10 Easy Steps To Minimise Waste In Google AdWords

Google AdWords exclusions will help you to minimise waste in your campaigns so that you only spend money on areas of your campaign that convert. I have come across many campaign money wasters which I will share with you below. Feel free to add your own money wasters to my list in the comments section.

#10 - Handle the Bid Adjustments Yourself

Google is quite happy spending your money any way it pleases to “enhance” your campaign, however, we must always keep in mind that Google wants to make as much $ as possible.

By switching to “Manual Bid Adjustments”  you do a couple of things:



  1. You take control of your spend.
  2. You make changes on a day to day basis and keep in tune with your account, so when your client asks you a budget/bid related question you can easily answer.
  3. It creates a “Change History” report for that keyword bid changed. Clients can feel at ease when the AdWords management change history logs are very active. They now have a record that you are actively working on their account.

If you have conversion tracking running, then another option is to Enable Enhanced CPC (ECPC). This gives Google control over your keyword bids around conversion metrics (increase your bid for keywords that convert and decrease your bid on keywords that have converted poorly in the past). It also allows you to continue to manage the non-converting bids as per usual.

#9 - Make Use Of Ad Scheduling

There are really two main types of ad scheduling within Google AdWords:

  1. Ad Scheduling at a Campaign Level. This allows you to set exactly what time of day and day of week you wish to run your ads. If a campaign is brand new, I do not create a schedule here as I need to gain data before making any decisions. This option is available when setting up a campaign. You can find it in the settings tab of the campaign you wish to change.
    Ad Scheduling In Google AdWords
  2. Ad scheduling within Ad Extensions – All ad extensions can be scheduled. The biggest money wasting extension is the “Call Extension”. If your business has no-one to answer calls late at night then DO NOT allow your call extension to run outside of your office hours. This option can be found under the Ad Extensions tab.
    Call Extensions Location In AdWordsCall Extensions Ad Schedule

#8 - Define Your Target Location

There is no point in creating an international campaign if you only offer services to a select location. The more locations you add to your campaign the more competition you create. Ads convert better when targeting locations you actually offer services in. You may have different products available to different locations?… if this is the case then create a campaign for each location. You can set your location at a campaign level.


Location Setting In AdWords

Multiple location bid adjustments – by navigating to the settings > locations tab you can even adjust your location bids according to multiple locations you defined while setting up your campaign. So if you defined Johannesburg, Durban & Cape Town in your location settings you can now define bid adjustments for each location:

Location Bid Adjustments

Location Bid Adjustments AdWords

#7 - Don't Use Search Network With Display Select

For those starting out with Google AdWords this does seem like the easiest set it and forget it option. Many people say “AdWords did not work for me”  and usually I find that they had this option selected.

AdWords With Display Select

The problem with putting all you eggs into one basket is that you cannot easily work out where your campaign went wrong. By splitting up your campaigns into search only and display only networks you can now adjust budget, location and language according  to each campaigns target criteria. Yes, you do reach the most customers using search network with display select, however, those visitors are usually of very poor quality because you have not really defined a target.

#6 - Have A Goal Or Conversion In Mind

In most cases you are running your Google AdWords campaign for one of the following reasons:

  • create brand awareness
  • to promote products or services
  • to action an event (like watching a youtube video)

It is important to know what your goals are. If you are spending more money than you are making then you may not find any value in your campaign.

Without conversion tracking there is no point in running a campaign

There are Macro Conversions and Micro Conversions that exist within any website:

Macro Conversions Examples

  • Purchasing a product or service.
  • Filling in a key form (contact form or lead form)
  • Booking a test drive or restaurant booking.

Micro Conversions Examples

  • Downloading a PDF.
  • Watching a video.
  • Signing up for a newsletter.
  • Pushing a call to action button

Once you have established a goal you will need to set up a conversion within Google AdWords. View the video below with detailed instructions on how to set up conversion tracking.

#5 - Limit The Use Of Broad Match Keywords

When setting up a new campaign it is acceptable to use broad match keywords, however, once your campaign has a decent amount of stats it is advised to start using Phrase Match and Exact Match keywords as they are more targeted and minimise waste.

Broad Match Keywords: These keywords spend the most money as they target similar phrases and variations to the target keyword. So if your target keyword is baby car seats  then you may see keywords such as child car seats, seats for kids or even baby transportation.

