If you’re new to the world of paid search, it can be overwhelming. Pay-per-click (PPC) marketing – also known as search engine marketing (SEM) – is complex. It’s easy to blow through your budget and have nothing to show for it if you don’t know what you’re doing.
There are so many:
- Advertising formats: Text ads, Responsive text ads, Video ads, Image ads, Call-only ads, and so much more!
- Ad networks: Google AdWords, Bing Ads, Adroll, Gemini, etc.
- Terms and acronyms: Quality Score? Ad Rank? CTR? ROAS? CPC?
PPC, done right, is incredibly valuable for businesses and brands of all sizes who want to grow and be profitable.
Want to drive more qualified visitors to your website who are further down the buyer funnel and more likely to convert? Paid search advertising can help you do that!
Here are comprehensive 50 Tips for Mastery of Google Ads Management
Do Get Lean
Start by taking steps that will make managing your account simpler and easier.
Look at Your Ad Schedules
If your ads are turned on all the time, it’s not a bad idea to tighten these schedules to those days and times that are your best bets. For example, you may want to stop running ads on weekends if those are historically less productive. Tightening up these schedules can also help alleviate pressure to monitor these accounts 24/7.
Turn Off Broad Match Keywords to Limit Your Ad Spend
Or limit broad match only to hot revenue producing campaigns rather than development focused campaigns. Again, this will help to alleviate pressure and keep spending under tighter control.
Tighten up Location Targeting
Again, this is the time to focus on your best bets and keep things simple – at least until you get a better handle on things.
Define Budgets Carefully
Remember, even if you set your daily ad budget to maximum $100 (as a simple example), you can, in practice, spend more than that each day.
In case you missed it, in 2017 Google Ads changed its rules so that your campaigns can spend up to twice your average daily budget.
The “max daily budget” is now calculated over the course of a month, not day by day.
You won’t go over your monthly charging limit (which is the average number of days in a month multiplied by your average daily budget), but you might go over your daily limit on certain days.
If all this makes you nervous, consider lowering your daily ad budget from $100 (for example) to $75.
Don’t Expect Exact Match to Be Exact
Depending on when you last had your hands on a PPC account, you may still think of “exact match” (as a Google Ads keyword matching option) as exactly that – an exact match.
In other words, a match has to include the specified keywords, only those words and in the same order for an exact match to be made. Unfortunately, this is no longer the case.
Google has updated its exact match rules to allow close variants.
Those variants allow for changes in word order or slight variations in spelling. And since September 2018, exact matches now allow for keyword variations that share the same meaning.
Fall in Love With Broad Match
The reality is that with the constantly evolving search landscape, our campaigns aren’t likely to reach their full potential using only exact or phrase match.
Did you know that every day on the Bing network (owned by Microsoft, my employer) roughly 20% of searches are from completely new queries? Google has reported similar numbers, saying that 15% of their searches each month are new. Can you really be sure your keyword coverage will capture these emerging keyword trends?
And it’s not just new keywords. With natural language becoming more common, we’re also seeing typed queries getting longer. On the Bing network, approximately 31% of search queries have five or more grams (or words.) People, helped by the auto-complete and suggested queries features that both Google and Bing offer, are increasingly comfortable typing in longer, more precise searches.
Spotting the rise of new trending queries can give a keyword strategy a big boost.
Remember, the goal with broad match is not conversions, it’s discovery.
By excluding broad match, you’re likely leaving potential new clicks on the table.
Why miss out when you can get a leg up over the competition?
If you’re still worried about the risks – or your agency/client won’t let you implement straight broad match – a much lower risk way to get started is Broadience.
Broadience = Broad Match + Audience Targeting.
It’s a way of bundling broad match (pure broad, no modifiers) with remarketing to take advantage of the powerful reach of broad match, while controlling and limiting its scope to a set of highly desirable audiences.
Audience campaigns are already carving out a particular niche segment of the market – if we’re not on broad match, then we’re not hitting that whole audience.
This is where Broadience shines. With the audience as the control lever, the full exploratory power of broad match is curtailed.
Essentially, targeting highly qualified traffic enables you to strategically broaden keyword lists.
For example, if I were a shoe seller, I would probably hesitate to bid on the word “shoe” in my regular campaigns.
But I could add it to a remarketing campaign much more safely since that audience has already shown a high intent to purchase, reducing my risk while still allowing me additional opportunities to engage with past site visitors.
