Listen to this article below or download the .mp3:
This is a compilation of great tips people have submitted to us on how to run effective Google Ads campaigns, from people who have actually used Google Ads extensively and know what works and doesn’t. I strongly recommend reading through these! There’s a lot to know about Google Ads, and it’s a real skill to get a high ROI from it. Reading through these comments should give you at least 1 or 2 ideas to improve your campaigns.
Here’s a summary of everything that has been submitted and accepted so far:
- Make your goals simple (link)
- Go beyond your current language settings (link)
- Add your competitors to your negative keyword list (link)
- For all the metrics you’ll look at, never forget that confirmed sales (actual money generated) are always #1 (link). It’d be a mistake to judge the success of a campaign by the free signups it generates if those signups never turn into paid customers, for example (link)
- Keep everything including your keywords, Ad copy and landing page synchronized (link), and don’t mislead your audience at any point (link)
- Utilize observation audiences (link) and make specific campaigns for a specific audience (link)
- Make good use of negative keywords (link) (EDITORS NOTE: This is the most common piece advice people submitted – we have not published most comments on negative keywords that repeat each other)
- Use Responsive Search Ad’s to test a lot more different Ad copy (link) (just remember all tested ad copy is still synchronized and relevant to the landing page, and ensure you are not just looking at CTR but final conversions for different Ad copies)
- Target long-tail keywords with a high quality score (over 10) (link)
- Most of the time, campaigns with the lowest cost per acquisition (CPA) are those that are precisely targeted, even though their volume is limited – so target as much as you can through multiple campaigns (link)
- Speaking of precise targeting, you can take a look at census data along with your own data to get a deep insight into your target customer, and write Ad copy to cater to them. This is a great example. If you have a local business, it’s of course strongly recommended to target customers only in your local area (link)
- Look at how long users are spending on your site (link)
- Use UTM codes (link)
- Create a custom landing page for your Google ads – don’t just send them to your homepage (link)
- For Google Search Ads, you may get a better ROI if you pay less per click and appear at the bottom of the page (link) (EDITORS NOTE: I can’t comment on how effective this actually is for different niches, so please be aware this may not necessarily always be the best idea)
- If you are running Ads on the Google Search Network, make sure you’re getting results from that like you are from the Google Display Network (or vise-versa) – and cut it if it’s not performing for you (link)
- Similarly, review whether you’re getting similar results from both desktop and mobile (link)
- Use remarketing Ads (link)
- You can limit how many times your ad gets shown to a single user (link)
- Use Dynamic Keyword Insertion to match your ads 1:1 with target keywords (link)
Below are all comments in their entirety.
My top tip is to make your goal(s) extremely simple. Your conversion process should also be simple and easy to track. Whether your goal is increasing the number of downloads of a file like a white paper, increasing sign-ups for an e-newsletter, or purchases of your product (our goal is to always increase revenue for our clients in the CPG industry) - the ad should direct them to the page that requires the least amount of steps to convert. For example, if the ad is for a product, it should take them to the product’s page on your website so they can add to cart and check-out. DON'T add unnecessary pages or follow-through by the user - make the funnel as short as possible. Simpler is better and easier to track success towards your goal!
--Aalap Shah, 1o8
One tip would be to reach beyond your current language settings. There are many people in the US who speak a language other than English in their household. However, just because their preferred language isn’t English does not mean that the vast majority of these people don’t also speak English. Google Ads bases its language targeting settings on a user’s interface language. Users can edit this setting to ensure that Google provides results in their selected language, regardless of their physical location. For example, if someone changes their preferred language settings to French, they are only served ads that are targeted to French speakers, despite the fact that they are logged into the US version of Google. Now you can imagine that many of these bilingual Americans set their first language as their primary language on Google, effectively eliminating ads from any companies who do not include French-language targeting in their Google Ads campaigns. This is a huge source of missed opportunity for US-based advertisers who absolutely should be advertising to the bilingual consumer base.
--William Taylor, VelvetJobs
I have run a profitable Google ad campaign since I learned one simple trick last year, find your competitors and add them to your negative keyword list.
For months, after aggressively pursuing clients via ad campaigns, I would find that people clicked on my photography ad when they're looking for another photographer. For example, they searched for John Doe Photography but they clicked on my ad. Receiving these clicks can go either way, on one hand, you can take business away from John Doe. On the other hand, they see you're not John Doe Photography and there goes your money!
