A simple guide to Google Ads

by Eliisa L.

18 February 2021
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Google Ads is arguably the biggest pay-per-click (PPC) advertising platform out there. If you're just getting started with marketing your business, you might ask yourself the questions "Should I start with Google Ads?" and "Why should I use Google Ads for advertising?" and the answer is yes. Definitely, without a doubt. 

For the latter question, Google has a huge reach. By huge we mean over 2 trillion searchers each year. The platform itself is relatively easy to use and get statistics from, and it's Google provides it with countless help articles and tips. Related to the usability, you get complete control over the target audiences you choose, your budget management, ad placements, and so on. 

I'll take this to go. Download the guide →
 

What is Google Ads?

Google Ads offers a paid advertising platform that utilizes PPC or pay-per-click advertising. PPC advertising is one of the most popular and effective digital marketing strategies. These advertisements can either appear on the Google search engine results page (SERP), or on other websites through the Display Network and Google’s Adsense program.

The Display Network is a collection of third-party websites which have partnered up with Google and agreed to showcase relevant Google ads. These ads can be anything from text, image, video, or banner ads, and is often used for remarketing purposes. Display ads are one of the most effective ways of promoting your business, as the Display Network reaches 90% of internet users worldwide, utilizing sites like blogs, news pages, and Youtube.

Google Adsense on the other hand, is a program for publishers, so a variety of blogs and other websites alike. The hosts of these websites get paid for allowing Google to showcase different ads, which are determined based on the relevancy of the audience and content. 

Good to know Google Ads glossary

Keywords

Keywords are the terms that a user types into Google’s search engine when looking for something. You’ll pick a list of keywords that you think will work best when people search for what you have to offer while creating your ads, along with which your ads will be displayed with. For example, a searcher that looks up ‘’bike trails’’ will see results for advertisers that targeted keywords like ‘’trail biking’’ and ‘’bike rentals’’. There are a few different types when it comes to choosing keywords that include exact match, phrase match, broad match, and so on, but we'll cover those later in the guide. 

There are also negative keywords, which are keyword terms that you do not want to rank for. They’re usually semi-related to your selected keywords, but fall outside of what you offer.

Bidding

Google Ads is based on a bidding system, where you as the advertiser select a maximum bid amount you’re willing to pay. There are multiple bidding strategies in Google Ads an advertiser can choose from, both manual and automated.

Quality Score

Your quality score tells you the quality of your ad by measuring how relevant your keywords are to your ad and to your landing page, your CTR, and your past performance on the search engine. A good Quality Score helps lower your bid costs and improve your ad rank in the search results.

Ad Rank

This metric helps determine where your ad will show up, relative to other ads, when it's triggered to appear on Google. Your rank is determined using your bid, your Quality Score, and other factors.

Conversion

A conversion is whatever you set it to be - a new subscription, a purchase, or a new sign up - either way it means that the user takes the action that you wanted them to take.

Types of Google Ads 

Search

Search ads are text ads that are displayed on Google results pages. As an example, a search for “ski shop” returns sponsored results:

PPC search ads
The benefit of search ads is that you’re displaying your ad in the place where most searchers look for information first — on Google. And Google shows your ad in the same format as other results (except for denoting it as an “Ad”) so users are accustomed to seeing and clicking on results.

Display

Then there’s the Display ads, which we mentioned in the beginning. These ads are showcased on different websites of various industries, and can be created so they would reach specific target audiences with specific personas.

Video

Video ads are displayed before or after (and sometimes in the middle of) YouTube videos. Remember, YouTube is a search engine, too. The right keywords will place you in front of a video, disrupting the user’s behavior just enough to grab their attention.

App

Google App Campaigns promote your mobile application through an ad displayed on Google Search Network, YouTube, Google Play, Google Display Network, and more. You can run ads that encourage your audience to install your app or, if they already use it, to take a certain action within your app.

Unlike other ad types, you don't design an App ad campaign. Instead, provide Google with your app's information and audience, and place a bid.

