Google Paid Search ads are one of the best digital advertising methods to target people who are actively searching and in the market for the products or services that your business offers. However, if you’re not experienced with Google Ads then you may find yourself going through your budget quickly and not getting many results to show for it.
In order to help guide our readers on getting better results from their Google PPC ads, we’ve prepared this handy guide on quick and easy things that you can implement that often results in much better performance.
1. Location Options
When you create a new Google Ads campaign, one of the first steps you’re taken through is choosing your target locations.
So, you go and type in your location, choose whether you want to target the specific location or a radius around it, and click save. Seems simple doesn’t it?
But wait! If you were to leave it at that, then you would be missing one critical aspect. That part could be found in the the blue dropdown button just below your location settings screen that says “Location options“.
When you press this button, you will see 3 different options that you can choose to refine how your defined locations are targeted. These include:
- Presence or interest
- Search interest
By default, location settings are set to target by “Presence or interest”. This means that, as it is clearly outlined, your ads will show to “People in, regularly in, or who’ve shown interest in your targeted locations”.
Where the problem arises for a lot of advertisers is the part about targeting people “who’ve shown interest in your targeted locations”. What this means is that with this option on, your ads may be showing to people who don’t actually live or pass through your targeted location on a regular basis, but instead have “shown interest in” your location – meaning, they have searched information about your target location. This can include people who, for example, have searched the location that you’re targeting for travel plans.
Lets use this in an example. Let’s say you run a Thai food restaurant in New York, and want to show up for the phrase “best Thai food restaurants”. As many advertisers do, you’ve left the default targeting option as targeting by “presence or interest”.
Now imagine someone is making a search – let’s call him Bob. Bob lives in Chicago and wants to find a Thai restaurant near him, so he goes and searches that very same phrase “best Thai food restaurants”. Let’s imagine also, that a few days before that, Bob was searching for travel plans to take a trip to New York. Because of that, he may be classified as someone who has “shown interest” in New York, and because of that, your ad that’s targeting New York may show up for him even though he is currently in Chicago. For the most part, this is probably not what you would want to have happen.
There are, however, some cases where you would want to target by “interest”. Hotels, airlines, and travel companies use this targeting setting a lot, as they want to target users in another location before they travel. However, as in the prior example, this is not what most local businesses are usually trying to do. So therefore, in most cases, you will want to change your target setting to “Presence: People in or regularly in your targeted locations”.
2. Quality Score
One of the overarching goals that Google has is to show the best search results for any given search, in order to provide the best experience to those using the search engine.
For search ads, that means:
- making your ads relevant and useful in relation to what a person is searching for
- pointing your ads to a page that is relevant to what the person is searching for, and one that provides a good user experience
In order to measure how ads perform in regards to these factors, Google created a metric called the “Quality Score“.
If you do want an in-depth understanding of quality score and exactly how it’s determined, check out this guide on what the quality score is and how it’s calculated.
The main thing that you need to know, however, is that having strong quality scores is very important! Why is it important? The main reasons are that:
- The higher your quality score for a keyword, the more visibility your ads will get when people search that keyword
- The higher your quality score for a keyword, the less you actually pay when your ads are clicked on
That’s right, you will actually pay less per click for ads with higher quality scores!
And as you’ll see throughout this post, improving your quality scores is one of the keys to improving your Google ads performance more broadly.
So how do you achieve high quality scores?
See Your Quality Scores
First, let’s quickly go over how do you actually see your quality scores.
In Google Ads, click on any of your campaigns or ad groups and go to Keywords -> Search Keywords
Then, just above the table with all of your keywords, click on Columns and then Modify Columns.
Here, you’ll find the Quality Score selection under the Quality Score dropdown.
Select Quality Score and press Apply. You’ll now be able to see a quality score column, next to all of your keywords.
How to improve your quality scores
There are a lot of resources that discuss quality scores and how to improve them, so I won’t be covering everything here. However, I’ll share one unique tip that many don’t go over.
