Google Ads is one of the most essential tools for marketers today. We’ve put together this complete guide to help you launch your first Google Ads campaign. 

Here, you’ll find: 

  • An overview of Google Ads and its benefits
  • The types of Google Ads campaigns and their differences
  • The process for setting up a campaign in Google Ads
  • Google Ads best practices to keep in mind

Do you remember where you were on September 4, 1998?

Probably not. But it’s a day that changed the world forever. 

It’s the day Google was founded. 

Fast-forward to the present, when Google is one of the most well-known websites in the world. Google accounts for more than 70% of all online search requests and has become part of our daily vocabulary. 

Its massive search volume is just one reason why marketers are so attracted to the Google Ads platform. 

Google Ads (formerly Google AdWords) offers the chance to get your ad in front of billions of eyes without breaking the bank. 

This guide will cover all the basics of the platform, the different types of Google Ads campaigns, and best practices to help you achieve the maximum return on investment (ROI). 

What is a Google Ads campaign? 

Google Ads is a pay-per-click (PPC) advertising platform that allows brands to appear across the Google network — most notably the Google Search network, where advertisers bid to appear at the top of the search engine results page (SERP) based keywords their target audience searches for. 

HawkSEM: SERP features - ads

Google Ads in search results about internet companies. (via Google)

Within your Google Ads campaign, you can create customized ads for both desktop and mobile, showing up right when your most promising potential customers are looking for you. 

Google Ads also offers comprehensive reporting to help you analyze and improve and optimize your ads for future campaigns. 

Who should set up a Google Ads campaign? 

It might seem obvious that everyone should set up a Google Ads campaign, but that’s not necessarily true. Businesses tend to fall into two categories: those who are ready to dive into Google Ads and those who should hold off (for now). 

It’s true that Google Ads is effective for the vast majority of businesses. The audience is nearly unlimited, Google Ads campaigns are flexible, and the platform is simple to use. So if your business has an online presence, it’s not a bad idea to consider a Google Ads account. 

With that said, there are some cases when it might be best to wait to launch your first campaign. 

If your company is brand-new and doesn’t have a thorough business model yet, tackle that before launching a Google Ads campaign. You’ll be better equipped to understand your goals and tailor your campaigns for maximum ROI. 

Startup Business People and Strategy Board Presentation Workshop

If your company is brand-new and doesn’t have a thorough business model yet, tackle that before launching a Google Ads campaign.

Beyond that, consider your budget. 

There is space to see results from Google Ads on a limited budget; however, to see returns that justify the time and money you’re spending on your ad campaign, you’ll want to invest a fair chunk of money. For your initial bidding strategy, Google recommends beginners budget $10 to $50 per day, which comes out to around $300 to $1500 per month.  

How do Google Ads campaigns work? 

Your Google Ads campaign will contain a collection of ads organized into ad groups. And remember, these ads will be connected to keywords. Once you’ve set up your campaign and specified a budget, it’s time to let the ads run to collect initial data. 

When a user searches for a keyword that you’re trying to target, Google will launch an ad auction. Advertisers will bid on the word or phrase in question, and the winning bidders will find their ads at the top of the Google search results page (or on other websites, depending on the specific campaign type). 

If you know you’re starting with a low budget, don’t worry. Google considers more than money when deciding who wins an ad auction. 

Google uses a Quality Score, along with your bid amount, to determine your Ad Rank. Your Ad Rank defines where your ads will be placed. Even if your budget is low, you can get excellent ad placements with a high Quality Score. 

hawksem article: google ads updates

Advertisers bid on the word or phrase in question, and the winning bidders will find their ads at the top of the Google search results page. (Image: Rawpixel)

Your Quality Score considers how relevant and high-quality your ad and landing page are. Google looks at factors like your click-through rate (CTR), keyword relevance, and user experience on your landing page. In short, the more relevant and useful your ad is to your audience, the higher your Quality Score will be. 

What are the different campaign types?

