Google Ads is one of our favorite services here at Odd Dog. A well-built, well-managed campaign can produce some pretty incredible results; if conversions are tracking properly (which admittedly is one of the hardest parts), these results act as an excellent motivator for both the business owner and the marketer. We love to see a thoughtful campaign succeed!
In that spirit, we’re giving away some of our tricks for successful Google Ads campaign management in this blog post. Many of us in the Odd Dog office live and breathe Google Ads — and since it’s our job to stay on top of things, we can be a pretty valuable resource when it comes to everything from algorithm updates to click-worthy ad copy.
For those of you who don’t know us, or maybe those who remain unconvinced of the impact Google Ads can have, read on to see what a successful campaign often looks like.
A Case Study
Though we specialize in comprehensive management, current or potential clients will occasionally come to Odd Dog to audit their existing Google Ads accounts. The purpose of the audit is to examine the account and look for any missed opportunities, wasted ad spend, poor or outdated setup — basically, to identify any places where campaigns could be improved.
SharpeVision Modern LASIK was one such client who came to us to review their account for inefficiencies. Before we get into the details of what we found during our initial audit, it’s important to understand the metric we were focusing on as a measurement of success: leads. In this case, a lead was a “Contact Us” form submission or a booked appointment from Ads traffic.
With leads as our key metric, we aimed to answer the question: What is the existing conversion rate and cost per conversion (i.e., cost per lead) and is there room for improvement?
The Before Metrics
After auditing, we found a ton of wasted ad spend stemming from, well, improper campaign setup. It happens — especially to managers outside the digital marketing industry.
Some of the problem areas we identified?
Once we discovered multiple structural issues with the campaigns, we decided starting fresh was the best way to ensure future success; we recommended complete campaign rebuilds and full campaign restructure for each of the client’s 3 locations throughout the US.
The results speak for themselves:
The After Metrics
Keep in mind that SharpeVision specializes in surgical services, meaning their conversion value is $500 or more — so a lead for well under half that means a significant return on investment in most cases.
So how did we do it? Read on for best practices when using Google Ads, as well as information on how the platform has developed over time.
Google Ads Fundamentals
Google Ads is a sophisticated platform that allows modern advertisers access to consumer data like never before. The platform itself can be pretty intimidating at first, and a little bit of context goes a long way when trying to use it. With that in mind, we’ve decided to start with the fundamentals — plus, it’s hard for us to explain best practices without you knowing the terminology first.
It wasn’t long after the invention of the internet that search engines came along to make sense of it all. If you think of the internet as just a large collection of HTML files, then creating search functionality to crawl the collection seems like an obvious next step — definitely quicker than thumbing through each file manually.
The next problem developers of the mid-to-late 90s had to tackle was, of course, funding. How could they monetize search engines — thus profiting from this new, disruptive gap in the marketplace — without losing the search volume they’d already built up?
As a way of backing services without charging users, search engines began creating ad space on their platforms. When Google AdWords launched in 2000, there were two primary cost models for search engine marketing (SEM):
When PPC was first introduced, advertisers were charged a flat rate for each click. As the systems became a little more complex, however, PPC evolved into a bid-based cost system — meaning, advertisers can place a bid amount on specific search keywords based on their perceived relevance.
Google has since dropped the “Word” in “AdWords” and, today, bid-based PPC has become the industry standard for SEM.
Before you start bidding, it’s good if you have an understanding of how the auction works.
Every time someone searches on Google, Google holds an auction to determine which advertisers get top positioning on the search engine results page, or SERP, for that specific search. It’s implied that — for the largest number of potential customers to see their ad — an advertiser’s goal is to make a favorable enough bid to win the first spot on the results page. Your bid isn’t the only thing that compels Google to show your ad, however; there are a number of things Google considers to determine which ads earn a spot on the SERP.
Ad Rank is determined by your …
These metrics together comprise your Ad Rank, and heavily influence your in-auction performance. As your campaign progresses you can get an idea of how well your ads are performing in auctions by checking out competitive metrics in Google Ads.
Grab your toolbox because we’re about to start building!
But first: some direction. A blueprint, if you will. Like any marketing campaigns (or anything, really), you’ll want to define a clear goal before moving forward. What will you consider a conversion … and are you able to track it accurately? Who do you want to complete this desired action? And what resources do you have to convince them to take action?