First, very briefly, let’s look at how quality score is measured. It’s based on a 10 point scale that looks at three things:
- Expected Click Through Rate (CTR): How likely the ad will be clicked on.
- Ad Relevance: How relevant the ad is to what the person is searching and looking to find.
- Landing Page Experience: How relevant the page that the ad points to is, and whether it’s easy to use, easy to navigate through, and whether it provides useful information.
So, the more likely someone will click on your ad, the more relevant your ad is to the keyword the person is searching, and the better your landing page is, the higher your quality score will be.
The part that I’m focusing on is #1 – Click Through Rate (CTR), which has been argued to be the most important factor to impact quality score.
And what is Click Through Rate (CTR)? It’s simply the percentage of how many times your ad was clicked on when it was seen. It’s essentially a direct measure of how likely someone is to click on your ad when they see it.
So let’s say that your ad was seen 100 times and out of those 100 views it received 15 clicks. Your CTR then is 15%.
And this is where my tip on improving quality scores comes in.
Since having a high Click Through Rate is one of the most important factors to achieving a high quality score, then your goal ultimately should be to make your ads in a way that maximizes their likelihood of being clicked on.
However, one of the built-in features that exist when you create an ad may mistakenly guide you to writing ad copy (headlines and descriptions) that may not be optimized to reach a high Click Through Rate.
When you create a Responsive Search Ad (which is now the standard of how you create search ads), you will see this blue bar at the top:
As you input your headings and descriptions, you will see this Ad Strength score change, going from “poor” all the way to “excellent”.
As many many people do, you may be inclined to keep adjusting your headlines and descriptions to reach the “excellent” score. However, in pursuit of reaching this excellent score, you may be writing headlines and descriptions that are bland and generic.
Why is that? Because one of the main things that this Ad Strength score assesses is whether your target keywords are mentioned in your ad copy. In fact, you’ll only reach an “excellent” Ad Strength score if you more or less mention every keyword phrase that you’re targeting in your headlines and descriptions.
So, if you have 10 different keywords that you’re targeting in an ad group, and you’re trying to get an “excellent” Ad Strength score for your ad, then you’ll end up filling most of the 15 available headline slots with phrases that directly mention your target keywords.
This isn’t to say that mentioning your target keywords in your ad text isn’t important – because it absolutely is important, especially in order to score well on the other quality score factor, Ad Relevance. However, if you’re primarily focusing on including all of your keywords in your ad copy – which is one of the requirements for achieving an “excellent” Ad Strength score – then you may be writing ad copy that is bland and generic, and doesn’t increase the likelihood that someone will click on your ad.
Let’s show this in an example. Say your target keywords are: “dentist toronto”, “dental services”, and “local dentist”. To reach an “excellent” Ad Strength score, you might be adding headlines that may make your ad end up looking like this:
Dentist Toronto | Professional Dental Services | Local Dentist
Because these headlines directly include your target keywords, your Ad Strength score will go up. However, these generic headlines typically won’t intrigue people to click on your ad. And because these headlines won’t intrigue or interest people that see your ad, your Click Through Rate will suffer, and so will your quality score as a result.
What’s missing here is unique headlines that will generate interest in people to click on your ad. And a lot of times, these types of headlines won’t directly mention your keywords.
For example, an ad such as this would likely get a much better Click Through Rate:
Dentist Toronto | Over 20 Years Experience | Book An Appointment Online
But again, if you’re targeting 10 different keywords in your ad group, then you’ll end up using most of the 15 available headline slots with just phrases that directly mention your keywords – if you’re trying to achieve an “excellent” Ad Strength score.
If you’re fixed on achieving this excellent Ad Strength score, then you may not be including other phrases in your headlines & descriptions, which are not related to your keyword phrases, but may be more intriguing and would likely get higher Click Through Rates.
The suggestion is, don’t get fixated on adjusting your headlines and descriptions just to achieve this “excellent” Ad Strength score, but rather keep in mind what it is that actually leads to high quality scores. With this in mind, make sure to write ad headlines & descriptions that not only mention your target keywords, but ones that also include unique phrases and calls to action that will increase the likelihood that people will click on your ad (i.e. give your ads better Click Through Rates).
