Tag Archives: google ads

Written by Sam Yadegar on Jun 17, 2022

Google Ads campaigns can be a serious ROI driver — if your program is optimized, that is. 

Here you’ll find:

  • How to audit your Google Ads
  • When you should conduct a paid search audit
  • PPC audit mistakes to avoid
  • Next steps after your Google Ads audit is complete

Letting your Google Ads campaign run on autopilot without much thought might be alright… for a little while

But think of your campaigns like a car: Without regular tune-ups and gas refills, you’re bound to end up on the side of the road, watching others (like your competitors) pass you by.

Too many businesses launch a digital ads program and then simply let it run without any changes, optimization, or even further testing. Your PPC ROI inevitably drops over time, but inertia can keep a campaign running long after its expiration date.

Google Ads campaigns are no exception. No matter how well your ads are set up in the first place, it’s vital to run a periodic Google Ads audit — along with a complete paid search audit across ad platforms. 

This can help you establish whether your account is still performing as it should be, and what changes could be made to improve it. A PPC audit can also help you spot mistakes that may be buried under iterative changes.

hawksem blog - google ads audit

Much like a content or overall PPC audit, a Google Ads audit reviews every aspect of your account. (Image: Unsplash)

When to conduct a Google Ads audit

If you’ve never conducted a Google Ads audit before, now is a great time to start! 

After the initial audit, performing a new one on a quarterly basis should be sufficient. 

On the other hand, resist the temptation to audit your ads program too often so you have time to gather a good amount of data. 

Pro tip: Stay up-to-date with the latest Google Ads updates. They often add useful features, capabilities, and analytics to make your ads and/or Google paid search audit more effective.  

4 steps to a Google Ads audit

Much like a content or overall PPC audit, a Google Ads audit reviews every aspect of your account. It’s a time when you assess the strength of your Google Ads program as a whole to ensure your efforts are cohesive and well-aligned, not working against one another.

Let’s break down the steps.

1. Check your goals and account structure

You need to go into your audits with an action plan. That means making sure you have solid goals in terms of traffic and conversions, so you can see how you’re currently measuring up. (Of course, your goals may change as your business grows.) 

Next, you want to check the structure of your account, ensuring that your campaigns and ad groups are organized correctly and that your reporting is accurate. 

Location settings and device targeting also need to be correctly configured.

2. Nail down your bid strategy

Make sure you’re using the right bid strategy, budget, and delivery methods. This part of the audit will show you if there are high-performing campaigns worth allocating more of your budget towards. 

Perhaps you’re spending too little on certain ads or using a bid strategy that made sense at an earlier point in your company’s growth. Make sure you have the right budget in terms of cost per click (CPC) and that you’re spending the right amount on each group.

Bid adjustments are also helpful. They help you target conditions under which your ads perform best. For example, if your audience is teens and their parents, then your ads are likely to perform better in the evenings when they aren’t at work or school. 

If your business only has locations in one geographic area, you can adjust your bids to show more ads to people in that location.  

Pro Tip: Confused about the types of bid strategies available? Google will make recommendations based on your campaign performance to guide you in the right direction. (As with everything else, though, be sure to monitor performance and avoid leaving the campaigns on autopilot.)

3. Examine your keywords

Ten or fewer relevant keywords per ad group is ideal. It’s also wise to make sure you’re leveraging negative keywords. This will help better qualify your clicks, reduce irrelevance, and will keep queries from triggering ads in multiple groups. 

After all, your ad groups should complement, not compete with, each other. An effective way to measure this is by checking search term cross-pollination. Few queries should trigger multiple groups.

And don’t forget about match-type keywords as well. Too often, companies will stick to just running broad match keywords, which can result in high ad spend on unqualified queries.

Need more Google Ads guidance? We’d love to help.

4. Dig into campaign and ad performance

Check for underperforming or low-quality ads to evaluate, change, or potentially remove. This is also the time to make sure there aren’t technical issues interfering with poor-performing ads. 

It’s a good idea to have two ad variations in each group for A/B testing and rotate frequently to avoid audience fatigue. 

Responsive search ads (RSAs) can help you identify ad elements that are served most often. This way,  you can determine which ones are seen the most. 

One way to figure out what strategy is working best is to compare the highest and lowest performing ads. Barring technical causes, see what differences in your creative, copy, keywords, or structure might be making them resonate less with your audience.

Also, ensure all calls to action (CTAs) are direct and relevant. You can experiment with different wording to see what gets your audience to click.

This stage is a good time to ask questions like:

  • What happens when somebody clicks on your ad? 
  • Is your landing page clear with a good headline and call to action? 
  • Do you have the right number of landing pages? 
  • Do your forms work and provide a “thank you” message? 
  • Does the conversion page properly track views? 
  • Are conversions tracking correctly?  
  • Do you have a solid mobile strategy? 

Pro tip: During your audit, make sure you’re not double-counting conversions. It happens more than you’d think.

hawksem: google ads audit article

Audits are an effective way to be confident that your ad campaign isn’t stagnant or lagging. (Image: Rawpixel)

What to avoid during a Google Ads audit

There are a few don’ts when it comes to any audit, most of which have to do with what happens once the audit is complete.

Audits aren’t a one-and-done project (if only!). While your first one will provide helpful insights, planning regular repeat audits will not only ensure you’re optimizing your program, but it’ll be easier once the first one is done.

Also, don’t feel like you need to fix things during the audit. Unless you uncover some kind of critical issue — such as somebody uploading the wrong set of keywords for an ad group — you don’t want to stop the audit until it’s complete. 

The finished report is likely to show you a more efficient way of doing so as different parts of your account and campaigns reference each other.

Pro tip: If you have high account or ad volume, audits can be more challenging. Google’s new disapproved ads auditor can help. It was released in early 2022 to help advertisers view disapproved ads across all accounts at once. The destination requirements policy changed a few months later to clarify the disapproval reasons and make necessary changes easier.

What to do after a Google Ads audit

After the Google audit is complete, you can go through the report and develop an action plan to address any issues that were uncovered. 

It can be helpful to create a doc of key takeaways and performance metrics, along with the strengths and weaknesses of your current Google Ads campaigns. 

From there, you can plan a virtual meeting (if you work with a team) to discuss the key points and determine what actions to take and when.

Obviously, crucial issues discovered during your PPC audit should be dealt with right away, so your action plan should include prioritization to ensure that you deal with things in an optimal manner. 

The takeaway

Leaving your Google Ads account to run on automation and algorithms can result in leaving money on the table. Periodic audits are an effective way to be confident that your ad campaign isn’t stagnant or lagging.  

Audits can help you move to the next level of marketing, keep your advertising strategy evolving with your needs and budget, and greatly improve your sales and conversions.

It takes time and effort, but it’s worth it to know your paid search ads are the best they can be. 

This article has been updated and was originally published in June 2020.

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.

Questions or comments? Join the conversation here!

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Written by Sam Yadegar on May 19, 2022

If Display Ads aren’t part of your digital marketing strategy, you could be missing out.

Here, you’ll find:

  • What custom segments and in-market audiences are
  • Ways to capitalize on competitors’ marketing efforts
  • How to implement event targeting 
  • Common Display Ad mistakes to avoid

*Stefon voice* Digital marketing’s hottest club is Google. 

stefon snl

(Image: GIPHY)

This place has everything: organic links, paid search opportunities, and its own Display Network to boot.

But seriously, when it comes to digital ads, the Google Display Network shouldn’t be overlooked. These campaigns reportedly reach more than 90% of people on the internet across websites, mobile apps, and videos. 

Google Ads allows you to capitalize on the astounding number of daily searches and quickly earn the attention you need to build brand awareness. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a better way to promote your business, generate leads, and increase ROI.

Google Display Network Ads (also called Display Ads) are an excellent tool for discovering leads with a high conversion probability and targeting them in the right place and at the right time. Here’s how to make them work for you.

new york times homepage - display ad

A Display Ad on the New York Times homepage. (Image: nytimes.com)

Why you should consider Google Display Ads

Google provides online advertising through two channels: the Google Search Network and the Google Display Network (GDN). Ads delivered via the Search Network allow companies to buy real estate in Google’s search results through keyword optimization. 

Alternatively, the Display Network delivers those visual-based ads you come across while reading a blog article, watching a video on YouTube, or using a mobile app. 

The GDN consists of more than 2 million websites, videos, and apps where your ads can appear. 

Google Display Network benefits

With the Google Display Network, you can capture someone’s attention early in the buying process, reaching them before they start searching for what you offer. 

This allows you to influence your prospect before your competition does, which can be instrumental in your overall advertising strategy. 

What’s more, Display Ads are affordable, with a cost per click (CPC) of $1 or less on average. Whether you’re a small business with limited advertising dollars or a larger company looking to invest in multiple campaigns, Google ads are a budget-friendly option.

