Google Ads is the world’s largest PPC (pay per click) network. It has the potential to put you in touch with more customers than any other platform. In addition to optimising your site and content for SEO, which will improve your organic traffic and search ranking, investing in Google Ads is a way to deliver quick wins. Results kick-in as soon as your campaign is up and running.

On average, Google Ad spend delivers an ROI of double your initial investment. But its success depends entirely on the knowledge and expertise of the person running it. This is particularly true when it comes to getting the best value for money. Because the platform is constantly being improved and updated, experience isn’t everything, but it certainly helps. We’ve condensed what we know about maximising your Google Ads budget into a handy list of rules. Armed with this, and the tips in our post about writing the perfect Google Ad, you’ll be ready to roll. 

1 Plan properly

Before you do anything else, you need to map out your keywords. It is worth spending some significant time doing this. If you get this wrong, you could waste time creating a campaign based around keywords with incredibly low search-volumes. Although this wouldn’t rack up your budget, it is a wasted investment and you could be getting far better value for money (and significantly more leads) if you focus on keywords with higher volumes of search traffic. There are a few keyword planning tools that will help:

  • Google Trends is a free tool that sits independent from the Ads platform. It enables you to map search volume for any long-tail or short-tail phrase, and you can compare them to see which is likely to perform best for you. Google Trends is the best tool to use if you’re trying to get an overall idea of what’s current, and to anticipate what the next big trend could be.
  • The keyword planner within Google Ads helps you find search terms that are relevant to your business. This tool allows you to drill down to the details on particular searches based on past search data.
  • Find out which keywords your competitors are targeting by logging into Google Ads, and selecting ‘find new keywords’ in the keyword planner. Select ‘search for new keywords using a phrase, website, or category’. Next, click on the text underneath ‘your landing page’ and enter your competitor’s URL, then click ‘get ideas.’

Searching for competitor keywords may be useful if there’s a lot of competition on searches, but rather than targeting the same terms, it may be a good way to ensure you rank more highly for other terms that aren’t so heavily targeted.

Pick your campaign type with your advertising goals in mind. Often, customers will use a mixture of these ad types, but sometimes, being focused is important – it allows you to measure the impact of different ad strategies. There are 3 main types of campaign:

  • Display: best for building brand awareness. This is good for customers with a big budget who want to make their brand more visible. Your ad will get seen by more people, and the CPC (cost per click) is lower. Ads will appear on relevant content and shopping sites as a banner – put simply, they will show up even if users haven’t searched your product.
  • Remarketing only: for customers who want to entice previous customers and visitors back to their site. Remarketing uses Display ads to pop up on sites where your existing customers and previous site visitors are hanging out. It’s a bit like display advertising but for people who have already expressed an interest in your product or brand.
  • Search only: Search ads allow advertisers to serve ads to customers who are typing relevant search terms into Google.

At ESM Inbound, most of our customers opt for a search campaign. There are all sorts of ways of customising your campaign to match your advertising goals. You can create a virtually limitless number of campaigns and ad groups within a campaign, but we recommend no more than 3 campaigns at a time and 2-3 Ad groups within each. You can add a range of extensions to your ads, including call and chat extensions, location extensions and structured snippets which tell customers about specific products.

2 Understand that long-tail keywords are your friends

Customers using long-tail keywords when they search (phrases of four words or longer) are likely to be closer to the point of sale than those who do a more generic search. Think about it — if you search for houseplants, you’re more likely to be browsing than somebody who is searching for something more specific like ‘golden pothos in hanging pot’. The latter is a far better prospect for you. 

Long-tail keywords are more likely to be ‘high intent’ – in other words –customers using them are more likely to convert. Targeting very generic keywords such as ‘houseplants’ will waste a lot of time and money: there is too much competition, and you’re targeting people at the wrong stage of the buyer’s journey. 

3 Populate all the headline fields

It can be hard to think up 9 headlines for each ad group. It’s harder, still to ensure there isn’t any duplication between headlines 1, 2, and 3 (because they will get served up in varied combinations, together on the same ad). 

One way to make the writing of these a bit easier is to create a guiding principle for each headline:

  • Headline 1 is always focused on the long-tail question
  • Headline 2 promises a value-add (a check-list, e-book or interactive tool)
  • Headline 3 is another long tail targeted headline, focused more on how you think you will solve a problem your customers have - eg ‘How To Regrow Vegetables From Cuttings’ or ‘The Complete Guide To Growing Your Own Food’. 

4 Allow time for fine-tuning

Like most things in life, it’s unlikely you’ll get Google Ads ‘right’ first time. There is always room for refining your Google Ads strategy, and the only way to get the feedback you need to do this is to run a campaign and see how it lands. At ESM Inbound, we have a  fine-tuning process in place for all our Google Ads customers. We’ll closely monitor the data throughout your campaign and use it to make adjustments to improve the performance of your ads. We’ll always set an end date for a campaign to ensure it stays within budget.

Fine-tuning strategies include:

  • Adding negative keywords: This can significantly improve ad relevance and click-through rate.
  • Adjusting your bid strategy: Once we have a steer on how your ads are performing against competitors we can adjust bids up or down around specific parameters. 
  • Scheduling your ads to appear at particular times of day: After a month or so on the platform, we will have a better idea of when your ads get most traction. We can adjust the scheduling of ads to make the most of this, driving more clicks to your landing pages.

5 Ensure your landing page is SUPER-relevant

The landing page is the page on your site your ad routes your customer to when they click on it. The relevance of this page to the ad and its promise has a huge impact on your ad rank. This is because Google’s Quality Score Rating is a key differentiator used to determine which position your ad appears in (think of this as the equivalent of injecting extra money into your Google Ads budget). 

It makes a lot of sense for Google to privilege relevance. Just think about it from your customer’s point of view: they see a headline that seems to promise something great – a free resource they can use now, or a service that is going to solve a problem they have. Then they click through to a landing page that seems generic, with some mediocre content on it that tells them something they already knew. Their time has been wasted and they will leave your site feeling disappointed. In other words, the interaction has done more harm than good for your brand. 

Sometimes  at ESM Inbound, we advise our clients to create new landing pages, which may be optimised forms, downloadable lead-capture bits of content such as e-books, or pillar pages. Experience has taught us that when we do this we tend to see at least a couple of overall campaign improvements. Firstly, as the landing page is more relevant to the ad that is being served, conversions tend to jump. We also see that cost per click tends to decrease as the quality of the campaign increases.

6 Use the extensions

Think of each extension on Google Ads as a way of boosting the effectiveness of your ad at no extra cost. We run through all of the extensions available to advertisers, telling you what they mean and how they add value, in our post on writing Google Ads. Used properly, the different features on Google Ads mean you can link to more than one page, link to specific products, feature special offers, and ensure customers can call or email you direct from your ad. You can exclude customers in particular locations if you know your products don’t sell well there.

So that’s our round-up of how to get the most out of Google Ads, and how to ensure the platform works as hard for you as it can. If you want to learn more, check out Google Ads’ free online learning, or HubSpot’s excellent guide to Google Ads.  If you’re happier leaving it to the experts, we’d love to help you plan a campaign.