True, Google Ads is getting more competitive with the day. Cost-per-click’s are rising and this will continue over the next few years.
However, it is still one of the most successful ways of advertising. Even today, you can still find ways to make your campaigns profitable. And when setting up your campaigns correctly, Google Ads can be a very powerful tool to send quality visitors to your site that actually convert!
Last update: 5 August 2021
About this guide
There are 2 parts to this article. First, I will be covering the steps to set up a Google Ads campaign. This is all to give your campaigns the right structure to start optimising from. The second part will be all about the ongoing optimisation of the account. These are the tips and tricks that will eventually give you more conversions out of your budget.
About me: I am an experienced PPC specialist. Running Google Ads campaigns for my clients is what I do for a living. In this article, I will describe the steps that I typically follow to set up high-converting Google Ads campaigns for my clients.
Now, let’s get started with the first part: the setup of your Google Ads campaign.
1. Set budgets and goals
First of all, we are deciding what the goal is of the Google Ads campaign.
Which budget is available and what is the planned duration is of the campaign?
The campaign goal is a maximum cost you would like to pay per conversion, which could be a sale, lead or anything else you define as a priority on your site.
Limit yourself to maximal one goal per Google Ads campaign. Having two goals for one campaign often makes it harder to optimise because the goals might clash with each other.
If you have more goals you want to achieve, then add another campaign within the same Google Ads account and focus this one on the new goal.
2. Decide on the campaign structure
Now, your campaign structure should really reflect your own personal preference. Think of your Google Ads account as a folder structure.
Your keywords and ads are the core of your campaign, however the way you structure them in your campaigns and ad groups can help you further down the line.
There’s no limit in the number of ad groups and campaigns you can add. So, make sure you create a lot of ad groups. You will be able to write more relevant ad copies for each of your ad groups and get more control over when Google triggers your keywords. A win-win situation.
3. Build your keyword list
As mentioned, our keywords are the core of your campaigns. The entire structure of your account is built to make your keywords perform the best they can.
We wrote another article on how to build a killing keyword list, but here is the short version:
Step 3.1: Create a large keyword list
Add as many relevant keywords to each ad group. Don’t forget using plurals, different match types and maybe even misspellings!
To build the keyword list you can use the Keyword Tool within Google Ads.
Step 3.2: Group keywords into ad groups
There isn’t one right way in classifying the ad groups: a good layout of the ad groups makes the ad copy’s fit the keywords and makes it easier to optimise the Google Ads campaign later on.
Ad groups can be divided based on the type of keyword and relevance with the product.
It is not advisable to put specific and general keywords in the same ad group.
Step 3.3: Use different match types
Don’t rely too much on broad match keywords. Keep control over when your ad is being shown with phrase and exact match keywords.
When creating new keywords, these are standard added as broad match. I personally don’t recommend using broad match keywords in your account.
No, let me re-phrase that: don’t use broad match in your account. Ever. Unless you’re using a lot of negative keywords, these keywords will trigger too many irrelevant search queries. This will lower your Quality Score and increase your cost-per-click.
Instead, expand your keyword list with broad match modifier, phrase match and exact match keywords.
4. Use negative keywords
Negative keywords will prevent your ad from being triggered. It’s very important that you build a large negative keyword list, especially if you’re using a lot of broad match and negative keywords.
By adding this as a negative keyword list to your campaigns, people who include this in their search query won’t see your ad.
This will help you focus on clicks that will give you actual potential customers.
5. Write your first ad copies
Now, your ad copies are the only thing of your campaigns that is visible to your potential customers. You want to make sure that they appeal to your customers, but that you also follow best practices.
Step 5.1: Use keyword in each ad copy
A good ad copy makes, obviously, people click the ad. It is difficult to describe the perfect ad copy’s, this varies per Google Ads campaign, product and keyword.
By testing and optimising the ad copy’s you can find out which ad copy is the best for which ad group.
TIP: Use the keyword insertion tag in your ads!
Step 5.2: Use specific landing pages for each ad group
Link your ads to the most specific landing pages on your site. If needed, consider creating new landing pages.
Step 5.3: Set up an ad testing structure
By testing and optimising the ad copy’s you can find out which ad copy is the best for which ad group.
Start with adding least 2 ad copy’s per ad group so that you start testing straight away.
