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Google Ads is one of the best ways to market your products or services. It can get you found by people actively looking for what you offer, something that Facebook and Instagram can’t claim. And it has a market share that dwarfs Bing Ads.
In the past, it was relatively easy to do Google AdWords. Put some keywords in, target a location, create some ads, add a credit card and you were good to go.
Today the rebranded Google Ads isn’t so easy. There is much to learn and much to do, even after
your campaign is set up and running.
During the setup process, Google will provide recommendations or have settings already in place for you. With the way they often phrase them, it often seems as if they’re looking out for you.
The problem is that many of these settings aren’t in your best interest.
It’s not that Google is trying so scam marketers. Quite the contrary. They want you to succeed. Their settings are often designed to get you the most amount of traffic from your ads. Not all this traffic is good traffic.
A successful Google Ads campaign, however, is about quality over quantity.
In this article, I want to go over some of the settings in a Google Ads campaign that are you might want to evaluate before merely accepting them. I’ll then explain why I don’t agree with them and what I’d recommend instead.
Campaign Setup
When you set up a campaign, Google will walk you through the process. They’ll ask you about goals and what you’re looking for (phone calls, website visits, etc.). It all seems as if they’re doing things in your favor, but from the beginning, there are problems with what they suggest.
I’m going to focus on a search campaign as this is the most common type of campaign. Yet, many of these issues pertain to any type of campaign.
Networks (Display)
The first step in setting up a campaign is to choose a goal. There are several options, and when you click on an option, most often four types appear below. You’re interested in search, so you chose this option.
The next page you’re taken to shows both search and display already checked off. Reading the
fine print, you find out that you’ll Expand your reach by showing ads to relevant customers as they browse sites, videos, and apps across the Internet.
This is true. More people will see your ad.
Why It’s Not a Good Idea
Search and Display are two very different mediums. With Search, you’re targeting people that are actively looking for what you offer.
With Display, you are attempting to target people who might be a potential prospect, but who are visiting sites for other reasons. This requires a different type of campaign. Instead of answering their need you have to attract their attention.
Even if you’re successful in reaching relevant prospects, you still don’t know what stage of the buying process they’re at. So taking them to the same page as your using for search (where you know their intent) seldom works
What to Choose Instead
If you’re looking to target prospects as they’re actively looking for what you offer, then do only search. You could do a display campaign but do it separately. Bid much lower and most often create very different types of ads then you would on search.
Networks (Search Partners)
Also checked off on this panel is Search Partners. These are sites that use the Google search engine on their websites. Some are well known such as Ask.com or Google Maps, while others are sites that have a search bar on their site and use the Google platform.
Why It’s Not A Good Idea
The search partner can have some benefits, mainly if you’re not getting many impressions for your search terms. And it may even be something you might try later.
The problem is that you don’t know what partners your ads appear on. As mentioned, some are well known, but many are more obscure, including many blogs. Like display, you don’t understand why they’re on a particular site.
What To Choose Instead
Stick with Google in the beginning. People are going there for a reason and its to search for what you offer.
As mentioned, you can always try out the search partners later, but for now, put all your budget toward Google.
When you deselect the search partners, as well as the display campaign you’ll see a note from Google that most advertisers use this, most AdWords campaigns are poorly run so this isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement.
Location Options
This would seem to be an easy choice as you simply type in what location you want your ads to
be shown in. It could be a major metropolitan location, a one-mile radius around your business or an entire country.
There’s nothing wrong with the location you’ve chosen or how you entered it. It’s how you’re targeting them.
This problem is hidden away and only visible if you click on location options. There you’ll see the options available including showing your ads in your market and people interested in your location. By default, this is what is already clicked.
Why It’s not a Good Idea
Let’s assume you're doing a 50-mile radius around your business for your ads. Someone that lives a hundred miles away is planning a weekend getaway and researching your city. They’ve expressed interest in your location so they could see your ad even though they’re not in your target market.
I’ve audited campaigns where people from other countries were seeing a company’s ad, even though they were targeting the United States only.
What to Do Instead
Click on the first option, show only to people in your location. This ensures that only people that have been identified as being in your market area will see your ads.
