Running successful Google Ads campaigns is challenging.
Google Ads itself can be complicated to use effectively and competition is fierce.
The key is knowing that PPC ads don’t exist in a vacuum and there are several factors that must be optimised to maximise results.
The key factors to consider are Keywords, Ads, Landing Pages & Conversion Tracking.
Take these four key factors into consideration and you will see monumental results from your PPC marketing campaigns.
In this article, we will look at the foundational principles of Google Ads and then at each of these PPC Success factors so you can massively improve results and start turning clicks into customers.
The article should take about 15 mins to read and if you have any questions drop me a line.
- Introduction and some Assumptions
- Why Google Ads Matter
- Quality Score
- Keywords, Ads, Landing Pages & Analytics
- Key Takeaways
- Invisible Gorillas (aka Summary)
Free Google Ads Account Audit
If this all seems like too much effort, we understand, drop us a line and we can conduct a free audit of your Google Ads account and tell you exactly what you need to focus on to save money and improve results (win-win): Claim your free Google Ads audit.
Part 1 – Introduction
1. Introduction and some Assumptions
The advice here is generally aimed at small to medium businesses and those operating in established business categories. If you have a radically new product or service then the way you bring that to market can vary greatly and Google Ads is not the right platform for every single situation. If you want some advice on strategy and what the right tactics and platforms are then drop us a line.
2. Why Google Ads matter
There are many ways to market your business, but Google search is one of, if not the most important marketing tactic for most small to medium-sized businesses.
Yet it is important to note that in 2022 and beyond, for the majority of commercial keywords, the top of the page of Google is dominated by Ads.
It naturally follows that to get your business to the top of Google is only possible by running Google Ads campaigns for the keywords that your customers use to find your business.
SEO (aka organic search) can be powerful, but for the majority of lower-funnel search queries with real intent to purchase, the top of the page is dominated by ads of all shapes and sizes and a large percentage of the clicks never get to the local/organic results.
But just buying clicks is no guarantee of success. Every week I speak to a business owner who has tried Google Ads, burned their budget with little or nothing to show for it and blame the platform rather than looking at the bigger picture.
This is a bad situation to find yourself in as you are handing the wins available in Google Ads to your competitors.
3. Quality Score (QS)
Google Ads has an internal metric known as Quality Score (QS) . Quality Score is available across your keywords, ads, and landing pages. It provides feedback on how the individual components of your advertising campaign are performing.
This gives you a tool to identify areas that are not as strong as they could be and make changes across your keywords, ads, and landing pages to ensure your Quality Scores are maximised.
The Quality Score concept is important to grasp as data analysis of Quality Score shows how a perfect Quality Score of 10 can save you 50% on your cost per click. That effectively doubles the number of times your ads are shown, your clicks, and assuming everything else is doing its job, your results.
If that has not motivated you yet, then the same data showed that low-Quality Scores increase what you will pay per click. In the worst case, a Quality Score of 1 can see up to a 400% increase in your cost per click. This has the opposite effect and decimates your budget and strangles the areas of the account that could perform. Yikes!
Suffice to say, we will reference Quality Score throughout this article and it is crucially important.
Part 2 – Google Ads – The 4 Key PPC Success Factors
Right, now you have a grasp of the fundamentals of why many Google Ads fail and Quality Score we can dive in and look at the four crucial success factors for Google Ads PPC.
4. Keywords, Ads, Landing Pages & Analytics
The 4 key factors to running a successful Google Ads campaign: Keywords, Ads, Landing Pages & Conversions.
These are the four touchpoints with your prospective customer and the key areas you have to focus on to optimise your campaign from the initial search right through to the generation of a lead or sale. Get this right and you are well on your way.
It is also true that this is the logical and procedural way to work through your planning, campaign development, and optimisation.
Keywords > Ads > Landing Page > Conversions
Think of it like this:
Keywords show ads, ads convince users to click, clicks deliver users to a landing page which then generates conversions.
We then should be optimising across this whole user journey to ensure we are constantly refining keywords, tweaking ads, improving landing pages, and doing ever better measurements so we are always staying competitive and driving more conversions.