In simple terms, it’s alright to have an Ad Strength score that’s “good” and not “excellent”, if that means that your Click Through Rates will be much better.
However, there is a way to adequately include all of your target keywords in your ad copy (which in turn helps to achieve an “excellent” Ad Strength score), while including unique and appealing phrases that aren’t related to your keywords to maximize your Click Through Rate. One way to do this, is to make your ad groups be tightly and neatly organized, which is discussed in the next section.
3. Organized Ad Groups
When you create a Google Search campaign, the campaign is broken down on different levels, including the campaign, ad group, and keyword levels.
I won’t go into discussing this too much as it’s very fundamental knowledge. If you want to get a better grip on these concepts, check out a resource such as this one.
My main tip here, however, addresses a common mistake that advertisers make when structuring their Ad Groups.
Ad Groups are a way to organize your keywords and ads into different parts. Each Ad Group should have a distinct theme, and the keywords and ads in that ad group should be directly related to that theme.
Let’s first take for example a poorly designed Ad Group structure:
What a lot of advertisers do, as in this example above, is create just one Ad Group in their campaign, and input all of their keywords there. This is not the right way to do it, as I’ll address in the next section.
Instead, your campaigns should have multiple Ad Groups, with each one focusing on a specific theme or keyword area. For example, like this:
Why is Ad Group structure important?
The main reason why Ad Group structure is important is because you can carefully control which ads show up for specific keyword areas / themes.
When you create an ad, you create it inside a specific Ad Group. That ad, then, will only show for the keywords that are in the same ad group. So, in the example above, the ads that you create inside the “Crowns” ad group will only show for those specific keywords in that ad group, and those ads won’t show for the keywords in the “General” Ad group.
What this means is that you can very carefully and strategically create ads that tailor to the different keywords that you’re targeting. So, for the keywords in your “crowns” Ad Group, you can create ads with headlines and descriptions that specifically talk about dental crowns.
And why does this matter? It largely ties back to the previous point, about quality score. If you have fewer keywords in your ad groups and if all of the keywords in each ad group are closely related, then it’s much easier to both a) include all of your keyword phrases in your ad copy to maximize Ad Relevance; and b) have sufficient space to include other text such as unique phrases and calls to action that will boost your CTR.
4. Strong Ad Copy
Having strong headlines and descriptions for your ads is very important. Once again, if you write better ad copy, then your ads are more likely to be clicked on, which in turn improves your quality score.
However, sometimes it’s hard to come up with good headlines. Here are some general tips to help makes the process easier:
Relate to what the person is actually looking for
This point also goes back to quality scores (I know you’re probably sick of hearing about quality scores, but bear with me).
Remember, that one of the major factors that determine quality score is how relevant your ad is to what the person is searching for. If you really think about it, this makes perfect sense.
Imagine you search for something like “denture clinic Toronto”. You see several ads from various local dental offices. Some of them have generic phrases about their dental services, but don’t mention anything about dentures. Others on the other hand, directly talk about dentures and how it’s one of their specializations. Which one would you most likely consider and click on? Probably the latter!
So the basic suggestion here is to make sure to include your target keywords in your ad headlines and descriptions, and make your ads relevant to what people are searching for.
What is unique about your business or your products / services?
If you’ve ever studied marketing to any degree, you likely would have heard of concepts like “Unique Selling Proposition” (USP), and “differentiation”. What these concept essentially refer to is what makes your products / services unique or different than others and why should customers choose you.
Imagine seeing an ad headline like this:
Local Window Cleaning | Best Window Cleaning In Town | Call Us Today
Seems pretty mundane, doesn’t it? It probably wouldn’t intrigue much people to click and learn more. Compare this with a headline like this:
Local Window Cleaning | Using the XYZ Streak-Free Formula | Same Day Service
The fundamental difference here is that the business differentiated itself from it’s competitors, on the types of high-quality products it uses and that it offers same day service, which is something that many customers look for.
