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Are you a B2B business that currently advertises on Google? Maybe you’re planning to in the near future. Regardless, how well do you really know Google Ads?
Many businesses launch Google Ad campaigns as an afterthought. They will “set and forget” a campaign with a small budget and hope the leads start coming in. We’ve worked with companies whose Google Ads accounts haven’t been updated in years!
Every business has a long list of priorities. Managing Google Ads may be near the bottom of that list for many. But what if you’re throwing money away? What if you’re neglecting what could be one of your most valuable lead generation tools?
This article is intended to catch manufacturers and B2B business owners, managers, and marketers up to speed with the Google Ads ecosystem. It will focus on fundamentals like account structure, bids and auctions, and keywords.
Our goal is to provide basic concepts for you to get started with optimizing advertising performance on Google. Consider it a primer on search engine marketing: Google Ads 101.
Let’s get started.
First, we’ll look at appropriate account structure. Many users misunderstand how to structure an advertising account. Great advertising performance starts with the very basics. If your account structure is in order, you’re ready to move on to more advanced concepts.
Fortunately, there is no ambiguity here. There’s one way to organize an account, and it will work for any business. Follow along and we’ll make sure your account is set up to succeed.
Every account has several organizational layers: campaigns, ad groups, ads, and ad elements/extensions.
Campaigns are the largest organizational unit and should be used to collect ad groups by topic or intent. Campaigns are also where we set our budgets, bid adjustments, and location targeting. We can also set campaign-wide negative keywords to filter out bad traffic — more on that later.
Ad groups are the second-largest organizational unit. Each ad group can have one landing page, so ad groups are organized by offer, product, or service. Each ad group has an associated keyword list used to target relevant search terms. We may apply bid adjustments to ad groups as well as to campaigns.
Ads are contained within ad groups. An ad group can have one or more ads. Each ad should be directly relevant to the singular topic of its ad group. If you have ads discussing multiple topics within one ad group, it’s an indicator that you should restructure your campaign.
One topic per campaign, one specific product or service per ad group.
Each ad is composed of assets and extensions. An ad asset is a headline or description, or in some cases an image.
An extension is an enhanced feature that may show alongside your assets, such as a phone number, address, sitelinks to related pages, or other features that make your ad more prominent.
Checkpoint: Account Structure
Before we move on, let’s make sure you’re following along.
If you’re evaluating an existing Google Ads account, does it follow the structure laid out above? If you’re preparing to launch a new account, are you able to structure it as described?
Let’s quickly review:
- Accounts contain one or more campaigns
- Campaigns cover a broad topic or product/service category
- Campaigns contain ad groups. Each ad group should discuss ONE product or service.
- Ad groups contain one or more ads. Ads should be directly relevant to the ad group’s product or service.
Account Structure Example
Let’s say a company called ABC Plumbing starts a Google Ads account. A well-organized campaign structure might look like this:
Campaign: Residential Repairs and Maintenance
Ad groups: Sink Repair, Toilet Repair, Drain Cleaning, Maintenance Packages
Campaign: Residential Installations
Ad groups: Water Heater Installation, Toilet Installation, Bath and Shower Installation
If your campaigns look something like this, good job! Let’s cover the ad auction.
Understanding Bids and the Ad Auction
Many Google Ads users wonder why they pay so much for each click. Some industries pay a dollar or less per click, while others pay $100 or more! What gives?
Supply and demand, my friend.
It all comes down to the ad auction.
Breaking Down the Ad Auction
The ad auction is an automated system Google uses to dynamically set pricing for their advertising platform. Every time someone in your target area searches for one of your target keywords, you and all competitors in your area enter an auction.
Through the magic of technology, this auction takes place instantly. However, we can break it down into steps to illustrate what’s going on.
Before your ads get shown, Google analyzes them. They look at your landing page, your ad assets (headlines and descriptions), and your extensions. Based on your ad’s perceived quality and relevance to the search term, they assign a score out of 10 — your Quality Score.
💡 Note: Quality Score is important but not as important as conversions and ROI. Ads with low Quality Score can sometimes produce the best results for your business. Always optimize for your business metrics, not Google’s!
