disruptive logo

Google AdWords Made Easy: The Essential Guide to Using Google Ads


Aden Andrus

February 9, 2018

Google AdWords is the king of digital marketing platforms. Don’t believe me? How about a little social proof? Of every $3 spent on online advertising, $1 is spent on Google AdWords.

Why? Well, it’s simple. Businesses grow when they use Google AdWords.

For example, our first client here at Disruptive grew from 25 employees to 250 employees and brought in millions in profit—all thanks to Google AdWords. In fact, their Google AdWords campaigns were so effective that the company had a hard time hiring enough sales people to field all of their leads!

Since then, we’ve helped countless clients use Google ads to transform their businesses. Some clients have seen so much success that they’ve stopped advertising on any other platform while others have received millions in VC funding.

The point is, Google ads work.

If you’re considering trying Google AdWords, this article is for you. We’ll go over everything you need to succeed at Google AdWords advertising (including all the things Google doesn’t tell you). It’ll take some work, but if you follow the recommendations in this article, you should be well on your way to putting the power of Google ads to work for you.

Sound like a plan? Let’s get started!

Why Google AdWords?

Now, you might be asking yourself, “Why is Google AdWords so effective? What makes Google ads better than any other type of online advertising?”

The answer is fairly simple: Google AdWords puts you in front of high-intent, low-funnel traffic.

Unlike most forms of online advertising—like display advertising or social media marketing—people who see your ads on Google are looking for what you have to sell. When someone searches for “sandwich delivery” on Google, you don’t have to convince them that they’re hungry and that they should order a sandwich—you just have to convince them that your sandwich is the sandwich they want to buy.

Ideally, your site would rank well organically for every relevant Google search, but let’s be honest, if you’re not a big company, the SEO odds are not in your favor.

But…with Google AdWords, you don’t have to rank well organically to show up for relevant searches. Google lets you pay to play.

For example, here’s what shows up at the top of the search results when I search for “sandwich delivery”:

Google AdWords Example: Sandwich Delivery Ads | Disruptive Advertising

EZcater, Jimmy John’s and DoorDash all seem like good results for my search (I’m getting hungry just writing this), so there’s a good chance that I’ll click on one of these ads and make a purchase.

However, let’s delete the ads and take a look at the organic results for my search:

Google AdWords Example: Sandwich Delivery Ads | Disruptive Advertising

EZcater and Jimmy John’s don’t even show up on the first page. DoorDash does, but it’s at the bottom of the page, so I’m unlikely to make it to them with so many good options at the top of the page.

Without Google AdWords, EZcater, Jimmy John’s and DoorDash wouldn’t have a chance at winning my sandwich order. With Google AdWords, they’re my top options.

Essentially, running ads on Google allows you to “cheat the system.” You can rank for those high-value keywords that you wish you ranked for organically and reap all the benefits of showing up on the first page today. You don’t have to put months or years into trying to rank for a keyword and hope that everything works out—Google AdWords is a pay to win advertising platform.

How Google AdWords Works

To run a profitable Google AdWords campaign, you need to understand the keyword auction process. Google AdWords is a pay-per-click (PPC) advertising platform, which means you pay to drive traffic to your website and/or landing pages, but advertising on Google isn’t as simple as saying, “I want to pay X for every click.”

Unfortunately, you’re not the only business out there who wants clicks from Google users. To make sure that your ads are seen, you have to outbid the competition. The Google auction is a lot like any other auction, except that Google cares about more than just your money—they also take the relevance and quality of your ads into account.

So, if you create high quality ads, you can potentially pay less per click than the competition…and still outrank them! (more on that in a bit).

Unlike display advertising, where you bid to have your ads displayed on various sites across the web, AdWords advertisers bid on specific keywords (like “sandwich delivery”) in the hopes of having their ads show up when potential customers search for those keywords on Google.

Depending on the quality of their ads and their maximum bid, Google decides what order ads are displayed to users in and then it’s up to your ad to catch a potential customer’s eye and convince them to click.

The Auction Process

No, advertising on Google doesn’t mean you’ll spend the rest of your career sitting in an auction house listening to John Giannandrea (Google’s head of search) rattle off keywords at high speed.

As fun as that is to imagine, the Google keyword auction is a much more efficient process than that. Essentially, you pick the keywords you want to run ads on and enter the maximum amount you are willing to pay for a click.

That maximum amount is your “bid” for that keyword.

When someone does a search that includes one of your target keywords, Google compares all of the bids on that keyword and chooses who ranks where depending on how much they bid and how good their ad is. The good news is, since this is an auction, all you have to do is outbid the next lowest advertiser—you don’t actually have to pay your maximum bid every time someone clicks on your ad!

However, your maximum bid isn’t the only thing Google takes into account when deciding where your ad will rank on the search engine results page (SERP). Google also takes into account how well your ads and landing page match the intent of a search.

Quality Score

For AdWords to continue making money, Google users have to trust Google to guide them to relevant content. This applies to both organic and paid results, but we’ll leave Google’s SEO theory for another day.

When it comes to paid advertising, Google is sticking its neck out a bit for the advertisers. If your ad gets a lot of clicks and your website fails to deliver, that violates users’ trust in Google. However, to make money, Google needs people to pay for clicks, so they have to risk that some ads will let people down.

