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

by 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:

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.

Play Off of Entitlement

We all feel like we deserve things. In fact, in America, we believe in that idea so strongly that we have a Bill of Rights dedicated to all the things Americans deserve.

We deserve to be happy. We deserve to be comfortable. We deserve to be treated well. We deserve to have our needs met…and to have them met now!

Good or bad, this sense of entitlement is a powerful force in our lives and it’s one you can put to work in your ad copy.

For example, here’s what you get if you search for “divorce attorney” (not searching for one personally, but divorce is a situation where everyone feels like they deserve something):

Rewriting Ad Copy: Play Off of Entitlement | Disruptive Advertising

You can call it “rights”, “needs” or “what you deserve”—it doesn’t matter. If your target audience feels entitled to something, that’s an emotion you can play off of.

So, if you want people to feel an emotional connection to your company, use your ad copy to make them feel like they deserve your product or offer. And really, who wants to deny themselves something they deserve?

Tactic #2 – Appeal to Logic

Although emotion is certainly the biggest factor in the decision-making process, logic and reasoning still have a significant effect on whether or not people choose to click, convert and buy.

In fact, an appeal to logic and reasoning is almost an emotional appeal. After all, if people feel like their decision is based in facts and rational thought, they will feel like they are making the right decision.

Answer Their Unasked Questions

A good paid search ad will address potential concerns before your target audience can mentally object to your ad. Once someone starts to pick apart your ad, business or offer, you’re stuck fighting an uphill battle.

On the other hand, if you can premptively address their points of concern, you can keep your potential customers in a receptive state. If you do it right, your audience will feel incredibly comfortable and understood, which will make them much more likely to buy.

So, if you want to improve your ad copy, try looking at why people might not want to click or convert and address that in your copy.

Use Numbers

People love numbers and statistics. There’s something so concrete and reliable about a good solid number—regardless of how relevant that number actually is (I have a soap box to get on here, but I’ll forbear).

As a result, using numbers and statistics in your ad copy is a great way to address potential concerns. For example, here are the results you get when you type in “project management software”:

Rewriting Ad Copy: Address Their Unspoken Concerns | Disruptive Advertising

What do you think is a common customer objection in this industry? Price? Or user base?

The first ad talks about their 1.5 million users. Ad #2 states that they’ve been used for over 15 years. The third headline mentions that 7 million people have tried their product.

Price isn’t mentioned once.

Clearly, these companies are in a fight to establish their credibility. If you think about it, that makes sense. The SaaS space is full of startups with buggy software. Somebody has to take a chance on these startups, but most people don’t want to be that somebody. They want something that has a proven track record.

With that in mind, is it any wonder that these companies have chosen to write ad copy that addresses these concerns?

So, if you want to make your claims more compelling, look for ways to add numbers or statistics to your ad copy. This can be as simple as pricing or a complex as results from a study you’ve conducted—just give people something solid to hold onto!

Tactic #3 – Grab Their Attention

No matter how emotionally and logically appealing your ad copy is, if people don’t read your ad, they’re not going click. Fortunately, making your text ads more eye-catching is one of the easiest ways to improve ad performance.

Here are a few ways to improve the visibility of your ads:

Use Your Target Keywords in Your Copy and URL

Ever buy a new car and suddenly everyone seems to be driving that car? In psychology, they refer to this as “selective attention“—we only notice something when means something to us.

To handle all of the stimuli in the world, our brains have to filter things down to what really matters. It’s why you don’t constantly notice the clothes you are wearing or the chatter in the office.

But, if someone says your name in the other room, you notice. Why? Because your brain has identified your name as a high priority stimulus and brings it to your attention.

The same principle comes into play with paid search advertising.

As soon as someone types a phrase into a search engine, the words in that phrase (along with some other key, related words) become a high priority to their brain. Essentially, the brain is using selective attention to identify relevant search results.

If a search result includes those high priority words or phrases in the copy or URL, the brain says, “Hey, look at this! It seems to be relevant.” If not, the search result gets filtered.

Guess which category you want your ad to be in?

