Written by Sam Yadegar on Oct 20 , 2022

From audience targeting and A/B testing to keyword research and bidding, a lot goes into optimizing Google Ads.

Here, you’ll find:

  • Why you should optimize your Google Ads campaigns
  • Which campaign parts are most important to optimize
  • Steps to optimize your Google Ads account
  • Why your bids might be holding you back

Google Ads is the bread and butter of most companies’ search marketing strategies. But, man, is it time-consuming. 

We all know the effort is well worth the reward: Getting smack-dab in front of potential customers who scour the internet for your product or service. What other marketing platform allows you to tailor your messaging to the customer’s intent and show up when they need you most? 

But in case you haven’t done it lately, here’s your friendly reminder: It’s time to update and optimize your campaigns. 

Google Ads

In its simplest form, Google Ads starts with a keyword. (Image: Unsplash)

Why Google Ads optimization matters

As a business owner or a marketing manager with a million and one things on your plate, it’s easy to let your Google Ads campaigns run wild and free. 

But let’s think back to the incredible AI power of Google Ads to put into perspective how important it is to reel in those campaigns to maximize your budget:

Audiences and interests

In the past, keywords were the most important part of PPC campaigns. But, as we all know, that’s not necessarily true anymore. 

Search ads still utilize keywords, sure, but they also use in-market and affinity audiences and advanced demographics. We use people’s interests, details about who they are, and what they’re researching to help target our ads in new ways. 

That last part is important. Because if you’re letting your campaigns run with the same old settings and assets…how will Google find new markets and audiences that are ready to convert?

Audience and interests

Use people’s interests to help target your ads in new ways. (Image: Unsplash).

Campaign types

You know the deal — Google is all about ad options: Search, Display, YouTube, Discovery, Remarketing, Shopping, Performance Max. 

Now might be a good time to ask if you’re using all the campaign types that can connect you to your audience? Not only that, but have your goals changed? When’s the last time you considered a new campaign type?

Search Campaigns

Search relies on keywords to match with a Google user’s search queries. When your ad is chosen for auction, a text ad is generated from the ad copy you’ve entered into the Google Ads UI. These ads are intent-driven and directly help you reach your goals.

Performance Max

Performance Max campaigns rely on contextual data, audiences, your data, and custom segments to find people looking for your product or service. Your ad displays as text or multimedia, depending on its location.

These ads can show on Search, YouTube, Gmail, Discover, Maps, and Display channels. These campaigns work for both e-commerce and lead generation and tend to be high-converting for many advertisers.

Display Campaigns

Display campaigns are image and video ads. You choose the audiences, placements, and topics these ads target. These ads are usually more focused on brand awareness than conversion.

Remarketing ads are actually a type of Display campaign created by adding your website visitors and other audiences you’ve created.

YouTube Ads

YouTube ads are shown across the YouTube network, both in-stream and on the watch pages. They consist of both text and video. They focus on both conversion and brand awareness. There are many powerful ways to target these ads.

Shopping Ads

If you run e-commerce ads, then you’ll benefit from Shopping ads, which are optimized to drive purchases. You can target your website visitors, customer lists, audiences, and more with these ads.

Discovery Ads

Discovery Ads cover the Display and YouTube networks. They help you connect with people who are ready to engage with your brand. They are called “Discovery” because they help you to be discovered by potential customers. Your ads will show to people who don’t yet know your brand so that you can be discovered.

Optimize campaigns like your bottom line depends on it

Because it does! 

We know it’s tedious, but without reviewing search term reports or keeping your negative keywords list updated, your ads are at risk of showing up where they don’t belong. And without adjusting keyword bids, your ads may not show at all. And when you don’t pause non-converting keywords? Consider your money wasted.

Top Google Ads campaign optimization tips for marketing managers and business owners alike

We know two things:

  1. Optimizing your Google Ads campaigns is critical
  2. You don’t have much time.

Even if you can’t dedicate the time your campaigns truly deserve, this basic checklist will still save your budget and keep your ads relevant. 

Optimizations

Start with the keywords, and work your way up. (Image: Unsplash)

#1 Start with keywords and work your way up 

We get it, you’re busy! So let’s just start with the low-hanging fruit: 

Are your keyword bids so low that they won’t show up on the first page? Consider raising them so your audience will actually see your ads. Check the estimated bids for top of page and first position recommendations. If you’re not getting enough clicks, you may want to raise your bid to one of these.