We will now dive into each of these key areas for your Google Ads strategy and campaign.
Tip: Think constant improvement. Remove what does not work. Do more of what does. Chop away the deadwood and laser in on what we know delivers results!
With a Google Ads campaign, keywords represent the strategy – the keywords you choose connect to the intent of the searcher.
We have to ensure we have ads that clearly build upon the promise of a given keyword and landing pages that build on the promise of the advert. If you do this right, then conversions should follow.
Your first job then is to choose the keywords that accurately describe what you do (and often where you do it). I would typically start fairly tight here as you can always add more later.
You really have to think about this as well as the intent is not always crystal clear. Is someone who searches for “PPC” a potential customer for us? Or are they trying to learn? Where in the journey is this user? The more nuanced and closer to the sale of your chosen keywords, then the better your account will likely perform.
Google Ads uses a concept known as match types to target either the exact keyword, specific words, specific phrases, or close variations. Getting the match types correct can make or break a campaign and we have three levels of specificity in our match types:
- Broad Match – very loose targeting and Google will take the keyword and show ads for a wide range of related (or often not so related) search terms.
- “Phrase Match” – the keywords you specify or very close variations must feature in the search query but can be in any order and with any other search terms added.
- [Exact Match] – the most specific keyword matching available that shows the exact search term (or very close variants) but can be restrictive from a volume perspective.
Getting a balance between match types is essential for the success of your campaign. If you use too many broad match keywords you will show for lots of irrelevant terms whilst often being outbid on the terms that can actually deliver quality traffic.
Typically, we would suggest starting with your primary keywords as phrase match and exact match.
If you are unclear review our deep dive into Google Ads Keyword Match Types.
When using broad and phrase match with your keywords, your ads will show for terms that are not perfectly aligned with your goals.
Negative keywords are a tool you can use here to prevent your ads from showing. These will always depend upon the keywords you target but terms like “free”, “cheap” or any other word(s) that change the context of what you offer should be added here.
Eg: the addition of “free” to “PPC services” changes the context and if the search term is “free PPC services” then you likely don’t want to show up.
When combined with match types, negative keywords allow some flexibility in the search terms you show up for whilst suppressing your ads for low-quality or irrelevant search terms that will eat up your budget and pull down your Quality Score.
Tip: use phrase match and exact match keywords for your targeting and regularly review the Keywords > Search Terms report to add negative keywords and keep things tight.
Bonus tip: I like the free Keyword Shitter tool  to generate huge lists of keywords for some proactive negative keyword research to help get your campaign off to a good start.
Note: match types work a little differently for negative keywords so be careful – negative keywords match types explained.
Armed with a set of correctly matched keywords you can start running ads.
Your ads are themselves divided up into campaigns and ad groups (we talk about structuring your account in more detail in our Google Ads PPC Strategy Guide ).
For a small business with one location and, say, three main service areas, you would likely have one campaign where you specify location targeting and budget along with three ad groups – one for each service.
For new advertisers, we would strongly recommend that you make your ad campaigns as targeted as possible from the get-go across the entire user journey: keywords, ads, landing pages, and conversions (via calls to action).
Imagine this User Journey:
- User searches for “win a holiday to Florida”
- The top advert has a heading of “Win a Holiday to Florida” along with some other details around free Disney tickets, luxury villa, and other aspects that would make this attractive
- The landing page is then titled “Win a Holiday to Florida” and details all the wonderful features and benefits of this offer
- The call to action on this page then has a button that reads “Win a Holiday to Florida” and aligns with the user’s initial search term
As a general rule of thumb, we like to use ads that are very closely related to the keyword. This means dividing your ads up into ad groups around one main keyword theme.
This concept is often referred to as SKAGs (Single Keyword Ad Groups). Now, whilst it is rare to have just one actual keyword in the ad group, you will likely have a couple of highly related search terms so the keyword maps to the advert, which then closely aligns with the landing page content which then perfectly aligns with the call to action.