To mitigate this risk, Google assigns a quality score to ads. The point of quality score is to encourage advertisers to maintain user trust. A high quality score means that your advertising fits Google’s business objectives, a low score means you are violating user trust.

If your ad is good, Google rewards you with a lower cost-per-click. If your ad is bad, Google punishes you, hopefully to the point where you remove or change the trust-breaking ad. Even if you leave the ad up, Google charges you a high enough premium for a low quality score that it offsets their risk of losing some user confidence.

Quality scores range between one and ten (ten is the best, one means your ad and/or landing page need some serious work). New keywords or keywords that haven’t had any clicks for a while have a “null” quality score, which just means that Google is waiting for more information before they assign you a quality score (no penalty or reward).

Then, when your keyword is up in the auction, Google adjusts your “effective” maximum bid based on your quality score. This image from Wordstream does a good job of illustrating how this works.

As you can see in the example above, Advertiser I has a quality score of 10, which turns their max bid of $2.00 into an “effective bid” of $20 (Google hasn’t ever told us exactly how this process works, so this is just an example to help you understand how max bid and quality score interact to produce ad rank).

In contrast, Advertiser II bid $4.00, which should beat Advertiser I’s bid of $2.00…except for the fact that Advertiser II’s quality score is only 4, so their “effective bid” is $16.

As a result, Advertiser I outranks Advertiser II and pays less for each click than Advertiser II—all because of their great quality score!

Optimizing Your Quality Score

Clearly, it pays to have a high quality score, so you’ll want to make sure you’re doing what you can to optimize your quality score. Essentially, Google assigns a quality score based on three related factors:

  1. Ad relevance
  2. Expected clickthrough rate (CTR)
  3. Landing page experience

Each of these factors is fundamental to how Google approaches advertising, so let’s take a look at them in more detail.

Ad Relevance

As we mentioned earlier, Google puts a lot of time, money and effort into ensuring that its search algorithms deliver highly relevant results. Google wants advertisers to do the same thing, so Google evaluates every ad and landing page to see if they are relevant to their target keyword.

For example, let’s take another look at our “sandwich delivery” search results. Which ads seem like a good match for our search?

Google AdWords Example: Sandwich Delivery Ads | Disruptive Advertising

Reading through EZcater’s ad, it doesn’t really seem all that relevant, does it?

“Deliver Caterers”? Honestly, I don’t know what that means (not good, confusing a potential customer is not a great way to earn clicks), but neither “Deliver Caterers” nor “Place Your Catering Order” sound like “sandwich delivery”, so I’m not likely to click on EZcater’s ad. It’s just not relevant to my search.

Odds are, while EZcater is in position #1, their quality score is probably terrible and they are paying way more than they need to for any clicks on their ad.

In contrast, take a look at Jimmy John’s ad: “Jimmy John’s Sandwich Delivery | Freaky Fresh. Freaky Good.” Sandwich delivery? Sounds like what I’m looking for. Freaky fresh and good? What more can you ask for?

Clickthrough Rate

Unlike EZcater’s ad, Jimmy John’s ad makes it clear that if you want a good sandwich delivered fast, they are the restaurant for you. Although DoorDash’s ad does say “Sandwich Delivery” in the headline, it’s pretty clear from the rest of their ad that I’ll still have to sort through all kinds of restaurant options just to get my sandwich.

Jimmy John’s ad is a lot more relevant, so it probably gets the majority of clicks from people who search for “sandwich delivery”.

Clickthrough rate (CTR) is the number of clicks your ad gets divided by the number of impressions (how many times people saw your ad) it gets. Since more relevant ads usually have a higher CTR, Google AdWords uses the CTR of your ads as an automated measurement of ad relevance.

Clickthrough rate isn’t the only factor Google takes into account when deciding your quality score, but it is the most important factor.

Essentially, Google compares your actual CTR to what Google thinks your CTR should be (using their internal data). If your CTR outperforms their expectations, you get a better quality score. If your CTR is lower than expected, you get a ding against your quality score.

Landing Page Experience

Of course, it’s possible to have a highly relevant ad with a great CTR that points to a completely irrelevant landing page. Your landing page is the first place a user ends up after they click on your ad, so Google wants to make sure that your landing page is exactly what a searcher is looking for.

Here again, Jimmy John’s does a great job with their landing page experience. You click on their ad and end up on a page where you can start an order…exactly what someone interested in “sandwich delivery” is after!

Compare that with EZcater’s landing page:

No ordering options…no menu…no sandwiches! Does this seem like what we were looking for? Not by a long shot!

This landing page is for breakfast catering, which has nothing to do with “sandwich delivery”. A landing page experience like this will have potential customers hitting the back button so fast that even Jimmy John’s would call it “freaky”.

Overall, Jimmy John’s ad copy and landing page is so relevant to their target keyword that even though it is in position #2, there’s a good chance that they pay a lot less per click than EZcater (and probably less than DoorDash does for clicks in position #3).

In a nutshell, this is how Google AdWords works. You bid on a keyword that you think a potential customer would use to find your business, product or service. Then, based on how good your ad and landing page are, Google assigns it a quality score and combines that quality score with your maximum bid to determine your ad position and how much you’ll pay per click.

Getting Started with Google AdWords

Google wants your money, so they make it pretty easy to set up an account and start advertising on AdWords. All you have to do is visit Google AdWords and hit ‘Start now.’

From there, you’ll be asked for your email (preferably a Gmail account) and the URL of your site. Easy enough, right?