Bidding (What to focus on)
Scrolling down from locations you’ll see a number of options to choose for your campaign, from language to daily spend. These are relatively straightforward.
The option related to bidding, however, needs to be looked at in a little more in-depth. It’s not
how much you’ll be bidding on your keywords, but your bid strategy.
By default, you’ll see conversions is chosen, which seems like a good idea. In most cases you want prospects to take some sort of action from making a purchase to making a call or filling out a form.
Why It’s A Bad Idea
The assumption is that Google will bid more for phrases that will convert better for you. For this to work Google has to have data. And since this is a new campaign you have no data.
With no data to work with, their system is really guessing at this point, although admittedly educated guesses based on data from other advertisers. If you’re landing page is perfect, and your keyword choices spot on, then you might succeed.
More often than not, however, you end up bidding higher for phrases before you even had a chance to see how people respond to your website.
What To Do Instead
The best choice is to choose manual bids in the beginning.
This can be hard to find.
You first have to click select a bid strategy directly. After clicking this you’ll still see maximize conversion, but this time with a drop-down arrow next to it. After clicking on this you’ll see a long list of options. I won’t go into these other options in this article, but at the very bottom, you’ll see manual CPC.
With manual CPC you can set the bids. This way you can start low and increase your bids as you see which position you show up in.
If you’ve set up conversion tracking and start to get a lot of conversions, you might switch bidding options. But only after you have enough relevant data for Google to work with.
Bidding (Ad Rotation)
This isn’t the only default setting this is a problem with bids.
The other is hidden away and only becomes visible when you click on Show More Settings. There you’ll see Ad Rotation.
In the past, you had a few options and for some odd reason, Google even lists a couple that can no longer be chosen. The one chosen is Optimize: Prefer best performing ads. This certainly seems like a good idea as you would want your best ads to be shown.
Why It’s a Bad Idea
Similar to conversions, Google can only determine what your best ad is with data. Let’s say you begin with three or four ads in an ad group (which I’d recommend). Unfortunately, Google often chooses an ad early so all your ads don’t get enough impressions. It could be that one of these other ads would convert better provided they get more exposure.
What To Do Instead
Choose Do not optimize: Rotate ads indefinitely. This will ensure all your ads get some exposure and you can start to see which ads perform better. If you want Google to choose the best ad, at least get some data on your ads. Then revert to the optimized setting. But only after you have a lot more impressions for each ad.
Adding Keywords
Google makes it easy to add keywords when you click on the plus button. You can type in the words you want to begin with or choose from the list they often provide along the right-hand side. You can scroll down the list and add them individually or click add them all if they all seem appropriate. These words are now added as broad match keywords.
Why It’s Not a Good Idea
Although broad match has improved immensely over the years, it can still result in a lot of misguided phrases. As the name implies a broad range of search phrases can show up in your search term report. Some are appropriate, but I’ve seen some that are completely out of left field.
What to Do Instead
At the beginning of a campaign go with phrase match, exact match, or even modified broad match. This way you have more control over what terms your ads appear for. Once you’ve added words to your list, edit them immediately to one of these other options.
If you’re finding your not getting enough impressions or want to find new words to target, then try broad match. But monitor it closely.
Other Settings & Recommendations To Be Aware of After A Campaign is Live
Even after your campaign is set up and running, you’ll find Google’s default settings, and many of their recommendations, are not in your best interest.
Adding Negative Keywords
In reading the search term report you’ll come across phrases that don’t apply to your business. To keep this from happening you simply block the offending phrases. They even make it easy to block phrases. Simply click on a box next to the phrase and you have the option to block this from triggering your ad in the future.
Why It’s A Bad Idea
Just to be clear. Adding negative keywords isn’t a bad idea. It not only helps avoid wasted spend, but it can help lower your impressions, which in turn can improve your click-through rate.
The problem is how you’re adding negatives with Google preferred method.
With Google’s method, you’re only blocking the offending phrase it exactly appears. In the example below the phrase being blocked is free download IOS 8. That means only that exact phrase is being blocked. If someone types in find free download IOS 8, they'll still see the ad.
What To Do Instead
If you see a phrase that doesn’t apply, and it contains a single word that is the issue then add that word only. As broad match. Going to our previous example, if this company doesn't offer free downloads, then simply add the word free. And any phrase containing that term will be blocked no matter what they type in.
