This is just not another checklist of how to setup Google Ads. There's plenty of guides to help you with that 🙂 - This checklist is for marketers & founders who may have a reasonable level of Google Ads experience. If you're a Google Ads expert, then you may get some value but probably not, you should be all over these items ;)
Before you run campaigns or if you're running campaigns, you need to make sure + verify that your conversion tags are firing properly. It's not hard to setup however often I've seen conversion tags nor firing properly which hurts your analytics reporting and campaigns optimisation.
How do you verify? Install the Google Tag assistant chrome extension, then open the "thank you" page or whatever page you're tracking that is a "success" after a desired action and then check the tag assistant. You should see "Adwords Conversion Tracking" firing correctly in blue. If it happens to be in red, then that means there is an issue.
Where are you currently tracking your conversions? Which pages, buttons + calls? There's a few things you can track across your site. Make sure you properly define them.
You can also track multiple conversion actions for the same desired conversion. For example, a form submission (i.e. button click, thank you page, etc).
Here's a really good video on conversion tracking and Google Ads.
Syncing up your Google Ads + Google Analytics accounts is pretty easy, yet I've come across a few companies I've helped recently running decent budgets per month without syncing them together. I find this crazy.
Having these two accounts linked together is important as Google Ads is limited in terms of reporting once someone lands onto the website and you want to track their behaviour flow.
- Which keywords/campaigns provide better pages/session?
- Which keywords/campaigns provide longer session times?
- Which keywords/campaigns blog social shares?
You get my drift. Having this installed is important to explore further into website user behaviour.
In relation to the above, it's important to be across the user behaviour flow of Google Ads campaigns + any other external paid media activities you're currently running.
However, have you got everything working properly? Are all your tags firing? It's important to have all tags + key user behaviour tags firing to get an in-depth understanding of how to improve CRO + UX of your site.
You don't have to do this if you don't want to or lack time/resources, but I certainly think it helps to track the primary buttons across the site. Then, you can view with Google Analytics (or your desired analytics tool) to do advanced behaviour flows. It's best to do this if you at least have 3,000+ monthly visitors. Really good for insights + improvements you can make in UX + CRO.
Related reading: Installing button tracking via GTM
It's similar to a couple of points I've already touched on, but do you have use analytics platforms on top your website analytics that helps you track your analytics from all sources coming to your site and then signing up into your application/system? Having a clear picture + understanding end-to-end from campaigns you're running, interaction on your site, goals + then onboarding flow process of users can really help make better growth/marketing decisions. Great to quickly see gaps + opportunities. Of course, easier said than done to get this all setup, however, it's worth the investment + time to get it right.
Before running any campaign you need to have a strategy in place.
- Have you broken down each stage of the funnel and where ads will be running?
- Which keywords are you wanting to show your ads? What's the avg. CPC + Competition?
- What's the overall messaging of your campaign?
- What's the landing page (s) experience like?
What type of campaign do you want to run to help with your objective? You've got campaign types such as:
- Competitor (e.g. vs. landing pages)
- Shopping campaigns (branded + non-branded)
There's a lot of options
There's a lot of options in terms of which types of campaigns you run and how you go about your strategy. I recommend reading some of these articles below to help.
Not only is it important to know your customer inside and out in terms of their characteristics + traits, but how do they behave online? This is why you need to do in-depth keyword research into what they're looking for.
I recommend using tools such as SEMRush and Google Keyword Planner to find the top keywords in terms of search volume + CPC's. On top of that, using the likes of SEMRush or something similar, see what keywords your competition is ranking for + their organic traffic. Work out if you can bid on some terms to help you get noticed.
In relation to the above, use an advanced tool to help you "spy" on what types of ads your competitors are running. I recommend using either SEMRush or Spyfu. Check their text + display ads and reverse-engineer their strategy.
- What's their creative?
- What are their main headlines?
- What landing pages are they using?
- What offer/incentive do they have?
- What keywords are they bidding on?
The list of things to look into goes on.
To help you formulate your Google Ads strategy + campaigns, what data is helping you inform these decisions? External research into keyword volumes + competitors is important, but what you have currently is also vital to help inform you what's currently working + what's not.
Understanding your customer journey/user behaviour across your site will help you identify your gaps. Not only that, you need to analyse how users interact with important pages/landing pages. Using the likes of heatmap tools like Hotjar and installing scroll-tracking via Google Analytics can really help.