Shopping

Another type of Google Ad is Google Shopping Ad Campaigns. You can run a Shopping campaign through Google Merchant Center, where you input specific product information that Google pulls from to create your shopping ads.

Instead of marketing your brand as a whole, Shopping Ads allow you to promote specific products and product lines. That's why, when you search for a particular product on Google, you'll see ads for different brands pop up along the top and/or side. The ads at the top are Google Search ads, but the specific products advertised on the side are Shopping ads optimized for the keyword "skis":

ppc shopping ads

Getting started with Google Ads

Creating your Google Ads account & goals

Creating a Google Ads account is quite simple and straightforward. You’ll add all of your information like company name, website, phone number, etc. and choose your main goal for advertising. Google gives you the choice of either more websites visitors, more calls, or more sales.

google_ads_account_setup

Some other things you’ll also want to do, is linking your Google Ads account to Google Analytics, setting up conversion tracking, and connecting your Google Ads with your CRM (for retargeting purposes), but more about these later.


google_ads_account_settings

Defining your audiences

Defining buyer personas isn’t mandatory - however later on when creating your ad campaigns, you will have to create audiences and decide on which areas, age groups, etc. to target. Recognizing your current audience in advance, as well as deciding what kind of buyer personas you will want to reach will also help with creating the ads, copies, visuals, and so on.

Especially having different age groups or geographical locations where these personas are in affects the way they communicate, meaning different keywords of choice when searching for whatever they need. The needs of your target audience may vary when depending on whether your audience is local vs. global. So keep in mind the special needs of the different audiences when defining your buyer personas! 

Creating converting landing pages

Of course, you have to have a website or a landing page that the ad leads to directly. Having separate or specifically created landing pages means it takes less clicking around for the customer to find what they want (and essentially, a faster conversion process). Having a strong and relevant looking landing page that looks like it would offer what the ad is promising is a must.

When we say ‘’relevant looking’’ here’s what we mean - the display URL doesn’t have to be the actual landing page URL. You can use this to your advantage and create display URLs using words that match keywords people are looking for (which get automatically bolded in the results). If you do however edit the display URL, make sure it stays truthful and not misleading.

👉 Here's our tips on how to create an appealing landing page. 

Creating strong ad copies

No matter what kind of ad it is you will be creating, the creative side of it should be well-thought-out. This means not only having an eye-catching visual for the ad, but also having a strong copy which conveys the needed message and gets your customer to convert.

Google_ads_copywriting

Strong copy doesn’t necessarily mean coming up with something witty or groundbreaking. With 25 characters for the header, and 2 lines of ad body, there’s not much room to convince your audience that you can offer what they need. So depending on what you’re promoting, make sure the message is clear, relevant and speaking to your target audience.

Creating your first Google Ads Campaign

A good preparation makes creating your first Google Ads campaign a tad easier. Creating ads takes time, but with the steps below and the great guides we listed you'll be creating awesome campaigns in no time. Here's what it looks like:

Google_ads_infograph

Organizing your ad campaigns

Creating a variety of ads means creating different campaigns. Each campaign has its own sets of ad groups and separate ads, which contain goals, ad creatives, and keywords. By keeping a tightly organized account, you’ll ensure the searches triggering your ads and the keywords are relevant to your audience, which results in better quality scores.

This will also keep you organized and help optimize your results. Later on, this will also be beneficial when creating A/B tests for your ad campaigns and testing out which triggers and CTAs work best for different audiences. See the graph below for how the Google Ads campaigns are structured:

Google ads campaign structure

Selecting keywords

Keywords - we’ve talked about them a lot. They are the building blocks of your ad campaigns, and since Google matches your created ads with search queries based on the keywords you have chosen, you need to make sure your selected keywords match searcher’s intent as much as possible.