After months of this, I decided that receiving these clicks doesn't offer any value to me.
I Googled the most common first names for girls, boys, and common last names in the US. From these names, I removed the ones that share the name with the nearby city or street. The rest of the names are added to my negative keyword list on ad campaign. Since then, I increased my roi because my money isn't being spent when people search for other photographers.
--Jermaine Amado, J Amado Photography
My most important advice is to always keep the focus on the main objetive, which sounds trivial but is often neglected. When we A/B test a new ad copy for instance, the first instinct is to compare the click rates of both versions, but a better click rate doesn’t help us if our objetive is to generate sales and the additional clicks we generate don’t convert.
The Google Ads platform offers so many metrics that it’s easy to forget about what counts in the end, which for most companies is the sale or lead. Decreasing the average CPC, increasing the CTR, a higher impression share - those are all good small achievements. But these improvements often come accompanied by changes in other factors and don’t necessarily mean an overall better performance. Use those secondary metrics to find out where you can improve, but don’t measure the success of your tests entirely based on them.
--Claudia Bretschneider, Happets
The most important tip that I can recommend to someone who wants to run a successful Google Ads campaign is to keep everything synchronized. From keywords that you select for an ad group to the ad copy and the landing page where you want your lead to perform your desired action, everything should be synchronized. What it means is that your ad copy should be promising what your keywords are about and your landing page should be offering what your ad copy promises. Otherwise, the users arriving on your landing page would get the impression that you tried to deceive them and they won't perform the action you want them to perform.
Another thing that I would like to recommend is that you shouldn't confuse your audience by displaying multiple options on your landing page. Try to make the process as simple as possible to get your audience to perform your desired action. In other words, try to remove as many obstacles as possible for your leads to improve the conversion rate.
--Burt Valentine, Howtowatch
In the B2B space, we have found great results from utilising observation audiences in Google Ads. Observation audiences allow you to segment your traffic based on existing audience categories. You can then observe which audiences have the best click-through rates and conversion rates.
Once you analyse this data, you can then make bid adjustments based on these audiences. E.g. Increase bids 15% on people who fall into the ‘Business Professional’s’ audience.
There are two main types of audiences that you can use as observation audiences: Affinity and In-market. Affinity audiences are people who share similar attributes that can be grouped together e.g. Business Professionals, Home-owners, Fitness enthusiasts, etc.
For our B2B client, we increased bids on ‘Business Professionals’ once we found that they were generating most of their conversions from people who fell into this category.
The second type of audience is In-market audiences. These are people who are actively searching for products or services on google. These audiences can be gold as you can target people you know are in the market for your specific product/service.
Again, for the same B2B client, we added a number of relevant in-market audiences, such as ‘Business Financial Services’, and then analysed the data. We could then see which audiences converted the most and make appropriate bid adjustments based on that.
Overall, these bid adjustments increased our number of conversions whilst we excluded the audiences that weren’t performing. If you want to utilise your budget more effectively, start using audiences!
--Joe Harulow, Tao Digital Marketing
One of the best ways to increase your Google Ads CTR (and also conversions) is to make good use of negative keywords. People often neglect negative keywords, but in my opinion, they often make the difference between a successful campaign and a money sinkhole.
Quick example: Among other things on my website, I also sell leather jackets and I noticed I was getting a lot of Impressions from keywords like “biker jacket”, “best leather jacket for bikers”, etc. However my jackets are just a stylish piece of apparel meant for everyday use, they are not designed for bikers, so those people were seeing an ad that had nothing to do with what they were searching for. They would never click on something that says “Best Fashion Leather Jackets for Men – Made from Genuine Lambskin” (lambskin is known to be a soft and thin type of leather).
After about 1 week of gathering data from people’s searches I managed to compile a pretty extensive negative keyword list for my ads and I can say that my CTR increased by a flat 0.15 – 0.2% just thanks to that and not to mention my conversion rate, by getting rid of customers that were immediately disappointed when they saw what my shop was about.
I continue to find more negative keywords to this day and I actively add them to the list.
--Dan Serbanescu, Leather Depot
Talking about search campaigns, something that has always worked for me is audience wise campaigns. I make a set of campaigns for 1 particular target. Segment the audience, keywords, and bids based on what level they are on the funnel and it has always given me the lowest Cost/Conv and high-value customers. This strategy works on shopping campaigns too when the negatives are done perfectly and there is a close watch on the search terms.
