Welcome back to the Digital Marketing 101 series! This series is intended to help small businesses who handle their marketing in-house or for those wanting to brush up on their knowledge when speaking to marketing vendors.
Digital Marketing is categorized into overarching channels such as Display, Video, Social, Email, Mobile, Native, Paid Search and Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
In this post, we will cover the shortcut answer to the ever-so-important question: How can customers find me?
Just Google it
In today’s world, we have more information at our fingertips than any generation before us. Anything you want to know is a simple click (and now voice search) away. Questions we ask search engines are called queries or search terms, and the list of resulting links is called the search engine results page (SERP).
The biggest player in this space, by a long shot, is Google. (If you’ve not used Google in one way or another in the past, you’re doing the Internet wrong!) The next runner up is Bing, followed by Yahoo, Baidu, Ask, AOL and DuckDuckGo. I know, right? Ask Jeeves and AOL are still around!
For the sake of keeping things simple, we’ll focus on the 800-pound gorilla in the room: Google.
Organic vs. Paid
Overall, search is broken out into two main categories: organic and paid.
Organic results contain the information and links that search engines’ ever-changing algorithms find the most relevant. There are typically 10 organic listings per SERP, and very few people view results past the first page. Clicks on these links result in free web traffic.
The method in which marketers optimize their website to be more easily found by search engines is called SEO – search engine optimization. (We’ll cover SEO in a separate post.)
It didn’t take long though, for most search engines to monetize their platforms, and thus paid search was born. Paid search results are shown at the top, bottom and/or the right side of the SERP. (Google stopped showing right-side ads in 2016.) The top listings are shown above relevant organic results, essentially cutting to the front of the line.
Advertisers only pay when the ad is clicked, versus using the cost-per-thousand impressions model (CPM). Search was one of the first to use the pay-per-click model, which is why some old-school marketers still refer to paid search as PPC, even though you can purchase other channels such as social media and display ads via a pay-per-click model. Paid search is now more modernly referred to as Search Engine Marketing (SEM).
What is Google Ads?
Google Ads (formerly Google Adwords) is a digital advertising platform allowing businesses to place ads on Google and its advertising network. There is no minimum spend commitment, though if you use an agency's services, they may require one.
Anyone with a valid credit card can sign up for an account and run advertising on Google, but it is highly recommended to become Google Ads certified through the Google Partners program before doing so, or work with someone who is. A simple mistake could easily max out your company credit card in a matter of days.
Getting Set-up in Google Ads
Google Ads works with the following hierarchy:
Your account can have multiple campaigns. Vital aspects are defined at the campaign level such as campaign type (Search Network), ad schedule, budget and your targeted location(s).
TIP: If you decide to bid on your brand name, I recommend creating a separate campaign so you can easily control how much of your budget is allocated towards brand clicks. Otherwise your advertising budget could easily be eaten up by these clicks you were likely already to win.
Google Ads uses a daily budget instead of an over-all campaign budget. This is the average amount you’d like to spend per day, but it can spend up to 2 times your daily budget on any single day. This overdelivery is then corrected by capping the campaign spend at a lower amount on other days to bring your average back down.
Each campaign should have multiple ad groups. Ad groups contain one or more ads that share a set of keywords. Keywords are certain words or phrases that describe your product or service that you want to trigger your ad(s) to show. Google recommends 5 to 20 keywords per ad group.
Advertisers are able to set their default bid at the ad group level, but can also assign the maximum dollar amount they’re willing to pay-per-click – their maximum CPC bid for each individual keyword.
TIP: If possible, determine how much profit you earn per conversion and use this knowledge when setting your max CPC. You obviously don’t want to pay $10 per click for an item that costs $10 or you’ll end up in the red.
Jones’ BMX Bike Shop (Account)
Bikes (Campaign) - $25 default max bid
BMX Bikes (Ad Group)
BMX Ad 1, BMX Ad 2, BMX Ad 3
Race Bikes (Ad Group)
(Race Bike Keywords)
Race Ad 1, Race Ad 2
Clothing (Campaign) - $2 default max bid
Shoes (Ad Group)
Shoe Ad 1
Shirts (Ad Group)
Shirt Ad 1, Shirt Ad 2, Shirt Ad 3
Gear (Campaign) - $5 default max bid
Helmets (Ad Group)
Helmet Ad 1, Helmet Ad 2
Protective Gear (Ad Group)
Elbow Pads Ad 1, Knee Pads Ad 1
In the example, Jones’ BMX Bike Shop has three campaigns: Bikes, Clothing & Gear. The advertiser can set their daily budget and location targeting for the Bikes Campaign independent of the other campaigns, because most people purchase bikes in-store. The advertiser can set an increased daily budget and a much wider targeting area for the Clothing Campaign, since most of their clothing is sold and shipped via his online store.
They can also have a default max bid that is much higher for the Bikes Campaign, since the profit margin is much higher on bicycles versus clothing or protective gear. If the advertiser has one particular brand that is more expensive, they can drill down to the keywords that are specific to this brand and manually increase the bid for these keywords.
