Pre-LaunchGoogle Ads PlatformSetting Up Your AccountTips & TricksMeasuring SuccessFree Template

New to Google Ads? Don’t worry! We’re here to go over the basics, plus we’ll teach you some tips and tricks to make you feel like an expert!

First things first, how does Google Ads work? Well, it’s your typical pay to play advertising platform. You create ads, and you pay Google every time someone clicks on your ad (whether that results in a sale or not).

While we are fervent believers in search engine optimization and inbound marketing, we do realize those methods take time – and in a world of 2-day Amazon delivery, who wants to wait? Google Ads is a quick way to get to the top of the search engine results page (or commonly known as SERPs). Before we get into the nitty gritty of creating your ads, there are a few pre-launch activities that you can and should do.

If you don’t have time today to read over all of our pre-launch activities, download our handy checklist (no form submit required) and skip straight to the setup!

Google Ads pre-launch checklist

Pre-Launch Activities

Define Your Goals for Google Ads

First off, let’s define your goals. Defining your goals helps you determine how successful Google Ads has been for you. Your goals should be SMART goals. Specific, such as do you want to increase your mailing list? Do you want more online sales? Are you looking for more demos scheduled? Measurable, can you measure the size of your mailing list? Achievable, is this goal within your scope? Realistic, can you realistically achieve this goal? Timely, when do you want to achieve this goal? Set a date and try to stick to it.

Competitive Analysis

Secondly, check out the competition. Conducting some competitive analysis goes a long way. Look at their Google Ads, look for keywords that they are going after, and think about what you could be doing differently to attract more clicks. There are a few competitive intelligence tools out there like SEMrush and SpyFu. I will be using SpyFu in today’s example because you can access somewhat great data without needing to create an account. I say somewhat because it’s often a little off. But hey, it’s free.

Utilizing Research Tools

Here’s what you can see for free with SpyFu:

google ads research

Once you enter in a competitor’s website, you quickly get a monthly domain overview. From here you can click into the various data points, but we are here for competitive ads research, so you’ll want to head over to the Paid Keywords tab. With the free version, you only get to see 5 of their top paid keywords, but that’s okay, you can start with those 5.

From here, you can click over to the Ad History tab – which is where you can see their actual ad copy. Here, you want to see what you can do differently to make your ads better and stand out. Jot down their attention-grabbing headlines, the ones that are valuable to a potential customer.

Define Your Audience

Heading back to our pre-launch checklist, the third thing you’ll want to do is define your audience and campaign settings. You can think about your current customers to get the wheels turning on who your audience is, how they buy, and what their day might be like. This trickles into your Google Ads campaign settings. For example, say your buyers are all in Key West and they log off at 4pm on the dot. Write this down to use later when you are defining your campaign settings.


The Key to Ranking for the Right Searches

Next, you’ll want to do additional keyword research. Start with the 5 or so keywords you wrote down from your competitive research. Head back over to SpyFu and click on the Keyword Research top menu item. Start at a high level and search all relevant keywords. You can see the top 3 advertisers by clicking on the Advertiser History. Here you will be able to see estimations of their monthly budget, how many keywords in total they bid for, and the % of time they land the top of the page spots. You can also click to see some of their ad history.

If click over to the Related Keywords tab, you can see an estimated search volume, the keyword ranking difficulty, and the average cost per click. Choose about 7 keyword variations (both short and long-tail) per high level topic.

Additionally, you can also look at your own website for keyword ideas. Group these keywords by how your website is set up. Make a list of your brand terms and sort your website and branded keywords by high level topic. For example, Tennis Shoes is a high-level topic. Keywords under this level could include “best tennis shoes”, “shoes for tennis”, “red tennis shoes”, and so on.

Local Search Tool

After you have your list of keywords, I have another sweet tool for you to use if you are aiming for more local traffic or trying to advertise in a new area. It’s called It’s a really simple way to set your browser in the location you want to advertise in. So, take your list of keywords and search in your specified area. And then you can see live local results – both organic and Google Ads listings!

Your Budget

Now it’s time to decide on a monthly budget. Your Google Ads account is set up with a daily budget. So, think of how much advertising dollars your business can spend in a month, then divide that by 30 to find your daily budget. Your daily budget is the maximum amount allowed for your ads. Once your account reaches this limit, the ads will no longer display for the rest of the day.

