Google Ads is an incredibly powerful advertising platform that is often the cornerstone of many businesses digital marketing strategy. When executed correctly, a properly run Google Ads campaign can help drive qualified leads, generate sales, and build or reinforce brand awareness. When a campaign is executed incorrectly, it can waste valuable advertising dollars and send your ROI right down the drain.
There is a good chance that if you are reading this article you are currently running a Google Ads campaign, or thinking about running one. This article is designed to help you clean up (or properly set up) your Google Ads search campaigns and eliminate wasted ad spend. While this article focuses on Google Ads Search Campaign, many of these same principles can be used across your CPC (Cost Per Click) Campaigns.
1. Define Your Goals and Expectations Early
This one seems like a no brainer, but one of the most commonly overlooked first steps of running an effective Google Ads search campaign is defining goals.
- Are you looking to dominate the competition (often expensive depending on your industry) or compete in the marketplace?
- How much are you willing to spend to acquire a new lead for your product or business?
- What conversion action is important for your business when acquiring a new lead? For some businesses, phone calls are more important than contact form submissions and vice versa.
While the answers to these questions will vary depending upon your business or industry, defining goals early is the first step in effectively building ROI for your advertising budget.
2. Set Up Conversion Tracking
Simply put, a conversion is an interaction with a potential customer that results in that customer making a desired interaction with your business. Examples of conversions include clicking on a phone number on your website or ad, filling out a contact form, or downloading an ebook (just to name a few). One of the most powerful features of Google Ads is its ability to define and measure conversion actions on your advertising campaign. Conversions are a good measure of success and help let you know what is working and what you need to work on. If you are not measuring conversion for when someone clicks on your ads, you are missing a valuable chunk of data.
2a. Set Up Conversion Tracking
Don’t worry, that headline is not a typo. We can’t stress this enough, if you are not measuring conversions, you are most definitely wasting ad spend. Not measuring conversions is like a pilot flying blind: a recipe for disaster. If you take nothing else from this article, heed the advice of measuring conversions on your campaigns.
3. Create an Ad Schedule
The weight of this tip will vary depending upon your industry, but many businesses can benefit from limiting the days and hours that your ads are running. Is your business only open 9-5? Are you closed on weekends or specific holidays? Running ads during the hours that you are not available to service potential clients or customers is any easy way to increase wasted ad spend. Creating an effective ad schedule also allows you to make smart creative adjustments like increasing keyword bids during peak hours or scaling back during slower times throughout the day.
If you are in a service industry (plumber, electrician, HVAC just to name a few) this tip is even more relevant. Customers reaching out for emergency service typically contact multiple sites at once. A delay of a few hours, let alone 24-48 can lead you to getting clicks and contacts for leads that are long gone by the time you follow up with them.
4. Define Your Geographic Location
Geographic Location targeting is a crucial feature of the Google Ads platform that is often overlooked in poorly optimized Ad Campaigns. Location targeting allows you to serve your ad to potential customers in areas that are more likely to convert.
Location targeting can include:
- States within a country
- Radius around a location (county, town, etc.)
The ideal geographic targeting for your campaign will vary depending upon your business or industry. If for example you are advertising delivery for your pizza restaurant, there’s a good chance that setting a 50 mile radius around your location is over-targeting, while a 1 mile radius is under-targeting.
Questions to ask when determining Geographic Targeting:
- Where does your average customer live?
- Are there any high income locations you want to target?
- How far are you willing to travel to deliver your goods or services?
Another great feature of geographic targeting is the ability to make bid adjustments on targeted locations. To go back to the pizza place example, you could increase bids on clicks from users in a 1 mile radius (more likely to convert) and decrease bids on users located in the outer bands of your determined radius.
5. Follow Up With Leads As Fast As Humanly Possible
Ever hear the old adage, “the early bird gets the worm”? This holds true in the world of online advertising. The longer you wait to respond to a new lead request, the less likely they are to convert into a paying customer. While this is less of a Google Ads tip, and more a piece of sound business advice – there is nothing worse than losing a hot lead to slow reaction time. It takes hard work, and valuable advertising dollars to see results from online advertising. Getting leads out of your Google Ads campaign is rewarding, and converting those leads into revenue is even more rewarding.
6. Beware of Broad Match Keywords
Broad match keywords are a double edged sword that offer many good and bad qualities and should be handled with care. Broad match keywords allow your ads to trigger for search terms that are remotely close to your keyword. This can be helpful during the initial phases of your Google ads campaign setup as your campaign will return a high volume of search term data from this approach.
Some of this search term data will be relevant, and you will use this data to hopefully identify good phrase & exact match search terms to add to your campaign. On the other side of the equation, a lot of the search terms data that is returned will demonstrate just how wacky broad match can be.
