A former teacher, Matt now specializes in R&D for ecommerce business owners and helps guide merchants in understanding the importance of this digital-first world.
You’ve heard of Google, right?I thought so.
After all, it’s by far the most popular and most-used search engine site in existence, accounting for about 75% of all web searches the world over.As the owner or manager of an ecommerce company, if you’re not leveraging Google as a means for advertising your brand...well...you’re missing out. Not only are three-quarters of all web searches conducted via Google, but most consumers nowadays use the platform for product discovery purposes more than they use any other platform or channel - including Amazon. Those further along in the sales funnel also use Google to dig deeper into product and brand research to help inform their purchasing decisions.
For ecommerce companies, this all adds up to some major opportunities. It’s no surprise, then, that companies that advertise on Google see an average return on ad spend (ROAS) of 2:1.
Of course, as the old saying goes, such results definitely aren’t typical. As with all marketing initiatives, you need to approach your Google Ad campaigns strategically and methodically in order to maximize your results.
Which is exactly what we’ll be discussing throughout this article.Before we dive in, though, let’s go over the main benefits of paying for visibility on Google (as opposed to doing so via SEO and content marketing).
Why Should You Use Paid-For Google Ads?
So, if it’s possible to gain such visibility without paying for ad space, why would you want to do so?
As you surely know, it is possible to gain visibility on Google by focusing on content marketing and search engine optimization.
Well, for starters: content marketing and SEO aren’t free. Not only do you need to invest a ton of manpower and other resources into these initiatives - and do so over a rather lengthy period of time - you also might need to contract with outside parties (such as consultants) in order to get the most out of your efforts.
To reiterate: you’re going to be spending money in some way or another, regardless of whether you choose to go the paid ad route or the content marketing/SEO route.That being said, while it takes quite some time for your content marketing/SEO efforts to begin showing results (that is, 6-9 months at the very least), your Google Ads will start being presented to consumers the moment they go live.
Another benefit of using Google Ads is that you have the ability to showcase specific products, promotions, or other aspects of your brand immediately, as needed.
For example, if you release a new product, you won’t need to spend the aforementioned 6-9 months creating blog posts and other content around the product in order to generate visibility; you can simply create the ad and get it live right away.(On the other side of this, you can also cease promotion of a specific product or initiative as necessary, as well.)
Additionally, you can set your Google Ads to be presented to specific individuals based on a variety of factors, including:
- Referral source (Affinity)
- Browsing history
- Search intent
- Various other characteristics
Finally, you can use the data you immediately collect from the performance of your Google Ads to inform your content marketing and SEO initiatives. You can do so in a number of ways, such as:
(Also, while it’s rather difficult to truly track the ROI of your content marketing and SEO initiatives, it’s typically much easier to track the performance of your Google Ads.)
- Understanding which keywords consumers at different funnel stages typically use
- Assessing the ratio between impressions and click-throughs or conversions for effectiveness of a given keyword
- Discovering backlink opportunities via placement of your ads on Google’s display network
Google Ad Pitfalls to Watch Out For
As we’ve alluded to a couple times already, there’s no guarantee that your Google Ad campaigns will definitely lead to major success for your company - even if you do create an objectively top-notch ad.Unfortunately, it’s entirely possible that a quality ad campaign ends up doing more harm than good to your overall bottom line due to one of the following issues.
So, rather than simply trying to outbid your competitors on rather expensive keywords, it’s more prudent to focus on less-competitive alternative keywords that that will end up being more cost-effective. In doing so, you’ll still be able to generate a decent amount of visibility at a fraction of the cost.
First of all, it’s rather easy to unintentionally overextend your budget by bidding on expensive, highly-competitive keywords. Obviously, the more you spend on a given keyword per click, the more your ad spend will eat into your profit margin.
The other major pitfall to avoid is assuming that a high click-through rate automatically leads to a high conversion rate. Unfortunately, the case may very well be that many searchers end up clicking your ad, but fail to actually go through with a purchase (or otherwise take further action on the subsequent landing page).
(In fact the right alternative keyword may actually end up being more effective at driving traffic to your site than the more expensive ones.)