--Niva Donga, 1into2 Digital
Google's Responsive Search Ad unit is like doing ad copy testing on steroids. It's my favorite way to mix and match different ad copy headlines and descriptions in order to find the combination that converts. By utilizing the Responsive Search Ads' 15 headlines and 4 descriptions, Google automatically tests hundreds of different ad copy variations. I have personally used Responsive Search Ads in many of my campaigns across industries such as fitness, telecommunication and appliance repair to name a few. Ad copy testing is a great way to improve your campaign's ROI and Google's Responsive Search Ad unit is a powerful tool to scale your testing.
--Darcy Burk, Burk Digital Factory
I have experience running several small-budget campaigns in the DC area and have had the most success with one method. A smart way to maximize your Google Ads budget is to target long-tail exact match keywords with a quality score of 10 and over. This allows your company to avoid highly competitive keywords that may be cluttered with businesses with more resources than you. It’s important to target keywords with a solid quality score so you don’t waste money on something with minimal revenue potential. This is a savvy strategy for any business vying for organic traffic against competitors with larger budgets.
--Ian Dawson, Direction Inc.
I have ran Google AdWords campaigns for SaaS businesses (both B2C and B2B) in different industries for over 10 years and have learned through mistakes along the way. If the goal for your AdWords campaigns is to produce signups for a subscription service, then tracking conversions the right way is key. If you setup your conversions for account signups instead of start of a paid subscription you may be wasting your budget on keywords that drive a lot of signups but no actual subscriptions or revenue. This is also true for subscription products with a free trial. It is possible to setup and track more than 1 conversion with custom names and customize your AdWords reports to show them, so that can help you track both account signups and conversions to paid subscriptions. If you offer products or subscriptions with multiple price points it's a good idea to supplement your AdWords conversion tracking with Google Analytics e-commerce tracking to help you track the value of new starts as well.
--Lilia Tovbin, BigMailer.io
The best advice for running a successful Google Ads campaign is to layer your campaigns based on the cost per acquisition (CPA). The vast majority of the time, the campaigns with the lowest CPA are the most precisely targeted campaigns. You can target precisely by using exact match keywords, and applying other settings like location, time of day, etc. Since this campaign includes only exact match keywords targeting exactly what you want your ads to show for, the conversion rate is high and the CPA is low. You want to maximize the amount of searches from this campaign, gaining 100% impression share, before moving on to the second most precise campaign.
Most of the time, there are volume limits with the most precise campaigns, so it is necessary to have multiple campaigns to achieve the desired volume. What defines precise will be different for each campaign, but a pretty common theme is exact match keywords being the most precise, phrase match keywords next, then broad match keywords. This strategy assures you get the lowest overall CPA at the desired volume.
An example I like to use to illustrate how this works is visualizing 3 apple stands - 1 selling apples for $1, 1 selling apples for $2, and 1 selling apples for $3. Each stand has 10 apples, and someone hires you to get them 24 apples. If you layer in the same way the PPC strategy above mentions, you'll buy all 10 $1 apples, then move to the $2 apples, and fill the order with the most expensive apples last. This is more cost effective than randomly buying 24 apples. You can apply this exact logic to Google Ads.
Another quick tip is to closely monitor your search terms. Search terms are what users actually searched to trigger your ad, and they're different from keywords. If you have any phrase or broad match keywords, it's crucial that you regularly go through your search terms and add negative keywords to eliminate irrelevant searches in the future.
--John McGhee, Webconsuls
One of the quality metrics that I see a lot of businesses overlook when it comes to measuring the effectiveness of their Google Ads campaign is average time on site. A short page view can indicate that a user was not interested enough to engage further, and therefore is not quality traffic. When you pay attention to quality metrics like this, you can optimize your campaign for higher quality traffic which in turn will result in higher conversions. For example, on the Google Ads campaign that I manage for Boot Camp Digital, we know that a typical user who is most likely to engage and request more information about our training programs will spend at least a minute or so on our site. So we have a Conversion Goal setup in Google Analytics for 90 seconds. Then, we connect that with Google Ads and optimize for conversions, which results in higher quality traffic to our site.
