Google Ads : Introduction
First of all, a little vocabulary: PPC means Pay-Per-Click and this perfectly sums up the functioning of Google ads: an Internet user clicks on your ad, you pay. It is as simple as that. And now, a bit of history: in 1996, a company was going to revolutionize digital marketing and… it was not Google! This company was called Idealab and after two years of hard work it goto.com a search engine financed by advertising: advertisers paid for a keyword when it was used by an Internet user and then displayed their advertisement. Idealab, excuse the little, had invented the PPC. And not only. How to evaluate what the advertiser was going to pay? By a clever system of bids. Does this sound familiar? In October 2001, GoTo changed its name to Ouverture. That same year, they were awarded a patent: “System and method for influencing a position on a search result list generated by a computer network search engine. Translation: system and method for influencing a position on a search result list generated by a computer network search engine. Yes, this should really remind you of something… In 2003, Yahoo! bought Ouverture for 1.63 billion dollars. An absolutely huge sum for the time. And during this time, a certain Google, which had launched a very unoriginal CPm (cost per thousand impressions) thought that this auction system was really a good idea. We can guess what happened next: in April 2002, Ouverture sued Google. Two years later, nothing was settled, and Google was preparing its IPO (Initial Public Offering). No way to drag this ball and chain and Google decided to settle out of court: 2.7 million shares in exchange for a perpetual license.
Google, circa 1998
That same year, the Backrub company adopted a new name: Google. Larry Page and Sergey Brin were working in Susan Wojciki’s garage. With $25 million from investors, they moved two years later to Mountain View and Craig Silverstein became their very first employee. Potential advertisers had to contact one of their salespeople and spend a fairly substantial minimum based on CPM. You could decide on the display of ads based on keywords, but that was it. In October 2000, an important step was taken with the launch of Google Adwords. You could then do without a salesperson and launch your own campaigns, always on a CPM basis.
In February 2002, Adword Select was launched. All the key principles were present with one improvement compared to GoTo: relevance. To define which advertisement would be displayed first, Google did not only take into account the CPC (cost per click) but also the CTR (click through rate), i.e. the interest of users for the displayed advertisement. The formula adopted to define the display position was therefore maximum CPC * CTR. GoTo, on the other hand, was content with a single criterion: the amount that an advertiser was willing to pay. But since Google pays per click, we understand the interest in displaying ads that interest Internet users, even if the CPC is a little lower. Let us imagine that an advertiser decides to pay a hundred dollars per click: they will win the auction, but if the ad does not interest anyone, Google will not earn a cent. Even the Internet user wins, since with Google’s formula he has a greater chance of seeing advertisements likely to interest him. A giant was born, the same one that would one day revolutionize the universe and the rest with its incredible Google Glass. More seriously, the CTR criterion is absolutely essential: it means that the more effective and interesting your ad is, the more likely it is to be displayed even if you are not the highest bidder. Creativity can win out over big budgets. At least in theory, because it is not at all certain that you can really do better than a specialized agency with an army of graphic designers and copywriters.
The answer to a question
Advertising in the Google search engine is different from traditional advertising: When you use the search engine, you have a problem, and you are looking for a solution. It can be the date of birth of a celebrity or a plumber, but in both cases, we expect an answer. The advertisement must therefore respond to this imperative: you offer an answer and if it is relevant, the user will click on the link to visit your site. The home page of your site is of little interest: too general, it does not provide a direct answer to a question. You need what is called a landing page: It can be a list of laptops if you have an electronics store. If you sell subscriptions, you cannot coldly propose the registration page: you need a specific page that explains the interest to register.
Choosing the right keywords is absolutely essential. This means asking the following question: what question do you have the answer to? The set of steps from the moment a user is aware of your site to the purchase phase is called a “funnel”. It is an inverted pyramid, because the number of people who will consult your site is much higher than the number of people who will actually buy, and at each stage, their number decreases: even at the final stage, when the shopping cart is filled, there are many abandonments. This is not surprising, since “funnel” means “funnel”. A common term in marketing is “conversion tunnel”. There are several variations of this famous tunnel, but they are all pretty much the same.
The different phases of the funnel.
