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Google Search Ads: Everything From Basics To Best Practices

Evan Oliver
Evan Oliver
Director of Marketing
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You’re a busy marketer who needs to get more leads and conversions. Your research shows that there’s a ton of search volume for topics related to your company.

So how do you capture that search traffic and start getting results—especially if you can’t afford to wait for long-term efforts like search engine optimization (SEO)?

In this article we’ll cover the fundamentals of Google search ads, including how much they cost, why you should use them, and how to set up a campaign so you can start getting results.

What are Google search ads?

Search ads are keyword-driven digital ads. The search term a user enters determines which ads appear on the search engine results page (SERP).

These ads can appear across Google’s Search Network. They can display at the top, at the bottom, or next to search results on:

  • Google Search
  • Google Play
  • Google Maps
  • Shopping tab
  • Search partners across thousands of other websites
Google search ads
Search ads are often the first results that appear on a SERP

As an advertiser, you can choose from several paid search options, including text ads, responsive search ads, call-only ads, and dynamic search ads. The Search Network also supports Shopping ads for e-commerce retailers, which we’ll cover separately.

Paid search is integral to a successful online advertising strategy. Here are just a few of the ways your business can benefit:

Capture search intent

Search ads are powerful because they reflect the intent of the user. They attract people who are actually searching for something you might sell, allowing you to leverage that interest.

Depending on the user’s intent and funnel stage, these ads have the potential to be expensive. But you can keep your costs in check with a smart strategy and an understanding of the value of paid search.

Get online or offline results

You might be thinking: website clicks sound great, but I need more than that. Why would I use search ads?

Website visits are a common goal for paid search. But this objective is far from the only option. These ads can also generate leads, sales, phone calls, and even in-person visits.

Target your ideal audience

Traditional advertising is designed to reach as many people as possible. That can lead to a lot of wasted ad spend.

In contrast, search ads allow for more fine-tuned targeting. In addition to using keywords, you can target potential customers based on demographics, interests, purchase intent, website signals, and remarketing data.

Choose from flexible budget options

With search, you don’t have to spend thousands or even hundreds of dollars per month. You can start small and scale up when you begin to see the results you want.

You can set daily budgets to get high-level control over how much you spend. If you want to increase, decrease, or even pause your ad spend, you can do so at a moment’s notice.

How much do search ads cost?

Google Ads is a pay-per-click (PPC) platform so you pay when users interact with your ads. Since Google uses an auction system for search ads, there’s no standard price for a campaign. To estimate costs for your search campaign and find average cost per click (CPC) for your keywords, use Google Keyword Planner.

Factors like bid caps and your ads’ quality score affect whether you win the auction. The cost depends on factors like how competitive the keyword is and the conversion you want to achieve.

For smaller advertisers with typical needs, the Google Ads platform is free to set up. Agencies and big businesses may need a paid enterprise-level solution like Search Ads 360, which has a customized monthly cost.

How to create a search campaign

You can set up an ad campaign in just a few minutes. Start by opening your Google Ads account and following the steps below.

Google Ads new campaign
You can choose from Sales, Leads, or Website Traffic campaign goals

1. Set up a search campaign

Click the blue plus icon to create a new Google Ads campaign. Then choose a campaign goal and select Search for the campaign type. Search ads are compatible with Sales, Leads, and Website Traffic objectives.

2. Choose campaign settings

Decide on a daily budget and choose a bidding strategy. Start with one of Google’s recommended smart bidding strategies, such as Conversions. Once you gather data, you can optimize your ad spend by setting a target cost per action (CPA) or switching to a manual bidding strategy.

Google Ads new campaign budget and bidding
You can opt-out of the Google Display Network or Google partners

Select targeting options, including locations, audiences, and languages. To create a search-only campaign, opt out of the Display Network. Otherwise, your ads will default to appearing across Google ad networks, which isn’t always an optimal use of your ad spend.

3. Create ad groups

Google Ads new campaign keywords and ads
You can enter your website to get keyword ideas

At the ad group level, add the keywords you want to target. Use separate sets of keywords for each ad group to make your campaigns more efficient and your targeting more relevant.

4. Build search ads

Google Ads new campaign search ad elements
You can include multiple versions of most search ad elements

Create an ad by inputting the main elements: a headline, a description, and a display URL for the landing page. Note that Google Ads may combine multiple headlines and descriptions when serving your ad—so ensure they make sense together and independently. Then configure ad extensions to improve performance.

Finally, review and launch your campaign. Google’s ad review process can take a couple days, so schedule in advance if possible. Once your campaign starts running, you can track metrics in your Google Ads dashboard.

Best practices for search ads

Creating this type of ad may seem simple at first. But optimizing campaigns can become complicated quickly. These best practices can help make your campaign as successful as possible.

Target the right keyword match types

Every keyword has what’s known as a match type, and using the wrong one can make you lose out on a lot of potential results. Google search ads allow three keyword match types: broad match, phrase match, and exact match. You may also find it helpful to add negative keywords to avoid targeting irrelevant search terms.

Maximize the character count

These ads have strict character limits for each element. Use them wisely by including as many characters as possible—up to 30 for each headline and up to 90 for each description. Create as many versions of each element so Google Ads can test out different combinations and serve the winning options more often.

Set up conversion tracking

If you want to drive sales, calls, leads, or website visits, you have to monitor what happens after a user interacts with your ad. Set up Google Ads conversion tracking before launching a campaign so you can accurately gauge and optimize results.

Update search ads periodically

Search campaigns require regular monitoring to drive the best possible results over weeks, months, or even longer. Changing ads, ad groups, or campaigns more than once a week can prevent Google Ads from delivering efficiently. Instead, review and update your campaigns every couple of weeks, especially if you notice a dramatic change in cost or conversions.

Are you ready to create more effective ads and improve your digital marketing strategy? Learn the basics of search targeting to ensure you’re reaching the ideal audience and optimizing your ad spend.

Chapter 2:
Google Search Ads

What You’ll Learn: Learn about keywords, match types, search terms, and quality scores so you can dominate search in no time.

Chapter 3:
Google Display Ads

What You’ll Learn: Take advantage of cheaper clicks with unknown strategies many people don’t use when it comes to the Google Ads Display Network.

Chapter 4:
Google Shopping Ads

What You’ll Learn: Get more people to buy from your store, increase your average order value, all while spending less on acquiring new customers.