Additionally, through the power of visual imagery, digital ads enable you to better establish your brand and keep your company top of mind.

You can appeal to users through a variety of vibrant, engaging ad designs, including:

  • Responsive Display Ads: Allow Google to automatically test different combinations of headlines, images, descriptions, and logos, and then display the best-performing combination 
  • Uploaded ads: Created outside of Google and can be uploaded via multiple file types into Google
  • App engagement ads: Use the same flexible targeting options as normal display campaigns
  • Discovery ads: Show up on YouTube, the Google Discover page, and in the Promotions and Social tabs of your Gmail inbox that, when opened, may expand like a regular email

Of all the benefits Display Ads offer, the ability to target an audience with great specificity may be the most helpful in increasing ROI. Companies that target a niche market by topic, interest, demographic, and even location can see a boost in lead generation and sales.

Pro tip: In 2021, Google made some changes to audience reporting, including moving everything to one “Audiences” tab. Some of the terminology used to refer to audiences and related topics was updated as well. Learn more about that on its dedicated page for the changes.

marketing conference talking about display ads

While specifying your target audience through qualifiers like topics or interests does narrow your focus, it also causes Google to guess which sites would be a good fit. (Image: Unsplash)

Important Google Display Network lead generation tools

When you take advantage of Display Ads, you can narrow down the target audience according to their interests, search intent, and behavior. These tools are specifically designed to help you do it. 

1. Affinity audiences

You can choose to show your ads to consumers who have a specific area of interest. Google algorithms determine which network users have a lasting interest in a certain category.

In other words, if a person keeps visiting websites and forums related to flowers while searching for related terms, Google marks “flowers” as an area of interest.

On the business side, if you’re a flower shop and choose “flowers” as something your target audience is interested in, Google will show your ads to the above users. 

2. Custom segments

Targeting users based solely on their area of interest may not always generate leads with high potential. That’s why Google offers you an opportunity to narrow down the search with custom segments.

With this tool, you can target users based on their areas of interest, behaviors, and the terms they use when searching the web using keywords. 

You can also add websites and apps that your target customers like. Users who visit and use similar sites and apps will also be targeted.

Let’s say you’re a high-end flower shop that sells rare flowers. With custom segments, you can narrow down flower fans to those who search for specific flower types.

From there, you can add rare flower blogs and websites they might visit and specialized flower care or plant finder/identifier apps they might use.

Pro tip: Google’s custom intent and custom affinity segments have been integrated into custom segments. If you already had these segments set up, it will be migrated for you, and Google insists this change won’t impact performance or functionality for these pre-existing segments.

3. In-market audiences

In-market audiences also allow you to target users based on the interests they demonstrate when browsing the web.

 The main difference is that in-market audiences can help you target consumers in the middle of the sales funnel.

They focus on potential customers who are actively searching for certain products or services. When targeting, Google considers the following factors:

  • The topics and content of the pages visited by the user
  • How often the user visits pages with certain content
  • How many times the user converts during those visits
  • The user’s reaction to related ads

If someone is searching for “fresh carnation bouquets” and visits different flower shop websites to compare prices or even puts something in a cart, Google can put them into the “flower bouquets” in-market audience. 

similar audience on the google display network

A look at choosing “similar audiences” on the Google Display Network (Image: Semrush)

How to use Google Display Network Ads for lead generation

Here are a few tactics to consider when implementing Display Ads into your lead gen strategy:

1. Take advantage of the competition

Custom affinity audiences offer an opportunity to target your competitors’ prospects. 

When setting up a custom audience, you can use the competition’s website URLs and keywords as interests. In short, you’re advertising your products and services to the visitors your competition is trying hard to attract.

When using this lead gen method, make sure to provide the best offer you have. Since these people don’t convert for the competition, they may be harder to please.

It’s also worth keeping in mind that the competition may not have been extremely precise with their marketing strategies. Make sure to use negative keywords and geo-targeting to prevent their low-quality leads from catching your bait.

2. Avoid overly specific selections

While narrowing down the audience can be helpful, it could also backfire. If your goal is to generate more leads, you may want to avoid getting overly specific and unintentionally bypassing relevant audience segments.

Using too many parameters could leave potential buyers out of the marketing loop. Meanwhile, the CPC could go up. 

With many companies using the same in-market audiences, the competition can be high, thus increasing campaign costs and leading to performance declines.

A/B test your ads and landing pages across different targeting options to see which one works best for your business. It’s also wise to conduct Google Ads audits and more general, all-encompassing PPC audits quarterly, if you can.

3. Employ event marketing

Since custom segments allow you to target users who visit specific websites, consider serving your ads up to event attendees.

For example, if there’s a flower show in town next month, you can target users who visit the show’s website. These people aren’t just interested in flowers, they’re ready to spend their free time at an event. This turns them into prospects with high conversion potential!

You can layer this audience with flower-related keywords and potentially gain access to the customers of your dreams. By coupling such targeting efforts with top-notch ad copy, you can create a campaign with an impressive ROI.

4. Reach similar audiences

Google Ads offers a “similar segments” targeting option. This lets you increase the reach of existing remarketing campaigns (now called your data segments) by driving new users with similar browsing habits to your site.

Google will set up similar segments targeting automatically. You just have to have one or more eligible lists in the Google Ads Audience Center library. To qualify, your data segments have to have a minimum of 100 visitors listed.

This list also cannot be shared with another account. Most of the other factors will be out of your control and taken care of by Google Ads. 

This may be affected in the future by the ongoing changes surrounding third-party cookies. However, Google seems to be on top of this and doesn’t appear to be giving up on these segment types.  

5. Pay attention to exclusions

Google offers advanced content settings to prevent your ads from appearing on websites you don’t want them on. 

Some websites may feature content that isn’t appropriate for your brand, for instance, and placing your ads on them could hurt your reputation.

When setting up Display Ads for lead gen purposes, pay special attention to the exclusion boxes, since Google doesn’t check them off automatically.

6. Apply managed placement targeting 

You can also control where your ads are being delivered through managed placements. Specifying your target audience through qualifiers like topics or interests narrows your focus. 

It also causes Google to guess which sites would be a good fit. This means your ads could be posted to websites that won’t yield results. 

With placement targeting, you can select specific sites you’d like your ads to appear on. A more focused target audience means more lead generation.

Need more help mastering Google for your advertising efforts? Let’s make it happen.

7. Stay on top of Google Ads updates and rollouts

Google Ads is almost constantly updating, evolving, and rolling out new features. 

The improvements often save time, provide greater detail for more accurate targeting, improve conversions, and increase ROI, among many other benefits.

Being quick to adopt new features will give you an edge over the competition and help you supercharge your lead gen efforts. 

However, not knowing about recent updates could shape campaigns based on an inaccurate system understanding, make terms confusing, or make necessary data hard to find under new categorization rules.

Some recent Google Display Ads changes include:

  • Pivot tables added to Report Builder: Pivot tables provide the ability to summarize, segment, and precisely analyze massive data sets, create custom formulas and groups for granular insights, and see behind data for a clearer more complete picture.
  • Custom bidding algorithms: These allow you to generate tailored, goal-based bidding algorithms to increase ROAS and performance view accuracy.
  • Upgraded TrueView for YouTube action campaigns: With this update, you’ll be set up for more conversions, better ROI, and a broader reach.
  • Campaign and workflow updates: With improved campaigns and workflows, you can access better order overviews, new combined views, pinned views, insights, more efficient workflows, and greater inline control.
  • YouTube & partners video line-item category names: These category names have been updated and the new names are meant to be more intuitive and easier to work with.

The takeaway 

Google’s first page is an exclusive club that can be hard to break into.

Luckily, the Google Display Network makes creating successful Display Ads as seamless as possible. 

Google’s algorithms help you identify and reach your prospective customers, often before they even know they need you. 

Setting up a Display Ad campaign requires an excellent understanding of your target audience as well as professional use of keywords, and Google Display Ads are a great way to generate leads, boost sales, and increase your ROI.

This article has been updated and was originally published in December 2020.

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.

Questions or comments? Join the conversation here!

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Written by Sam Yadegar on Apr 1, 2022

It’s vital to spend your hard-earned digital marketing budget on channels that bring you the best ROI. That’s why knowing the latest Google Ads updates is key.

Here, you’ll find:

  • Reasons to invest in Google Ads
  • How the paid search platform works
  • The latest Google Ads updates
  • Expert tips for leveraging the platform successfully

No April Fool’s joking here: The best place to launch your digital marketing efforts is where your campaign attracts a massive audience.

According to a 2021 report, Google led the list of the most popular search engines, commanding more than 88% of the American market share. 

Paid advertisements often come hyperlinked at the top of search engine result pages (SERPs). Sure, you can work to rank organically for a given search term through SEO strategies — and you should. 