Conversion Tracking

The last item in our pre-launch checklist, you want to make sure your conversion tracking is set up, so you have visibility into how well your campaigns are converting after they launch. You can do this easily by importing your Goals from Google Analytics. There are other ways to set up your Google Ads conversion tracking, but they can be difficult for someone unfamiliar with it.

Google Ads Platform

Okay, let’s dive a little into how the Google Ads platform is structured.

google ads platform structure

You’ll want to have clear organization for your ads so that your account is neat and easy to navigate. Remember those keywords we talked about above? We grouped them by high-level topic for a reason. Those high-level topics will be my Ad Groups. You will then need to decide on your match types for your keywords. Keyword match types are broken into three variations:

Broad Match

The Broad match type maximizes the reach of your Google Ads, but can mean more money spend and not on the right audience. Choosing this match type for your keyword will trigger an ad whenever that word is typed into a search (whether it is relevant to your business or not).

Broad match keywords can serve your ads on searches that don’t contain the keyword from your list, and/or are related to the keyword but may not have the same meaning.

For example, let’s say you sell tennis equipment. So, you select tennis equipment as your Broad match keyword. Then, someone searches tennis racquets. Your add will appear to this searcher because tennis racquets is related to your keyword tennis equipment.

When using Broad match keywords, it’s important to use long-tail variations like tennis equipment, instead of just tennis. If you select just tennis, your ad may be shown on searches looking for tennis courts and tennis elbow cures, etc.

“Phrase” Match

The Phrase match type narrows down on your audience more, while still getting you a fair numbers of clicks. When choosing this match type for your keyword, your ads will be triggered when that phrase or a close variation is searched.

It’s important to note that close variations also include misspellings, plural and singular forms, abbreviations, and such. With Phrase match, the order of your keyword is important. Let’s use our tennis equipment example again. Your Phrase match keyword is “tennis equipment” and someone searches “tennis equipment for sale” and another person searches “tennis elbow equipment.” Your ad will be served in the first search, but not the second search.

[Exact] Match

The Exact match type is the safest option, you will get the least number of clicks, but often the highest CTR (click through rate). With the Exact match type, your ads are shown to searchers who use your exact keyword, or close variations that have the same meaning as your exact keyword.

Close variations look like this: “tennis equipment” or “equipment for tennis.” Either way, what they want stays the same; they are looking for [tennis equipment]. When you use Exact match, your Google Ads appear in searches that match the meaning of your keyword.

You dictate what match type you want to use by typing how we’ve shown above. [Exact] match has brackets surrounding the keywords, “Phrase” match has quotation marks, and Broad match has nothing. We suggest you start with the “Phrase” match or [Exact] match types, as these will end up costing you less and, more often than not, will result in higher CTRs.

Setting Up Your Google Ads Account

Now that you have your pre-launch activities covered and understand the basics of Google Ads, we’re going to dive into setting up your Ads account. If you already have an account set up, feel free to jump down to the next section. However, if you haven’t already, keep on reading.

Now, to collect your money faster, Google makes the initial set up really easy. You will even go through a setup wizard to create your first campaign. To complete the creation of your account, you will need your credit card information.

First, you are prompted to select your ad goals:

Advertising Goals Choices

Then you will describe your business or link it to your Google My Business account.

After that, you will choose where you want people to go after they click your ad. So, in our example, we decided our advertising goal was to get more website visits. So naturally, we will want to send them to our website.

If you choose your website, then Google will scan it and verify with you that it is the correct website.

Creating Your First Ad

After verifying your website, you will get thrown right into creating your first ad. This can be very daunting to first-timers. So, here’s your first bit of advice. Don’t stress about it! All of this is editable after the fact. When you are creating your Google Ads, you want to think of your audience and what information they might want to see. We have a few questions that we usually use when creating an ad:

  1. What are you offering?
    • What are your selling points?
    • How do you differentiate from your competition?
  2. What do you want to accomplish?
    • What action do you want someone to take?
  3. Who are your customers?
    • What are their needs and values?
    • What sort of circumstances are they in?

Take all your answers, put them together, and you have some ads! For example, we are offering tennis equipment (remember?), and our tennis equipment is professional grade at recreational prices. Also, we ship for free on all orders over $25. We want our customers to purchase our tennis equipment, and they are looking for affordable options, so we want to highlight our affordable prices. Our ad would look like this:

google ads demo

Keyword Themes & Advertising Footprint

After you create your first ad, you will add your keyword themes and then select where you want to advertise. You can choose to advertise within a set radius of your physical address, or you can choose to advertise in specific zip codes, cities, or regions. If you want to reach local people and you want them to visit your store or business, you should choose “Advertise near an address.” However, if you have a bigger footprint than that, select the other specific zip codes, cities, or regions option.