Each created ad group within a campaign will target a set of keywords. Ideally, this will include one to five selected keywords based on which Google will display your ad on. When selecting these terms, there are four different match types you can choose from:

  • Broad match is a good starting point. It’s the default setting that uses any word within your keyword phrase and even variations of the words. So a search query "Ski rentals in Lapland" can trigger ads with "ski hire in Lapland" or "skiing in Lapland" as broad match keywords.
  • Modified broad match allows you to pin certain words with "+" as mandatory for targeting. Unlike the general broad search, modified stops Google from looking at synonyms or related keywords in order to increase reach. So, if you have "+rental skis Austria" as your ad triggering keywords, your ads could be shown with search queries like "ski rental", "ski rental", and so on.
  • Phrase match matches queries that include your exact keywords in the exact order with the addition of other words before or after it. So, if your selected keywords are "rental skis", they will show up with "online rental skis" or "professional rental skis near me".
  • Exact match means your keyword phrase maintains in the exact order and form you choose it to be. For example ‘’rental skis’’ won’t show up if someone searches for ‘’ski rentals’’. 


However advanced and familiar you might be with the different keywords, you will want to keep a constant eye on the progress and relevance of your selected keywords.

👉Google has a great keyword research tool & guide for this. Please note that in order to access the keyword tool, you have to be signed in.

Setting Budget & Bids

Budget and bids define how much you are willing to spend on advertising in Google, and how you want your budget to be spent.

Budget

In Google Ads, you set a daily budget for your campaigns. So for example, if your monthly advertising budget is €1000, you would calculate your average daily budget by dividing the monthly budget with the number of days in a month. In this case €1000/30=€33,3 per day.

It is worthwhile to notice that the daily budget you set, is an average value. It means that each day’s spending can vary depending on the traffic your ads receive, some days being more than your defined daily budget and some days less. However, the spend will never exceed your monthly budget (average daily budget * days in the month).

Bidding

As mentioned earlier, your bidding strategy defines how your ad budget is spent. Google offers both automated and manual bidding strategies. The good thing about pay-per-click advertising is that you only pay for each click that your ad receives. This puts you in full control of your budget, as well as where and how you want to spend it.

There is not a single truth which bidding strategy is better than the other. However, based on our experience, the automated bidding strategies often perform as well, or even outperforms the manual bidding strategies in terms of ROI and by letting Google to optimize your bids, you save hours of time. Nevertheless, we encourage you to try out both of these worlds and make your own decision on what works the best for you.

Manual bidding strategies

Manual bidding strategies allow marketers to be in full control over the usage of their ad budget. You can for example set maximum cost-per-click level for each keyword you are using in your campaign. Manual bidding strategies include:

  • Manual CPC (cost-per-click) bidding sets the amount you pay for each click on your ad. You can utilize this strategy for both search and display ads. This is a great strategy if your budget is limited, you're targeting for more niché keywords, or you just want to have full control over your budget. However, managing larger ad accounts and campaigns trusting solely in manual CPC bidding takes a huge amount of time.
  • Manual CPM and vCPM (cost-per-mille and viewable cost-per-mille) allows you tol set the amount you pay for one thousand ad impressions. Google only offers CPM bidding for their video and display ad campaigns. The key difference between CPM and vCPM strategies is that in CPM strategy ad impressions count those impressions where your ad is shown on the page but it is placed outside of the user's screen, whereas vCPM only counts impressions when your ad is actually shown on the user's screen for at least two seconds.
  • Manual CPV (cost-per-view) bidding strategy is only available for video ads, and is, for example, used as the default bidding strategy for YouTube ads. With CPV bidding, you are paying for video views or ad interactions, such as call-to-action clicks.