Basically, you want to do as much as you can to ensure that a decent chunk of the individuals who click on your ads end up converting. Otherwise, you’re essentially wasting valuable ad spend on clicks that go nowhere.
To combat this, you not only need to optimize your Google Ads, but you also need to optimize the accompanying landing pages, as well.
Your first order of business, here, is to ensure that your ad and its paired landing page match up in terms of message and style in order to create a seamless transition for your potential customers. You also want to ensure your landing page provides a single, clear call-to-action, so that your visitors know exactly what to do upon clicking over to your site.
Advertising on Google: Three Different Methods
There are three different ways you can use Google for advertising purposes:
- On Google’s basic search network
- On Google Shopping
- On Google’s Display Network
When advertising on Google’s basic search network, you’ll be creating text ads that appear at the top and/or bottom of the searcher’s results pages:
Google Shopping ads (called “Product Listing Ads) can also appear on the main search results page:
(Source / An ad for Chubbie’s swim trunks appears when searching for “men’s swimsuits.”)
And also on the Google Shopping tab:
(You can find a lot more info on creating Google Shopping campaigns on Sales & Orders’ Google Shopping guide.)
The Google Display Network is made up of millions of websites that allow third-party companies (i.e., your company) to place text-based or banner ads on their site. Basically, Google acts as the middleman, here, deciding which sites your ad will appear on.
(Source / Here, TMobile’s advertisement for the Galaxy S3 appears on PhoneDog.)
Throughout the rest of this article, we’ll be focusing mainly on how to advertise on Google’s search network and Shopping subnetwork.
How Advertising on Google Works
We’ve touched on how advertising on Google works little by little throughout this article, so now let’s take a moment to explain it in a bit more detail.Whether you’re focusing on text-based ads or Product Listing Ads (PLAs), the overall process looks like this:
- After creating your ad, you’ll set a bid amount for it
- Each time a searcher uses a specific keyword or phrase, your ad will enter a sort of “bidding war” against your competitors
- Google’s algorithms will then consider the amount bidded and the quality and relevance of your and your competitors’ ads to determine which ads will appear on the consumer’s search results pages
Secondly, while you will be setting a maximum bid amount for each of your ads, you may end up spending less than the maximum if your ad is chosen by Google to be displayed.
Firstly, Google’s algorithms typically place much more importance on the quality of an ad than to the amount being bid. So, if your ad’s Quality Score isn’t very high, it won’t matter if you’ve bid more than your competitors - your ad probably isn’t going to be shown on the first page of results.
Here’s how WordStream explains it:
With that said, we’re going to spend the remainder of this article going over the best practices for both creating Google Ads and bidding on visibility.
While the amount you bid does play a role in determining the order in which your ad will appear, the quality of your ad plays a much bigger role overall.
Getting Started with Advertising on Google
In order to get maximum results from your Google Ad and Shopping campaigns, there are four main things you’ll need to do:
- Optimize your budget
- Organize your ad campaigns
- Develop your ads’ messages
- Bid on the right keywords
Optimizing Your Ad Budget
As we said earlier, it can be pretty easy to allow your ad spend to spiral out of control if you’re not careful.And, again, spending more on your Google Ad campaigns doesn’t necessarily lead to an increase in revenues or conversions.
However, you can determine a ballpark range for your budget by determining your target ROAS, then figuring out how much you can afford to spend in order to hit that mark. To do so, you’ll need to compare the cost per click for a given keyword to your revenue per conversion, as well as to your conversion rate.
Now, as we’ve said before on our blog, there’s no “one way” to determine your budget when it comes to Google Ads; different scenarios call for different budgeting methods. Your industry, your products, your sought-after keywords...all of these factors (and more) play into the amount of money you’ll want to invest in your Google Ad campaigns.
You don’t want to be spending more than you’re getting back in return - that much is obvious. But you also don’t want to merely recoup your losses, here, either. Remember: a high-quality Google Ad campaign can often bring in double your initial investment; if you’re not at least approaching this benchmark - despite running a rather successful campaign - you might be spending too much in the first place.