Google understands the importance of selective perception, which is why Google AdWords bolds your keywords in your search result. They want to make sure you know that you found what you’re looking for (which is, after all, an important part of how Google stays in business).

For example, here’s what you get if you search for “travel to india”:

Rewriting Ad Copy: Include the Keyword in the Ad Copy and URL | Disruptive Advertising

See how obvious the keywords are? Google’s doing their best to say, “Hey, this ad is relevant to your search!” Between selective attention and Google’s keyword highlighting, including your targeted keywords in your ad copy and URL is practically a necessity.

So, if you want people to notice your ads, your ad copy needs to show up on their radar—you need selective attention to filter for you!

Use All the Characters!

Now that Google has switched over to Expanded Text ads, advertisers have access to 47% more characters than they used to. This is good news, because more characters = more visibility.


Of course, if your ad copy isn’t particularly compelling, all those characters won’t do you a lot of good. But, if you aren’t using as many characters as possible, you’re missing out on a real opportunity.

So, if you want to get the most out of your ad copy, take advantage of the full 140 characters Google now offers. It’s as simple as that.

Finally, you should always plan on testing your ad copy. You might love your ad copy, but that doesn’t mean your potential customers will. The only real way to perfect your ad copy is to test…and test…and test.

Step 8. Build a Landing Page(s)

After all the work it’s taken to get to this point (we’re about 10,000 words into this article, so you’re a trooper for making it this far), you’re probably ready to just point your Google AdWords traffic to your homepage and call it good.

Unfortunately, that would be a mistake.

Remember EZcater’s terrible landing page from back when we were talking about quality score?

What do you think the odds are that someone searching for “sandwich delivery” will end up on this landing page and sign up for breakfast catering?

The problem is, EZcater used a generic landing page for a very specific campaign. Now, this landing page might have worked okay for a “breakfast catering” search, but it’s a terrible fit for a “sandwich delivery” search.

Landing Pages vs Site Pages

This is why every campaign (and ideally, every ad set or even every ad) needs its own, specifically designed landing page. A well-designed Google AdWords campaign will generate clicks from a focused audience with highly-targeted needs and expectations.

Your goal is to get them to do something specific on your landing page—so why would you send them to a generic page like your homepage?

Here are a few examples of things you might want people to do on your landing page:

  • Make a purchase
  • Become a lead by submitting a form
  • Call you
  • Reach out to you via chat
  • Subscribe to a newsletter or email list
  • Register for an event

All of these conversion actions accomplish the same basic goal: they progress people towards becoming a paying customer. And that’s where a good landing page differs from your regular site pages.

Most of the pages on your website have to handle a wide audience with a lot of different interests and needs. A good AdWords landing page is focused on one thing: providing a consistent experience that takes people from click to action.

Creating Your Landing Pages

When it comes to creating landing pages for Google AdWords, you have two basic options: 1) build the pages directly on your site or 2) create the landing pages using a landing page tool.

Building Landing Pages on Your Own Website

The first option is fairly straight-forward. Like any other page on your site, you create and host your landing pages on your own website. The only difference is that you are creating campaign-specific pages, instead of regular site pages.

However, many businesses prefer not to add dozens or hundreds of additional marketing pages to their website—especially if they don’t plan on running a particular marketing campaign forever. In addition, creating a landing page on most websites can be a real headache, so unless you have solid design and coding skills, building your landing pages on your own website might be overwhelming.

Using a Landing Page Tool

Landing page tools allow you to build and even host your landing pages using a third-party service. There are a lot of landing page tools out there, like Unbounce, Instapage or LeadPages that you can use to build landing pages for your Google AdWords campaigns.

Breaking down the advantages and disadvantages of the different landing page tools falls outside of the scope of this article, but a detailed comparison, check out this article.

You’ll have to pay a fee for most landing page tools, but they offer easy design interfaces and testing options that make them a great option.

Designing Your Landing Page

Now that we’ve cleared up what a landing page is and how we’re going to use the term in this article, let’s talk about the 5 essential elements of landing page design. For reference, here’s a handy infographic that shows you how each element fits onto a page:

landing page design example

To embed this infographic on your site, use this link:

As you can probably imagine, not every landing page will fit this mold, but this infographic gives us a good framework for discussing what goes into an effective landing page.