But not only can Google Ads get you higher up in search results more quickly via pay-per-click (PPC) ads, but it can also help you stay competitive in your industry. 

The benefits of Google Ads

You probably know how Google Ads works: It shows your online advertisement to prospective customers who may be interested in your business. 

You place bids on keywords and search terms and secure the top slots of SERPs if you win.

As part of a PPC marketing strategy, you choose the maximum bid amount you wish to pay for each click on your ad. Your placement improves with your bid amount.

Since its inception in 2000 as Google AdWords, Google Ads has undergone many iterations and changes. Here are a few of the latest Google Ads updates that marketers should know about in 2022.

neon google logo in the dark

Google Trends allows you to view the topics people are searching online, as well as trending topics and trends over time. (Image: Unsplash)

1.  Privacy-minded updates

Privacy has been a hot topic for marketers in the past few years. That’s thanks in part to changes like Apple’s latest iOS update and Google’s Topic’s API, which they introduced to replace the soon-to-be sunset third-party cookies. 

With third-party tracking cookies on their way out, enhanced conversion aims to use consented (opt-in) and first-party data to fill in users’ insight gaps, particularly across multiple devices.

Pro tip: Google will be shutting down Universal Analytics (the version before Google Analytics 4) in July 2023, reportedly due to its inability to deliver insights across platforms. Universal Analytics 360 will process data for an additional three months, ending in October 2023.  

2.  Changes to phrase match and broad match modifier

In early 2021, Google announced that it was “making it easier to reach the right customers on Search” through updates to its phrase match and broad match modifier keyword types. 

Now, “broad match modifier” traffic instead falls under the “phrase match” umbrella.

The search engine notes that these changes won’t impact exact match, broad match, and negative keyword match types. They also recommend only using exact, phrase, or broad match when adding new keywords moving forward. 

3.  The smart-bidding process

Google’s smart bidding aims to make marketing more manageable. The advertiser provides Google Ads with a budget, and Google algorithms get the best conversion value out of it. The intention is to maximize the total ROI of the campaigns.

Google algorithms find the opportunities that you might never spot, even if it’s promoting a low-priced product on your list. This approach is excellent for well-funded PPC campaigns that are already converting at a high rate.

Google’s new smart bidding features aim to help marketers better manage bid strategies and drive more performance, according to experts

The new features also include top signals for target ROAS and max conversions, new opportunities on the Recommendations page, target impression share simulators, and manager account level seasonality adjustments.

Pro tip: Automation is great, but keep in mind that a “set it and forget it” mindset can only take you so far. The most effective paid search campaigns involve consistent analyzing, testing, and optimizing that can only come from experienced digital marketing pros.

one piece swimsuit on google trends

A look at the Google Trends results for “one-piece swimsuit” over a 90-day period. (Image: Google Trends)

4.  Google Trends for a dynamic environment

The digital marketing landscape changes rapidly and often, which can affect your business. Google Trends is a fascinating feature that allows you to view the topics people are searching online, as well as trending topics, trends over time, and more.

Need more help with your Google Ads campaigns? That’s what we’re here for.

Google Trends can provide insights into what is popular with your audience, so you can modify your marketing efforts to match their expectations. If they’re searching for a business that offers home delivery, for instance, you can consider adding this service or something similar, like a curbside pickup option.

5.  Driving more leads via search ads

With the rise of mobile shopping or m-commerce and more brands moving their operations online than ever before because of the pandemic, the vast majority of shopping happens online.

With that in mind, Google has made it easier for businesses to capture leads through their search ads. Rather than sending users to a landing page, you can serve up a lead form as soon as someone taps the headline of your ad.

To activate this feature, simply go into your campaign and select the setting option. Once the form is submitted, the person can then decide if they want to head to your site or go back to the search engine results page (SERP). 

Pro tip: Search Engine Roundtable regularly catalogs the most recent Google algorithm updates. So far in 2022, they’ve highlighted updates on page experience update for desktop, product reviews, and more.

6. Enhanced holiday updates

During the last holiday season, many businesses were able to benefit from a range of e-commerce updates.

Google added the ability to highlight things like fulfillment options and return policies for customers to see right on the SERP. You can also have products appear in free listings that you can easily use by syncing your Shopify, WooCommerce, or GoDaddy store right to Google.

Plus, brands can now use their YouTube videos as a virtual storefront and connect easier with local customers. Social Media Today suggests keeping your Google Business Profile updated to sync properly with these new features.  

7. Destination requirement updates

To make it easier for advertisers to understand why they receive disapproval messages on their ads, Google has made some changes to their policy language and notifications.

There are three relevant disapproval messages subject to changes:

  • “Insufficient original content,” which covers web addresses with “coming soon” or “under construction” notifications
  • “Destination not accessible,” for addresses the target audience can’t reach based on their location and other limitations
  • “Destination not working,” which will appear if your address is “HTTP” or returns an error
google ads mobile app dark mode

You can use dark mode in the Google Ads app for a more comfortable, low-light visual experience. (Image: Google Ads Help)

8. Updates to the Google Ads app

There have been some exciting recent additions made to the Google Ads app. Specifically, the Google Ads mobile app for both Android and iOS offer three new features:

  • More detailed performance insights – They’ve added more context and explanations for insights to illuminate the influences behind each metric. Advertisers can now see better performance insights to get a deeper understanding of how searchers are reacting to campaigns and view how changes affect performance.
  • Advanced real-time search trends – There’s a new search trends report that will be kept updated to reflect real-time changes in search trends and consumer interests. You can click on search trends relevant to your business to get further details about what exactly users were looking for. Common queries and specific terms will give you an idea of what they hope to find. Then, you can modify your ads to better reach them.
  • In-app campaign creation – Now, you can create entire search ad campaigns right from your phone. In the Google Ads mobile app, simply touch the “+” sign in the bottom right to add a new campaign. From there, the app will walk you through the typical campaign settings like ad type and location. After your campaign is set up, you’ll be able to manage it right from your phone as well.

The takeaway

Google processes about 40,000 searches per second, making it a prime marketing ground for paid ads. 

The beauty (and sometimes frustration) of Google Ads is that it keeps on evolving. It also gives you new and innovative ways to capture the attention of searchers. 

Considering the authority of the search engine, staying on top of the latest Google Ads updates can only mean good things for your PPC program.

This article has been updated and was originally published in May 2020.

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.

Questions or comments? Join the conversation here!

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Written by Sam Yadegar on Mar 17, 2022

When done correctly, remarketing lets you tastefully follow your audience and create valuable touchpoints to turn visitors into customers.

Here, you’ll find:

  • What remarketing is
  • How to leverage this ad strategy the right way
  • Ways remarketing benefits your business
  • How it can save you money

Picture this: you’re walking around a shopping mall (OK, so maybe think a few years — or decades — back).

In the window, you see a nice sweater that catches your eye. You check out the price tag. You feel the fabric. But you’re not sure you’re ready to lay your credit card down.

You decide to keep walking around. As you’re heading towards the exit, you pass by the sweater again. You’ve had some time to think about it, and you decide to buy. 

That’s essentially how remarketing works, except online.

What is remarketing?

Remarketing (often used interchangeably with “retargeting”) is a method for connecting your product or service with people who have already visited your site or mobile app. 

While the terms can be used interchangeably, they have slightly different meanings. As Search Engine Journal explains, remarketing is more often about re-engaging customers via marketing emails, while retargeting generally refers to third-party online ads targeting users who have interacted with your site.

Put another way, remarketing is typically based on email lists and CRM data. Retargeting, on the other hand, is based on pixel data, most often from unknown potential customers.

Remarketing can be done using many platforms, from Google Ads and Microsoft Advertising to Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn. Google and Microsoft also offer remarketing lists for search ads, or RLSAs.

These vary from traditional remarketing, since they require users to be actively searching Google with the campaign keywords you’re bidding on.

How remarketing has changed

Recently, big-name tech brands have made some changes affecting user privacy — and remarketing and retargeting as a result. 

Between Google’s plan to phase out third-party cookies soon and recent data tracking updates from Apple and Android (more on the AppleTracking transparency framework changes here),  marketers may have a harder time pinpointing who to target with retargeting efforts.

The good news: There are things advertisers can do to mitigate these changes.

These include verifying your domain and leveraging Facebook’s aggregated event measurement tool, implementing the Facebook Conversions API and server-side tracking solutions, and pivoting your strategies by reviewing placement data and comparing attributions in Google Analytics.

Still, remarketing can be a highly effective tool for multiple industries and verticals — not just e-commerce. 

It’s a way to remind people about you, which is especially crucial since studies report that as much as 98% of consumers don’t make a purchase during their initial visit to a brand website, and more than 76% of people abandon online shopping carts. 

