The 10 Most Expensive Media Buying Mistakes And How To Avoid Them. Chances Are No. 1 Has You Losing Money Right Now

I see a lot of business owners struggle with paid traffic. If you’re one of them, you’ll find this useful: here are the most common mistakes you can make when managing media buying campaigns, based on about $500 million dollars worth of ad spend.

#10 You Come Up With “Something” And Expect It To Work Without The Right Angle

Media buying is a game of intricacies. If you’ve seen my Media Buying Methodology Mindmap you know there are a lot of moving parts that can throw off your results by hundreds of percentage points. It’s a lot of work to be able to even tell where exactly you’re failing.

Some of the moving parts include targeting, placements, ad copy, landing page, your offer, your sales funnel, and depending on the actual funnel a lot of other marketing pieces as well.

When ONE of the moving parts is off… you can get COMPLETELY different results. A difference of hundreds of percentage points.

For a silly example… you might have the perfect ad copy, landing page, offer, fulfillment, presell sequence, emails, opt-in giveaway and everything else for your information product that teaches people how to, let’s say, meditate.

But if you start running that ad on a real estate website, then you’re not likely to do very well. It’s just the case of targeting the wrong people.

Another, more common mistake is when you sell life insurance for example. Let’s say you think real hard and then put it on websites related to insurance, and real estate. You also make a big effort with the copy angle: “Get good insurance offers here!”.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but you’ll need to be a little more original than that.

First off… the ad is boring. Second… You didn’t come up with any targeting at all. You just put it out there.

Your campaign probably won’t do well unless you also put “win a one month vacation in a luxury resort in the Caribbean by entering this draw” on the banner.

A good example of how to do this would be to research the market and figure out who might be interested in buying insurance. It’s probably going to be people with something to lose, right? So how about people who just got a new baby for example? Why don’t you try advertising your insurance on baby sites? Or sites that sell home security systems?

Sales angles like this are the heart and soul of any good campaign – and require a fair bit of experience to come up with!

#9 Campaigns shut down too early

Another common mistake is spending $100 and then shutting the campaign down because “it didn’t get results”.

Don’t get scared. It’s called “buying data”. It’s the way it works. You have to test a bunch of different channels, traffic sources, ads, landing pages, and sales angles before you can come to any conclusion about whether the campaign can be a success or not.

Edit: So many of you have been asking for a general pointer in terms of what’s a reasonable minimum budget to start with. This is very subjective, but I’ll include some of our own minimum benchmarks here that we apply to small businesses:

My Adops Team will expect a minimum of 0.05% CTR after 10,000 impressions on a banner ad, will test at least 8-10 ads, and will spend at least $3000 before drawing any conclusion about how to proceed with the campaign.

We also believe in starting slow. Even if you allocate a $100k / month budget to the campaign, we’ll start at $20 / day, or $100 / day max. The AI needs some time to learn, and we prefer to let data accumulate slowly instead of just throwing money out there and seeing what sticks.

#8 No Customer Behaviour Recordings, Heatmaps, Or Proper Split Testing

Split tests are very easy to do in case of your ads, but a little more challenging on landing pages. What happens after the click can make or break your campaign!

In terms of customer behavior recordings and heatmaps — it’s not enough to just have the right technology to do the tracking for you… You’ll also need to go back and analyze what your visitors are doing, and figure out where they get stuck during the process you want them to go through!

Conversion Rate Optimisation is actually so challenging that there’s a whole profession around it.

As far as technology is concerned, there are very expensive and pretty inexpensive ways of doing this right.

#7 Graphic Artist Creates Ad Instead Of Campaign Manager

A lot of organizations are confusing the roles of graphic artist, copywriter and media buying professional.

I’ve had this debate with many agency owners, because my personal opinion remains the following: having someone who never sold anything using media buying create “beautiful” ads for you that are “consistent with your brand” is the rough equivalent of having a fancy tailor design clothes for your sales person, with a professional writer scripting every word out of their mouth before they say anything, and then sending them out on the street to sell. It’s probably not going to work at first, is it?

You see, I really like professional graphic art. I do. However there’s a place for it, and media buying campaigns are not it. And the same goes for professional sales copy.

If you want to scale, it is my firm belief that you need to combine the roles of the campaign manager and the person who writes the sales copy and creates the graphic art. This is especially true on Facebook, but I believe it’s a good practice to do it in the case of all other types of campaigns as well.

The person who manages your campaign should ideally be the same person testing new and new angles in terms of copy and images on the ads they are running. Because of this, the whole process just includes being able to fail super fast, and try again… Which obviously requires a certain amount of flexibility.

So for this reason in most of the organizations I set up, I will either write the ad copy and come up with angles myself or teach the campaign manager how to do it. Assuming they’re not seasoned media buyers, in which case this is something they’ll already know how to do.

For the design job itself, there is no need for fancy software here. There are excellent solutions including web-based image editors that offer a free solution that allows your campaign manager to get creative.

#6 Tracking & Retargeting Pixels Not Set Up Correctly

This is a biggie, and believe it or not it still happens that I find accounts with $10-$20k ad spend / month and no proper tracking, or no proper retargeting campaigns set up. A lot of the “organic traffic” guys are making this mistake – business goes well anyway, they hardly notice the difference, so why track? Why do retargeting?