When your ad enters the auction, Google compares your bid — the price you’re willing to pay per click — to your competitors. They use your Quality Score as a scoring multiplier. This means that high Quality Score ads get a competitive edge over low Quality Score ads.
For example, an ad with a 10/10 Quality Score will have its bid effectively increased by 50% in the auction. An ad with a 0/10 Quality Score will have its bid effectively decreased to as little as 25% cash value. This does not impact the actual price you’ll pay for a click. It only influences your rank in the auction.
Google does this for you and for every competitor. The competitor with the highest adjusted bid gets the top spot in Google. The second spot goes to second place, and so on.
This system is intended to reward advertisers with good quality ads and websites. High quality campaigns can leverage their high Quality Scores to pay less for the best placements.
Lower quality campaigns can still claim the top spot, but they must pay much more for the privilege. Check out this example:
Company A has the lowest bid, but receives the second-best placement due to their high Quality Score. They pay $3 for a placement that would cost another company $4.50. Company B bids the most, but their poor Quality Score awards them the worst placement. They pay $6 for a placement that a better campaign could have for just $1.50.
Digging Into Bid Types
Now that we understand the ad auction a little more, let’s look at bidding.
Google offers a variety of bidding strategies. Some are fully manual. Others are fully automated. Some fall somewhere in between. Depending on your situation, any of the offered strategies may be appropriate.
Automated bidding strategies work well IF they have consistent, accurate conversion and user data. They require several conversions per week or more in order to make intelligent bid adjustments. Examples of automated bidding strategies include “maximize clicks” and “maximize conversions”.
Let’s back up for a second. What does “automated bid adjustment” even mean?
An automated bidding strategy adjusts your bid limit up or down based on conversion and user data. Google makes invisible adjustments based on users that have previously clicked or converted on your ads. If Google notices that women aged 25-39 have the highest chance of converting, they will adjust your bids to prioritize similar users.
Some of the factors an automated strategy may consider include:
- Time of day
- Day of week
If you’ve ever seen some very expensive clicks mixed in among normal clicks, it is likely the result of automated bidding. Google perceived that click to have a much higher chance of delivering value to your business.
💡 Budgets are usually set on a daily basis. Google can choose to exceed your daily budget provided that they do not exceed your expected monthly spend.
If our account doesn’t track conversions, or doesn’t receive enough conversion data, automated performance will suffer. Google goes from educated guessing to plain old guessing. It doesn’t know what kind of traffic is best, so its adjustments become erratic.
In cases where conversions are lacking, either due to poor performance or poor conversion tracking, we may consider manual or enhanced CPC bidding. Manual and enhanced CPC bidding are the two least-automated bid strategies.
Manual CPC is just that: completely manual. We set bids per campaign, ad group, or keyword and, outside of Quality Score, those bids won’t change.
Enhanced CPC is a fusion bidding method. We set bids per campaign, ad group, or keyword. Google will raise or lower these bids based on the same signals that a fully automated strategy would. This gives us more control over bids while allowing Google to optimize as it sees fit.
Most rookie account managers will want to select an automated bidding strategy whenever they can. Unless you have the time and energy to regularly evaluate and adjust manual bids to optimize performance, automated strategies tend to perform best.
Checkpoint: Bidding and the Ad Auction
As we move on to keywords and match types, let’s make sure we’re on the same page.
The ad auction determines who gets the best spots on the search page. Advertisers with high Quality Score receive better placements for lower bids. Advertisers with low Quality Score receive worse placements for higher bids.
Quality score bid adjustments affect placements but not price: if you have an effective bid of $3 but an actual bid of $2, you’ll pay $2 for a click.
Bid strategies may be automated or manual. An automated bid strategy will attempt to reach your most valuable customers by increasing bids based on signals like user age, gender, location, and interests.
Automated bid strategies rely on quality data to train them. If you do not have sufficient conversion data, they will not perform well.
Clear as mud? Let’s move on to keywords and match types.
Understanding Keywords and Match Types
Keyword strategy is a whole thing.
Choosing the wrong keywords is probably the most common (and costly) mistake rookie advertisers make.
We’ll get into keyword strategy in a second. First, let’s learn about…
Keyword Match Types
We know keywords belong to ad groups. Each ad group can have one or many keywords. Each keyword may be one of three match types: broad, phrase, and exact.