1) Above-the-Fold Content

“Above the fold” is a term online marketers stole from the newspaper industry that refers to the first content a user sees. For a newspaper, “above the fold” is a literal term, but online marketers use it to describe content in the top 600 pixels or so of a landing page.

Since it’s the first thing your users see on your page, your above the fold content—much like a good front page story—is the key to drawing potential customers in, so you’ll want to make your above the fold content as compelling as possible. Let’s take a look at some common above-the-fold content:

1A) Main Headline

A good headline (and hero shot) is like a lighthouse for your potential customers. It tells them, “Yes, you’re in the right place and here’s what you can expect…” But, your headline needs to be more than an overview of your page—it needs to pique the reader’s interest in some way.

Depending on your business, what you’re selling and what you want people to do on your page, you’ll probably want to use different types of headlines.

For example, if you run a pilot certification program and you want people to sign up for your course, you might use a headline like “Learn to fly today!” On the other hand, if you want people to sign up for your email list, “Learn more about flight school” might be a better option.

The key to writing a great headline is understanding who your audience is, why they are on your landing page and what problem they’re hoping you can solve for them. Once you know those three things, it’s fairly easy to come up with headlines to try.

1B) Supporting Headline

If it’s a little hard to address the who, why and what of your audience in your headline, you can expand on things with a supporting headline. Think of your supporting headline as your opportunity to fill in important details.

Your headline should always be the most important and compelling argument for taking whatever action you want someone to take, but sometimes a little extra detail can be the push people need to actually convert.

For example, here’s one of Disruptive’s landing pages:

Most of our potential customers feel like they are wasting money on pay-per-click (PPC) advertising (which, sadly, is almost always true). They’re usually business owners or marketers who got to this page by searching on Google for something like “ppc agency” and clicked on our ad.

With that in mind, the headline of this landing page immediately confirms 3 things to a visitor:

  1. Everyone is wasting money on PPC—which means you’re right to be concerned about your own campaigns
  2. We are experts who know PPC well enough to help—because we’ve run the numbers and know how much ad spend is being wasted
  3. They are where they expected to be after clicking on an ad for a PPC agency

All together, this headline addresses the who, why and what of our audience, but it’s kind of a dismal message. So, rather than leave people feeling like their campaigns are doomed, we use a supporting headline: “You deserve better.” Or, in other words, with Disruptive, you won’t have to waste so much of your PPC ad spend.

As you can see, the main message is in the headline, but the supporting headline adds important detail that makes the main headline more compelling. Not every landing page needs a supporting headline, but when used effectively, a good supporting headline can make your landing page much more compelling.

1C) Hero Shot

Of course, your main and supporting headlines can only say a few words. It can be hard to get someone to have an emotional response in just a sentence or two. That can take hundreds-to-thousands of words.

Fortunately, for that, we have pictures.

In many ways, your hero shot can be just as important as your headline. Your hero shot is the aesthetic component of your landing page that tells people, “yes, you’re in the right place and you can trust this company” without them even realizing it.

To highlight this, let’s go back to our flight school example. Which of the following pages do you think would be more compelling to an aspiring pilot?

This one?

Or this one?

Odds are, the second page would drive a lot more conversions. But why? The headline is exactly the same on both pages!

The answer, of course, is the hero shot. Even though the headline on the first page reads “Learn to fly today”, anyone who clicks on a pilot certification ad and ends up on a page with a scuba diver will immediately assume that something is wrong. They want to fly, not swim, so how did they end up on a page about scuba diving?

While this example is a bit extreme, it highlights an important point: your hero shot can make or break your headline (to learn more about picking the right hero shot, check out this article).

1D) Benefit Summary

This section doesn’t always end up above the fold, but when it does, it’s important. Essentially, the benefit summary is the hook that pulls people from your above-the-fold content to the rest of your page.

Essentially, your benefit summary should say, “Hey, here’s what you’ll get if you do what I’m encouraging you to do. See how great it is? You should either convert or scroll down to learn even more!”