It seems like Google has always had some sort of recommendations that they’d provide to advertisers, but with the change in interface, it’s become even more pronounced. When you click on the recommendations button, the page you’ll go to will have a score.
Most times you’ll think you need to reach 100 for your score and in a number of cases, I’ve reached that total with clients.
I’ve also had some that score in the 60s and I was often fine with that. That’s because some of the recommendations they provided weren’t in my client’s best interest.
The recommendations constantly change, even after you’ve seemingly reached 100.
Most often the first thing you’ll see is a recommendation that you raise your budget. Or another to raise your bids. If you’re fine with what you currently spend or the number of clicks you receive you might want to stay where you are.
Many recommendations are very good, from suggestions to create more ads, to dividing keywords into more ad groups.
Some recommendations, however, I’d advise against.
Some of these I’ve already discussed such as adding Google Search Partners, optimizing ad rotation, and using broad match keywords.
One of my clients is a junk removal company. They were advised to add a number of broad match keywords, but the words were junk cars, junk dealers, and buyers of steels. Any one of these phrases would have been wasted spend for my client.
There are a couple of recommendations that I want to specifically examine.
Use Estimated First Position Bids
There is actually a bidding option that you can choose to bid on a search page position. This option is similar but ensures your ad is at the top spot on Google.
Why It’s a Bad Idea
It might seem like a good idea to be in the top position and the click-through rate is higher for that spot. If your competitors are getting the same recommendations and they apply it, then all of a sudden, you’re each bidding up the word until it’s no longer profitable.
What to Do Instead
Stick with your current bidding option, whether its manual or one of the smart bidding options. I have clients that constantly want to be above their competitors, but I try to explain to them the bigger picture. That we’re trying to get the most out of our marketing budget.
Use estimated top of page bids
I could almost simply say - see above for this bidding option. The difference between the two bidding option is subtle. In the first, your telling Google you want your ad in the top position. In this your saying you want your ad to be among the top ads on the page, which generally means in the top 3 or 4.
Why It’s A Bad Idea
If I had to choose between this and the other option, I’d go with this option. But most of the other options are still better. With this your still giving control away to Google to get your ad to the top.
What To Do Instead
Again, other options are better here, but let's be clear you do want to be in the ads and the top of the page. The ads at the bottom get fewer and fewer clicks the further down you go. Staying at the top all the time might deplete your budget in a short period of time.
Being patient and knowing on average your ads appear in the top positions might help you get more out of your budget.
With any of the recommendations review them carefully and decide if they really are in your best interest. As I’ve said, many are worth utilizing. But not all
Don’t be fixated on getting to 100. Even if you do, Google will come back with more recommendations anyway.
Google Ads is one of the best, if not the best, ways to grow your business. Just remember, however, that your goals are not the same as Googles. Take the time to set your campaign up correctly so that you get the most out of your marketing dollars.
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Google AdWords is a great way for your business to generate leads. Unfortunately, it can also be a way to lose money rapidly. Particularly if the person managing your campaign doesn’t have the necessary experience.
Remember you’re not just entrusting someone with your marketing dollars. You could very well be entrusting them with the success of your business. Choosing who you have manage your campaign is critical.
If you’re looking for someone to run your Google Ads campaign you might be struggling to know who to turn to. Perhaps the agency doing your website offers PPC as an additional service. Or you’ve been contacted by an agency offering to help. The problem is how do you decide on who to turn to.
When looking to get someone to manage your AdWords campaign an agency might not be the best choice. First, let me clarify that not all agencies are a bad choice. There are many that specialize in Google AdWords only. Or that have dedicated AdWords managers on their staff. These are fine.
What I’m talking about is the majority of agencies that offer PPC management as one of many services they provide. They dabble in SEO, they dabble in web design, and they dabble in PPC. They advertise themselves as a full-service digital agency, making them sound ideal. Yet, often it's staff members wear many hats.
They’re a jack of all trades, but master of none.
Dabbling in Google AdWords is no longer enough. In the last year alone, Google has made significant changes to their advertising platform., including changing their name to Google Ads. In the past, they could get by just throwing some keywords in and adjusting bids, while running one or two ads. That no longer works. (In fact, it never really did, although it could still generate some business)
What you want is someone who specializes in AdWords.
