With Google ditching the AdWords name and rebranding its advertising platform as Google Ads, this year marks a new era for the search giant. 2018 has been a big year for Google advertising and this rebranding follows the biggest redesign of AdWords Google Ads in its history.
This is going to cause a certain amount of confusion with advertisers who are still getting to grips with PPC so we’re publishing an updates guide to advertising with Google.
In this guide, we’re going to be covering the following:
- What exactly is Google Ads?
- How does google Ads Work?
- Advertising on the Search Network
- Creating Keyword lists
- Creating effective ads
- Designing landing pages that convert
- Getting to grips with bidding
- Ad Rank and Quality Score
- How does the Google Ads auction work?
- Google Ads targeting
- Optimising your campaigns for better performance
That really should cover everything you need to know about Google Ads as a new and intermediate user. There’s quite a lot to cover here, though – so let’s get on with it!
What exactly is Google Ads?
Google Ads is an advertising network developed by Google that delivers ads to users across Google Search and selected other sites. Google Ads was formerly known as AdWords until the search giant decided to rebrand the entire platform in July 2018 and simplify its structure.
When users search for something with commercial intent, Google delivers ads that are relevant to their needs. Commercial intent is important to understand because a query like “flights to the Maldives” suggests someone is interested in booking flights to the islands but a simple search for “the Maldives” demonstrates no commercial intent, which is why no ads appear.
Essentially, when Google thinks a search could lead to a purchase of some kind, it shows ads to users. These ads display at the top of search results with up to four ads showing in the top pack, above the organic listings. Ads can also appear at the bottom of results pages with up to three ads showing below organic results.
This is known as the Search Network, where ads are triggered by the keywords people type into Google Search. However, Google also runs ads on the Display Network where visual ads show on third-party sites around the web.
How does Google Ads work?
Google Ads is a pay-per-click advertising model which means you pay every time a user clicks on one of your ads instead of every time someone sees them. So it costs you nothing for people to see your ads but you’re essentially paying for the traffic they direct to your site.
This is true for ads that run across both the Search and Display networks although they operate in very different ways.
Ads on the Search Network
Advertising on the Search Network revolves entirely around keywords, which you need to bid on for your ads to show. When a user types a query with commercial intent, an auction is triggered and Google decides how many ads to show on each page of results, as well as the order to show them in.
How much you bid largely determines how high your ads will appear (if at all) but there are various other factors at play, which we’ll discuss in more detail later. For now, just remember that it’s not always a case of the highest bidder wins.
Ads on the Display Network
Ads on the Display Network don’t show on Google results pages and keywords don’t play a role here. Instead, these ads show on more than two million websites around the world, which means you can pay for users to see your ads as they browse the web.
Instead of targeting keywords, you target the websites you want your Display ads to show on and bid once again, accordingly. While users are actively searching for something when they type queries into Google, they’re not in shopping mode when they see Display ads around the web – and this is an important distinction you’ll need to remember.
These two networks play very different roles in your advertising strategy so we’re going to look at them both in more detail. First, let’s cover the key things you need to know about advertising on the search network.
Advertising on the Search Network
To run a successful Google Ads campaign on the Search Network, you’re going to need a solid understanding of the following:
- Campaign and ad group structure
- Keywords and match types
- Search intent (what users want)
- Creating effective ads
- Metrics and KPIs
- Optimising performance
- The consumer journey
Campaign and ad group structure
Account structure is the first thing you need to get your head around with Google Ads – particularly how campaigns and ad groups work. Here’s a very stylish graphic from Google to help you visualise the structure of your Google Ads account:
Source: Inside AdWords
With Google Ads you’re going to create a number of campaigns for specific advertising objectives. Each campaign can contain multiple ad groups, which is where you define your keywords and create ads for them. Each ad group is going to have one list of keywords but you can create as many ads as you want in a single ad group.
Essentially, you’re going to create a new campaign for every advertising goal and a new ad group for every list of keywords you want to target within that campaign.
Keywords and match types
Search ads all revolve around the queries users type into Google and choosing the right keywords to target is imperative. Sadly, there’s more to it than simply picking a few keywords you think will bring the customers in and you’ll want to conduct extensive keywords research and refine your lists over time.
First, there are a few different types of keywords you should know about:
- Keywords: Any keyword you target in Google Ads.
