Search is the foundation of Google Ads and we have written hundreds of articles on this since July 12, 2007, when we published our first blog article. There are as many ways to implement Google Search Ads as there are grains of sand on a beach. In this, we are going to explore our Top 10 campaign strategies.
- Business/Industry Target
- Radius Targeting
- ABC Keyword
- Single Keyword Ad Groups
- Fishing aka Keyword Research
- Competitor Targeting
- Time Slicing
- How-To Traffic
- Device Slicing
- Race to the Bottom
1. Business/Industry Target
This is the most common type of campaign focused on the keyword list of the business. In a broad sense, this divides down into Brand and Generic keywords and the brand crushes the performance of the Generic. It is cheaper and has a high conversion but the challenge with Branded Traffic is there is never enough of it. This is much like the real world, where everyone loves referrals but can never get enough of them. The challenge with this campaign is that all your competitors know as much as you do, so finding secret keywords is unlikely. Leverage in this comes from your creativity in Quality Scores, Calls to Action, and other Customer Experience elements.
2. Radius Targeting
This strategy is strongest for local service businesses that travel to the customer’s location to provide a product or service. Great examples of this include Plumbers, HVAC, and Electricians. By using a radius from the dispatch point, the service provider reduces their travel cost and can focus their bidding to adjust for that. In large metropolitan areas, this can be very effective. In most cases, we use three bands for example 5 miles, 10 miles, and the rest of the target area. This way we can be more competitive in the traffic that is in their backyard.
Radius targeting can help with businesses that reach well outside their local market but enjoy a home-court advantage. In our business, as an example, we provide services all across the US but we do much better in our small rural community. Because of this, we can bid and be more dominant in our local market because our close rate is much higher. Almost every business has some of this effect in their marketing.
3. ABC Keyword
In every account, we find layers of keywords that we refer to as A, B, C words. “A” words are the dependable proven performers. “B” words contribute regularly but lack the volume of the “A” words. “C” words are all the others. In a typical account with 100 keywords “A” will be 5 words, “B” will be 10, and “C” will be 85. Budget, Bidding, and Position strategy are assigned to each section of words. “A” words always get 100% funded, “B” gets fully funded when possible and “C” gets the remaining budget.
4. Single Keyword Ad Groups
These are just what they sound like. Starting with your A words you create Ad Groups with just one exact word match. This way there is no compromise on the ad copy or bidding. When these are created the keyword is placed as a negative in the other campaigns. This stops any cross over traffic. With just one word in the AdGroup, your headline and body can be dedicated to perfectly matching the ad response to the keyword. Recent changes from Google on exact match logic makes this strategy less effective than it used to be.
5. Fishing aka Keyword Research
This type of campaign is designed to get new keyword ideas for an account. Using a set of broad keywords, you pick up searches to help generate new keyword ideas. As you consider each new word, add it as a negative, so you do not get that again. As I write this article, the ability to do this is degrading as Google reduces the level of data in the search query. This supplements other keyword research from competitors and open market searches. One thing that is useful here is competitor names and brands in broad or phrase with negatives in exact. Seeing the words that surround competitive brands can be an eye-opener.
6. Competitor Targeting
Competitor’s names and brands can be good quality traffic but this strategy comes with some challenges. If the competitor has trademarks on their name or brand they can go to Google and get those words blocked from the ad copy. Some competitors get very upset when you use this strategy so you have to be ready to deal with a cease and desist letter or a call from an angry competitor or their lawyer. The other big challenge is that the quality score and CTR can be very low resulting in more expensive clicks.
7. Time Slicing
In some businesses there are peak time periods where highly responsive traffic becomes active and time slicing is how you leverage this. Rarely a campaign by itself, this is often an adjustment to other types of campaigns. For example, in many Home Services, Monday morning from 8 am to 11 am is a peak period. This is because the demand for the services has been queuing up all weekend. People have arrived at their office with a honey-do list and they often get this done during that time period. This is less responsive than emergency traffic but more responsive than maintenance.
8. How-To Traffic
For service providers, How-to traffic can represent early-stage sales. Transitioning from how-to to a service request happens especially when the service has a degree of risk to the work. For example, How-to install a Waterheater can become a service call when the person realizes the risk of making a mistake on the install. How to traffic is not worth as much as emergency traffic so it is less competitive. Getting your brand in front of the consumer early in the sales cycle can reduce the long term cost of the conversion. The goal of this traffic is to get the later searches to be your brand instead of the generic product or service.
