My name is Jay Vasantharajah I am the co-founder of ClientFlo (digital marketing agency) and PureFilters (indoor air quality brand). I have over 7 years experience with Google Ads and manage multi-million dollar campaigns.
After doing my last interview with Pat, I received a lot of inquiries about Google Ads, readers wanting to know more about how to master the platform. So I decided to do a follow-up interview where I dive a bit deeper into one of the worlds greatest advertising platforms of all time.
So what exactly is Google Adwords?
Google Ads is a form of pay-per-click marketing that enables you to target users based on what they search. I know there are other campaigns you can create in Google Ads, such as YouTube and display ads, however, for this interview I am going to focus strictly on search ads.
In a nutshell, you select keywords that you want your ads to show up for every time someone Googles that keyword. Every time someone clicks on your ad, you pay Google.
The amount you pay is based on an auction system. So you and whoever else bids for that keywords determine the price you pay (picture an auction house, highest bidder wins).
For the last few years, I found that many new entrepreneurs tend to overlook Google Ads in favor of Facebook and Instagram Ads.
Although I can’t attest for the future of Facebook Ads, I can surely tell you that search isn’t going anywhere.
Google generated almost $100bn from ad revenues last yearand there is no sign of slowing down. Advertisers are clearly making a good ROI if they continue to spend money on Google.
How Adwords work for our business.
I manage millions of dollars of Google Ads spend through my digital marketing agency for clients.
I have also utilized Google Ads to grow my other business, PureFilters, to a 7-figure business that has doubled in size since my last interview with Starter Story.
Client numbers vary quite drastically since each client is unique in many ways. But with PureFilters, I average around $8 cost per acquisition, which is about at 17x return on ad spend.
I grew the company from 0 to almost 15,000 customers mainly using Google Ads.
How I got started.
I started off doing Google Ads for my dad’s company, a small airport shuttle business operating just north of Toronto, Canada.
That’s how I learned the basics of advertising, conversions and optimizing ads (lots of money wasted too, good thing we’re family).
Fast forward a few years, I launch my digital marketing agency ClientFlo to help other small business owners scale and optimize their Google Ads campaign.
After managing hundreds of client campaigns, I launched my second business, PureFilters and started applying all the knowledge that I had and my own money.
The golden rule of advertising...
Test everything. This is basically the golden rule of advertising. Whether it is your ad copies, your bidding strategies or landing pages, you absolutely need to test as much as you can.
Testing works well on all advertising channels, but here are some Google Ads-specific tips:
Check what your competitors are doing
Google Ads is the ultimate arena... you are pitted up against all of your competitors, and the best ad campaign strategy wins.
What this means is you should be checking your competitor's ads and offers regularly to see how your ads/offers compares with theirs.
Sometimes, the reason why your conversion rate is terrible isn’t because of the keywords you chose or ad copy you wrote… but a competitor having a better offer than you.
Keeping narrow funnels
Google Ads performs best when you have narrow funnels. Imagine Google search users have horse blinders on and are therefore 1 track focused, this means you need to give them EXACTLY what they are looking for.
See below of an example of my ad group for furnace filters. This keyword will target anyone searching any query that contains the words ‘furnace” and “filters”
And the resulting ad they will see contains the words “furnace” and “filters” in the headline, display URL and description. Not only will this increase click-through-rates but it will also give you a better quality score, thus reducing your cost-per-click.
Same thing below with Lennox Furnace Filters (a popular brand we carry)
The more narrow your funnels, the better you will perform. Create ad groups for every brand, product type, size, colour, etc.
Say you sell mittens online. If someone is Googling red mittens, they are a lot more likely to click an ad that talks about red mittens than mittens in general.
Once they click through the ad, they are a lot more likely to convert on a landing page dedicated to red mittens.
Therefore, you need to make your funnels as narrow as possible. Have separate ad groups, ad copies, landing pages for red mittens, black mittens, cashmere mittens.
To get even more specific, I would say there are 3 things you should be doing in your Google Ads campaign on a regular basis:
1. Manage search queries
look at your search queries, what are people are Googling? Are any of them converting? Do the search queries seem like they have monetary intent?
This gives you incredible consumer insight, what’s better than getting into the heads of your consumer and seeing what they are thinking.
Negative keywords are keywords you don’t want your ad copy to show up for. Negative keywords are crucial, in fact in most scenarios, the more negative keywords you have, they better your campaign will perform. Add negative keywords based on search queries you see and conclude have 0 monetary intent or are irrelevant to your product/service.
2. AB test ad copies
You should be running tests on a regular basis, try our different headlines/description copy etc. I find it’s better to try our ad copies with completely different texts, rather than minor differences. This will give you much better insight into consumer behaviour. You will want at least 30 impressions or more to achieve statistical significance before concluding which ad copy is superior.
