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Google Ads 101

Foundational strategy

Search engine marketing (SEM) is the promotion of websites in search engine results pages primarily through paid advertising. There are various SEM platforms, but Google Ads from Google is the most used and recognized.


Google search engine market share worldwide

according to Stat Counter

Basically, you create your online ad, tell Google Ads who you want to reach, and Google Ads delivers your ads to them via its advertising network. You only pay when a user takes your desired action (normally a click, a call or a purchase), so the return on investment is well-defined.


Define campaign structure

Like with all marketing, it’s best to start with the end in mind when you’re planning a Google Ads program. Define your overall objective and specify which personas, industries and geographies you want to target. Creating separate campaigns for different product lines helps you organize and manage your account, as well as track the success of your ads more accurately.

Compile keywords

Building a solid keyword list can help match your ads with the right customers. Think about the search terms people may use when researching or looking for your product and use that as a starting point. There are also various tools available to help identify specific keywords or phrases that are being used by your audience, but Google’s Keyword Planner is a great place to start.

Create your ads

Whether search or display, you will need to create ads for your Google Ad campaigns. For search, your text ads should be specific and relevant, easy to digest and would help someone make a quick decision or action. For display banners, be sure your creative is eye catching in its use of text, images and color schemes, and include a call to action.

Develop a landing page

Your landing pages should be directly relevant to your ads, as people often bounce when pages don’t include what they expect. If your text ads link to specific product pages on your site, make sure the product photography is front and center on the page. If you are inviting people to “learn more,” the landing page should have greater detail on what your ad is about.

Search v. display campaigns

There are two styles of Google Ads campaigns: search and display. They can be used independently or together, depending on your campaign objectives. For example, if you want to increase your brand awareness, a display campaign is probably your best bet. But if you want to guide people to consider and discover more of your products or services, you’ll likely go with a search campaign.

Search campaigns

With a search campaign, you directly target a keyword or keyword phrase. When a Google user searches for that particular keyword, your text ad will appear on the search engine results page above the organic listings.

0 billion
searches made on Google each day
Google Ads search ads can be found in SERPS
Ad creative

All text ads utilize a headline, description text and display URL. You can also include sitelink or callout extensions. Make sure to highlight what makes you unique and empower customers to take an action. Your text ads should also be relevant and include some of your keywords.

We break down the elements of a Google Ads text ad
Determining rank

The Google Search ranks all the ads bidding for the same keywords against each other to determine position on the search engine results page, and whether your ads are eligible to show at all. The main components of ad rank are:

  1. Bid — Google prioritizes advertisers that are willing to pay more for the top spots, but only charges the amount needed to top the next highest bid.
  2. Quality score — This is calculated by looking at the ad’s relevancy to the search term, ad format, expected CTR and the landing page experience.
  3. Format impact — Using specialized ad extensions (sitelink, callout, location, etc) can influence the position of your ad on the search results page

With ad quality, format and bid taken into account, an ad rank “score” is assigned to each ad. There are a number of reasons ads may not show up in top search results, including an ad formatting issue, limited budget, a user’s historical search data and more.

Quiz time
TIP: Consider adding Dynamic Search Ads
Have Google create text ads and keyword lists automatically, based on your website content. This enables you to show up for more search terms than you may have initially included in your list.

Display campaigns

Unlike search, display campaigns do not target prospects who are actively searching for something. Instead, you are showing users a banner ad as they browse online, watch YouTube videos, check Gmail or use mobile devices and apps to help grow brand awareness.

Display ads can appear on over 90% of sites on Google
Ad creative
There are many size options for your display banner ads, but make sure you include the highest performing sizes including:
  • Medium rectangle (300×250)
  • Large rectangle (336×280)
  • Leaderboard (728×90)
  • Half page (300×600)
  • Large mobile banner (320×100)
Google only accepts SWF, PNG or GIF formats and all ads must be less than 150 KB in file size. Stand out – but stick to your brand and be relevant. Keep your messaging, imagery and calls to action as clear and concise as possible.
Smart display
Smart display campaigns can help save time and drive better performance by automating bidding, targeting and creative. Smart Display campaigns may be a good choice if:
  • You want to attract additional customers beyond your manually targeted campaigns
  • You use conversion tracking and you meet the conversion-based eligibility requirements
  • You’ve limited your Display Network advertising to remarketing, but now want to reach people earlier in the buying process
  • You’re new to advertising on the Display Network and want a fast and highly performing campaign