- Long-tail keywords: Longer keywords that tend to match entire search queries and highly specific user needs.
- Negative keywords: Keywords you specifically want your ads not to show for.
For example, if you’re selling garden furniture in Manchester and Leeds, some of your keywords might look like this:
- Garden furniture Manchester
- Garden furniture Leeds
- Garden chairs Manchester
- Metal garden tables
- All weather garden furniture
These are all examples of fairly generic keywords, which typically generate the highest volume of traffic but they’re also more competitive and expensive. In many cases, the traffic you’ll generate from these keywords will have a weaker purchase intent – not always, but this is something to keep in mind.
On the other hand, long-tail keywords look more like this:
- Garden furniture that doesn’t rust in the winter
- Garden dining furniture for small gardens
- What is the best outdoor furniture for wet climates?
- Garden design ideas that make a small garden look bigger
Instead of simply matching the product or service type people are looking for, these keywords target specific user needs. Here we have people who spear to own garden furniture that’s struggled to cope with annual weather changes and others who are concerned about furniture taking up too much space in their relatively small garden.
Long-tail keywords like these tend to generate much smaller volumes of traffic but these are visitors who are more likely to buy. These keywords will also be less competitive and less expensive than more generic terms that every brand in your industry is bidding on.
Your goal is to find the right balance between these keyword types to generate higher volumes of traffic with enough purchase intent to be valuable.
You’ll also want to become familiar with something called keyword match types in Google Ads. These are settings that control how strictly Google matches your chosen keywords to user search queries. We’re not going to go into details now but you can find out more about keywords match types in our extensive match type guide.
Search intent (what users want)
Search intent (or user intent) is possibly the most important factor in your Google Ads strategy. This determines which keywords you should target, the message you create in your ads, how you target users and just about everything else you do in digital marketing.
It all comes down to what users want and positioning yourself as the brand that can provide it.
The easiest way to think about search intent from an advertising perspective is in terms of purchase potential. Some queries show a relatively weak purchase intent while others indicate people have a much stronger desire to make the purchase. For example:
- “Nike shoes” could be typed in by someone looking to buy shoes or a student simply researching the company.
- “Buy Nike shoes” suggests someone is specifically interested in buying Nike shoes.
- “Nike Air Max 97 JDI size 10” is probably typed by someone looking to buy this specific shoe in their size.
The keyword “Nike shoes” has a broad range of potential user intents. People typing this into Google could be looking to buy a new pair of shoes but they could also be looking for an image of the brand’s logo for a collage, checking when the company was first established or casually looking at the latest range available while they have a few spare moments at work.
As soon as someone includes “buy” in their search query, the intent becomes pretty obvious but the purchase intent is generally much higher when they type in product or service specifics, such as the final example above.
Why is this important? Well, understanding user intent means you’re able to create more convincing ads that meet their needs. It also helps you decide which campaigns to allocate the most budget and assess which leads are most valuable to you.
It also helps you avoid paying for clicks from people who are never going to buy from you.
Creating effective ads
The role of your ads is to compel people to click through to your website. To pull this off, your ads need to do two things: first, they need to be seen by the right audience at the right moment and then they need to get that all-important click.
Getting your ads seen requires a mix of choosing the right keywords, bidding enough for your ads to show and targeting the right audience.
In terms of compelling people to click, you need to create ads that convince users you have what they’re looking for. To do this, you’ll have to do the following:
Identify the right keywords and user intent
Identifying the right keywords isn’t just about getting your ads seen, it’s about knowing what message to make the focus on your ads. When types a query into Google, they’re not simply telling you what product or service they’re looking for. Whether they know it or not, they’re also telling how ready they are to buy, what’s holding them back from making the purchase and all kinds of other things.
The better you are at identifying the right keywords and understanding the user intent behind them, the more effectively you’ll pinpoint the key selling point that’ll get them clicking.
For example, let’s compare two of the keywords we looked at earlier:
- Garden furniture Manchester
- Garden dining furniture for small gardens
The first of those keywords is very generic but there’s still a good deal of information you can take from it to create an ad that’s more compelling than “high quality garden furniture”. All we’ve really to work with, in this case, is the localised search for a product in Manchester but there are various things you can do with this:
- Specify the location in your ad copy
- Offer free delivery for customers in Manchester
- Offer a reserve and pick up in store option
- Specify that you’ve got items in stock for people to visit in store
- Tell users to call for more advice on which products are best for them
When someone types in a location, it suggests they want to keep delivery costs to a minimum or have the chance to see products in-store before buying. So make it clear that you’re the easiest business to buy from in the local area by identifying the concerns that come with buying large products in the local area – eg: not being home when an item is delivered.
