Guide to Google Ads: 2016 Advanced Edition

Written by Carrie Albright, Associate Director of Services. Revised by Matt Umbro, Senior Account Manager and Diane Anselmo, Associate Director of Services

Becoming the Expert


After successfully navigating the setup of a Google Ads account and the initial round of settings, optimizations, and expansions, the time has come to not only manage your account according to general best practices, but to really identify how your account will flourish.


By the end of this whitepaper you’ll learn:


1) The distinctions between e-commerce and lead generation PPC


2) How to create the most value from your Remarketing lists


3) Advanced segmentation opportunities for your account


4) Cross-device attribution for a broader look at how users engage with you


5) How to use automation for simpler and more efficient account management


E-commerce vs Lead Generation


Businesses across the world take advantage of PPC to improve brand exposure, their customer base, and ultimately the return on their marketing investment. Although they may have many things in common, there is a critical distinction between the world of e-commerce and lead generation pay-per-click marketing.


In the table below, these differences are outlined for simple assessment of the strategies and tactics that are affected.



As these points are considered, these distinctions should be visibly acknowledged in your account. The metrics used for gauging regular performance will vary based on these principles and overall success may be felt in differing timelines. Additionally, the way in which new and converted visitors are targeted depends on the nature of your PPC, such as seasonal effect on shoppers or the transition of free trial users to paying clients.


Remarketing How To


The concept of remarketing or retargeting allows businesses to continually engage with a demographic who has already been to their website. This means that the individual is not only more familiar with the online experience, but they have also begun the process of identifying if your product or service is meeting their needs.


Due to the specificity of your targeting – with a quantity of online browsers whom have been to your site – remarketing efforts tend to yield lower costs-per-clicks as well as higher conversion rates. Those who click through a remarketing ad are often individuals who know what to expect by landing on your site and thus are further into the conversion process or buying cycle.


Before you can succeed in remarketing, you must create a unique remarketing campaign. Since you will need a list of previous visitors, the initial step is to create and place your remarketing code.



You will need to ad a specific Google code that will be placed on all pages of your website that will then tag or “cookie” any person that visits one of your pages. This cookie can last for any period of time, ranging from just a few days to as many as 540 days for a Display campaign and 180 for a Search campaign.


Your remarketing code is found in the Shared Library of your Google Ads account, under “Audiences.” Once there, you will encounter clear steps for placing the code, including the option to email it to your developer if necessary.



Once you’ve properly placed your code, you can verify its status on the Audience page of your Shared Library.


Once you have completed this step, you’ll need to create your remarketing lists. Commonly, an “All Visitors” list is created, which simply tags all users who’ve been to your site.



In addition to this general list, your next step will be to identify your converting traffic and assess your interest in re-engaging with them.


For lead generation PPC, as mentioned previously, often an individual who has completed a lead form will have little additional value for further conversions.

Unless you’re operating from an e-mail list or free trial, converted users in lead gen should be a remarketing list that is excluded from your targeting.


In order to set this audience up, you’ll return to your Shared Library» Audiences tab and choose:



This list will then be added to your targeting as an exclusion, while your All Visitors would be included.


There are many levels of visitors to include and exclude depending on the intention behind your remarketing efforts. You may want to target those visitors who have gone through a certain stage in the purchase process or who have completed a certain step in your form signup.


Remarketing exists similarly in Google Analytics, where your standard Analytics tag will need just a slight adjustment. It can be useful to create your remarketing lists through Analytics when you want your lists to revolve around particular behavior, such as number of pages viewed, referral source and more. It is through the construction of these lists and combining them for highly refined targeting that you can put the bid and budget emphasis where it is most likely to convert well.




Dynamic Remarketing

Mostly used in e-commerce campaigns, Dynamic Remarketing allows you to show previous visitors the products they viewed. For example, if searchers viewed a blue widget, a green widget, and a red widget, they have the potential to see these products as they move across Google’s Display Network. Dynamic Remarketing can also be used in verticals like education and travel to dynamically list courses and flights.



Although traditional Google Remarketing was based in the Display Network, it has grown to the Search Network as well. Remarketing Lists for Search Ads (RLSA) offer targeted ads for those searching through Google. You use the same type of remarketing lists as with your Display campaigns, but here you would include keywords, just like any other Search campaign.