Organizing Separate Ad Campaigns
Your overall Google Ads account will eventually be broken down as follows:
As shown in the above graphic, you’ll get more and more specific in terms of logistics as you go from campaign to ad group, down to individual ads. In other words, there are specific settings that you’ll apply at different stages of the breakdown process.
For example, at the Campaign level, you’ll be setting your overall daily budget, as well as defining your targeted location for the ads within the campaign; at the Ad Group level, you’ll be defining the keywords the ads within will focus on, as well as the bid amount for these keywords.For each ad group, you typically want to include 3-5 different ads. This will allow you to hedge your bets, in a way, with the idea being that Google will then have multiple versions of a single ad to choose from when considering whether or not your ad should be displayed in the first place.
Now, going back to the Campaign level, you may choose to organize your campaigns in...well...any way you see fit. A few typical methods include organizing campaigns by:
- Keyword theme
The goal, here, is to organize your ad campaigns in as logical a manner as possible. For one thing, this allows you to easily keep track of the purpose of your campaigns - as well as to assess whether or not a given campaign has effectively accomplished what you hoped it would.
Secondly, this also ensures that you match up the right ads to the right keywords and landing pages, so as to create a streamlined experience for your potential customers.
Develop Proper Ad Messaging
Once again, the quality of your ads determine:
- Whether Google displays an ad in the first place
- Whether searchers will click on your ad
- Whether those who click through end up converting into paying customers
- Include the relevant keywords you’ve defined (that your target audience uses)
- Include an attention grabbing headline showcasing the purpose of the ad
- Provide information regarding your product’s features and/or benefits
- Direct searchers to the appropriate landing page or product page
Here’s an example from Beds.co.uk:
As we explained earlier, you also want to ensure that the connected landing page aligns with the copy of the ad in question. The above ad, for example, should specifically link to a page showcasing the products that are a part of the brand’s “70% off” promotion - not just to the site’s home page.
In the previous section, we mentioned that you’ll want to create multiple ads for each Ad Group. Reason being, you’ll be able to gauge the performance of each ad, then compare the differences between each to determine why one outperformed the rest. In turn, you’ll then be able to tweak the lesser-performing ads accordingly - and continue to do so as time goes on.
Bid on the Right Keywords
No matter how organized your campaign structure is, how optimized your bidding strategy is, or how compelling your ad’s copy may be:
If you haven’t found the right keywords to target, your ads are simply not going to perform well.
For one thing, if nobody is actually using the keywords you’ve chosen to focus on when they conduct a product-related search, they’ll never see your ads in the first place. Second of all, if you’ve chosen to focus on keywords used by disinterested non-buyers, they might see your ad - but will have no intention of clicking on it.
And, once again, if you end up spending too much on your ad bids, the sales you generate from the campaign may not even be worth it in the long run.
That said, you want to determine keywords to focus on that show a balance between:
- Search volume
- Searcher intent
- Cost per click
That is, you probably aren’t going to find all that many keywords that are completely optimized in each of these four categories (if you do, get to work on creating campaigns around them ASAP).
Rather, you’ll want to find keywords that score highly in as many of these categories as possible - and use them in specific ads accordingly. Look for tradeoffs that make sense, such as low purchasing intent and cheap CPC, or mid-range search volume and high purchasing intent.
In addition to identifying the right keywords, you also want to identify keywords which aren’t effective in driving engagement and sales numbers. These negative keywords are those which may at first seem relevant, but really just end up eating your ad spend while providing nothing in return.
For a rather simple example, you wouldn’t want your ad for men’s sneakers appearing for search queries such as “how to tie sneakers,” as the person conducting this search almost certainly has no intention of buying new sneakers at the current moment.
Wrapping Up and Moving On
Hopefully, you now have a pretty good idea of how to get started with Google Ads - as well as why you should do so as soon as possible.
As you begin delving into your new advertising initiatives, the main thing to keep in mind is that consumers use Google for a lot of different reasons.
That said, you’ll want to create many different ads based on the various needs and expectations of individuals within your target audience. In doing so, you’ll increase your chances that each of your ads will reach the right person, with the right message, at the exact right moment.