Learn the Fundamentals of Google Paid Search Campaigns

google paid search

I was speaking with one of my colleagues at LaFleur recently when he asked if we’d ever written a blog on the fundamentals of paid search with Google Ads. Initially, I responded, “Of course! In fact, I’m pretty sure we write some version of that blog at least once each year.”

When I went back through our blog archives to confirm my assumption, I was amazed to find that we’ve never touched on this specific topic. We’ve written about setting paid search goals, achieving more pay-per-click (PPC) conversions, and even utilizing third-party software resources to perform keyword research and optimize existing campaigns. Somehow, though, we’ve never actually written about the fundamentals of paid search through Google Ads.

Today, we’re going to fix that.

What Are Google Paid Search Ads?

Many people think paid search comprises all paid digital advertising on the Google Ads platform, but it’s just one of several campaign types available. Another common misconception is that paid search is synonymous with pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, when in fact paid search is just one component of PPC.

At its core, paid search involves creating a list of keywords that will prompt your advertisements to appear on search engine results pages (SERPs) whenever a search user types those keywords (or some close variant) into a search engine. For example, if you’ve included “Grand Rapids Michigan personal injury lawyer” in your list of keywords and someone types in some combination of those words, your ad will likely appear somewhere on the SERP — assuming you’ve bid higher than most of your competitors, that is. Positioning depends on Ad Rank, which we’ll discuss later.

There’s a lot more to it, and we’ll address bidding strategies in greater detail below, but that’s the gist: choose a keyword and make a bid on that keyword; when someone types that keyword into the search engine, your ad will display. If someone clicks on your ad, Google charges you the amount you bid for the placement.

Google usually display ads in the top three positions, above the organic listings (which are the regular search results no one has paid for). In most cases, Google also displays ads in the bottom 3–4 positions on the page, below the organic listings. Each search ad has the word “ad” displayed to the left of the listing to help distinguish between paid and organic listings.

RELATED: Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Advertising Services for Businesses

Setting Up Your Google Ads Paid Search Campaign

Before your ads can appear, you need to create a paid search campaign. In the Google Ads platform, this involves the following steps:

1. Pick Your Campaign Type

Create an AdWords account and click on the blue “+” button in the “Campaigns” dashboard. A list of campaign types will display. Choose “Search.”

2. Select Your Campaign Goal

Every campaign is different, but most advertisers are looking to generate conversions (phone calls, form fills, purchases, etc.). If you set a goal, AdWords will suggest methods to help you achieve your objective. If you’d rather not commit to a specific goal, you can skip this step. If you do, Google Ads will allow you to choose from their entire list of features, which means more opportunity to personalize the campaign based on your intent.

3. Name Your Campaign

Google Ads will provide a default name for your new campaign, but you should create a custom name so you can identify it easily. At some point, you might have dozens of campaigns, and without descriptive names, it can get tricky to remember which is which. Something like “Grand Rapids Personal Injury Paid Search Campaign Q4 2018” should be descriptive enough to remember down the road.

4. Choose a Network

Networks comprise search sites your ad could potentially appear on. By choosing a network, you’re telling Google Ads that you want your campaigns to appear on the Google search engine and relevant “Search Partners,” which are sites that have their own private Google-powered search engines (CNN, ESPN, The New York Times, etc.).

5. Location Targeting

At this point, you can restrict your ads to certain geographic locations. If you run a company that sells products and services throughout the United States, you would likely choose “United States.” If you only offer those products and services in select locations, choose “Advanced Search” and select more specific areas. This will help avoid wasted spend. After all, if you only want customers or clients in Michigan, you don’t want people in California clicking on your ads and driving up your advertising spend.

6. Enter Your Daily Budget

Review your monthly marketing budget and determine how much you’ve committed to paid search. Then divide that number by 30 to calculate your daily budget and enter that figure into the “Budget” field. If your campaigns are generating a lot of clicks, Google Ads will spend as much as 200% of your daily budget in a day, but it will never exceed your allotted monthly budget. So, on one particularly heavy day, you might spend 150% of your daily budget, but the next day, Google Ads might only spend 50% of your daily budget to balance things out.

When entering your budget, you can also decide between two delivery methods: standard and accelerated. Standard delivery will spread your budget evenly throughout the day, while accelerated delivery will spend your budget as quickly as possible. If you choose accelerated delivery, you could potentially exhaust your budget before people have had their morning coffee, which means your ad won’t reappear until the following day. We recommend the standard delivery method unless you have a compelling reason to choose accelerated delivery.

