In this post, I share ten of the more important Google Ads tips and tricks you can adopt into your PPC advertising practice. These tips and tricks are specific to search advertisers, so for those doing Google Display and Remarketing ads, stay tuned for a future post.
When it comes to mastering Google Ads, there’s no substitute for experience and know-how. But for beginners, this post will quickly get you in the know and provide a big head start. For advanced Google Ads advertisers, some of the initial tips and tricks mentioned are fundamental practices that you’re probably well aware of. In which case, skip the the last half of this post where we delve into more advanced Google Ads techniques.
1. Define Your Goals & Setup Conversion Tracking
If you’re embracing Google Ads with loosely defined goals, you’re doing yourself a disservice in the long-run. Even worse, if you neglect setting-up conversion tracking, you’re pretty much going in blind.
More than just a tip or a trick, conversion tracking is Google Ads best practice. But don’t overthink it. Defining your goals can be simple. Common examples include tracking users who:
- Fill out the contact form on your site
- Make a purchase
- Sign-up for your newsletter
- Click specific links or buttons
- Visit a certain page
With the help of Google Tag Manager, setting-up conversion tracking in Google Ads is actually not as technical as it seems. I’ve put together a video on how to do it in my training course. The ultimate takeaway is that, first and foremost, make sure your properly tracking user activity associated with your Google Ads account. This way, you can make smart, data-supported decisions when managing your campaigns, ad groups, and keywords.
2. Never Combine Search & Display Ads in One Campaign
Upon setting-up a new campaign, immediately after adding your domain you’ll be prompted to “expand your reach” by including the Display network (this may change depending on when you read this, as Google Ads is always evolving).
But the one tip that remains timeless is NEVER including the Display network in your Search campaigns. This pre-checked box might seem like an enticing feature that could maximize your exposure, but in reality, it’s a waste of money.
By including the Display network (which again, I do not advise), your Search ads will show up on other websites in the network as display ads (i.e. banner ads, sidecolumn ads, etc.) Without going into too much detail, expanded text ads are not very effective on the Display network. It’s always best to set up a Display campaign separately, and use visual Display ad graphics (not expanded text ads).
3. Do Keyword Research & Leverage Search Data
Also going beyond your typical Google Ads tips and tricks, keyword research and leveraging search data are fundamental best practices. Even if used casually (or on-the-fly which I am fully guilty of), the Google Keyword Planner makes it easy to extract relevant keyword data. This information can better instruct how you organize and build your ad groups, as well as how to leverage certain match types and bidding strategies.
In essence, doing keyword research, navigating the Keyword Planner, and properly leveraging search data is entirely separate beast in itself. Your best place of reference is the video above where I go through these processes and help you extract and use search data to help shape your keyword strategy. If you have any questions about anything, hit me up in YouTube comments.
4. Use Broad Match Bidding Sparingly (If Ever)
A reoccuring theme I mention time and time again in my course is to use broad match very sparingly, if ever at all. The nature of broad match is highly, highly…. broad.
The go-to analogy I love is the keyword “red wagon.” If I’m a retailer selling kid’s Radio Flyer “red wagons” and I bid exclusively on “red wagon” using broad match, I am setting myself up for disaster. Broad match is so broad that my ads will show for search queries like “burgundy Subaru wagon” or “red wagon liquor” or “Red Wagon Pizza Company” - not keyword queries I want triggering my ads.
In other words, without using more precise match types of keyword bidding strategies, we’re opening the door to a lot of unwanted impressions and wasted clicks. For Google Advertisers with limited budgets, this can evaporate your daily budget rather quickly with little to no return.
Myself and other Google Ads specialists will agree that using a combination of match types like exact match, phrase match, and broad match modifier will ensure you’re ads are triggered by the right users you want visiting your site. The figure above is a good example of an ad group targeting keywords around “all road bike” and “road plus bike.” (which despite their contextual similarity, will probably be segmented into dedicated ad groups for semantic reasons.)
5. Take Advantage of Expanded Text Ads & Split-Test 3+ Concepts
Depending on when you read this tips and tricks post, the novelty of Google’s expanded text ads may or may not be as relevant. Google is always changing it’s Ads platform, but one notable change that occurred in September 2018 was the even further expansion of expanded text ads.
Instead of two headlines (30 character max) and one description line (80 character max), now search advertisers can leverage a third headline and a second description line, the latter of which can now be up to 90 characters. If you’ve been using Google Ads (AdWords) for long, then I’m sure you can empathize with going from not enough character space, to more than enough.
Be creative, employ your inner ad copywriter, and craft impactful search ads that compel users to click through to your site. But don’t just create one ad for each ad group. Write at least 3 ads that can be split-tested over time. Through the Google Ads support grapevine, I received a tip to create at least 3 expanded text ads per ad group. This will help boost your “creative excellence” score, which is a behind-the-scenes metric that Google uses to instruct Ad Rank.