Within Google Ads you have the option of choosing "Optimise" or "rotate indefinitely". Most of the time for those who run Google Ads choose "Optimise" to let Google decide which ads contribute to a desired goal such as conversions/sales.
Having said that, experienced advertisers in the article below discuss the difference between the two. I've had experience with both and can say it comes down to a variety of factors to take into account such as budget, keyword volume, keyword match types, competition, etc. Some of the comments after the article are good to skim over.
Ads Scheduling is a useful feature for your campaigns + ads depending on your product/service. Within the dimensions tabs within the ads account, see which times/days provide the best performance. To be honest I don't do much ad scheduling myself, nor have I seen with many Tech/SaaS startups I've worked with, but if you're a small business with conservative budget, then it's certainly worth looking into.
For example for any small business owners reading this, if you run a cafe and know you're busy on the weekends, consider running ads from Thursday - Sunday (Thurs/Fri have ads running to serve those researching where to go on the weekend).
For me personally, I don't usually select "Search Network" + "Display Network" expansions when running search-based campaigns. I prefer to segment my campaigns separately. I have tested this before and got mixed results and just prefer to split these campaigns apart.
Having said that, if you're wanting to increase your awareness/Top of the funnel, then it's worth testing for one of your campaigns (although not my personal recommendation/preference). Good to test if you want to "aggressive" in terms of impressions/reach for a short term campaign.
Keyword insertion is an advanced feature and typically for those who are experienced running PPC campaigns. It's awesome as it means you can run even more targeted messaging based on the search query for users and achieve higher CTR's and ultimately increase your chances of conversions.
It's particularly important to use this functionality if you're an eCommerce store or business with lots of inventory of the same/similar products & items. Rather than just creating lots of ads groups with generic ads, creating keyword insertion ads saves a lot of time.
What keyword match types are you using in your campaigns? How have you structured your campaigns/ad groups for these various match types? These are the various match types below;
- Broad Match
- Phrase Match
- Exact Match
(Image credit: Google Ads Help Guide)
How you structure campaigns is up to strategy, budget, competition & ultimately your objective.
I recommend seeing the next point below as a good resource, and also heading to YouTube to watch more in-depth guides/tutorials on how to properly structure your Google Ads acc - or it's worth getting in touch with a growth marketing consultant or specialised ads consultant to help you out.
Negative keywords is what will help you achieve profitable campaigns. The last thing you want is to be receiving clicks based on search terms/queries which aren't relevant to your product/service. Of course, when running broader-based campaigns, you're going to get clicks based on non-relevant searches, but you have to act fast to prevent inefficient spend.
Before you run campaigns, you should create a negative keywords list and upload to each campaign. Then overtime as your campaign runs, add to this list to prevent ads showing on non-relevant/less desirable keywords.
Check this ultimate guide below on negative keywords by the team at Semrush. It also includes some thoughts on how to properly structure accounts, campaigns and keyword groupings.
What's your current split between keyword groupings? In other words, how are you deciding how keywords are split across campaigns that you can make better optimisations over time? Here's 4 things to do to get better keyword groupings;
- Do your keyword research (e.g. "Order pizza online")
- Create high-level keyword groups (e.g. "order pizza Sydney", "Italian food delivery", "free pizza delivery").
- Then, create sub groups of more specific keyword groupings (e.g. the keyword grouping "pizza delivery" then may consist of "free pepperoni pizza delivery", etc).
- Finally, iron out these sub groups until you narrow down keywords that bring in desired results
Revisit your groupings strategy and see how you can improve your structure.
Everyone in the PPC world has different opinions on this, but I have to say for quite a few companies I've worked with, we've had great success with Single Keyword Ads Groups (SKAGs). Where I work right now (we're in the B2B space), we have a focused SKAGs approach which is working wonders. I would say eventually we may have some challenges when scaling the account but at the moment, it's working effectively.
A key detail is I am working on a limited budget and a focused location. If I had harder KPI's to scale an account faster, then SKAGs most likely wouldn't be the best approach.
SKAGS are good for a few reasons - Improved CTR's, budget control, improved average positions, better analytics on traffic, cheaper CPC's (usually) which then ultimately leads to more conversions and improved conversion rates.
