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Paid Marketing

The Complete Guide to Setting Up Google Paid Ads

What is Google Ads, and can it work for your brand? We've got everything you need to know to plan, strategize and launch a Google Ads campaign, right here.

14 mins read time
Jeanna Barrett
Jeanna Barrett

Sep 24, 2022

Ready to start putting your money where your mouth is? Or, more accurately, where your brand is? 

At FPS, we’re all about organic and inbound growth marketing, but we can’t deny the power of paid. While paid advertising only works as far as your budget can take it, you can pair it with your organic strategies to create a growth machine that will deliver both short- and long-term results. 

And one of the best ways to get started with paid advertising? Google Ads.

What Is Google Ads?

The granddaddy of paid advertising, Google Ads (formerly AdWords) has been around almost as long as the search engine giant itself. It remains today one of the most cost-efficient and effective PPC (pay per click) tools on the market. With few exceptions, Google Ads continues to grow in revenue YOY. And between 2020 and 2021, it experienced its highest rate of growth.

google advertising revenue


With Google Ads, you can help your brand appear in search so your target audience can find you quickly and easily. Google Ads generally lead to a significant uptick in traffic and, when done correctly, can also grow leads and conversions. Via the Google Ads platform, you can also place your paid content across other channels, like YouTube and the Google Display Network. 

How Does Google Ads Work?

Before you jump into a PPC campaign full speed ahead, you first need to understand exactly how Google Ads works. This will help you set your budget and optimize your bid to get the best ad placement and the most results. 

Here’s how it looks once a user searches for a keyword you’ve targeted for your ad campaign:

how google ads work

So how do you ensure you’re going to get the winning bid? It’s a combination of strategy and luck. Google Ads will take into account several factors, including your Quality Score and Ad Rank (more on that later).

You can set your bids according to your daily maximum budget, and you’ll need to define the parameters for your campaign. You’ll have to choose from three different types of bids:

CPC: cost per click, what you pay every time a user clicks on your ad

CPM: cost per mille, what you pay for every 1,000 impressions

CPE: cost per engagement, what you pay when a user takes a specific action (watches a video, fills out a form, etc.)

Setting your bids high doesn’t guarantee that you’ll win the auction and get placement. However, setting bids too low means you’re at risk of losing out, especially if you’re targeting highly competitive keywords or are in a cutthroat industry.

Is Google Ads Worth It?

We’ll be the first to admit that we love a freebie, but in the case of PPC, you get what you pay for. And while you can’t rely on PPC for long-term growth, it’s great for a quick boost (especially if you’re waiting for your organic strategies to take off). Here’s why Google Ads is worth the spend:

Faster results than SEO

If you love instant gratification, you’re going to love Google Ads. While SEO is fantastic for long-term, sustainable growth, you’ll likely be waiting 9-12 months to see real, meaningful results. Not so with PPC and Google Ads in particular. 

You could start seeing an increase in traffic just minutes after snagging a winning bid. The big caveat here is that once your budget dwindles, your results do, too. So keep in mind that PPC is most effective when paired with a long-term strategy like organic SEO.

Show up when your audience is looking for you

When you search for something on Google, you want your information ASAP. That’s what Google Ads delivers to your target audience — the information they need, exactly when they need it. 

Like paid social media, Google Ads can be highly targeted to reach your ideal buyer. That means tailoring your keywords to align with user intent (where they are in the funnel/buyer’s journey) and also setting the demographic parameters that will help you separate the wheat from the chaff. You can even set your ads to run at certain times and for certain locations for even more granular targeting.

Target specific devices

Mobile device usage continues to skyrocket, and if you aren’t appearing on mobile search, you’re missing out on a large portion of your audience. With Google Ads, you can select the devices on which you want your ads to appear, whether desktops, tablets, or mobile devices. 

This will allow you to test out ads on different devices to find out where you get the best results. If you’re using the Google Display Network, you can dive even deeper, targeting very specific devices such as iPhones or Windows-based systems.

