As a digital marketer, it’s crucial to understand cross-channel marketing strategies to ensure the success of a business. With technology only continuing to grow, potential customers are using multiple channels of communication and multiple devices in their buyer journey. Oftentimes they pass seamlessly back and forth between devices and channels before they actually convert. As the user is evolving with technology, it is critical that we also evolve with them.
As a paid social strategist, I became eager to learn some of these cross-channel strategies – starting with paid search. On paid social, I am accustomed to creating campaigns across all tiers of the funnel – cold, warm and hot – and creating ad creative that translates accordingly across each tier. While I have the strategy on the social ad side of things down, I wanted to learn more about paid search and how the two channels can work together and ultimately benefit from one another.
To get a full grasp on paid search, I first set out to complete the Google Ads Fundamentals Assessment and the Google Ads Search Assessment. With the help of one of our senior paid media strategists, Austin, I was also able to learn and actually apply these strategies across a client of ours.
Guide to the Google Ads Fundamentals Assessment
The first step in me becoming a paid search master was to take the Google Ads Fundamentals assessment. I wanted to get up to speed on all things paid media and taking this assessment was a great introduction that allowed me to start building the foundation for my paid search knowledge. Here are some of the key takeaways that I found from studying for the assessment:
Basics of Google Ads
Google Ads is a great advertising tool that businesses can utilize to connect with their customers. You can control who you want to reach, how much you want to spend and even optimize accordingly to ensure that your campaigns are generating great results.
Now, where exactly do these ads go? All of your ads can appear on the Google network, which is made up of Google sites, partner sites, and other placements such as mobile apps. The Google Network is divided even further so that you can have more control over where you want your ads to appear:
- Search Network: These ads will show on search results pages, such as Google search, Shopping, Maps, Google Play and other search sites that partner with Google.
- Display Network: These ads will show up on partnering Google sites such as YouTube, Blogger, Gmail and thousands of others across the Internet. These ads also consist of rich media formats and can target a large, specific audience.
Before even getting started with advertising with Google Ads, you must first create a campaign. There are several types of campaigns that could be chosen based on advertising goals. The type of campaign you choose determines where users will see your ads. Listed below are the different types of campaigns:
- Search: The results from a search campaign show up in Google search results and other partnering Google sites when users search for terms that are related to your ad’s keywords. This campaign is beneficial for advertisers who want their ads to be in front of intent-driven users. Since they are searching for related products, they are highly likely to become a customer.
- Display: Ads in a display campaign show up throughout the Google Display Network. These can match your ads to websites that include related content or to customer’s interests. These are great for advertisers who want to generate awareness of their business.
- Search campaigns with display option: Search campaigns also have the option to select “Display opt-in”. This means that your ads will show up in search results in the Search Network in addition to relevant placements in the Display Network. This is beneficial for advertisers because it expands your audience and can reach users as they are browsing relevant websites or researching similar products.
- Video: Video campaigns can be run on YouTube and other sites on the Display Network. There are various types of ad formats that can be utilized across YouTube and other video partner sites. These formats include TrueView in-stream ads, TrueView video discovery ads and bumper ads.
- Shopping: With shopping campaigns, your ads will be shown in Google Shopping either next to the search results, by text and responsive ads, or on Google partner websites like YouTube. Shopping campaigns are great for e-commerce businesses who want to promote their products and boost traffic to their website.
- Universal app campaign: These campaigns are useful for businesses that want to promote downloads to their app across Search, Display and YouTube.
With AdWords, businesses are able to choose between several different ad types. Be sure to keep in mind your business goals and who your target audience is – Choosing the right ad type for your business can determine what kind of value it’ll bring! Here are the ad formats as well as some pros and cons of each:
- Text-only ads: This is the most basic and well-known ad format that shows up in search results. These text ads consist of a descriptive headline, URL, CTA and description.
- Pros: Reach your audience on Google search while they are searching relevant keywords, quick and easy to set-up and maintain, and can drive a large number of clicks
- Cons: There is typically a higher CPC and they see the most success with users who already have the intent to buy
- Ad extensions: These provide more information to your text ads such as a physical store address, a phone number or additional links to the website.
- Pros: Become more relevant to your audience and possibly generate more clicks
- Cons: Higher CPC than other ad types
- Shopping: These ads show up at the top before the search results and showcase a product image, price, features and links back to the website.
