You can’t get far as a webmaster without bumping into Google Ad‘s promo coupon. It’s right there in most CPanel default setups, tempting you with a risk-free $100 ad credit. And why not hitch your online entrepreneur efforts to Google’s wagon? In Google’s latest annual Economic Impact report, they boast 1.3 million businesses using Google Ads, AdSense, and other advertising solutions, while also driving one billion direct business transactions.
But you may also find that using Google Ads is not merely a matter of activating it and sitting back to watch the profits roll in. Like any business tool, you get out of it what you put into it. We find that many business owners don’t take full advantage of the tools Google offers. For instance, did you even know about Google My Business (GMB), a free service to list your company that’s integrated with Google Maps and even provides a free slice of web space and customer service tools? (If not, read our guide on how to create an optimized GMB listing).
When it comes to Google Ads campaigns, there are several tricks and tips we’ve accumulated over the years to maximize your ROI. None of them are hard to implement, and they’re the first things you should do if you want to get more out of your Google Ads budget. Let’s dive in:
Focus On Mobile
We shouldn’t even have to say this part, but we’ll get it out of the way quickly.
Not only are nearly all Internet users on mobile now, but mobile ads outperform desktop ads by a ten-to-one margin. Even in the present day, when we’re starting to see the first generation who was born with mobile phones in hand grow up, some companies still treat the Internet like it was just the desktop. Google wants websites to be mobile-optimized first and foremost before we worry about driving traffic.
This video is from 2019, so Google is also making a hard pitch for AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages). AMP should be a given at this point. There are free AMP plug-ins for WordPress that basically run themselves. Google Search Console also has a mobile-friendly test; simply pop in your URL and it checks for you.
Now for mobile ad optimization, Google Ads practices recommend thinking mobile-first for ads. You want to keep ads scaled down to mobile size, fitting comfortably on a phone screen, with a top-down information layout putting the most important information first. Your ad must be easy to read and interact with on a mobile device. You want to select ad extensions (we will cover this later in-depth) that enable mobile-friendly use.
Targeting the mobile user is most important for brick-and-mortar businesses. The user is already outside, on the go, and probably nearby if you’re using geo-targeting (we’ll cover that later too). Your customer service experience begins for them right there on that screen. Don’t miss this opportunity.
Your Google Ads Should Match Your Landing Pages
The link going from your Google Ad should take visitors to a landing page that is consistent with the ad. The ad is there to make a promise to the visitor. Taking the visitor from an ad to a landing page that clearly isn’t for the same offer as the ad makes them feel cheated. Of course, you might overhaul your website and forget about the ad’s design and copy, it happens. Even if it’s the same offer on the landing page as on the ad, the headline, copy, and design between the two should match.
Some companies get this right, some are relaxed about it, and some violate this rule egregiously. Mobile game ads are notorious for breaking this rule! Here’s a write-up at Vice.com about these. We’ve all seen these game ads on mobile, which seem to revolve around either far more sophisticated graphics for the ad than what’s actually in the game or else showing a game whose playstyle doesn’t even match the game in any way. There are bad enough that they break FTC Truth in Advertising Laws, although these game companies spring up and die off so quickly that prosecuting them amounts to playing legal whack-a-mole.
We know none of you are doing anything this dodgy, right? Of course not, only the best companies read our site! But consumers who are once-bitten, twice-shy from misleading ads will balk at getting to a landing page that even looks anything different from the ad. Seriously, if you change the background color of the page, change the background color of the display ads unit too, if you use those. It avoids any confusion.
Remember To Screen Negative Keywords
We all know “keywords” are the textual triggers you want to be associated with your ad so that your PPC ad is displayed only to the most likely customers. Google has clear instructions for doing this. You can add multiple keywords to an ad unit, edit them, set their matching options, pause them, or remove them, too.
Negative keywords are the textual cues where you don’t want the ad to display. This is done in the matching types options, which allows you to set keyword matching styles for both positive and negative triggers. Then you can set the options on negative keywords for when you don’t want to trigger those words at all. Follow along with Google’s video guides.
Take an example like, say, you’re selling DVD copies of George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (1968), a movie which happens to be in the public domain so we can use it with impunity here. It’s a movie about zombies, so you want to broad-match “zombie” to include “zombies” and “zombie apocalypse.” You want to rank for words like “horror” and “movie” as well. However, we don’t want to match on pages about the restaurant franchise “Zombie Burger” (you thought we’d made that up?), nor for the Linux operating system programming term “zombie process.” These are unrelated concepts with similar names that are unlikely to result in a sale except on the rarest of coincidences.
