In this guide we will go through the following:
- Goals and Concepts
- Conversion Tracking and Analytics
- Creating your first Campaign
- Targeting and Audiences
- Budget and Bidding
- Ad Groups
- Ad Groups, Keywords and Bids - tying it together
Let’s get started.
The goal with this handbook is to create a step-by-step guide on how to set up your Google Ads Account and initial Campaigns for B2B brands in the most cost-efficient way possible while still maximizing converting traffic.
Google Ads has evolved much over the years – from being something that was very manual with a lot of control to something that relies much on machine learning and algorithms.
While Google is trying to make the UI more accessible I can say that things have gotten a lot more complicated over the years.
New features are constantly added and an inexperienced marketer can easily become tempted to follow the “recommended” options and end up with a disastrous setup that will drain your money faster than you can imagine.
The goal with this guide is to help out those that want to attempt to use Google Ads in-house, without an agency.
1. Goals and Concepts
The goal with this guide is to help out those that want to attempt to use Google Ads in-house, without consulting a marketing agency.
The handbook is a step-by-step guide on how to set up your Google Ads account and campaigns for B2B brands in the most cost-efficient way possible while still maximizing converting traffic.
Google Ads has evolved much over the years – from being something that was very manual with a lot of control to something that relies much on machine learning and algorithms.
While Google is trying to make the UI more accessible I can say that things have gotten a lot more complicated over the years. New features are constantly added and an inexperienced marketer can easily become tempted to follow the “recommended” options and end up with a disastrous setup that will drain your money faster than you can imagine.
Let’s look at some key concepts to get an idea of how you should think when it comes to Google Ads.
- CPA (Cost Per Acquisition): Advertising cost to acquire a customer (variable)
- CLTV (Customer Lifetime Value): Lifetime contribution revenue of a customer over their lifetime (fixed)
- Market size: The pool of your target audiences (fixed)
- The goal is to get CLTV > CPA to be true at scale - which can be hard … but I am sure you can do it if you follow my setup.
What are your goals?
Before setting up your Google Ads account, there are some questions that you should have thought about.
What are your goals with driving paid traffic?
Do you want to lead people to your physical business location, get more phone calls or build up leads and conversions directly on the website.
Where do you want to advertise?
In your city, nationally or internationally. Should your ads be visible to people outside your geographical boundaries or not.
Initially it is enough to think about these questions before we go on.
Just a heads up
Google will in many cases try to make you choose the options that give you the broadest targeting, less control and more automation to their systems. This is something that we don’t want to do if we want full control over our account. My general advice is to stay away from the recommended options, unless you know exactly what you are doing.
With that said, I will do my best to guide you through the jungle of preferences to make sure that your account is not wasting any unnecessary money.
Let's get going!
When you are ready, head over to ads.google.com and sign in with your Google Account to get started.
2. Conversion Tracking and Analytics
Without conversion goals you will have no idea if your campaigns perform good or bad.
There are a few different levels we can set up conversion tracking, from very basic to more advanced. I will go through the most basic setups here and point you in the right direction for more advanced solutions.
2.1 Google Analytics Linking
By linking your Google Analytics account to Google Ads you get access to metrics in your view – such as Bounce Rate, Pages per Session, Avg. Session Duration and % of New Sessions for each click on your ad that leads to your website.
In Google Analytics
Admin -> Property -> Google Ads Linking -> New Link Group
In Google Ads
Tools -> Setup -> Linked Accounts -> Google Analytics (Details) -> 1 view -> Link & Import Site Metrics (enable both these)
Google Analytics Goals
If you have a contact form, or any kind of lead generation form, you should set up a Goal for that in Analytics (which you can import to Google Ads later to track campaign performance in relation to that Goal).
When it comes to tracking form submits we basically only have two options – Destination or Event.
Destination – works well if your visitors are guided to a thank-you-page after a successful form submit, then you just enter the page path for that goal and you are done.
Event – if your contact form submits without guiding the user to a new page you need to look for an event and this is when it gets a bit technical. My recommendation in this case is to use Google Tag Manager (GTM) to make sure we can control as much as possible without a developer. You will in most cases need a developer to attach a small script to the successful submission event to let GTM know there has been a submission.
Read more about the technical implementation here: alexrangevik.com/post/easy-form-conversion-tracking-with-google-tag-manager
3. Creating your first Campaign
3.1 Account Hierarchy
Just to give you a mental picture of what is going on and what we will talk about in this chapter I show where the structure of a Google Ads Account.
One account can have multiple Campaigns, and each Campaign can have multiple Ad Groups. An Ad Group is what it sounds like; a group of ads related to a group of keywords.