- Pros: Adds a visual component to the text
- Cons: You can’t control the keyword you’re bidding for
- Pros: Offer a visual, ability to place on Google website partners
- Cons: Get fewer clicks than text ads
- Video: These can run alongside another streaming video, such as on YouTube.
- Pros: Make a strong visual impression on your audience
- Cons: Get fewer clicks than text ads
How exactly do your ads show up on a search results page? Basically, Google Ads runs an auction to determine which ads will show and in which position. One factor that determines where you are in the auction is your bid. Your bid largely depends on which networks you are advertising on and the goals of your campaign. There are two ways to manage your bidding: manual and automated bidding.
- Manual bidding: Manual bidding means that you control the bids yourself. You can manually set bids at the ad group level, ad placements or individual keywords. With manual bidding, you know that you are bidding for what means the most to you and your business.
- Automatic bidding: Automatic bidding means that you let Google Ads automatically place bids by itself. All you have to do is set a daily budget and let Google Ads do its thing and automatically adjust bids to ensure that you get the most clicks or conversions.
After determining how you will bid, you’ll need to think about what goals you want to achieve with your campaigns. For example, if you want to increase brand awareness you should focus on impressions, while a goal of driving sales should have a focus on conversions.
Typically, advertisers usually start out with using cost-per-click (CPC) bidding. This means that you can set a maximum CPC bid and this is the highest amount that you are willing to pay for a click. Think about how much a sale is worth to you and this will help you determine how much a click should be worth. Here are also some tools within AdWords that can help you determine your CPC bids:
- Bid simulator – This tool estimates how a certain bid would change your clicks, cost, impressions and conversions.
- Keyword planner – This tool shows you how often certain keywords get searched as well as gives you cost estimates.
- First-page bid estimates – This tool shows you an estimate of how much you would need to bid to get your ad to the first page of search results.
Budgeting with Your Goals in Mind
Businesses can set their budget to whatever amount they are comfortable with. How you determine this depends largely on what your campaign’s objectives are. Are you trying to build brand awareness? Get customers to go to your website? If you are new to Google ads, you can first start off with a small budget and see what is working and then optimize accordingly.
If you are working with a monthly budget, you can simply divide your monthly budget by the number of days in the month. Then, you will have your daily budget! You can also calculate your budget based on your average CPC. If on average, your CPC is $0.50, and you want to drive 700 clicks to your website, then your daily budget would be $350 per day.
Google Ads also shows a recommended budget for your campaigns based on recent campaign performance, current campaign budget, keyword list and your campaign targeting settings.
Ideally, you should first start out with a small budget and analyze what is working and what isn’t. As you begin to see results, then you can start to invest in the areas that are helping your business.
Guide to the Google Ads Search Assessment
Completing the Google Ads Fundamentals assessment gave me a general knowledge of Google Ads, and it was a great groundwork for me before I dove into the realm of paid search. Here are some of the key components to take away from the Google Search assessment:
What is Search Engine Marketing?
Search engine marketing is how advertisers get their message to users that are searching online. Every time a user searches something on a search engine, there are ads that are displayed along with it. This happens by:
- An advertiser bids on keywords with whatever amount they are willing to pay for a click on the ad
- The search engine ranks the ad based on the bid and the relevance to the search
- The best matching ad appears with the search results
Ad Position and Ad Rank
Ad position is where your ad is placed in the auction results when compared to other ads. An ad position of 1 means that that ad is the first ad shown in the results. The ad position is determined with the ad auction, and the Ad Rank largely determines your ad position.
Ad Rank determines whether or not your ads are eligible to show in the results at all. Ads with the highest ad rank get to show in position 1. There are typically 5 factors in determining what your Ad Rank is:
- Your bid – Although a high bid does not guarantee that your ad will get the top position in the search results, it’s important to set your bid so that you will be considered for the top result.
- Quality of your ads and landing page – Make sure that your ad is relevant and that the website that it links to is also relevant. This means that your ad includes relevant content that helps the user complete their task. The quality of your ad is summarized in the Quality Score, which can be improved.
- Quality Score is a rating from 1-10 that scores each of your keywords. It estimates the quality of your ads and the associated landing pages. A high-quality score means that your ad and landing page is relevant and useful.