The first step is to make yourself known to generate traffic. In addition to choosing the right keywords, you will have to create ads that will attract users and encourage them to click. “Learning” is the phase where you present your products or services. For example, when I advertise for www.rozange-consulting.com I include a landing page introducing my services, after which they will be directed to sign up for a newsletter, download free content or zoom in. A link also proposes the purchase of a service, but this step is rarely reached during a first contact. The whole funnel can be completed in a few minutes, if you have a highly attractive offer, or several months, especially through retargeting, by regularly calling people who have visited your site or bought something. In total, the funnel is broken down into four or five phases:
- Awareness: The user is aware of your advertisement
- Interest: They click on the advertisement
- Learning: They learn more about your offer: This is the actual advertising pitch.
- Shop: The user is almost convinced; they examine your offer and eventually add items to his cart.
- Buy: If the cart has not been abandoned, congratulations: we have reached the last step of the funnel.
four distinct categories
We sometimes group keywords into four distinct categories.
- Explicit: This is the most concrete case. The user knows what they want, for example, they are looking for a doctor, a specific book, or a babysitter.
- Problem: the search is vaguer this time. For example, a search for a “good science -fiction” or list symptoms such as “difficulty breathing and migraines”.
- Solution: You already know what you want. You just want to know where to buy Aspirin or DDR RAM bars.
- Finally, there is the information search, often formulated in natural language. For example “original gift idea for my girlfriend”. Try it, and you will see that this seemingly vague search has been considered by marketers who offer all sorts of solutions to your dilemma.
Find the right keywords
Now all that is left to do is find the keywords. Examine the occurrences on your website, visit the websites of your competitors, and use the excellent Google Ads tool which, from one keyword, will suggest many others: this is the “Adords Keyword Planner” to which you will have free access when you create an advertising campaign. How many keywords should you have? Some companies work with combinations of several million keywords, but not everyone has the online offer of eBay or Amazon… In most cases, a list of a few dozen lines will suffice. But if you want to create large lists, nothing could be easier: use a keyword mixer. For example, the free one from seoscout.com: You enter lists of words in each of the three columns (typically noun, verb, adjective) and it will create the various combinations for you. You can add some very useful options: for example, the exact combination or the broad one. We will see later what this means. This is a very interesting tool, because 80% of searches include at least two words, and searches with only one word are very competitive because they are very generic, and therefore cost much more. We have already explained in our articles on SEO what long tail searches are, they allow to target much more precisely and are much cheaper because they are more specific: the logic is exactly the same as for SEO.
Wide versus deep
A broad search means… vague, more or less. In other words, if you sell televisions you take into account that the term “television” and its synonyms are not included in the search. For example, it could be “50 inch and up” rather than “new sony widescreen tvs”. A broad search is therefore a whole universe of queries and keywords, a real under-exploited mine. So we start by creating lists as large as possible and then, after a week or so, we look at what worked best in terms of clicks. You then reduce your list in order to improve its relevance. Of course, winning the bid for “fifty plus inches” is going to cost less than “Sony screen”. So it’s very interesting, even if you only sell Sony TVs.
The four types of keywords in Google Ads: broad, phrase, exact match, and variation match.
By default, the broad search is used because it is the simplest and also, generally, the least interesting. Broad, this means that from your keywords Google will allow all sorts of variations: misspelled terms, synonyms, masculine, plural… a keyword thus becomes almost the equivalent of a focus in Facebook ads. The order of the words does not matter either. Let us say you sell all kinds of soft drinks: it can be interesting to choose this type of query that will return a result for all kinds of brands and types of types of soft drinks. If on the other hand you are a Pepsi-Cola retailer, not only is this of no interest, but with a Broad search you will also attract those who swear by Coca-Cola.
Modified Broad Match:
Let’s suppose that you only sell Pepsi-cola, so you don’t want Google to consider Coca-Cola as an equivalent. Therefore, you are going to use the + sign to make sure that the corresponding term appears in the query: so +Pepsi will guarantee that your ad will be displayed only when the term Pepsi appears explicitly, excluding any equivalent or synonym. On the other hand, Google is kind enough to take typos into account. So +pepsi will also work with Pepssi for example. For a noun, singular and plural forms will also be considered.