Your Google Ads Daily Budget

Once you have your advertising footprint chosen, you will need to enter a daily budget. Google will generate a few suggested budgets to use, which are based on other advertisers on the platform and whatever google algorithms that are applicable, or you can choose to enter your own budget from your pre-launch exercise. This is the max daily spend in advertising. Once your ads reach this amount, they will no longer appear in the search results (until the next day).

Campaign Options

The last two steps are for reviewing the campaign you just set up and entering your billing information. Google will automatically start you out with what they call a Smart Campaign. Which is fine for starting out. But you will want to use a Search campaign if you are wanting more control over your ads. So, what’s the difference between the two?

Smart Campaigns

With Smart Campaigns, Google takes control of everything after your initial setup. Google’s algorithm continues to work on your ads until it gets the best results. You will get clicks with minimal intervention on your part with a Smart Campaign. But a word of caution: be sure to set up conversion tracking, so that you can effectively measure the effectiveness of Google.

Search Campaigns

Search campaigns give you control over advanced settings like bidding strategies, keyword editing, as well as ad extensions. They also have more advanced reporting. With a Search Campaign you will be able to use your knowledge and expertise to target your audience better than Google can. If done correctly, your Search Campaign will outperform the Smart Campaign.

Google Ads Tips & Tricks

Quality Score

The Quality Score – the quality score is found in the Keywords section of your Google Ads account. Quality Score is an estimate of how relevant your ads, keywords, and landing pages are to a person who sees your ad. Higher Quality Scores typically lead to lower costs and better ad positions. That is why it’s important to use keywords that are already on your website (or edit your website content in order to include keywords you want to rank for or bid on) – because your quality score will help drive a more efficient campaign.

Extra Advertising Space

Can’t quite fit everything in your headline or descriptions? You can use 30 extra characters in the Display Path section to help you get more clicks! This is also another area to put some of the keywords you are targeting.

google ads

Ad Scheduling

If you’re noticing a lot of spam or low performing traffic during certain times, you can easily use Ad Scheduling to only display your ads when your audience is searching.

Measuring Your Google Ads Efficiency

Finally, we want to go over a few important metrics you should be watching that help you measure the efficiency of your ads.

  1. Impressions – this is the number of people who have seen or have been served your ad.
  2. Clicks – this is the number of times your ad was clicked on.
  3. Conversions – this is the number of times a viewer clicked on your ad, then took the action you intended. Whether that was to download a resource, schedule a demo, or fill out a contact form.
  4. Spend – this is simply put the amount of money that you have spent on your ad campaign so far.

When the first four metrics are combined, you get some awesome data points that help you make data-driven decisions.

CTR – or click through rate – is the percentage of impressions that turn into clicks. The higher this percent is, the more efficient your campaign is. A good CTR to aim for is 2%.

The conversion rate is the percentage of clicks that turn into conversions – again, this metric improves the more efficient your campaign.

CPC or cost per click, is the amount of money you are spending on each click. Some keywords may be more expensive than others – especially if it’s a buzz word or hot topic. As your campaign improves, you can work to decrease this number by setting your max CPC.

Lastly, the CPA – or cost per acquisition – this is the amount of money you are spending on each conversion. This may look different than cost per lead, because sometimes visitors take more than one action during their session – which results in multiple conversions for only one lead.


You’re ready to start your Google Ads journey! You completed your pre-launch activities, have your account set up, and are ready to launch your first few Search campaigns. To celebrate that, we want to give you something so totally valuable that you’ll continue to use it campaign after campaign. No – it’s not a magic wand. It’s a template! This handy template will help you plan, organize, and track your Google Ads campaigns in a clean and simple way.

download templates

This brings us to the end of our Google Ads Basics article. If you want to know more, click around to some of our other blogs or schedule some time to talk with one of our experts.

Stephanie Benzik

Stephanie Benzik

Stephanie is the Senior Director of Marketing at GreenStar Marketing. She started out studying Interior Architecture and Design, but found her true passion in Marketing. Stephanie has been working in the Telecommunications industry since 2013. In her free time, she enjoys cooking, spending time with her family and dogs, and binge-watching Netflix.
Phone Searching for Google Ads
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