Google Ads is a very robust and flexible platform. This gives it some key advantages to business owners including the ability to market to very specific target audiences, show ads on a massive and diverse network and spend your budget judiciously.
However, the platform can sometimes seem overly complex and hard at times to navigate. Below are the 4 key components to make sure to get right in Google Ads to ensure quality campaigns that produce measurable results for your business.
- Configure Conversion Tracking
- Get Your Keywords Right
- Set Your Targeting
- Test & Iterate : Get Data Driven
1. Configure Conversion Tracking
This might be the biggest and easiest mistake to make as a Google Ads newbie. Not configuring your conversions, not setting them up properly, or using Google Ads defaults only.
Your campaign is running for 1 reason – producing leads and sales for your business – that’s the bottom line. If you can’t accurately measure which Campaigns, Ad Groups, Ads, Keywords and Targeting are producing results for your business you’ll have no idea what to optimize and your campaign will perform poorly.
So what’s a “conversion” and how do you set this up in Google Ads?
A conversion is an important action that happens on your website (or sometimes directly from an Ad) such as an inquiry for your business or a sale. You can also get more granular and measure more minor conversion events that you know will eventually lead to a sale such as a newsletter sign-up or engagement with content on your website.
How you configure conversion tracking varies widely depending on your website CMS and complexity of your website. Below are the 6 required steps we advise and implement for clients:
- Translate your online marketing objectives into conversion actions you can track. For example; if your goal is getting more inquiries for your business, the conversion actions might be a phone call (measured by a phone number call-out click on your website), an email or an inquiry form submission. Translating campaign objectives into trackable conversions is vital.
- Sync Google Analytics with your Website CMS. You don’t have to use Google as your analytics platform but I highly recommend. It’s free, integrates with almost every CMS and is extremely robust. Sign up for an account at Analytics.Google.com and then add your accounts analytics code snippet your website. Depending on your CMS this is usually straight forward.
- Sync Google Analytics with your Google Ads account. Click on “Tools & Settings” on the top right, then click on Google Analytics and “link”.
- Turn your conversion actions into Google Analytics Goals. This can be a bit trickier and may require the use of more complex Google Tools such as Google Tag Manager or the help of a developer or consultant.
- Test your new Google Analytics Goals. This is easy! Go to Google Analytics Real Time, click on Conversions and then click on the conversion action on your website you want to test. If you’ve set everything up properly you’ll see it immediately trigger as a “Goal Hit”
- Import your Goals to Google Ads. In the Google Ads platform click on “Tools & Settings” at the top right, and then “Conversions” (under the measurement heads). Click the big blue “+” button and select import. You’re now measuring conversions
Congrats! You’ve now set up conversions. You can optimize your entire account with the bottom line of your business driving the bus. Show Ads that produce the most, the most quality conversions and the lowest cost-per-lead. Pause keywords that have a poor conversion rate and add more iterations of keywords that have great performance. Target in-market audience segments that are converting great. The options are endless.
2. Get Your Keywords Right
Keywords are at the heart of the Google Search Engine and it’s vital to get this campaign component correct.
The bottom line is creating a keyword mix that is producing the most relevant search terms for your business, campaigns & Ad Groups. More relevant terms mean higher conversion rates and happy searchers. A “search term” is the exact query that someone typed into the Google search box. A keyword is what you use in Google Ads to trigger your Ad to show based on your selected keyword match type and the search query. Here is an example:
You use the phrase match keyword “HVAC Services”. Someone types in “Best HVAC services in Toronto” –> Your Ad will show. Someone else types in “HVAC companies near me” –> Your Ad will not show.
Keywords are important! Here are a few steps you can take to get them right:
- Do your research. You may think you know how people are searching for your company but you may be very surprised – we frequently are! Use Google Keyword Planner (free in your Google Ads account) to brainstorm keywords based on search volume, competition and cost. We also recommend looking at historical data (if you have any – either Google Ads or Organic), talking to customers and using best guesses.
- Organize by Ad Group. Ad Groups are meant to organize keywords by theme. Let’s say you sell 2 products – golf clubs and golf balls. You should create 2 Ad Groups. One that organizes golf ball keywords and ads as well as golf club keywords and ads. Why? It has to do with relevancy. If someone types in “cheap golf balls Iowa” their more likely to click-through and convert if this search triggers an Ad Headline that reads “best affordable golf balls in Iowa” rather than “golf club sale”.
- Mind your match types. Google has 4 positive (and 1 negative – more on that later) match types. Depending on your match type you’ll trigger ads for different search queries. Make sure you know your match types and get them right. They range from broad match (which will trigger ads for search queries that loosely relate to your keywords) to exact match (your search query needs to exactly match your keyword).
- Regularly audit and prune your keywords. We’ll talk about this in section #4.
3. Set Your Targeting
The granularity of targeting available in Google Ads is fantastic (and fun for a data nerd like me)! However, this can be a landmine for newbies. If you’re not correctly setting your locations, languages, Ad schedule and more you might be blowing your budget.
How and what you target is also dependant on your business – but here are some of the essentials:
- Location. You can set this when you’re initially building your campaign. Make sure you are only targeting areas where you do business. You can target by country, province/state, city and even by radius and postal code.
- Time & Day. Are you using call extensions or have great phone service but only between 9-5? Are you seeing great conversion rates, but only late at night? You can set which times and days your ads show (or just set up a schedule for extensions!)
- Audience. Retargeting can be a lucrative tactic in Google Ads – we use it with a lot of clients. However you can also target by demographics, what people are currently researching (in-market segments) and people’s search habits and personas (affinity audiences).
- Device. You can target by mobile, desktop or tablet. You may see great conversion rates from a single device or want to be purely mobile or desktop focused.
- Language. You can select language during or after your campaign set up. By using this setting you are telling Google they can show your Ads on a browser that is set for a different language. Get really sophisticated by using keywords in multiple languages as well (which sometimes have far better CPC!)
4. Test & Iterate : Be Data-Driven
Google Ads will give you an amazing amount of data – and you should use it (after all, you’re paying for it). In component #1 we got our conversions set up. Now we can use this conversion data to make our account even better. Here are a few ways you can use data to skyrocket your campaigns results:
- Prune your keywords. You should be consistently looking at which keywords are producing conversions and which aren’t. Delete or pause the poor performers, add iterations of the high performers. Look at your search term report. These are the actual exact queries people have entered. Which are converting? Add these!
- Split test Ads. This is the single best action you can regularly take to jack up your click-through-rates. CTR is not in and of itself important, however it can lead to better conversion rates and lower costs, dramatically increasing your campaigns ROI. Split testing is easy. Delete Ads that have crappy CTR and conversion rate. Ad more iterations of Ads that have great performance. Test new Ads.
- Test Audiences. Build an Ad Group, copy it and target a specific audience. Check back in a couple weeks and see how it’s performing relative to your general Ad Group. You can also observe audiences and gather data without targeting exclusively.
- Adjust Bids. You can use a variety of bidding strategies in Google Ads – but that’s another blog for another time. This step is different. Making bid adjustments involves looking at your data and making bid adjustments to improve performance. Which locations are converting the best? Bump up your bids for these! Is there a time of day that sucks for conversions? Lower your bids.
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Ira Thomson is North Shore Digital’s Co-Founder and current Director of Analytics & Insights