To create your RLSA campaign, you’ll go through the same process of creating a Search campaign with ad groups and keywords. However, you’ll also include targeting for your desired audience.


When it comes to keyword targeting, you can be a little more flexible with your choices. Since you know the window of time this group has engaged with your site, you have a bit more confidence that a search for one of your broader keywords (and even in broad match) can be conducted with a greater understanding of what is needed. This means that when your ad appears, the individual not only knows more clearly what they’re investigating, but also recognizes you and the experience they had on your site.



For this reason, RLSA campaigns often have lower volume, but a higher conversion rate than traditional Search campaigns, and even traditional remarketing campaigns on the Display Network.



A third development in remarketing is through the construction of what are considered RDSA campaigns. This campaign type combines your Remarketing Search campaigns with another feature called Dynamic Search Ads (DSA).


These text ads are created based on the user’s search term and what Google deems to be the most relevant headline. You provide the description lines, but the headline and final URL are both inserted dynamically based on Google’s perception of what will yield the most positive user experience. The concept behind RDSA is to take the DSA campaign and add remarketing lists to the targeting so that the ads are highly relevant. In addition, remarketing lists for Search need 1,000 visitors before they start showing. By targeting all users who come to your site, RDSA shows a relevant, dynamic ad based upon the query and intended landing page.




Once you’ve successfully begun running your remarketing campaign, you’ll want to start optimizing it. Because the nature of this campaign is fundamentally different from standard Display or Search campaigns, we also utilize additional methods for improving performance.


As is the commonly accepted practice, conducting placement reports will allow you to identify sites on which your ad shows. From these reports, you can identify what placements are sources of inefficient spend and exclude them. Conversely, those that have brought in strong conversion volume should remain in the running, potentially to even be set as a managed placement in a separate Display campaign, so that you can control the bidding for these sites.


To identify the effectiveness of the ads you are showing to known visitors, the first optimization will be through the examination of the Reach & Frequency report, as seen in the Google Ads Dimensions tab.



From this report, you can segment the number of times per day, week, or month that a user was shown your remarketing ads. This data can be folded into a pivot table where the frequency is aggregated over a time period. The data shows that the conversion rate is strongest for those who have seen the ad 2-3 times in a single day. The conversion rate then declines a bit before resuming to a higher rate after 7 impressions.


From this table, you can take advantage of the frequency capping option within your settings tab. You can segment by the quantity of impressions per day/week/month as well as by ad group/campaign/ad.



Advanced Segmentation


At this point, your account should be divided into a structure that allows for best achievement of your overarching PPC goals. While such segmentation is imperative for successful account management, additional parameters can allow for a more efficient use of your spend. These segmentations include the use of more in-depth reports, such as click type, extension performance, and geographic.


Sitelinks have many areas of segmented reporting, all of which are available within the Ad Extensions tab, under “Segmentation.” Two reports that can provide extremely actionable takeaways are Click Type and This Extension vs. Another.




Upon selecting your Click Type segmented report, you’ll see your active sitelinks, with details as follows:



Although you may not have a large variety of ad extensions, this report allows you to identify what component prompted the initial click. In this chart, a sitelink highlighting a New Arrivals page is shown to have 55,474 clicks with 406 conversions. Yet when the segmented report is opened, the link itself only had 1572 clicks and 8 conversions. While sitelinks may have contributed to a larger performance increase, the sitelinks may not have carried as much weight as at first glance.



Similarly, when the This Extension vs. Other report is pulled, we can distinguish how the New Arrivals sitelink performed compared to other sitelinks that were present in the same ad group as well as other ad extensions. This report is invaluable when seeking to adjust your sitelink messaging or targeting. In this case, the New Arrivals sitelink contributed to a mere 1% of clicks.


The outcome of this reporting shows a better understanding of the value of each specific extension utilized in an account, to identify room for optimization and expansion.




When evaluating the success of your targeting or seeking new opportunities for geotargeting, the Geographic report can provide detailed information about performance. As a report in the Dimensions tab, it pulls data for users based on their location as well as their areas of interest. When a campaign is created, the default setting is to target those in, searching for, and viewing pages about the targeted location.