Get the results you need to reach your business goals

Want more traffic? How about more leads in your sales funnel? Or increased conversion rates? No matter your goal, Google Ads can help you achieve them. Of course, your results will be based on the kind of targeting you’re doing and the type of bids you place (CPC, CPM, or CPE). So it’s critical to set your budget, lay out your goals, and create a strategy to meet them before you begin.

Set an ad budget and scale as your need grows

The biggest downside of PPC is also its biggest benefit. Sure, you’re only going to get results as long as your budget lasts. But that also means you can set any budget that works for you. If you don’t have a lot to spend, you can always test out lower bids. If they don’t win, it’s no harm, no foul. 

Increase them slowly until you find the sweet spot in which Google places your ad, but you still have budget to spare. And then, continue increasing as you can until you meet your goals. Spent too much but didn’t get the results you wanted? It’s okay to pull back because you’ll only ever pay once the user has taken the action you set.

Track performance

If you’re looking for ROI, Google Ads can’t be beat. According to Google, you’re likely to make $2 for every $1 spent. That can vary based on the targeting you do, the amount of your bids, and the competitive landscape in your industry. Your best bet is to lean into the tracking that Google Ads provides so you can see your results in real time.  

The Google Ads dashboard will be your source of truth for your ad campaign’s performance. It provides an incredible amount of data you can then use to further customize your target audience or uncover new insights about your buyer persona. 

You’ll also be poised to make more informed decisions and take action quickly when something isn’t working instead of waiting for ambiguous analytics and padded numbers, which you may have experienced in traditional forms of advertising.

Get ahead of competitors and level the playing field

Tired of the competition besting you for rank in SERPs? Maybe they have the benefit of more time and money to invest in organic SEO. Or maybe they’ve already combined SEO and PPC to ensure they’re always one of the top-ranked results.

Before you tuck your tail between your legs and give up, remember that SERPs can be pay-to-play, and if you have a little more strategy, a little more brain power, and a little higher spend, you can get to the head of the class (or the top of the results page). 

You don’t have to blow your entire marketing budget to beat the competition. But careful keyword research and targeting, combined with nudging up your bids, can all help you outrank the top dogs and get your ad clicked first.

Types of Google Ads

Just like paid social media advertising, you can select a number of different ad types with Google Ads. Let’s take a look at each to determine which will be the right fit to optimize your budget and meet your goals.

Search campaigns

Search ads are targeted with keywords, so it’s critical you choose them carefully. These text ads appear at the top of search results for your selected keyword and are marked with a bold “Ad” on the left-hand side.  

google ad example

Search ads will appear above all organic results, rich snippets, and People Also Ask questions. It’s the best way to tackle the competition, especially if they’ve been around long enough to have built some steam on their organic SEO.

App campaigns

Looking to increase installations of your app? A Google Ads app campaign is your best bet. Part of the Google Display Network, an app campaign is an effective way to snag more downloads. 

google ad campaign example

App campaigns can run within Google Play, as well as other channels, including YouTube, Google search, and more. Best of all, you don’t actually have to create an ad to run an app campaign. You provide the copy, images, or videos, and Google will do the rest. App campaigns run on the same bidding/auction system as the rest of Google Ads.

Display campaigns

The Google Display Network is massive. Seriously enormous. So when you run a display campaign, your ad will appear on a variety of websites, usually as a banner or sidebar.

display ad example

But that’s not all. Your ad can also appear on other places within the network, including:

  • Pre-roll video on YouTube

  • In-app advertising on third-party apps

  • Inbox ads in Gmail

The Google Display Network reaches up to 90 percent of all internet users. Getting your ads placed on the network isn’t exactly a silver bullet — but it’s pretty damn close.

Video campaigns

Video ads run as pre-roll (ads that appear before a selected video begins) on YouTube. While you can get a pre-roll ad through Display network advertising, launching a video campaign allows you to target more specifically and guarantees your ad will appear on YouTube.

video campaign example

You can adjust your ads and test out different messages and methods. For instance, you may want to give users the ability to skip the ad after a certain period of time, or you can decide not to allow skipping and their video will start once your ad is done.

