Google Ads is continuously changing. It can, therefore, be difficult to keep pace with the latest features made available and effective tactics.

But if you are going to maximise the return on investment, you must be familiar with the best features and how to utilise them in your campaigns.

Throughout this article, I’ll be revealing how features found within Google Ads, Google Analytics and other tools can help you optimise Google Ads in 2020.

1. Adopt Smart Bidding

If you’re an online retailer or service provider, the aim of your Google Ads  is likely to obtain a conversion. This may be a purchase or enquiry, for example.

Google’s automated bidding strategies are great for increasing visibility or gaining new visitors. But they require a lot of manual optimisation to keep your cost per acquisition low.

Because of this Google introduced smart bidding, a group of bidding strategies that use machine learning to optimise in real-time for conversions or conversion value.

This is achieved by analysing various factors about the user and their search term. This includes their device, location, demographic and more.

There are four types of smart bidding – Enhanced CPC, Maximise Conversions, Target CPA, and Target ROAS. Each designed for different goals and campaign types.

Enhanced CPC

Enhanced Cost Per Click (ECPC) can be viewed as the older, more knowledgeable brother of Manual Cost Per Click (MCPC).

Whilst you still set a maximum bid, Google Ads will automatically adjust your bid for clicks that are likely to lead to a conversion or achieve a particular conversion value.

This adjustment is done in real-time, also known as ‘auction-time bidding’. Made possible through a combination of user data and machine learning.

Enhanced CPC can be used on search, shopping and display campaigns. But you’ll need to have conversion tracking set-up beforehand.

Maximise Conversions

Maximise Conversions is suited for anybody looking to achieve the highest number of conversions whilst using all of their daily budget.

Unlike Enhanced CPC, this smart bidding strategy doesn’t allow you to set a maximum bid. Instead Google Ads will set the optimal bid in real-time.

Each time your ad is eligible to show, Google Ads will make use of user data and machine learning to determine the likelihood of them converting.

But remember that this bidding strategy will try to spend all of your daily budget, often resulting in a significantly higher daily spend if your campaigns are currently underspending.

Target CPA

Target Cost Per Acquisition (TCPA) is ideal for marketers or business owners who are focused on achieving a specific margin on each conversion.

You’ll need to set a target cost per acquisition. This can be done for each campaign and ad group, providing granular control of your account.

Google Ads then employs user data and machine learning to avoid unprofitable clicks and use your budget for the clicks most likely to result in a conversion.

The Target CPA Bid Simulator is a great tool that allows you to see how many conversions you may receive for different CPA targets.

Target ROAS

Target Return On Advertising Spend (TROAS) is designed for marketers or business owners who want to achieve a certain return on investment through Google Ads.

When using this bidding strategy you need to set a target ROAS. Meaning you’ll need to know the ideal conversion value for every £1 spent.

Google Ads then uses machine learning to analyse historic conversions and user data to set a bid in real-time.

Because of its reliance on historical data, you’ll need to set-up a values for each conversion type and have had at least 20 conversions in the past 45 days.

2. Introduce Bid Adjustments

With the adoption of smart bidding, many have abandoned bid adjustments entirely. But whilst some adjustments are obsolete, many can still improve the performance of your campaigns.

Before applying any bid adjustments, it’s important to understand their purpose and the impact they will have on your campaigns.

You must have enough data to base your bid adjustments on too. So, don’t make any adjustments until your campaigns have been running for at least 30 – 60 days.

There are various types of adjustments you’re able to make. But it is the device, location and audience bid adjustments that have the greatest effect in my experience.

Device

Devices can have a significant impact on conversion rate, average order value and more. Analysing the behaviour traits of different devices is therefore essential.

The device bid adjustment allows you to increase or decrease your bid for particular device categories, including desktop, tablet and mobile.

You’re able to apply adjustments between -90% and +900%. You can also stop your ads showing on a device with a bid adjustment of -100%.

It’s important to remember that this bid adjustment can’t be used on campaigns using the Target ROAS bidding strategy.

Location

Whether you’re a retailer with varying delivery costs or a restaurant targeting local diners, the location bid adjustment is made for you.

It allows you to increase or decrease your bid for particular countries, cities, and more. Due to the wealth of geographical data Google has, this includes even the smallest towns.

You’re able to apply adjustments between -90% and +900%. But to exclude a location, you’ll need to visit the location settings for your campaign.

Audiences

From website visitors to in-market groups, the audiences you’re able to create within Google Ads are invaluable. But it’s important to analyse their behaviour and make bid adjustments.

The most valuable audience is typically your remarketing list – those who have visited your website in a set time period but failed to convert.

Other valuable audiences include those found within the demographics section of your Google Ads campaign. These include age groups, income brackets and more.

Whether you’re using remarketing or demographic audiences, you’re able to set a bid adjustment between -90% and +900%.

But remember that these bid adjustments are not available on all campaign types, as shown on the table below.

