The Perfect Google Ads Campaign (2021)
The anatomy of an optimized, strategic Google Ads campaign
During my time at Google, I worked with hundreds (if not thousands) of clients to optimize their accounts so that they got better results from their campaigns. If you ever wondered what the perfect Google Ads search campaign must be like, then you’re in the right place. A perfect campaign must get you three things:
- Good results
- Good results
- Good results
That is it. The actual SI unit of judging a campaign’s success is by the virtue of its performance. This article will talk about the right campaign settings for most businesses. We will not talk about the perfect ad copies, as I don’t intend on writing a thesis.
Before I begin, let’s first understand the anatomy of a Google Ads Search Campaign. At the very top of the hierarchy is the Google Ads account, which can have as many campaigns as you wish. Under the campaign comes the ad group, and under it comes the actual ads or the ad copies. There are some settings such as the budget, the bid strategy, and the location targeting, etc. which are campaign-wide, whereas, some settings such as the keywords targeting, the bid amount, audiences, placements targeting, etc. can differ from ad group to ad group.
1. Campaign Structure
It’s very important to have the right campaign structure, as it makes everything less baffling. But what exactly would “the right campaign structure” be composed of? To answer this, I took a page from Google’s own Ad Grants program. If you are aware of the Google Ad Grants’ Account Management Policy, you know that it has specifically defined, in detail, how Google wants non-profit organizations to set up their campaign. Why has Google done this? Well, some non-profit organizations receive a monthly grant of $10,000 USD as Google Ads credit to run ads, and if someone is giving you $10K, they will definitely expect you to do things the right way.
Have a look.
- Every campaign must have at least two ad groups (give an exception if you have a very singular product/service)
- Every ad group must have at least 2–3 ad-variations/ad-copies (this is a no brainer and shouldn’t be missed at any cost). Why? For starters, Google does A/B testing on the back end and always shows the best ad of the lot (see the image below); for this to work, you must have multiple ad copies. Supposedly, one of the ad variations isn’t performing very well out in the wild-wild-west. If you have created multiple ad copies, this provides Google with alternatives, and well, it is always good to have options.
2. Campaign Optimization
Optimizing your campaign for the best results is an extremely important part of building the perfect Google Ads search campaign. This is something that most people will do differently, however, during my time at Google, I suggested the very same optimization tips to more than 600 small to medium enterprises. It worked for almost all of the clients. So, if it ain’t broke, why fix it?
I am going to further subdivide “Campaign Optimization” into two parts: Campaign Settings and Extensions.
Campaign settings: Which bid-strategy should you use, and how should you configure the perfect location targeting settings? Well, let us pull the rabbit out of the hat.
The easiest of the lot (or that’s what you think) is location targeting.
You must be thinking that all you need to do is pick up a location that fits your business and marketing needs, and target it, that’s it, right? If that’s all you have been doing, then there is a 2000% chance that your ads are being shown in areas outside of your targeted location. This is a wonderful recipe for disaster. If you’re a local/small business and just want to show ads locally, then you must (after choosing the specific campaign) go to Settings>Locations>Location options> (choose) People in or regularly in your targeted locations.
Why is this necessary?
Basically, if you choose the default option, People in, or who show interest in, your targeted locations, your ads can potentially appear anywhere in the world.
Assume you’re a fast-food joint based in California, and one of your target keywords is “Best Burgers” (on broad-match). To keep things simple, let’s say you are targeting the state of California. Now, if someone sitting in Bhutan for any reason whatsoever does a Google search for “Best Burgers in the USA”, your ad might come up (as Google would label the search as “People who show interest in your targeted location”). More often than not, this would be a waste of ad spend. To learn more about location options, read this article by WordStream.
One more tip: If your company is running ads for the first time, and you are starting with a small budget, then target a smaller location (like a city or two). Slowly, like after a week or two, you can increase the target area, because when you are targeting a smaller area, the competition is less, and if you can come out on top, it will help you a lot when targeting a larger area (in future), as Google might raise your ad ranking.
Next up, the perfect bidding strategy for your perfect campaign.
Spoiler alert! There isn’t one.
I hate to break it to you, but that’s the truth. There’s no right or wrong bidding strategy; it completely depends on what you want out of your campaign. But, still, I will recommend some great options that you can go with if you have no clue about which bidding strategy to choose. These suggestions would definitely be a safe bet.
My definite favorite out of the lot is to maximize clicks. I will tell you why! Most of the Google Ads users determine the success of a Google Ads campaign either on the basis of the total number of clicks their ads received or on the basis of the click-through-rate (CTR). This isn’t entirely wrong, as these metrics are of paramount importance. Maximize Clicks' bid strategy helps you get the most clicks for your budget. It is a tried and tested bid strategy that will ensure the highest clicks while optimizing your bids. If you don’t set a Maximum Cost-per-Click bid amount (which is an available option), then this bid strategy will choose a sweet-spot for your bid automatically, which means that Google will select a bid that isn’t very low or high.
Second in line would be to maximize conversions. A very similar bidding strategy to the one above, but instead of clicks, all the focus is on conversions.
NOTE: You need to set up conversion tracking and conversion goals to use this bid strategy.
Conversions? Well, they could be different for different business types. For a blogger, it could be getting email signups; an e-commerce business might define “the purchase of a product” as a conversion. Once you define your conversion goal, Maximize conversions bidding automatically finds an optimal bid for your ad each time it’s eligible to appear. Google Ads sets these bids to help get the most conversions for your campaign while spending your budget.
