

If you’re simply not doing remarketing (showing ads to users who have visited or engaged before) then do that right now! We recommend remarketing through LinkedIn Ads and Choozle, though display platforms like Google Display Network, AdRoll, and others also get the job done.

But if you’re already going through that basic activity, then you can really dial it in to see increased CTR and CVR by segmenting your remarketing audiences.

Instead of just remarketing all visitors, focus on those that recently visited, visited more than once, visited a booking page or product page, spent a long time on the website, or downloaded content.

Also, remarket them with a relevant and temperature-appropriate message and offer. For a content downloader, serve them the “book a meeting” offer. For the recent website visitor who viewed your “SEO services” page but didn’t download the resource – serve them an SEO content offer.

These two practices will go miles toward turning interested prospects into booked meetings. And those, my friend, are the 9 most common PPC mistakes.

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Ryder Meehan

Ryder Meehan

Ryder has been on a 16-year journey to master digital marketing from every aspect. His resume includes Razorfish, Slighshot, Fossil, Samsung Mobile and Tatcha before launching Upgrow. Ryder is the acting CEO, heading business development and account services. He has been featured as a digital marketing leader on Forbes, PRNews, Business.com, Workamajig, Databox, Fit Small Biz and other outlets.

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