There’s a lot of talk currently and rightly so, about Facebook Ads. How they are the number one place to be for advertisers right now. And look, I love Facebook Ads, it’s a fantastic platform, it’s intuitive and the ROI is great.

But what about Google Ads?

There’s a lot of negativity about Google Ads, how “expensive” they’ve become in recent years. How difficult they are in comparison to Facebook Ads. How the conversion rates aren’t there…and so on.

I don’t buy this!

And I don’t think smart marketers buy into this either. I think that it’s more than just a necessity for businesses to use Google Ads, which is something I hear a lot, that you have to do Google Ads, just to tick-it off the list. It’s for brand awareness but it rarely converts. Or that people don’t search for their product or service…

Wait, what?

Think about that, how crazy is that to hear that you use Google Ads but you believe people don’t search for your product or service…on Google!

Well, here’s the thing Google is a search platform, so the indication there and the first thing that comes to my mind is that keyword research still isn’t understood OR that the wrong bidding/keyword strategy is being used.

And that’s one of the things I see regularly. Using the wrong strategy.

The problem, often times, is that people are trying to do something that USED to work but doesn’t anymore. Trying to get cheap clicks by bidding on loads of broad keywords. They focus on traffic rather than conversions.

The problem with that is that you have to have an even bigger list of negative keywords to ensure that you’re not wasting time and money. It’s also harder in my experience to get high Quality Scores as you have all these different search terms and keywords floating around, usually pointing to a generic landing page or worse the dreaded home page.

A search campaign strategy that works in 2019

When I look at an existing campaign that’s been set up and running I see the same thing a lot.

  • Broad keywords
  • No negative keywords
  • Low quality scores
  • Poor geographic targeting
  • Reliance on Google’s “recommended” features
  • In the past year alone I’ve had two large clients, that have both paid someone else to set up Google Ads and then they’ve lost money. They’ve got healthy ad spends but they’ve had no conversions.

On both occasions they were using broad and phrase match (incorrectly), had no real negative keyword list and in both cases had geographic targeting setup totally wrong. Both were UK based but one was trying to reach a national audience in the UK but was targeting the US (how that happened I’ll never understand) and the second was a local firm in London and they were targeting the whole UK.

So setting up the campaign correctly is important and attention to details is critical.

Structure & Keywords

First off let’s talk about the structure and to be clear I’m referring to Search campaigns, not display or video or shopping campaigns. All those things have their place, they’re great, but let’s just keep things simple for today.

People go to Google and they search for something, let’s say for this example your an accountancy firm in London.

The instinct for many is to create an Ad group with 100’s of keywords with differing values and search volumes. Then they create a generic Ad going to a generic page to make sure that everyone is catered for. That really doesn’t work well and conversion rates will pay the biggest price.

But what I do is different…I look for the money keywords.

And the best bit…Five keywords. Maximum.

You can do more over time but for getting started, go for five.

We don’t need loads. We need the right ones. Less is more. You can use a tool like Ahrefs to find a competitor that you know uses Google Ads, plug in their URL and see every Ad they are running with each keyword, the cost per click and the estimated search volume being generated.

If you can see that they have 3,000 unique traffic visitors coming from one keyword and it makes sense for your campaign. Use that one. Find 4 more and you have enough to go get started with.

Here’s the secret sauce, when you add that to the ad group you only add that ONE keyword to the Ad Group. Not all four or five. Just the one. I cannot emphasises that enough…this impacts quality score (QS) and I’m going to show you how to control QS with this model.

Next when you add the keyword you add it as an exact match keyword so it will look like this [your keyword] rather than your keyword or “your keyword”. This means that for the most part you’ll only have your Ad show when someone searches your exact keyword. Not a broad search that “may” be related.

So again, you set up a search campaign. Have a single keyword in the Ad group and then build your Ads around that one keyword (you can have as many different Ads in that Ad group as you like but to keep things simple, let’s say you have 3 variations).

Quality scores (QS)

Improving the QS is important and the way in which you do it to get good results is build everything around relevance. If you are an accounting firm and the keyword is specific, which it should be, then you’ll want to be using that keyword throughout the ad and the landing page experience so that the customer journey is congruent.

EXAMPLE: You have a specific term, [accounting for mergers and acquisitions]. Then the URL should include that, the landing page headline should include that. The page copy should include that.

You get the picture.

Yes it’s more work to have individual landing pages setup to run ads too. But the difference it can make is truly impressive and the key is that you’re not having to create 100’s of pages but 4 or 5.

PRO TIP: Make sure these pages are set to NoIndex so that your SEO is unaffected by the duplicate content.

Bottom Line = Quality scores make a difference. Because Google see’s the effort being made to be consistent and relevant, therefore the score is higher. So the Ad is shown more often and the engagement (Click Through Rate or CTR) should increase, as people searching for this keyword are being shown something highly relevant.

Because CTR is up and QS is high cost per click (CPC) should be lower (this depends on competitiveness) if loads of people are bidding then of course it’s going to maintain a higher CPC however, what you’ll find is that your conversion rate will go through the roof. So regardless of CPC your cost per lead (CPL) will be very affordable.

With an increase in conversions your Quality Score should increase further as Google can see people are finding the Ad and the solution (your offer) relevant and as Google is a search engine it only really cares about showing people stuff they care about…

Makes sense right?!


Bid the right amount. Or bid higher if you can to make sure you win the auction.

For those that don’t know exactly how Google Ads work it’s essentially like eBay. You bid, the next campaign bids, whoever is prepared to pay more comes out on top. The more competitive the keyword and the more people trying to bid the harder it is to get on top (or even on the first page of Ads) without paying top dollar.

But that’s okay, because you’ve

Only got a small handful of money keywords to worry about and
You’ve got Google Tag Manager setup so you’re tracking all conversions and can kill losers and push winners
Also, you’ll know what will get you to the top of page one in Google Ads from using Ahrefs earlier as you can see who’s already there and what they’re paying to get to the top. If they are paying £7 per click and you bid £8 you’ll probably get to the top quickly and only have to pay £7.01.

There’s also a way to edit column views on Google Ads to show you how much to bid to go to number one.

You can learn how to do that here.

CASE STUDY 1: A campaign that we setup with less than 10 keywords, each with their own Ad Group, specific Ads, and relevant, individual landing pages, in a very competitive, expensive space within the fine art sector. Quality Score is high, and even though it’s competitive and the CPC is high, the CTR is high and the conversion rate is great.

CASE STUDY 2: A training company that had a similar setup in a competitive space in financial services has a campaign running that is getting leads for £1.01. The strategy there was based more brand searches and competitors so the keywords aren’t as expensive and the search volumes are lower but it still works.

So you can do this with big budgets like Case Study 1 where you’re spending five figures a month on Ad spend or in Case Study 2, the budget is a lot less but the lead volume is consistent and with an end product that goes for £10k plus there’s huge potential.