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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.

 

Effective Google Ads Management

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 The purpose of the audit is to examine the account and look for any missed opportunities, wasted ad spend, poor or outdated setup — basically, to identify any places where campaigns could be improved.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

  • Conversion Rate: 1.41%
  • Cost per Lead: $517.84

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?

  • Not limiting or separating branded spend & keyword targeting, eating up the majority of the budget and skewing conversion data
  • Competitor spend not separated from other targeting and chewing through the budget with little ROI
  • Keyword targeting too broad, generating unqualified leads
  • Poor landing page experience

 

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

  • Conversion Rate: 7.94%, 463.12% increase
  • Cost per Lead: $180.63, 65.11% decrease

 

google ads case study before after graphKeep 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.

Search Engines & Search Engine Marketing (SEM)

 

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):

 

  • Cost-per-mille (CPM), or cost-per-thousand-impressions: advertisers are charged when their ad is shown a thousand times, even if users who saw the ad took no action.
  • Pay-per-click (PPC): advertisers are charged each time a user clicks on an ad.

 

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.

 

Google Ads Auction

 

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 … 

  1. Bid: Depending on the campaign bid strategy, the advertiser can assign a maximum amount they’d be willing to pay for a click on their ad.
  2. Ad Relevance: Google wants to provide users with the most helpful answer — so they will prioritize an ad they deem relevant based on factors like ad copy, expected clickthrough rate (CTR), and landing page experience.
  3. Ad Extensions & Other Ad Formats: Advertisers can maximum screen space by creating extensions for their ads that highlight services/call-to-actions, share contact information, or promote prices.

 

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. 

 

Google Ads Campaign Types

 

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:

 

  1. Search: Our favorite campaign type, Search campaigns are highly customizable, effective avenues for achieving organizational goals. They most often appear on Google SERPs as text ads — they look a whole lot like organic search results, just with a green “Ad” tag by their destination URL.
  2. Display: Display campaigns are a more graphic approach. They come in various shapes and sizes (which we’ll cover a little later), but you’ll see them all on partner sites in the Google Display Network.
  3. Shopping: Shopping campaigns are great for eCommerce companies. These ads will appear at the top of Google SERPs in a shoppable carousel, each one usually consisting of a product photo, a price, and the vendor name.
  4. Video: If you’ve ever tried to watch anything on YouTube, you’ve likely seen an ad beforehand — those come from the Google Ads platform too! Video campaigns utilize several different video ad formats that vary in cost, including in-stream ads (skippable after 5 seconds) and video discovery ads. 
  5. App: App campaigns are designed to inspire app downloads, which is simple enough. Keyphrase here is “are designed” — meaning, Google does a lot of the designing for you. They’ll take text ideas and assets from your app listing, as well as your inputted budget and locations, to place ads on Search, Google Play, etc.

 

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. 

 

Google Ads Keyword Match Types

 

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:

 

  1. Exact match: Captures only search queries that match your keyword exactly or “close variants”.
  2. Phrase match: Captures only search queries that match your phrase or represent a close variation of your phrase with the same meaning. Extra words can be added before or after the phrase, but never in between unless it has the same meaning.
  3. Broad match modifier (BMM): A variation of broad match, BMM allows you to essentially designate specific words in a search to be exact match. Meaning, a search query must contain any keyword with a “+” before it, or its close variant, for an ad to show.
  4. Broad match: The default match type, broad match is also the most, well, broad. It captures misspellings, synonyms, related searches, or related variations.

 

Here’s a helpful li’l table: 

google ads campaign overviewAs 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.