Next, analyze your Search Query report. Are there irrelevant queries being pulled in? Add those as negative keywordsDo you have queries that convert but aren’t keywords? Try adding those to your ad groups to increase clicks.

Now, take a look at your keyword performance. We suggest using 60 to 90 days of data to make informed decisions. Are there keywords that don’t have clicks? Pause them! They’re not doing anything for you. 

Do you see keywords with clicks but no conversions? Start pausing the ones that have spent the most. This will focus your budget on what works. Eventually, you’ll only want to keep keywords that convert. 

Why pay for keywords that don’t contribute to your goal?

#2 Negative keyword list: When did you update it last?

Often, PPC managers create a “universal” list that excludes words like “careers,” “salary,” and “YouTube.” They are added to the list as broad match to exclude people searching for jobs and how-to videos.

You already know that negative keyword lists help you avoid wasted ad spend and clicks without conversions. So if you haven’t updated yours in a while, it’s time to do a quick check. High-performing campaigns have a robust set of negative keywords, which keeps ad relevance high and spend focused on converting terms.

Pro tip: Given the recent changes to “loosened up” match types, our marketing experts suggest running ad groups that have exact match-only keywords and ad groups that have phrase-match only. From there, you can add exact-match negatives to the phrase-match ad group, creating strong defense and tighter control on the ads being served. Feeling lost? Click below and we’ll help you out.

#3 Bad ad copy = zero clicks

Are you using the best ad copy possible? Is it:

  • Relevant to your audience? 
  • Appealing to people who are likely to benefit from what you’re offering? Not just anyone who happens across them while surfing the internet.
  • Using action words so people know what to do when they click on your ads? (E.g., “Learn More” instead of just “Click Here”).
  • Humorous when appropriate?

A low click-through rate (CTR) indicates you’re not resonating with your audience. Test different headlines and descriptions to see what gets more people to your landing page. Make sure each headline adds more useful information. Your business goals will thank you.

#4 Improve ad strength for more a tailored experience

Ad strength is crazy important. 

And if you run RSAs (responsive search ads), you should be reviewing your ad score regularly. Getting as close to excellent as possible will give Google more ad combinations to create and tailor to the specific user. 

You should also take a look at the headline performance. Does Google say it’s low? If so, change it out with another headline. Keeping all of these at excellent will ensure you’re putting out the best ads possible. 

Here are a couple of tips to help you create clickable ads:

  • Use popular keywords in your headlines
  • Make sure your headlines and description lines aren’t just variations of the same idea
  • Add a call to action to your description lines
  • For Performance Max campaigns, add as many images and videos as you can
  • Include key benefits and features of your product or service — what makes you stand out?

#5 Ad extensions (ahem, assets) make you stand out

Site extensions

Are you using as many ad extensions (now known as assets) as possible? 

You may not need to use every single one, but it allows you to stand out from other ads. And, we can now create and edit assets in the same tab as Responsive Search Ads.

Every time you have a new promotion, you should be optimizing your ad extensions. But also check in on all the other extension options available to you, like special links on your site, pricing, your phone number, and more.

Sitelinks

Get your audience to the most valuable parts of your website faster. You might link to the Contact Us page or store hours to help give users more information.

Structured snippets

This ad extension allows you to tell potential customers more about services, products, amenities, and brands. They aren’t clickable but do add important details to your ads.

Location extensions

Coupled with high-performing ad copy, location extensions increase the odds of your ad being clicked. Aside from detailing your address, it informs users how close you are to them or their destination, which helps with the decision-making process.

Image extensions

You might have noticed Google Search ads now include images. These are added through the UI and catch the eye as someone scrolls down the page.

Call extensions

Are you looking for calls? Call extensions add your phone number to your ads so that searchers can dial your number or click to call.

Price extensions

Tell potential customers how much your products cost with price extensions.

Promo extensions

You can get the word out with this extension type if you’re running a sale or special offer.

Callouts

Add extra information about your experience, warranties, or just about anything else you want to tell users.

Lead form extensions

If your goal is generating leads, you don’t need to get people to the website to make this happen. Use lead form extensions to get more leads with your ads.

Affiliate location extensions

This type of asset is only applicable to businesses with affiliate retail locations. However, you can add these locations.

#6 Increase Quality Score

This is a big one.