That being said, the benefit summary is your elevator pitch. If you decide to use one, you’ll want to keep it short, simple and to the point. You can get into more detail below the fold.

2) Call to Action (CTA)

Although most companies place a call-to-action (CTA) above the fold, since your CTA is what you’re asking your visitors to do on your landing page, it deserves its own section. But, before you can create your CTA, you need to decide what you want people to do on your landing page. This is important, because otherwise you can end up with no CTA or multiple different (and even conflicting) CTAs.

Both of these situations are bad.

For example, clicking on Spotify’s PPC ad brings you to this landing page:

Spotify PPC Landing Page | Disruptive Advertising

There are way too many options here.

After a bit of head scratching, it looks like the goal of the page is to get people to sign up for Spotify’s free month of premium service. However, the page also gives you the option of listening for free to their non-premium option.

This page also happens to be their home page, so there are options for “Download,” “Sign Up” and “Log In” in the header (and that’s ignoring all of the clickable elements in the footer!). All of these options make it hard to know exactly what you are supposed to do on this page. In fact, if you scroll below the fold, you may not even be sure what you’re signing up for.

In contrast, here is Neil Patel’s CTA:

Neil Patel's Landing Page Call-to-Action | Disruptive Advertising

The CTA is simple and consistent throughout the page. If you’re looking to grow your business, his page quickly makes it obvious that you have found someone who can help you with that and then encourages you to take the next step to make it happen.

In addition, the CTA is obvious and straightforward. Most people on the internet are looking for quick information, so the easier you make it for them to find and absorb your CTA, the more likely they are to convert.

For example, “Get Your Free Quote!”, “Contact Us Now!” or “Get Started Today” are great examples of CTAs.

Having a specific offer or benefit associated with the CTA also helps to boost conversions. Specific offers make your audience feel like they are getting something in return for their info and incentivize them to act now. So, instead of “Contact Us Today”, try something like “Contact Us Today for 10% Off”.

Finally, making your CTA a color that stands out from the rest of the page and placing it prominently will make it easy to find and act on. Simple enough, right?

3) Show Them the Benefits

If someone starts scrolling through your landing page, it means you’re doing something right. Whether it was your ad, headline, hero shot or something else, people who read your whole landing page are basically telling you, “I’m interested. Sell me on why I should convert.”

The only problem is, most businesses don’t know how to talk about themselves or what they are selling in ways that matter to their potential customers. Why? Well, all businesses struggle with egocentrism. After all, you spend all day, every day thinking about and improving your product or offer. It’s natural to want to talk about all the special things that make your business unique!

The only problem is, the people on your landing page don’t care.

See, most people struggle with egocentrism, too. They don’t care how many countless hours you’ve invested into that nifty feature. They may not even care about the feature at all. Most visitors to your site are asking themselves one simple question:

Will this make my life easier?

Depending on what you’re selling and who you’re marketing to, you might answer that question in a number of different ways. For example, if bug-free software is a big deal to your potential customers, you may want to focus on how fine-tuned your software is. You might want to include a section about your support team, how many users you have, how you handle errors…you get the idea.

The important thing is to keep the focus on how your bug-free software will make their life easier—not how awesome your business, product or offer is.

4) Social Proof

Unfortunately, most people instinctively distrust marketing material. Generally speaking, most marketers tell the story that puts their offer in the best possible light. After all, marketers make money off of telling people their product is great. Maybe your offer is as good as you say it is, but it’s hard to believe someone who gets paid to talk about how awesome their offer is.

On the other hand…an actual customer? They’ll tell it like it really is.

As a result, testimonials are the simplest way to add social proof to your landing page. Unfortunately, because they are so easy to put together (or even fabricate), testimonials often don’t carry a lot of weight. So, if you want your testimonial to be believable, you need reputable, verifiable sources.

With that in mind, here are some ways to put together believable testimonials.

