Google Ads best practices: guru level

Google Ads is an effective tool for increasing traffic or conversions, especially if you’re still waiting for organic traffic to build up or inbound leads to kick in. There are countless Google Ads best practices out there, but which are the ones that will help you become a full-on guru in every aspect of Google advertising? In this post, we break down the best practices in each key area of Google Ads.

Best practices for developing your Google Ads strategy

1. Define your campaign goals

In order to run a successful Google Ads campaign, you need to understand your overall business goals in the context of each ad campaign you run. There is a number of campaign goals you can choose, from website traffic to sales. For example, take a look at the objectives for these types of ad campaigns: 

  • The launch of a new product: goal = sales (purchases from your product catalog or online store) 
  • Increased brand-name recognition over your competitors: goal = brand awareness and reach
  • A personalized landing page featuring special content or offers: goal = lead generation or conversion

2. Organize your account structure

Even if you’re familiar with the Google Ads platform, you need to adequately organize keywords and ad groups to efficiently track metrics and implement improvements in an agile manner. 

Ad Groups are where you’ll manage your ad campaigns and related keywords. The most important best practice is to use small ad groups that target a particular product, offer, or landing page; this makes it easier to maintain a relevant list of similar keywords and observe results. 

As long as your structure makes sense to your team, is documented and well-maintained, you’ll find that you navigate the platform more efficiently and waste less time on investigation and adjustments. 

Best practices for defining and refining keywords

1. Spend time investigating and selecting keywords

Keywords are crucial to your advertising campaigns, but more than this, it’s about fully understanding all the different ways customers are searching for your company, products, services, and market. Google Ads best practices include: 

  • To start out, make a list of keywords and phrases (short and long-tail keywords) that you associate with your business. 
  • Bid on core brand keywords, such as product names and models. 
  • Research your competitors to see what words they’re using.
  • Choose relevant keywords for each different audience you want to target. Per ad group, this should translate to around 10-20 keywords.
  • Exclude negative keywords to filter out irrelevant searches and differentiate similar search terms. 

There are tools like Google’s Keyword Planner Tool and other Keyword Optimization Platforms to aid in analyzing search volumes, bid competition, and keyword options.

2. Constantly refine and eliminate your keywords

Staying organized and reducing excess is key, so you should only focus on keywords that drive traffic. If they’re not adding value, delete low search volume keywords. If your ad groups are growing too big and unmanageable, refine your keywords or break them down into further ad groups. Avoid bidding on the same search term by using tools to find and blacklist duplicate keywords

3. Experiment with different keyword match types

There are 4 keyword match types that help you drive traffic to your ads. Make sure to test different matches to see how it affects the positioning and performance of your ads: 

  • Broad match, broad match modified: Allows you to reach a wider, but lower volume audience. It works better for long tail queries and generic users as the keywords are less targeted.
  • Exact match: Used for your most valuable keywords and high-volumes. Don’t create variations of exact match keywords, because this type already covers close keyword variations. 

Best practices for audience targeting

1. Study and define your core audience

Let’s be clear: you shouldn’t be targeting everyone. As with your keywords, you need to be selective and study your current customers and ideal audience. Luckily, Google Ads supplies useful information about users’ habits, profiles, history, etc. As different campaigns will target different users, you may want to consider creating profiles or “buyer personas” for different audiences and their characteristics. 

2. Pay attention to demographics

Demographics are essential to identify your target audience; they help categorize specific characteristics about a group of people. The most useful demographic details for Google Ads are:  

  • Location: If your business only operates in certain locations, you’ll want to only target those areas. You can either include or exclude by location.
  • Age: Target age groups from 18-24 all the way to 65+. 
  • Gender: Marketing feminine hygiene products to females, for instance, is a good example of where gender targeting can come into play. 
  • Household income: If you want to target high income earners for your luxury brand, for example, you could target the “top 10%” of household incomes. If you are a budget brand, you might target the “lower 50%”. 
  • Others: Google now offers demographics like parental status, homeowner status, marital status, and education level. 

