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Everything You Need to Know About Starting a Google Ads Campaign – The Ultimate Google Ads Guide

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Google Ads

Quicklinks:

Step 1: Preparation

Step 2: Build: Anatomy of a Google Ads Campaign

Conclusion

Thinking about starting a Google Ads Search Network campaign? There’s a lot more involved than thinking of some keywords and some ads and pressing “enable”.  If you want to build a successful Google Ads campaign, follow these steps to get a better understanding of the platform, set the right foundation for the campaigns and build a campaign to best practice.  This Google Ads guide will show you the key things you need to consider and implement in order to get a good start to your campaign.

STEP 1: PREPARATION

“Failing to plan is planning to fail” Benjamin Franklin

Before you even START to build a Google Ads campaign you really need to do some planning and preparation.  You want to make sure that you’ve got an idea of who you want to target, what keywords you want to target and where you want to target those people.  Having all these things prepared first will enable you to get a Google Ads campaign set up pretty quickly.

Target Market

Having an idea of your target market is going to help influence the way you setup your campaign. Understanding what stage of the buying cycle they are in will help shape your keywords.  The location they live in will shape your targeted location. Their lifecycle stage and interests will help shape the language you use in your ad text and even the ad schedule you use.

Use this quick checklist to make sure you have the basics covered:

  • What stage of buying cycle are they in?
  • Where do they live?
  • What stage of their life are they in?
  • What are their interests?

Keywords

Keywords represent your products or services. The key thing to remember with your keywords is you don’t want them to be too broad that you get a lot of irrelevant traffic, and you don’t want to be too specific that you get hardly any traffic.

If your keywords are too broad you’re putting yourself at risk of having lots of unnecessary clicks, wasted clicks and unqualified clicks.  When you are paying for every click, you want to make sure that every click counts!

If you are too specific you’re not going to get much traffic at all and that’s going to be the death of your Google Ads campaign.

It really is about finding that nice balance between volume of traffic and relevancy of traffic.

Let’s just say you sell blue shirts. You want to make sure that you’re not just using the keyword “blue shirts”. This would be too broad. Too specific would be “large blue shirts in Brisbane”.  Something in the sweet spot would be “blue shirts online” or “buy blue shirts”.

The other thing to think about with your keywords is to make sure you have enough budget to satisfy your anticipated search traffic.  If your budget is $10/day you will need to have less keywords than if your budget was $100/day. This is because the smaller your budget, the more limited you are with how many searches you will be eligible to get impressions (and therefore clicks) for.

In order to test both relevancy and estimated cost you should use Google Keyword Planner.  You can input some keywords to get an idea of estimated bid, volume of traffic, estimated trends and results.

Google Keyword Research

Location

Next up with the campaign planning, is your targeted location.  Similar to keywords, if you are targeting a broader area you will need more budget than if you were targeting a smaller area.

So if your business can service Australia-wide, it doesn’t necessarily mean you will be able to target everyone in Australia.

When setting locations I recommend starting in one location to ensure that you’re getting enough of the available traffic so that you collect enough data before expanding into other areas.

This might mean you start in one city or one region you want to target.  Remember if you’ve got a lower budget you want to restrict the location, if you have a bigger budget then you might be able to go a bit wider with that reach.  

What constitutes big or small budget? If, based on your keyword research, you can afford to get 5-10 clicks a day, that would be on the smaller side. If based on your keyword research you can get 15+ that would be on the larger side.

Another feature of Google location targeting is radius targeting.  Radius targeting is particularly useful for local businesses and bricks and mortar stores as you can set a strict radius around your location to ensure your ads are triggered by local traffic only.

So once you get these foundational elements planned you are then ready to build a campaign.

STEP 2: BUILD: ANATOMY OF A GOOGLE ADS CAMPAIGN

Before you get ready to build a Google Ads campaign, it’s important to learn how to navigate the different sections, as well as understand what they each are.  We’ll go into detail on the parts of a campaign, and explain how you can best build your campaign at each level.

Account

The top level of a Google Ads campaign is the account in which the campaign is housed. So that’s the account log in that has all the campaigns within it. You might have an account that has one campaign or you have an account that has many campaigns across different areas and countries.

What you want to be wary of is that each account has a billing method associated with it. So for taxation purposes if the expenses are across different businesses entities it might be a smart idea to separate your Google Ads account for each.  You should talk to your accountant about the best way structure this for your needs.

Once you have a Google Ads account you can add users in as advertisers or as admin. You can also add manager accounts (for example an agency) in this section.