If your ad impressions aren’t getting conversions, improperly managed keywords are a likely culprit. It’s a common flaw in online advertising. We’ve all had the experience of binge-watching Google videos and seeing the same ad over and over for a product that just wasn’t matching anything we’re remotely about. Or, how about those times when you bought a widget on Amazon one time, and now you’re deluged with widget ads all over the place because your one-time widget purchase has made the ad network think that widgets are now your whole lifestyle.
Those advertisers wasted their money, and now you know how you might be wasting money too. Think of it as a retail store layout. You’ll notice that even though shortcake dessert cups are a bakery item, you’ll often find them in the produce aisle next to the berries? Your PPC ads should display on pages that compliment your product or business model.
Match Keyword Types Carefully
Dwelling some more on Google Ads keywords matching, let’s circle back to those keyword matching styles. Your options for matching a keyword are:
- Broad Match: Covers all forms of the word including stems, plurals, synonyms, and misspellings.
- Broad Match Modifier: Sticks to the specific keywords only, not synonyms or partial matches.
- Phrase Match: Even more fine-tuned, triggering only for the exact phrase, not just those words in any order.
- Exact Match: Eliminates leading or trailing words, so you want only that specific word and its synonyms to trigger.
Here’s another great video tutorial by Google on keyword matching styles:
Back to our Night of the Living Dead example, we might want to tweak our keyword list like this:
- Broad Match: zombie, living dead, George Romero
- Broad Match Modifier: +horror +movie (excludes “horror novel” and “comedy movie”)
- Phrase Match: “Living Dead” (excludes the band “Grateful Dead”. Forgot about them, didn’t you?)
- Exact Match: (can match “movies about zombies” and “zombies in film,” but not “Rob Zombie’s movies,” and yes, he’s made some)
As you can see, we had to identify a lot of near-misses, which could have cost us ad impressions that weren’t likely to sell. The keyword matching parameters are the same special character tweaks you can use in searching Google.
Extending Your Ad
Ad Extensions are a feature in Google Ads that allow you to include extra information about your business. These small bits hang out at the bottom of a search ad, and though they don’t look like much, they can make a difference. Advertising online is a visual art; the more “real estate” you take occupy on the screen, the more likely a scrolling web user is to take notice of your ad. But keep this practice within bounds of reason.
Here’s the requisite Google video tutorial covering ads, ad groups, ad rotation, and ad extensions all in one she-bang:
Ad Extensions are free to use, with a selection of modules to suit the needs of your business. They include:
- Location Extensions: Shows your address on Google Maps
- Affiliate Location Extensions: Shows the address where shoppers can find your retail product (“available at these fine outlets…” as the TV commercials say)
- Callout Extensions: Shows additional details in the text
- Sitelink Extensions: Exactly like Callouts, but they form link buttons, which let users navigate to a particular spot in your site instead of just being dumped to your landing page
- Call Extensions: Shows your business phone number
- Structured Snippets: Add a “sales pitch” into your ad unit tailored for user search intent
- Message Extensions: Same as call extensions, but for text messaging instead of phoning
- Price Extensions: Displays prices for items in the ad unit
- App Extensions: A link for mobile users to “get the app”
- Promotional Extensions: For short-term sales, events, seasonal offers, etc.
Whew! That is an extensive number of extensions. Don’t think that just because they’re free means you must include all of them because that can make an ad too busy. You should use the ad extensions that will facilitate a conversion, be it calling, driving directions to your store, or visiting a specific location on your webpage. These extensions are geared for retail, professionals, services, tech companies, and everything in between.
For some businesses, the physical location of the customer makes no difference. If you are in the business of shipping goods or downloadable content, you can usually ignore this part. For the rest of you, turning on geo-targeting helps your ad display only in the service area applicable to your business.
As we’ve mentioned elsewhere on the site, geo-location in advertising is becoming quite a fad. It targets users near your store and attempts to draw them in. It’s like the virtual reality version of one of those characters you see on street corners spinning a sign around to promote a business in that shopping center, only without needing some poor guy to get sweaty in a furry suit all day.
As the Google tutor points out, you can widen the scope of the location to target to cover anything from a whole nation to a county, city, or a radius. You can also add multiple locations to target per ad unit, in case you serve something like a tri-state area.