A geographic report provides a clearer view of how this targeting has manifested.



Of the 4,000 total clicks in this account, the location of interest occupies approximately 20% of the traffic volume, with only 17% contributing to the conversions. While this is not an outrageous discrepancy, it gives some opportunities for reducing inefficiencies when excluding the location of interest.


The data from this report can also have Region columns added, which break down the type of location by, in this case, state.



This data can be further reviewed for overall contribution by location, as well as segmented by location type.


These additional reports can provide you with continued opportunities to improve your accounts’ traffic coverage, engagement, and overall cost efficiency.


Cross-Device Attribution


In a world where mobile & tablet traffic now occupies over 60% of online traffic (comScore report), the acknowledgement of multi-device and multi-channel interactions is crucial. Cross-device attribution refers to the way in which Google is able to track users’ interaction with your site across multiple devices and avenues of exposure, such as emails, direct, paid, and organic searches.


In the Google Ads interface, it is most common to associate your conversions with the last click a user made before converting. Google does its best to use back end data to give us estimates on what they think the actual conversion volume is for our accounts, taking into consideration the use of multiple devices including desktop computers, tablets, and smartphones.



All conversions is a metric that Google has begun providing to do just this. It calculates when a conversion was made on one device while the initial click was made on a different device. Although there is limited transparency on the accuracy of these calculations, it certainly provides an idea of the contribution multiple devices may be making to your conversion volume.


In order to gauge your multi-device presence, two simple reports can assist in this process. Segmenting by device will give you a clear picture of the performance occurring in your account based on desktop, tablets, and mobile devices. This report is found in the segmentation tab and can be used on a campaign-by-campaign basis or pivoted across the entire account.


The value of this particular report is to identify what portion of your traffic is coming through each device. If you are at a neutral 0% bid modifier for your campaign, and yet mobile users are consuming 75% of your budget, you can clearly assess that you have a strong mobile presence. Similarly, if you have no bid modifier, or even a positive mobile bid adjustment, but see minimal mobile traffic, you can deduce that there is little interest in researching or acquiring your product or service on mobile devices.



Here the mobile presence is consuming 35% of the budget over the course of 30 days, and yet only returning 18% of the sales.


If you are unsure of your mobile presence due to a -100% bid adjustment, Google Analytics provides insights through the organic and direct traffic you have received over time.


Using Google Analytics segmentation of Non CPC, we can see traffic unassociated with paid search.


In the Audience tab of the GA interface, a mobile report overview can supply us with a better picture of what happens outside of the PPC realm.


Below is a report for non-paid traffic that is segmented by device.


From this data we see that we are actually pulling in a larger segment of mobile traffic through our ads that may have not necessarily arrived organically or through other means.


Additionally, examining your search funnels may also give way to further insights to the path your users are taking pre-conversion. Google Analytics provides many views of this type of traffic, including the Multi-Channel Funnels, as seen in Conversions section. The overview of this report allows you to select the traffic sources to consider and demonstrates the interaction seen in the preconversion process.


In an account where you see quite a bit of overlap, such as the Paid Search and Direct overlap of 5.49% as seen here, a deeper look is required.


In the Top Conversion Path report you can see these specific interactions but with greater segmentation.


Even greater segmentation can be achieved with the Secondary Dimension tab of the report, in which campaign or even keyword level is available.



This option yields a report such as this:



Identifying the relationship between your PPC efforts and non-PPC interactions not only impacts the value of PPC, but also the deeper understanding of what brings users to your site and returning to ultimately convert.


Automating Your Rules And Reports


When working on accounts with hundreds of thousands of moving parts, efficiency is of the utmost importance. As you become more familiar with the workings of your PPC account, you may begin to identify processes or optimizations that don’t need the human touch and could be just as successfully implemented through automation.


Google understands this need and has provided a thorough list of rules that may be used in your account. While this list is impressive, there are a few examples that are most frequently implemented and most easily applied across the boards of varying industries.



Automated reports can be useful in receiving updates on performance when you can’t necessarily be in the account every day. While it’s strongly recommended that you are in your accounts each day, the automated report can provide you with a snapshot that tells you what you need to know, as often as you need to know it.


