Assembling a Google Ads (formerly AdWords) strategy for a large brand may be intimidating. Paid media is only one part of a comprehensive digital marketing plan, of course, but it’s an essential one. When executed effectively, Google Ads – both display and text – can drive significant amounts of quality traffic, at a measurable ROI, using the exact messaging you and your team decide upon.

So, as with any component of an effective marketing plan, it’s important to approach Google Ads with a thoughtful strategy in mind, including clearly defined objectives, a carefully selected set of tactics to achieve those goals, and a measurement model designed to help you report on that progress efficiently and accurately.

Laying Out An Effective Google Ads Strategy

Here’s the roadmap I recommend using when laying out a Google Ads plan:

    • Define business objectives
    • Translate objectives into Google Ads targets and Analytics goals (monthly, quarterly, and annual)
    • Select networks and mediums
    • Formulate a strategy for each network and medium
    • Research (competitive research, Keyword and/or Placements research)
    • Build draft campaign
    • Review & upload

The first four are most relevant here. I’ll cover the rest in a followup article, focusing more on the process of building out Google Ads campaigns once a strategy is in place.

Objectives First

Every digital marketing campaign, project, or strategy must begin with an evaluation of business objectives. These broader business goals will help you narrow your focus and contextualize exactly what your advertising is intended to do.

Google Ads is a very powerful platform used by many major brands with major marketing budgets, so if you don’t have a plan in place before you start advertising, it can be very easy to spend large amounts of money with little measurable return. Grounding your strategy in your business goals, and using those to define objectives (and from those, key performance indicators, or KPIs) helps protect your campaigns from this risk.

Building A Digital Measurement Model Around Objectives

It’s best to start this discussion by thinking broadly. Ask yourself, your team, and the decision-makers in your organization questions like these:

  • What are our major business goals in the next month, quarter, and year? What about the next 5-10 years?
  • What KPIs are we currently using to track those goals? How might those KPIs be updated?
  • What would a digital marketing strategy need to accomplish, as measured by those KPIs, in order to achieve our broader goals?
  • What is the role of Google Ads in achieving these goals? (Compare this to your other marketing channels as well.)
  • What are realistic monthly, quarterly, and annual targets we can set in order to stay on track for the next 5-10 years?

Once you have some clear, defined answers, you can start putting your business objectives in Google Ads terms. For example:

  • What would a successful campaign look like in terms of conversions and conversion growth year over year?
  • How should we expect costs to decline over time so as to maintain increasing ROI? What are some percentage targets we can set, based on internal data and industry benchmarks?

These types of questions will help narrow your campaign’s focus, and help you decide what combination of available advertisement mediums will best serve your goals.

Selecting Your Tactics (And Networks) For A Google Ads Strategy

The ideal network(s) and platform for your campaign will depend on a few factors:

  • Available budget
  • Where you need to reach customers
  • Your customers’ level of purchase or conversion intent

WordStream covers this topic in more depth in this article from 2014, but here are the important takeaways:

  • Most importantly, do not combine networks within a single campaign. If you desire to use both the Search network and Display network, do so in separate campaigns. Using a single campaign means your budget for one network is the same as the other – which is less than ideal considering how differently ads on each network operate.
  • In general, search should be used to capture users with a clearly defined intent. Text ads in search results reach users at the moment they are actively looking for products or services like yours, so if your marketing objectives would be best served by an emphasis on direct response advertising, this is the way to go.
  • Display ads are most powerful for building awareness, although this isn’t their sole use. You can advertise using the Display network on a cost-per-click model, only paying when a user clicks your ad, allowing you to rack up thousands of impressions from potential customers on hand-picked sites across the web and virtually advertising your brand name for free.

Ideally, a holistic Google Ads strategy would include both networks, with a separate campaign for each. Ads on the Search network would be intended to reach users actively searching for products, whereas the Display campaign would focus on building awareness and reaching users elsewhere on the web, with special emphasis on sites commonly frequented by your ideal customers.

Formulating a Strategy for Google Ads

There’s an awful lot that can go into the process of assembling a Google Ads campaign – either Search or Display – and I won’t get into the weeds here, but for the sake of simplicity, here are the main principles you should follow:

  1. Use Search ads to answer users’ questions and send them to a relevant page on your site.This should be reflected in key factors such as:
    • Coherence between keyword, ad, and landing page
    • Relevant ad copy that reflects the user’s search query and intent
    • Instructive, action-focused landing pages that encourage your user to move forward in a direction you recommend
  2. Use Display ads to showcase your brand to the types of people you’d like to eventually convert into customers.In order to do this effectively, you and your team should:
    • Build ads from an open-minded perspective – don’t limit yourselves to preconceptions of your user profiles unless that level of precision is also matched in your campaigns’ keyword and placement targeting
    • Choose placements that accurately reflect distinct segments of your user base
    • Include clear calls-to-action for users to learn more

As long as you follow these principles, you should be in good shape. Look out for more details in our upcoming blog post, which will go live next week!