In the case of “Garden dining furniture for small gardens” you have a lot more to work with. Now the emphasis is on having a small garden and you can create ad messages to address this concern. Now you can craft messages about furniture that maximises space, creates the illusion of space or products that can be folded up or stacked when people need more space.
Here, “small gardens” tells you that limited space is a pain point for this audience and addressing pain points head-on is always a good way to maximise clicks.
Create your ad copy
Once you know what users really want, you need to create ad copy that captures their desires in a compelling way. This might sound simple but anyone with experience in advertising will understand this is one of the biggest challenges you face in creating effective ads.
Here’s what you need to do:
- Use imperatives: Literally tell users what they’re going to do with commanding language – “buy now”, “book your ticket”, “stop wasting money”, “Get your copy now”, etc.
- Highlight the benefits: Buying your product/service isn’t a benefit but telling people to “save money”, “save time”, “boost sales” or “feel peace of mind” tells people what they’re really going to gain from doing business with you.
- Use power words: Power words such as “boost”, “save”, “free”, “best”, “trusted”, etc. to give your message more bite.
- Add incentive: Make it difficult for people to resist your offer by creating a sense of urgency or adding other kinds of incentive to click now.
- Match user intent: Again, this is what it all comes down to – no matter which ad copy techniques you use, make sure you match the user intent for each query.
Use ad extensions to enhance your copy
Google Ads has two kinds of ad extensions that can make your ads bigger, better and more compelling to users. First, you have automatic ad extensions that Google generates on your behalf and then you have manual extensions that you create yourself.
Whichever ad extensions you decide to use it’s important to remember that they won’t always show in your ads. Only Google determines which ad extensions ultimately show and which ads they show for (your or your rivals). So make sure the most important parts of your ad message are in the main copy.
Ad extensions are there to enhance your ad copy, not to replace it.
Here are the ad extensions currently available in Google Ads:
- Call extensions: Places a call button on your ad for people to click and call your business over the phone.
- Dynamic callout extensions: Show relevant details about your business to compel clicks – eg: “25 years of experience” or “award-winning agency”.
- Dynamic sitelink extensions: Place links in your ad for specific pages on your website.
- Dynamic structured snippet extensions: Place pieces of additional descriptive text on your ad – eg: listing services you provide, product categories, etc.
- Location extensions: Show your address or distance of your business from users and allow them to click for more location details about your location.
- Message extensions: Allow users to send a text message directly to a business mobile number.
- Seller ratings extensions: Show a star rating out of 5 for the quality of your service, based on Google and third-party reviews.
- Affiliate location extensions: Help users to find retail stores that sell your product.
- App extensions: Encourages people to download your mobile app.
- Call extensions:
- Callout extensions: Places a call button on your ad for people to click and call your business over the phone.
- Location extensions: Show your address or distance of your business from users and allow them to click for more location details about your location.
- Message extensions: Allow users to send a text message directly to a business mobile number.
- Price extensions: Showcase your services or product categories along with prices, allowing users to browse directly from your ad.
- Sitelink extensions: Place links in your ad for specific pages on your website.
- Structured snippet extensions: Place pieces of additional descriptive text on your ad – eg: listing services you provide, product categories, etc.
There are too many ad extensions for us to cover in detail here but, for now, just remember that these are a vital tool for maximising click-though rates. When you’re ready for more info on each ad extension and when to use them, check out our complete guide to Google Ads ad extensions.
Designing landing pages that convert
Great ads will get you clicks and this is a good start to any successful Google Ads campaign, but your goal isn’t to pay for clicks. Your goal is to turn these clicks into paying customers and make a profit – which means you need to develop a steady habit for designing landing pages that convert.
This is a huge topic that could use a guide of its own but we’re going to run through you through the essentials here.
First, create a landing page for every campaign goal
The first thing you need to know about landing pages is that relevance counts for everything. You’ve worked hard to create ad messages that address user concerns and they’ve clicked because they’re after something specific – so don’t then go and direct them to a generic landing page.