3. Do targeting based on performance

We use our mobile devices more frequently for personal and business purposes, so mobile targeting for your ads is critical. Firstly, you should consider how your ads will appear on small screens. Performance by time of day and day of the week is important to keep in mind. By studying the data, you may find that there are days/times when your users are more active, and therefore it might be opportune to raise your bid during these instances. Scheduled bid adjustments save you the trouble of doing this manually. Also consider seasonal budgets and strategies based on user habits and sector trends.

Best practices for creating effective ads that convert

1. Pay attention to writing details

Your ads are the first interaction between you and future customers. You have to capture the audience’s attention, meaning your ads must be simultaneously brief, relevant, and enticing. With a limited number of characters, each message should have purpose and use customer research to support it. 

  • Personalize the copy to your audience and their stage in the buying cycle. Are they just learning about your brand? Are they ready to buy? Your messages in these instances should be completely different. 
  • Include specific keywords in the title and copy of your ads. 
  • Employ an action-oriented Call-to-Action to attain more clicks, for example, “save now” or “redeem offer”. 
  • Capitalize important words such as your title, brand, or product. 
  • Vary your punctuation. Don’t use only periods. Don’t go overboard on exclamation points. Break up long sentences with dashes and commas. 

2. Optimize your landing pages

Your ads will direct searches to your website or a landing page, and this can make or break campaign conversions. First and foremost, the ultimate best practice for landing pages is to align the offer on your landing page with the copy in your ads

Speaking of offers, your offer or “lead magnet”, such as a new product, how-to guide, or limited-time discount, must be relevant and inspiring enough for someone to leave their personal details or make a purchase right then and there. 

Finally, it is essential to A/B test your pages, sending half your leads to your current page and the other half to a new page with a different variation of design, copy, or CTA. That way, you’ll be able to identify which variations work best, implement the results, and improve conversions. 

3. Test every aspect of your ad strategy

Despite what you may think, there’s no one perfect ad. As our #1 best practice, you should aim to test at least 3 different ad variations in every ad group. You’ll be able to compare between clicks and conversions, refine keywords, and improve your overall performance. 

  • Experiment with different ad formats: extended text ads, video ads, product ads, etc.
  • Changing your ad placement can influence the number of clicks.  
  • Consider your ad rotations. Even rotation will cause your ads to show the best offer for any type of search, while optimal rotation will optimize for clicks or conversions based on user behavior. 
  • Take advantage of all the Google ad extensions at your disposal: sitelinks, location extensions, structured snippets, promotion extensions, the list goes on. 
  • Test frequency by doing remarketing, which helps convince visitors to revisit your site or reconsider your offer. 

Best practices for metrics and reporting

1. Stay up-to-date on Google updates and algorithms

Google is a technology innovator and they regularly make updates to Google Ads offerings and algorithms. Don’t get stuck using outdated tactics because you aren’t aware of policy changes or phase-outs. Stay informed about updates and you’ll be able to appropriately adjust your strategy and stay ahead of the competition. 

2. Determine key metrics

You can’t start an ad campaign without trying to reach certain KPIs. Define which metrics are important to you, analyze them based on context, and determine how you can gain insights from these metrics. 

  • For example, for a brand awareness campaign, you might be more focused on the number or impressions or video views.
  • For a product launch or special offer you might focus on the click-through-rate or average purchase size
  • Metrics like cost-per-conversion and ROAS are crucial for planning your budget and future actions.   

3. Develop reports for tracking progress

Google Ads provides a wealth of reports that are ideal for tracking your campaigns and observing progress over time. Using Google reports or developing your own reports is key to gain insights and orient your strategy for future campaigns, as well as share data and results with stakeholders. You’ll see where your margins are maximized, and this will enable you to optimize your budget and resources accordingly. 

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