Once again, if you’re advertising to areas where people physically can’t do business with you, you’re wasting your money and the users’ time as well. Some companies don’t use geo-locating and try to use keyword triggers for location control, but not every customer is going to announce their location in their search. Users often type “near me” because they’ve come to expect their phones to always be aware of their point on Earth.
Target Ad Campaigns For Your Market
Most of this article has covered the nuts and bolts technical details. But we’d like to finish up by having a word on the ad content and marketing plan itself. No matter what your business model is or even how long you’re been in business, it’s always good to refresh your advertising practices and see if you need a new strategy.
Here are some popular advertising models that might give you a good starting point:
- The “Get the Facts” Campaign: Informative, activist tone, “fighting for the consumer’s rights.” Good for legal, medical, political, education, non-profit, and special interest.
- Event Campaigns: Centering on holidays, vacation time, graduation, sporting events, spring break, etc. This is a very common strategy. Good for retail, travel and leisure industry, luxury goods, financial, and education industries.
- Pop Culture Pop-ups: Google Ads allows you to create fast campaigns on the fly and run them for a short time. Tie your message to the big news story of the week, the hit new movie that just got released, the latest Internet fad, etc. Good for all youth-oriented businesses.
- Regional Campaigns: Compose a campaign that ties in with “local pride” and emphasizes how well your company understands the needs of people from the region, local values, etc. Good for location-specific services, large industry, utilities, and retail chains.
- Competitive Campaigns: Did you know you can target any keywords you want? Even the name of your competitor’s business? This campaign seeks to undercut the competition by offering a better deal. Works only for industries with high customer turnaround / low loyalty.
- Re-targeting Campaign: This is where you advertise to former customers to attract repeat business, or at least encourage previous site visitors to return. See this video for more information.
Ad Campaigns That Are Going Out Of Style
Because, as we pointed out above in the negative keywords section, some ad strategies can be counter-productive when they’re misaimed. Re-targeting should only be used for businesses with a frequent purchase volume: small retail, restaurant, luxury services, salons and spas, entertainment. If a customer buys your washing machine and then you advertise washing machines at them all year long, not only is this highly unlikely to be productive, but you may undermine your product value proposition by suggesting it lasts shorter than a year. Not only that, but you will also likely annoy your customer.
Coffee shops can re-market at will, this works great! Video game companies need to give the customer some space for the first few days. They haven’t even beaten the first boss yet, let them enjoy your product.
“In these trying times, when hope seems to be fading, this is the time to become empowered, to rise to the challenge. We’ll make it through this together!”
You should hear the users imitating your ad text in a sing-song sarcastic voice. Their eyes roll. It gets worse when you play battle hymns over this. Today’s market is just too media-savvy to have their heartstrings plucked by encouraging messages of hope and unity to get them to buy your can of pop.
This is the misaimed youth marketing campaign. It’s where a very old person tries to appropriate youth slang, youth culture, and youth media channels in an attempt to make their product and company “woke,” “fly,” “jiggy,” “hip,” “cool,” “groovy,” “the bee’s knees,” etc. It does not work.
It is fine to market to kids and it is perfectly acceptable to reach out to them and say “I understand you have this need or want, which we fulfill.” They trust a sincere adult over a strangely off-tone, overgrown kid.
Like I mentioned at the start, you get what you put into any marketing strategy. If you just slap some ads online without much thought, you likely won’t see spectacular results. However, if you’ve identified that digital advertising is a necessary component of your marketing strategy, and you’re committed to developing the best campaigns possible, you will see significant returns on your investment. With your business fully on board with a Google Ads strategy, you can succeed with the full power of the biggest advertising network on Earth behind your business.
Before you go, here are a few more articles we’ve published that will help you develop high-converting, low cost-per-click campaigns.
- A Quick Google Ads 101
- How Do Google Ads Work? Learn the Basics
- Are Google Ads Effective? Is This Advertising Strategy Right for You?
These best practices and tips should help nearly any business use Google Ads successfully.
Lastly, if you’re not sure you want to manage your PPC advertising strategy in-house, you can outsource your Google and Facebook ads to an agency. Read our article “7 Reasons You Should Hire an Agency to Manage Your Google and Facebook Ads” to learn why you might want to go that route. As always, feel free to reach out to us with any questions or if you need help with your Google Ads campaigns.