If you’re just starting off with Google Ads, it can be a bit daunting. Since its launch to only 350 advertisers in 2000, the choice of features within the product has grown each year, and it’s current incarnation can represent a somewhat confusing and daunting experience.
To help you on your way, I’ve listed 10 key elements to consider when setting up and running your new campaigns. The list is not exhaustive, but these will get you on your way, and should provide a good mental checklist, that will give you some peace-of-mind that you aren’t throwing your hard earned money away!
1. Decide on your objectives before you set up any campaigns
Digital marketing tools are inherently very accessible, which means it’s easy to jump straight into tactics, rather than think about your objectives. Whether you’re running email marketing, social media or search marketing campaigns, the same rules apply: don’t execute tactics without any real consideration for your goals.
So step one is to decide what your ideal outcomes are. Is it brand uplift? More leads or sales? More engagement? Once you’ve decided on your outcomes, you can then go about setting KPIs (key performance indicators) - effectively, measures of success.
So for example, if your objective is sales based, your KPIs might be revenue, profit, conversion rates etc. On the other hand, if your objective is focussed on engagement, your KPIs might be page bounce rates, pages viewed per session, video plays or PDF downloads.
2. Get your attribution right!
Leading on from point 1, is attribution. This is arguably the most important golden rule, as it’s all about being able to attribute outcomes to your Google Ads activity.
If you carried out point 1 correctly, you’ll have a set of objectives and corresponding KPIs. But you’ll still need to ensure you have the measurement capability in place to attribute.
If you’re using Google Analytics (used by 93% of marketers), you’ll need to configure goals and events to ensure you are measuring outcomes. And furthermore, you’ll need to ensure that your Google Ads is linked to your Google Analytics. If you aren’t sure how to set this up, speak to your web developer or a digital marketer (like me :).
Once set up, you can measure the success of your campaigns and get really forensic. You can start cutting out the dead wood (such as underperforming keywords) from your campaigns, and focus more on keywords or ad variants that really work for you.
3. Get familiar with the Google’s Search and Display Networks
When you’re setting up a campaign, Google will present you with a choice of campaign types. The most commonly used campaign types are either Search Network or Display Network campaigns - although you can also take a look at Google Shopping, App or Video campaigns.
In short, the Search Network will display your ads on Google’s search results pages, and optionally, Google’s partners. Alternatively, the Display Network will display ads on other websites, videos or mobile apps, outside of the standard search results pages.
There’s lots of research on the performance of each network, but certainly for a beginner, you might find it simpler to start with the Search Network, because you’ll be able to easily control when your ad is triggered (most commonly by keywords), and where it’ll display.
Certainly if your campaign objective is direct response, rather than brand uplift, the Search Network is more likely to deliver a higher click-through-rate on your ads. Whereas if you are looking for maximum reach, in order to increase brand uplift, you might want to try the Display Network.
If you’re an online retailer and you want to display your products shots on Google search results, you may want to consider a Google Shopping campaign. There’s an extra step here, as you’ll also have to set up a Google Merchant Account and upload a product feed as well.
Whatever option you choose, the most important thing is that you plan your targeting and messaging to suit your specific objectives for that campaign.
4. Ensure your ad groups are well targeted
Google wants to see a strong relationship between the keyword you’re bidding on, the ad creative that is presented to the searchers, and the landing page the searcher ends up on. When you set up ad groups, be sure to limit the number and breadth of your keywords. Some PPC experts even create SKAGs (single keyword ad groups) in order to main complete control over targeting.
Don’t add dozens of keywords to an individual ad group, as your level of targeting will drop and performance will almost certainly decrease. Better to have hundreds of ad groups with a very small selection of themed keywords, triggering very specific ads variants.
5. Don’t ignore Quality Score
Quality Score is a metric Google uses to determine the quality and relevance of your keywords and ads. It is used by Google to determine your cost-per-click (CPC) in the ad auction process. Your Quality Score depends on multiple factors, including:
- your click-through rate (CTR)
- the relevance of each keyword to its ad group
- your landing page quality and relevance
- the relevance of your ad text
- and your historical account performance
For each keyword, you will see a score of between 1-10 in the Google Ads system, where 1 is the poorest and 10 is the best. Aim as high as possible.
The clever thing about Quality Score is that Google rewards advertisers who maintain a high level of targeting. High Quality Score means that your average cost-per-click can be lower than your competitors, who may have to bid higher to achieve a high ad position. It forces advertisers to focus on quality and not just bids.