Bid strategies

Your bid strategy controls how you pay for users to interact with your ads. You can choose to manually set your bids or let Google Ads do it for you. Either way though, you’ll want to first set a budget. Your budget is the average amount you’re comfortable spending each day on your campaign. It’s entirely up to you, with no minimum or maximum, and you can adjust it at any time. Then it’s time to determine the bidding strategy. Most new campaigns launch with manual cost per click (CPC) bidding, but there are many other methods you can utilize based on campaign goals, competition, corporate KPIs, etc.
  1. Target CTA (cost per acquisition)
  2. Target ROAS (return on ad spend)
  3. Maximize conversions
  4. Enhanced CPC
  5. Maximize clicks
  6. Target search page location
  7. Target outranking share
  8. CPM bidding (cost per impressions, best for brand awareness campaigns)
  9. vCPM bidding (cost per viewable thousand impressions)

Audience targeting

To narrow down on who sees your ads, you can include audience targeting to your campaigns. Some basic factors include:
  • Devices – allows you to target device types, including desktop, tablet and mobile to customize ads for different devices
  • Geography – shows your ads to customers located in or who show interest in a geographic location
  • Language – restricts where your ads may appear, based on the user’s language settings
But it doesn’t stop there. Depending on your audience size, you can get really detailed with targeting parameters on Google.
  • Demographic – reaches specific individuals who may fit within a chosen age range, gender, household income, etc.
  • In-market – shows your ads to users based on their recent purchase intent
  • Affinity – targets users based on what they’re passionate about, their habits and interests, looking at a holistic view of a user’s lifestyle, not single searches
  • Customer match – utilizes your CRM data to reach existing customers
  • Remarketing – serves ads to users that have visited your website previously
  • Similar audiences – reaches new users that have similar interests to your customers and website visitors
  • Life-events (display only) – engages with audiences around important life milestones like graduating from college, moving homes or getting married


When selecting keywords, a great place to start is by reviewing your own site content and landing pages. Google’s Keyword Planner can help expand your list and determine the average monthly search volume for entered keywords and advise on level of competitiveness. You can also utilize tools like SimilarWeb and iSpionage to see what keywords your competitors or similar brands are bidding against.

If you choose broad keywords that have high volume searches, you have the potential to get a lot of clicks. However, there is a greater chance you will also receive more unqualified traffic. You can balance your campaign by also including longer phrases as keywords. Having a mix of low and high-volume keywords will improve your chances of success.

Short-tail keywords

  • 1-2 words, generic phrasing
  • Higher competition, higher cost
  • Earlier in purchasing process, lower probability of conversion
  • Account for about 30% of all searches*

Long-tail keywords

  • 3+ words, specific phrasing
  • Lower competition, lower cost
  • Later in purchasing process, higher probability of conversion
  • Account for about 70% of all searches*

*Source: Mechanised.co.uk

key phrase curve

Want to get even more out of your keywords? There are five match types that can help narrow down your reach further.

To get your ads in front of the widest possible audience and ensure you don’t miss out on any search traffic, you can use a broad match. Broad match shows ads if your keyword is included in someone’s search terms. This is a good choice if you want to spend less time building extensive keyword lists. Your keywords will match to a wider variation of search terms and you’ll reach a broader group of people.

Similar to broad match, but slightly more focused. Adding a “+” sign in front of a keyword makes your ads eligible to appear only if it’s a close variant of the searched term. For example, if your keyword is +forklift +spare +parts, then your ad could be displayed for searches of <forklift replacement parts> but not <lift truck maintenance>.

These keywords must be in the search query in the same order that you designate. Added with quotes, if your keyword is “warehouse software,” then your ad will be eligible to appear for searches of <3PL warehouse software> but not <software for my 3PL warehouse>.

This has changed over time and was originally set so your ad will only be shown if a user’s search matches your bidded keyword exactly. For example, if your keyword is [each picking robot] then your ad will only show if someone searches <each picking robot>. This has now been modified so the exact match type will show for close variants and also include any rephrasing of the word, as long as the meaning doesn’t change.

Adding a minus sign in front of a keyword makes it negative. This means ads will not show if a user includes that specified keyword in their search. This is especially important for terms that cross industries or have multiple meanings.

Keyword targeting is also an important step in your Google display campaign, but not as labor as intensive as it is for search. On GDN, all keywords are considered to be broad match, so modifiers and phrase/exact match keywords are not needed. You also do not need to worry about including misspellings, synonyms and other variations of your keywords. Your keywords on GDN help Google learn what relevant sites to show your ads on.

The most successful Google Ads campaigns are when the advertiser continually checks in on performance, so don’t set it and forget it. Monitor your keywords and bids and optimize often.

Interested in working with a Google Partner on your next Google Ads campaign? Shoot us a note!