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Avoiding Broken Links In AdWords

Posted by: In: Google Ads, PPC 05 Jan 2015 Comments: 0 Tags: , ,

A seemingly small mistake by one person in your organisation can instantly divert your ad spend and visitors off a digital cliff to the dreaded page known as the 404.

Don’t think you’re making that mistake? Think again –

An estimated 12% of all the ads running on Google will result in a broken link when clicked.

PPC Ads that land on a broken link or dead page with a 404 error are more than simply annoying:

  • They waste your advertising budget and lose you potential business.
  • They damage your reputation as a business and make you look disorganised.
  • Most of those potential visitors/customers will be so annoyed they’ll never return.

And most annoying of all?

That money you just spent sending a potential client to your dead 404 page has bounced them back to the search results and straight into the welcoming arms of your competitor.

Remember: You only get one chance at a good impression!

Costly mistakes

After more than a decade of running PPC ad campaigns for clients, we’ve seen companies of all sizes – from small sole traders to blue chip – making the same broken link mistake. While 12% may well be an average, we’ve seen accounts with up to 25% of all their ads going to the cul-de-sac that is the 404 page.

It’s inevitable that at some point a URL for your ad won’t work. It doesn’t matter how slick your system, or how capable your account manager, with a raft of changes being made on a daily basis mistakes creep in, either when maintaining or launching a new website.

If you’re making the same mistakes over again, it’s costing your business money and that’s a crazy situation to find yourself in. Amazingly, this is exactly what companies all around the world are doing day in, day out with their Pay Per Click (PPC) and AdWords budgets.

The trick is to identify the mistake, learn from the experience, and definitely don’t make it again!

Finding and fixing broken links

Here’s a guide to identifying broken links in your campaigns, and fixing them.

1. Display 404 errors

You can test if your site correctly shows a 404 error for a broken link by using a server header checking tool.

Input http://www.[]/fakepage/ and the tool will return a set of results which will include the server response. You’ll see something along the lines of:


This means your server is correctly displaying 404 errors on any URLs which don’t exist. If you’re not getting this code returned, you’ll need to speak with your hosts to configure the server correctly.

It’s a good idea to create a custom 404 page for your website informing visitors there’s a problem and then offering a solution so they don’t bounce straight off your site.

2. List your AdWords ad targets

Login to your AdWords account and download the AdWords Editor, a free application from Google for managing large accounts efficiently.

Now select a campaign or the whole account and export it as a CSV.

From here you can get a list of your ad copy destination URLs. Each cell with have a unique ad with a unique target. Multiple ads with the same target will be duplicates and can be left alone.

3. Convert URLs to hyperlinks

Now you’ve a list of plaintext URLs, they need to be converted into working hyperlinks. Follow this step-by-step guide and then save the document as an htm or html file.

4. Scan all your links

To do this stage you’ll need to use a program called Xenu Link Sleuth which is a free tool that is very simple. Once you’ve downloaded the program, run it, click file, click Check URL and then load you htm file with all your ad destination URLs. Check the ‘check external links’ button to ensure all links are covered and then set to the program to start scanning.

When it’s done (which may take some time depending on the size of your document), Xenu will provide a colour-coded list of scanned URLs. The ones in red will have the status ‘not found’ so copy them down for the next stage as they are pages which no longer exist and are displaying a 404 error.

5. Return to AdWords

Now that you have your broken links, you can return to your campaign account in Google AdWords and identify any ads which point to a known 404 error URL. Either update these with a valid link or create a new landing page for each one. Save your campaign and then be happy in the knowledge that you’re not wasting any more money or losing potential clients.

An alternative solution

Don’t fancy doing this yourself? Get in touch and our team of Google Certified Professionals can get your campaigns back on track.

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