 

How to Build a Google Ads Search Campaign

 

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: 

 

  • Once you create an account and have a vague idea of who you want to target, use Keyword Planner to help you come up with keyword ideas. Google has a wealth of data, and Keyword Planner is an opportunity for you to use it to estimate budgets and keywords.
  • Familiarize yourself with the functionality before you start creating ad groups. You’ll want to make sure you’ve adequately thought out the structure of your campaign before you start creating — oftentimes, deleting or making changes to aspects of campaigns is difficult or means deleting previous data.
  • For most campaigns, it’s easiest to build out the ad groups, keywords, and ads in Excel or Google Sheets first, then use Google’s desktop app Google Ads Editor to import it all in one go.
  • Some characteristics must be set at the campaign level, rather than the ad group or keyword level. Location and budget, for example, are both elements that can only be changed at the campaign level.
  • In most cases, there should be a maximum of 15 keywords in each ad group, and they should all be hyper-related to each other. We’re talkin’ the same root word for every keyword phrase, and anything synonymous living in a different, distinct ad group. Keywords within the same ad group do not cannibalize each other.
  • Unless your campaign goal is general awareness and your budget is huge, we’d recommend avoiding broad match in most cases. Opt for broad match modifier instead.
  • Fill out all ad copy fields available to maximize screen space and increase chances of relevancy. Count ‘em: 3 Headlines, 2 Descriptions, 2 Paths, 1 Display URL, and as many Extensions as applicable. Make sure to use your keywords throughout that match those targeted in each specific ad group, as well as clear call-to-actions.
  • To use a Location Extension, you’ll have to link your Google My Business to your Google Ads account.
  • Before launching, make sure your conversion actions are properly set up so you’re able to sufficiently track success and make data-based judgments. You’ll likely have to link your Google Analytics account to do this.

 

google ads campaign structure

 

Pet Grooming

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 Wash

  • Dog wash near me
  • Dog wash seattle
  • Best dog wash seattle
  • Affordable dog wash
  • Professional dog washer

Dog Clean

  • Clean my dog seattle
  • Dog cleaner near me
  • Best dog cleaner
  • Affordable dog cleaner
  • Professional dog cleaner

Dog Grooming

  • Dog grooming near me
  • Local dog grooming
  • Affordable dog grooming
  • Professional dog grooming
  • Best dog grooming

Dog Groomer

  • Dog groomer near me
  • Best dog groomer seattle
  • Professional dog groomer

Dog Haircut

  • Where to get my dog’s hair cut
  • Dog haircut near me
  • Best dog haircut
  • Affordable dog haircut
  • Professional dog haircut
  • Local dog haircut

Dog Hair Trimming

  • Dog hair trimming near me
  • Dog hair trimming seattle
  • Best dog hair trimming
  • Dog trimming in my area

Dog Salon

  • Dog salon near me
  • Dog salon seattle
  • Best dog salon seattle
  • Affordable dog salon seattle
  • Local dog salon

Google Display Ad Sizes

 

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:

 

google ad sizes mobile and desktopMobile: 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:

 

    • Clickthrough Rate (CTR): Since a click occurs after an ad has already earned an impression, CTR can be a valuable indicator of how intriguing your ad copy is in each specific ad group.
    • Cost per Click (CPC): A high CPC can indicate high competition for specific aspects of a campaign, including search keywords and ads. Consider finding long-tail keywords instead.

 

  • Conversion Rate: A post-click metric, conversion rate can be a great indicator of landing page experience or the quality of your offer. To increase conversion rate, make sure you make it clear what action you’d like site users to take and how they can take it.
  • Cost / Conversion: The cost per conversion is the best way to assess your ROI, especially for ecommerce companies that can track exact conversion values. You’ll want your cost / conversion to be less than the value of your conversion.
  • Search Impression Share (IS): One of the most useful competitive metrics, Search IS is the percentage of impressions your ads earned out of all the impressions they could’ve earned. Use it to get an idea of how many competitors are bidding on the same keywords, or how often users are searching for your keywords.
  • Search Lost IS (Rank): Search Lost IS (Rank) is the percentage of auctions you could’ve won based on your targeted keywords, but didn’t due to low Ad Rank. Refer back to the qualities of an ad that influence Ad Rank, and play around with them until you find something that reduces the amount of lost traffic.
  • Search Lost IS (Budget): Search Lost IS (Budget) tells you how many auctions you could’ve won based on your targeted keywords, but didn’t due to low budget. Consider increasing your budget if this number is higher than 25%. 

 

 

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.

 

Google Advertising Services with Odd Dog

 

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!

 

Want to get started? Let us audit your Google Ads account!