Make the Most of Your Digital Advertising

How to Optimize Your Ad Spend and Boost Your ROAS
Written by Emilie Syverson

Advertising, as we know it today, has been around since the nineteenth century. But the landscape has changed dramatically. As internet use and access have skyrocketed, the advertising industry has moved further into the digital realm.

Today, many companies focus primarily on digital marketing, with digital advertising being a major part of their strategies. Digital ads offer some incredible advantages that simply weren’t possible in the pre-internet media landscape.

Google is one of the premier channels for digital ads, and held an estimated 37.2% of the digital advertising market as of 2017. There’s a reason for that — Google Ads are highly effective. And the biggest reason is the ability to effectively target very specific consumers, with specific search intent, who are the most likely to buy whatever it is that you’re selling.

Pay-per-click advertising (PPC) can be accessible across a range of different budgets, but the key word is “pay.” You do have to pay money up front, so it’s important to make sure you’re going to get a worthwhile return on ad spend (ROAS).

If your ads are ineffective, or they’re not getting in front of the right people, you can lose quite a bit of money. It can take some trial and error, but there are strategies that you can use to help make sure you’re getting the most out of your ad spend.

Defining Your Audience: Who’s Most Likely to Convert?

Having the right audience targeting can be the difference between a successful Google Ads campaign, and one that flops and loses money.

Google offers a comprehensive suite of targeting features and options, which you can use to customize who will, and will not, see your ads. This is important, because you’re paying for clicks. You don’t want a click that won’t convert, but you also don’t want your ads to be completely ignored, either.

Some of the factors you can use to narrow down your audience include search keywords, demographics, interests, and location. They also offer some more advanced targeting features, including:

  • Affinity audiences. This targeting is based around what topics someone’s interested in. Google draws this from a user’s overall profile, gathered from their search activity, Gmail activity, and other factors. Custom Affinity Audiences are an additional variation that lets you specify keywords and websites that are relevant to your audience, narrowing things down a little further.
  • In-Market audiences. This option is designed to help you home in on people whose online behaviour indicates that they’re considering buying something that you’re trying to sell. This information comes from things like recent search activity and browser history.
  • Life event targeting. This option is for targeting people who are about to undergo, or have just undergone, some kind of major life event, like a wedding or a graduation.
  • Remarketing audiences. This is for showing ads to people who have already visited your website, indicating an interest in your products or services.
  • Similar audiences. This option targets people who haven’t been to your website or brought from you, but who have things in common with people who have.

The targeting options that work best for you can depend on what you’re selling and to whom you’re selling it. If you’re a wedding planner, life event targeting is going to be essential. If you’re selling a B2B copywriting service, it probably won’t be of much use for you.

By strategically combining these advanced options with more basic targeting criteria like location and demographics, you can maximize the likelihood that your ads will be in front of the right people, at the right time.

It can take some trial and error to figure out how to best use these features to target your ads.

Setting the Right Budget

There’s no way around it: you need to spend money on PPC. It’s the nature of the beast.

With that said, you need a budget that’s enough to be impactful, but that’s sensible relative to your business’s total costs and revenue. The right total budget can vary substantially among different businesses in different industries.

Before you go all in with Google Ads, it’s a good idea to designate a limited test budget first, to test the waters without overspending. Most campaigns aren’t super profitable right out of the gate. You’ll want to A/B test different ad copy, different landing pages, and different targeting, in order to refine what works best for you.

You can figure out a good test budget by determining how many keywords you want to target, then multiplying by the cost for one hundred clicks, which is the required minimum. Keep in mind that to really get a sense of whether a keyword does, or does not, convert, you’ll probably want a sample size of at least 100 clicks, preferably more.

The actual cost per click depends on the keyword, and there’s a lot of variance there. For example, lucrative keywords surrounding the legal industry are notoriously pricey. At the same time, relevant keywords for a niche product may be significantly more affordable.

So what should you do after testing, when you feel like you have a good sense of what’s working, and you’re getting the kind of return on ad spend you were looking for?

Many companies spend progressively more on ads as they grow, and in turn, the increased ad spend increases their revenue. It’s not about the cost itself, so much as the revenue that it brings. Just like offline advertising, you’re more likely to invest in additional ads through the channels that produce the best results.

Using the Google Remarketing Pixel

Google offers the ability to use pixel-based tracking, which uses a tiny, transparent 1×1 pixel .gif to track website visits and other relevant events. This Google Remarketing Pixel enables you to track whether a user has already been to your website, then target ads to that person.