At this point, you’ll have a variety of campaign types to choose from:

In this article, we’re going to stick with text ads on the Search Network (for the reasons we mentioned at the beginning of this article), but if you’re interested in running some of these other types of campaigns, check out the links below:

  1. Display
  2. Shopping
  3. Video
  4. Universal App

To get started creating your first text ad campaign, click on the “Search” option and let’s get started!

Step 1: Choose a Goal

Whether you’re advertising on AdWords or anywhere else, every good online marketing plan starts with a goal (or two, or three…). Knowing what you want to get out of your campaigns will guide every decision you make in AdWords, which is why the first thing Google AdWords asks you to do after you’ve picked a campaign type is to pick a goal.

That being said, not all goals are created equal. While none of these goals are inherently bad, they each focus your advertising on a different step in your buyer journey. Depending on what you’re trying to achieve, any of these goals could work, but it’s important to understand what each goal tells you about your campaigns.

Website traffic

To put each of these goals in perspective, let’s run through a hypothetical scenario where you are a partner in a law firm that averages $3,500 in revenue per new paying customer with a 50% profit margin.

The data for your top 5 campaigns looks like this:

Based on these results, Campaign 3 seems to be the clear winner—it has the most clicks, best click-through-rate (CTR) and the lowest cost-per-click (CPC).

Having a lot of traffic is nice, but lots of traffic doesn’t necessarily mean lots of new clients for your firm. If campaign 3’s clicks are all coming from people who searched for “lawyer jokes”, not “law firm near me”, it’s not a good campaign—no matter how cheap the clicks are!


A lead is someone who has expressed an interest in your business. Maybe they submitted a form on your site, called you or even chatted in on your site (we call actions like these that move people through your marketing funnel, “conversions”).

Not every business wants leads, but unless you’re selling a product online, driving leads is probably a reasonable goal to consider.

For our hypothetical law firm, leads are critical, because a new client isn’t just going to sign up online. They want to meet with their prospective lawyer and get feedback about their case before they sign a contract.

With all that in mind, here’s what it might look like if our campaigns above were focused on driving leads, not web traffic:

Despite its relatively poor conversion rate (CR), Campaign 3 still seems to be outperforming all the others. In this case, the cost-per-click was low enough to overcome the effects of the low conversion rate.

Campaign 4, however, continues to take last place. Between its lousy conversion rate and high cost-per-click, it’s producing leads at nearly 9x the cost of a lead from Campaign 3.

All that being said, focusing on leads does not guarantee that our campaigns are profitable. If those leads aren’t turning into new clients, you could be wasting a lot of money.


Unlike the previous two goals, having sales as your goal means you are optimizing your advertising to produce the ultimate goal of all marketing: new revenue for your business. One common metric that advertisers use to measure the effectiveness of their campaigns is return-on-advertising-spend (ROAS).

Here’s the formula for ROAS:

(Revenue – Cost) / Cost

Easy enough, right? You take the total revenue generated by whatever marketing component you want to evaluate, subtract what you paid to run your ads and divide the result by your ad spend.

ROAS allows you to see how much new revenue you can expect to get from investing in an AdWords campaign. Let’s take a look at the sales and ROAS data for our imaginary law firm:

Looking at this information, it suddenly becomes clear which campaign is actually benefiting the company the most.

Campaign 3, our winner for traffic and conversion metrics, has the worst sales rate (SR) and the highest cost-per-sale (CPS). Even more importantly, since fulfillment eats up half the revenue from a sale and the ROAS for this campaign is only 92%—the firm is losing money on cases from this campaign.

On the other hand, Campaign 4, which had looked like our biggest loser, is actually the most profitable campaign.

Perhaps traffic to Campaign 4 is lower in the sales funnel than traffic in Campaign 3, which is why cost-per-click (and the sheer number of clicks) was lower. Maybe the landing page for Campaign 4 traffic does a better job of filtering leads, resulting in a lower conversion rate.

Regardless of the specific reasons for Campaign 4’s profitability, this sort of scenario is not uncommon, which is why ROAS data is so important. Based on our click and conversion data, we might have made sweeping changes to Campaign 4 or put a lot more budget into Campaign 3—both of which would have been bad decisions.

Now, it might seem like sales is the only goal you should have for your campaigns, but things are rarely that straightforward in online marketing.

For example, if no one knows about your business, you might want to run an awareness campaign to drive traffic to your site , but that campaign probably won’t produce a lot of sales. On paper, it might look like a waste of money, but in 6 months, when people have a need and remember that your business can help them, you’ll might be glad your goal was traffic, not sales.

This is why it is so important to pick your goal before you launch a campaign. If you know your goal is traffic, you may want to target different keywords, write different ads and/or use different landing pages than you would if your goal was sales.

Long term, your goal should always be sales, but for specific campaigns, you may want to focus on driving traffic or leads.

Step 2. Pick Your Settings

Once you’ve decided what your advertising goal is, it’s time set up your campaign.

Pick a name and language for your campaign and then select where in the world you want your ads to be displayed. Unless your target audience really is everyone in the US/Canada or the whole world, I recommend using the “Enter a location to target or exclude” search bar.

Location Targeting

Here, you can enter specific locations and then pick from a list of targeting options:

Here, AdWords gives you the ability to target or exclude certain locations, so if we wanted to target all of Florida except for Sarasota, that’s an option.