Create separate landing pages for every different campaign goal as a minimum. Better yet, create a landing page for each specific ad message in your strategy with content and CTAs that perfectly matches the purchase intent of the ad users clicked on to get there.
Match headlines and key selling points
To make it absolutely clear to users that your landing page matches the original offer they clicked through for, use the same headline in your ad for each landing page they point to. This leaves no doubt in users’ minds that you’re coming good on your offer and tells them they’re only one conversion away from getting what they want.
Beyond the headline, make sure the key selling point in your ad is the most prominent feature in your landing page content. If your ad is promoting 50% off summer shoes, then this should be the main focus of your landing page message.
Note: Relevance isn’t only important for users; it’s also important for Google to determine how effectively your ads and landing pages address user needs. This affects your campaign performance, where your ads show on the results page and how much you need to bid on keywords to get your ads seen.
Hit users with your primary CTA and make it clear what they need to do
Once you’ve confirmed the main offer on your landing page, you want to hit users with your primary CTA as quickly as possible. This is for those who are ready to convert now and you want to make sure there are no unnecessary barriers between them and your conversion goal.
Make it clear what users need to do to complete the conversion and use compelling language in your CTA. Try to add incentive with working that creates a sense of urgency, scarcity or uses psychological devices such as loss aversion to make your CTAs hard to resist.
Start with the trusted landing page formula
While there’s no right or wrong design formula for landing pages, there are a number of key features you want to include on any landing page. First you have the core elements, which are geared towards converting users on the spot. Then you have the secondary elements that provide additional info for those who are hesitating to make the final move.
- A powerful headline (ideally the same as your ad headline)
- A tagline that highlights the key benefit(s) of your product or service
- A strong visual element
- A bold call to action
- A more detailed list of benefits, (not features) and bullet points are always good
- Trust symbols or testimonials
- Access to more information (either further down the design or via another page, email, download, etc.)
- A secondary CTA
Try not to fall into the trap of always relying on the same formula for every landing page but you’ll generally want all eight of the elements above on each page. You might add other elements like an explainer video or an email signup section but points above will give you a decent starting point.
Make your visuals count
The visual design of your landing pages is crucial and your first task is to show people you’re a serious brand – one they can trust. You’re not going to do this with shoddy looking pages so make design a priority. What you want to end up with is a consistent, professional style across all of your landing pages, which will make future designs faster to create while maintaining your brand image.
Also make sure you invest in quality visuals, especially when it comes to images and video.
Next, you’ll want to think about layout and it’s generally a good idea to stick to single column designs with vertically stacked divs. Break up each key parts of your message into these divs and order them in term of priority. Use plenty of whitespace to break up the different parts of your message – not only to break the page up visually but also to give each part of your message its own space to make an impact.
Use plenty of contrast to make the key parts of your page stand out, especially when it comes to your CTAs. Colour contract is the most obvious technique but you also have size contrast, positional contrast, shape contrast and various other kinds you can use to make elements more prominent.
You can also use visual cues to direct users’ eyes to the most important parts of your page, such as sign up forms or CTAs (depending on what your conversion goal is).
Landing page performance is key
Google has made a big deal about page performance over the past few years, especially when it comes to mobile optimisation and loading times. These are key factors Google looks at when assessing your landing pages and you’ll get penalised for poor performance with a weaker Quality Score (more on this later).
More importantly, slow loading times and poor mobile optimisation are big problems for users and you’re never going to convert enough of that PPC traffic with poor performance. Which means you’ll be paying for a whole lot of traffic that never results in profit because you’ve failed to optimise your pages for speed, mobile and the wider user experience.
So make sure performance is high on your list of landing page priorities.
Getting to grips with bidding on Google Ads
The concept of bidding is simple enough: you choose your keywords, slap on your maximum bid that that’s it. Except there’s a lot more to bidding on Google Ads than you might expect. The simplest bidding concept in Google Ads is manual bidding but it’s also the most complex to manage. To make this easier, Google has introduced a range of automated bidding options to make management easier.
Here are the bidding options you currently have to choose from in Google Ads:
- Manual CPC Bidding: You take full control of your bids by setting a maximum cost per click (CPC), monitoring them and adjusting them yourself.
- Enhanced CPC: You set your bids manually but Google will increase or decrease them based on how likely you are to convert each user.