Going Once, Going Twice, Sold!
Each time someone performs a Google search, an auction takes place to determine which advertisers will display their ads.
There are two main factors that Google takes into account during this auction. The advertisers’ bids, and their Quality Score. Google defines Quality Score as “an estimate of the quality of your ads, keywords, and landing pages. Higher quality ads can lead to lower prices and better ad positions.”
After Google determines which ads will show during the ad auction, it uses Ad Rank to determine which order to show the ads. Ad Rank is a score based on bid, expected click rate, the ad's relevance, the expected impact of ad extensions and the landing page experience.
It is possible for highly relevant ads to show in higher positions than less relevant ads, even though the less relevant ads had much higher bids during the ad auction. Higher quality ads typically result in better ad positions, higher click rates and lower cost-per-click (CPC).
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Got a match?
A typical mistake that new-to-search marketers make is not paying attention to keyword match types. Keyword match types help marketers control which Google searches trigger your ads.
Google Ads defaults to broad match, which has the widest audience possible for that keyword. It includes misspellings, synonyms and variations. With broad match ads the keyword (BMX bike) could be shown for the searches “buy BMX bike,” “BMX X-Box racing games,” “freestyle BMX bike,” “20” Mongoose BMX bike,” “BMX bicycle reviews” and “bike frame repair.”
You can gain a little more control on broad match using modified broad match keywords. These keywords are designated with a plus-sign (“+”) in front of the keyword, and these keywords, or close variations, MUST appear in the search. The keyword (+race +BMX) could show ads for searches like “buy racing BMX bike online,” “Conner Fields BMX race schedule,” “blue BMX race shirt” and “BMX racing tires.”
TIP: Google defaults to broad match, but it’s best to start with more specific keyword match types. Consider adding broad match when it makes sense.
Negative keywords are simply keywords you do not want to trigger your ads. Negative keywords have a minus symbol (“-“) before the keyword.
If you’re selling BMX bikes, your negative keyword list would probably include (-schedule, -game, -games, -videos, etc.). If you don’t carry Mongoose brand, you could use it as a negative keyword to keep your ads as relevant as possible - or don’t - with the hopes the searcher may be persuaded to buy your brand instead.
If you don’t offer repair services, use (-repair) as a negative keyword. If you don’t sell clothes, add (-shirt, -pants, -hats). You get the idea.
TIP: Negative keywords are an ABSOLUTE NECESSITY. If you don’t use negative keywords you are most definitely wasting advertising dollars. Spend some time developing some comprehensive negative keyword lists. Create one that covers your entire site and apply that to your account. Then apply more specific negative keyword lists to each campaign/ad group.
Phrase match narrows your audience down significantly. Phrase match keywords are designated with quotation marks and only show ads when the query matches the keyword phrase - or close variations - with words appended to the front or end of the phrase.
So the keyword (“buy BMX helmet”) can only trigger for searches like “buy BMX helmet online” or “buy BMX helmet near me.” It will not show for searches with words added in the middle of the phrase like “buy black BMX helmet.”
Exact match is as specific as it gets with keyword targeting. Exact match will only trigger ads for searches that match the exact term or close variation of that term and are designated by brackets. Close variations can include reordering of the words as long as the meaning isn’t changed. The keyword ([buy BMX racing bike]) can trigger ads for searches like “buy a BMX racing bike” or “purchase BMX race bike.”
It’s best to continually look at your reporting to see what search queries are triggering your ads and evolve your keyword lists over time.
TIP: The majority of clicks come from short, broad keywords which result in high traffic but don’t produce conversions (tracked actions completed on your website such as a purchase, form submission or email sign-up). Often, longer, more detailed keywords called long-tail keywords show a person is much closer to conversion.
For example, someone searching for “BMX bike” may be higher in the funnel and just starting to research what kind of bike they want. Someone searching “2018 20.25 Stolen Casino bike blue” is more likely ready to buy.
Search ads are most often text ads, but you can also create call-only ads. Text ads have the following components with character limits:
Headline 1 (30 characters)
Headline 2 (30 characters)
Description (80 characters)
Ad copy should be as relevant as possible to the search terms used, so make sure you have several ad groups and they make sense. If you sell clothing, have an ad group for each type of clothing so that ads can be relevant such as this one for t-shirts:
Google Ads has features called ad extensions that allow additional information to be shown with your ads such as call buttons, location information and website links. The increased visibility can greatly increase your ad's click-through-rate, and there is no additional cost to use ad extensions. It selects which extensions to show and when, so take advantage of as many different extensions as possible.
Google is amazing when it comes to providing free resources to learn about their products. Their Guide to Google Ads goes over account basics and setting up your first campaign, as well as best practices.
Google also has extensive communities - such as the Google Advertiser Community - that you can post questions to and usually get an answer the same day. You can also search through past answered posts and often find your answer without needing to post a new question.
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