This is important, because lot of companies target everyone in a state, region or country without realizing that they don’t actually want to pay for clicks in that area. For example, if you’re a dentist working out of Tampa, FL, you probably won’t be able to convince someone in Sarasota to drive for an hour to get to your office—no matter how good your ad is!

In fact, you might not even be able to get a St. Petersburg resident to drive all the way across town to your office, so even running ads in the greater Tampa-St Petersburg area might be a waste of money. So, while being smart about your location settings may not be particularly exciting, it’s well worth your time.

Step 3. Decide on Your Budget

The advertising budget you choose can have a big impact on the bidding strategy you want to use, so we’re going to skip the “Bidding” section in Google’s setup process for a minute to talk about your budget.

Often, marketers and business owners pick their AdWords budget on a whim or based on what they feel like they can afford at the time. This is a real shame because careless budgeting often leads to ineffective campaigns…or a lot of wasted ad spend.

To spare you both of those problems, let’s take a little time to figure out an AdWords budget that will help you achieve that business goal you just picked (since sales is the ultimate goal of your Google ads, we’ll talk about budgeting for sales in this section, but these principles apply to traffic and leads campaigns, too).

Here are 3 important questions to answer as you plan your AdWords budget:

1) Who Am I Marketing To?

To figure out your budget, you need to know who you’re marketing to and how much a new customer is worth. If you’re like most businesses, you have several different types of customers, so you’ll want to think about each of these “buyer personas” separately.

For example, say you are marketing for ACME Widgets, the world’s premier widget manufacturer. Your average customer has a lifetime value (LTV) of about $24,000 (widgets are good money, eh?).

If it costs you $50,000 to get a new widgets customer on AdWords, you might be tempted to think, “Why bother with AdWords? It’s a waste of money!”

And, you’d be right…if every ACME client was worth $24,000.

However, ACME has three very different types of client that are interested in 3 different lines of widgets:

All of a sudden, if AdWords is producing new “Infinity Izzie” sales at $50,000 a pop, you’ve got a gold mine on your hands!

Knowing who you are marketing to and how much they are worth to your company is a critical part of creating an AdWords budget. Otherwise, you can end up underfunding a campaign that could be driving the majority of your value and overspending on an unprofitable campaign.

So, if you don’t have buyer personas, don’t know the lifetime value of your personas, or are uncertain about what percentage of your sales come from each persona, now’s the time to figure it out!

How Will My Buyer Personas Find Me?

Most of the time, business owners and marketers use a “one size fits all” approach to calculating how much it costs to bring in a new customer.

For example, if ACME spends $400,000 on AdWords and generates 90 “Classic Cindy” sales, nine “Pro Paul” sales and one “Infinity Izzie” sale, here’s how their acquisition cost would break down:

With this model, it looks like ACME loses money hand over fist on “Classic Cindys,” but more than makes up for it on “Infinity Izzies.”

However, this model also assumes that “Classic Cindys,” “Pro Pauls,” and “Infinities Izzies” all come through the same campaigns at the same frequency. If you think about it, that doesn’t make a ton of sense.

Is “Infinity Izzie”—an enterprise customer who will drop $1.59 million on widgets—likely to search for the same things on Google or respond to the same ads as “Classic Cindy”? I highly doubt it.

Maybe most “Classic Cindy” sales come through keywords like “cheap widgets”. “Pro Pauls” search for “business-class widgets”. “Infinity Izzies” come from search terms like “custom enterprise widget supplier”.

If that’s the case, here’s what ACME’s actual acquisition costs might look like:

Now, your buyer personas may not be quite this straightforward, but with a little effort, you should be able to connect your marketing dollars with the buyer persona sales they produce. Once you know that, it should be fairly easy to identify the keywords you need to target and how much you can afford to spend on each persona.

How Much Can I Afford to Spend to Generate a New Customer?

At this point, we have all the information we need to calculate ACME widget’s marketing budget, all we have to do is run the numbers.

Since this is kind of a pain to do by hand, I’ve created a free calculator to help you out:

[calculoid id=”19629″ show_title=”0″ show_description=”0″]

To use this budget calculator, simply enter the monthly AdWords budget you’re considering, how much new recurring revenue you would like AdWords to produce in 12 months, fill out the fields for up to 4 buyer personas and we’ll take care of the rest.

You can drag the sliders next to each buyer persona to see how different numbers of monthly sales affect your results. Alternatively, try playing with your acquisition cost, order value or # of purchases to see how optimizing each of these elements will affect your AdWords budget.

If you have a fairly simple customer base and you only want to look at only one buyer persona, simply drag the sales bars to zero for buyer personas 2-4.

Once you’ve figured out a budget that makes sense for this campaign, divide it by 30 and enter the result as the average you want to spend each day in the “Budget” section. In a given month, AdWords won’t spend more than 30 times more than your daily average, but it might spend more or less in a specific day.

If you want Google AdWords to spend your budget as quickly as possible (you’re advertising morning coffee, for example), click “Delivery method” and switch to “Accelerated”. Otherwise, it’s time to select your bidding strategy!

Step 4. Select a Bidding Strategy

Your bidding strategy dictates how you want Google to spend that budget you just worked so hard to figure out. Google’s default option asks you a few questions you can use to figure out what strategy you want to use.