By split-testing your ad creative, you can test different headlines, description text, or display URLs. Just be sure to understand the differences between your ad concepts that you can grasp what creative is working best. In short, keep certain ads relatively similar, but also feel free to play with a one-off concept that’s entirely unique. Oh, and make sure you set your ads to “rotate evenly” which is found under your campaign settings in Google Ads.
6. Understand Your Chosen Bidding Strategy
Google Ads makes it easy to pick a bidding strategy (i.e. Maximize Clicks, Maximize Conversions, Enhanced CPC, Manual CPC, etc.) But without knowing what these bidding strategies mean, you could wind up churning through your budget rather quickly.
The first tip is notice that the top 7 of 8 options are “Automated.” By using these bidding strategy types, you compromise full control over your bids and allow Google to adjust your max. CPC automatically. I personally am not a big fan of most of these Automated options and use them sparingly or with strategic intention. For conservative advertisers, I highly recommend avoiding Maximize Clicks and Maximize Conversions, as these options can escalate your bids rather quickly.
If you have time to manage your campaigns diligently for the first few weeks, use Manual CPC or Target search page location (which you can switch to Enhanced or Manual CPC.) This way you have more control of your bids and where your money is going. Target ROAS and Target CPA are a little more relevant after your campaign has earned some activity and data. Unless you're absolutely certain of your keyword targets (and your bidding mostly exact match), I would not use Maximize Clicks.
7. Review Search Terms & Employ Negative Keywords
Assuming you’re using more than just exact match bidding, you’re bound to see some search queries that just don’t align with your desired users’ intent. For instance, bidding on “red Radio Flyer wagon” using phrase match will still trigger our ads for “red Radio Flyer wagon parts.” If we don’t actually sell replacement parts for such wagons, then we need to add such keyword variations as negatives.
Next to the primary Search Keywords tab, you’ll see Negative Keywords and Search Terms. You can use Search Terms to see all of the past queries that have caused your ads to trigger. If you see certain keywords that do not align with your desired users’ intent, exclude them as negatives.
Per the figure above, 6 of the 8 queries above do not apply and will be excluded as negatives. Can you guess which ones?
8. Leverage All Applicable Ad Extensions
Most of known by know the value of using Ad Extensions. They can help expand the real estate and overall appearance of search ads, which can help improve CTR and ad rank. But where some Google Ads advertisers get lazy is failing to use all applicable ad extensions, or use don’t leverage them on the ad group level.
Of the Ad Extensions that are completely up-for-grabs are Sitelinks, Callouts, and Call extensions. These typically require no added integration or effort. And when leveraged on the ad group level, you can further increase the relevance and impact of your search ads.
Local advertisers can greatly benefit from Location Extensions. This requires integration with Google My Business. When implemented properly, this can result in a beautiful SERP comprised of a primary Search Ad, as well as ad shown in the Google Local pack, per the figure below highlighting Gerson & Schwartz, P.A..
9. Get Your Google Ads Columns Straight
Information is everything with Google Ads. One of my favorite tips and tricks to share is utilizing some of the column options available. Whether you’re view activity on the campaign level, ad group level, or keyword level (as indicated in the left column of options), you can modify your columns to see specific performance metrics.
In this Google Ads tips and tricks post, I’m only going to share a few of my go-to columns specifically for the keyword view (because this is typically the most important for ongoing management.) Column structure is also a matter of preference, so take some time to explore your options and make visible the columns that matter most to you and your KPI’s.
Click the three vertical column icon to view the column options. From there, you can choose different categories where specific metrics are nestled. A lot of them are obvious and unnecessary, but some of them are actually very insightful.
For example, under Attributes, I like to check the Estimated top of page bid and Estimated first position bid. These metrics help ensure my Max CPC is set high enough so my ads show above the organic search results (higher than than the Estimated top of page bid.) Further, I recommend adding Conversion columns so you can see how well certain keywords are performing.
10. Scope Device Activity & Make Mobile Bid Adjustments
As the last Google Ads tip I have to offer, using Device-based bid adjustments is an under-utilized trick that can help boost performance. This is obviously contingent on the nature of your campaigns, website and business. But in most cases, the top search ads in mobile are a bit more valuable.
I say this because users on mobile devices must always see and scroll through the top search ads in mobile. Unlike desktop, users’ eyes can’t jump right to the organic results or local pack listings. They must see them! For this reason, I am big advocate of increasing bid adjustments on mobile devices.
Depending on your campaigns, website, and business, you might be able to benefit from increased bid adjustments. This assuming your conversion goals align with mobile users. I often times increase mobile bids by 15%-50% depending on the account. Keep in mind that you can implement device-based bid adjustments on the ad group level as well.
11. Last Word on Google Ads Tips and Tricks
Quite honestly, I hate the concept of “tips and tricks.” As I alluded to above, there’s no substitute for experience. Practicing these Google Ads tips and tricks (or best practices) with active accounts is the best way to hammer it home. Try employing these practices when optimizing and managing your Google Ads campaigns, and let me know how they work!