You can generate your pixel with the Setup Wizard, accessible via your Google Analytics account. Be aware that if you’re using tracking pixels, or other means of tracking users who’ve visited your site, you’ll need to have a Privacy Policy in place on your website.

The Google Remarketing Pixel uses cookies to track users who’ve visited your site, adding them to a customized audience for you. It will also remove the user once they convert, and you can use additional pixels to retarget those users with different ads after the conversion has occurred. In fact, you can use pixels to target users throughout your sales funnel.

Keep in mind that it takes time to build up a retargeting campaign, and to refine your strategy for it. You’ll need to build up an audience before you can effectively start targeting it, which can take a while.

It’s also true that too much retargeting could potentially work against you. “Ad blindness” is a real phenomenon. If you show someone too many of your ads in a short period of time, they’ll habituate to them, and start to tune them out. It can also annoy the person in some cases, potentially causing them to develop a negative view of your brand.

Marketers who specialize in retargeting will often recommend limiting the ads shown to a given user to around 7-12 over a thirty day period.

Leveraging Negative Keywords

We’ve talked about showing your ads to people who are searching for a particular keyword. There’s a flip side to this — you can also exclude people searching for other keywords. These are called “negative keywords.”

Here’s an example. Let’s say you’re selling a paid SaaS accounting software, at a relatively premium price point.

While you do want to find the people searching for accounting software, not everyone can necessarily budget for your specific product. Quite a few are looking specifically for something that’s free to use.

Those people aren’t a good fit for your product, and it’s probably out of their price range. To exclude them, you can designate “free” as a negative keyword. That way, if someone searches for “free accounting software,” your ad will not be shown.

To figure out what negative keywords to add, you can look at various search queries and determine:

  • Whether that query has a below-average CTR compared to others that you’re targeting;
  • Whether it has a below-average conversion rate;
  • If it’s converting, whether the cost per conversion is abnormally high.

These issues can indicate that a query contains a keyword you may want to exclude, to avoid showing your ads to people who aren’t interested.

Writing Great Ad Copy: Clarity Beats Cleverness Almost Every Time

Search ads and display ads generally contain text, especially the former. The right ad copy can make or break an ad’s effectiveness.

With Google Ads and other PPC channels, you don’t have all that much space to work with in the ad itself. If it’s directing to a landing page, the copy there is just as important.

A lot of people will try to be witty or clever with their shortform ad copy. While there are situations where this works well, you run the risk of not being clear about what you’re offering, and what value it brings.

Clarity is more important than being clever and entertaining. In a search ad, every word matters and should be chosen very carefully. It should be immediately clear to the user what you’re offering to them.

Cleverness can be a helpful bonus, but clarity is essential. Don’t sacrifice clarity for cleverness.

Measuring Your Results: Tracking Your Conversions

To refine your strategy and optimize your ROAS over time, you’ll need to track the results of your ads.

Which metrics you focus on depends on what constitutes a “conversion” in an ad’s context. Converting could mean making a purchase, giving contact information to download a gated ebook or whitepaper, downloading app, or any of a number of different things.

The main types of conversions you can track with Google Ads include:

  • Actions taken on a website. You can track purchases, sign-ups, leads, and pageviews.
  • App installs and in-app actions. This is for ads promoting a mobile app, and can integrate with Google’s Firebase platform for app analytics.
  • Phone calls. Phone calls are old-fashioned, but tried and true. For many businesses, an ad’s goal is to get the user to make a call, and conversions happen on the phone, rather than online. To track call activity, Google uses a forwarding number, a separate number with the same area code that will automatically redirect to your real number. This helps you separate out calls that came from Google ads, versus from other sources.
  • This is for helping you track conversions that happen offline, or on another platform. Google Ads integrates with Firebase, Google Analytics, and Salesforce natively. You can also upload conversions from other CRMS and analytics platforms.

Different ads will have different end goals, especially if you’re using remarketing. Some might be meant to get them to read a blog post from your brand, while others are geared toward people who are ready to buy, and are meant to get them to make a purchase.

With a Solid Strategy, Google Ads Can Be Incredibly Effective

Google Ads are one of the most widely used and effective PPC channels out there. Just about everyone uses Google on almost a daily basis, making it a powerful place to show your ads. With robust targeting options and a massive number of users, Google’s advertising services can help you get your brand in front of exactly the right people, potentially generating impressive amounts of revenue and building up your brand.

Still not sure about how to get the most out of Google Ads?

At Time2GetOnline, we help brands create and manage successful and profitable PPC campaigns. Contact us to find out more about what we can do for your business.
Emilie Syverson is a freelance copywriter and content marketer who works with marketing agencies and consultants to create thought leadership content that strengthens their brand.