Broadience is ideal for marketers who have identified valuable audiences and are looking to expand the opportunities to engage and maximize their exposure to the audience.
By capturing new queries and those that the advertiser may not have considered, Broadience maximizes the opportunities to engage or reengage with valuable audiences identified by advertisers.
A Broad Match + Remarketing Case Study
Running campaigns using Broadience can help yield better performance results than when just using “exact match,” as Flipkey discovered.
Part of the TripAdvisor family, FlipKey is a challenger in the vacation rental sector. Its marketing is U.S.-focused, with international rental opportunities.
The FlipKey marketing team had lofty goals for its latest Microsoft Advertising campaign:
- Grow brand awareness and win market share from competition, including a category leader.
- With a long customer decision journey, cut down the amount of time it takes to convert a customer.
- Make campaign management more effective by finding an easier and less time-consuming approach in handling its huge number of keywords.
Based on this, Broadience was chosen as a solution to test, since:
- Broad match would:
- Make it easier to manage huge keyword lists.
- Help increase search term coverage.
- Help boost brand awareness.
- Cover keywords along multiple points of the customer decision journey.
- With remarketing, FlipKey could target searchers who were more likely to convert, reengaging them at multiples points of their journey.
Without any campaign optimizations, the results exceeded all expectations:
- Broad match was 50% of total impressions and 36% of total clicks.
- Most importantly, it was 35% of total revenue.
The conversion rates for broad aligned with exact and mod broad, and while the CPA for broad match was higher than exact it was still within FlipKey’s targets.
That’s the power of Broadience.
Putting Broadience to the Test
Want to put Broadience to the test?
Follow these four simple steps:
1. Pull a search query report from one of your priority campaigns and review it to get ideas for potential broad match keywords.
Increase your chances of success by using high-performing keywords with low-funnel audiences.
2. Based on the keywords you choose, select a related Remarketing “Target & Bid” campaign (or create one if none exist.) Keep in mind:
- It should be a remarketing campaign and not a regular campaign.
- It needs to be target and bid.
3. Add these keywords as pure broad match (no modifiers) to the chosen remarketing campaign, and monitor over the next few weeks.
4. Check performance regularly and farm performing search queries captured by the broad keywords and add as Exact or Phrase. Remember:
- Even if they are longtail keywords, add them to your account.
- For anything irrelevant, continue to add them as negative keywords.
Make broad match work for you by minimizing its risk while maximizing reach with audiences. It’s as simple as that.
A Single Long-Tail Broad Match Keyword, with Every Other Word Added As Negatives
If there’s one universal truth to PPC managers, it’s that we value control over everything.
Broad match is the antithesis of that control.
Broad match keywords become grounded in the actual syntax of the keyword chosen when they have at least 5 words.
Additionally, broad match opens up access to keyword concepts that would be too expensive to actively invest in.
When you adopt this strategy it’s crucial you take the following steps:
- Every keyword you’re actively targeting gets added as an exact match negative. This will ensure your broad match keyword can focus on new query ideas/one off searches, while your core campaigns can deliver leads/sales via proven keyword concepts.
- If an applicable in-market audience exists, layer it on the broad ad group/campaign so you can prequalify the data acquisition.
- Audit your queries regularly, and be open to swapping keyword concepts you’re actively targeting for ideas your broad match keyword secures (provided there’s enough volume/the business case is there).
- Campaigns should only have one broad match keyword (sequestered away in its own ad group). Any more than that, and the data acquisition will turn into waste.
Layered Audience: Demographics & Affinity
It’s no secret that a campaign will perform best when you clearly define who it’s meant for.
By using the combined power of Google Ads and Analytics, you’re able to give your campaigns a better chance of success by targeting those most likely to take the desired action. I look at demographics and affinity as a more of a passive “who they are” classification.
The screenshot below shows current site visitors who fall into the affinity category of “Pet Lovers”. Those specific customers convert 46% better than the average. That’s an audience worth engaging:
Layered Audience: In Market
While Demographics and Affinity audiences are more about “who they are”, In-Market audiences are about “what they’re doing”.
In this case, this an audience who is exhibiting certain online behavior consistent with those who are actively “in the market” for a product or service.
Layered Audience: Life Events
Anyone who has ever run a Direct Response campaign (even in the pre-digital days) knows that reaching potential customers at key life event stages can be critical to its performance.
If you’ve ever gotten a mortgage (or even just moved to a new address), you’ve probably noticed an increase in the volume of offers you receive. There’s a very good reason for that – data shows it’s effective.