Google Ads Bid Adjustment Eligibility

3. Use Custom Columns

The default columns found within Google Ads reports are great. However, they may not be relevant to your goals and are often absent of insightful data.

Thankfully you’re able to customise these columns and save your preferred columns for future use. Making it far easier to analyse granular data on each campaign and ad group.

When creating custom columns, the metrics available and combinations possible are endless. But there are two you can create right off the bat, all focused around conversion types and device categories.

Create Conversion Groups

If you’ve got multiple conversion types, analysing the number gained individually can be laboursome and prone to errors.

With custom columns in Google Ads, you’re able to group conversion types. You’re then able to analyse different metrics for these conversions, such as cost per acquisition.

For example, service providers may want to observe the cost per acquisition for phone calls and form completions alone.

You would, therefore, need to ignore any other conversion types such as newsletter sign ups. This can be easily achieved with custom columns, as shown by Empirical 360.

Analyse Device Performance

Whilst it’s widely accepted that we live in a ‘mobile-first’ world, it’s still important to analyse the performance of your campaigns and ad groups on all device categories.

When creating custom columns, you’re able to pinpoint your data to specific devices. This could include mobile, tablet and desktop.

Allowing you to analyse crucial metrics on each device type, such as cost per acquisition and return on advertising spend.

4. Focus on Keywords

The introduction of machine learning has transformed Google Ads. But keywords are still at the heart of most campaigns.

Regularly reviewing the performance of your target keywords and exploring the search terms you appeared for is vital.

This can be both tiresome and laboursome. But there are a few ways to isolate and remove irrelevant keywords quickly.

Create Negative Keyword Lists

Negative keyword lists allow you to prevent unwanted impressions and clicks across multiple campaigns.

You’ll likely need multiple lists to suit different products or services you offer. Although, you are limited to 20 negative keyword lists.

As you discover irrelevant keywords, you can add them to your list. It will then become a negative keyword on each of the campaigns using that list.

Utilise Google Keyword Planner

Google Keyword Planner is typically used to find keywords to target in your organic search activity or paid search campaigns.

However, it’s also a fantastic tool for discovering regularly searched for terms that are irrelevant to your business.

Enter a generic term that best describes the product or service at hand. Then browse the suggested keyword, isolate any that are not appropriate and add them as negatives.

Use a Keyword Frequency Finder

Keyword frequency finders analyses the content of your search terms report and outlines common phrases.

Many also outline singular words and how frequently they are used. Making it quicker to discover broad match negatives.

This makes it far easier and less infuriating to discover irrelevant words or phrases. These can then be added to a single campaign or a negative keyword list.

5. Utilise Google Analytics

Google Ads and Google Analytics have integrated for some time. But many business owners and marketers silo themselves into only using one platform.

This is despite Google Analytics offering a suite of great features and wealth of insightful data not available through Google Ads alone.

By utilising these features and data, you’re able to discover issues with your existing campaigns and opportunities to maximise performance.

Custom Segments

Screenshot of Customer Segments set-up in Google Analytics

Segments are one of the most powerful yet often underused features of Google Analytics. What’s more, they are easy to set-up and use.

By using segments you’re able to analyse the behaviour of a subset of users. What makes segments powerful, however, is the granularity of the filters.

They include demographic, technology, behaviour and traffic source filtering. If you use enhanced ecommerce, you can also filter by product brand, category and more.

Google Analytics also features a few advanced segmentation features. These include condition and sequence based filtering.

Secondary Dimensions

Screenshot of Secondary Dimensions toggle in Google Analytics

Secondary dimensions can be found throughout Google Analytics and provide more insights in a single table. That’s whether you’re probing keywords, landing pages or something else entirely.

Besides making data analysis quicker, secondary dimensions allow you to analyse key aspects of your Google Ads with more granularity.

They include various advertising metrics, such as ad distribution network and keyword match type. Although, you’ll also find basic acquisition metrics such as source and medium.

Online Metrics have a brilliant guide to applying and using secondary dimensions. You’ll also learn how to create custom dimensions for your reports.

Custom Alerts

Screenshot of Custom Alerts set-up in Google Analytics

Custom alerts are easy to create and could prevent major issues from going unseen. This may include a sudden drop in impressions, spikes in cost per click and more.

You can create alerts for particular sources, campaigns or ad groups. You can also use any custom segments you may have created.

Once you’ve selected the traffic you’ll be monitoring, you can create your alert. This could include increases or decreases on virtually any metric found in Google Analytics.

Anytime your alert is triggered, you’ll receive an email. You can set-up your Google Alerts to notify you daily, weekly or monthly.

Conclusion

Whether you choose to adopt smart bidding strategies or simply hone in on the search terms report, you’re certain to improve the performance of your Google Ads.

But I’ll also be expanding this article throughout the year as I discover new and effective ways to optimise Google Search, Shopping and Display campaigns.

To ensure that you’re aware of the latest features made available to advertisers, I would urge you to bookmark both the Google Ads Blog and Hudson’s Consultancy Blog.

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