Automated reports are extremely simple to pull; in fact, they’re just like pulling a report!


You can do this for any downloadable report, for whichever date range you need, ad at the frequency you determine.




If you find yourself making the same optimizations to your account on a regular basis, it may be time to create a rule to do it for you.


Bid Rules

In order to create rules, you’ll want to click the Automate dropdown option.


As an example we’ll choose “Change max. CPC bids when…” which allows you to pinpoint the circumstances that would incur a shift in your bids.


Note! If you are conducting bid changes on a regular basis, and each of these changes is conducted in the same mathematical way, this is the type of automation that can free up your time while still achieving the same goals.


Upon selecting your option, you’ll encounter several choices. One scenario may be as follows:

a) If you conduct weekly bid changes, you would pull a keyword report and identify areas of inefficient spend. You always select keywords that have spent over a $15 CPL goal and reduce those bids by 10%, keeping your bids above $3.00 which you’ve experienced to be associated with an eventual drop in exposure. A useful rule would be to sift through your keywords and make the adjustments for you when they flare up. In this case, your rule would be set for a weekly review, using the previous week’s data. If the keyword had an average CPL over your designated $15, the rule would reduce the bid by 10% with a minimum bid of $3.00. Because these are small changes, you do not request a confirmation email that the rule has run, but simply a notification if there are any changes made or if errors occur.



b) Another opportunity for automation is in regards to your competition and the effect it has on your account. For this scenario, let’s say you are in a fairly competitive market and from time to time, your Search Impression Share slips beyond a percentage that yields consistent performance. Since traffic varies slightly from day to day, running this rule daily isn’t necessary. It would be useful to run it weekly, however, so that when the average generally decreases over several days, the drop does not go unnoticed. Here you may create a weekly rule that increases your bids by 10% for any keyword that has a Search Impression Share below 70%. In this case, the previous week’s performance is taken into consideration before the bid is adjusted. Additionally the results would be emailed to you on a weekly basis, regardless of change status, so that you can quickly review how Impression Share is looking for these keywords.



Ad Management rules


If you are a business that continually changes ad copy, there are some simple options that can assist in enabling and pausing your ads.


In one scenario, you may offer promotions at certain times, such as holidays. In this example, the ads selected have been given Google Ads labels that indicate that they are promotional ads for Father’s Day. These ads were uploaded to run for the 2 weeks preceding the holiday and need to be set live in coordination with the promotion going live on your site.


In this circumstance, the rule may look like this:



This one-time rule will ensure that your ads are set live at the desired date and time, with a confirmation email requested when the change occurs.


Campaign management rules

Lastly, one rule that exists within Google Ads can assist with campaign performance. If you have an account that utilizes the Total Conversion Value metric, and has a goal Conv. value/Cost (Google Ads’ version of ROAS), you can set yourself a campaign budget rule. This rule would allow the daily budget to be increased by a certain amount or percentage as the estimated Conv.value/cost remains above a certain threshold.



Of course, this rule could apply similarly if your goal is a CPL threshold. This type automation allows your campaigns to spend more if they are justifying it with profitable performance.


Upon creating this rule, you may set another rule for later in the day. In this example, the rule is executed at 1pm. A follow up rule may apply at 5pm, where, if the Conv value/cost slips, the budget would then be reduced, and so on.


The overall advantage to using automated rules in your Google Ads account is to take the daily, weekly, or monthly tasks you routinely run, and allow the interface to do them for you. This frees up your time while still generating the same outcome.


A Quick Recap




1) The distinctions between e-commerce and lead generation PPC.

2) Understanding how to create the most value from your Remarketing lists.

3) Advanced segmentation opportunities for your account.

4) Cross-device attribution for a broader look at how users engage with you.

5) Utilizing automation for a simpler and more efficient account management.


But of course, this is not a comprehensive list of everything you could know in Google Ads, but it’s a good start. As the world of PPC constantly changes, there’s always something new to learn. So keep reading, keep experimenting, and make sure you are actively taking part in PPC communities, events, and resources. You’ll be the expert you strive for before you know it!