If you want to take your business online, sooner or later, you will have to deal with the Google Ads, previously Google AdWords, platform. Google is the world’s most used search engine and it offers you great opportunities to reach your target customers.
If you already have a brick-and-mortar business, Google Ads allows you to tap the tremendous opportunities out there in the online world. Past few decades have seen the rise of billion-dollar businesses that wholly exist in the online world – and the trend continues. If you are planning such a business, again, Google Ads would be one of your major sources of leads.
The businesses that depend on Google Ads usually hire dedicated Google Ads experts or work with professional Google Ads agencies. However, there are many situations where you may like to do it yourself. DIY is a good way to learn Google Ads and have a glimpse of this advertising platform.
Doing it yourself does not mean that you need to waste your money, however. This beginner’s guide to Google Ads will help you build solid campaigns in a few easy steps. This guide does not require you to have specific knowledge about Google Ads platform. However, it assumes that you are familiar with search engines, search engine results, ads, pay per click, and other related terms.
Note: This guide focuses on the text ads on Google Search Network, the most widely used ad type. However, it also has essential information on other ad types. If you are just starting with Google Ads or need a quick refresher, this step-by-step guide would be certainly a valuable resource for you.
1. Keywords: The Foundation of Your Google Ads Campaigns
The importance of keywords cannot be emphasized enough. Keywords are the foundation of your Google Ads campaign, and you should do a thorough and complete keyword research before you move to the next steps. If the keyword research is lousy, no amount of hard work or skill can compensate.
While keyword research is a vast topic in itself, the following points will help you to come up with effective keywords.
- Brainstorm to find the right keywords. Put yourself in the shoe of your target audience – it is very important. Open Google search in your web browser and search your product while being in your customer’s shoe. Create a list of keywords with this brainstorming session.
PS: See the “related searches” and “search suggestions” to expand your keyword list.
- use keyword research tools to add new keywords and expand the keyword list with the keywords that you missed in your brainstorming session. At the same time, use keyword research tools to weed out unnecessary keywords. Unnecessary keywords are those keywords that people aren’t using to search for the products you offer.
PS: Remember that the searchers might be using quite different keywords that you were expecting. Pre-owned car vs. used car is a classic example. You might believe that you are selling pre-owned cars, but most users use “used cars” as a keyword. In such situations, you must use the keywords that the searchers are searching for. Although it does not hurt to create an ad group with pre-owned cars theme for test purposes, you cannot afford to miss the lot who’s searching for “used cars.”
Keyword Research – The Foundation
Google and Bing offer keyword research tools. However, I highly recommend trying other keyword research tools as well and find the one that you like the most.
2. Choosing Campaign Type
After you have done the due research on your keywords, it’s time to create your Ads campaign. Create or log in to Google Ads account, and go to the campaigns tab. Click the +CAMPAIGN button, and select the Search Network only. Search network is the most widely used campaign type, and we are going to use this type. Following is a brief introduction of all campaign types.
I. Search Network
Search network campaign is the most widely used campaign type. It shows your ad to people when they search on Google.com or any other Google domain like Google.ae or Google.co.uk. This may or may not include Google search partners depending on your choice. You can choose to include or exclude partners in the Network section (explained below).
II. Display Network
According to Google, Display Network comprises of over 2 million websites worldwide and reaches over 90% of global internet users. Display ads consist of text as well as banners, but mostly banners. Chances are that you have already seen many such ads while browsing the internet. Please note that display ads do not appear on the search engine results page (SERP).
Why Create Separate Campaigns for Search and Display Network?
Google offers you to create a campaign and show your ads on the search and display network. So, why not take advantage of this feature and why create separate campaigns for the search and display network? The two-word answer is
The search network is quite different from the display network. On the search network, the user is actively typing the keywords to search for something specific. On the display network, however, the user is just browsing the websites for something and is most probably in a completely different state of mind. An expert online marketer wouldn’t want to show the same text ads hanging around the content on different websites.
Shopping ads do appear on the search engine results page (SERP). They are different from the text ads as they feature a picture, price, and other related information about the product – which gives you a competitive advantage over text-only ads. Google shopping ads are suitable if you are selling a product online. Setting up Google shopping ads requires few additional steps – OK, more than a few. But if you put your time and effort in managing your merchant center account, you can not only have a competitive edge in your Google ads but also streamline your online selling procedures.
Google shows Video ads on YouTube and Google video partners. According to Google, Google video partner publishers are carefully vetted and must meet Google’s inventory quality standards. Video ads have two types: in-stream and video discovery.
- In-Stream Video Ads: In-stream video ads appear while a user is viewing a video. They can appear at the start or during the video playback.
- Video Discovery Ads: These ads appear on the YouTube home page, YouTube search results, and in the related videos stream shown on the right side of the YouTube window.
III. Universal app campaign
Universal app campaigns show your Google Play store apps and let the users install the apps. App install campaigns let you choose your apps from the Google Play store, and run across the Search, Display, and YouTube ad networks. According to Google, most of your ads, targeting, and bidding will be automated based on your app selection.
How Many Campaigns Should I have?
Accounts, campaigns, and ad groups are some means of organizing your ads. All this can be confusing for a new Google Ads user. So, how many campaigns should you have in your Google Ads account?
Although, the number of campaigns varies depending on your requirements, here is a useful rule:
If the group of ads you want to serve can operate under the same budget and in the same geographical area, you will most probably need a single campaign for that group. For our used cars example, you can create a campaign targeting BMW in Florida and another campaign targeting BMW in Washington because you are targeting different geographical areas. However, if you have different color BMWs and want to serve the ads in one geographical area under a single budget, you do not need different campaigns for every BMW color.
Remember, each campaign lets you choose a different budget and a different geographic location.