Following this approach ensures your keywords and ads are tightly aligned. This, in turn, then improves relevance, engagement, and click-through rates (CTR) which all helps to push your Quality Score in the right direction.
Finally, this drives down costs and boost results. Win-win.
Building Your Ads
Google Ads are composed of multiple headlines, descriptions, URLs, and extensions that all help to sell the benefits of your product or service and win those clicks.
The best practice for ads is typically to have 3 to 5 ads in your ad group and utilise standard ad formats and a newer format known as responsive ads.
Responsive ads can be a little more tricky to wire up but they effectively split test your various headings and see increased engagement.
This makes it easier to review the ad and ensure you are constantly looking at how to improve your results.
Tip: ensure your ads are split into ad groups that are based on your main keyword themes and use a couple of expanded text ads with a responsive ad. This keeps the keyword to ad relevance high and helps drive engagement (clicks).
4.3. Landing Pages
This is another area where a lot of businesses get things wrong and lose out on what is a hyper-relevant visit.
Let us consider the context here:
- a user has searched for a keyword that we target
- they have seen a hyper-relevant advert and clicked on that
- they then end up on your landing page where the messaging needs to closely follow on from the search term and ad copy
So, when a user clicks on one of your ads, they will go to a landing page that should be tightly aligned with the search keyword and advert. Ensuring this consistency across the user journey ensures the landing page satisfies the searcher’s need and the intent behind the keyword.
What actually happens, though, is that the user gets sent to a generic landing page where the copy is related, but not hyper-related to the search term.
The thing is, there are lots of ways to ask the same question, but your prospective customer asked the question a certain way – and you need to restate the question so they know they are in the right place and then answer using the same language.
You don’t want to make your prospect have to think too hard. Or at all.
- Let them know they are in the right place
- Tell them what to do next with relevant calls to action
Generally, what this means is that whilst your standard website service pages are great for a general audience, your landing pages should be fine-tuned to map to each of your ad groups.
So, if you have single keyword ad groups (SKAGs) then you have single keyword landing pages (SKLPs) that provide the lower tier in this approach.
This drives up overall engagement, gets you more conversions, helps with Quality Score, and drives down the cost per click and cost per lead/sale.
Tip: customise variations of your main landing pages to be hyper-relevant to the keywords you target and the messaging of your ad and use these in place of your standard website landing page. Note: Ensure these pages are marked as “noindex” so they don’t cause you any problems with your organic search (SEO) efforts.
4.4. Analytics & Conversion Optimisation
At this point, if you have followed the above advice, you should have a well-structured ad campaign.
Desirable keywords trigger highly relevant ads that send the user to a landing page with messaging fine-tuned around what the customer searched for and highly relevant calls-to-action that envoke a response from your visitors.
This is a good starting point and you have done all you can to ensure that those expensive clicks turn into valuable leads for your business.
Time to put your feet up and… sorry, no rest for the wicked, or those looking to grow a business by developing a competitive advantage with Google Ads.
The next step is to keep learning what you can from your users and to keep experimenting to improve your conversion rate.
There are many tools we can use to do this, but the key tools you should be looking at are:
- Google Analytics
- Google Tag Manager
- An eye, click, and scroll tracking tool (like Hotjar which has a free account – no affiliation)
- Google Optimize
These four tools allow you to first see what your users are getting up to and understand your conversion rate.
Understanding your conversion rate is truly key to improving your results from Google Ads.
1% conversion rate? That means that 99 out of every 100 visitors simply leaves without doing what we want – this is an expensive conversion rate.
If our clicks are costing us £1.00 per click then this is costing you £100 to generate a lead and clicks are rarely just £1.00.
If you win one out of every five leads then a new customer costs £500.
If you can double that 1% conversion rate to a still relatively miserable 2%, it now costs you £250 to get a customer.
If you can take that conversion rate up to 10%, this means new customers are tumbling in at £50.
Now consider the broader marketing environment – specifically your competitors.
If your competitor still converts at 1%, you have a huge advantage in that your marketing is 10x more efficient.