You can also choose to run discovery ads, which are different from pre-roll in that they don’t appear within a video but rather pop up in results based on keyword searches within YouTube (and YouTube itself is a massive search engine, so don’t discount that).

Shopping campaigns

Shopping ads appear either in SERPs or within the Google Shopping tab. They are a great way to feature products and even retarget those who’ve already shown interest in a specific item.

shopping ad campaign example

Shopping ads are great if your goal is conversion, as they’ll take the user directly to the item to make a purchase.

How Much Does Google Ads Cost?

The average CPC for Google Ads varies greatly within the network. If you’re aiming for search, you’ll pay between $1-$2 per click. For the Display Network, that average drops to below $1. So, where you advertise within the network matters. But there are other factors that will determine how much Google Ads will cost for you, including:

  • Ad rank: your maximum CPC bid times your quality score

  • Quality score: rating based on the quality and relevance of your ad and landing page, based on user experience

  • Campaign settings: including your bids, keywords targeted, etc.

  • Industry: industries with heavier competition will cost more

  • PPC partnership: costs associated with PPC tools or partnership with a PPC agency

Ultimately, there is no standard pricing when it comes to Google Ads. That can be frustrating, but it can also be freeing. You’re able to set the budget you need to achieve your specific goals — and you only pay when users take your desired action.

If you’re looking for a way to estimate what you might or should be paying for Google Ads, you can use the formula below:

google ads pricing formula

How to Advertise on Google

Now that you know the what and the why, it’s time to dig into the how.  

Use a PPC planning template to stay organized

You can start by using a PPC planning template (like the free download offered by HubSpot) to plot out your PPC/Google Ads strategy. A template will help you stay organized so you stay on top of which ads are running where, see all ad variations at a glance, and track results all in one convenient spot.

Determine your goals

Now that you’ve got a plan, it’s time to dive in! Visit the Google Ads webpage and click “Start Now” (or “New Campaign” if you’re an existing user). From there, you’ll be prompted to select your campaign goal. Your options are:

  • Sales

  • Leads

  • Website traffic

  • Brand awareness

There are other goals, depending on which network you choose. Once you’ve got the goal established, Google will then be able to help you create a campaign that delivers the results you want.

Audit your existing campaign

If you’ve already run a Google Ads campaign (whether you ended up with a success or failure), it’s critical that you audit the campaign’s performance, so you see what adjustments you need to make before launching a new campaign.

You can also do this for pretty much any existing ad campaign, even if it’s not Google Ads. Look closely at how the ads performed, whether you reached your goals, traffic and leads earned, etc. 

Determine your target audience

The first step to building your audience is geographic targeting. You’ll dig deeper into your buyer persona in a few steps with keyword research, but before you get that far, you have to target a particular location or locations. 

This is valuable in narrowing the field of possible targets so your campaign doesn’t become too broad. When that happens, you’ll have more people clicking your ad (seems nice), but your budget will get used up by visitors who aren’t all that interested in what you’re selling (not so nice).

Know which locations to target

But how do you pick those targeted locations? First, what you sell and how you sell will be a determining factors. If you’re a local brand, you’ll want to hone in on a pretty specific geographic location. Or, if you sell a product but only ship to certain countries, you’ll want to exclude those you can’t service. You can select “radius targeting” to choose a radius that starts with your zip code, or you can choose specific cities or countries.

Conduct keyword research

The keywords you choose to target are make-or-break when it comes to the success of your Google Ads campaign. You can choose around 15-20 keywords to get started, but you can also change them at any time. If you have an SEO tool, you can use that to begin your research, or you can use a PPC-specific tool, like this one from Semrush, to get keywords tailored to paid campaigns.