Google offers quite a bit of personalization when it comes to creating your campaign. There are nine campaign types to choose from: 

    • Search: Your typical Google Ad, this option lets you create text ads that are effective at driving sales and leads.  
    • Display: Display ads include both text and visual elements that stick in readers’ minds and are visually engaging. Ads appear on the Google Display Network and can reach across 35 million websites and apps! 
    • Video: Video ad campaigns are displayed on YouTube and other video-based websites, helping to boost overall brand awareness.
    • App: Use this ad type to increase sales within your app and to drive installs from new users. 
    • Local: These ads are targeted at local customers to drive business to your brick-and-mortar business location.
    • Smart: Smart campaigns let you enter some basic information and a few ads while Google takes care of optimization and targeting. 
    • Shopping: Shopping ads display images and links to your product inventory with detailed and engaging listings.  
    • Performance Max: The newest type of Google Ad campaign, Performance Max, automatically optimizes your campaign based on your specific conversion goals.
    • Discovery: This campaign type lets you create highly personalized ads that achieve a wide reach and engagement. 

How do you choose the right type of Google Ads campaign?

Over time, your business might dabble in all nine types of Google Ads campaigns. But how can you choose the one you should start with? 

Start by considering how much time you want to spend creating your ads and managing your campaigns.

Search campaigns are quick and easy to set up, and these text-only ads don’t take as long to create as an ad with more visual elements. Smart campaigns are great time-savers, too, since Google handles most of the hard work for you. Keep in mind, though, that the trade-off with spending less time managing a Smart Campaign is the lack of control over performance. 

HawkSEM display ad on ESPN website

Display Ad on ESPN website

If it’s important for your searcher to see images of your products in response to their search queries, then a Display campaign may be a good option. Display ads are visually engaging and memorable, encouraging viewers to take action now and into the future. On top of that, remarketing to past leads with Display ads is easy (and important), so you might find yourself using this campaign down the road if you’re not using it now. 

Video campaigns are great for expanding your reach, as they can appear on YouTube and other popular websites. The visual nature of video sticks in the minds of viewers and can help drive conversions more quickly than other campaign types. The caveat, though, is that you have to spend time making your videos.

If you have an app, an App campaign is an obvious choice. Your ad will be optimized across three million websites and apps, helping to spread the word about your company and drive installs and engagement. 

But Google Ads don’t have to just drive online traffic.

If you want to bring more customers into your brick-and-mortar location, run a Local campaign. You can advertise your online store and your in-store selections, promote events and sales, and provide key information like your business location and hours. Google Shopping campaigns can go hand in hand with Local campaigns if your business sells both online and in-store. 

If you’ve already toyed with Google Ads in the past and want to take the experience to the next level, consider Performance Max

A Performance Max campaign lets you access the entire Google Ads inventory in one campaign and use Google’s automation technologies to handle bidding, budgeting, creatives, and more. Due to the automated nature of Performance Max, it might seem like the ideal choice to stay more or less hands-off. 

Here’s the thing: You will need to invest more time into the creation of assets and campaign optimization than you might with other campaign types. Performance Max campaigns use Audience Signals to group audiences together and deliver the most relevant ads. Each time a new group is created, it will require new assets from you. Though it may be a bit time-consuming, it’s also wildly effective. 

How do you set up a Google Ads campaign?

Ready to take the leap and set up your first Google Ads campaign? We’ll help you get started with a quick step-by-step guide. 

A note first, though: Here, we’re discussing the process to set up a Search campaign. While much of the process is the same regardless of which campaign type you choose, there may be some differences if you select another campaign type.

1. First, head to to set up your account. 

After your account is up and running, you can create a new campaign and select a goal. Some options for your campaign goals include Sales, Leads, or Website Traffic.

2. Choose your campaign settings. 

You’ll be able to specify the audience you’re targeting, how you want your budget to be spent, and ad assets you want to include (like the ability to call your business or find your app directly from your ad).

3. After your settings are selected, you’ll create your ad groups. 

Let’s say you sell women’s apparel. You might have one ad group named “Jeans” where you target relevant keywords like “boot cut jeans,” “stretchy  jeans,” “high-waisted jeans,” and the like. Your next ad group might be called “Sweatpants” and contain ads targeting keywords like “lounge pants,” “comfy sweatpants,” and “elastic sweatpants.”

Ad groups help you separate your Google Ads campaigns based on the specific terms your audience is searching for. Your ad groups can be Standard (when you manually enter your keywords and create ads accordingly) or Dynamic (when Google crawls your website to target searches and create ads for you).