3. Choosing Campaign Options
Each campaign type offers different campaign options. In this tutorial, we are creating a text ad for the search network only.
The first decision you’ll have to face is choosing between the Standard and All features. Standard offers less control, hence more convenience, while All features option offers more control. By all means, choose the All features. All features option offers additional options like advanced location options, delivery method, ad scheduling, ad rotation, dynamic search ads, and campaign URL options. It is OK if you do not want to use these options right now. However, as your campaign progresses, you will most probably need to adjust some of these options. And changing campaign type then would be quite difficult. You have the option to load settings from an existing campaign. This is a great time saver in many situations. Suppose, you are creating many campaigns with slightly different settings, you can load the setting from an existing campaign and change the required settings – a lot better than creating every campaign from scratch.
Control vs. Convenience
Google Ads offers a number of options where you give some control to Google to manage your campaign in favor of added convenience. However, this convenience comes at a high price. It is highly recommended that you spend some time and effort in learning the Google Ads platform, instead of handing over the unnecessary and expensive control to Google.
4. Choosing Networks and Devices
Search network and display network are the two main places where Google shows your ads. Because we have selected a “search network only” campaign in the previous step, we only have the options related to the search network. Following is the brief description of available options.
Google Search Network: This primarily includes Google search. Additionally, it includes other Google properties like Google Play, Google Shopping, and Google Maps.
Google Search Partners: This includes many other websites that have partnered with Google to show ads including AOL.com, Ask.com, Dogpile.com, Lycos.com, and some other similar sites. This also includes Amazon.com, NYtimes.com, washingtonpost.com, and other similar sites.
Because Google search network is the primary network, and it is where we want our ads to appear the most, we cannot exclude it. However, we have the choice to exclude Google search partners. If you choose to show your ads on Google search partners, however, keep an eye on the performance of your Google Ads campaign and exclude it if you are not satisfied with the search partners performance.
As far as the devices are concerned, you do not have anything to choose here. In my opinion (IMO), Google has retained this section for information purpose only. Hover your mouse on the question mark sign against devices, and you will see a tip on how you can choose to show your ads on different devices.
A possible scenario could be to show your ads in this campaign on desktop computers only and create another “call only” campaign for mobile devices. To discourage Google to show your ads in this campaign on mobile devices, you can use bid adjustments and set a very low bid for mobile devices. You can also, somewhat, optimize the same ads to show on desktop and mobile devices with the help of ad extensions. There is more on the ad extensions in the following section.
5. Location Options
Google offers a comprehensive set of location options – especially if you have chosen “all features” campaign type. You can choose to show your ads in all countries, a specific country, a specific city, or a region. Just type the name of your required location and see the options Google offers.
The ability to exclude location is very useful for precise geographic targeting. For example, if you offer countrywide services but do not offer them in a few states or areas, you can easily select your country to show the ads and exclude the specific states or areas.
You can also choose to show your ads within a specific radius, regardless of the area or city. Click on the Advanced search, and then click Radius targeting.
There are a few advanced location options as well. Understanding the following three points will enable you to choose the optimal setting.
People in: When someone searches on Google, Google determines the physical location of the searcher by the IP address of the device. This enables Google to know the approximate precise location of the searcher – unless the searcher is using a proxy, which is not very common. In addition to the IP address, Google might use Wi-Fi for desktop and mobile devices, and GPS along with cellular tower location for mobile devices to determine the location.
People searching for: People use keywords to search for something in a specific area. For example, a searcher might search for “blue BMW for sale in Washington.” This falls in the category of “people searching for.” So, if you have set your location options to show your ads to people searching for blue BMW in Washington, your ad will appear against this keyword even if the searcher is not physically present in Washington.
Show interest in: This option is quite broad. According to Google, it determines interest of the searcher by terms used in the search, past searches that indicate an interest in location, the searcher’s past physical locations, searches on Google maps, country-specific Google domains, like Google.ae for UAE, and even the content and the context of the website where the ad is showing. Quite broad criteria to determine interest! Usually, experts have not shown any particular dislike for Google’s methods of determining interest. However, keep a sharp eye on it as it may drain your Google Ads budget on unproductive clicks.
6. Language Settings
Google determines the language of a searcher by the Google interface the searchers choose in their Google search pages. As Google does not translate your ads to other languages, it makes sense to choose the language your ads are written in. However, if you believe that your target searchers can understand your ad and the landing page regardless of their chosen language, you can select more than one language in the language settings.
7. Bid Strategy
Bid strategies are concerned with how and how much you would be paying to Google for your goals. After reading this guide, have a look at the related resources at the end and read the guide titled understand Google Ads bid strategies in detail.
Bid strategies can be divided into two broad categories: automated bid strategies and manual bid strategies. Automated bid strategies include Target Search Page Location, Target CPA (Cost-Per-Acquisition), Target Return on Ad Spend, Target Outrank Share, and Maximize Clicks bidding strategies.
In automated bidding strategies, you define your goal, set some limits and let Google manage your bids. You give Google the freedom to increase or decrease your bids depending on the likelihood of achieving your goal. Automated bidding strategies can be useful in many scenarios. However, if you choose to use automated bidding strategies, keep in mind that Google’s decision algorithm might have some flaws or it might not be suitable for your specific circumstances. Keep an eye on the performance of your campaigns and make timely adjustments.
In addition to automated bidding strategies, you have the option to set your bids manually. Many advertisers find it useful to experiment with lower bid values for a week, gather and analyze the data, and then revise and optimize the bids.
5. Ad extensions
Ad extensions are a very useful feature and we highly recommend that you use it to its full potential.
The amazing thing about ad extensions is that it makes your ad prominent and engaging but does not cost anything extra. In fact, ad extensions increase your quality score resulting in lower costs – something more than a win-win.