As Mailchimp explains, your audience often needs to feel like they know you first. With that in mind, here are just a few ways remarketing can benefit your business.

aerial shot of people walking around a crowded indoor mall

With the magic of remarketing, you can stay top of mind. (Image: Unsplash)

1. It keeps you top of mind

There are plenty of reasons why people navigate to your website without converting. Maybe they got distracted, were just casually browsing their options, or wanted to take their time before making a decision.

With the magic of remarketing, you can remind people about their past interest through these targeted ads — particularly if they’re searching for similar offerings again.

2. It ups your chances of converting a lead

If someone found their way to your site or app and was exposed to your brand, you’ve already overcome the big business hurdle of connecting with your audience. 

Through remarketing, you can increase your chances of turning that warm lead into a closed deal. It offers that nudge they need to further pursue what they were looking for from you in the first place.

Not only do these ad types remind users about you, but they can be programmed to take the user directly back to the page they bounced from. If they last visited your pricing page, for example, then the remarketing ad can route them back there once they click.

The result: a seamless experience that tees them up to convert.

3. It allows you to hyper-focus your ads

One big benefit of remarketing ads is how they directly target those who have taken various actions to express interest in your product or service. 

According to Google, you can create various remarketing lists that apply to specific cases, such as those who added something to their cart but didn’t check out.

After all, who doesn’t love scoring a good old-fashioned deal? You can create remarketing ads that offer a special discount to a segment of users who have completed certain interactions with you. This way, the prospect has even more incentive to return to your site.

person walking in front of a large sale sign in a store window

You can use videos, text, and images in your remarketing ads themselves on the Google Display Network. (Image: Unsplash)

4. It lets you leverage mobile and video

Another thing that sets remarketing apart: reach. With these ads types, you’re not just limited to the web. You can reach people browsing more than 2 million websites and apps via multiple devices. 

Consider targeting past website visitors on YouTube (or people who have watched your videos on YouTube) with video or display ads as they watch other videos or browse other sites.

You can also use things like text and images in your remarketing ads themselves on the Google Display Network. You can implement these strategies across Facebook, too.

5. It can save you money

Cha-ching! That’s the sound of saving money with remarketing ads.

Retargeting audiences are cost-effective because they are often more likely to convert. As a result, they provide a lot higher return on ad spend (ROAS) when compared to prospecting audiences.

That said, because the audience pools are way smaller, it can drive up the CPM (cost per mille, where you pay a certain price for every 1,000 impressions), which can make them a more expensive audience. 

For example, cost per click (PCP) rates when retargeting on Facebook are usually higher. However, it’s usually worth the extra cost per click because conversion rates are so strong.

It makes sense: By targeting people who have already shown interest in what you have to offer (making them more qualified), you spend less than you would if you were starting from scratch and casting a wider net.

See how HawkSEM can put remarketing to work for your company by requesting a consultation.

Get started with remarketing

Now that you know all the advantages of using remarketing, you can start making this digital marketing tactic work for you. To remarket on Google, you first need to create a remarketing audience and then choose a support campaign type: display or search. 

For display remarketing, you need to choose a marketing objective or goal (if you have one). From there, you can create an ad group. Expand the “Audiences” areas of “People: who you want to reach.” Then, select the remarketing lists you want to target under the “Remarketing” audience.  

For search campaigns, the process is similar. You manage the audience of your ad by selecting your campaign, then adding your remarketing audience list to the ad groups you choose. From there, you can choose your audience targeting setting for the selected ad groups. 

Pro tip: If you don’t have a remarketing list created, you can use the retargeting audiences Google Ads automatically creates for you.

For paid search remarketing on Microsoft Advertising’s Bing search engine, you start by placing a Universal Event Tracking (UET) tag across your site. You can then create remarketing lists, based on user activity and visited pages. 

Similarly to Google, you associate your remarketing lists to ads groups, then optimize to fit your Bing audience accordingly.

The takeaway

People understand that ads are just part of the package when it comes to being online.

By meeting interested users where they are, you can turn that reminder into a click. That can lead to a conversion, which will, ideally, become a happy customer and brand evangelist down the line.

This article has been updated and was originally published in October 2019.

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.

Questions or comments? Join the conversation here!

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Let’s compare Google Ads and LinkedIn Ads when it comes to ad options, audience reach, cost, features & more.

Here, you’ll find:

  • Similarities between Google Ads and LinkedIn Ads
  • How these ad platforms differ from one another
  • The pros and cons of each
  • Tips for determining which is right for your business

When it comes to paid search marketing platforms, Google Ads is often at the top of the list. 

And between its popularity, versatility, and simplicity, it’s a highly appealing choice. But when you put all your pay-per-click (or PPC) eggs in one proverbial basket, you could be missing out on potential leads.

That’s just one reason we’ve seen many businesses explore options outside of Google Ads. One growing trend we’ve noticed lately: more B2B companies turning to LinkedIn Ads.

Of course, both Google Ads and LinkedIn Ads are efficient paid search advertising tools. However, each one comes with specific pros and cons that provide different benefits to different businesses and audiences. 

Let’s take a closer look at how they compare.

linkedin ads vs. google ads

When users sign up for LinkedIn, they often share a handful of personal details, such as their job title, education, experience, industry, interests, and much more. (Image via Rawpixel)

Target audience

It’s an understatement to say Google reaches a massive audience. Because of this, it’s fair to assume that almost everyone’s target audience uses the search engine to some degree — a big advantage for companies when it comes to targeting.

On the other hand, businesses that need to narrow down their reach may struggle to get their settings just right on the platform. And a mistake made when segmenting audiences could negatively impact your digital ad campaign spend.

Of course, LinkedIn has a much narrower audience: businesses and business professionals, mostly. But this makes it an ideal destination for B2B marketing. LinkedIn allows marketers to target decision-makers and key audience members in a variety of effective ways.

For B2B companies looking to connect with decision-makers, LinkedIn is an excellent digital ad platform. For B2C companies trying to widen their reach, Google Ads usually work best.  

Pro tip: While LinkedIn does have a smaller audience, since the pandemic began, they’ve had an impressive growth spurt with increased metrics across the board. They’re expected to keep growing and gaining more traction in the marketing space.

Segmentation opportunities

When you’re targeting an audience through Google Ads, you have several options to work with. These include:

  • Location
  • Demographics
  • Affinity
  • Technology
  • Buyer behavior
  • Interactions with your website or app

But no matter how well you know your buyer persona, it can be difficult to completely avoid clicks from unqualified leads.

When users sign up for LinkedIn, they often share a handful of personal details, such as their job title, education, experience, industry, interests, and much more.

LinkedIn users can also join groups, spark conversations, and even create followings. This data becomes priceless when you start targeting highly specific audiences and implementing account-based marketing. 

LinkedIn even offers a Matched Audiences feature. This helps marketers match their email lists and website visitors with LinkedIn users.

For B2C and B2B companies targeting a wide audience, Google Ads has sufficient targeting features. But for B2B companies that need to target highly specific potential clients, LinkedIn Ads provide more than 20 audience attribute categories.

Lead generation & intent

When it comes to lead generation, Google Ads’ wider reach becomes an advantage. For one, you can bring in a big number of potential clients without exhausting your budget. 

The audience you target on Google comes to the search engine with an intent to find a product or a service. This makes lead generation much easier.

Generating leads on LinkedIn can be somewhat trickier. Platform users often sign in to learn industry news or chat with fellow group members. No matter how well you design or place your ad, viewers simply may not be susceptible to it.  

However, unlike Google Ads, LinkedIn has an option of targeting leads through messages (called Message Ads), which can help with the lead generation process.

Lead generation is often more efficient through Google Ads. However, LinkedIn offers an opportunity to find valuable prospects with a variety of specific targeting tools.

Pro tip: Google is constantly making changes to Google Ads, and what you don’t know can hurt you. Keep up to date with changes and the latest ways to make Google Ads work for your business.

google ads vs. linkedin ads

Digital ad budgets for these two platforms depend on a handful of factors. (Image via Rawpixel)

Expenses

When it comes to pricing, LinkedIn’s ads are generally more expensive than Google’s. Just like in Google, you can choose cost-per-click (CPC) and cost-per-impression (CPM) options as well.

LinkedIn also offers a cost-per-send model for its Message Ads. On average, you could expect to pay about $5.26 per click (with a minimum bid of $2), $33.80 per 1,000 impressions, and $0.80 per send.

With Google, the average cost per click is about $0.67 for search and $2.32 for display ads. But to take full advantage of the low cost, you’ll likely need to put in some serious audience segmentation efforts. Otherwise, your paid search marketing ROI may be less than satisfactory.

Digital ad budgets for these two platforms depend on a handful of factors. But on average, Google Ads are less expensive than LinkedIn Ads. 

However, a B2B company with a tight paid search marketing budget may benefit more from a limited number of LinkedIn Ads than from a wide variety of Google Ads.