Take for example the search term “commercial painting”
Let’s say you are a commercial painting contractor looking to get leads through a Google Ads search campaign. You add “commercial painting” as a broad match search term to your campaign, and after a week review the search queries that triggered your ads. Here are a few search terms that triggered ads and got clicks to your website:
- Commercial Painting
- Commercial Painting Tools
- Commercial Painting Equipment
- Commercial Painting How To Videos
- Commercial Painting class action lawsuit
- How to become a commercial painter
It’s safe to say you probably don’t want to pay for clicks based around people searching for how to videos, lawsuit information, tools/equipment, or how to become a commercial painter in this scenario. This is one small example of broad match keywords at work, but illustrates both the power and danger involved in this approach.
Broad match is the ultimate trial and error approach to managing an adwords campaign. Depending upon your industry this can get expensive very fast, and should be handled with extreme care.
Wordstream has a great article and infographics detailing average costs and industry benchmarks that is definitely worth a read.
7. Work On Your Quality Scores
When it comes to improvements you should make to your Google Ads campaign, improving your quality score is near the top of the list. Quality Score has a major impact on where your ad shows up during a search, and what you pay per click when an end user clicks on the ad. (Wordstream has a nice in-depth article about quality score that explains this concept in greater detail.) While it can feel impossible to get a quality score of 10/10, if you are seeing quality scores like 2/10 or 4/10 you are probably doing something wrong.
Things to look for when improving your quality scores:
- Are your landing pages relevant to your ads?
- Are your keyword groups tight and focused around closely related terms?
- Is your ad copy relevant, engaging, and free of typos?
- Do you have a few ads for each keyword group? (3 is the ideal number of ads)
- Are you staying on top of negative keywords to make sure you are filtering out irrelevant search terms?
At the end of the day, Google’s goal is to deliver relevant results when users search for things online. Your primary goal when creating new ads, ad groups, and landing pages should be to deliver relevant information to your end user. If you approach your adwords campaign with relevancy in mind, there is a good chance these efforts will be reflected in your quality score.
8. Familiarize yourself with Google Academy for Ads
“Let’s be honest, no one likes reading directions”, said the person running a low performing Google Ads campaign. Knowledge is power, and in this case Google gives you knowledge for free in the form of self guided training modules designed to teach you the ins and outs of their advertising platform. No matter your skill level, virtually everyone running a Google Ads campaign can benefit from the training modules offered for free through Google Academy for Ads.
This helpful resource can help teach or reinforce fundamental and intermediate concepts of Google’s advertising platform including:
- Search Ads
- Display Ads
- Mobile Ads
- Shopping Ads
- Video Ads
This is a good way to learn core concepts or give yourself a quick refresher, and a huge help for novice users. By the end some of the training modules can feel redundant, but overall Academy for Ads is an extremely useful resource.
9. Stop Wasting Ad Spend Bidding On Your Competitors
This is one of the most controversial tips in this entire article, because when done right, bidding on competitor brand names can be an extremely effective strategy. Unfortunately, it is often done wrong and leads to clicks that don’t yield results. Competitor keywords almost universally suffer from a low CTR and QS. Furthermore, when someone is searching for a business or brand by name, there is a good chance they are currently doing business with that company or plan to do business with them. While your ad may get clicks, a portion of these clicks may come from consumer confusion.
Another thing to keep in mind with competitor keywords, is the effect on your daily/monthly budget. If you are working with a limited or constrained budget, bidding on low converting keywords is a good way to further deplete already limited funds. If the idea of bidding on your competition appeals to you, Wordstream has an excellent article about the pros and cons of this approach.
10. Use A Cheat Code
Okay, so there is no such thing as a cheat code for Google Ads (that would be nice though, right?). However, there are a whole host of valuable resources available online once you get the basics out of the way:
- Wordstream – Wordstream is a great resource for articles to help cleanup Google Ads Campaigns and maximize your potential.
- Wordstream offers a pretty helpful Adwords Performance Grader for the DIY crowd that wants a little help.
- Spyfu – Good for keyword research and competitor analysis. Take the results with a grain of salt as the info is not 100% accurate. For what it’s worth, Spyfu’s data is pretty damn close for the most part and can be helpful during the initial phase of setting up campaigns.
- SEMRush – SEMRush is another keyword research tool. We like to use this in conjunction with Spyfu during the initial research and setup phase of Google Ad campaigns.
Note: There are a lot of excellent resources out there to help with your Google Ads knowledge base. The above mentioned are just a select few. These are not paid endorsements, and we do not receive any affiliate payments for the above links.