7. Select a Bidding Strategy

Google Ads operates as an online auction, so each keyword requires a bid. But first, you need to choose one of three focus points:

a. Conversions: The primary measurable action in your campaign. The most common types of conversions are form fills, purchases, and phone calls.

b. Conversion Value: The monetary value of a conversion, according to you.

c. Clicks: The number of people who click on your ad and get redirected to your desired page destination.

Once Google Ads knows your focus, you can choose to either manually set your bids or have Google Ads set them for you. The bid limit amount is the most you’re willing to pay for a click on your ad.

8. Set Up Ad Extensions

Ad extensions are subcategories that appear below your ad’s listing on the search engine results page. These subcategories give users the option to visit certain pages on your site directly rather than navigating to your home page first. You can also create ad extensions that allow users to call your business or learn where you’re located, among several other advanced options.

9. Select Your Preferred Audience

If you’ve created personas, you should review them before proceeding to this step. Audience targeting allows you to create lists of the types of people who will see your ads based on their interests and demographics. Meanwhile, observation targeting searches for people who match your preferred audience criteria but might not be on your preferred targeting list.

RELATED: Smart Planning Leads to Attainable Paid Search Goals

Creating Ad Groups and Choosing Effective Keywords

Paid search campaigns should be broken into individual ad groups, which are smaller keyword sets that focus on specific aspects of your company’s products or services. Ad groups also include their own ad sets, which should align with your chosen keywords and redirect to specific organic or dedicated landing pages.

Let’s say you’re a personal injury attorney, but you have diverse practice areas (auto accidents, product liability, wrongful death, worker’s compensation, etc.). You’ll want to create ad groups that reflect each practice area and then populate those ad groups with keywords that match. For instance, your product liability ad group might include keywords related to harmful medications, talcum powder lawsuits, or defective car parts.

Before we move on, we should explain keyword match types. Every time you add a keyword, you can determine the degree of flexibility you want that keyword to have. Here’s how it works:

  • Broad Match

    These keywords are the most flexible and trigger every time a user searches for a keyword you’re bidding on. Unfortunately, because these terms cast such a wide net, they can also lead to irrelevant traffic and wasted spend. That’s not to say you shouldn’t use them, but you might want to consider adding negative keywords (see below) to your campaign, and you should frequently review these terms to make sure the spend doesn’t get too out of whack.

  • Broad Match Modified

    These keywords create an extra degree of specificity compared to broad match keywords by including terms within the larger key phrase that must be included in a user search for your ad to appear on the search engine results page (SERP).

  • Exact Match

    Exact match keywords are the most effective for minimizing wasted spend. These keywords will only trigger an ad when a user types the term into a search engine verbatim. When you first launch your campaign, you should only use exact match keywords until the analytics tell you which terms are succeeding and thus may be more flexible.

  • Phrase Match

    These keywords are like broad match modified terms in that they target a more specific audience than broad match and a less specific audience than exact match. These keywords will only appear when a search user types in the exact sequence of terms you’ve written, but users can also type additional terms at the beginning or end of the phrase and still trigger your ad.

Writing Paid Search Ads

Once you’ve created your ad groups and assigned keywords to each, it’s time to write your ads. Contrary to popular belief, your ads shouldn’t be too self-promotional. Instead, they should address your prospect directly and suggest a potential solution to their problem. Try to envision yourself as your potential customer or client and then write copy that would appeal to you.

Google search ads have expanded to include six fields, which presents a lot of opportunities to express your message. However, each field has character restrictions, so your copy needs to be deliberate and economical. Here’s how it shakes out:

  • Destination URL (the page where you want users who click on your ad to arrive): Unlimited characters
  • Headline 1: 30 characters
  • Headline 2: 30 characters
  • Headline 3: 30 characters
  • Description 1: 90 characters
  • Description 2: 90 characters

Do your best to use all the allowed characters for each field, but don’t force the issue or use contrived language to accomplish your goal. Here’s an example using our hypothetical personal injury law firm from above:

  • Destination URL: https://www.examplelawfirm.com
  • Headline 1: Injured in a Car Accident?
  • Headline 2: Contact McCarthy Law Today
  • Headline 3: If We Don’t Win, You Don’t Pay
  • Description 1: If you’ve been injured in a car accident, you may be entitled to compensation.
  • Description 2: Reach out today to get your free, no-pressure consultation with an experienced lawyer.

