Confessions of an Ex-Googler: 3 AdWords Questions I Answered Most Often

Dan Pratt

Feb 24, 20168 min read
Confessions of an Ex-Googler

Working at Google had its perks. I can't think of many companies where you can eat a free lunch, get a free massage and practice your backswing in a private golf simulator all before your 1:00 pm client phone call.

Now, this is going to sound a little dorky, but the greatest perk Google offered me was the chance to work directly with thousands of advertisers in every shape, size and skill set you could imagine. I was asked every AdWords question, in every variation, every week for about two years.

My time at Google turned me into an AdWords robot. I either dreamt of making campaign recommendations that generated thousands of conversions for my clients or had nightmares where my suggestions would get a client’s account banned for policy violation (the Google nightmare equivalent of showing up to work naked).

After being asked every question in the book, I quickly identified a handful of questions that seemed to stump everyone from AdWords newbies to full-on power users. Today we're going to break down the three questions I answered most often during my time at Google, and dive into my unbiased go-to answers to solve them.

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Let's dig in!

#1: How do I Increase My Quality Score?

If I had a dime for every time I was asked how an advertiser could increase their Quality Score, well, I'd probably be writing this post from my private island hideaway in the Caymans. And it makes sense – developing a strong Quality Score is one of the most important things you can do when building out your AdWords strategy.

Before we dive into how to achieve a (near) perfect Quality Score, let's take a quick step back to review exactly what Quality Score is in the first place.

Unwrapping Quality Score

Quality Score is Google’s 1-10 rating of the quality / relevancy of your keywords and search ads. It's important to note that relevancy is really the key here. The more relevant your keywords and ad text are to the product or service you’re advertising, the higher your Quality Score will be.

Relevancy is only one of many key factors that impact an increase or decrease in Quality

Score. Here are the five you need to pay attention to:

  1. Your Click Through Rate (CTR)
  2. Your Historical AdWords Performance
  3. The Quality and Relevance of Your Keywords
  4. The Quality and Relevance of Your Landing Page
  5. The Quality and Relevance of Your Ad Text

Although it’s almost impossible to determine which of these factors carries the most weight at any given time (I was not even told this at Google), I recommend making sure you’re always optimizing for a strong CTR. When lots of people click on your ad, it’s a good signal to Google that your ad must be relevant and helpful.

Achieving (Near) Perfection

The truth behind cracking Google's ridiculously confusing Quality Score formula is that it's really not all that confusing. If you know that relevancy is the single most important factor in Quality Score ranking, the only thing you need to do is make your keywords, ads, and landing page as relevant to the product or service you're selling as you can in the eyes of Google. This can be achieved with a little effort if you follow the One Per rule.

The One Per rule requires you to limit the number of keywords in your Ad Groups to 1. Yes, you read that correctly: 1 keyword per Ad Group. Don't stop reading just yet! I promise there is a method to my madness. Tying your keyword closely to your ad text and the text on your landing page signals to Google that your relevancy is through the roof, resulting in a high Quality Score.

It's important to remember that not all keywords are created equal. You only want to use the One Per rule on your top performing keywords. Let's take a look at the steps to make it happen:

  1. Do your research to select your top 5-10 performing
  2. Create one Ad Group for each one of those 5-10 top performing keywords
  3. Optimize your ad text so the keyword is featured in the headline, description like and display URL (see the example below with the keyword (Women's Hats)
  4. Optimize your landing page so that the keyword appears a more than once (the best advertisers create a separate landing page per ad group)

Quality Score Text

AdWords-1perThe faster you begin to look at quality score as a tool to measure relevancy and not just an arbitrary score out of 10, the faster you'll be able to get to those coveted 8, 9 and 10 scores.

#2: What Locations are Performing Best for Me?

Finding your top performing locations is a little bit of a journey in AdWords (my frustration with it was actually the catalyst that pushed me to start AdHawk). That being said, understanding what parts of the world / country / state / city will allow you to spend more money advertising in the areas where you’re seeing lots of success.

Location Targeting Options

You can get incredibly precise with location based targeting. There are 12 options to select from, beginning at country level and ending at postal code. Here’s the full list:

  • Country
  • State
  • Nielsen® DMA® region
  • Congressional district
  • County
  • Municipality
  • City
  • Postal code
  • Airport
  • Borough
  • Neighborhood
  • University

Notice the mix of options. Targeting at the state, county, city, and postal code level work well for advertisers of all shapes and sizes. Targeting airports or universities are great options for specific businesses like taxi companies or social media apps. These targeted locations can also be excluded if the data shows poor performance in those areas.