Campaign

The campaign is the biggest structure for the account. Tied to the campaign are the main settings that will determine how the campaign behaves. Some of these settings include location targeting, ad scheduling, device bid adjustments, campaign types, bidding strategies and more are housed.  Each campaign has its own set of ad groups, keywords and ads.  

The campaign type dictates whether your campaign will be a Search Network or Display Network.  For the purposes of this article, we are working with a Search Network campaign.

Types of Google Ads Campaigns

Ad Groups

The way to think of ad groups are ‘themes’.

Most Google Ads professionals will recommend to categorise your ad groups by themes.  Let’s say you have an online shop that sells shoes and shirts. Google would recommend you having an ad group just for shoes, and have all your shoe keywords in that.  Then a separate ad group for shirts and having all your shirt keywords in that ad group.

This is a good starting point, however to really help you with future optimisation I recommend doing things a little bit differently.  We recommend you set up an ad group for each keyword. This is known as Single Keyword Ad Groups or SKAGs.  Ultimately, the way you set up your ad groups does really depend on the business model and what you’re using as your keywords.  However for most cases, this strategy works.

This can be a little bit confusing because we’re at the ad group level not at the keyword level, but you’ll understand when we get to the keyword level why this is.  So let’s say you sell shoes and shirts. You might sell Nike shoes and Adidas shoes, and you might sell black T-shirts, white T-shirts, casual T-shirts, etc. We recommend you set each of those as individual ad groups instead of having all those under the shoe or shirt ad group.

Google Ad Group and Keyword Set Up

To summarise, when building your ad groups think of them as themes however be as specific as possible within that theme.  The ad group name acts as a representation of the theme, it serves no other purpose other than housing the keywords within it.  You could call the ad group anything that will enable you to see at a glance what the ‘theme’ of the keywords within it are.

Keywords

The next level is the keywords.  Keywords are the specific words that will be triggered by search queries on a Google Search.  Working with the above Shirts example. If we have an ad group “Black Shirts”, the keywords will be variants of “Black Shirts”.

We will look at different match types to help explain this further.

A match type is a way that you set up a keyword to tell Google how you want it to match with a search query. So when someone does a Google search online they might type in in “black shirts”, “blue and black shirt”, “black shirts Brisbane” and potentially even “blue shirts”.  Whether your ad is shown will depend on the match type you have selected for your keywords.

There are four different types of match types.

Broad Match

Broad match keywords can match with anything related to your keyword. For example, if your keyword is blue shirt, your ad might be triggered by someone that types in black shirts.  It’s anything that Google deems as being slightly related to a keyword doesn’t necessarily have to be the exact keyword. This type of keyword exercises the least amount of control over what search queries you will appear for.  It gives Google more control to work it out for you.

Pros: Lots of traffic, typically cheaper too
Cons: Lots of irrelevant traffic and potential wasted spend
Warnings: Monitor your search queries and traffic ruthlessly. Negative keywords are your friend.

Broad Match Modifier

Broad match modifier keywords, indicated by a plus sign (+) in front of each word, mean that each word must be included in a search query. It is a great match type to use because if your keyword is blue shirts you want people that are actually searching for blue shirts.  You don’t want people that are typing in black shirt because if you wanted that you’d have that as its own keyword. You can use the modifier (the plus sign) on all or some of the words within your keyword. For example +blue +shirts would indicate that blue and shirts need to be in the query. +blue shirts, means that blue has to be, but shirts doesn’t.

By using broad match modifiers, you are also opening yourself up to lots of variants of those terms. If my keyword is +Blue +Shirts, my ad could be triggered by a search query for ‘blue and white shirts in Australia’ or ‘where can I buy blue shirts’ or ‘where can I buy a shirt that is blue’.

The above examples are quite simple to understand as they are ‘short-tail’ keywords (only two words).  When you delve into ‘long-tail keywords’, you are increasing the specificity of the keyword.  If your keyword was +blue +shirts +in +Brisbane each of these words need be in the search query for your ad to be triggered.

Doing this will really restrict your potential traffic so you want to be careful when using broad match modifier on long-tail keywords.  You might want to remove the modifier on the ‘in’ word for that example and so you would have it on +Blue +shirts in +Brisbane.  This would mean your ad will be triggered by someone searching for ‘blue shirts Brisbane’, ‘blue shirts in Brisbane’ and ‘blue shirts around Brisbane’.