3.2 Create the campaign
Within the first clicks when creating a new account Google will try to take away your control by guiding you into something called Smart Campaigns – no, just no. If you go into Smart Campaign-mode, you cannot go back to “Expert” mode without creating a new account.
What you need to do is to click “Switch to Expert Mode”.
In the next step you should once again fall into Google’s trap of choosing their pre-defined goals, it will mess up your bidding strategies.
Go for the “Create a campaign without a goal’s guidance”.
Select “Search” – you can always enable those other types later if you want. Search gives you the default setup that will be the baseline for this guide.
Check the checkbox for “Website visits” and enter your website URL. You can always enable Phone calls and App downloads later.
Press “Continue” to continue setting up the first campaign.
3.3 General Settings
Under Campaign name I usually specify which Country and Language (since it is on campaign level you specify location for your ads) if needed then followed by a pipe “|” and the campaign name.
Generally you want to segment your campaigns based on your service offerings, take a look at your website’s main navigation to get an idea on how to split up campaigns.
Uncheck both “Search Network” and “Display Network” for now – this is a campaign where we want to deliver search ads to Google searches, nothing else. You don’t want your ads to show up on Amazon.com’s search result page do you?
Leave the “More settings” as they are per default.
4. Targeting and Audiences
Now it is starting to become a bit more interesting - where and to whom to advertise.
In this first Location option we want to select “Enter another location” then press “Advanced search”.
That will bring up another screen where you can specify locations in your locations, in this example I am going to advertise to people in Sweden. BUT - we want to refine our locations by segmenting the country into smaller segments.
Tip! In this case I have looked up a list of all the counties in Sweden on Wikipedia (it’s 21) and put them into my Notes application for future use.
What you do next is to copy paste the list you have from your country into the “Add locations in bulk” textarea input. Then target all the counties, make sure that you have covered your entire location in the graphics to the right.
What you should do next is to add the whole country, in this case I just search for Sweden and press “target”.
The reason behind this granular segmentation of location is that it gives you complete control over what areas you are advertising in. You can turn off some segments or increase/decrease bids in areas that need it.
(Bid adjustments on smaller segments are also available in the “Location -> Geographic Report” setting even if you don’t segment your country in counties when creating the campaign. But only after there have been impressions of your ads in that specific region which takes away some of the control we want).
Target / Exclude
The “recommended” and default option here is to show ads to people who show interest in your targeted locations. This could mean that you spend money on clicks on people in other countries – in some cases you want this and in some cases you don’t, it basically depends on your business type.
If you sell products or services internationally you would set up a campaign per country anyway in order to segment the data correctly. But in some rare cases you may want people in a neighbouring country to see your ads if they live close enough to the country border and you have a physical location.
“People searching for your targeted location” is used when you have a tourist attraction in another state or country that people will search for while they are in another location than the targeted.
My recommendation in most cases is to select “People in or regularly in your targeted locations”.
Under Exclude you can select the recommended option, it only means that you will exclude people that were not targeted.
5. Budget and bidding
In the “Budget and bidding” section we will specify what our daily budget is going to be and what bidding strategy we'll use.
Your daily budget is determined on how many keywords you have in the campaign and what the estimated CPC (Cost Per Click) those keywords have.
Say for example that you have a Campaign that sells bicycles, it has four ad groups based on the color of the bikes (red, blue, green and yellow). Each keyword has a CPC of 1 USD, that would mean that you can get 10 clicks a day with a daily budget of 10 USD.
Since you have 4 keywords (red bicycles, blue bicycles, green bicycles, yellow bicycles) each ad group / keyword would have a theoretical 2.5 USD per day which would mean 2.5 clicks on each of the ads in the ad groups.
I usually recommend starting with a budget that gives all your keywords a fair chance to generate impressions and clicks. A daily budget of 10 USD spread out on 100 keywords (with a CPC of 1 USD) leaves you in a situation where you are no longer in control.
The key takeaway is that it is better to have more budget spread on fewer keywords than the opposite when starting out.
Bidding is a topic that is quite comprehensive, but I will try my best to break down the key aspects of this very important part of Google Ads.
The first view you are presented with looks like this, with “Clicks” set as the default bidding strategy (what this means is actually the bid strategy called “Maximise Clicks”, which they also state further down).
At a glance this bid strategy might seem like a smart move to drive as many clicks as possible with the lowest cost possible to your website since that would increase that chance of someone “converting” or buying something.
However, if your business is focused on B2B lead generation and sales — then “Maximize Clicks” is not what you want to use. You will lose vital control over aspects in your and most likely waste money.
