When it comes to building a solid digital marketing strategy for a client, PPC (pay-per-click) campaigns are a tactic that is always on our “considered” list. Google Ads is perhaps the best known PPC platform, so we’re taking a look at how you can take advantage of this agile tool. From choosing what kind of Google Ad campaign to run to assessing your efforts after it’s underway, we’ll give you an overview of the process from start to finish.  

Why Google Ads?

For starters, it’s helpful to outline what falls under the umbrella of “Google Ads.” The most commonly understood iteration is the Search ads feature, where brands can bid on specific keywords on Google Search to capture that traffic in real-time. Here, you’re harnessing the power of Google’s search engine—which processes nearly 40,000 searches a second—to attract targeted traffic or activity.

Google Display ads are the visual component to Search’s text-only format. With a Display campaign, your brand can share key visuals on websites across the internet, with targeting that includes both keyword-based (what users had previously searched for) or contextual (what kinds of sites they’re searching on).

There are other variations within Google Ads, but Search and Display are the best starting points for anyone looking to begin using the platform. And much like Facebook ad campaigns, Google Ads are generally very user-friendly. Setting up a campaign requires attention to detail and some patience, but it doesn’t require a ton of technical know-how to execute.

Finally, a major advantage to Google Ads is that there is no minimum required spend for any campaign. Whether you want to run a $100 campaign for a week or a $2,000 campaign for a month, you have equal access to all of Google Ad’s tools. The overall strength and spend of your campaign will depend on a few factors (to be discussed later), but there is virtually no barrier to entry—making it a great place to explore adding more digital elements to your marketing mix.

Choosing a Campaign

When you begin to create a new Google Ads campaign, you’re presented with a few different choices. Here, it’s important to make your decision based on what stage of the Buyer’s Journey you’re trying to target. Whether you’re going for Awareness-, Consideration- or Decision-level users, you’ve got a campaign type that will help you meet your goals.

Various Google Ads campaign types

Now, it might be tempting to start with enticing options like campaigns for “Sales” or “Leads.” But depending on the size or nature of your brand or the audience you’re targeting, it might be best to start at the top of the funnel and work your way down. ​“Brand Awareness and Reach” campaigns will deliver the most amount of impressions and viewers, whereas a “Website Traffic” campaign will help you generate more website visits—which you can later retarget in a Sales or Leads campaign.

So regardless of what kind of campaign you choose, just make sure it lines up with your overall goals. You can’t expect to start by generating valuable sales leads if you’re a new player in the digital space, and you might be wasting ad dollars by simply generating impressions if you’re an established presence.

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

We’ve written about the importance of defining what campaign “success” looks like before you launch—Google Ads is no different. Again, your KPIs should always match up with the kind of campaign you’re running. Starting with impressions and ending with conversions, there is a wide range of data your Google Ads will generate to help you measure your KPIs. The reporting dashboard within Google Ads is easily customizable to show the key metrics that are important to you, but it may take some poking and prodding to get the configuration that’s best for you.

Building the Campaign Framework

There are a few items you’ll want to have in place before you begin building out your individual ads. Without them, you’ll likely find yourself scrambling once the campaign gets underway:

  • Research and Build Your Keyword List: Using tools like Google’s Keyword Planner (located inside Google Ads) will allow you to find out where your opportunities lie. This is where you’ll want to distinguish between your short- and long-tail keywords—e.g. bidding on “B2B marketing” versus “B2B marketing automation manufacturing.” Google Ads provides a lot of detailed information about search trends and activity, giving you some idea of how obtainable or expensive specific keywords may be.
  • Plan Out Your Budget: As previously mentioned, you can spend as little or as much as you want on Google Ads. Once you’ve got a keyword list and objective in mind, you can zero-in on a budget. You’ll also want to consider geography in your budgeting, as the broader your geographic targeting, the more expensive your campaign will be. We always recommend starting in a small, targeted location and expanding as your influence or presence grows.
  • Set Up Back-End Tracking: Though you might not yet be ready to track conversions or sales quite yet, it’s always a good idea to get your website back-end tracking in place. Using the Google Ads “pixel,” you can begin collecting audience info that will later allow you to retarget previous website visitors. This can be accomplished directly through your website or another Google tool called Tag Manager.
  • Build a Landing Page: Though not explicitly required, a landing page tailored to your Google Ads objective can make a huge difference in campaign performance. In the Awareness stage, more generic landing pages may suffice for simply generating impressions and clicks. However, once you’ve moved into the Consideration and Decision stages, you’ll need to have a best practices-informed landing page unique to that campaign in place.

Building Your Ads

For ads running on the Google Search network, you’ll need to do a little bit of copywriting. Much like you would for a Facebook ad, you’ll want a few catchy, relevant headlines and a bit of descriptive copy. Also like Facebook, you’ll want to run a few different ad variations, and Google Ads will automatically show the best performing version the most often.

Google Display ads and Search ad (middle right)

It’s important to remember that whatever copy you end up using should relate back to your landing page copy—otherwise you’ll get dinged for a bad user experience, which will affect your Google Ads performance. Here, you can also create mobile-only “call ads” designed to generate calls when seen on a mobile device, or a new tool called “Responsive Search Ads.” With these, you can enter 10 or more headlines and Google will automatically serve the most relevant headline according to each search.

For Display ads, this is where your visual branding can come into play. Google has a wide array of sizes and display types for this kind of campaign, so again you’ll want to provide a multitude of options and let Google automatically rotate through the best performing placements. Much like a billboard, Display ads will often only be seen for a brief time, so you to need to communicate your message clearly and succinctly. Make sure you’ve got a clear CTA (call to action) and don’t try to cram too much text into any ad.

Assessing Your Campaign

When it comes to any new Google Ads campaign, there is one simple mantra we love to preach: “Patience.” While, yes, Google Ads does often produce more immediate and short-term results than a long-term strategy like SEO, it’s important to give your campaign enough time to generate actionable data.

To that end, we often recommend allowing a campaign to run for two to four weeks (closer to four if you can stand it!) before you make any big changes or draw any conclusions. Google Ads often builds on itself, “learning” as the campaign progresses, so not allowing the algorithm’s black magic to do its thing can really inhibit campaign optimization.

(This is not to say don’t check the campaign in that period: simply resist the urge to tweak and adjust).

When you have hit that four-week mark, you’ll want to do a deep dive on the analytics Google Ads provides. That includes:

  • Checking your campaign KPIs and comparing to your own internal and external benchmarks
  • Analyzing the “Search Terms” that are triggering ads to show (and removing irrelevant queries as “negative keywords” or adding relevant ones as new keywords)
  • See which ads are performing the best
  • Reassess your bidding strategy: would you benefit from an automated strategy or do you have target cost-per-clicks or cost-per-acquisitions you’re looking to hit?

And with that, you’re ready to start poking around the wide world that is Google Ads. Take your time, pay close attention and don’t get frustrated too quickly. We’re just scratching the surface of this powerful tool here, but this post should give you enough to know if Google Ads is right for your digital marketing strategy.

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