- Target CPA: Manages your bids to convert users at a certain cost per acquisition (CPA).
- Target ROAS: You set your target return on ad spend (ROAS) and Google will aim to maximise conversions at this value.
- Maximise conversions: Google simply aims to maximise conversions from your daily budget.
- Maximise Clicks: Google simply aims to maximise the number of clicks from your daily budget.
- Target Search Page Location: Google adjusts your bids to make sure your ads only appear on page one of at the top of the first page.
- Target Outranking Share: Google adjusts your bids to outrank your competitors and show when their ads don’t.
- CPM Bidding: A bidding options for the Display Network and YouTube where you set a max bid per thousand impressions (CPM) instead of clicks.
- vCPM Bidding: A tweak on CPM bidding where you set bids based on the cost per thousand viewable impressions (vCPM).
Yes, that’s a lot to process but we can help you narrow down the options. In an ideal world, manual bidding is always going to give you the best control over your PPC budget but this only really works if you have the time, knowledge and drive to monitor your bids and adjust them for the best performance.
It all comes down to whether you can outperform Google’s automated bidding systems – simple as that.
If you can’t, then Google’s automated options could be the way to go and choosing the right bidding method all depends on what your goals are for each campaign. If you’re going all out to maximise clicks or conversions, you have a simple option designed for each purpose. If you’re more concerned about making sure you don’t spend above a certain amount for any given conversions, Target CPA is the best of Google’s automated bidding options. Likewise, if you want to maintain a certain return upon your ad spend, Target ROAS will aim to help you maximise conversions while maintaining this target.
Don’t be put off by the list of bidding methods, they’re simply there to cater to different advertising objectives. Pick the one that suits yours if you’re going with Google’s automated offerings.
There’s one last thing we need to say about manual bidding: you don’t actually have to do it manually. There are tonnes of automation and machine learning tools that allow you to build your own bidding automation models and this is the way advertising agencies are going. Custom automation gives you full control and visibility over your own bids while cutting out the manual workload.
Ad Rank and Quality Score
Bids aren’t the only deciding factor in whether your ads show, where they show or how much you need to pay to get them seen. Bids are important but Google also needs to think about the relevance of your ads to user queries, the quality of your ads and a range of other factors when it decides which ads to show and where to place them on its pages.
This is where Ad Rank comes into play, which is how Google calculates where your ad should show (if at all).
Ad Rank considers the following factors:
- Your bid: There are certain bid thresholds for each query that determine how much you need to bid for each ad position.
- Quality Score: Google looks at the historical CTR of your ad, the relevance of your ad to the user query and the landing page experience.
- Search context: The intended meaning of each query, the device, time of day and other contextual factors.
- Ad extensions: Google also assesses the relevance and impact of your ad extensions.
As you can see, bids aren’t the only factor at play here and it’s important to understand this from a campaign maintenance point of view. Essentially, how much you need to bid to get specific ad positions can vary on your Quality Score, the context of the search query that triggers your ad and the extensions you’re using.
In other words, a high Quality Score can mean you pay less to get the top position for certain queries than you would with a lower score. Likewise, you can even jump ahead of competitors who bid more than you but perform worse on the other factors considered in Ad Rank.
You’ll hear a lot of advertisers talk about the importance of Quality Score and this is why. High scores can drive down the amount you need to pay for keywords and ad positions, helping you get more from your budget and get maximum performance without spending more.
How does the Google Ads auction work?
After reading the previous section, you know there’s more to the Google Ads auction than simply bidding on keywords. So how exactly does the auction work? Well, we’ve just looked at the key ingredients by explaining what Ad Rank is so this process is going to be a whole lot easier to understand now.
It all starts when someone types a query into Google and the search giant determines whether this triggers an auction or not. Not all searches on Google show ads and this is because certain queries don’t trigger an auction.
Once an auction is triggered, all of the ads deemed to be targeting any keywords in that query enter the auction. Remember, it’s not only the keywords on your lists but also the keyword match type you use that determines which keywords Google decides you’re targeting.
Once you’re entered into an auction, your Ad Rank is calculated for this specific query with your bid, Quality Score and other factors deciding where your ad will show (assuming it does at all). This determines which page your ad will show on and which ad positon it will take. Up to four ads can appear in the top pack of ads above organic search results (ad positions 1-4) and up to three can appear under results at the bottom of each page.