- Ad Rank thresholds – There are minimum thresholds that an ad must achieve in order to show in a certain ad position.
- Context of the person’s search – This also goes into the relevancy of the ad. Google Ads looks into the search terms that the user has entered, the person’s location and time, the device they are using to search, and the other search results that show up on the page.
- Ad extensions and other formats – Ad extensions can be added to your ad to boost your ad’s relevancy and ad rank.
Ad Rank determines if your ad will show at all in search results. Higher quality ads will result in lowers costs and better ad positions. It helps determine which ads will closely match what customers are searching for, and therefore only show relevant results.
- Broad match is the default match type that is appointed to your keywords if you don’t choose another match. You can choose between exact match, phrase match or negative match. Broad match means that your ads automatically run on relevant variations of your keywords, which includes synonyms, singular or plural forms, common misspellings, and other related searches. This helps to attract more users to your website, and you don’t have to spend as much time building keyword lists.
- Set up: Nothing, this is the default type that is appointed to your keywords
- Broad match modifiers show your ads based on the broad match type but excludes synonyms. This ensures that your ads will show only when the search is an exact match or close variation.
- Set up: Use + before terms
- Phrase match shows ads based on exact phrases and close variations.
- Set up: Use quotes (“ “) around terms
- Exact match shows ads based on exact keywords and close variations. This match type narrows down your audience the most.
- Set up: Use brackets ([ ]) around terms
- Negative match prevents your ads from showing on unrelated searches
- Set up: Use minus sign (-) before terms
These different match types give you the ability to control how relevant the search term needs to be to trigger your ad. Understanding the different types of keyword match types is important in order to run a successful AdWords campaign.
Types of Searches
People use search terms differently based on what they are trying to do. These are typically broken out into three categories: informational, transactional and directional.
- Informational – Informational queries are exactly what they sound like – users looking for information. They are most likely not looking for a specific website, but rather looking to answer a question or learn how to do something.
- Transactional – Transactional queries mean that the user is looking to complete a transaction, like a purchase. These can include brand and product names or even verbs like “buy” or “download”.
- Directional – Directional queries are when users are looking for directions of a location. These can also include queries that are looking for a specific brand, product or service.
Putting Learnings to Action
After completing and passing both the Google Ads Fundamentals and Google Ads Search assessments, I was ready to dive into the engine and start putting my learning to use. With the help of Austin, I learned how to navigate the Google Adwords engine and see first-hand all of the concepts that were in the paid search certification exam.
Google AdWords has several tools to help advertisers plan their campaigns, one of them being the Keyword Planner. You can use the Keyword Planner if you need help finding new relevant keywords for your campaigns. You can enter terms that you were already planning on targeting, as well as enter a website or landing page that is relevant. This tool will then scrub the landing page and suggest keywords to use.
The Keyword Planner can also give you historical statistics like the average monthly search volume and if the competition is low or high. It’ll also give you forecasts of estimated clicks and estimated conversions with a given bid or budget.
While the Keyword Planner is a great resource to help you plan which keywords to use with an estimate of the conversions, it’s important to note that performance will vary depending on many factors. Your bid, budget, product and industry can all affect performance.
There are many keywords that we can bid on, all of which won’t necessarily convert. This is where keyword harvesting comes in. The idea behind this is to create two campaigns that are identical to each other (except for budget), where one is an Exact match campaign and the other is a Broad match modified (BMM) campaign. The keywords in the exact match campaign will be set to exact while the BMM campaign keywords will be set to BMM.
After the keyword harvesting model is set up, running regular negative scrubs will check on the search terms to see if they are performing well or not. In a negative scrub, we export a search query report (SQR) from AdWords with the baseline metrics: clicks, impressions, cost, conversions, revenue, CTR, conversion rate, cost per acquisition and return on ad spend. For these scrubs, we typically want to focus on the BMM campaigns because they can trigger ads for search queries that may be irrelevant.
Once you pull the SQR from AdWords, take a look at the search queries and the different metrics to find any irrelevant search queries. If a search query has spent a large amount and has not generated any conversions, you may want to neg out that search term. It’s important to not only look at the metrics but to also look at the search queries.