There’s no harm in using this approach, but if you really want to get the most out of your campaigns, I recommend clicking “Select a bid strategy directly”, which will bring up the following options:

At this point, you have a much better idea of what you’re after with your campaign than Google AdWords does (and you always will), so it usually works best to pick your own strategy.

On this screen, there are several different bid management options that you can use. These different options allow you to optimize for different goals and truly customize your bidding strategy.
Google Adwords bidding strategies

Here are your options:

  • Manual CPC. For the truly anal retentive, manual CPC gives you full control (or, at least, as close to full control as Google Adwords will give you) over how much you spend on a given keyword.

All joking aside, most AdWords advertisers opt for “manual CPC”, because they feel more confident in their ability to set bids than they do in Google’s “smart” or “automated” bidding options, including:

  • Target CPA. Target CPA allows you to specify how much you are willing to spend to produce a certain action.
  • Target ROAS. With Target ROAS, you specify what sort of return-on-ad-spend you want from your ads (this generally works best for eCommerce companies).
  • Maximize clicks. Like the name says, if you select this bidding strategy, Google AdWords will try to get you as many clicks as possible out of your budget.
  • Maximize conversions. Works like maximize clicks, except Google tries to maximize conversions, not clicks.
  • Target search page location. You pick an ad position and Google AdWords will do its best to get your ads into that position.
  • Target outranking share. This is the “suck it, competition, I will outrank you” option, which usually goes hand-in-hand with Google sucking up your budget…
  • Enhanced CPC. In my opinion, enhanced CPC is the most user-friendly automated bidding option. If you have enough conversions, enabling this setting will allow AdWords to adjust your bids up and down depending on whether or not Google believes a given search will turn into a click and a conversion.

Manual bidding allows you to say “this is as much as I’m going to pay, and that’s it”. Smart bidding, on the other hand, will take your bids and use them a little more creatively to reach very specific results. It gives you less control, but it tells Google AdWords what you’d like them to optimize for.

Setting Your Bids

Bid management is actually a fairly complex process. When determining how much you should bid, you’ll want to consider:

  • The average CPC of your chosen keyword(s). Different keywords will cost more than others due to volume and competition levels. If you really want to have placements for high competition keywords, you’ll need to bid more. Keyword research tools like SEMrush can show you the estimated CPC of individual keywords.
  • Your budget. If you have a smaller budget and want to make it go further, consider bidding on lower cost keywords or making smaller bids.
  • Your ROI. Google AdWords is typically used for customer acquisition, so while a few dollars for a single click or conversion can seem expensive, it is often worth the investment. If it costs $5 to get a conversion, but it immediately brings in $15 in pure revenue, that’s not a bad deal, especially if your customer lifetime value (LTV) may be closer to $450.

You need to keep all of these factors in mind when deciding how much you want to bid on Google AdWords. But, you can’t just pick one bid and use it for all of your campaigns.

Remember, different campaigns and keywords target different buyer personas, which are worth different amounts to your business. Your bids should reflect who you’re targeting and what the goal of your campaign is.

Adjusting Your Bids

Of course, even after you’ve set your initial bids, AdWords isn’t exactly a “set it and forget it” advertising platform. After all, when you pay for every click, a simple mistake can cost you an awful lot over time.

As you’re monitoring your campaigns, you may notice different scenarios that could indicate that it’s time to adjust your bid. You can adjust your bids at any time, but here are a few scenarios where you might want to adjust your bids:

  • If your CPC is coming in way under budget, but you want to improve your position in the ad display, increase it.
  • If your cost-per-conversion is too high, but you’re in a top position in the ad rankings and you want to stick with the keyword, drop your bid slightly. This can bring the cost-per-conversion down while still getting you placements.
  • If you’re getting a ton of conversions, but your profit margin is low, change up your bid.
  • If you’re paying for a lot of clicks but not getting conversions, switch up your bid strategy or change your keywords.

Good bid management is an ongoing process. The market is constantly changing and if you aren’t changing your bids in response, you can quickly find that either your ads aren’t showing or you’re paying too much for your clicks.

Step 5. Consider Additional Options

Of course, you can’t constantly sit and watch your campaigns all day, every day and tweak things from minute-to-minute. Fortunately, for those sorts of minor adjustments, Google Adwords offers a variety of additional options.

We won’t get into how to use all of these options, but we will quickly discuss two of them: ad extensions and dayparting.

Ad Extensions

One great way to create standout ads is to take advantage of ad extensions. Ad extensions increase the size and content of your PPC ad, allowing you to command more PPC real estate and drive more traffic to your landing page.

ad extensions

In fact, using ad extensions increases click-through-rate by 30-100%, so adding or optimizing your ad extensions can dramatically improve the effectiveness of your PPC campaigns.

Ad extensions aren’t just limited to sitelinks, either. Here are some potential extensions to consider:

  • Location extensions. These are an awesome option for local business searches—searchers will be able to see your address and click directly through to a map.
  • Call extensions. Most mobile campaigns (especially for local businesses) should include this option. It allows searchers to call directly from your ad without even visiting your site. Plus, you can use call extensions to implement Google call forwarding, which will you to improve your conversion tracking.
  • Review extensions. Put your reviews right in your ad! Review extensions are a great way to add social proof to your advertising.
  • Social extensions. Another nice way to include social proof in your ads, social extensions are a good option for businesses with a great social presence or “shareable” offers.
  • Seller ratings. Everybody wants to be confident in their purchase and seller ratings allow potential customers to see how your current customers feel about your company.