The logic is the same as for Boolean functions: you enclose the expression with quotation marks. Your ad will only be displayed if the content is strictly identical, except for typos and plural instead of singular. In addition, there may be words before and after. For example with the phrase “Sony TV” it will display with “Sony TV” or “Sonyy TVs” but not with “Sony widescreen TV”. Of course you can combine Broad Match and Phrase Match.
The phrase is no longer enclosed in quotation marks but in square brackets. For example [Sony TV]. The phrase still works for the plural instead of the singular, so Sony TVs, but not if there are words before or after. You can use this possibility to send the user directly to the 55 inch TVs page for example.
This option must be activated when you create a campaign. If you enter keywords in the singular, you prevent Google from displaying your ad when these keywords are searched in the plural. Why? For example, if you notice that the bid is higher for a plural expression. However, it should be stressed that typos will no longer be handled automatically, so you should add the most common typos to your list of keywords.Where to start? With the most precise keywords possible, so do not use broad, which is the default match. With the first results, you will be able to expand your list knowingly. The easiest way to start is to use Exact Match. This way, you will know immediately which keywords are used by Internet users rather than having to go through long lists of all sorts of searches that Google considers more or less equivalent. It will have to come to that, but the Google console is a bit difficult for a beginner, so it is better to extend your lists gradually. But that’s not all, there is another option…
If you are using Broad and Modified Broad Match, you may not want to trust Google completely, so you can filter the keywords by prohibiting the use of certain alternatives. You can add these filters simply with “-” instead of “+”. But you also have a dedicated window where you can simply enter all the prohibited keywords, in this case you do not need to precede them with the “-” operator. You can prohibit keywords either at the level of a group, or at the level of the campaign as a whole, and therefore in all the groups that make up the campaign. There are three types of “negative matches” that can be used.
Negative Broad Match:
This is the case we have just mentioned: to create a Negative Broad Match you just need to add the sign (-) before a keyword. Be careful, the whole sequence is then filtered: for example ( TV -Sony) will filter the two terms. There is no difference between ( – Sony TV ) and (TV – Sony ). If you want to filter a whole expression composed of as many words as you want, you just have to add (-) at the beginning of the expression. On the other hand, if you add ( -TVs Sony ) the expression in the plural (TVs Sony) to will not be filtered because with the “negative Broad Match” Google distinguishes between singular and plural, so you must add both “-TV” and “-TVs”. Moreover, it doesn’t matter the order of the words: ( -TV Sony ) will also filter ( Sony TV ). But there is a solution.
Negative Phrase Match:
With Negative Phrase Match, the word order is taken into account. As with Phrase Match, you only need to use quotation marks. The phrase is “- Sony TV” for example. While the word order must be exactly the same, it is possible to have additional words before and after the phrase in quotes. This is where the last type of filter comes in.
Negative Exact Match:
The quotation marks are logically replaced by square brackets, e.g. -[Sony TV] and the expression is filtered only if the user types the exact same expression, i.e. without additional words in front or behind.
Where to begin?
How to start? with the most precise keywords possible, so do not use Broad, which is the default behavior. With the first results, you will be able to expand your list knowingly. The easiest way to start is to use Exact Match. This way, you will know immediately which keywords are really used rather than having to go through long lists of all sorts of searches that Google considers equivalent. It will come to that, but the Google console is a bit difficult for a beginner, so it is better to extend your lists gradually. But that’s not all, there is another option…
Keyword research tools
Ads Keyword Planner:
It is of course with Google that you have to start: no one has as much data on the searches passing through their site. The tool is available from your Ads account under the somewhat complicated name of “Keyword Planner”. The tool allows you to find keywords along with various information, such as search volume and an order of magnitude for the CPC. How to do your first research? If you sell products, you can start with the names of the categories in which they are classified: for example, laptop, desktop, peripherals, etc. You can then enter the details: 4TB hard drive, 16GB RAM, gamepad, etc. and then enter the exact names of your products. Don’t hesitate to aim wide, then after a week of campaigning, study your results in order to eliminate the poorly performing keywords and instead add variations of the terms that work best.