Broad match keywords are keywords that will match any related topic or close keyword variant. A broad match keyword like “shoes” may trigger ads for any of the following:
- Ladies tennis shoes
- Blue suede shoes lyrics
- Best boots 2022
- Comfortable hiking socks
- Sandal store near me
…and many more. You can see how anything remotely related to shoes might trigger an ad.
Phrase match keywords will match any close variant. They are less open than broad match, but not by much. A phrase match keyword like “buy shoes” might trigger ads for any of the following:
- Buy shoes
- Ladies tennis shoes
- Where can I buy vintage sneakers
- Tap dancing shoes for sale
Phrase match will more closely preserve word order and keyword intent than broad match. It’s still very broad.
Finally, we have exact match keywords. These keywords match exact duplicates and paraphrased keywords. An exact match keyword like “buy trail running shoes” will trigger ads for any of the following:
- Buy trail running shoes
- Where to buy trail running shoes
- Trail running shoe store
- Shop for trail running shoes
While the terms can vary quite a bit, each matches the intent and phrasing of the original keyword quite closely.
You may be wondering why exact match keywords are so vague, given their name. They used to be much more precise. In recent years, Google has leaned into their AI-powered advertising automation. The old exact match model didn’t play nice with automation, so match types were broadened to accommodate Google’s evolving tech.
Choosing a keyword match type
The right match type for your keyword depends on the nature of our campaign. Some services are so niche that exact match keywords won’t generate enough traffic volume to get results. In this case, we’d need to use phrase or even broad match.
A good rule of thumb is to lean toward exact match and expand as needed. Google’s Search Terms Report can help you find the phrases your customers search for most often. It’s better to add these as exact match than to use broad match to capture the same traffic. The more control we have over our ads and keywords, the better.
We can modify keyword match types at any time by selecting them in the Google Ads interface and updating their match type via the editor menu. We can also assign match types when we add new keywords by typing them like so:
- In between square brackets for exact match: [plumbing company near me]
- Inside double quotes for phrase match: “plumbing company near me”
- Without any additional punctuation for broad match: plumbing company near me
Choosing the right keywords
Choosing good keywords is all about intent. Most of the time, we can’t read our customers’ minds. But with search advertising, we can read into what their search terms really mean.
A user that searches for “chocolate” probably wants to know about chocolate, right? We don’t know much more than that. They may want to buy chocolate, or research countries that produce chocolate, or they may be trying to look up mid-2000s hit YouTube video “Chocolate Rain”:
Even if we sell chocolate, we may not want to bid on this keyword. It’s just too vague.
But a keyword like “bulk dark chocolate” offers a lot more intent. We can guess that this searcher is closer to making a purchase. They want a specific kind of chocolate, and they want it in bulk. This is more actionable, so we might bid on it.
A keyword like “buy bulk dark chocolate near me” is a home run! Provided it gets enough search volume and we sell dark chocolate in their area, it ticks all the boxes. They’re interested in our product, we can provide it, and they sound ready to buy.
We call this a “long tail keyword”. Long tail keywords have multiple words and are more specific and relevant than single word or short tail keywords. In almost all cases, we want to focus on long tail keywords, not short keywords.
Intent is the name of the game. Figure out which terms your customers use when they’re ready to buy, request a quote, attend a webinar… whatever your offer may be. Focus on those. Don’t get tricked into bidding on broad match keywords for general terms. Most of this traffic will be irrelevant.
Checkpoint: Keywords and Match Types
Let’s make sure we’re caught up on keywords and match types.
Good keywords focus on intent to take action. Most good keywords are long-tail and feature purchasing intent words like buy, get, purchase, quote, bulk, wholesale, etc.
Keywords come in three flavours: broad match, phrase match, and exact match. It is good practice to stick with phrase and exact match when possible, as broad match can expand our keywords too far, causing our campaigns to lose relevance.
Wrapping Up: Start Right, Finish Right
More can be said about Google Ads than can be contained in a single blog post. This introduction focuses on proper structure and basic best practices. A full digital marketing strategy goes well beyond the basics. If you want to truly level up your digital marketing performance, connect with us today for a free initial consultation!
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