6. Tweak the campaign settings
Unfortunately, the standard settings of Google Ads are not always the best to use for your campaigns. Before you launch your campaigns you will need to double-check these and make some changes here and there.
To be on the safe side, I would recommend starting off with the settings that work the best. You can always change and open things up at a later stage.
Step 6.1: Check that Campaign Type is set to Search Network Only
This checklist is made for search campaigns, so make sure you’re not showing your ad on the display network instead.
Step 6.2: Disable search partners
In general, the search partners will give you a poorer conversion rate. Let’s turn this off to start with, if you need more volume you can enable this again.
Step 6.3: Set mobile bid adjustments to -100%
It depends on the product, but mobile often leads to lower conversion rates as well. Same as with the search partners, you can turn this back on if you need more volume. If you do so, it’s recommended to target mobile in a separate campaign.
Step 6.4: Set ad rotation to Rotate indefinitely
This will split out your ad rotation to 50/50, which we will need to get clean data to optimise your ads later on.
Step 6.5: Set language targeting to the appropriate language
You can start with targeting the language of your ads and website.
Step 6.6: Set location targeting to the appropriate location
Choose the location you would like your ads to be shown. Google offers the ability to run ads in every possible location. Make sure to not target a too small area as the search volume will decrease.
You can set bid adjustments per location if you want to have your ad shown higher in more relevant locations.
7. Add ad extensions
Ad extensions are free. They will give your ad more real estate in the search engine. This will increase the likelihood of people clicking your ad.
Maybe not all ad extensions are applicable to your business. However, ad extensions like the sitelinks extensions and callout extensions will be useful for every business.
Ad extensions will also have a positive impact on your campaigns Quality Score, so it’s really a no-brainer to add them to your campaigns.
8. Setup conversion tracking
The great thing about PPC that you can track all of your results. You can see how many impressions you are getting, how many clicks, what your spend is and… how many leads or sales you got.
Most of this data is being pulled into the dashboard automatically when you launch your campaigns. However, your conversion tracking (leads/sales etc.) is something you will need to set up yourself.
Google provides two ways which help you to easily measure your results.
Option 1: Google Ads Conversion Tracking Code
The conversion tracking code measures the result of the Google Ads campaign.
The conversion tracking code can be placed on a ‘Thank You’ page that appears when a conversion is completed.
Option 2: Google Analytics Tracking Code
Google Analytics is a free software provided by Google that measures the statistics of the whole website (so not just the visitors from AdWords).
Setting up a Google Analytics for your website is highly recommended. Google Analytics is by far the best program (mainly because it’s offered for free) for measuring the statistics of your website.
1. Pause keywords with high costs and no conversions
Let’s start with saving you some money!
Pull all the keyword data from your account and filter out the keywords that got you conversions. Now, let’s focus on the keywords that didn’t get you conversions. Any keywords that you spend a lot of money on?
Start pausing them from your account. Cutting down irrelevant clicks is the first step to improving your campaigns.
2. Pause keywords with a low Quality Score
When you’re using Google Ads, you pay on a cost per click (CPC) basis. This means you don’t have to pay Google to have your ad shown, but only when someone actually clicks on your ad.
This means that Google is less keen to show un-relevant ads that no one clicks on. For that reason, it uses the Google Quality Score as a factor to decide the ad ranking.
Keywords with a low Quality Score will negatively impact your campaign’s result. So to improve your Quality Score, start with pausing keywords that have more than 200 impressions, a Quality Score below 5 and no conversions.
3. Pause keywords with a low click-through rate
One of the factors Google looks at to calculate the Quality Score is the click-through rate (CTR) of your ads. Not just of that one keyword, but also of your entire account.
Now, this means that the CTR of your account has an effect on your Quality Score and the cost per click that you’re paying. The easiest way to boost your CTR is to pause keywords that are getting you lots of impressions but no clicks.
Start with pausing keywords that have more than 200 impressions, a click-through rate below 0.5% and no conversions.
4. Add more keywords
Keywords are the core of each search campaign. The more keywords, the bigger your reach will be. Yet, some advertisers only add a handful of keywords to their campaigns.
Now, I definitely not saying that you should just blindly expand your keyword list just for the sake of it. The key is relevancy, so you only want to add keywords that are relevant to the products or service you are trying to sell.