  • Cite high authority sources. If other business leaders (particularly leaders of recognizable businesses in your industry) are willing to say you’re great, that must mean you’ve got something pretty cool.
  • More details = more believable. If your testimonial includes enough detail (name, location, job title, etc) that it would be easy to track down your source and verify the quote, the testimonial will be more believable.
  • Include pictures. Along the same lines, photos further establish the authenticity of your testimonial. After all, if your testimonial was comfortable with you using their photo, your reader can feel comfortable with giving you their business.
  • Video testimonials. Video testimonials take this principle even further. Video testimonials are even harder to fake and come with the added benefits of inflection and body language. If your video testimonial shows genuine enthusiasm for the product, you can bet that your audience will be interested in your offer.
  • Embed content. If you have rabid reviews on Twitter, pull them into your site. Reviews on third-party sites can’t be tweaked to perfection, so they feel more raw and real.
  • Include a variety of testimonials. Everyone knows that only a small portion of your customers will be willing to put themselves out there on your behalf. So, if you have several testimonials, a lot of people must love your company (sliders are a great way to feature multiple testimonials without sucking up too much real estate on your page).

According to Reevo, customer reviews increase sales by 18%. But, you can’t just put any old testimonial up on your site.

Instead, you want to feature the kind of reviews that make your potential customers think, “You know what? I’d be stupid not to convert” (to learn more about how to effectively use social proof, check out this article).

5) Closing Argument/Reinforcing Statement

A good landing page should naturally lead a user to the conclusion that converting is in their best interest. To do that, however, you need to know exactly what you want them to do and why they might not want to do it. Then, throughout your landing page, you address their concerns and sell them on the value of what they get in exchange for converting.

In particular, if someone makes it through to the end of your landing page, you have a final opportunity to convince them to convert (incidentally, this is a good place for another CTA). With your closing argument/reinforcing statement, you should summarize everything you covered in the rest of your landing page and then throw in any additional selling points you think might seal the deal.

Honestly, most people won’t read your closing argument/reinforcing statement, but for the people who do make it all the way through your page, a good conclusion can be the difference between them hitting the back button or converting.

The Secret is Consistency

We’ve already talked about this idea a little bit, but consistency is the whole point of landing pages, so it is worth mentioning again: the key to an effective landing page is messaging consistency.

In other words, the messaging of your Google ads should match the messaging of the landing pages they send traffic to.

A home page has to meet dozens (if not hundreds or thousands) of different needs. A good AdWords campaign delivers traffic with one specific need.

If that traffic lands on a home page with a hundred different options and messages, what are the odds that they’ll actually find what they’re looking for and convert?

AdWords campaigns perform best when they deliver a consistent experience. If your ad appeals to a certain type of person, your landing page should appeal to that person as well. That way, when they arrive on your page, they think, “This is exactly what I was looking for!” not “Wait, where am I and what am I doing here?”

Step 9: Set Up Conversion Tracking

Now that all of your campaign settings are in place, you’ve picked the ideal keywords, written brilliant ads and created a landing experience people will rave about, it’s time to launch your campaign, right?

Not quite.

Unfortunately, no matter how closely you followed this guide or how well-designed your campaign is, you’ve made mistakes along the way.

How do I know? Well, in Hubspot’s State of Inbound report (which is a good analysis of inbound marketing techniques like Google AdWords), they found that 97% of inbound marketing campaigns without good tracking fail.

Yes, you read that right: 97% fail.

That might seem like an insanely high number, but if you think about it, it makes complete sense. You can’t improve what you don’t understand and if you aren’t tracking the results of your online marketing, how do you know what’s working? (and more importantly—what isn’t?).

Conversion Tracking Matters

If that isn’t reason enough to implement quality conversion tracking, we’ve audited over 2,000 AdWords accounts at Disruptive and discovered that 42% of AdWords advertisers aren’t tracking any conversions:

Does Good Conversion Tracking Matter? [Infographic] | Disruptive Advertising

Share this Infographic On Your Site

At first, you might think, “Well, if half of advertisers aren’t tracking conversions, why should I?”

The answer goes back to that Hubspot figure. If your competition doesn’t have good conversion tracking in place, they can’t optimize their campaigns for maximum profitability.

But, if you are tracking conversions, you can optimize your campaigns and blow past the competition!

To make things even better, of the 58% of AdWords advertisers who are tracking conversions, only half of them actually have good conversion tracking in place (you know, the kind you can actually use to improve your online marketing?).