--Allison Chaney, Boot Camp Digital
To be successful Google AdWords, you have to think outside of the box and look for ways to leverage large data sets to get a competitive advantage.
We leverage our data, combined with publicly available census data, for marketing insights.
For example, in a recent campaign we ran in Nashville, TN , we ran pay-per-click (PPC) Adwords campaign with one ad targeting the entire metro Nashville area. The headline read ‘Local Lawn Pros in Nashville are a click away.’ and I thought the performance of the ad was good with a click through rate of over one percent and conversion rate of over 10 percent on the Nashville landing page but we needed to improve on it.
We thought, how can we make this more contextual and relevant to the viewer? Se we researched census data, looking at the average income and home values throughout the Nashville area.
We found that East Nashville, an up-and-coming neighborhood, was populated with more working class, and a creative class demographic and we hypothesized this customer segment would be price sensitive but still not want to cut their own lawns. So we segmented those zip codes and only ran a specific ad for them, with a headline ‘The Cheapest Lawn Mowing in Nashville. Lawn mowing from $20.’”
We then created a matching landing page. After running the ad for one month, on-page analytics proved the guess to be true. We saw over 200 percent lift in click through rate and and 30 percent lift in on-page conversion.
Studying the data your own business generates can tell you which of your online marketing campaigns works best. Do the ads appeal to your target market or another market altogether? The data may also point to completely new areas of customer interest.
--Bryan Clayton, GreenPal
Using UTM codes will make all the difference. Urchin tracking modules add more tracking info to Google Analytics. Information is power, and these snippets will give you much more information to play with. It will tell you which campaigns send you traffic that stays the longest on your site and what page they’re viewing. If you’re a social media marketer and publishing hundreds of new links every day, a UTM will let you track every one of those links to find out where your traffic is coming from. UTMs will help you learn how the traffic that comes to you arrives.
--Garrett Greller, Uncle Bud's Hemp
After running multiple Google ads for different industries, including real estate, photography, online courses, and more, my #1 piece of advice is to create a custom landing page for your Google ads. Many business owners make the mistake of sending link clicks to the home page, where the experience is not customized based on the search terms, and tracking a completed conversion is difficult. Instead, create a page only for use with your Google Adwords campaigns. This allows you to track specific traffic flow from your ads to determine return on investment, make changes to increase conversion rates, and create an excellent user experience.
For example, a potential home-buyer searching for homes in Palm Beach, Florida, is far more likely to convert on a landing page pre-populated with a specific city or neighborhood houses-for-sale search rather than the home page of a real estate company, which is not specific to their search query.
Creating an ad-specific landing page is an easy, effective way to provide the user with the exact answer to their question, thus increasing the likelihood of searchers staying on your website and completing a conversion, whether by calling, filling out a contact form, or downloading a lead magnet.
--Maria Grace, Maria Grace LLC
One of the ways small businesses can compete with larger businesses that are bidding for the same keywords on Google Ads is to take advantage of their location. For example, a bike shop in El Segundo that sells Trek and Cannondale bikes might add location to its keywords. In addition to using "Trek bikes" or "bike repair", they might also use "Trek bikes in El Segundo" or "bike repair in El Segundo". The longer tailed keywords likely will have fewer competitors. But, because Google uses a metric called quality score to determine how often ads should be displayed, the longer-tailed keywords need to also be included in the advertiser's ad copy and on landing pages. Ad copy with the headline "Trek bike shop in El Segundo" would have a higher quality score than "Trek bike shop" alone. In addition, if the keywords are not included on the website landing page for the ad, it would be advantageous for the business to create relevant landing pages.
--Katherine Hunter-Blyden, KHB Marketing
I've found it very successful to use Google ads for Real Estate. Though it is expensive, I found it well worth it. I buy houses for cash in Denver and ran a simple campaign. The trick I've noticed to show the best return on investment is that you actually do not want your ad to be one of the first three at the top. People click those all too often on accident or just to check things out. This makes it very expensive. If you pay a bit less per click, your ad can show towards the bottom of the first page. This seems counterintuitive, but it will generate leads that are much more likely interested in your product or service. Also, have an easy landing page that asks a few quick questions and gets you contact info and other consumer information you are needing.
--Seth Rouch, SethBuysHouses
When running ads especially to premium offers, I understand people would want to take more time to think about making a purchase. Enter remarketed ads to keep reminding them about the offer until they're ready to buy. In a confident way, I can say remarketing has positively impacted conversions and revenue.
