How Google Ads Can Be a Product Manager’s Secret Weapon

Kushaan Shah
Apr 12 · 5 min read

As a Product Manager, you’re in charge of many things. In the spiral of backlog grooming, shooting features from the hips of limited data, and trying to navigate all the restrictions behind third party APIs, it might seem like the last thing you need is something else on your plate.

In many respects, Google Ads is the last thing you need on your plate. Many organizations can draw a venn diagram with their paid social or growth experts and product managers that turn into two perfect circles — these organizations will likely function fine.

So why should you care?

The most daunting challenge in front of a Product Manager is the untested hypothesis. When you start with an idea in your head, your hypothesis revolves around the problem — You presume that enough people care about this problem to merit the solution you want to build.

Even as your solution takes shape and you start to roll out fancy new features, the untested hypothesis claims continue.

Prioritizing x feature will net more users. Prioritizing x within that feature will lead to more ROI. Jumping into this market will lead to rocket ship growth.

You want data. More than that, you want data before you spend thousands doubling down on that feature.

You want to defeat that untested hypothesis. Enter Google Ads.

The first thing to understand is the basic structure of a Google Ads campaign.

Let’s imagine you’re a Product Manager for a new product: A GoodReads type catalog for television shows where users can share and review their favorite tv shows, discuss conspiracy theories, and get recommendations for shows they could like. We’ll call it GoodCast. (For someone particularly inspired, variations of this domain are available!)

For a Google Ads Campaign, there are lots of components that need to be addressed. It could likely take an entire week or month to learn every single aspect of a perfect Ads campaign. For the purposes of understanding how it can help with the goals of a Product Manager, we’ll consider some basic concepts:

  • Campaign: A set of ads that typically share a budget, location targeting, and miscellaneous ad settings. Typically done at the organization or product domain level.
  • AdGroup: A set of ads that typically share a set of keywords. Ads campaigns are made up of one or more ad groups. Ad groups can be used to organize your ads by common themes or service types.
  • Ads: The actual copy that shows up when a certain keyword is searched. For example, if I search “water bottle”, I should get a number of ads related to water bottle products. Here is currently the top ranking one for “water bottle” by the brand Brita.
  • Keywords: Words or phrases that are used to match your ads with the terms people are searching for.

Back to your hot new product, Goodcast. You run into a common challenge: You have a number of problems you want to solve and features you want to ship. You want feedback on which ones to prioritize.

A Product Manager’s motto

Similar to Goodreads, you have a number of benefits that draw TV super fans to flock to your product:

  • Allow users to share TV shows they’ve seen and TV shows they want to see on a profile
  • Create profiles for TV shows so that users can join discussions and threads
  • Provide discounts to media services that allow users to access more TV shows

All of these might require specific UI decisions and distinct user stories. Their demand will certainly not be equal.

So where do Ads come in?

You will want to start with adgroups.

When you create a Campaign on Google Ads and are prompted to create AdGroups, you can create these around user personas.

For the features listed above, you could link each benefit to an adgroup. Who would be most excited about each feature?

Here are three potential AdGroups:

  • Sharing Enthusiasts: Allow users to share TV shows they’ve seen and TV shows they want to see on a profile
  • Discussion Enthusiasts: Create profiles for TV shows so that users can join discussions and threads
  • Discount Enthusiasts: Provide discounts to media services that allow users access to more TV shows

Now, with each AdGroup, your keywords can be focused on what users are searching and particular pain points that will lead them to your product. Using “Sharing Enthusiasts” as an example, some common themes might be focused around sharing, tracking, and organizing tv shows.

Imagine that you are someone with a problem that your exact product will solve.

Put on the user’s shoes.

What are they doing on Google? What exactly would they search to find you?

Intent based searches on exact keywords provide a much higher chance for your ad, and thus your product, to be found. Best of all, the search volume can help you determine which problems users care about most.

Perhaps nobody actually cares about sharing tv shows but thousands are trying to find a tv show similar to Game of Thrones. Suddenly, you’re more cognizant of where you can allocate your energy for feature development.

The different adgroups around personas allow you to create ads that endorse different benefits of your product.

For example, an ad for the Adgroup “Discount Enthusiasts” could look something like this.

While there is no indication that this is also a product for sharing tv shows and discussing conspiracy theories, learning that there is a higher demand for discounts and a larger amount of impressions for this adgroup could begin to inform your roadmap as you balance the priority of each feature set.

While Google Ads are typically recommended for sales and conversions, the amount of research and potential user insights for a Product Manager are huge.

While a Product Manager doesn’t necessarily have to be the one writing down these ads, collaborating with the marketing or research team to really find the granular areas of the product that users care about can save you money, time, and can ultimately help everyone win in the long run.

I’m a Product and Growth Enthusiast based out of San Francisco and currently studying growth marketing out of Tradecraft with interests rooted in paid social, product virality and the intersection of technology with social impact. I share insights around Product and careers frequently on Medium or on Twitter at @kushaanshah. All opinions are my own.


Stories about startups, technology, traction, and design from Tradecraft members

Kushaan Shah

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Growth @Livongo | Formerly product @NGPVAN @IBM | @Startingbloc Fellow | Civic Tech and Politics Enthusiast | Terp Alum 🐢


Stories about startups, technology, traction, and design from Tradecraft members

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