“Maximise Clicks” is part of Google Ads’ suite of automated bid strategies, others are “Target CPA”, “Target ROAS”, “Maximize conversions”, “Maximise conversion Value”, “Target Impression share”.
When you don’t have enough data for Google to make statistically significant decisions it will do it’s best based on what it knows, which is not much when you are just starting out.
Google doesn’t magically know your audience’s paint points or how they think and act in business decisions related to your services or product. You know that best at this point. When you have hundreds of visitors each day from ads and loads of conversions (around 50+ per campaign / month) we might want to A/B-test an automated bid strategy against a manual one to see if it performs better.
So, to what you actually should select here – click on “Or, select a bid strategy directly (not recommended)”.
After that you are presented with this view, here you select “Manual CPC”.
There is an option to enable “Enhanced CPC” here as well (they never give up). In the past “Enhanced CPC” could result in a maximum bid increase of 30%. So if your max bid was 1 USD for a keyword it could go up to 1.3 USD at most. However, that limit was lifted in 2017 so that Google Ads can theoretically go as high as it wants with a keyword bid if it believes it will result in a conversion.
Enhanced Manual CPC used to be my go to compromise between manually setting the Max CPC bid and at the same time taking advantage of Google’s algorithm to increase the bid with 30% if it resulted in a conversion. It seemed smart.
Nowadays, I am very reluctant to use eCPC unless I can from a statistically significant A/B-test confirm that Google knows enough to make that decision for me.
So for now, we leave the “Enhanced CPC” option unchecked.
5.3 Campaign Ad settings
Conversion tracking, Ad schedule and Ad rotation
Under “Show more settings” we have Conversion tracking, Ad schedule and Ad rotation.
You can just leave the first two as they are for now.
For Ad rotation, start with “rotate evenly” to learn which messaging works. Potentially change to optimize later on.
Ad extensions are wonderful features that show up together with your ads, and we should look closer at these later – for now we leave them as they are and click “Save and Continue”.
That concludes the setup of a Campaign, and we will now move on to Ad Groups.
6. Ad Groups
There are many opinions on how to set up and structure Ad Groups and their Keywords. But as with everything in life, there is no one solution that fits all – it depends on the circumstances of your business and industry.
But there are some key aspects that I recommend that you follow in order to get as much control over your account but at the same time set up an account that can scale easily when you want.
The easiest way to structure your campaigns and ad groups are by Themes. Most commonly you can look at your website’s main navigation.
Maybe you have something like “Services” -> “Service 1”, “Service 2” and “Service 3” in a drop-down menu. Then “Services” would be a good Campaign name and “Service 1, 2 & 3” the three ad groups within that campaign.
Anything like categories, locations, brands, colors, types could be the structure of a campaign and it’s ad groups.
After a while when you have been running your campaign, maybe within 6 months to 12 months, you can begin to see some patterns – what ad groups and keywords perform better than others. When this happens you can start to optimize your campaigns more.
The most common ways to restructure campaigns after they have gotten sufficient data are:
Match Types - group same match types together in ad groups to get more control over bidding.
Top Performers – collect great keywords together in an Alpha campaign, and bid more aggressively on those. But keep the traffic generating keywords in a Beta campaign to generate Alpha candidates.
Funnel – structure campaigns based on the keywords position in the buyer journey funnel.
- Top of the Funnel – CPC bid basis and BMM keywords.
- Middle of the Funnel – CPC bid basis and BMM keywords.
- Bottom of the Funnel – CPA bid basis and Exact match keywords.
Usually I end up with a combination of Themes and Top Performers, I will go deeper into what this means as we go.
When I initially set up Campaigns and Ad Groups, I follow a system called SKAGs (Single Keyword Ad Groups), where you have a one Keyword per Ad Group. What this does is that you get the opportunity to tailor your Ads’ copy specifically for that Keyword (one keyword can have several match types, we’ll get into that in a moment).
This creates the optimal starting point to achieve a high as possible Quality Score (and internal structure, as a bonus) for a Keyword from Google.
Google will favor ads that give users what they are looking for – and by keeping the connection between search query, ad copy and landing page content as close to a 1:1:1 relationship as possible you will be on Google’s good side.
With that said, let’s look at the practical implementation.
For the sake of this example, we use the Campaign “Google Ads Management” which should be targeting companies that want to outsource their Google Ads Management to an agency.
These people will most likely start off by searching for something broad like this:
We quickly realize that some suggestions here are relevant and that some are not relevant at all for our business.