Google Ads has tools to help you run experiments and AB test quite effectively, but you don’t need to complicate it. Run your A ad for 100 impressions, then pause it. Run your B ad for 100 impressions, then see which ad received more clicks. I use a project management tool called Monday.com to keep track of my AB tests.
If you are running a large campaign, cherry-pick and focus on the ad groups that receive a ton of impressions, test the ads within that ad group.
Having higher click-through-rates will mean more traffic, better quality score and in turn, lower cost-per-click.
3. Test bid strategies
As mentioned earlier, you bid on keywords you want your ad to appear for. Google has a ton of different bid strategies but boil down to 2 main categories: manual bidding (you set your on bid for every keyword) and automated bidding (you let Google choose your bids). Automated bidding strategies have a goal tied to them such as maximize clicks, maximizing conversions, target search page location and target cost-per-acquisition.
Similar to ad copies, it really comes down to testing which bid strategy works for you. Any of the conversion-based strategies, you need a lot of data for it to be effective. So to start you should do a strategy which will get you exposure or clicks, such as target page, target search impression share, maximize clicks or manual bids. Depending on your budget and vertical, you will want to run this strategy until you receive 30+ conversions in a campaign.
After you have accumulated a decent amount of conversion data you can test out target cost-per-acquisition (CPA). For example, so you don’t want to spend more than $8 on Google Ads per new customer. Which target CPA bidding, Google will use data from your campaign to figure out how much to bid for each according and try it’s best to achieve your goal $8 CPA.
What makes a good Adwords listing
There are a few factors involved in making a good ad listing.
The most important is ad relevance. For the keyword that your ad will trigger for, is it relevant? Make sure the ad copy contains the keyword in the headline, display URL and description. As mentioned earlier, this will do wonders for your CTR and quality score.
Utilize as many ad extensions as possible, it simply gives you more real estate on Google’s search results page as well as more opportunities to catch the eye of a user.
As mentioned earlier, what your competitors offer have a huge effect on your performance. If you have a better offer, price or something else, make sure you put it in your ad copy.
Include a call to action such as “Call Now” or “Get Started Today” somewhere in the ad copy. It’s a good way for users to take action.
In general I found that my ad copies with numbers in the headlines tend to do better (might be different for you, but this is just my experience). Including thing like 5-star, the price, 30% off, etc tend to get higher click-through-rates for whatever reason.
Here is an example of one of my highest performing ad copies:
Here’s what I’ve learned
Google Ads is great for targeting informed buyers, ready to make a purchase. Essentially buyers that are at the end of the buying cycle.
People may argue with me, but I personally believe that you should already have a decent brand name/reputation before you start spending money on Google Ads. When users are ready to buy something, and use Google to find the product...often times they will go with a company/brand they are already familiar with.
I’ve seen start-up businesses burn through thousands of dollars on Google Ads before concluding “it doesn’t work”. It’s not that it didn’t work, but all the people clicking on your ads probably ended up buying from your well-known competitor instead. You need to invest in other forms of advertising to build brand trust and reputation before spending on Google Ads.
Another common mistake I see is the “set-and-forget” campaigns. I don’t know why people are under the assumption that you don’t need to actively manage their campaign. You should be looking at it (or hire someone to look at it) on a daily basis and optimize.
Also, much like any other digital marketing platform, data is your friend. The more data you have, the better you will perform. It’s basic statistics really, you start to see which ad copies and keywords convert better and optimize accordingly. You can’t get data, and therefore, results overnight. Set aside budget to test and gather data for at least 6 months for optimal performance.
Getting started with Adwords.
The best way to learn is honestly through experience. Create a campaign, set out a test budget, optimize, and learn the basic as you go. There are tons of resources out there to help you learn how to effectively manage campaigns.
There are also a couple of tools that are helpful like SEMRush and Wordstream. But over the years, Google started to incorporate new features that have made many of these 3rd party tools obsolete. I myself have developed proprietary tools I used to create and manage campaigns, but they have become obsolete with new features Google has added.
Definitely become familiar with the Google Keyword Planner, really powerful tool if you know how to use it properly. It will help you discover keywords worth bidding on, different trends and insights.
As mentioned earlier, users having familiarity with your brand/company plays a huge role. For this reason I would recommend starting with a re-targetting campaign as a first step.
As I mentioned earlier, I believe that Google Ads is still an amazing advertising platform and almost any business can generate a positive ROI from it. I strongly encourage everyone to consider it in their marketing mix for 2019. Learn to use the Google Keyword tool, test, learn, and optimize constantly for killer results.
If you want to contact me, feel free to visit my website https://jayvas.com/ (make sure to subscribe to my blog as well). I do offer consulting services in addition to my agency services as well. So if you need help with customer acquisition and scaling digital marketing campaigns, hit me up!
PureFilters has provided an update on their business!
6 months ago, we followed up with PureFilters to see how they've been doing since we published this article.
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