Quality Score is the combination of several metrics, including expected CTR, ad relevance, and landing page experience. If you have a low Quality Score (five or less), you should prioritize improving it. This will result in a lower keyword CPC and you’ll be eligible to show in more auctions. 

The two things to focus on here are improving the relevance between your keywords and ads and optimizing the landing page. Both should have your keyword or a variation of it somewhere. 

The landing page should speak to the target audience, have a good call to action (CTA), and state the key benefits of your offer. Ads should also have a CTA along with key information about your business and your product or service features.

#7 Take control of your bids

When’s the last time you used bid adjustments to increase or decrease your bids? Based on a user’s location, device, gender, income, and age, you can also adjust audiences, days, hours, locations, and the day of the week. 

The idea is to raise or lower the bid based on conversions, CTR, and cost per click (CPC). Doing this will allow you to bid more competitively in auctions where you statistically do well and reduce your bids in auctions where you don’t do well. As a result, you should see an improvement in your conversions.

#8 Speaking of bids, check in on your bid strategies

Google offers several bid strategies, also known as Smart Bidding, depending on your goals. They use machine learning to read real-time signals and make changes to your bids. 

This allows you to do something you can’t do: Read the available information to make auction-time bids. Machine learning evaluates a rich set of contextual signals and query-level performance data — they can improve your conversion rate, lower your CPA, and help you reach your business goals — and there are several to choose from:

Maximize conversions

If your goal is to gain more conversions, you can try this Smart Bidding strategy. You can also add a target CPA to this strategy if you have a CPA goal you need to work with. If your campaigns are limited by budget, Maximize Conversions can help you get more conversions.

This strategy is available on Search, Display, Performance Max, and video campaigns.

Target ROAS

Target ROAS is generally used for Shopping campaigns, but if you’re uploading conversion value data, you can theoretically use it on any campaign. If you know your target ROAS, you can take advantage of the Target ROAS strategy. Just remember, you’ll need 15 conversions with conversion value tracked before you can use it effectively.

You can use Target ROAS on Performance Max, Display, Search, and Shopping campaigns.

Maximize clicks

If your current goal is to get more traffic (clicks) to your website, then Maximize Clicks will help you do this. It comes in handy for new campaigns, brand awareness, or if you have a robust funnel you’d like to fill. Using this strategy means you won’t have to worry about whether or not your bids are at first page. You may want to add a maximum CPC, though, as you may find the CPC getting too high over time.

Use this bidding strategy on Display and Search campaigns.

Target impression share

If your competition is high, or you want to increase brand awareness, you might use this type of strategy to ensure you capture a specific part of the impression share. This strategy ensures that a percentage of your eligible traffic will see your ad. While it won’t guarantee clicks, it will improve brand recognition.

Target Impression Share is available on Search campaigns.

Maximize conversion value

If you’re running an e-commerce account or have assigned values to your conversion goals, then you can use Maximize Conversion Value to increase your conversion value. In turn, you’ll benefit by increasing your overall conversion value, making your ads more valuable, and hopefully improving your ROAS.

Maximize Conversion Value will also allow you to set a target ROAS or target CPA if you’d like to give it more constraints to work with.

Use this Smart Bidding strategy with Search or Performance Max.

Keep in mind this is not an exhaustive list of all Smart Bidding strategies (Youtube has some of its own) but is a list of the most commonly used ones.

ConversionIQ

Does managing your digital marketing campaigns take too much time out of your day? Struggling with data analysis? You may want to try a management tool like ConversionIQ. 

This full-funnel solution makes your conversion tracking more reliable and works across a ton of platforms. It can even be used for search engine optimization (SEO)! You’ll get help with budget pacing, improving qualified leads, and stopping wasted ad spend.

The takeaway

We know you have a lot on your plate. And, admittedly, tweaking your campaigns necessitates a high level of competence in Google Ads management. 

But to save money and reach the right searchers, you need to keep up with your optimizations — even if you can only manage the suggestions listed here today.

If managing all of this sounds like too much, maybe it’s time to hire some help. Reach out to HawkSEM to see how we can help you today!

Sam Yadegar

Sam Yadegar

Sam Yadegar is the co-founder and CEO of HawkSEM. Starting out as a software engineer, his penchant for solving problems quickly led him to the digital marketing world, where he has been helping clients for over 12 years. He loves doing everything he can to help brands "crush it" through ROI-driven digital marketing programs. He's also a fan of basketball and spending time with his family.

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