Ad position is important because the more visible your ads are, the more likely you are to generate traffic. However, it’s not always as simple as ad position 1 having the best CTR. In fact, you might find ad position 2 or 3 generates more clicks for certain queries while allowing you to bid slightly lower.
Speaking of bids one more time, the auction also determines how much you’ll pay.
When you bid on a keyword, you’re setting a maximum bid, not the actual amount you’ll pay. The price you’ll end up paying is worked out by the following formula:
CPC = Ad Rank of ad below you / your Quality Score + £0.01
This is how you can end up paying less than advertisers who appear below your ad if you’re working with high Quality Scores. Even a moderate increase in your Quality Scores can have a drastic impact on the performance of your ads and campaigns – including where your ads show and how much you pay for the privilege.
Pinpoint your audience with Google Ads targeting
Keywords are the most important targeting method with Google Ads (at least on the Search network) but that’s not all you have to narrow down on your target audience. Google Ads comes with a suite of targeting options to help you pinpoint the people most likely to buy from you and here’s a quick overview of what you can do.
- Demographics targeting: Target audience by age, gender, parental status and household income.
- Location: Target people based in specific countries, cities or local areas.
- Language: Target specific language audiences.
These targeting options are available for campaigns on both the Search and Display networks but there are various other targeting options available for Display ad groups.
- Affinity: Advertisers with TV campaigns can extend a campaign online and reach an audience using Google Search or the Display Network.
- In-market: Show ads to users who have been searching for products and services like yours. These users may be looking to make a purchase, or have previously made a purchase and could still be interested enough to interact with your ads.
- Custom intent: Choose words or phrases related to the people that are most likely to engage with your site and make purchases by using “custom intent audiences.” In addition to keywords, custom intent audiences lets you add URLs for websites, apps, or YouTube content related to your audience’s interests.
- Similar audiences: Expand your audience by targeting users with interests related to the users in your remarketing lists. These users aren’t searching for your products or services directly, but their related interests may lead them to interact with your ads.
- Remarketing: Target users that have already interacted with your ads, website, or app so that they’ll see your ads more often. These users can be at any stage of conversion, as long as they’ve visited your site or clicked on your ad before. These users may even return to complete a purchase.
You can also target website on the Display Network to show your ads to their audiences, based on relevant interests.
- Topics: Target one ad to multiple pages about certain topics at once. Topic targeting lets you reach a broad range of pages on the Display Network. Google Ads analyzes web content and considers factors such as text, language, link structure, and page structure. It then determines the central themes of each webpage and targets ads based on your topic selections.
- Placement: Target websites on the Display Network that your customers visit. If you select this type of targeting, we’ll only look at your chosen sites (managed placements) when searching for relevant sites. Unlike contextual targeting (automatic placements), placement targeting doesn’t require keywords. A placement might be an entire website or a subset of a site.
- Content keywords: Choose words that are relevant to your product or service to target users making searches using those same terms. You can tailor a set of keywords to manually reach certain demographics or meet specific goals. For instance, you can change your keywords to reflect seasonal interests or make the most of a sale.
- Display expansion for search: Let Google Ads find users for you with a combination of automated bidding and smart targeting. Display expansion works for both Search and Display campaigns, targeting high-performance moments for the best results.
Okay, that’s a lot to take in but you’re not going to use all of these targeting options. Start with the basics (demographics and location) and then move on to retargeting. This will tie your search and display campaigns together and you’ll naturally start using any other targeting options you need from there.
As well as the targeting basics, you’re also going to want to get to grips with ad scheduling and device targeting. Ad scheduling allows you to choose when your ads are eligible to show – so, if you notice they’re performing better on Friday evenings, you can assign more of your budget to this time of the week to maximise their impact.
You can also take the same approach with device targeting by adjusting your bids for mobile, tablet and desktop. Essentially, if you want to target mobile only, set your mobile bids to 100% and the remaining two to zero.
Optimising for better performance
Advertising in Google Ads isn’t something you’re going to set up and leave to run by itself. You’re going to need to create campaigns on an ongoing basis and optimise them for the best performance over time.
This starts with knowing how to measure performance, which means knowing your goals to begin with and which metrics and KPIs best represent them.