Curious about how to make Google and LinkedIn advertising work for you? Let’s connect.

Google Ads vs. LinkedIn Ads: Pros and cons

This quick comparison can help you make the right decision when choosing between the two paid search advertising options.

Google Ads pros:

  • Wider audience
  • Lower CPC
  • Audience with the intent to buy
  • Excellent documentation and support
  • Many ad types

Google Ads cons:

  • A high learning curve for advanced options if you’re running them yourself
  • Fewer segmentation opportunities
  • A competitive market
  • Ad design and content limitations (characters, emojis, descriptions, etc.)

LinkedIn Ads pros:

  • A wide variety of targeting opportunities (more in-depth than any other platform)
  • Easy to get started
  • High-value prospects
  • Account-based marketing opportunities
  • Easy budget planning

LinkedIn Ads cons:

  • Narrow and specific audience
  • Audience without intent to buy products or use services
  • Higher CPC, impression, and send
  • Lack of robust reporting and analytics tools

The takeaway

So, Google Ads vs. LinkedIn Ads: which one is better? The answer, of course, isn’t one size fits all. 

The right choice of a paid ad platform will depend on factors including your budget, specific product or service, target audience, and marketing goals.

The good news? You don’t need to choose between Google Ads and LinkedIn ads. Many B2C and B2B companies use both of them — along with Instagram, Facebook, and other avenues. 

If your budget allows, diversifying your paid search marketing effort is an excellent way to achieve a better marketing ROI.

This post has been updated and was originally published in November 2020.

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.

Questions or comments? Join the conversation here!

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Discovery campaigns offer potential access to billions of people across Google platforms to help you reach your goals.

Here, you’ll find:

  • What Google Discovery Ads are
  • Benefits of these campaigns
  • How to set up a Google Discovery campaign
  • Tips to optimize your Discovery campaign

Google never sleeps, y’all. 

Besides making continued improvements for users, the search giant is constantly creating and tweaking its advertising tools. One of those tools you may not be super familiar with is Google Discovery Ads.

While these ads are relatively new, many experts agree they’re worth your attention – and ad budget.

By exploring Google Discovery ads, you may be able to improve lead generation tactics and create demand from an otherwise hard-to-reach audience.  

Let’s take a closer look at what Google Discovery campaigns are all about.

outdoor carousel lit up at night

Google displays all of your images in a carousel format, allowing the user to browse the entire collection. (Image via Unsplash)

What are Google Discovery Ads?

Google Discovery Ads are a visually rich ad format. They appear in:

  • The Google Discover feed – This is where searchers can view the latest news, events, and other topics. In response to the user’s query, this highly personalized feed displays content that aligns with the searcher’s needs.
  • YouTube’s mobile home feed and “Watch Next” These highly visible spots are excellent for catching viewers’ attention and generating demand.
  • Gmail Placed in the Social and Promotions tab, Discovery Ads don’t look salesy or obtrusive. However, they still stand out from other ads in Gmail.

Google Discovery Ads are immersive and interactive ads. They’re designed to catch the prospects’ attention even if they aren’t looking for anything related at the moment.

Put another way, “rather than responding to a pre-existing demand, they generate demand,” according to The Drum.

YouTube is the second most popular search engine in the world. And with 90% of people using YouTube to discover new brands or products, Discovery Ads are excellent for lead generation purposes. Meanwhile, over 800 million people take advantage of Google Discover monthly, giving you access to a wide audience.

Google Discovery Ad formats

Google Discovery Ads come in two formats:

  • Image ads – a single image with a headline and description. You have to give Google several assets to work with. It will use artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to create custom ads that suit users best.
  • Carousel ads – multiple images with a headline and description. In this variant, Google displays all of your images in a carousel format, allowing the user to browse the entire collection.

To place Discovery Ads in front of your target audience, Google uses the “power of intent.” Its bots analyze the user’s browsing history, web downloads, watched videos, and map searches to figure out whether they can benefit from your ad.

Bidding strategies

You can take advantage of two bidding strategies.

For “maximize conversions,” Google spends the campaign budget to maximize conversions. It automatically determines the optimal CPC bid. For “target CPA,” Google places ads that convert to meet your CPA goals. It avoids using ads that don’t convert.  

While this may not seem like many options, the approach saves time, allowing you to focus on other campaigns.

Benefits of Google Discovery Ads

It’s easy to overlook this ad type, since it does give Google a lot of control. After all, with Discovery Ads, you can’t select the delivery method, contextual targeting, ad rotation, or device targeting. Additionally, manual bidding strategies are off-limits.

However, this ad type comes with significant benefits as well. These include:

  • Excellent branding – You can get your ads in front of existing and potential audiences, helping them to get more familiar with your brand. 
  • Improved audience targeting – You can capture your potential prospects while they’re in search mode. In the Google Discover feed, users can manage their preferences, which gives you a better chance of reaching prospects with high conversion potential.
  • Automated ad formats – Similar to responsive search ads, you don’t have to worry about A/B testing your assets. Google’s AI and ML do it for you. While this somewhat reduces your control over the ad, it can also save you time and money.
  • Top-notch placement Discover Feed and YouTube are among the most useful places to put your ads. Unlike other Google Ad types, Discovery Ads unite several highly important placement options under one campaign.
  • Convenient ad specs – Discovery Ad parameters are similar to Facebook’s in-feed image ads. If you already have a Facebook Ads campaign, you don’t have to work on new assets, so setting up a Discovery campaign is easy.
  • Lead form extensions – Unlike Google Display Ads, Discovery has the option to add in lead form extensions, which is key for lead gen purposes. (However, this is only for single image ads and isn’t supported by carousel ads.)

Want to learn more about Google Ads from the experts? You’ve come to the right place.

How to set up a Google Discovery campaign

Setting up the Google Discovery campaign is relatively straightforward.

  • Sign in to your Google Ads account.
  • Click “Campaigns” and use the “+” button to select a new campaign.
  • Choose a marketing goal (website traffic, leads, sales).
  • Choose the Discovery campaign type (single image, carousel, or both).
  • Select target audience information.
  • Set up the daily budget and select the bidding strategy.

After you set up the campaign, you can move onto adding the right creative assets.

woman taking a photo of baked goods with a smartphone

Make sure to study the specs to avoid subpar images. Add as many as you can to help with your branding efforts. (Image via Unsplash)

Google Discovery Ads: Best practices

Once you create your Google Discovery campaign, consider these useful tips and practices:

  • Use high-quality images. Make sure to study the specs to avoid subpar images. Add as many as you can to help with your branding efforts.
  • Get creative with headlines and descriptions. Give Google something to work with when it’s designing your custom ad.
  • Work to rank higher on Google Discover. Make sure your landing pages are highly relevant – this will improve the Google Discovery campaign.
  • Take advantage of audience expansion. As Google explains, “optimized targeting can help you reach new and relevant audiences that are likely to convert. ”
  • Repurpose other Google Ads assets for the Discovery campaign.

Pro tip: Take advantage of the Carousel format to tell your brand’s story. As the user scrolls the cards, they can get to know your company. This can encourage higher engagement and bring more visitors to your website.

The takeaway

Google Discovery Ads are a useful ad format for advertisers who want to reach high-intent audiences, improve lead generation efforts, and work on branding. The campaign is easy to set up, especially if you already have creative assets in place.

If you find the budget to give these ads a chance, they can become a worthwhile addition to your marketing campaign.

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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Is a competitor showing up for your company name on the SERP? Here’s what to do.

Here, you’ll find:

  • What happens when a competitor uses your name in a Google ad
  • Advice for dealing with competitors using your company name
  • What to know about competitors bidding on your brand name
  • Expert insights into bidding on other business names

Seeing your competitor’s name on the search engine results page (SERP) is never a great feeling. 

But an even worse feeling? When a rival brand shows up after someone searches for your brand’s name.

So, are companies allowed to use another company’s name in their paid search ads? What about as keywords for bidding? We answer these questions and more below.

Can a competitor use my brand name in their ad?

The rules around company names and trademarks can be confusing. Let’s break it down. 

The basic answer is: yes. In the late 2000s, Google lifted its restrictions that prevented brands from bidding on a competitor’s branded keyword.

That means brands can use your brand name in their Google ads, as long as the name isn’t trademarked and the way they’re using it can’t be deemed “deceptive.” (Deception tactics include things like the company impersonating your brand.)

If your company’s name is trademarked, that may be a different story. Often, bigger companies trademark their names. If this is the case, then they’re the exclusive owners. Per Google guidelines, no other brands can use that name in their ad copy. 

An exception to this rule is if the company using it is a legitimate reseller, such as Zappos creating an ad for Nike sneakers. 