Keyword conflicts simply means when your ads are blocked for a certain keyword you want to rank for due to a negative keyword. For example, you want to run an ad for the keyword "Beautiful brown watches", yet have "-brown" in a negative list, then this will not show the ad.
Related reading: This article here explains the process of finding keyword conflicts and why they happen.
It's hard to run accounts that has 100% no duplicates if you're dealing with larger accounts with lots of keywords, bigger budgets and potentially various managers. In some cases it's okay to have duplicates, such as breaking out campaigns/ad groups specific by location.
To diagnose + remove duplicates, then you can do this easily through the Google Ads editor or search for potential duplicates via the web interface.
In my opinion Broad Match makes sense for a few reasons including customer match, remarketing lists, you're a huge brand wanting to increase reach within your market or that you're going after a specific niche that has many keywords with overall low keyword volume.
If you are using Broad Match for whatever reason, I'd recommend start with manual bidding at first to control spending and increase as required + bit of work around adding negative keyword match types so your Broad Match campaigns aren't restricted. Also check analytics regularly.
This is a no-brainer point to make, but more so on how we can improve relevancy based on the search queries. This of course comes down to the industry you're in. Ensure per ad group with relevant keywords, have dedicated landing pages with relevant messaging, copy + CTA's which make sense. It's worth creating multiple landing pages with similar design/structure and having more personalised/focused messaging.
No matter how clear you may think your CTA or offer is, make sure to share with your team or get feedback from other marketers/peers in your network. What can you improve? Check my list of landing page CRO optimisations you can make :)
Again, speaks for itself. Ensure to setup your keyword groupings to align with the messaging of your display creative. Improves CTR's + CPC's and ultimately improve conversions + other desired actions.
When it comes to your display campaigns, make sure your ads cover both the image + text placements available. The more real estate you can cover in terms of placements will help increase your distribution.
Related reading: Ultimate guide to Google Ads display dimensions
If you're not using as many available sitelinks as possible within your campaigns which make sense, you're missing out on improved results. Why are sitelinks great? Here are four reasons:
- Help increase CTR's
- Increase presence on the SERP
- Increase conversion rates
- More real-estate (easier for users to have options)
+ more benefits (read article below)
What sitelink extensions can you create or which ones are missing from your campaigns?
- Callout extensions
- Structured snippets
- Call extensions
- Lead form extensions (in Beta as I write this in December 2020)
- Location extension
- Price Extension
- Affiliate Extension
- App extension
- Promotion Extension
There are also Automated Extensions available where Google creates these sitelinks to help improve performance.
Most campaigns have better results with an offer compared to standard conversion-focused campaigns (at least in my experience anyway). If you have an offer, make use of the "Promotions" extension. Looks good + stands out within ads I've seen before. Would definitely see an uplift in CTR's I'm sure.
This is definitely important if you're in B2B or a service-focused industry. I currently head up marketing for a B2B company and these extensions in our ads account have helped a lot. Very easy to setup.
Cross-check and make sure all your ads across the account sitelink extensions on + are relevant. Remove/edit/add sitelink extensions as required across your ads for optimisation + improvement in results.
You don't want to have non-relevant descriptions for your ads campaigns. Make sure to go through each of your sitelink extensions and check current descriptions. Try and use as much of the max. character space as possible to ensure you make most of the available real estate.
This is self-explanatory. You want to make sure you're targeting the correct areas where your customers are. However, how are you structuring your campaigns to see which locations perform best? This doesn't apply to everyone of course, but it's another thing worth testing. Even if in the same country, different markets/locations can resonate differently.
There's some really valuable insights you can learn from your demographic reports which can have a "flow-on" effect on your overall marketing strategy. By checking age, gender, income + parental status (and combinations). What do your stats say? How can you improve your ads or website copy, messaging + CTA's?
Which placements are your ads showing on? Make sure to optimise the placements of where your ads are showing.
What's super cool? You can pick which websites you want your display ads to be showing. Yep, it can be this targeted :)
Make sure to exclude industries/sites which aren't relevant. From experience I've seen accounts wasting budget on weird placements such as apps + games and it's just wasting budget. Definitely exclude anything not relevant and be more efficient with spend :)
An important metric to keep an eye on throughout your campaigns is your quality score. There are 3 factors that determine your quality scores.
