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Frustrated that you’ve invested money in Google Ads, and have nothing to show for it in sales? 

If you answered yes, then it’s more than likely that you’re wasting money. If you want to know how to avoid this in the future, this article is for you. Google will happily siphon all of your budget into running meaningless ads if you’re not careful, and it nearly always pays to optimize it and your products so you can get maximum ROI.

The good news is that Google Ads, when utilized properly, is like a well-trained dog. You throw the ball, and the dog brings it back. Well-targeted ads that lead to a compelling product offering will reliably bring customers to the table. 

But how do you train the dog? It starts with honesty about your business and your product offering. This post will help you discover if you’re wasting money, and if you are, we’ll give you some ideas for how you can stop. 

Two colleagues with a table full of notes and digital tools discussing if they are wasting money with Google Ads

You’re wasting money if you’re focused on vanity metrics

A vanity metric is exactly what it sounds like—a metric that flatters the person who’s gathering the data. Here are some of the big ones: 

Raw pageviews

It’s fun and exciting to see all the pageviews you’re receiving, but this data only matters if those pageviews are leading to better engagement with your brand or conversions to a sale. If your ads are generating page views and nothing else, you’re wasting money. 


If you have a free offering and it’s getting regular downloads but not offering much but the expansion of your email list, it might be time to reconsider how that product fits into your sales funnel. 

Registered users

Registered users are a good start, but just like raw pageviews, if you’re just accumulating users that don’t make purchases, you might be wasting your ad money. 

Here are the good metrics to look at. Why are they better? Because they’re actionable. 

Active users and any engagement

If you’ve got active users, that means you have folks that want to engage with you and your brand. You can add incentives for these shoppers with coupon codes, special promotions, or just more targeted advertising

Cost per customer

What’s the cost of acquisition for each customer? If this is much higher than you sell your products for, it might be time for adjustment. 


Revenue is the best metric because it unabashedly tells you how your advertising is doing. If ads are raising your revenue by a significant margin, you’re probably headed in the right direction. 

Your ads are misleading your customers

Customers are savvier than ever before, and if you utilize a misleading ad that misrepresents your product, they’re probably not going to buy it, and you’re wasting your money. 

This is not to say that creative advertising doesn’t drive sales. That said, if you’re selling shoes and you’re advertising hats, that’s not going to go very well. An important component of any ad audit is to ensure that you’re picking the right copy to sell your ads.

A woman seriously looking at the computer screen scrutinizing her data and how to use it so she's not wasting money with Google Ads

You’re not focused on the data

This can be one of the more difficult and troubling bits. It’s one thing to misinterpret data, but it’s another entirely to ignore it. Some people will open up their ads account, see that they’ve got a whole mess of impressions, and say “my work here is done.”

Impressions only tell you that people have been seeing your advertisements, not that they’ve been clicking through. On top of that, if you’re not setting smart goals for your conversions, you might end up measuring the wrong things. Only with a close eye on the data, smart goals set up for specific metrics, and honesty with yourself will you start seeing data clearly. 

Ways to reset when you feel like you’re wasting money

Ok! So you’ve determined that maybe you’re not doing the best with your ads. That’s good! You can make sure that you’re getting the most out of the Google Ads platform by shifting your strategy and doing some clever maneuvering. 

Get your keywords right

Part of optimizing your Google Ads experience for your business is optimizing your keywords to the fullest. If you’re not using the right keywords, or worse yet, you’re not trying to optimize them at all, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity for grabbing the right customers. 

First, you want to make sure that you’re grabbing the right negative keywords. Basically, these keywords are ones you can set that tell Google to not show your ads to people who use certain keywords. 

For instance, if you’re selling bespoke, premium hats you’ll want to eliminate the word “free hats” or “free hat try-on” from your possible search terms, as those people are probably not looking for your hats. 

Next, use long-tail keywords. When you’re looking through your favorite keyword tool, you’re much more likely to have success by targeting search terms that are longer and more specific. 

In this example, if you’re entering the crowded hat-selling marketplace with your premium hats, you’re probably going to have more success targeting people who search “hats with feathers in them” or “premium felted bowler hats” than you will with just “hats.” It’ll also likely make your ad spend cheaper too!

A marketing professional looks at her screen in this article from Selz digital tools to grow your business, including advertising services

Adjust and support your offering

If you’re getting lots of relevant traffic sent to your store by Google Ads, but you can’t seem to make the sale, it might be time to take a step back and consider your product. 

What are you offering to your customers, and do your other marketing and promotional materials support that offering in the best way possible?

This might be something as simple as a price adjustment to generate a bit more appeal. It might require an audit of all of your supporting materials. 

Remember that Google Ads is a paid ad platform, and it does its job effectively. If you’re bringing customers in with promises of a revolutionary new product that is going to enhance their lives, and then they can’t see that with your website, product photos, case studies, and testimonials, they’re likely going to go somewhere else.

Google Ads is part of a successful marketing ecosystem, not the sole component. 

Landing pages

Grouping your customers and ad spend blocks around specific landing pages is one of the most efficient and money-saving options. 

Consider creating landing pages in a specialized platform so you can target and track which ads are driving the most traffic to which landing pages, which can help you adjust your product offering as well. Like many of the other tips here, more specific information is always the most helpful thing you can gather, and landing pages can be a big part of that. 

A man uses data to support his plans to a colleague during a presentation for this article "Are you wasting money with Google Ads?"

Invest in data

Remember, no matter how successfully your ad campaign is running, follow-up is the most essential aspect of any marketing endeavor. You have to monitor the ads of your competitors, see what they’re doing, and how you can bob and weave around them. 

Investing in data means building smart ad campaigns that you can adjust and assess over time. There is always more to do–geographic targeting, ad groups, customer analysis. 

As a small or medium business owner, the reward for good work is more work. When you stop wasting money on ads that aren’t performing, you’ll make sales and your growth will skyrocket. Good luck!

About the author

Thomas Wells

Thomas Wells is a Content Marketing Lead at Selz, an ecommerce platform for businesses of all sizes. You can learn more about ecommerce, as well as how to get started with your own ecommerce business at