Pro tip: Bing also allows competitors to bid on your brand name. Their policy states that “as an advertiser, you are responsible for ensuring that your keywords and ad content, including trademarks and logos, do not infringe or violate the intellectual property rights of others.”

competitor brand name bidding on the SERP

An example of what it looks like when one brand bids on another’s name. (via Google)

What are the rules about competitors bidding on my brand name?

Competitors can buy your brand name as a keyword, even if it’s trademarked. By using your brand name as a keyword, their ad could potentially show up on the SERP when someone is searching for your specific company. 

Unfortunately, you can’t do much of anything about the competitor using your brand name or trademarks as a keyword. 

However, there are things you can do to remain competitive. For starters, ensure you’re bidding on your own brand name. This way, competitors aren’t stealing any extra traffic that should be going to you. This also allows you to take up more real estate in the SERPs if you’re showing a paid ad and appearing in the organic results. 

If a competitor is bidding on your brand name and you aren’t? Then their ad will show above your organic result, which isn’t what you want. You can also bid on their brand name — more on that below.

Pro tip: If you have an existing amicable relationship with a competitor, consider contacting them for a truce and agree to not bid on each other’s terms. There’s no guarantee they’ll agree, but if you’re worried about your budget, it’s worth a shot!

Why would a competitor bid on my company’s brand name?

The main reason companies bid on another’s brand name is to try to steal traffic away from the competition. They want to target those who are looking for a product or service like theirs. 

This is especially the case in areas where the product or service is not as well known, so people aren’t searching for the services as much. This leaves few options for keywords, so brands bid on their competitors. 

brand name bidding

Before you get heated, it’s important to realize that they might not actually be bidding on your brand. (Image via Rawpixel)

How do I choose which competitor brand names to bid on, if any?

If you’re going to try bidding on a competitor’s name, we advise making sure you’re picking the right competitors to bid on (or that your agency has picked the right ones, if you’re not doing your own marketing). 

There’s not much point in bidding on brands that aren’t stealing business away from you, such as big-name brands with significantly more offerings. 

You’ll also want to tailor the ad copy to differentiate your brand from that particular competitor. One way to do this is by highlighting your unique selling propositions. For instance, if that particular competitor brand has a similar but more expensive product or service, highlight your brand as being the more affordable option.

Have more questions about paid search or Google Ads? You’ve come to the right place.

What if I think a competitor is bending or breaking the rules around using my brand name?

Before you get heated, it’s important to realize that they might not actually be bidding on your brand. If your brand is “Sunrise Senior Living,” for example, the company could simply be bidding on “senior living.” That’s what will match in Google’s algorithm — not necessarily the “Sunrise” part. 

Unfortunately, there’s not a lot you can do unless they’re using your trademarked term in their ad copy. If they are, you can submit a trademark complaint to Google

Aside from deciding to bid on their brand in return, another way to fight back would be to conduct keyword research (using tools like SpyFu or SEMrush) on what other keywords they’re using for search marketing efforts. 

In extreme cases, you could consider sending the company a cease and desist letter, though this will likely come at a cost and not guarantee the outcome you want.

semrush pricing SERP

just because a competitor is bidding on certain keywords, that doesn’t mean they’re the “right” keywords. (Image via Google)

Should I bid on my competitor’s brand name?

There’s no hard-and-fast answer to this. However, experience tells us that bidding on a competitor’s brand name shouldn’t be a top priority in your paid search strategy. 

If you have other keywords that are working well, it’s a better use of your ad spend to allocate your marketing budget toward those. 

If you have an excess budget, then you could try bidding on their brand as a keyword. We don’t suggest using another brand in your ad copy.

How can I use competitors bidding on my brand to my advantage?

If your products or services are similar enough, this could give you ideas for things to try on your own search marketing efforts. 

It’s also worth noting that, just because a competitor is bidding on certain keywords, that doesn’t mean they’re the “right” keywords. If a keyword doesn’t seem right to bid on for your business, don’t do it! (And maybe even add them to your campaign as negative keywords.) 

Consider reviewing their ad copy or strategy and taking inventory of what you uncover. How does yours compare? This is a great time to reflect on your own advertising efforts. 

Are you taking full advantage of Google’s ad offerings like ad extensions and sitelink extensions (if appropriate)? Ask yourself: If you were a consumer, would you click on your ad?

Pro tip: If you decide to bid on competitor terms, avoid using dynamic keyword insertion. This is a feature that involves the searched keyword auto-populating as an ad’s headline. This will cause your competitor’s name to show up in your ad. It could be deemed deceptive, even if it’s unintentional.

The takeaway

We find that, in general, bidding on your competitor’s brand is typically not a great idea. You could also get lower quality scores for those keywords. 

That’s because Google can see you’re not the brand whose name you’re bidding on. Plus, it’ll likely cost you more to bid on those branded keywords because the brand isn’t your own.

In the long run, it’ll be better for your marketing plan to focus on your unique products or services, make sure user experience is top-notch, and use ads to highlight your selling propositions that make you stand out.

This article has been updated and was originally published in December 2020.

Caroline Cox

Caroline Cox

Caroline is HawkSEM's content marketing manager. She uses her more than 10 years of professional writing and editing experience to create SEO-friendly articles, educational thought leadership pieces, and savvy social media content to help market leaders create successful digital marketing strategies. She's a fan of seltzer water, print magazines, and huskies.

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The Google Seller Ratings ad extension could be the key to boosting your CTR & more.

Here, you’ll find:

  • Why ratings and reviews matter 
  • How to garner more reviews for your brand
  • Steps to add reviews to your paid search ads
  • Common missteps to avoid

Across industries, new brands and products seem to crop up every day. Because of this, ratings and reviews have quickly become one of the top ways customers determine which offering might be right for them.

Data from the Content Marketing Institute and SmartBrief show that one-to-one peer recommendations, original research, and product reviews are the most influential content affecting purchase decisions. 

Looking to amp up your paid search performance? Adding reviews and ratings to your Google Ads might be just the ticket.

Using reviews and rating in ads can help your business gain trust and credibility with your target audience.

Using reviews and rating in ads can help your business gain trust and credibility with your target audience. (Image via Unsplash)

What are the benefits of using reviews and rating in ads?

Using reviews and ratings in your ads can be a great way to make your brand stand out. Think about it: You’re searching for a particular product or service. You see ads highlighting what each brand offers. Then there’s an ad with 5 out of 5 stars and a glowing customer testimonial. Which one is most likely to catch your eye?

Another benefit of using reviews and rating in ads: it can help your business gain trust and credibility. About 95% of shoppers read online reviews before making a purchase, according to G2. They also report that displaying reviews can increase your conversion rates by up to 270%. 

While e-commerce businesses may be the first that come to mind when thinking about what industries benefit from reviews and ratings in ads, it’s certainly not the only one. As long as brands meet the guidelines below and have the ad extension active, they too could see an increased clickthrough rate (CTR) by adding Google Seller Ratings. 

Other industries who have seen success after including reviews and ratings into their ad campaigns include:

  • SaaS startups
  • Marketing and PR agencies 
  • Repair and other service-centered companies 
  • Healthcare facilities 
  • Financial brands

Using ratings and reviews is an effective way to sway customers’ final purchase decisions. A 2020 BrightLocal survey found that positive reviews make 94% of consumers more likely to use a business. Not only that, but 79% of consumers trust online reviews as much as recommendations by friends or family members. 

Pro tip: Ads with extensions are charged just like normal ads clicks, so don’t worry about paying extra.

How do I add seller reviews and ratings to ads?

Google collects feedback from customers who have purchased a product or service from your site through their free Google Customer Reviews service. From there, the search engine allows you to include seller ratings as an automated extension type showcasing advertisers with high ratings.

The Google Customer Reviews service takes reviews customers leave on Google. They also work with other reputable review sites like Trustpilot and G2 to aggregate those reviews for inclusion. Since different sites use different metrics, Google rescales the ratings on a scale of 1-5 to compare reviews from different sources more easily, according to Trustpilot.

HawkSEM: Using Ratings & Reviews in Google Ads

Simplesa’s paid search ads include ratings.

You don’t need to have a Google Merchant Center account or Google Shopping ads running to use seller ratings extensions on Google’s Search Network. And if you no longer want seller ratings to show with your ads? Simply remove the extension.

Since this service is automated, you don’t need to do anything special to set it up after activating the extension. You do, however, need to meet certain qualifications before your reviews will show up, which brings us to…

What are the guidelines when it comes to reviews and rating in ads?

For ratings to show up in your Google Ads text ads, you must have an average composite rating of at least 3.5. (Though Google Shopping can show seller ratings of less than that.) Also, the ad’s visible URL domain must match the domain connected to the respective ratings. 