So, while the average conversion rate in our study was 2.18%, the average conversion rate for businesses with good conversion tracking was 3.16%.

In other words, on average, most companies aren’t tracking 31% of their conversions. That’s like trying to drive with only 69% of your vision.

Sure, you might make it safely to your destination, but you’re more likely to end up in a lot of trouble. But, if your competition happens to be driving with the blinders on, that gives you the advantage…

Setting Up Conversion Tracking in AdWords

The good news is, it’s pretty easy to set up conversion tracking in Google AdWords.

To get started, click the wrench icon in the upper lefthand corner of your screen, then click on “Conversions” under the “Measurements” menu.

This will bring you to the “Conversion actions” page. Click the blue button to add a new conversion.

Next, you’ll have the option to choose between 4 different types of conversion action:

Website and phone calls are the two most commonly used options here, so we’ll cover those in this article (for more information about app installs and importing conversions, check out this article).

Tracking Conversions on Your Website

If you want to track specific actions on your site (sales, viewing a specific page, signing up for your email list, submitting a form, etc), click “Website”.

This will bring up the following options:

In the screenshot above, I’ve created a conversion for people who submit a lead for on my website. Let’s take a closer look at some of the settings I used:


Since a lead doesn’t have any intrinsic value, I’ve decided not to have Google AdWords track the value of this conversion action, but you can have AdWords assign a specific dollar value to your conversions that you can track in the main AdWords interface (very handy for ecommerce businesses).


Here, I have the option to count every conversion separately or only allow one conversion per click. I’ve chosen to track every conversion, which means if someone submits 2 forms on my site, it will show up as 2 conversions—even though they were both from the same person.

Hypothetically, tracking every conversion could result in a conversion rate of over 100%, but this rarely happens.

Tracking every conversion is usually best when you have a variety of offers. For example, if I had a lead form for drone repair and one for a drone insurance program, tracking every conversion might be a good idea.

However, if my only offer was drone repair, it might be better to only allow Google AdWords to track one conversion per click, since multiple conversions from the same person wouldn’t make any difference to my business.

Conversion Window

“Conversion window” refers to the maximum length of time between a click and a conversion that you want Google AdWords to track.

I’ve set this to 30 days, so if someone clicks on my ad and then comes back and converts 10 days later, it will show up as a conversion from that ad. Depending on your business, you may want a longer or shorter conversion window than this.

View-Through Conversion Window

“View-through conversion window” is a kind of funny metric. Essentially, you use this setting to tell Google AdWords how to measure the impact of an ad when it isn’t clicked.

For example, if someone searches for “drone repair” and sees my ad—but doesn’t click on it—and later that day clicks on a link to my site in a drone forum and converts, that conversion would show up as a “view-through conversion” for the ad they saw.

This setting is most important for measuring the impact of display ads, where seeing an ad and not clicking is fairly common, but it’s not all that useful for text ads.

Include in “Conversions”

This is just a checkbox that tells Google AdWords whether or not you want this action reported as a conversion in your reports.

The only real reason to uncheck this box is if you have an action (like viewing a specific page) that you want to be able to track using a custom report, but don’t want to show up in your regular reports.

Attribution Model

Sometimes, the path to conversion isn’t as simple as “they see my ad, click and convert”. If you have a fairly involved marketing funnel, you may want to choose a more involved attribution model, but for beginners, I recommend sticking with “Last click”.

Once you hit “Create and continue”, Google will generate a couple of code snippets for you to add to your website.

The first snippet is a “Global site tag” you will need to add to your entire website (lean on your developer for help with this if you don’t manage the backend of your site). You’ll only need to add this to your site once.

Essentially, the global site tag will “cookie” the browser of anyone who visits your site, tracking how they interact with your site and adding them to a list you can use for retargeting ads (we won’t get into those in this article, but for more information, click here).

The second snippet is specific to the conversion action you just created. You can add the snippet to a page or a button on your site (switch from “Page load” to “Click” if you want to track a button).

Unlike the global site tag, you’ll need to add a new “Event snippet” to any relevant pages or buttons every time you create a new conversion action.