Google Ads allows you to run promotions for specific “life events” on a limited basis today. It’s limited because:
- You’re restricted to life events concerning:
- College graduation.
- It’s currently available for Gmail and YouTube campaigns.
They launched these targeting capabilities in the last couple of years and hopefully, it will eventually be expanded as a targeting layer for additional events and platforms.
Running One Responsive Search Ad (RSA) Per Ad Group
I know. You tried it and were less than impressed. I get it.
Try it again, but this time on some keywords and audiences that might not be your core focus.
If your campaigns are anything like most, you have some core audiences and set of keyword variations that make up the bulk of the conversions and revenues.
Test RSAs to try and find success outside that core audience. The biggest things to remember:
- The key word in machine learning is “learning.” In order to “learn” what works, the “machine” also must learn what doesn’t. That takes time and a bit of volume to get a good read.
- You still need to input some quality headlines (minimum 3, up to 15) and descriptions (minimum 2, up to 4). If those are sub-quality, no amount of machine learning will help your campaigns.
Test Smart Bidding Strategies – Once you have that foundational element established, you can begin to let the system “do the grunt work” it takes to get the campaign there.
Establish a Target Cost Per Acquisition (CPA) or Return on Ad Spend (ROAS)
This is a Marketing 101 principle that unfortunately even some of the largest companies in the world don’t complete (or at least complete properly).
The automation is now in place to optimize campaigns at scale to a specific CPA or ROAS, but that functionality is useless if you don’t have that figured out (and potentially even worse if you have a CPA or ROAS goal calculated with poor logic).
Is CPA a perfect metric? Nope.
Neither is ROAS.
I have challenges with both when we’re talking about a tactic like text search ads that usually play a role somewhere in the second half of a purchase journey.
Without proper context, CPA and ROAS are very incomplete numbers. However, you can get to a number that’s a reasonable mark for optimizing campaigns to once you take the time and effort to piece together the following:
- The various marketing campaigns required to take a buyer from pre-awareness to a conversion.
- The lifetime value of a customer.
- Your margins.
Invest in Microsoft Ads Already, Will You?!?!
Microsoft Ads have come a long, long way since the early days of Bing when a lot of us in PPC treated them like an afterthought that we would “get around to” when we had time and as long they made it easy to copy our AdWords campaigns over.
Of course, there are no guarantees it’ll be effective for your brand, but I’m seeing more consistent success across my account base than I did five years ago.
They even have some features that Google doesn’t (and can’t) have. For more insight on that, check out the recent post from contributor Tim Jensen.
Using Google Analytics Data to Execute Remarketing Campaigns
Are you still remarketing equally to everyone who visits your site?
Are all your site visitors equal?
Of course not!
The example below is from a business that has both an ecommerce and physical retail presence.
A quality visit entering the site on a “store locator” page is an opportunity to present remarketing ads promoting the in-store experience.
Report the Store Visits Metric (For Businesses with Brick & Mortar Locations)
While we’re on the subject of brick & mortar, leveraging the Store visits metric available in Google Ads is a great way to gain additional support for your campaigns.
Sometimes the management in the physical stores can feel like digital marketing campaigns are designed more for Ecommerce so it’s great to be able to present this kind of data.
Review & (Most Likely) Revise Your Campaign Structure
A campaign restructure is often one of the first things an experienced PPC pro ends up recommending once an audit is complete.
A poor campaign structure is much like a bad foundation on a house – if that’s in bad shape, not much else matters.
A proper campaign structure has always been important, but it’s absolutely critical if you want to take advantage of the automation capabilities to optimize and scale your campaigns.
In order to let the automation handle the grunt work and get you out of the weeds, you must be very strategic about how you structure the campaigns.
There’s not a handbook on one way correct way to structure a campaign for all types of businesses, but in general, you need to take into account:
- Product mix.
- Core terms.
- Budget ownership.
- Your ability/bandwidth to manage it all.
Proper setup requires a lot of heavy lifting but will pay the dividends of a long shelf life and program scalability.
Ironically, this last recommendation is something you’ll likely need to do before you can find success with the earlier ones.
Lead with Display, Remarket with Search
Not every business hast the budget for Google search as the first touch with a prospect.
Display is here to bring the curated audience worth investing in.
The beauty of custom intent, custom affinity, and in-market audiences is that they represent prequalified leads another brand paid for.
Layering these audiences on a display campaign (where the cost-per-click are dramatically cheaper) allows your brand to curate a list of ideal prospects – ripe for the picking by branded search and/or RLSA.