These are just some of the ad extensions Google AdWords now offers. But, the good news is, it’s easy to add extensions and—while you aren’t guaranteed that they’ll show every time—implementing ad extensions is a great way to drive additional, highly-relevant clicks to your landing pages.


“Dayparting” is the technical term for telling Google AdWords what times of the day you want your ads to be displayed.

Some businesses have audiences that are only active or relevant during certain times of the day or specific days of the week. This will vary from brand to brand, sometimes even within industries depending on your brand’s exact specialty, products or services.

For example, we worked with an Uber-type company geared towards college students who needed safe rides at night. As you can probably imagine, most of their traffic and conversions happened between 8pm and 1AM every night.

The heaviest traffic happened on Fridays and Saturdays, but their target school was known for being a party school, so their audience was active every night of the week except Sunday.

Because this service was only open in the evenings, we used dayparting to limit the number of irrelevant searches we’d show up in, because most people who were searching for rides on Google wanted one right then.

Of course, dayparting won’t work for every brand, or even every individual campaign.

B2B brands don’t automatically have audiences that are active from 9-5—those who are targeting small business owners or freelancers may find that their audiences are working at all hours of the day.

In addition, if your business is a general-interest brand that appeals to a large and diverse audience, dayparting may not be for you. A company selling affordable razors, for example, will appeal to college students, senior citizens and CEOs alike.

To set up dayparting, scroll down to the bottom of the “Additional options” list and click on “Ad schedule.”

Google Adwords dayparting

You’ll then be able to choose the dates and times that you want your ad to run.

Google Adwords dayparting

Note, if you are advertising in a different time zone than the one you set your account up in, you’ll need to take that into account when picking your schedule. So, if you’re on the west coast, but you want your ads in New York City to run from 9 am to 11 am, you’ll need to set them to run from 5 am to 7 am.

Okay, that’s it for settings. Now it’s time to pick your keywords!

Step 6. Select Your Keywords

Once you’ve hit “Save and continue” on the settings page, Google AdWords immediately gives you a watered down version of the Keyword Planner you can use to pick the keywords you want to target.

And, if you happened to enter your business URL during the setup process, Google has a list of potential keywords gleaned from the content of your website for you to add. What could be easier?

Hold your horses! Before you get trigger-happy adding keywords, this isn’t the best way to build out a campaign—especially if you’re new to paid search advertising.

as great of a tool as the Google Keyword Planner is, if you don’t use it right, you can end up bidding on a lot of useless keywords. With the wrong keywords, your ads show up in front of the wrong traffic and drive the wrong clicks to your site.

And, in the immortal words of Sweet Brown:

To save yourself the time, money and headache of bidding on the wrong keywords, here’s a simple 5-step process you can use to identify your best keyword candidates.

1) Assess Your Audience

Like everything else we’ve discussed in this article, if you want to pick the right keywords, you have to understand your audience. After all, if you don’t have a good feel for your audience, how can you predict what search terms they’ll use when they’re looking to buy what you’re selling?

Hopefully, you know who you’re trying to sell to, but who you sell to and who is looking for you online aren’t always the same thing.

Case in point, if you run a business that provides city planning consulting services, you might be trying to sell to government officials. However, who is your target market? The councilman who signs the check? His personal assistant? The mayor? Depending on the answer to this question, the keywords you pick may vary considerably.

Figuring out your audience

To really get to know your target audience, you need to talk to your existing customers. Ask them questions like the following until you get a good feel for how they found your business and what motivated them to actually buy.

“What problem brought you to us?”

In most cases, people search on Google because they have a problem that needs solving. In marketing, we call these “pain points.” The better you understand the pain your solution solves and how people look for a solution to their problem online, the better you can predict what keywords they will use.

“What’s your favorite thing about our company (or product)?”

Generally speaking, most people are looking for something specific when they search online. If you can figure out why your best customers love what you sell, you can use that information to identify keywords that indicate potential customers who would love what you sell, too.

If you happen to already be doing online marketing, you can always directly ask your customers “How did you find us online?” or “What did you search on Google?”, too. But overall, learning how and why your customers found you is one of the best ways to start putting together a keyword list.

2) Brainstorm Keywords

Once you have a good feel for your audience, it should be fairly easy to start brainstorming keywords. At this point, any keyword that seems like something your audience would use to find your business is fair game.

Yes, I know that I said that too many keywords is a bad thing, but we’ll whittle your list down later. For now, just come up with every variation you can think of. For example, someone who’s interested in “tree frog” could also search for “amazonian tree frogs” or even “herpetology of the maranon river”.

How Long Should You Go?

Obviously, “tree frog” is a much shorter keyword than “herpetology of the maranon river”. However, the former probably gets a lot more search volume and the latter is a lot more specific.

This begs the question, as you’re brainstorming, should you focus on keywords of a particular length?

To answer that question, let’s look at some data from a study Search Engine Watch published on keyword length. In this study, the authors assessed over 1.5 million active keywords and measured impressions, clicks and conversions.

Their report is a bit hard to get your head around, so I’ve boiled things down into a simple graph for you:

Using the Keyword Planner: Character Length vs Search Volume | Disruptive Advertising

Intriguingly, as keyword length goes from zero characters up to about 11 characters, your ads get a bigger share of the impressions, clicks and conversions. But, as you go from 11 characters to over 40 characters, things quickly taper off.