You can now bid more and dominate to get even more business and bully your competition with their lowly conversion rates.
The implications here are huge. Jobs are now more profitable. You can scale more quickly.
A strong conversion rate opens the door to marketing tactics that may have historically seemed too expensive.
If you get here you are now a force to be reckoned with.
Analytics & Conversion Optimisation – Getting Started
This topic could fill a book, and it has , however, you can get started by getting the following basics in place:
- Ensure you 100% appreciate the importance of analytics and conversion optimisation
- Install Google Tag Manager to simplify your analytics installation
- Install Google Analytics (typically GA3 Universal and GA4)
- Configure your site to track all important events and calls to action (forms, emails, phone numbers, buttons etc)
- Install HotJar to give you visibility of where your users click and how far they scroll
- Start running experiments using Google Optimize on your highest-traffic pages and measure against your conversion goals
If you can get to this point then you will be miles ahead of the majority of your competition and you will have the tools to keep pushing your conversion rate upwards.
Get here and you will be a force to be reckoned with.
5. Key Takeaways
Successful Google Ads campaigns are a sum of many parts:
- Keyword strategy
- Well-constructed Google Ad campaigns
- Persuasive ads that help you stand out from the crowd
- Convincing landing pages
- Insightful analytics to help understand your visitors
- Conversion optimisation to keep pushing up conversion rates and driving down your cost per lead/sale
This is six points rather than the four promised but hey, two bonus points, that are really just a break out of the original four.
6. Summing Up with Invisible Gorillas
Sometimes, to better understand how and why users interact the way they do with your ad campaigns, we need to step away from Google for a moment.
There is a famous experiment that I feel helps to illustrate this. The experiment was conducted by psychologists at Harvard University  and helps explain just how much we don’t see from what is going on in the world around us. The findings here are helpful in helping us understand what people do and don’t see when searching the web.
In the study, participants are asked to watch a video of two teams passing a ball back and forth and, most importantly, to count how many times the team in white passed the ball.
The majority of participants have no problem with this and accurately count the total number of passes in the game.
Then, when the experiment concludes, the participants are asked if they saw the gorilla.
Half of all participants say “what gorilla?”, yet, when the video is played back, a gorilla clearly comes to the centre of the screen, bangs its chest, and then strolls off. This is not a quick thing and the gorilla is clearly visible in the centre of the screen for several seconds and then calmly strolls off to the side.
The participants, so focused on the action, so focused on the team wearing the white tops, just don’t see the gorilla. It is there, on the screen, right in front of them, but their brain discounts it.
Web browsers are just like this:
- We do see what we are aiming for – the ball, the white tops.
- We don’t see what we are not looking for – the gorilla.
Google Ads campaigns can be like this:
People search for a keyword.
Google then returns what is often a highly personalised, unique, and detailed set of search results.
Users then quickly scan this page to find what they are looking for – they zero in on what they want to see whilst ignoring (or simply not seeing) other page elements.
Simply put, they ignore almost everything they see unless it is highly related to what they searched for – in the case of Google Ads, this typically means a heavy prominence of the search term in the advert headline and description.
This is why the approach above, with relentless relevance, and these single keyword ad groups, grabs the user’s attention – we give them what they are looking for.
Google knows this. Competent Google Ads PPC consultants know this. You need to know this.
This gets you so far. It gets you the click. But, this precision must follow through on the landing page. If not, it does not matter how good your content is, or if you have a gorilla beating his chest, your user will be blind to it and they won’t see what they are looking for and they won’t convert. Clicks and costs but no sales (or gorillas).
I hope this is useful and if you have any questions, please drop a comment.
If are scratching your head (or beating your chest) and would rather just have us take a look – claim your free PPC audit here.
- About Quality Score – https://support.google.com/google-ads/answer/6167118?hl=en-GB
- Keyword Shitter – https://keywordshitter.com/
- Google Ads PPC Strategy Guide by Bowler Hat
- Making Websites Win – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Making-Websites-Win-Customer-Centric-Methodology/dp/1544500513
- The Invisible Gorilla Experiment