Depending on the design and production capabilities in your arsenal, you may consider launching a combination of several campaign types. You’ve got five to choose from:
There are 3.5 billion searches made on Google every day, a share that represents over 70% of all searches made on any search engine globally. That’s a large audience on Google SERPs alone, and definitely something to consider when picking a network for your ads to show on.
For Search and Display campaigns, advertisers have the opportunity to choose specific keywords to target — and how closely to target them, using various keyword match types. Here they are, from most specific to least:
Here’s a helpful li’l table:
As you can see, broad match is indeed very broad — meaning it brings in irrelevant searches and unqualified leads more often than any other match type.
Creating a New Campaign in Google Ads
Phew, that was a lot of background info.
We’ve finally made it to the fun part though. It’s time to create your first campaign in Google Ads!
Because they’re arguably the most customizable (and oftentimes the most bang for your buck), we’ll focus primarily on how to build out Search campaigns. The other campaign types tend to be more automated; from an advertiser perspective, this means campaigns are easier to create and manage, but Google limits the amount of control you have on the campaign, thus limiting reporting metrics and your ability to optimize for cost.
Smart campaigns, for example, is a feature Google rolled in 2018 for small businesses, particularly those with little to no marketing capacity. The technology was originally called Google AdWords Express, but Google has since simplified, turning it into its own campaign type rather than an entire platform. The ads produced look just like Search campaign-type ads, but the work that goes into creating them is minimal — great for companies looking for a quick fix, but usually an expensive long-term solution for small businesses.
Building a successful search campaign often requires a good understanding of match types and how they interact with each other. Keywords are contained in ad groups, which are basically folders within a single campaign; it’s possible for ad groups in the same campaign to place bids in the same auctions, which will in turn drive up the price you’d have to pay for your ad to show. We call this phenomenon “keyword cannibalization” and, like real cannibalization, you’ll want to avoid it.
To avoid keyword cannibalization and maximize effectiveness within your campaign, here are some tips to follow while setting up your Google Ads campaign:
Services: Dog Wash ($25), Dog Cut ($25), Full Doggie Grooming Package ($40)
Goal: More appointments booked for dogs
Conversion Action: Appointment form submissions, phone calls
Campaign Type: Search
Target Audience: dog owners in Seattle area
Location Targeting: Seattle (Nielsen)
Ad Groups / Keywords:
Dog Hair Trimming
We use Display campaigns most frequently as a means of remarketing. To do this, you’ll have to not only design Display ads, but also set up an Audience in Google Ads. Google is pretty particular about the ad sizes they accept, so here are the most common Google Ads Display ad sizes:
Mobile: 300×250, 320×50, 320×100, 250×250, 200×200
Desktop: 300×250, 336×280, 728×90, 300×600, 160×600, 970×90, 468×60, 250×250, 200×200
Google Ads Optimization & Management
Building a Google Ads campaign definitely requires a chunk of time upfront. Campaign management, on the other hand, is a little less time-consuming all at once … but equally as important.
We’re a data-driven marketing agency living in a data-driven world, and that means the majority of our campaign management techniques are also driven by the data that our Google Ads campaigns collect over time. Depending on the size of your account, campaigns usually take about 3 months to accumulate enough data for the savvy advertiser to identify trends confidently and make adjustments accordingly. At that point and in the meantime, it’s important to understand the impact of key metrics. Here are some of our favorites to focus on:
Depending on the campaign goal and structure, each campaign has different metrics that will best determine its performance. You can find all metrics either in the Reports or by customizing the columns at both the ad group and the campaign level in Google Ads. Some metrics are only available at certain levels — Search Lost IS (Budget), for example, can only be seen when you’re looking at the performance of the campaign as a whole.
If the length of this blog post is any indication of how complex Google Ads is, it makes sense that Google is trying to simplify it for small business owners. The problem with simplifying an advertising platform, however, is that it puts the power in Google’s hands — and, as a business owner, you want to be able to customize and optimize at will.
Most business owners already have a lot on their plate, which is why large companies dedicate entire departments solely to marketing. If you think Google Ads would be a good platform for your business (but are concerned you don’t have the time to build out a successful campaign), give us a call. We’d love to hear about your unique product or service, and brainstorm ways we can help share it with the online world!