However, even with relevant keywords, you can often create a large list. Think about the entire long tail, different word order, plurals and even misspellings. Most businesses are able to build a keyword list with a few thousand keywords.
5. Test your ad copies
Testing and optimising bits and pieces of your PPC campaign is the backbone for success.
Your ad is often the only thing from your PPC account that’s visible to the customer, and a great starting point to start A/B testing and optimising your campaign.
Ad testing is an ongoing process. Make sure you’re not just testing, but also improving your campaigns. If you keep testing 2 totally different ads you’re just testing.
Ideally, you keep the best performing parts of your ad and start testing smaller components of your ad instead. You can start with testing 2 completely different ads for a while and, once you have your best-performing, move into testing smaller parts of your ads.
6. Use automated bid strategies
Google Ads offers the opportunity to use different bid strategies within your account.
The big advantage of using bid strategies is that you have to spend significantly less time optimising your keyword bids. Bid strategies allow you to use Google’s algorithm for your keyword bids so that you don’t have to worry about doing this manually.
7. Monitor your search queries
Although you would want to set up a tight keyword list, your ad might pop up for irrelevant search queries.
Especially if you’re working with a small budget, you want to filter these out as much as possible.
Google Ads allows you to pull a search query report. By going through this report you’ll be able to identify irrelevant search queries and add them as negative keywords to your campaigns.
8. Advertise on your brand name
Branded keywords are the most relevant keywords in your account. Therefore, you will have a higher Quality Score for these keywords and the cost per click will be relatively low.
The Quality Score works through to all the keywords of your account. This means that for all the non-branded keywords you will have a higher ranking and decrease their cost per click.
Because of the relatively low cost per click that you’ll have to pay makes it a no-brainer to advertise on your branded term.
9. Use Remarketing Lists for Search Ads (RLSA)
Ever thought about what happens with the visitors that come to your site and don’t convert? Most likely, they never come back to your site.
By adding remarketing lists for search ads (RLSA) you can try and get these visitors to come back to your site. You are targeting people that are already familiar with your brand, so you can get a bit more aggressive with your bidding and/or keywords targeting.
10. Build and test high-converting landing pages
After you get more relevant visitors on your website, the next step is to get them to convert. Your landing page is the most important part of this. By building a PPC specific landing page you can really focus on that one goal: getting the details of your potential customer.
We wrote another article on how to build a high-converting PPC landing page.
An ideal landing page would have a relevant headline and sub-headline, a short contact form with call-to-action and some basic details about your product or service. This should contain unique selling points (USP’s), testimonials, a short description of how it works etc.
Use the less-is-more principle for these pages. The more information you add, the bigger the change that people don’t fill in the form.
11. Link your Google My Business listing to Google Ads
A Google My Business listing is free so there’s no reason not to sign up. Also, by linking your GMB account with your Google Ads account you can promote your Google Maps listing. It’s a great way to get more relevant search volume.
12. Track everything and optimise
The best thing about advertising on Google? You can track everything!
You can see on a keyword level which keywords are getting you impressions, clicks, leads, and how much you spend on each of them.
Now, all you need to do is analyse this and use it to your advantage.
Even though Google Ads gets more and more competitive, there are still ways to run a profitable campaign.
By following the steps in this Google Ads guide, you can get started with setting up and optimising your campaigns.
If you need any help with optimising your Google Ads campaigns, feel free to get in touch.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is Google Ads?
Google Ads is Google’s pay per click (PPC) advertising platform, formerly known as Google AdWords. By using Google Ads you can reach potential customers on the Google Search and Display Network.
What is the Google Quality Score?
The Quality Score is a number from 1 to 10 that shows how relevant your keyword to a particular search query. A low Quality Score shows that your keyword is totally irrelevant, while a high Quality Score means that it’s spot on and that you’re offering exactly what visitors are looking for.
How does the Google ad auction work?
Google uses hundreds of factors to decide the ad ranking and this is being re-calculated for each search query. In general, Google looks at the bid and the relevancy of each advertiser for a particular keyword.
How can I improve my Quality Score?
If you can increase the relevance of your campaign, you will get higher Quality Scores. This will significantly decrease your cost per click so that you can squeeze more clicks and conversions out of your budget.