--Jake Rheude, Red Stag Fulfillment
One of the most important things we have found to remove in most cases is the Google Search Network. We normally see this performing poorly for our ecommerce business. Anyone can easily check this by clicking on Segment and then Network in Google Adwords. It will show you all the data between Google and the Search Network. For us, we look at our cost per conversion to determine if it is something we want to continue. This can save you quite a bit of your budget if you remove when it is performing poorly.
--Jeff Moriarty, Moriarty's Gem Art
The best advice I can give to anyone wanting to be successful in running Google Ads is to never ever mislead your audience. Be real and be true. What I mean is, when a person clicks on your ad, be sure that he or she will be lead to what your ad promises and what your ad says it is about. Don’t fool your audience by misleading them, because that might give you a surge of clicks, but the bounce rate will definitely backfire.
--Jus Chall, Skein
I optimize my campaigns by using Frequency Capping and Bid modification. I make sure that I do not overwhelm my audience with ads. I do that by implementing frequency capping, which ensures that I do not show my ads more than 3 times to a specific user. I implement bid modifications on keywords at the device level (Mobile VS Desktop). Often I see audiences converting well on Mobile devices VS the Desktop. Hence I bid aggressively on my keywords over Mobile devices. I also use optimized images and ad-sizes, so that I get maximum reach and coverage in every ad-auction.
--Samiksha Rawool, Yummy Tummy Recipes
One element of Google Ads that I think many people overlook is the fact that you can customize your columns in order to see additional data about the performance of any given keyword, ad, ad group, or campaign. By default, Google will show you general performance data such as click through rate, cost per click, cost per conversion, etc. However, by customizing your columns you can actually see essential Google Analytics metrics such as bounce rate, pages per session, and average session duration.
While Google Ads conversion rate does give you a good idea about the performance of any given element in a campaign, I put a lot of weight into average session duration as this tells me more about how engaged the user was after clicking on the ad. If I see that a campaign has five keywords with an average session duration of ten seconds and five keywords with a duration of one hundred seconds, I know to either turn off the lower performing keywords or to substantially lower their bids.
This additional information is essential in analyzing which keywords, ads, and campaigns are most effective and then allocating more budget towards these high performers.
--Michael Anderson, SIGNAL+POWER
Boost your ad relevance with Dynamic Keyword Insertion to match your ads 1:1 with target keywords. Since target KWs are bolded in the search results having them in your ad copy can make them stand out, increasing their visibility. And it also helps your ads seem more relevant making them an effective click-magnet. This will not only increase your Ad Relevance but even more importantly your CTR, which are both factors that affect your ads’ Quality Score. This optimization alone can significantly raise the CTR and reduce your CPC resulting in better campaign performance with lower cost/conversion. For added optimization, when it comes to local businesses with multiple locations or that service many cities/areas, combine Dynamic Keyword Insertion with Location Ad Customizers. This will give your ads extra relevance for chosen geo locations.
--Djordje Milicevic, StableWP
One of our favorite ways to optimize our Google Adwords campaign is to review all campaigns by device. Depending on the campaign we are running, we sometimes see mobile or desktop visitors convert more than the other. And in Google, you can adjust your bids by device, so this can be an important area to get better results from your Google Adwords advertising. For example, if you see that mobile converts at twice the rate of desktop, you could increase all bids for mobile searches by 20%, and then maybe reduce desktop bids by 10%. You can really adjust it to anything you like. Just make sure to continue to track the changes.
--Celeste Huffman, Rogers & Hollands Marketing
Our tip is to think carefully about branded search. Many businesses question whether they should be bidding on their own brand name, unable to see the sense in paying for traffic that they could get for free if they're ranking in position one on the SERP. However, bidding on your brand name can have a wealth of benefits, including: more control over the message you're displaying to users; the ability to direct traffic to dedicated, relevant landing pages; maximising the SERP "retail space" and safeguarding against competitors who may bid on your branded terms.
All in all, whether you should bid on your brand depends on a number of factors including your standing within your industry. However, the benefits do outweigh the negatives, especially if you have a large budget for PPC and a lot of competitors who may place an ad above your organic listing, potentially stealing high-intent users.
--Kirsty Allen, digital media team