Another thing to note: for any conversion-based bidding strategy to work (like Max. conversions, Target ROAS, Target CPA, etc.), your campaign must have some sort of historical data. Without any campaign performance history, this bidding strategy might not work properly. So, if you are new to Google Ads, or have created a new campaign, well, just stick to Maximize Clicks.
Now, the last one: Manual CPC.
For most people, this might come as a surprise. However, for advanced marketers, Manual CPC is a peach.
This bidding strategy is recommended for organisations who know their target market and audience very well, have done good keyword research, and are aware of the prevailing bidding rates of the keywords they are targeting. A good tool to do this research could be Google’s very own keyword planner. Refer to this article to understand how to use this tool. Another good tool for market research could be Google Trends. Read about the four Google tools that can help you grow your business.
For businesses who have done their homework, I would recommend this manual bidding strategy over the above-mentioned automated ones as it can help you save money.
How? In most automated bidding strategies, you have the same maximum CPC for every keyword that you have. Now, let’s consider an example: to keep things simple, you have a cafe that sells only pizza and burgers. Also, these two are the only keywords that you are targeting.
Now, to make things interesting, your primary focus is on selling pizzas, as they are more profitable than burgers, and obviously, the keyword “pizza” would be of greater significance than the keyword “burger”. Also, because of this very reason, you would be willing to bid a higher amount on the keyword “pizza” when compared to the keyword “burger.” This is where manual CPC helps.
Extensions: To those who are new, Extensions expand your ad by providing additional information, and therefore, giving people more reasons to choose your business.
This is how Extensions can help:
- Increase your ad ranking, as it makes the ads more relevant by providing more information.
- When multiple extensions of an ad are shown in the same search result, then your ad copy occupies more space on the Google Search engine space. More space for your ads implies less space for your competitors.
The headache comes when you’re deciding which extensions to go with, and how many of them.
To make your lives easier, refer to the table given below.
Sitelink Extensions: To add more links to your ads, one must use sitelink extensions. Sitelinks can take people to specific pages on your site — your store hours, a specific product, or more. When someone clicks or taps on your links, they skip right to what they want to know or buy. They take a lot of space on the Search-results page and are highly recommended. A maximum of 8 of these extensions can be shown in an ad at a time.
Callout Extensions: With callout extensions, you can promote unique offers to shoppers, like free shipping or 24-hour customer service. When customers see your ads, they get detailed information about your business, products, and services. Basically, you are calling-out your customers to interact (visit/read/purchase, etc.) with your organisation.
Call Extensions: Call extensions let you add phone numbers to your ads, which can significantly increase clickthrough rates. When your call extensions show, people can tap or click a button to call your business directly. That means more customer engagement with your ads, and more chances for you to get and track your conversions.
Location Extensions: Location extensions can help people find your locations by showing your ads with your address, a map to your location, or the distance to your business. People can then click or tap your extension to get further details about your location on your location page, which includes the most relevant business information all in one place.
Structured Snippet Extensions: Highlight specific aspects of your products and services with structured snippets extensions. Structured snippets show beneath your text ad in the form of a header (ex: “Destinations”) and a list of values (ex: “Hawaii, Costa Rica, South Africa”). Read more about them here.
And you thought we would miss this? NOPE!
With keywords, it’s just about getting the match-type right.
There are 4 keyword match types:
- Broad Match ❌
- Broad Match Modifier ❌
- Phrase Match ✅
- Exact Match ✅
Broad match and broad match modifiers are a big no because things can go pretty haywire with these match types. Exempli Gratia? Here you go:
Assume that you are using the keyword corporate lawyer (on broad-match) and someone searches for “Microsoft’s corporate headquarters.” Now, this search would have nothing to do with your target audience, and still, your ad might come up for this search, as the word “corporate” is common. Broad-match type always runs the risk of your ads being triggered for irrelevant search phrases and therefore is a big no-go.
Now, with the two options left, i.e. phrase and exact, you can choose any, as you cannot go wrong with either. Usually, a good rule of thumb would be that whenever you have a very very niche market and would only want to target very specific keywords and the very specific way by which people search it, you should be using Exact Match. In all other scenarios, use the Phrase match type.
What’s the difference between the two?
Phrase match is denoted by the quotations sign, such as the keyword Heisenberg’s disaster would be written in phrase match when it’s written like this:
An exact match keyword is denoted by the squared brackets sign.
Another way these two match types differ is on the basis of their functionalities.
Phrase match keywords must be present in the search query in the same order as mentioned by you. If they are mentioned in the same order, then the search query might contain anything before or after the “phrase” and the ad might come up, e.g.
If the phrase match keyword you are using is “blue shoes,” then the ad can get triggered for searches like:
- Nike Blue Shoes ✅
- Blue shoes on sale ✅
- Where shall I buy blue shoes from ✅
- Cheap blue shoes with white stripes etc. ✅
On the other hand, the search won’t come up for queries like:
- Blue and white shoes ❌
- Shoes with blue color ❌
- Clothes to wear when the shoe color is blue ❌
- White, blue and red shoes ❌
With exact match types, your ad will only be shown if the search query exactly matches your keyword. So, if the keyword is [blue shoes], usually, your ads would only come up when someone just searches for blue shoes.
To know more about these keyword match-types, click here.
So, here it is for you: the “Perfect Google Ads Search Campaign” summed up. Perfection in marketing is subjective, and it doesn’t always have to be complicated jargon that very few people understand.
You don’t necessarily need anything out of the box to hit the numbers. All you need is a decent strategy and a good product/service.
Now, I know there are a lot of other things you can do to make your campaign even better, but everyone wants to do things at breakneck speed.
And why would you even feel the need to go out of your way and waste time experimenting, when I have found (after multiple attempts) the recipe to create the “Perfect Google Ads campaign”?