If your goal is to build brand awareness, your priority might be impressions, CTRs and traffic as opposed to conversions, for example. If you’re only interested in converting leads into customers, then conversion rates are going to be crucial. And, if you want to create the most profitable Google Ads account you can, then total profit, cost per acquisition (CPA) and return on ad spend (ROAS) are going to be key metrics to monitor.
It all depends on what you’re trying to do with each campaign.
Once you know what you’re trying to do and how to measure it, it’s important to set targets – minimum conversion rates, maximum CPCs and target ROAS, etc. This gives you a benchmark to work towards and measurable targets to optimise for if your campaigns are underperforming.
Here are the most common optimisation techniques you need to know:
Improve your Quality Score
We’ve mentioned Quality Score a few times in this guide already and this should always be one of your optimisation priorities. Higher Quality Scores improve the performance of your campaigns and they can significantly reduce the amount you need to spend on keywords to rank above your competitors.
We said earlier that your Quality Score is calculated by using the following criteria:
- Click-through rate
- Ad relevance
- Landing page experience
So this already gives you three key areas to optimise for: more clicks, better ads and better landing pages. This is a very broad set of areas to optimise for, which is another reason why improving your Quality Score is so important. Because, by doing so, you’re automatically optimising some of the most important aspects of your Google Ads strategy – and the benefits go way beyond your Quality Score.
Eg: Better landing pages should mean higher conversion rates, which has nothing to do with your Quality Score.
Aim for a minimum Quality Score of 7 on all your keywords and push for 9 or 10 on high-intent and branded keywords.
Optimise your ads
Google Ads makes it incredibly easy to split test ad variations with a feature called ad rotation. Essentially, if you’ve got two versions of the same ad, Google will show each of them roughly 50% of the time and this allows you to see which version performs better. Over time, you can use this feature to refine your ads until you’ve reached your performance targets – without using any third-party testing software.
Nice and simple.
There are two types of ad rotation that you can use: rotate indefinitely and optimise. Rotate indefinitely simply rotates your ad variations evenly until you stop them. This is the option to take if you want to collect unhampered data until your tests reach statistical significance (ie: your findings are reliable, not coincidental).
The downside to this approach is that your lower performing ad will be running throughout this test, which impacts overall performance.
The optimise ad rotation setting aims to maximise performance while rotating your ads. Google’s machine learning technology automatically optimises your ad variations to get the best results they can throughout testing. Ads that perform better during the variation cycle will also be shown more than those performing worse.
We’ve already talked about managing bids in this guide but this is one of those ongoing tasks that always needs attention. Essentially, you want to be bidding more on the keywords that are most effective, at the times they’re most effective, on the devices they’re most effective and numerous other variables.
Of course, you can take advantage of Google’s automated bidding features to optimise them on your behalf – but many advertisers prefer to take control of this for themselves.
To do this, you need data. For example, you need to know which times of the day, month and year your customers are most likely to buy from you. Then, you can adjust your bids to make your ads show more often during these times – eg: weekend mornings, the first week of summer and the evenings before Christmas.
You’ll also want data on campaign, ad, keyword and device performance to know where you’re making the most impact and invest more of your budget here. Of course, collecting this data, processing it and then manually adjusting your bids will be very time consuming – more than you can realistically manage.
This is why advertisers are now creating their own bid automations with custom machine learning algorithms – something that will become more common over the coming years.
Optimise your keyword lists
By using the search terms report in Google Ads, you can see what users are typing in before they see your ad. Not the keyword they used, their entire query exactly how they typed it. This means you can use this tool to find missed keywords, see if you’re using the right keyword match types and spot negative keywords you need to add to your list.
If your ads are being triggered by unwanted search terms or you’ve missed a golden keyword opportunity, this is where you’re going to find it.
Optimising your keyword lists will make sure your ads aren’t showing for the wrong users. This improves your impressions vs CTR relationship (a signal of quality ads), reduces the amount you spend on wasted clicks and should improve the quality of your leads (this, increasing conversion rates).
You may also unearth some keyword gems that you’d never think of otherwise, as well as some negative keywords that have been hurting your performance without you even realising.
So there you have it – a rather in-depth crash course into advertising with Google Ads. Get to grips with all the points we’ve covered in this guide and you’ll be off to a good start with your advertising efforts. If this all seems like more work than you bargained for, then the good news is there are a number of PPC automation tools you can look as well as agencies like our own that can help you create a high-performance Google Ads account that meets the unique needs of your business.