The example above incorporates a few best practices for paid search ad creation, including:

  1. Focusing on the pain point that likely prompted the ad in the first place (Headline 1)
  2. Naming the firm in a prominent field position (Headline 2)
  3. Stating a value proposition (Headline 3)
  4. Suggesting resolution (Description 1)
  5. Providing incentive to follow up (Description 2)

You need to tailor your ad copy to your industry and business offerings, so messaging will vary. Still, you should treat the process of writing Google search ads the same as for any other form of content development. Develop an editorial process that includes research, brainstorming, drafting, editing, polishing, and publishing. And be sure to create two versions of each ad within every ad group for A/B testing. Keep your copy variables to a minimum, and check back on a weekly basis to tweak the lesser performing ad.

RELATED: Our Editorial Process for Creating Truly Outstanding Website Content

Common Paid Search Initialisms and Terminology

Now that you understand what Google paid search ads are, the fundamental processes for creating paid search campaigns, and a few best practices for search ad copywriting, you should learn a few common paid search initialisms and terminology to help you navigate the sometimes-confusing landscape.

Here are a few of the most common terms to memorize and understand before creating your first campaign. We’ve already covered a few of these, but we repeated them here to build a functional glossary.

  • Campaign: The set of related ad groups that compose a specific paid search initiative. Each ad group will have the same budget, campaign type, and ad settings. If you want separate initiatives with distinct settings, you’ll need to create additional campaigns.
  • Ad group: Ad groups include distinct keyword sets that all relate to the same topic, theme, and objective. Ad groups should only include keywords that relate directly to the page that you are directing your users to.
  • PPC: PPC stands for pay-per-click, which marketers often use as shorthand for all paid digital advertising. Paid search is just one campaign type within the larger pay-per-click picture.
  • SERP: A search engine results page — the page you arrive at after you type a term into Google and hit “search.”
  • Impression: The total number of times a paid search ad is shown on a SERP within the Google Search Network.
  • CTR: The initialism for click-through-rate, we measure CTR by dividing the total number of impressions by the total number of clicks.
  • Quality Score: Working on a scale of 1–10, Google’s Quality Score rates how closely your keywords and landing pages align with your ads.
  • Ad Rank: Ad Rank determines your ad’s position on a SERP. Google doesn’t disclose how it calculates Ad Rank, but it involves some proprietary combination of bid amount and Quality Score.
  • Negative Match: When you create your keyword lists, you can use negative keywords to prevent your ad from triggering for unwanted terms. For example, we once had a client that offered advanced data protection, sometimes abbreviated to ADP. Unfortunately, ADP also happens to be the largest payroll solutions company in the United States. So, to avoid wasted clicks (and wasted spend), we placed “ADP” on our list of negative keywords.

Someday, we’ll write a more comprehensive glossary of paid digital advertising terminology (the list of jargon goes on forever), but until that day comes, the list above should cover most of what you need.

RELATED: Pay-Per-Click Tools and Resources for Long-Term Success

LaFleur’s Paid Search Experts Can Make Your Digital Advertising Efforts Soar

LaFleur’s team of dedicated Google Ads experts has years of experience creating and managing successful paid digital campaigns, and we’re excited to speak with you about implementing new initiatives or elevating your existing paid search efforts. We have delivered exceptional results for all our PPC clients, and we’re confident we can do the same for you and your business.

If you would like to speak with us about developing new paid digital advertising campaigns or improving your current initiatives, please contact us by calling (888) 222-1512 or completing this brief online form.

RELATED: Paid Advertising: The Human Element

References

Finn, A. (2018, March 22). 35 marketing statistics that should change your strategy in 2018. Wordstream. Retrieved from https://www.wordstream.com/blog/ws/2018/02/05/marketing-statistics

How to use Google AdWords. (n.d.) Wordstream. Retrieved from https://www.wordstream.com/how-to-use-google-adwords

Kyle McCarthy

Kyle McCarthy is an experienced and skillful content strategist who earned his MA in English literature in 2012. Since then, he has worked with several national brands implementing marketing strategies and delivering compelling content.