Head, Body and Long-Tail Keywords

If you really stretch your imagination, this graph looks like a Chinese dragon. The head and body are short and the tail is very long (work with me here, it’s not my analogy). As a result, online marketers like to refer to keywords with 25+ characters as “long tail keywords”.

At first glance, you might think, Well, I should just bid on “head” keywords! Those get the best results!

While that may be true on the surface, bidding on keywords that get a lot of impressions, clicks and even conversions is not always the best idea. The fact of the matter is, everyone else is thinking the same thing as you, which means that those “head” and “body” keywords are pretty competitive (and expensive).

To make matters worse, “head” and “body” keywords like “tree frog” get a lot more impressions, clicks and conversions because they are much more generic terms. If you type in “tree frog” in the Keyword Planner, Google reports that the term gets searched 40,500 times a month. But, it also lists the most relevant keywords as “tree frog for sale”, “tree frog sound” and “sticky frogs”.

With a diverse audience like that, you might get lots of clicks, but they probably won’t be the most qualified clicks.

In fact, we’ve seen clients waste tens of thousands of dollars on “head” and “body” keywords that produced tons of impressions, clicks and conversions…but no sales. That’s not a situation you want to be in.

When it comes to picking keywords, the goal isn’t volume—it’s relevant volume.

With that in mind, let’s take another look at that Search Engine Watch study. This time, however, let’s look at how clickthrough rate and conversion rate (good early indicators of relevance) match up with keyword length:

Keyword Length vs Keyword Effectiveness | Disruptive Advertising

Sure enough, “head” and “body” keywords have fairly low clickthrough rates and conversion rates. But, as you get out into the “tail”, things start to look much better.

Why? Because the only people who are seeing your ads are the people who want what you’re selling!

The Sweet Spot

If you put this data together, it becomes clear that there is a sweet spot for keyword length. Of course, this sweet spot will vary some from business to business, but as a rule of thumb, the best-performing keywords are typically between 16 and 30 characters.

Identifying the Keyword Length Sweet Spot | Disruptive Advertising

In this sweet spot, you maintain decent search volume while ensuring that your ads are primarily showing up in front of a relevant audience. As an added bonus, these keywords are usually less competitive, so your cost-per-click is often lower than what you see for shorter keywords!

The moral of the story?

During your keyword brainstorm session, focus on keywords in the 16-30 character range. If you need to go outside of that range, lean towards more characters…not less characters. After all, it’s pay-per-click advertising: if a keyword doesn’t get any impressions or clicks, you don’t lose any money!

3) Research Your Competitors

Once you’ve finished brainstorming keywords, it’s time to do a bit of reconnaissance. Open Google and start typing in keywords from your list. Is the competition advertising on those keywords?

If your competitors are advertising on one of your keywords, that’s actually a fairly good sign. That means you’ve identified a keyword that your competition values. And, now that you know what they’re up to, you can beat them at their own game.

By checking out the competition’s ads and landing pages, you can get a feel for how they are approaching their audience, learn a few things and do it better. Of course, there’s a chance that they’re actually wasting money on this keyword, but the only real way to figure that out is to advertise on that keyword yourself.

If, however, your competitors aren’t advertising on a keyword, that could mean one of several things:

  1. You’re a genius! You’ve identified a new keyword the competition hasn’t thought of yet.
  2. You have no idea what you’re doing! The competition understands your target audience better than you and knew this keyword is worthless.
  3. They know something you don’t know… The competition has already been there, done that and realized that this keyword isn’t worth bidding on.

At this point, you need to take a step back and try to figure out which of these scenarios is the most likely. If you already think a keyword is a stretch, it may not be worth investing in. But, if you think you’ve uncovered a hidden gem, try it out and see!

Competitive Insight Tools

If typing every single one of your keywords into AdWords seems like a pain, I’ve got good news. There are a couple of tools you can use to shortcut things. SpyFu and iSpionage are competitive analysis tools you can use to quickly identify what keywords your competition is bidding on, what sorts of ads they have run (over time, even) and what landing pages they are using.

By using a tool like iSpionage or SpyFu, you can learn a ton from your competition’s keyword strategy. If you do it right, it’s a lot like stealing their best keywords out from under them!

4) Use the Keyword Planner

Now that you have a sizeable list of keywords, it’s time to start using the Keyword Planner. Yes, I actually recommend using the Keyword Planner after you’ve come up with most of your keywords on your own.

Why? It’s simple. If you don’t do your homework first, using the Keyword Planner to identify keyword candidates can leave you with a lot of keywords that look good, but aren’t a good match for your audience.

However, the Keyword Planner is great for refining your keyword list.

The data the Keyword Planner provides can tell you whether or not a keyword is even worth trying. After all, if the suggested bid on a keyword seems out of this world or a keyword doesn’t have enough search volume to include, that’s great information to have.

In addition, when you find an affordable keyword with good search volume, Google’s suggested keywords list can be a good way to make sure that you didn’t miss important, related keywords during your brainstorm session.

Overall, the Google Keyword Planner is a fantastic resource (click here for more information on how to get the most out of the Keyword Planner), but it’s no replacement for good ol’fashioned market research.

Unfortunately, if you do it Google’s way and start with the Keyword Planner, you’ll end like most marketers…with a keyword list that is 94% junk. If you want a keyword list that actually—you know—works, use the Keyword Planner to support your keyword research, not as your primary keyword research tool.