Automated and Smart bidding strategies

Like the name says, automated bidding strategies let Google to optimize your campaign budget to achieve the best possible results. These types of campaigns rely on Google to automatically adjust ad bids to drive better results within your budget. Automated bidding strategies include:

  • Enhanced CPC is an extension of manual CPC bidding. With enhanced CPC bidding you are still allowed to define bids for each keyword but you give permission to Google to adjust these bids if it likely leads to better results.
  • Maximize clicks is completely automated strategy where Google sets the bids for each keyword. You can use this strategy in one campaign or you can choose to implement it to include all the campaigns inside your Ads account. There is also an option to set maximum cost-per-click level to prevent paying too much for single keyword.
  • Maximize conversions utilizes Google's algorithms to show your ads to the people who are most likely to perform a desired action (conversion) on your website. This bidding strategy requires setting up conversion tracking on your website.
  • Maximize conversion value prioritizes conversions with more value for your business. When you are creating conversions in Google Ads, you can also define a monetary value for each conversion. For example, if you are renting two different ski sets in your online store, basic skiing set and pro skiing set, you can define higher value for the purchases of pro skiing set. Google, on the other hand, aims to maximize the highest overall value of conversions while spending your ad budget.
  • Target CPA (cost-per-acquisition) aims to maximize conversions at or below your set target cost-per-acquisition. 
  • Target ROAS (return on ad spend) allows marketers to define a percentage-based value for the desired return on ad spend. Google then does its best to optimize your ads so that you would reach the target ROAS. So, let's say, that your goal is to make €20 for each €10 you spend on advertising. To calculate the target ROAS percentage, the math goes: sales / ad spend * 100% = Target ROAS. In this example, the target ROAS would be €20 / €10 * 100% = 200%.
  • Target impression share is a bidding strategy focused on brand awareness. Here, you set a target for the impression share that you want to reach within certain keywords. Note that when your ads are optimized for impressions, the click rates might take a hit. 

👉 Wordstream has a great guide for setting up and managing your Google Ads budget.

Conversion tracking

Conversion is defined as a valuable action for your business that someone takes after interacting with your ad. For example, an online purchase. Tracking conversions events and value is a way to justify your ad spend and measure the effectiveness of your ad campaigns. Based on the information you receive from conversion tracking, you can make better decisions on everything from budgeting to ad copies (and get a better understanding of your ROI).

Different types of conversions include:

  • Website purchases
  • Newsletter signups
  • Button clicks
  • Mobile app conversions (such as installs or in-app purchases)
  • Phone calls
  • Offline conversions (such as store visits)

Setting up conversion tracking

To start tracking conversions on your website, you need to install the Google Ads tracking tag to your website. The tracking tag is a short piece of code that is added to your between the head tags of your website. Thus, you need an access to edit the website code.

If you are setting up conversion tracking to your website for the first time, you need to add two code snippets. The first one is the Global site tag which is installed on every page of your website. The second snippet is the event snippet which tracks individual conversion actions. The event snippet is installed only on the page that track an individual conversion, commonly called as thank you -pages.

For another conversion event, you need to create another event snippet, and install it to the thank you -page of the particular conversion you want to track.

Google has very detailed instructions on how to install website conversion tracking. In order to avoid any tracking issues, we recommend to follow these instructions. In another article, Google explains more about the different conversion tracking options.

Create remarketing lists

Retargeting or remarketing lists for search ads let you customize your ad campaigns especially for people who have previously visited your website. Retarterding allows you to tailor your bids and ads for these visitors, with either increasing your bid by 20% for those who have previously visited your website in the last 30 days, or by showing a different ad to visitors who didn’t go through the check-out process. 

Remarketing is a great way to reach back to the right audience that have already once or a few times showed interest in your brand. This creates an opportunity for improving your ad copies based on the different retargeting audiences, which means better brand recognition, and ultimately better conversion rate.

Summary

As quite often in the world of marketing, there is not an universal truth of what works the best for everyone. Getting better and eventually mastering Google Ads and PPC advertising requires practice as well as trial and error.

We hope that this article guides you forward with Google Ads and helps you to set up your first PPC campaign. If you are eager to learn more about digital marketing and are willing to inspire yourself with other digital marketing ideas, check out this other article we wrote.

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Eliisa L.

The storyteller that spends her time in the studio, outdoors, or creating the best, most relevant content for rental shops.

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