This is literally what Google offers you: enter for example your landing page, that is to say the URL of the page appearing in your advertisement, and Google will offer you keywords related to it. The Google crawler can explore any HTML page, respecting the instructions of robots.txt however it is quite rare that a site asks Google not to be indexed. So why look any further? Ask Google to analyse the pages of your competitors! It is also common, and you have certainly noticed, that when you search for a product, service or brand in Google, the names of direct rivals are displayed in the ads. For example, when I search for “Microsoft word” I see an advertisement for www.atlassian.com. In addition to your site and those of your competitors, you can request the analysis of various reference sites, depending on your activity: it may be Wikipedia, newspapers, or news portals. If you are targeting English speakers, a remarkable site is metaglossary.com which offers synonyms and related words.
Google offers in beta version a smart filter system: for example if you search for Eaglemoss, Google will suggest categories such as DC Comics or Back to the Future. The tool is still limited, but it is complementary to the classic filters proposed by Google: the list of criteria is very complete, it includes competition, number of bids, impression rate, etc. The options are numerous, it impossible to explain them all so I invite you to try them out to understand how they work. For example, let’s take the “keyword” filter. You start by indicating whether it should be included or excluded. Then you specify whether it should be a textual or semantic search. In the first case, it is the exact term that is taken into account. In the second case, it is the related words that are considered: superhero will thus return various values common to this specific universe. When you move the mouse over the different possible options of a filter, a popup window appears with an explanation on how to use them. By default, the search is located in the country where you are located, for example in France. You can add as many countries or geographical areas as you want, depending on the language or the products sold. For example all French speaking countries or the European Union. Each time you find an interesting keyword, you have to register it by associating it to a group of ads that are themselves part of a “keyword plan”. At any time, you can change the table in the left column to display keyword ideas and click forecasts. Also remember that by default, the “adults only ideas” filter is activated. If your activity requires it, you should remove it.
Finalize your keyword plan:
As we have seen, it is possible to add keywords and ad groups directly from the planner. However, it is not easy to define advanced queries, once accustomed to Google Ads it is then recommended to download your data and export them to your spreadsheet. You will be able to refine your group, in particular with the help of the special characters mentioned above: negative broad match for example. Once you have finished your work, you will do the reverse operation and import your data into the Ads editor. This is of course how we work when we are confronted with thousands of keywords. As soon as you are working with hundreds of keywords, the planner is perfectly adapted to this task.
This is certainly the most important tool offered by Google. When you open the keyword planner you will see three sections: At the bottom, the list of created plans. At the top left “Find new keywords”. And finally on the right “Get search volume and forecasts”. When you are more experienced, you will import a keyword file directly. But for now, we’ll enter our data directly into the box. Once you’ve entered a few keywords, click on “forecast” at the top left. If necessary, update geographic location, language, and daily budget. Don’t worry this is a calculator, so you can play with the different parameters without any risk. Ideally, you should use this tool before you even start your business. After all, what’s the point of trying to sell a product worth about 15 euros if the CPC is 25 euros? No problem for a company selling thousands of items with an excellent cash flow, but if you are just starting out, it is of course out of the question. The forecasts are displayed as a curve, and you can navigate on it with the mouse to test other budgets. Below the curve, you will find all the important data, starting with the average CPC. For example, for the entry “Eaglemoss Star Trek” we would have about 20 clicks for a monthly budget of 45 euros targeting the USA. This is a basic example, and the campaign can of course be optimized. But how reliable are the Google forecasts? In order to avoid unpleasant surprises, count on a margin of error of 20% and you will be covered.
Google Trends is the history of online advertising. By default, Google displays the current trends, but the tool is much more powerful. Let us take for example “PlayStation 5”. You will get a graph of all the searches over the last twelve years, as well as additional statistics by region. Is your product seasonal? Does it sell better by the sea or in a big city? Or maybe it hardly sells at all? Google Trend will give you the answer. You will also get the associated topics, for example Best Buy, and the associated queries such as “PS5 restock”. Google Trends is really the ideal tool to program your campaigns and optimize your target, it also gives you additional ideas thanks to the associated topics and queries.