So when thinking about differentiation, think about things like this:
- Methods / processes / technologies: Do you use products or technologies that are better than what competitors use? Do your processes make things easier for customers?
- Convenience: Do you offer things like online scheduling? Do you do same day service / delivery? Do you offer complete full service from start to finish?
- Experience: Do you or your team have significant experience in your field?
This is just scratching the surface, but the idea is to really think through what is unique and desirable about your business and its offerings, and include these points in your ad copy.
Leverage consumer psychology
Various psychological principles are effective in influencing behavior and prompting action. For example, sales promotions with a clearly defined expiration date enable the scarcity principle, and prompt users to act. Showing reviews and testimonials serve as “social proof”, and play a significant role in people choosing one business over another.
You can go very deep on this topic alone. If you’re interested in exploring this area, I would recommend the book Influence by Robert Cialdini, which is arguably one of the best books ever written on this topic.
The point that should be underlined here, however, is that the key to using psychology in your ad copy is to be genuine and honest on how you use these types of principles. If you have great online reviews, be sure to highlight that in your ads. If you have a limited time promotion going, make sure to mention it. The point is to present your core strengths in a deliberate way, and not make false or hyperbolic claims.
Researching ad copy
The aforementioned tips can be useful, but sometimes you may just get stuck and have trouble with coming up with good ad copy. One way to get the ball rolling and to get some inspiration on coming up with good ad copy is to look at what competitors are doing.
The best way to do this is to use Google’s ad preview tool. You can use it to see the search results for any keywords across any geographic locations.
Seeing what other businesses are doing in other areas can be a good prompt and provide good inspiration. The point here is to only use this if needed, and to use it for brainstorming or inspiration. In the end, you will want to make ad copy that is fully unique to your business.
5. Use Automated Bidding Strategies
Automated bid strategies are an excellent way to make the most out of your budget while achieving your desired outcomes.
Rather than inputting manual bids for your keywords, automated bidding allows you to choose your desired bidding option, and lets the Artificial Intelligence (AI) powered system adjust and make bids automatically, to achieve your desired goal.
The most popular automated bidding options are:
- Maximize Conversions: The AI algorithm will make bids that are most likely to lead to the conversion goals that you set (such as clicks on your ads, lead form submissions, etc.)
- Maximize Clicks: The AI algorithm will make bids to get the most clicks for your budget
Both of these automated bidding strategies are viable options, depending on what it is you’re trying to achieve.
However, where a potential unintended consequence can arise is when you use specific automated bid strategies with specific keyword match types.
Specifically, if you use the Maximize Clicks bidding strategy with Broad Match keywords.
As a quick reminder, when you input keywords as Broad Match, then your ads will show for a wide range of related keywords, and not just the one you inputted.
For example, if you input the keyword “baseball shoes” as a broad match keyword, your ad may show up for keywords such as:
- men’s baseball shoes
- baseball equipment
- sports shoes
Where the problem arises with the Maximize Clicks bid strategy setting, is that it aims at getting the most clicks for your budget. And, in order to get the most clicks for your budget, it will aim to get clicks from search phrases that have the lowest costs per click. Typically, the search phrases that have the lowest costs per click are ones that are more obscure and more loosely related to your inputted broad match keyword, and not the major keywords that you likely want to show up for.
Instead, if you’re using broad match keywords, you’re usually better off using an automated bidding strategy that aims to maximize conversions.
In fact, in a lot of cases, conversion goal bidding strategies are the typically the most desirable options. This is because these bidding strategies aim to get more conversions, and conversions ultimately is a measure of actual results & performance.
So, the general point is to make use of the benefits of automated bidding strategies. However, when doing so, make sure you choose the right bidding strategies that match your desired goals, and take into consideration how different bidding strategies may interact with other factors such as keyword match types.
These are a few fairly easy tips and principles that you can take into consideration in order to improve your Google Paid Search ads.
The common thread between all of these points is to get the most and best results possible for your budget. However, keep in mind that these are just a few general tips, and to truly to get the most out of your campaigns requires comprehensive planning and execution.
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