Pros: More control of which search queries your ad is triggered by
Cons: Still fairly broad and does require close monitoring
Caution: When using with long tail keywords, strategically place your modifier on the most important words

Phrase Match

Phrase match keywords, indicated by quotation marks, mean that the keyword within the quotations must be in the search query in the order it is typed. So if we have “Blue shirts” as our keyword, if someone types in blue and red shirts it will not trigger, however if someone types in “blue shirts and red shirts in Brisbane” it will be triggered.

Phrase match keywords are a great way to keep your traffic relevant.  You have greater control of the type of traffic that you show for with phrase match because it is very specific. So you might know that ‘Blue shirts’ has to be in the query but you don’t know what people might want to type in before and after it, or you believe things typed before or after it are most likely relevant to your campaign.  This is when you want to use Phrase match.

Pros: Greater control of search traffic
Cons: Potential wastage with irrelevant traffic, monitor search terms and add negatives as you see them
Cautions: With longer tail keywords, you can highly restrict the volume of traffic.

Note: you cannot mix phrase match with broad match as per the broad match modifier example above.  For example “Blue Shirts In Brisbane” is acceptable, “Blue Shirts” in Brisbane and “Blue Shirts” in +Brisbane are not.

Exact Match

The last match type is exact match. Exact match is indicated by square brackets around the keyword and means that the search query must match the keyword exactly.  It’s also important to note that close variants are excluded from this rule. If someone makes a common spelling mistake, or adds a plural it will still be triggered by an exact match (unless you specifically exclude the variants in your negative keywords).  To continue with our example, [blue shirts] will only be triggered by search queries like ‘blue shirts’, ‘blu shirts’, and ‘blue shirt’.

Pros: The greatest amount of control over when your ads will be triggered
Cons: Could severely limit the amount of traffic you can generate.
Caution:  You will want to be sure you are using the right exact match keywords if you choose to use only exact match in your campaign.  This will require thorough testing (typically best conducted with broad match modifiers and phrase match) to see which keywords convert before using exact match.

Negative Keywords

Negative keywords are critical to a campaign. There are a number of things that users will type in Google Search that your ads will trigger for.  The broader your terms are the more careful you will have to be with the negative keywords that you use.

You are dealing with the general public – and that opens up a lot of room for error and variety!

When building your negative keyword list, you want to think of common words that might be associated with your keywords but aren’t actually relevant to your campaign.

Following the blue shirts example, you might know that people might look for blue striped shirts, but you don’t sell them.  Your negative keywords would be ‘stripes’, ‘stripy’, ‘striped’.

Common negative keywords include, free, cheap, courses, salary, and wages.  A lot of people look to study or get a job in particular industries. Other great negative keywords include research based keywords like ‘how to’, ‘how can’, ‘what do’, etc.  Each campaign and business will have different negative keywords. Other negative keywords that I like to add are ‘porn’, ‘nude’, ‘xxx’ because you are dealing with general public and you just want to be sure you’ll never show for anything like that!

Ads

After you’ve set up your keywords you can move onto your ads.

Every ad is linked to an ad group. This is the secret as to why I prefer to use ad groups based on actual keywords rather than generic themes. This is because the more relevant the ad is to the search query and keywords, the better quality score and ad rank it will receive.

To follow our blue shirt example.  My blue shirt ad group will have +blue +shirts, “blue shirts” and [blue shirts], as my keywords. My ads will be very specific to blue shirts.

By keeping your ad groups segregated as much as possible you are ensuring that the ads will be highly relevant to the people searching.  The black shirt searchers will see black shirt ads, the red shirt searchers will see red shirt ads, and so on.

Google is always bringing out new ad types.  A few years ago they brought out Expanded Text ads.  Earlier this year they expanded the expanded text ads and they are beta testing a new format: responsive ads.

With Expanded Text Ads you have up to three headlines of 30 characters each, two description lines which have an eighty character limit, and then you have two URL paths which are 15 characters each. You also have your Final URL which is the actual landing page that you want to use.  This doesn’t appear in the ads, it’s just the destination once people click on the ad.

Use your headlines to be as specific as possible to the keyword and include a call to action if possible.  Use your description lines to talk about your key features and benefits and unique selling propositions. Use the URL Paths to include more relevancy to the keyword.  When writing your ads, aim to fill as much possible space as you can (not to the detriment of the readability of the ad).