By the way, if you happen to be using Google Analytics on your website (and you should be), you can use Google Tag Manager to integrate your Google AdWords data with your Google Analytics data. To learn how, check out this article.

Tracking Phone Calls

When you select “Phone calls” as a conversion action, you have 3 different tracking options:

The first option allows you to track calls made directly from your ads. So, if you use call extensions in your ads or try Google’s “call-only” ads (only available on mobile, for obvious reasons), you can use this setting to track those calls.

The second option allows you to track people who come to your site through an ad and then call you. To track this, you’ll need to set up one or more Google forwarding numbers and add a tag to your website. When someone visits your website through an ad, Google will swap out your actual phone number for a forwarding number, which it can then track as a conversion.

Finally, the third option allows you track mobile users who click on your phone number to call you. Since people are actually clicking on something on your site, this is tracked a lot like a button click, so you don’t need to use a Google forwarding number.

After you pick what kind of calls you want to track, you end up with the same basic options as you had for website-based conversions:

The only new option here is “Call length”, which allows you to tell Google AdWords how long a call needs to be before it counts as a conversion. Since most potential customers will talk to you for at least 60 seconds, one minute is a good minimum setting to consider here.

Depending on which call tracking option you choose, you may have to add some code to your site or sign up for a Google forwarding number in the next step, but the process is fairly straightforward, so we won’t go over every option here (for more information, check out this article).

And that’s it! Once you’ve set up all the appropriate conversion tracking, you’re ready to start advertising on Google AdWords!

Step 10. Launch Your Campaigns!

Once you activate your campaign(s), Google will review your ads. Within a day, they should be approved and you should start getting clicks and conversions.

However, as we discussed earlier, Google AdWords is far from a “set it and forget it” advertising platform. In fact, the biggest reason that most AdWords campaigns fail is a lack of attention.

Unfortunately, only about 10% of AdWords accounts are optimized even once a week. Based on the accounts we’ve reviewed here at Disruptive, 72% of accounts haven’t been touched in over a month!

So, how often should you be optimizing your account? It all depends on your traffic and budget.

For budgets over $10,000/month, you should be at least giving your campaigns a thorough review at least once a week. However, to really get the most out of your account, you should probably review your campaigns at least 3 times per week.

For a new campaign, you need to be even more involved. It’s a good idea to check up on the account at least 3 times per day.

If you’re not spending thousands of dollars a month on AdWords, you won’t generate enough data in a day to warrant a daily checkup, but it’s still a good idea to keep a close eye on things. Depending on how many clicks you get a month, checking in every week or so should be enough, especially if your campaigns have been running smoothly for a while.

This article is just an introduction to Google AdWords, so we won’t get into all the different ways you can optimize your campaigns, but we’ve got hundreds of articles about campaign optimization on our blog, so check back any time you need help! (here’s a handy article to get you started).

As a general rule of them, the more time you spend in your AdWords account, the better it will perform. Of course, you don’t have to make major changes 3 times a day or week, but keeping close tabs on your account will give you the insight you need to really get great performance.


Google AdWords is the king of online marketing platforms…and with good reason. It’s one of the most powerful ways to reach your customers when they are ready to buy.

Of course, with how powerful Google AdWords is, competition on the platform is fierce, so it’s important to set your campaigns up right and constantly optimize them for maximum profitability.

But, if you follow the directions in this step-by-step guide, you should be well on your way to success!

By the way, if you’ve made it through this guide and still have questions (or want help launching your own campaigns), let me know here or in the comments. If you made it all the way through this article, you can probably tell that Google AdWords is no cakewalk, but I’d be happy to assist in any way I can.

Have you tried Google AdWords? Did you find this guide helpful? What was your experience like? Do you have any Google AdWords tips you’d add to this article? Leave your thought in the comments below!

  • AdWords

Aden Andrus

Aden Andrus

Over his career, Aden has developed and marketed millions of dollars of successful products. He lays awake at nights figuring out new marketing tactics and is constantly upping Disruptive's internal marketing game. He loves to write, dance and destroy computer monitors in full medieval armor.

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