For seller ratings to show up in paid search ads on Google, they must meet one of these Google requirements in each country the ad is to be shown in:

  • At least 100 unique reviews for the country submitted within the last 12 months via Google Customer Reviews or a third-party review partner
  • Google or one of its partners has completed a research evaluation of your site
  • Google has evaluated of your site via Google Consumer Surveys

Things that could keep your seller ratings from being visible (along with there being no guarantee your ads show at all) include:

  • Not meeting the minimum seller requirements
  • Not having enough information for your business online
  • Having invalid or incorrect URLs as they relate to your reviews

How does Google obtain ratings?

Internally, Google incorporates data from Google Customer Reviews, Google Consumer Survey ratings, and shopping reviews for our store domain. They also pull reviews from other sites including:

  • Bizrate Insights 
  • Feedback Company 
  • PowerReviews 
  • ResellerRatings
  • Reviews.io
  • Shopper Approved
  • Trusted Shops
  • TrustPilot
  • Verified Reviews

Google calibrates the ratings from all these sources to ensure consistent ratings across the board.

FYI: While Google states that it doesn’t modify existing ratings, it does work to filter out untrustworthy or questionable ratings during the calibration stage. 

How do I get more ratings and reviews for my business?

It’s no secret that more reviews can result in increased sales, better rankings, and more revenue. The trick is getting them! 

There are a handful of different ways you can attract more ratings and reviews for your brand online. For starters, you can look into creating an email campaign. This campaign can be sent out to all current clients or can be segmented by those who meet a certain requirement, like a high average Net Promoter Score (NPS). This is a management tool that helps companies gauge the loyalty and happiness of a customer.

Even when emailing multiple people, personalization should be priority. Using templates can be a timesaver when creating email campaigns, but you don’t want your message to come off as impersonal or too automated. (After all, you’re essentially asking for a favor.) A token that pulls in each person’s name can make recipients feel like the message was tailored to them. 

Other ways to increase the amount of feedback or ratings for your business include baking these requests into customer phone call scripts or talk tracks. For service industries that rely heavily on building relationships, such as real estate, asking for a review after the transaction is common. 

Another way to increase ratings is by asking via your email signature. This is a non-intrusive way to request comments and ratings about your offerings. Be sure to include a link that goes directly to the place where the person can leave the review. This may increase the likelihood they’ll actually follow through.

Pro tip: While asking for reviews is perfectly acceptable, make sure not to fall into “bribery” territory by offering an incentive in exchange for a positive review. 

HawkSEM: Using Ratings & Reviews in Google Ads

Experiment with creative ad copy, consistent testing, and other relevant extensions like those for location, price, and promotion. (Image via Unsplash)

When should I not use ratings and reviews in ads?

Reviews and ratings can be a great way to stand out against your competitors — unless theirs are higher. If you’re hovering around 3.75 stars while your competition is displaying 5 out of 5, you might want to remove the extension until you’ve increased your score.

This doesn’t mean your ads won’t stand a chance. While you aim to amp up your reviews, you can still work on beating out similar brands in other ways. Experiment with things like creative ad copy, consistent testing, and other relevant extensions like those for location, price, and promotion.

Pro tip: You can check out your company’s seller rating profile (if applicable) by going to https://www.google.com/shopping/ratings/account/lookup?q={yourwebsite}.

The takeaway

Including your company’s ratings and reviews in your PPC ads can be just the boost you need to up your CTR and performance. It’s a simple way to make your paid search ads eye-catching, while showing your target audience that your brand is credible and trustworthy.

By meeting the proper requirements, staying on top of customer service, and ensuring your offering is high quality, you’ll garner reviews worthy of showing off.

This article has been updated and was originally published in March 2020.

Caroline Cox

Caroline Cox

Caroline is HawkSEM's content marketing manager. She uses her more than 10 years of professional writing and editing experience to create SEO-friendly articles, educational thought leadership pieces, and savvy social media content to help market leaders create successful digital marketing strategies. She's a fan of seltzer water, print magazines, and huskies.

Questions or comments? Join the conversation here!

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Written by Caroline Cox on Feb 2, 2021

New to the Google Ads platform? You’ve come to the right place.

Here, you’ll find:

  • What Google Ads is
  • How to create your own Google Ads account
  • How these ads can fit into your marketing strategy
  • Expert tips on creating effective Google Ads campaigns

Few companies can say they’re so well-known that their brand name has become an official verb in the dictionary. Google can.

So it makes sense that, when it comes to your digital marketing budget, Google is one of the best places to invest your ad spend. But if you’re just starting out with the advertising platform, it can feel overwhelming.

Below, our SEM Manager Nina Breece walks us through a look at the Google Ads platform, why it deserves a place in your digital marketing plan, and how to start creating your own Google Ads in a snap.

Google Ads homepage

 

What is Google Ads?

Simply put, Google Ads is the platform used to set-up and launch marketing campaigns across Google, the world’s most popular search engine. These campaign types include:

  • Pay-per-click (also called PPC or paid search)
  • Shopping
  • App
  • Local
  • Display
  • Video

How is Google Ads different from other paid search platforms?

Google Ads often leads the charge when it comes to new technology and adaptations within the search, video, and programmatic display landscape. With more than 3.5 billion searches each day, it’s safe to say the search engine also dominates the digital advertising space. 

If you’re looking to get ads out to the masses and have useful audience segments and targeting information at your fingertips, Google is the place to advertise. Plus, since Google owns YouTube, they have a monopoly for any ads on the video platform as well. 

How does Google Ads fit into a well-rounded digital marketing strategy?

Google Ads provides critical components of a complete digital marketing strategy poised for success. Being able to put paid search and Shopping ads directly in front of a searcher when they’re looking for a product, service, solution, or answer is one of the most successful ways to convert someone — or at least get them to engage with your brand. 

Not only that, but the ability to support multiple ad types, from PPC to video, through one platform means your users’ journeys can be even more connected. This also allows you to tap into additional opportunities and data you may not have access to otherwise.  

Google Ads advertising goals

During setup, select Expert Mode if you’re experienced with Google Ads or are working with a digital marketing agency. (Image via Google Ads)

How do I set up a Google Ads account? 

Unsurprisingly, Google has made it easy to set up a Google Ads account and create your first ad. To start, all you need is an email address and company name. (Ideally, you also have a website for your business, but if you don’t, you can still advertise via the platform’s Smart campaigns.) 

Once you enter this info, you can tell Google what your advertising goals are. From there, you’ll set up billing. Next, you’ll be able to start your first campaign.

Pro tip: During setup, select Expert Mode if you’re experienced with Google Ads or are working with a digital marketing agency. 

How do I create a Google Ads campaign?

After your account setup is complete, you can hit the ground running to create your first campaign. Google recommends starting out with a PPC search ad (aka text ad), which is their simplest ad type.

Before you start building the campaign itself, there are a few questions you need to ask yourself. These include:

  • How much, on average, am I willing to spend per day on this campaign?
  • Who is my audience for this campaign?
  • In what locations do I want my ad to show?
  • What keywords do I want to tie to this campaign?

Once you’ve determined these parameters, you can move forward with setting your bid. This, as Google describes, is “the highest price you’re willing to pay when a potential customer clicks your ad.” Lastly, you can get to work on the copy for the text ad itself. 

Audience targeting setup

What elements make up an effective Google Ads campaign?

Your campaigns’ effectiveness will depend on factors like your budget, timeline, goals, and bandwidth, along with your site’s quality and speed.

With that in mind, these are a few factors that generally make up a successful Google Ads campaign:

  • Launch initial campaigns strategically, with a solid structure in place that can be carried on as the account expands
  • Research driven keywords and targeting
  • Set up location targeting and negative keywords (negate irrelevant search terms that your ads could match to)
  • Create thematic ad groups within PPC campaigns
  • Leverage audience information being used in observation or targeting mode, based on campaign type and goal
  • Set up competitive bids
  • Create concise and compelling copy
  • Conduct frequent account reviews and optimizations based on accrued data

Need more help with Google Ads? Let’s chat. 

What are the different Google Ads campaign and ad types?

As mentioned above, there are a variety of ad and campaign options you can leverage in Google’s advertising platform. Here’s a quick-and-dirty breakdown.

a look at Google Shopping ads for headphones

A look at Google Shopping ads on the search engine results page. (Image via Google)

PPC ads

Where they show: On the Google search engine results page (SERP) and across partner networks, if enabled. (These text ads look similar to organic search results.)

Payment model: Advertisers only pay when someone clicks on your ad.

How they work: PPC ads are run based on keywords you set in your account. If someone searches something relevant to your keywords, your ad might be eligible to show. A key component of PPC ads is Quality Score, which is made up of ad relevance, expected clickthrough rate (CTR), and landing page relevance.

Shopping ads

Where they show: On the Google SERP, the Shopping tab, and across partner networks, if enabled. These ads feature a product image and show at the top of the SERP.

Payment model: Advertisers only pay when someone clicks on your ad.