All ad types should be aligned with the target audience, and display is no exception.
Display creative needs to be attention-grabbing, and can lean on image, text, or a hybrid approach.
Hybrid creative can look like this:
This ad achieves the following:
- Grabs the user’s attention with a bold statement with focusing images.
- Highlights the product with a strong call to action.
- Subtlety engages the user to think about their subscription model as opposed to a one-off purchase.
Leveraging text-heavy display well is tricky, but possible:
This ad achieves the following:
- Entices the prospect with an offer.
- The call to action is clear and stands out from the rest of the creative.
- The both the product brand and vendor brand are clearly displayed for ease of retention.
If you decide to leverage this tactic, it’s vital two considerations are in place:
- Your industry is approved for remarketing. Full list of restricted industries is here.
- You have your remarketing tag and Facebook pixel in place.
Depending on the initiative, the display campaign may be sending folks to a microsite or subdomain, so it’s important to confirm the tracking codes used on your main site make it over to your PPC landing pages.
Sequester Branded & Competitor Terms in Their Own Campaigns
Regardless of where you fall on the branded/competitor campaign debate, there is value in protecting your general service terms from false positive (branded) and false negative (competitor) metrics.
Most keywords are capable of adding in branded or competitor terms to their queries, creating false positives/negatives in the metrics.
How has the competitive landscape changed?
Find out if your competitors secured their market positions in recent months.
When branded and competitor terms live in their own campaigns (and are made negatives everywhere else), campaigns are able to focus on the main job they’ve been given.
Campaigns jobs range from:
- General service/product: Core service offerings and products offered – ad groups are different ways of referring to that service/product.
- Location-based: Campaigns have very similar structure but are targeted to different location so they’re not competing with each other and can have ads/keywords that account for how that location searches/thinks.
- Buyer Persona: While this usually makes more sense at the ad group level, if the buyer persona represents different margins/profit potential, it can make sense to set campaigns in line with prospect potential value.
- Branded: A safe space for the cheaper and higher converting queries revolving around your brand, as well as a focused spot for branded creative.
- Competitor: Top five to seven competitors with a competitor per ad group that allows you to set specific messaging in line with why you’re better.
- Experimental campaigns: Safe spaces for crazy ideas that you don’t actually want to run but are “forced” to by team members/clients
Every campaign represents additional budget, so it’s important to choose the jobs that will serve your brand best, as well as allow you to have an account that’s easy to manage.
Use DSA for Keyword Research
Dynamic Search Ads (DSA) represents a beautiful hybrid approach between SEO and PPC – empowering PPC campaigns through well SEO’ed sites.
DSA functions by allowing Google to crawl the site, and match the best landing page to the user’s query (if it was included in the dynamic target).
There are two main benefits to DSA:
- Empowering budgets to support hundreds/thousands of landing pages without needing hundreds of campaigns.
- Teaching us how our prospects search and at what cost.
All keywords you’re targeting in other campaigns need to be made negatives in the DSA campaign.
By making the keywords negatives, you ensure your actively chosen keywords get a fair shake to be profitable, and DSA can focus on net new ideas.
It is vital regular audits of the search term reports accompany DSA. You’ll be checking for the following:
- Keyword concepts you want to actively target.
- Keyword concepts that need to be made negatives.
- Auction price range of valuable queries.
Invest Aggressively in the Beginning and Then Roll Spend Back
Most campaigns begin with a small testing budget – advertisers are loath to invest until they see results.
Yet if there isn’t enough fuel for the keyword concepts/targets chosen, the learning period can drag causing waste.
If the campaign is operating at less than 30% impression share (of all available impressions, the amount it’s securing), that means at least 70% of potential prospects aren’t getting access to your brand.
Sometimes, new campaigns need to be less ambitious in scope (targeting only part of the offerings/some of the market) to allow the budget to fully fuel their learning periods.
The first month of a campaign should get a 15%-20% increase in budget for data acquisition (how prospects search, what they will cost, and to teach the ad networks the value of the campaign).
After the initial learning period (minimum of two weeks but can go for the full month), you’ll have the intel to make educated and profitable decisions about the account.
This can mean:
- Rolling back spend to ideal parameters.
- Leveraging a smart (conversion-oriented) bidding strategy.
- Campaign optimizations (negatives, new keywords/ad groups, creative choices).