Phrase Match Keywords A more defined target that minimises waste and increases keyword relevancy by targeting phrases that match your target search phrase. So if your target keyword is marketing services”  then you may see keywords such as johannesburg marketing services or great marketing services and will not see words like marketing advice and services

[Exact Match Keywords] Usually the best option for highly targeted traffic only. By using exact match you only allow Google to enter you into the auction if your target keyword [marketing expert]   is typed in exactly as you have requested. If one was to query marketing expert services   or market expert   your ad would not show.

#4 - Add Negative Keywords

Negative keywords can be added at both campaign level and ad group level. Google AdWords even allows you to create negative keyword lists that you can add to the shared library and share across multiple campaigns.

A negative keywords tells Google to ignore keywords you add to a negative keyword list so that you can stop wasting money on reviews, how-to’s and other topics that usually do not convert.

Below you will find a PDF of approximately 300 negative keywords I consider money wasters. Be sure to check the list before using it as some industries may need some of the keywords listed. The list was first compiled by +Mitch Webb and then adjusted by +Imran Sq and then I have built it up over a couple of years.

300 Negative Keyword List For Google AdWords


#3 - Use Campaign Placement Exclusions

Mobile Apps run Google Adsense ads on gaming apps that are usually used by toddlers and young children that may accidentally click on your ad. It is advised to add adsenseformobileapps.com as a negative campaign placement. This unfortunate method of advertising is well known by Adsense users to generate revenue from these click mistakes.

To exclude mobile app advertising from running you can perform the following method as well as the method used in step #2.

Mobile App Exclusion In Google AdWords


You can find Campaign Placement Exclusions under the display network > placements tabs.

Simply add adsenseformobileapps.com under Campaign Placement Exclusions.

Campaign Placement ExclusionsThis will now exclude most of the Mobile app advertisements that use Adsense. This however will not exclude all mobile app advertising. I suggest you also implement step #2 to completely remove all app advertisers.

#2 - Use Site Category Options To Remove In-Game And Below The Fold Ads

Site category options allow you to exclude the biggest money wasting categories in the display network. The three biggest culprits are mentioned below. To find this exclusion you can navigate to display network > placements tab. You will find site category options at the bottom of the page.


Site Category Options to Exclude

In-game: Excludes your ads from showing while users are playing games (usually on a tablet).

Gambling: These sites usually mislead users into clicking ads. This creates a bad user experience resulting in poor ad performance.

Below-the-fold: This option is often overlooked. By removing this option your display ads will no longer show below the scroll line where they might not be clicked on or even seen at all.

This option is only available on the display network!

#1 - Improve Quality Score

Once you have mastered “Quality Score” you have mastered the best money saving technique I can give you. Quality score plays a huge role in the Ad Rank Formula:

Ad Rank = f {Max CPC, Quality Score, Ad Format}

Max CPC: The amount you are willing to pay for a click.
Quality Score: Ad Relevance, Landing Page Relevance and CTR
Ad Format: Utilising as many ad extensions as you can to enhance your ads (call extensions etc)

Simply put, if your ads are relevant to your landing page and the keyword you are targeting then Google will give you a good quality score. If you quality score is better than your competitors then you will pay less than your competitor. In some cases your cost per click in ad position number 1 may be lower than competitors in position number 2 or 3.

By improving quality score, you improve your overall account quality so that keywords you add later may start with a better quality score and lower cost-per-click due to your good quality history.


  1. RainerBS August 1, 2014 Reply

    Thanks Bryan

    I’ve given this to my trainees as it’s a very good starting point.
    I have also built up a “General Negatives” list over time which now spans over 41 industries after following +Imran Sq’s advice.

    That list truly is a lifesaver!

    Some other great lists to have are “Advert CTA text” and “Captivating Adjectives” to name but a few.

  2. Martin Jay August 23, 2018 Reply

    Thank you Bryan.

    To someone like me, that is only just learning Google Ads this helps a lot!
    Being able to read about the possible mistakes that I could have potentially made in the future sure puts my mind at ease. The fact that I can use this as a way to save some $ but still reach the same campaign goals that were set sound like a must!

  3. thaakirah lakay July 30, 2019 Reply

    Hi Bryan, your work is amazing. Thanks for these awesome tips.

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