Keyword expansions go hand in hand with negative scrubs. As we look for search terms that may be irrelevant to our campaigns, we should also be looking for search terms that will give us the opportunity to grow the account. The process behind this is similar to that of a negative scrub; export a SQR from AdWords and look at the search queries and their metrics. If a search query has generated revenue at a reasonable cost per acquisition, then you may want to promote it to an exact match keyword.
The reason behind promoting this keyword to exact match instead of keeping it as a BMM is because with BMM you are competing with a ton of other search terms. Creating an exact match keyword will ensure that we are only showing for that specific search query, meaning less competition and a lower CPC.
Writing Ad Copy
When formulating your text ad, you’ll need to keep in mind the context of the ad (is it informational or transactional?) as well as the objective of the campaign (prospecting or direct response). Some other things to keep in mind are:
- What does the searcher care about?
- What is the searcher’s desired outcome?
- What action do we want the searcher to take on the site?
We also took a look at the organic search results of our keywords to make sure that our ads were similar and did not look out of the ordinary. The context of our ads should match the context of the organic search results because these results reflect the intent of the searcher.
Integrating Paid Search and Paid Social on A Client
Now that I had actual experience in the Google Ads platform, I was able to begin applying my learnings to a cohesive strategy between paid search and paid social. Austin and I are both on an account that sells orthotic shoes. One of their primary objectives was to increase brand awareness and new user acquisition. Keeping this in mind, we started to formulate a strategy between both of our channels.
One of the main unique selling propositions (USPs) that our client had was that their orthotic shoes were meant to help people with plantar fasciitis. They have a great landing page on their website discussing plantar fasciitis and how their shoes help combat it. We were able to plug this URL into the Keyword Planner and find a few other keywords that were relevant to the objective of our campaign. We then looked at the search volume of these keywords to ensure that users were, in fact, searching for them, and then set our budget based on the forecasts that they provided us.
When creating the text ads for this campaign, we kept in mind that the search query would be looking for more information around plantar fasciitis. We also looked at the organic search results for our keywords, such as “plantar fasciitis” and saw that these mentioned treatments, diagnoses and symptoms. We then mimicked this language to use in our text ads to ensure that our ad was cohesive with the organic search results.
Since this ad led to the landing page that explains what plantar fasciitis is, we pushed an ad on paid social retargeting users who visited this specific page. We utilized an ad that was previously pushed to hot traffic and had generated about 800 comments of users who had actually bought the product and were commenting on how the shoes have changed their life. We then took this ad and dark posted it to cold traffic so that the comments could serve as a testimonial to any new users. We also pushed this same ad to users with the interest “plantar fasciitis” to ensure that we were covering all bases.
Implementing Paid Social/Paid Search Strategy Outside of the Mentorship
After implementing this strategy on a client that Austin and I were both on, I began to think critically about how I could apply it to my other clients. One of my clients is a new company and sells healthy, natural pet food. I plugged in their brand name into Google’s Keyword Planner, along with their competitors’ names, and saw that their average monthly searches were considerably lower compared to their competitors. Immediately what crossed my mind was that they needed to increase their brand awareness.
However, after doing more digging, I saw that there were tons of searches around “healthy dog food” (and similar keywords) as well as “dog vomiting”. Since one of my client’s USPs is that they sell healthy dog food that helps with dogs’ digestion and gut health, I thought that these would be great to generate awareness on in paid social.
I created two paid social ads that would be targeting cold traffic, each with their own copy highlighting these two sets of keywords (healthy dog food and dog vomiting). Essentially, one ad will be highlighting why healthy dog food is important for your dog’s health, while the other would be highlighting why dogs vomit and how common it is. With these two paid social ads highlighting these keywords, this will generate awareness about the issue, which will then prompt them to search for more information on it. This is where we target them with a text ad with the solution!
Implementing a cross-channel marketing strategy is well worth the investment and will only help your business. Austin and I working alongside one another and integrating the paid search and paid social strategies allowed us to reach more people with a cohesive brand voice and therefore resulting in more overall brand recognition. Advertising across multiple platforms not only ensures that we were reaching the customer on every point of the funnel, but it also makes the brand more memorable. This will then lead to more sales and increase your ROI.
With technology continuing to evolve, it’s necessary for marketers to make the necessary adaptations and evolve along with it. Cross-channel marketing will provide endless opportunities to businesses and will ultimately get your business in front of more eyes and across a wide number of platforms.