When looking at your campaign data, regularly check your Quality Score to ensure you are performing optimally. If your Quality Score is poor, you will have to increase your bid amount in order to maintain a good ad position (discussed below), which isn’t ideal as it could impact your profit targets.
6. Ad position isn’t just about bid amount
When we talk about ad position, we are referring to where the ad is placed on the page - if at all. Clearly, all digital marketers want to maximise exposure by having their ads as visible as possible. The question is what dictates ad position?
As discussed in the previous point, the Google Ads system isn’t straight forward when it comes to determining your position.
Firstly, your ad position isn’t just based on your bid amount. If it was, then the highest bidder would always win. Instead Google uses a quality based system known as a “second price auction”. This means Google will look at your bid amount, but also your Quality Score, as well as whether you’re using additional ad extensions (which you can find in your campaign settings). You are then given an ad rank (a score Google uses internally), which will determine your ad position. Confused? I don’t blame you.
It’s important to note that recently Google announced that it was retiring the metric “ad position” in favour of “Impr. (Top) %” and “Impr. Abs. (Top) %”. When looking at your keywords or ads, be sure to add these two metrics by customising your columns.
They will indicate what percentage of the time you appear in the ads at the top of the page (anywhere above the organic results), versus what percentage of the time you appear in ad position #1. Monitor these closely. If your percentage is low, you’ll need to address it by looking at your keyword bids, your Quality Score or your use of ad extensions.
7. Get to grips with keyword match types
When you’re setting up keywords, Google doesn’t make it obvious that there are different ways to set up your keywords.
For example, if you are bidding on florist in Bristol, you may want to stipulate an exact match, meaning only those specific keywords (or close variants) in that word order will trigger your ad. Or you may be happy with less precision, where variants such as mothers day flowers Bristol or florist shop Bristol will trigger your ad.
To dictate these rules, you need to apply match types. Match types warrant their own blog post, so it may be easier to check out Google’s help guide on this.
Whatever match types you choose, ensure that your keywords match the users intent. So the general mantra is to bid on longer keyphrases (long tail) rather than single words or generic terms that don’t really indicate user intent.
8. Set up a brand campaign
I commonly get asked whether it’s worth bidding on your own brand name. “Surely there’s no point, as you will almost certainly rank in position 1 organically”.
There are three good reasons to set up a brand campaign and bid on your own name.
Firstly, if you don’t, someone else might. Brand bidding is common and no one wants to see a competitor ad displaying, when you are nowhere to be seen in the ads at the top of Google.
Secondly, brand bidding is cheap, as competition is pretty much non-existent.
Thirdly, it represents a great opportunity to occupy more real-estate at the top of Google. This equates to better brand presence and encourages high click-throughs on your ad or organic listing(s). Click-through-rate (CTR) is an important metric for Google and something you need to encourage.
9. Think about the customer journey
One of the golden rules I’ve learned to respect is that you are not the customer. You are usually too close to your brand to be objective. So when you are running Google Ads campaigns, think about the customer. Are they at the “top of the funnel” at the awareness stage; if they are, they will often use more generic search queries and will want to be landed at relevant content on your website that suits their needs (most likely, content that educates rather than sells).
On the other end of the spectrum, customers who search for very targeted queries, know exactly what they want and might well be at the “desire” or “action” part of the funnel and want to be landed at a much more transactional page, deep in your website structure.
The customer journey should influence your keyword strategy and your landing page targeting.
Most importantly, don’t land everyone on the same page - in particular your home page!
10. Try it, measure it, tweak it
Digital marketing at its core is very agile. We can test activity and modify it, if it doesn’t work as expected, whether it’s email subject lines, landing pages or ad text.
When it comes to Google Ads, I’d strongly recommend you adopt that philosophy. Always have a few ad variants running to see which one works best. Google by default will start showing the one that gets more clicks, but you can also override that setting and choose the winner manually if you so desire.
Similarly, if you have some budget to spare, it’s worth considering running a few landing page tests. A simple A/B test - such as change of button text or headlines on a page - might yield very different results. Don’t rely on your emotions to determine which piece of creative works. The data speaks volumes and should inform your creative and marketing decisions.
About the Author
This article was written by Jonathan Saipe, Founder of Emarketeers, and Search Marketing expert.