You need to understand what a Google ads specialist is. More than likely their sole focus is Google Ads. It’s something they live and breathe. In other words, it's all they do. And when they’re not doing PPC, they’re reading about it or discussing it with other specialists.
They could work independently, as I do, or they could be part of an agency, where that is all they do. If you are looking at a digital agency, find out the background and experience of the person who will be doing your campaign.
Here Are a Few Reasons You Want A Full-Time Google Ads Specialist
Google is more than just numbers anymore. As mentioned, you could have gotten by throwing in a few keywords and putting up a couple ads, but no more. The size of the ads has more than doubled and also incorporate many additional features. A specialist will understand how each element works together to create the strongest message.
Keywords have also undergone a change in the way the various match types works. Exact match doesn’t mean exact match anymore. So even if that is all that is being used (which seems unlikely), the search terms have to be continuously monitored.
Searchers have higher expectations. When they click on an ad, they want more than just to land on a home page. They want a page that matches the message of the ad and provides a solution to their problem. A specialist can help fashion landing pages that will have a dramatic improvement on conversions.
Testing is critical. The success of a campaign is dependent on the testing of ads and offers. This is one reason you ideally want four or five ads running in each ad group all the time.
Google is constantly changing. It used to be changes to Google Ads were few and far between. Now they seem almost a monthly occurrence. A Google AdWords specialist will know of these new features and begin using them if they are appropriate to your campaign. This will help you stand out from the competition.
Discovering new keywords to target. How people search is constantly changing and through keyword research and reviewing data, specialists can often find new words to target. Words that you might not have considered initially but could prove to be very profitable.
Eliminate wasted spend. In a similar way, there are often words or phrases that appear that aren’t profitable. Part of what a specialist will do is constantly add to the negative keyword lists. This helps to cut down on wasted spend. They’ll also look for words that aren’t converting as well and either revise the ads or pause them. This ensures your money is going to the words that convert the best.
Your success should improve each month. With all the work being done you should see improvements each month in the results. This could be lower costs per conversions or ideally even more conversions each month. Cost per click might not go down, as there are constantly new advertisers entering into the market. Yet, you shouldn’t be seeing dramatic increases and if you do, they should be able to explain why.
Some Qualities to Look For in A Google Ads Specialist
Now that you know you need one, here are a few things to look for in a specialist.
They are certified by Google. This isn’t necessarily the best barometer, but its better than nothing. Being a Certified Google Partner means they pass a set of exams each year and also meet other criteria such as a set amount of ad spend over a 90-day period.
They can talk the talk. The best way to get a feel for ads manager is to talk to them. Ask them what they’ll do doing and what their background is. Even a 15-minute conversation can go a long way to revealing how knowledgeable they at least seem. (I’m not discounting that there aren’t con artists out there who can talk a good game. So don’t put all your faith in their conversation.)
They’ll be transparent about their work. No matter who you hire, you should have access to your account. Ideally, it should be in your name, but at the very least you should have login credentials. This means you can see what is going on with your campaign, particularly if you review the change history report.
They’ll provide monthly reports or updates. Part of being transparent is getting monthly progress reports. For some, this is a report or an email that goes over the previous month. Or it could be a phone call.
They have years of experience. Too often many so-called expert spring onto the scene, having only been doing a task for a few months. And there are many talented managers who haven’t been doing the work for long but have put the necessary hours in to learn the ins and outs. Still, you want someone who has been doing this for a while to know they’ve put in the hours of testing and learning.
Google Ads is one of the best, if not the best, way for many businesses to reach their targeted market. Yet, this can only be accomplished through a variety of tasks. A Google specialist might be more than what your web designer offers to do the work for, but the difference in results will be well worth the additional costs.
You don’t ask your electrician to take care of your plumbing. So why trust your AdWords to someone who doesn’t do it full time.
If you’re looking for an AdWords specialist with experience, then contact me. I’ve been doing this for 14 years and over the years helped hundreds of businesses to succeed online. Schedule a conversation with me today to learn if I’m the person to manage your campaign.
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