Enabling Location-Based Targeting

Again, the point of all this is to spend more of your budget on the exact areas where you're seeing success. This is typically done by increasing the bids in those areas by the way of a bid adjustment. To learn how to enable location based bid adjustments, follow these instructions:

  • Select the “Campaign” you want to add location bid adjustments to
  • Click on the “Settings” tabClick the “Locations” tab
  • Click on “View location reports” and select ‘What triggered your ad (geographic)’
  • Check the box to the left of the country / state / city you’re serving ads to
  • Click the “Select view for 1 location(s)” and select one of the options (we’ll select “City” for the purposes of this example)
  • Sort this list by the metric you’re optimizing for (for us it’s conversions)
  • Check the box to the left of cities that are converting the best for your business
  • Click “Edit” and then “Add targets and set bid adjustment”

Location Targeting 1Location Targeting 2Location Targeting 3Location Targeting 3A

I recommend setting your bid adjustments in your top performing locations at 10% to start, and then measure how the change impacted your campaign's performance. The sweet spot is to slowly drive down your total cost per conversion, while increasing the total number of conversions.

#3: Should I I Take My Ads Off of Mobile Devices?

Unless you have been living under a rock for the last 5 years, you know that mobile is the elephant in the room people can’t seem to stop talking about. More and more companies are being pushed into advertising across mobile devices, and a big question I would get during my time at Google was, "Is serving ads on mobile worth it?"

This may seem like a pretty straightforward questions. Of course you need to be serving your ads on mobile. I mean, the data around mobile usage pretty much demands that you do, right?

Why You Shouldn't Spend on Mobile

What makes this question difficult to answer is that there are still a bunch of factors that could result in poor mobile performance for advertisers. If your website or landing page is not mobile optimized, you're better off flushing your money down the toilet than investing in mobile ads. According to Internet Retailer, people are 160% more likely to convert on mobile optimized sites.

Mobile Optimized

Those that have spent time advertising on mobile know that this is just par for the course. Mobile users are picky. If they feel even slightly inconvenienced, you may lose them forever. If your site loads slow 43% of your visitors will leave and never come back, and 40% of the group that left will end up on your competitor's site.

Why You SHOULD Spend on Mobile

Given the picky nature of mobile users, it can be a costly endeavor to spend on mobile, but I still think it's worth it if it’s done the right way. The mobile space is getting too big and refined at this point that it's too risky to be sitting on the sidelines while your competitors eat up all the mobile market share. That being said, you need to have a process in place to make sure you're leveraging your mobile ad spend wisely.

To get the best return out of your mobile ad spend, you need to be sure that you have, at a minimum, the following:

  • Mobile optimized website
  • Quick load times for your website
  • Dead simple navigation to a conversion
  • Mobile-specific call to action
  • Process to consistently measure mobile performance
  • Google’s Mobile-Friendly test tool (it not only does a free audit on site performance, speed, and experience but also outlines all the things that you can fix)

You’re not going to hit a homer your first time at the plate. But if you create a strategy to optimize for each of these five components AND keep a close eye on performance, analytics, and ad spend, you’ll be batting cleanup in no time.

How to Control Your Mobile Ad Spend

What Google fails to tell most advertisers is that your ads automatically serve on mobile devices once you launch your campaign. It's a default feature that starts you at equal bidding, meaning your ads are just as likely to serve on mobile devices as they are on desktops or tablets. You can control this through increasing or decreasing your mobile bid adjustment.

A mobile bid adjustment represents a positive or negative percentage change to your bids for people searching for your keywords on a mobile device. The percentage change begins at 0%, but can be increased to +300% or decreased to -100%.

Positive mobile bid adjustments are great for websites that follow the strategy above and are mobile optimized. I recommend starting with a 10-20% bid adjustment to start, and then use your data to determine how the performance of your account has been impacted.

To learn how to enable mobile bid adjustments, follow these simple instructions:

  • Select the “Campaign” you want to add mobile bid adjustments to (you can also add mobile bid adjustments at the ad group level)
  • Click on the “Settings” tab
  • Click the “Devices” tab
  • Click the ‘-’ or the ‘0%’ to enable your mobile bid adjustment

Mobile Device Adjustment

These are just a few of the most frequently asked questions I saw during my time on the AdWords team at Google. Following my advice in each section should help you see a better return on your ad spend, but it's important that you record all of your data and test weekly to make sure these recommendations work for your business.

If you have one that didn't make it to this list, let me know in the comments and I'll send you the answer.

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Dan Pratt is the co-founder and COO of AdHawk (Techstars ‘15), a tool that helps to simplify and automate online ad management across platforms like Google AdWords and Facebook Ads. Prior to founding AdHawk, he worked on the Accelerated Growth team at Google, helping startups assess, refine and grow their digital advertising. He’s an expert in all forms of paid advertising and has been honing his marketing and sales skills since selling homemade pizza from his desk in third grade. Twitter - @danielppratt