Headline 1 30 Characters Keyword Relevant, Use A Call To Action/Highlight A Promotion
Headline 2
Headline 3
Description 1 90 Characters Keyword Relevant, Use A Call To Action/Highlight A Promotion
Description 2
Path 1 15 Characters Keyword relevant
Path 2

When setting up ads, it’s a good idea to have at least 2-3 variants per ad group (however with Google’s responsive ads, you’ll get a lot more variants!).  This gives Google a chance to rotate your ads and test which ones are the better performers.

Ad Extensions

Ad extensions are great features of  a campaign and can really help a campaign succeed. if you ignore ad extensions you’re really doing yourself a disservice. Ad extensions are essentially extensions of your Ad text.

There are different formats of ad extensions and Google’s always coming up with new new and exciting ad extensions that you can have.  

When your ad is shown, Google will select from your ad extensions and show some or all of them with your ad.  You don’t get to control what appears when, so it is a good idea to use as many as you can, and let Google do the rest!

Site-link Extensions

Site-link extensions are links to other web pages in your site.  These are great to direct potential website visitors to more specific pages on your site, or they could be a subtle way of showcasing other products and services you might have on offer.

You could have your final URL directing traffic to your homepage and your site-link extensions directing people to your prices page, about us page and contact us page. Typically the rule of thumb here is add as many as you can (at least four), because Google will rotate through them and show the best performers over time.  Further, you want to take up as much real estate on the page.

Call Out Extensions

Call Out extensions are little bits of text (maximum 25 characters) that are added as an extra line in your ad text.  Use Call Out extensions to showcase more unique selling propositions, highlight special features and so on. For example, your ad might say ‘We have the best blue shirts in Brisbane’ and your call out extensions might include ‘100% percent cotton’ or ‘100% organic’, or ‘Australian Made’.  It’s a great way to express what sets you apart from the competition.

Structured Snippets

Structured snippets, allow you to highlight specific features of your business.  There are different categories that Google has set up in which you can select and add in your variants. Some of the categories include Models, Neighbourhoods, Amenities, Courses, Service Catalog.  Structured snippets are quite specific, and you don’t want to abuse these by entering information that is completely irrelevant to the category. Use these to highlight more information to potential customers in a way that makes sense to you and the end user.

Call Extensions

Call extensions are great and you should have them unless you’re an e-commerce or don’t want calls.   If you want to be generating phone calls you definitely want to be using call extensions. With call extensions you set your phone number up and then Google verifies it (so it has to be linked to your website).  

There is a default setting to use “Google Call Forwarding”. This means that every time someone calls that number Google will use a call forwarding number where the number is getting redirected through Google. This makes the phone call trackable within the campaign, counting phone calls as conversions (and giving you valuable data as to where the quality keywords are in your campaign).  Note that your ad will not show your phone number, it will show a different number that will get forwarded to your number.

Location Extensions

Location extensions are linked from your Google Business account. If you have a physical location, you can link up Google Business to your Google ads account and show your physical location with your ads.  This also works for multiple locations too.

Message, Promotion, Price Extensions

These are not as widely used, and depending on your business and preferences could be a good addition.

    • Message extensions enable users to send you a text message.. Great to request a call back for busy service people.
    • Promotion extensions allow you to showcase specific promotions that you might have
  • Price extensions allow you to indicate your pricing.  You can also use ‘from’ pricing, so it doesn’t have to be your exact pricing.

Conversions

Conversions are a must have within a Google Ads campaign.  When you are spending money on advertising, conversions are a great way to help direct where the funds are being spent in a way that can be measured and adjusted as needed.

Having conversions set up ensures you are measuring the effectiveness of your ads.  

Some common conversion goals include

  • sales
  • enquiries
  • account registrations
  • website calls
  • calls from ads

If you’re an e-commerce store, you’ll track sales on your website. If you’re a service provider you might track enquiry forms, or website calls.  If you can’t track any of these, track your contact us page, or connect to Google Analytics to track average session duration or similar to at least get an indication of quality traffic coming from the campaign.

CONCLUSION

So there you have it – our Google Ads Guide. The ultimate run-down on how to prepare and get acquainted with Google Ads. I’ve not covered every single element available in Google ads, but I do hope I’ve provided you with a solid framework for setting up a campaign.  Remember, in the world of digital marketing and advertising, things are ever changing. Get the foundations right so you can adapt well to future developments, and ensure that you optimise your campaigns in the easiest way possible.

If you get stuck with any of the set up, please reach out to a professional (we’d be happy to help).  It’s important to note that 10% of an Google Ads campaign’s success is in the set up, the rest is up to the quality and effective management and optimisation of the campaign as it ages. That is for another blog post at another time. Until then, happy campaign building!

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