4. Now it’s time to create your ads! 

Keep your keywords in mind and utilize them in your headline and description. It’s best to create one or two responsive search ads for every ad group. 

Once your PPC ads are complete, you can select your daily budget. Google will recommend some options for you, but you can opt to set a custom budget if you prefer. 

And that’s it! Your ads should get approved within one business day and be live not long after. It’s not unheard of to start seeing results on the day your campaign launches, so don’t forget to keep an eye on your metrics through Google Analytics. 

What are some best practices for Google Ads Campaigns? 

Running your first campaign in Google Ads might seem intimidating, but these best practices can set you up for success.

1. Keywords 

When you’re performing keyword research, be specific. Keywords that are too broad will bring plenty of competition, which makes it harder for you to reach your target audience. Long-tail keywords (specific search phrases instead of simple one-word terms) often have less competition and bring better results. 

Match Types

Not all keywords are created equal. In addition to long- and short-tail keywords, you’ll also need to consider the match type of your keyword. Your main options are: 

  • Broad match: Ads can appear on searches related to your keyword, even if the exact keyword does not appear in the search. This option gives you the widest range of matches. 
  • Phrase match: Ads can appear on searches that are related to the meaning of your keyword, even if the phrase itself is different. 
  • Exact match: Ads will only appear on searches containing your exact keyword, offering the narrowest matches. 

When you’re deciding on your keywords, don’t forget about negative keywords! Negative keywords are words or phrases that, when entered by a user, will not trigger your ad. For instance, let’s say you sell designer shoes. You might opt for negative keywords like “sneakers,” “work boots,” or “tennis shoes,” since you don’t sell those items.

2. Ad copy

You’re sure to create plenty of Search ads, so you’ll want to make them as effective as possible. Your copy should be focused on the benefits you can provide to your customers and not on how wonderful your business is. 

3. Call to action (CTA)

When people see your ads, they want to see the value you can provide them, so make it clear right away. Use specific calls-to-action and keep an eye on your Ad Strength and make any necessary changes to improve this metric.

4. Asset types

Google Ads offers several asset types (sometimes called ad extensions) that you can include in your ads, so be sure to take advantage of them. You can use multiple asset types at once, which offers more value to your audience and improves your overall ad quality. Consider adding images, sitelinks, callouts, lead forms, and any other assets that make sense for your business.

5. Landing pages

When someone clicks on your ad, they’ll head to your landing page. Don’t focus so much on your ads that you neglect the user experience on the next page! Work on boosting on-page SEO to maximize organic traffic at the same time. 

Your landing page should provide ample information for your target audience to see how you can help them. The page should be quick to load on both desktop and mobile, optimized for conversions, and simple to navigate.

6. Tracking 

Beyond creating your ads, don’t forget to keep an eye on your metrics. You can ultimately choose your own metrics, but it’s helpful to track things like your conversion rate and cost-per-click (CPC). Track how your ads perform and run A/B tests to find the content that converts best. Combine the reporting software within Google Ads with another resource, like our proprietary ConversionIQ technology, for an even deeper understanding of your results. 

Finally, here are some rapid-fire Google Ads best practices: 

  • Create a negative keyword list to minimize irrelevant searches and wasted ad spend.
  • Experiment with several campaign types to extend your reach and compare results. 
  • Ensure your ad copy is easy to read, compelling, and relatable to your audience. 
  • Learn more about all of Google’s tools and services through Skillshop
  • Once you’re more comfortable with the platform, stick with Google Ads Expert Mode.

The takeaway

Running a successful Google Ads campaign isn’t rocket science. But it takes a hefty load of time and effort. 

And while it’s completely possible for a beginner to set up and run an effective Google Ads campaign, many opt for Google Ads campaign management from professionals. If you’d like some guidance or aren’t sure where to begin, consider working with an agency like HawkSEM

Our team is here to help – whether you need to create a marketing campaign from scratch, get ideas for future strategies, or spend less time on marketing and invest more time back into the heart of your business. 

Let us help you get the word out so you can get back to the parts of your business that you’re passionate about.

If you’re looking for a Google Ads Services agency, hit us up!

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Alexandra Thompson

Alexandra Thompson

Alexandra Thompson has been in the content marketing world since 2017 and is a proud member of the Hawk writing team. When she's not writing, she's probably got her nose in a book or a Disney movie on TV.