9. Device Slicing
Sometimes the device can change the traffic and goals of the campaign and when that is the case then separating this makes sense. Device slicing is a bidding setting but it can be used to separate traffic. Simply set the devices you do not want to a bid override of -100%. Devices can change the way you think about the traffic especially when you separate desktop and mobile.
10. Race to the Bottom
This is actually one of my favorite types of campaigns but it has requirements. There has to be impression-share left and the budget has to be a constraint. Simply reduce bids until the budget is no longer reached. Because response rates can sometimes be related to the position you need to watch both the budget and CPA. To keep this simple, I normally reduce this with percentages on Devices, Locations, or Time Slices. You need to give the system a few days to adjust between bid adjustments before you come back for the next round of bid reductions.
Delivering More Than We Promise
We promised a Top 10 list but our inventory of strategies is much deeper than that. So here are a few extras.
Google allows for seeing search performance for what they refer to as In-Market Audiences (what people are actively researching) and Affinity Audiences (based on general interests and passions).. Taking this one step further, Google gives us the ability to have a Search Campaign specifically tailored to just that audience. For example, with movers, you can have a Campaign targeted to the “Moving & Relocation” In-Market audience. The goal of this campaign is to get as much traffic as possible for people that are not only making a search for your product or service but also to those that Google already saw as having an interest in and researching these services before they even made their search.
Remarketing Lists For Search Ads (RLSA)
Unless you provide emergency services, the harsh reality is that the majority of website visitors are not going to contact you, the first time you visit your website. With that in mind, one Search Campaign idea is to set up an RLSA Campaign that exclusively targets people based on which Remarketing audience(s) are set up in the Campaign targeting. While volume on this is typically modest, traffic quality is strong and this is a great way to get your brand name in front of website visitors the next time they make a search relevant to your product and service.
There are instances where you want to separate variations of a word into different ad groups or campaigns. When close variants came into play, advertisers lost the ability to control how to direct searches to the proper ad using keyword match types. The best way to funnel a search to the correct ad is to use negative keywords. For example, a moving company will have ‘mover’ and ‘moving’ keywords in their account, and having different ad groups for these two sets of keywords is common.
Problem: A search for ‘mover’ can match to ‘moving’ and vice versa due to close variants
You want the search to match your keyword and the keyword to match the ad. The table below shows how you would make sure this happens:
|Ad Group||Negative Keyword|
This ensures that searches containing ‘moving’ do not get an ad that says mover but rather an ad that says moving (and vice versa). The reason you want to match the keywords to the ads is because the closer the search term gets to the keyword the better your Click-through Rate. In turn, a better CTR leads to better quality scores which leads to improved Cost per Clicks.
Ad Copy as a Traffic Filter
This is a surprisingly common problem where the client wants a subset of the traffic based on keywords that are not in the search. For example, a Plumber that wants to only advertise for Water Heaters or a software developer that only wants projects of a minimum size. In both of these cases, the search does not have the qualifier so there is no way to control this with keywords. The tool of choice here is to use the ad copy to qualify the traffic. This will cause your CTR and Quality Scores to suffer but your ROI will be better. For the Plumber, the person replacing a Water Heater searches for a Plumber and City Name. To filter this the headline and body need to stress Water Heaters, not general plumbing. This is a violation of one of the foundational rules of matching the headline to the search. For the Software Developer, the headline and body need to contain the “Minimum $10k Projects.” Both of these will put the CTR and Quality Score in a free fall. To make this work you have to override the quality score with your bid so this can get very expensive. Make sure that the CPA you get is acceptable.
Race to the Top
This is a pricy and dangerous strategy but sometimes it is the right call. In this strategy, you bid to get and protect the top position. Once you are in that position you keep increasing the bid so that raising the bid against you takes a big number to breakthrough. Remember in Google Search Ads your actual cost is $0.01 more than the person behind you. The real math is fancier than that but the effect is the same. If you have a large spread between your bid and second place then they will only see more cost to them with higher bids, until it runs over yours.
The number of campaign configurations is only limited by your imagination and creativity. This article is my top 10, but there are a hundred others we have tried and tested over the years. I cannot overstress the importance of experimentation so pick a strategy and try it.