- Ad relevance
- Landing page experience
- Click through rate
When you increase your quality score, it helps your ads get served more often with position increases and decreased CPC's. Many times even the smallest headline, descriptions and sitelinks can help improve quality scores. Where it can get hard is making landing page changes. However from experience, having a good quality score does help drive good campaign performance.
The aim is not to get 100% optimisation scores. Sometimes it just doesn't happen and that's okay. Having said that, any reasons/tips provided by Google within optimisations scores can help improve the ads. The tips/reasons do lack context sometimes, but it's still good to check to see if improvements can be made.
All the above when tweaked and improved help improve the optimisation score. Whilst 100% may not apply for you, it's a good benchmark to keep in mind to strive for the best optimised funnel, campaigns running + account as possible.
When it comes to Google Ads performance (or any paid performance channel - in fact I talk about this also in my Facebook Ads Checklist), you need to take into account + prepare for seasonal/external periods, whether you think it directly impacts your product/service or not. Especially this year in 2024, it's been one of the busiest quarters with a lot more advertisers online and have certainly noticed eCPMs increase.
This period also presents itself a big opportunity for lots of businesses online with these key sales period/holidays which makes it a fun + challenging time for advertisers to make the most of their budget + maximise ROAS. With good campaign planning, you should do well.
What does the auction mean? In its simplest form, it's the process Google undertakes in the background to decide which ads they show and in what order for keywords. There's a lot of factors that are taken into account.
Check out this amazing infographic by the team at Wordstream.
Definitely make sure to check out the infographic. Having an appreciation of how this works helps place emphasis on optimising across ads copy, landing page, keyword, budget, etc. It becomes more important to understand with competitive categories and CPC costs for highly competitive terms.
Related resource: Fantastic guide on competition difficulty
Now there's a few bidding options you have at your disposal depending on your campaign objectives. . All of them have their place but comes down to the stage of the funnel, your type of business (eCommerce, lead gen, etc) + goals.
Which bidding strategies are you using for your campaigns?
Here's a great guide that has this awesome table by Optmyzer which highlights the various bid strategies/adjustments depending on the strategy type/objective.
(Image credit: Optmyzer)
If you're experienced with Google Ads you would have used bid adjustments before. For those who are new, with Advanced Bid Adjustments, you can choose how more/less frequent you want your ads to show whether that be for location, scheduling, devices, calls, top content, demographics + remarketing lists for search ads. This functionality helps you wanting to do more or less for campaigns based on whatever your performance analytics displays and your target objective.
Custom columns are great to see the full view of how your campaigns are performing from impressions to conversions. I'm a numbers guy and when it comes to paid performance, there's a lot more in the process from initial click to purchase. Having the ability in one view to see metrics such as Avg. CPC, Avg. CPM, CTR, Avg. Pos, Clicks, impressions, invalid clicks, invalid click rate, etc makes it easier to make required optimisations fast.
In relation to the above, keeping an eye on more than purely CPC & conversions will help you make optimisations faster. Use Custom columns to help you setup a holistic view of all the metrics of campaigns in one easy dashboard :)
Outside of the Ads interface and using custom columns, do you use a dashboard solution to view how Google Ads (or any other source/medium) contribute to conversions/leads? How do they interact with the site? Which page (s) did they visit?
I personally love using Google Data Studio or Databox to help setup key views for paid campaigns to conversions whilst seeing user behaviour. In addition I like using Google Analytics behaviour flow to see key pages from campaigns.
Bonus resource: Here are some awesome reporting tools & dashboard platforms I like.
With "Assisted Conversions", you can see which channels helped contribute or were interacted with to make a conversion happen, other than the final click. Understanding assisted conversions and what was involved to help contribute to a conversion is great for marketers & startups. It helps make better decisions + conversations around resources for other channels.
As we know as marketers/founders, we know runnings campaigns such as Google Ads or any other marketing initiative can't be treated as linear. There are multiple factors that contribute to conversions, especially channels. "Top Conversion Paths" helps dissect which channel user's visited + how they interacted with your channels & website before converting. As a simple example, they found your article/blog post, then came back to the site 4 days later through a display campaign and decided to make a purchase.
Unless your a PPC manager who's across ads accounts all day, then it's hard to track what tests you're running, if you don't track your ideas and experiments. Ensure to do this through your own convention system within the ads account. Or what helps me is creating a sheet or excel spreadsheet to track my tests. It does make it easier when you add it to a sheet :)