5) Choose the Right Match Types

AdWords doesn’t really make a big deal out of match types during the initial setup process. It simply assigns your keywords to the least effective match type available: broad match.

While Google might not make a big deal out of match types, match types actually have a huge influence on the effectiveness of your AdWords campaigns. Essentially, match types tell AdWords how closely a search needs to match your keywords for your ads show up.

Google AdWords has three basic keyword match types: broad match, exact match and phrase match (broad match modified is a fourth option, but we won’t mess with that in this article). You also have the option to add negative keywords to your campaigns.

Broad Match

The broad match keyword match type is the default match type. Unless you specifically set your keywords to exact match or phrase match, they’ll stay broad match.

With this option, your paid search platform will treat your keywords a bit like the pirate code—as a general guideline for the searches you want to appear in. If you enter the keyword “chew toy,” your ad could be shown to people searching for everything from “no-stuffing chew toy for dogs” to a teething ring for babies.

As another example, let’s say I want to give up writing and marketing and want to go back to school to become a nurse practitioner. I don’t want to move and I want to do an in-person class, so I search for “local nurse practitioner program.”

These are the ads I see:

Only one of the ads that pops up actually offers a local program—the rest are all online. Google theoretically could have caught this since I entered “local” as a search term, but because most of these ads were likely using broad match keywords, we get multiple irrelevant ads.

Now, under the right circumstances, broad match can help expand the reach of your campaigns. This can be a good thing as long as it doesn’t derail your campaigns too quickly.

Phrase Match

Phrase match guarantees that your ad will only be shown if users search for specific keyword phrases as you’ve entered them into your campaign.

keyword match types

Traditionally, phrase match keywords will only be shown if users enter in the phrases exactly with no words in between, though additional words can be added before or after the keyword.

For the keyword “pink salt lamp”, for example, you may appear in searches like:

  • Himalayan pink salt lamp
  • Small pink salt lamp
  • Natural glow pink salt lamp
  • Pink salt lamp glow

Your ad will not appear in searches like:

  • salt lamps that are pink
  • Himalayan salt lamps

To create phrase match keywords, add quotation marks around them. They should be formatted “pink salt lamp”.

Exact Match

The exact match keyword match type basically means that your ad will only be displayed when searchers type in your exact keyword or an exceptionally close variant. So, if you bid on the keyword [pink salt lamp], your ad will only show up for people who enter in that exact phrase.

To create exact match keywords, add brackets around them—like [pink salt lamp]—when adding them to your campaign.

Negative Keywords

Negative keywords aren’t necessarily a keyword match type, but they can play such an important role in what searches your ad appear in that I wanted to mention them here.

Negative keywords allow you to tell Google which keywords or phrases you don’t want your ad to display on. If your keyword is “scrubs for nurses”, you might not want your ad to appear in searches for “nurses outfits” if most people who search for that are looking for Halloween costumes.

Negative keywords give you a lot more control over your ad placements and they are great because you know your industry and your ad better than any automated algorithm ever could. This targeting options can help prevent you from appearing in irrelevant searches, keeping your CTR and ROI as high as possible.

You can always add negative keywords at a later date if necessary. If you notice that one of your campaigns is being clicked in a large number of irrelevant searches with no conversions, you can add it as a negative keyword immediately.

Keywords are the heart and soul of every Google AdWords campaign, so it pays (literally) to make sure that you pick the right keywords and match types.

Step 7. Write Your Ads

Alright, you’ve set up your campaign and picked your keywords, now it’s time to actually write the ads your potential customers will see.

Click on the “+ NEW AD” button to get started:

There are a few basic things to keep in mind when writing a text ad:

  • Include your keywords! (nothing says, “you’ve found what you’re looking for” like seeing your keywords in the title of a search result).
  • If you’re local, say so (most people who are looking for a local business will be more likely to click if you include their city in your ad).
  • Include your value proposition (what sets you apart from the competition? you should probably mention it)
  • Speak your customer’s language (use words and phrases your customers regularly use when talking about your business or product)
  • Be personable (use familiar language, especially words like “you” or “your”)
  • Specifics sell (“big sale” is a lot less compelling than “25% off if you order today!”)
  • Include a call to action (“click here”, “buy now”, “get your free estimate today”)
  • Look at different views (your ads will look slightly different on desktop and mobile, so make sure that they look good in both previews)

In addition to the basic tips listed above, there are a lot of different tactics you can try with your text ad copy—all of which boil down to the following 3 ideas:

Tactic #1 – Appeal to Their Emotions

90% of purchasing decisions are made subconsciously. As a result, successful ad copy evokes the right emotions in your target audience.

With that in mind, here are a couple of ways to create emotionally compelling ad copy.

Speak to the Pain Point

Ideally, you want your ad to speak to the problem that led someone to search for a solution online. For example, look at the ads that show up if you search for “renew passport”:

Rewriting Ad Copy: Appeal to Emotion | Disruptive Advertising

Odds are, if you are looking to renew your passport, you either have upcoming travel plans or you’re looking for a way to avoid the line at the passport office.

Look at that! These ads clearly target both of those problems.

The other great advantage of writing ad copy that speaks to your target audience’s pain points is the fact that people care about how your company can solve their problems—not how great your company is.

So, if you want to improve the effectiveness of your ad copy, focus on your target audience’s pain points.