It’s simple: if you’re not doing it, you’re just leaving a massive amount of money on the table.

Your biggest potential to increase your returns is to implement tracking & set up retargeting pixels and your audiences correctly. It’s easy and inexpensive.

#5 You’re Not Testing Enough Ads And Targeting Angles… Or Are Overtesting Things That Don’t Have Enough Impact To Be Worth Your Time!

In this article on Implementing, Testing & Proving A Winning Marketing Strategy, I have shared a story where I got into an awkward situation with a client because of my “professional arrogance”.

After having worked with gurus like Brian Tracy and Robert G. Allen and having mentored several copywriters throughout the years, I thought I was the end all be all in copywriting. Big mistake. It turns out – writing copy for media buying campaigns is a different skill set than writing copy for sales pages and other materials.

It’s almost like direct sales. You have to fail and fail again until you get your pitch right and your ad gets the right response from the specific audience that you’re targeting. Then you’ve got to repeat the process with your landing pages.

Make sure you’re not over-testing though! More details in the article.

#4 You’re Not Testing Enough Traffic Sources

A few years ago I’ve heard a bunch of people say goods can’t be sold on Facebook because it’s a social network, people are simply not there to buy stuff.

Nothing could be further from the truth… But it’s not easy to figure out how to really do it. It requires a lot of testing, pre-selling, and optimization.

This illustrates an important point, though: what works on AdWords Search campaigns will not work on Facebook when just copied over 1:1. It may, however, work on Display, if the ad was good and generic enough.

It’s always worth to test different traffic sources with different angles, ad copy and pre-sell funnels. Not doing it will not only have you leaving money on the table but might also give you false ideas about the minimum cost of acquisition and a lot of other important business indicators.

#3 Your Ad Is Inconsistent With Your Landing Page

The ad needs to have the same fonts, pictures, visual elements, similar copy style and in general needs to feel very consistent with the page displayed after the click. If this is not done correctly, you will lose your visitors and your conversion rate will suffer.

#2 Not following Standard Operating Procedures on Campaign Management and Optimization

A lot of times because of the lack of resources, there is no proper Campaign Management SOP in place, which means

  1. Research is not necessarily done with appropriate care,
  2. Angles and creatives are obvious, weak and are not likely to work,
  3. Technical implementation is incorrect (more on this later),
  4. Campaign setup is not granular and controlled enough,
  5. Optimization is not performed often enough or is performed incorrectly.

To get an idea about what these processes involve, click here to download our campaign management mindmaps and process maps.


Number #1… This one of the most common and biggest mistakes.

Let’s think it over in simple business terms. Let’s say you have an agreement with your agency: they charge you 5% of your ad spend. That means, if you give them $5000, they will be making $250 on it.

Now consider this: What kind of resources do you think any company is able to dedicate to you for $250?

Seriously, just think it over. You’re trusting monkeys with bananas here. It’s just a bad choice, and in terms of ad spend, $5000 is not a lot of money but it’s a perfectly valid test budget. Do you want to trust someone who makes $250 with $5000 of your own money? It just doesn’t make sense. At least to me it doesn’t.

Also here’s another thing about that:

The ad spend model is broken because it also generates a very difficult situation that only very few people talk about!

Let me explain.

Sometimes you have a situation where you have to take a $100,000 / month account over.

You log in, you audit the account and it turns out that 70% of the budget is just wasted.

It turns out the client kept spending because they were getting a good return on their investment even with this wastage. Happens more often than you think.

However, with a few simple clicks, you would be able to optimize and give your client a much higher return on their investment.

And if you’d do that, your fee would be cut by 70% immediately!

Now that is as bad of a conflict of interest as it gets.

A more viable business model I’ve seen (that we also apply), is a percentage of sales, and/or a CPA model combined with a monthly management fee and a setup fee.

+1 … You’re not still believing the CPC lie, are you?’s Media Buying Team sells 2 million plane tickets every year using wholesale traffic systems that are not usually available to retail advertisers due to prohibitive monthly minimum ad spend requirements.

If you have marketing that works, we can send you a serious amount of clicks that convert. Click here and let’s talk!

Or, if you’re interested in becoming a Professional Media Buying Campaign Manager or a Professional Product Launch Manager, please check out our personal one-on-one mentoring programs at Academy!



As an established expert in many genres of online direct response marketing, Ben has worked as a strategic consultant, copy chief, PPC campaign manager and Product Launch Manager for some high profile direct response clients in 21 different countries.

Having worked on campaigns with New York Times bestselling author Robert G. Allen, success expert Brian Tracy, and Chicken Soup of the Soul creator Jack Canfield, Ben personally wrote Standard Operating Procedures on campaign management and media buying based on $500 million worth of advertising spend.

He became a marketer after managing a private intelligence firm for over a decade and being Director of Security at LogMeIn, Inc. in his previous career. Ben’s strengths are lead generation, PPC consulting, marketing audits, sales funnels, strategic planning, product launch management and deal-making.