In the context of a comprehensive marketing strategy, Google AdWords is just one tiny piece of a very big puzzle. But for small and medium sized businesses, it’s a great tool that can be used to not only find new customers, but also convert a higher number of sales leads.

For those of you that may be a bit new to the world of pay-per-click advertising (PPC), here’s a step-by-step guide to setting up your first successful campaign with Google AdWords.

Step #1: Choose appropriate campaign settings

To start showing ads to your target audience, you need to set up appropriate campaign goals inside AdWords. There are three primary goals you can select for a search campaign: sales, leads or website traffic. These goals are the foundation of your campaign, which means it’s important you choose correctly at the start. Much like a house built on unsteady ground, it’s not going to matter how great your ads are if your campaign is unsteady in its targeting or spend – it will ultimately fail in the end. Which brings us to the beginning of your AdWords implementation!

Identify the type of campaign

Which objective you choose depends entirely on your marketing goals and which customers you want to target. Are you launching a new product to market? A brand awareness campaign focused on earning ad impressions is likely to best suit your objectives.

Perhaps you want to get more customers through the door? In that case, a lead generation campaign designed to obtain a high quantity of customer conversions will be the best use of your time and budget.

This is entirely dependent on your business goals and marketing objectives, so it’s important to sit down and set some SMART goals before going any further.

Select geographic targeting

Ask yourself: where does your ideal customer live? There’s no point targeting all 7.6 billion people in the world if you’re running a humble bricks-and-mortar shop in regional Queensland.

By using the geographical targeting features, you can narrow your customers down to specific suburbs in your area and specify that ads are only to be served to them, which makes your ads much more convenient and relevant to user queries.

Define your bid strategy and daily budget

Now it’s time to decide how much you want to spend on your advertising campaign. But before you do this, you need to specify how you want to pay for your advertising. The vast majority of campaigns run off of a cost-per-click (CPC) basis – which is pretty self-explanatory. You only pay when someone actually clicks your ad. When you’re running a brand-new campaign or are only just getting used to Google AdWords, we typically recommend using the automated “Maximise Clicks” bidding strategy.

It’s impossible to say exactly how much you “should” be spending on AdWords – but, as a general rule of thumb – we recommend starting with a daily budget of at least $3.29 to test the waters and see how your campaign is performing. This nets you $100 for the first month, which pulls in enough data for you to determine which ads or keywords are working and which are not. After this initial test period you can really up the ante and start investing a reasonable amount of cash, without fear of wasting it on a poorly optimised campaign. Which brings us to our next point…

Step #2: Create targeted ads

According to a 2016 report, 71% of consumers prefer to see ads personalised to their interests and shopping habits. Advertising gets a bad wrap sometimes because when executed poorly it negatively affects a user’s online experience. It’s not that consumers don’t want to see advertising – they do – and the research shows it. They just don’t want to see irrelevant or invasive advertising.

To ensure you don’t become “that guy” in the advertising world, it’s important to organise your account appropriately to ensure your ads are only going to people that want to see them.

Setup ad groups

One step down from the campaign-level management are your ad groups. This is where you host all of your unique ads, keywords, ad extensions and exclusions – which is where you start getting specific with your targeting. There’s only one important thing to keep in mind when setting up your ad groups, and it’s that you should…

Categorise by theme

Keeping all your ads together in one place and ensuring you recognise subtle differences in a user’s search query is important to the overall success of your campaign.

If you’re selling shoes, don’t just create an ad group called “shoes”. Dive a little deeper and get more granular with your set up and targeting. Segregate your product range into different brands or even different colours of shoes – creating ad groups for “black shoes” and “brown shoes”, as opposed to housing all of your ads and keywords under the one parent.

Write compelling ad copy

Text ads are one of the most popular choices for advertising on the Google network – particularly for those new to the program. They’re simple, to the point and appear directly on top of the organic search results. While paid advertising can be fantastic, about 30% of all traffic goes to the first “organic” result in Google, and only 15% trends towards paid ads at the top of the page. So in order to make the most of your ad placement, you need to write compelling copy that’s going to intrigue someone enough to click and then possibly convert.

Include a call-to-action

The absence of a clear call-to-action is one of the most common mistakes even the most experienced digital advertisers make. Remove all doubt from the consumers mind and tell them exactly what you want them to do. Not only does this make your ad clear and concise, a single call-to-action can also increase your click-through-rate by up to 371%.

Step #3: Select specific keywords

As we explained above, the best way to structure your AdWords account is to set up your campaigns by category, and then segregate your ad groups by product type (i.e. ‘Shoes Campaign’ –> ‘Blue Shoes Ad Group’). This is the part where you get even more specific and start to add the exact keywords you want your ad to be appearing for (keeping in mind that your ad and landing page must be relevant to these keywords).

Define the keywords your customers are using to find you online

Get in the mind of your consumer, spend a day in their shoes and think about the problems they’re facing. What would you search if you were searching for a solution to that problem? How well does your product solve the problem for your customers? By answering these questions, you can start to get a good idea of what keywords you should and should not be targeting, depending on the type of product or service you’re offering to the market.

Once you’ve reached this point, it’s time to expand your list of keywords by conducting proper keyword research. Look at your competitor websites – what keywords are they using? What keywords are they not using? What does their messaging look like? All of this information can be used to expand your list of keywords and offer more highly relevant and targeted ads to your desired customers.

There are a great range of tools that help you with keyword research too. Some of our favourites include LSIGraph, which is a very simplistic yet powerful Latent Semantic Indexing Keyword generator (basically: synonym generator) that gives you related topics to your keywords.

Adwords even has it’s own keyword research tool that you can use to find more keywords that are relevant to your campaign. If you’re really excited and want to dive down the rabbit hole, you can even look at this fantastic beginner guide to keyword research to get started.

Define the keywords you don’t want your brand associated with

Now that the hard part is out of the way, it’s important to add keywords you don’t want your brand to be associated with too. Often, this is a pretty straight forward process of listing a variety of foul or creative language that you wouldn’t want to see in the same sentence as your product or business.

Depending on your product, we also suggest adding low-quality or low-value keywords like “cheap”, “discount” and “free”, as people using these terms are very unlikely to convert and make a purchase.

Step #4: Monitor your performance

Analytics is debatably the most important aspect of digital marketing. No other platform in the world allows you to track a customer’s movements quite like Google can. That’s why, before you push everything live and hit the “go” button, you need to have appropriate monitoring in place, so you can collect, analyse and act on the results coming from your advertising campaigns.

Implement necessary tracking

The two biggest pieces of tracking you need to have linked to your website are:

  • Google Analytics, and;
  • Google AdWords.

Once the tracking codes have been added to your website, we suggest linking these two services together so you can cross reference data and get a better understanding of your customers journey after they land on your webpage. You can learn how to set these up properly for here for Adwords and here for Analytics.

Schedule regular reports

Regularly checking in on your ads to gauge performance, make adjustments to industry trends and constantly staying up to date is the best way to get the most out of your ad spend. To set up your reports, you first need to determine what account level you’re most interested in campaign, ad groups, ads or keywords.

You can mix and match a lot of these categories in your reporting, but for a general broad-level overview we recommended setting up automated reports for the ad-group level.

Starting out online can be tough – for many it’s a world full of uncertainty. But once you find your rhythm and actually get the ball rolling, you’ll find the customisation and reporting an absolute god-send compared to many traditional methods.

Need help with your AdWords account? We have a team of certified specialists on-hand ready to give expert advice at a moment’s notice. Simply get in touch to find out more.