How they work: Shopping ads are exclusive for brands that are selling items. Unlike PPC ads, you don’t need keywords. Shopping ads are fueled from a feed (imagine a data spreadsheet) containing relevant info about each product including headlines and descriptions from which Google matches search terms. The feed, along with bids and budgets, will determine whether or not your products will show when someone searches. 

Pro tip: If you’re running Shopping ads, you’ll need a Google Merchant Center account. This is where your feed will be uploaded and monitored to ensure things are working correctly. 

Display ads

Where they show: Display ads serve across websites, YouTube, Gmail, and apps associated with the Google Display Network that your users are already visiting. 

Payment model: You can decide if you want to pay on a cost-per-click (CPC) basis or cost per 1,000 impressions model (CPM).

How they work: Using audience and placement targeting advertisers can narrow down where ads will appear, so that they show in relevant places to the right audiences. 

Video ads

Where they show: Video ads appear on YouTube and across the Google Video Partners networks.

Payment model: There are multiple payment and showing options — pay per view, click, interaction, or per thousand impressions. Other options include paying when someone watches at least 30 seconds, the full video, or interacts with the video. 

How they work: Using audience and placement targeting, advertisers can narrow down where ads will appear. A variety of Video Ad formats can help you find the right solution for your goals. 

Local ads

Where they show: Local campaigns show across the Google Search network, Google Maps, the Google Display Network, and YouTube.

Payment model: Depending on where the ad is shown, advertisers pay for clicks, views, or impressions.

How they work: Using a variety of ad assets, Google displays Local ads to searchers who are near or are planning to be near your brick-and-mortar locations. The purpose of these campaigns is to drive incremental foot traffic.

App campaigns

Where do they show: App campaigns can appear across the Google Search network, Google Play, YouTube, and the Google Display Network.

Payment model: Depending on where the ad is shown, advertisers pay for clicks, views, or impressions.

How they work: App campaigns encourage searchers to download your app seamlessly or focus on in-app actions for new or existing users. They are shown across a variety of places, but will deep-link to your app. 

What are the Google Ads targeting options?

Google knows as well as we do that proper, robust targeting can make or break an ad’s success and reach. That’s why they offer a handful of targeting options to ensure your ads are showing to the proper viewers.

  • Retargeting: Using audiences from Google Ads or Google Analytics, reach users who have interacted with your ads or business in some way. Google can retarget all users who have interacted with your website or mobile app
  • Customer match: Reach people directly from your CRM data and find lookalike audiences based on these lists
  • In-market: Reach people who are actively in the market for a product or service
  • Affinity: People who are interested in a specific theme, which could encompass habits, hobbies, and interests
  • Detailed demographics: Those who fall into certain age, gender, household income, homeownership, employment, parental status, marital status or education background breakdowns
  • Life events: People who are doing things like moving, buying a home, getting married, changing jobs, retiring, creating a new business, or graduating college
  • Similar audiences: Audiences who are similar to people that have interacted with your ads, site, or app
  • Custom audiences: Create a custom audience that targets multiple of the above aspects to hyper-focus your targeting

The takeaway

It’s clear that there are a ton of reasons to explore advertising on the Google Ads platform. As the leading search engine by far, it’s basically a sure-fire way to reach your target audience.

Once you know how the platform works and how to properly set up your account, you’ll be ready to launch your first campaign, start gathering data, optimize your ads, and grow your ROI. 

Caroline Cox

Caroline Cox

Caroline is HawkSEM's content marketing manager. She uses her more than 10 years of professional writing and editing experience to create SEO-friendly articles, educational thought leadership pieces, and savvy social media content to help market leaders create successful digital marketing strategies. She's a fan of seltzer water, print magazines, and huskies.

Questions or comments? Join the conversation here!

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Written by Sam Yadegar on Aug 17, 2020

Saving time on your marketing campaigns is always a win. Luckily, there are Google Ads shortcuts that will streamline your process and boost campaign efficiency. 

Here, you’ll find:

  • Reasons for using Ads shortcuts
  • Helpful Google features to simplify your work
  • Ways to access and use these time-saving tools
  • Expert advice to stay ahead of the competition

Google Ads is one of the most effective and nuanced PPC platforms in the market. Its comprehensive approach means that there are hundreds of sections to work on. 

When it comes to ad upkeep, common tasks include text optimization, bid management, keyword research, and reporting. These alone — not to mention analysis and other formalities — can take up a good chunk of your time.

Of course, it’s crucial to put plenty of time and effort into your campaigns for optimized ads. But leveraging a few shortcuts that exist within the platform allows you to work smarter, not harder, to get the results you want to achieve. 

Here are some Google Ads shortcuts that’ll save you time without sacrificing quality. 

google shortcuts

Usually, accounts are managed by multiple people over their lifespans, particularly for accounts that have been around for years. (Image via Unsplash)

1. Delete keyword clutter

Keywords have always been an integral part of digital marketing. The strategy a few years ago was to come up for every keyword term and all their variations. Google’s Phrase and Exact policies at the time made aspects like plurals and misspellings necessary.

Since then, Google’s Phrase and Exact policies have changed. Nowadays, such variations in keyword phrases are achieved by matching close variants. This means that you no longer need thousands (or hundreds of thousands) of keywords to stay ahead of the competition. Google recommends doing away with these variations under the “Opportunities” section of your account. 

Keep up with the changes by removing duplicate keywords. Luckily, you don’t have to search for every keyword term. Simply use Google Ads Editor to define duplicate keywords and identify them in seconds. You’ll find this feature under the “Tools” category, and you have many options when it comes to how you define duplicate keywords.  

2. Customize your ads

In a way, repetition is necessary for successful marketing (see: the effectiveness of remarketing). The idea is to keep your brand and products in the spotlight perpetually so they stay top of mind with your target audience. 

Some types of ads require systemic repetition. For example, running a timed promotion with a limited number of days to go may require you to update your ads every day until the promotion runs out. While this is necessary, it’s also a bit of a time-waster.

Google’s Ad Customizer will save you effort and update your ads in real-time with impressive precision and quality. This feature requires you to specify standard attributes about your campaign, including factors such as:

  • Start and end dates
  • Target demographics
  • Schedules
  • And more

The Customizer will then use a refined code to implement these parameters at the set times.

3. Use notations

Maybe you have one single person who handles anything and everything pertaining to your Google Ads account. But, usually, organizations’ accounts are managed by multiple people over their lifespans, particularly for accounts that have been around for years.  

Depending on how experienced and organized your team (or the agency you’ve tasked to handle your ads) is, it can be difficult to keep everyone on the same page. This is especially true when you factor in employee turnover. Many account managers who have been in this situation often find themselves wishing for guidance from past account managers. Fortunately, this is possible using notation.

Google recommends you make notes as you manage your ad campaigns. This will help keep your ads organized, since you can visit your notes and track activity. It also makes it easier for account managers who come after to catch up and tailor their marketing campaigns to fit in with past parameters for continuity, including streamlining metrics and performance analysis.

You can add notes via the “Campaign” and “Ad Group View” tabs. Look for the link to performance metrics and click on the option to “Add Note.” Your notes will be stored and can be easily accessible on the reports by account managers who come after you.

hidden shortcut

Take some time to explore the features available to your marketing account and exploit ways of leveraging them. (Image via Unsplash)

4. Test faster using creative Ad Variation

Testing and streamlining ad creation is necessary for every marketing campaign’s organization and success. But doing it manually can be time-consuming. The quicker, easier, and more efficient way? Using Google’s Ad Variation feature.

The Ad Variation feature enables you to automatically streamline ad creation and test the subsequent ads based on your precise parameters. For example, you can split the percentage of your target audience whichever way you choose (this is not an option using Google’s auto-optimization). 

All you have to do is set and specify your desired parameters and fill in the details, including the type of ads you’re making and which campaigns they affect. The Ads Variation feature is available under the “Drafts & Experiments” section. Hover over this section until the “+” sign appears, and click on it to access this feature.

5. Take advantage of the right tools and automation

Google is consistently improving its marketing and advertising features. A huge chunk of these efforts involve automation and making the work easier using specialized tools. For example, Google’s updated scripts can automate the time-consuming task of reporting.

While automation can make life easier, it’s worth noting that you shouldn’t automate everything in your campaigns. After all, robots can’t compete with the expertise and experience of a human.

As far as Google Ads shortcuts go, take some time to explore the automated features available to your marketing account and the different ways of leveraging them. And if it all feels overwhelming? Consider consulting a professional for guidance.

The takeaway

It’s wise to keep up with Google’s updates, as they often include upgrades to its features that make the platform quicker and more efficient. 

Many marketers waste precious hours working on the technical aspects of their marketing campaigns. But with Google Ads shortcuts, you can explore easier and quicker ways to work on the technicalities and put your time to better use elsewhere.

Need more help with your Google Ads campaign? That’s what we’re here for.

 

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.

Questions or comments? Join the conversation here!

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