Avoid broad keywords

It’s tempting to go really broad and target those massive high-volume mega keywords. But that strategy will blow through your budget so quickly it’ll make your head spin. Broad keywords put your ad in front of a huge audience, but it’s usually not the right audience. Instead, aim for lower-volume, less competitive (and cheaper) keywords that get to the right audience who are motivated to take action.

Ensure your ad matches search intent

By targeting more narrow keywords, you’ll also have an opportunity to align those keywords with search intent. This means you’ll be providing exactly what users want when they type something into Google. And that means they’re far more likely to convert because you’re fulfilling the intent of their search.

Set your budget

As we said, your Google Ads budget can be any amount you like. The key is setting winning bids so you know your ad will receive placement in front of the right audience. You can keep your budget lower by selecting those narrow, low-volume, high-intent keywords we were talking about. 

Long-tail keywords have less competition — and therefore, lower costs — and while they might get you less traffic overall, the people they’re getting to your website will be more likely to convert, improving your ROI. 

We can’t give you a hard-and-fast rule when it comes to setting your budget, but we can say that with the flexibility of Google Ads, it’s usually better to start lower and increase as you test the ad and learn more about the platform.

Craft your ad

No matter how big your budget, a crappy ad is going to tank your efforts. Luckily, when you’re building your ad in Google Ads, you can see exactly how it will look, and Google will even make some suggestions to ensure it’s effective at meeting your goal. Here are some best practices to keep in mind:

  • Short and sweet wins: Headlines are 30 characters or less, so make a big impact in a short space.

  • Keep it clear: Make sure your call to action is easy to understand and easy for users to take.

  • Know your audience: Be sure your messaging resonates with your intended audience — that includes copy and any visual elements.

Use a landing page to convert traffic from your ad

Landing pages are key to the success of your Google Ads campaign. For one thing, they factor into your quality score and are part of determining whether or not your bid wins and your ad gets placed. 

Beyond that, landing pages need to contain all the information visitors need when they click on your ad. Landing pages should be clear, concise, and easy to navigate, with a single call to action. If you’re getting lots of traffic but few conversions, it’s time to take a look at your landing pages and get them optimized ASAP.

Add UTM tracking codes

UTMs (Urchin Tracking Modules) are used to track actions associated with a specific link. You’ll want to add UTMs when creating your campaigns so you won’t have to do it manually and so you’ll be able to track each ad right from the get-go. 

UTMs will tell you which ads resulted in conversions, so you know what’s working and what isn’t. UTMs are particularly helpful when testing multiple ad formats or variations.

Monitor performance with Google Analytics

Tying your Google Ads campaigns to your Google Analytics account makes it easy to keep an eye on your results and adjust as needed. This gives you a big-picture perspective on what’s driving traffic and helps you monitor your performance from a single location.

Improve your Quality Score

A higher Quality Score means you’ll be more likely to win bids, spend less of your budget, and get more traction from your ad placements. Quality Score is based on the overall quality and relevance of your ads, so it’s important to be sure you’re starting with an ad that meets the search intent of your audience, reads well, and looks visually appealing.

Need Help Launching a Winning Google Ads Campaign?

This is only the start of a beautiful relationship between your brand and Google Ads. There’s a lot more to learn, and we know that can feel overwhelming. Before you dive too deep, come up for air, and let a trusted PPC partner like FPS support you in building a Google Ads campaign that delivers results. 

We know the best practices that will move the needle, and we know how to craft compelling ads that will improve your Quality Score, win you the bid, and get your ad where it counts — in front of an audience that’s ready to convert.


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Jeanna Barrett

Jeanna is the Founder & Chief Remote Officer for First Page Strategy, an award-winning, fully distributed marketing agency. Jeanna has a combined 17 years of inbound marketing experience at venture-backed startups, digital agencies and Fortune 500 companies, with an expertise focus on business and tech. She's been named 'Top 40 Under 40' of brand marketers and 'Best in the West' for financial technology marketing. In 2016, Jeanna left the U.S. to lay roots and build her business in Belize, and in 2021 First Page was named #43 in fastest growing private companies of Inc. 5,00 Regionals: California.

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