Campaigns Should not Have Incorrect (or Absent) Audience Targeting
Often we come across campaigns with incorrect targeting – or no targeting at all.
For example, we find Display campaigns that were named “custom intent” but didn’t have custom intent audiences. Same problem has been seen with remarketing campaigns.
Just because a campaign is named “custom intent” or “remarketing” doesn’t make it so.
You have to actually set up the correct audience targeting.
Campaigns Should not Have Hundreds of Ad Groups & Duplicate Keywords
As a general rule, we should only have about seven to 10 ad groups per campaign (and only 20 or so keywords per ad group). We shouldn’t be creating hundreds of groups within the same campaign. When we do, the groups become unwieldy and impossible to manage.
Duplicate keywords are also a problem. Years ago, it was common practice to have plural and singular forms of keywords (“car” and “cars”), but that was a long time ago. And if we see them now, it’s a major warning sign.
Here’s what Google has to say about duplicate keywords:
“Duplicate keywords happen when one of two or more of your ads are using the same keyword list. It’s best to avoid having duplicate keywords in your account. Google shows only one ad per advertiser for a particular keyword, so there’s no need to include the same keywords in different ad groups or campaigns. It’s okay to have the same keyword in different match types in the same account if you want to use different bids or creatives.”
Location-Based Campaigns should not Have Incorrect Ad Extensions
While some PPC mistakes are only obvious to people who have access to the account, some are obvious to everyone when ads are displayed.
Mismatched locations and ad extensions are one of those errors.
For example, one account was a law firm with three locations: Boston, Chicago, and New York. The firm had ads targeted to those three geographic regions, but the extensions weren’t matched correctly. So ads that impressioned in Chicago, for example, had extensions with information about the Boston office.
Reporting Should not Focus on Unimportant (or Misleading) Metrics
Some signs of mismanagement don’t become obvious until you look beyond the Google Ads account itself and examine what managers are reporting to executives.
Unfortunately, it’s not unusual to see a reliance on less important metrics with misleading conclusions as proof of the program’s success.
For example, I’ve seen reporting that equates number of page visits to number of conversions where the goal is to generate leads. Obviously, this is misleading.
You could have millions of page visits, but if you’re not getting any conversions (whether that’s making a sale or getting a lead), then you’ve got a problem.
Account Strategy should Align With Broader Marketing or Business Goals
Sometimes mismanagement isn’t evident until you examine the account in the context of your company and its goals.
When you do, you discover that your goals aren’t supported by the PPC strategy.
For example, I talked to a business owner who told me that an important component of his business was brand awareness and development.
But then I found that 60 percent of his $93,000 budget was going to Shopping campaigns, 37 percent to search and only three percent to remarketing.
Shopping campaigns are great for making sales but not so great for brand awareness.
Remarketing, however, is great for brand awareness.
So what gives?
How has the competitive landscape changed?
Find out if your competitors secured their market positions in recent months.
Shouldn’t these percentages be split more evenly?
Also, I was surprised by the absence of GDN campaigns as they would have been a perfect fit here.
When you see this kind of mismatch, it can be a warning sign that the account managers either don’t know what they are doing, or they’re applying the same strategy to all of the accounts they’re managing.
Post-Click Elements Should not be Ignored
Maybe the PPC account is set up perfectly and the CTR is amazing.
But if post-click elements – such as landing pages – aren’t carefully designed and in place, that’s a problem.
For example, I was recently auditing the PPC accounts of a business that sells an expensive, personalized service.
It’s the kind of service that requires a lot of thought, research and trust before someone will buy.
When I checked out the landing page, I was shocked to discover that it only had some stock photography and a contact form. It had no contact information, no reviews, and no testimonials.
They didn’t even have a link back to their home page.
If someone had never heard of this company before, and landed on its landing page, would they buy?
I really doubt it.
Instead, they’d keep looking and researching, which is a lost opportunity.
Do not Use Google Ads Optimization Score as a Crutch
Google Ads’ optimization score has gotten a lot of attention recently.
Google has been promoting it as an easy way to see how well your account is being managed and get recommendations on how to improve it.
If only it were so simple.
Unfortunately, Google’s assessments and recommendations aren’t always in your best interest.
Your managers should take them with a healthy dose of skepticism.
So when your PPC managers use a high Google Ads optimization score as proof that everything’s going great, that’s a strong indicator that problems lie below.
Most PPC pros (including this one) agree that getting a 100% optimization score shouldn’t be your goal.
Are some of the recommendations helpful?
Should you accept them across the board?