If I am an agency in Sweden I might not want my ads to show up for searches mentioning “Brisbane” or “India”, or “tool” for that matter.
However, “agency” and “company” might be interesting for me to explore further.
7.1 Keyword Match Types
Welcome to the subtle art of keyword match types. There are two ways of doing things now when it comes to this hard-to-master discipline.
- Either only use Exact Match Keywords – this minimizes the need for negative keywords but requires a lot more research beforehand on historical data to select the ones you want to use, there might be hundreds of variations that you need to add in order to get enough search volume. This requires a lot of keyword research before setting up your Google Ads Campaigns.
- Or, use a combination of Broad Match Modified (BMM) and Exact Match (EM) Keywords. With BMM we learn from searches what keywords we should add as Exact Match and what Negative Keywords we don't want our ads to show up for. This means a bit more ad spend than option one, but also gives you real time data on what people are searching for since it might change over seasons and as new behaviour occurs.
Option 2 is my favourite since it provides us with good data as we go and still lets us focus on highly relevant keywords when we want.
Before we go deeper here let’s take a look at what match types are and how much freedom Google has when pairing search terms with Keywords.
As you can see above and can probably imagine it is hard to initially know every possible permutation of people’s (sometimes clueless) Google searches that includes your Keywords.
8. Ad Groups, Keywords and Bids – tying it all together.
8.1 Ad Groups by Keyword Match Type
Cases are that you, when starting out, don't know exactly what keywords to use or what your target audience will search for in detail.
What we want to do here is to find a balance between exploration and narrow targeting. Too much exploration and you will go broke with zero leads, too much narrow targeting and you will not get enough traffic volume.
- Exploration is achieved by Broad Match Modified Keywords (BMM).
- Narrow targeting is achieved by Exact Match Keywords (EM).
Since broad match keywords allow a wider range of searches, they will give us a lot of insights into how our target audience is searching, we want to use them smartly.
Here is an example:
Ad Group 1 – Broad Match Modified Keyword (BMM): +google +ads +management
This kind of general BMM Ad Group serves one important purpose. It acts as R&D for future Ad Groups within the Campaign that we want to expand on (we will use the Search term report to mine new keyword candidates).
BMM:s require that at least these three words occur in any order, but can have more words as well.
Ad Group 2 – Exact Match Keyword (EM): [google ads management stockholm]
Exact Match is more or less these exact words (synonyms and different prepositions as well) in that exact order.
8.2 Bidding by Keyword Match Type
You can set a bid on Ad Group level, and on Keyword level in Google Ads. But since we work with SKAGs (one keyword per Ad Group) we will always set the bids on Ad Group level.
Say for example that you are willing to pay 2 USD for an Exact Match keyword that you know converts but it has low volume, then you also want to add the less converting traffic (but cheaper) from Broad Match keywords on top of that.
In practice that becomes One Ad Group per Match Type where you scale the "max. CPC" bid from 100% down to 50%. If you work with semantically sensitive search phrases you might want to ad Phrase Match (PM) in between those two numbers as well.
In this way you spend most money on your best converting keywords but still gain traffic volume that you can use to create more Exact Match ad groups. This gives you complete control over your budgets and keywords.
Ad Group 1:
- High volume / low relevance
- BMM - Bid: 1$ (50%)
- Exact Match negative
Ad Group(s) 2+:
- Low volume / high relevance
- Exact Match - Bid: 2$ (100%)
- BMM negative
You should keep creating more Exact Match Ad Groups as you gain data on what works and what doesn't. When you have found a good search query in your search term report from the BMM ad group, you simply create an Exact Match Ad Group for it and add it as an Exact Match Negative Keyword to the BMM Ad Group.
So remember to work frequently with the search term report for BMM Ad Group to make sure it performs as good as possible while it also supplies you with new ideas.
Number of ads
When first setting up your ad groups you also need to create ads. I usually go with the recommended 3 ads per ad groups when I know it is generating enough impressions. If you don’t know yet if your keywords will bring you much traffic, you can just start with one ad.
Start with rotating evenly to learn which messaging works. Potentially change to optimize later on.
Set up daily and hourly segments. Monday to Sunday, and six chunks of 4 hours per day (8-12, 12-16, 16-20, 20-24, 24-04, 04-08). Bid less per click during the night (-60/70%).
Where are your customers typically when they are searching for your products or services? If you CAN spend your budget on Desktop alone, then do it because of generally higher CR and lower CPC.
Don’t bid on tablets initially (-100% bid adjustment).
Make as much use of extensions as you can. It will potentially give you more SERP real estate, offer the user more options and increase Quality Scores.