Digital Advertising Guide

Digital Advertising is one of the most effective marketing tools ever developed because it is very flexible and lets you target your audience based on their behavior. Many forms of advertising allow you to target your audience based on their demographic characteristics, but search allows you to present an ad when your prospects are actually searching for products like yours. Google and other search engines use this model to sell advertising in the form of sponsored listings in search engine results.

Google launched AdWords in 2000 based on the idea of presenting relevant ads to people based on the keywords that they are searching on. In 2018 they changed the name to Google Ads to represent a broader offering that includes search, display and video ads. The idea behind Google Ads is that you bid to show your ad when people search on particular keywords. Google will present your ad to searchers based on your keyword bid, the click-through rate (CTR) of your ad, and the quality score Google assigns to your ad. This system allows Google to keep advertisers striving to increase their bids against each other, while improving the quality of their ad copy and offers. This system works so well that advertisers spent over $146 billion in 2020with Google, up from only $28 billion 10 years ago.

Digital Advertising Strategy

Digital advertising enables you to present your ads and optimize your budget to reach your target market in the most efficient way possible. You can target specific keywords or phrases by focusing your ads on Google’s search page, their partner search pages, or thousands of other sites that show Google ads. You can also target based on geography, language, and a variety of other demographic characteristics.

Traditional marketing techniques target users based on demographics alone. If you are interested in reaching a certain demographic, say, upper income women between 30 and 40, you could choose various radio, TV, website, or magazine options. These advertising platforms typically run surveys to find out how much of their audience falls in to each demographic.

The challenge with these media is that the users are generally doing something else when they are viewing your ad, such as reading an article or watching a TV program, so the response rates are often low. In addition, even though these media are targeted, they always have some users that fall outside of the demographic you want to reach. This traditional media is often referred to as “push” or “outbound” marketing, since you are pushing your message in front of an audience that may or may not be interested. For example, if you work for a college recruiting students and you advertise in a magazine or website focused on young women, you are presenting your ads to the right audience, but presenting the ad at a time when they are reading about fashion or some other topic.

When people are searching on Google, they are actively looking for something. If an ad helps answer their question, then it’s natural for them to respond to the ad to learn more. The power of Google Ads is that you are presenting your ad to searchers the moment they type a query. This makes your ad not only much more relevant, but very timely. You can also fulfill the searcher’s need immediately with more information faster than you could with any print or traditional media. This is known as “pull” or “inbound” marketing, as you are pulling in an audience that has—through their Google search—expressed an interest in your offering.

Targeting ads based on what people are thinking about and actually searching for is very powerful and can result in a cost per lead or cost per sale that is lower than almost any other type of paid media. The key to making the program work is to align all of the variables available to you in order to achieve your business goals. The main variables available to the advertiser are:

  • Keywords
  • Ad Copy
  • Display Ad Design and Copy
  • Offers
  • Landing Page Design
  • Bids
  • Budget
  • Geographic Targeting
  • Website Targeting

The power of the system is that you can run multiple ads featuring multiple offers on thousands of keywords at the same time and make instant changes to improve your results. These campaigns can be created and taken down very rapidly, and you can start very small and later grow them very large.

In each of these categories, you can also create and test many options to give you the best results. For example, a campaign may contain 500 keyword variations grouped into ten ad groups, testing 35 text ads and eight banner (graphical) ads, that leverage five offers supported by dozens of very specific landing pages, showing ads in 16 countries across three continents. All of this can be managed through one user interface where changes can be made very quickly and easily.

The flexibility of the system serves the needs of large international advertisers, very small local advertisers, and everyone in between. Compared to any traditional media, it is easier to get started, less expensive to run and manage, easier to get fast results, and more conducive to testing and optimizing.

Because there are many variables that you can arrange in order to make a campaign work, I’ve sometimes heard people say that they tried Google Ads, but it didn’t work for them. Although it does not always work, most of the time the reason it does not work is because people use these tools poorly and do not tailor all of the variables properly to produce the desired results.

Creating an Effective Search Advertising Campaign

An effective campaign has a clear strategy, highly targeted channels and keywords, a strong offer or series of offers, and well-designed landing pages. It is also managed continually through testing, targeting, and optimization.

Goals for a Google Ads Campaign

Several of the goals I’ve seen used for a Google campaign are:

  • Brand Impressions. Some companies simply want to be seen. Since Google presents your ad for free and only charges you when someone clicks on it, it can be very inexpensive to create ad impressions. In one of our campaigns we got over 1 million impressions for less than $1,000.
  • Clicks to your website. Since Google is a pay-per-click system, they charge you based on the number of clicks you get to your website or landing page. This can be a great way to generate traffic to your site at an attractive cost per click.
  • Conversions. Most companies don’t simply want impressions; they want leads or a sale, usually referred to as a “conversion.” The power of this medium is that if you align all of the variables properly, you can optimize the program to drive the most conversions at the lowest cost/conversion.
  • Sales. If you run an e-commerce website, it’s very easy to see how the money you are investing in search can turn directly into revenue. If you are a B2B marketer, you are often driving leads that don’t turn into sales instantly. Google Ads integrates with popular CRM systems such as, which allows you to track a sale back to the keyword or ad that drove the lead, even if the sale was made months or years after it was first generated.

The beauty of a Google Ads program is that you can focus part of your campaign on one goal and another part of your campaign on another goal. For example, you may want to make sure your company or a product name is at the top of the search results page to make your brand more visible. You can put your brand keywords in a campaign with a specific budget, and get the most impressions possible without disrupting your core lead generation campaigns. You can do the same thing with your other goals, creating specific budgeted campaigns to serve your website traffic, sales, or lead generation goals.

The Offer

Many companies violate a basic principle of direct marketing and use search ads to direct traffic to their website home page. The offer in their ad is often something to the effect of, “We’re great—check us out.” In test after test, we’ve discovered that ads are more effective when there is a strong offer and a specific call to action. Instead of just saying that you are great, it’s more effective to offer 20% off a purchase or a free eBook. These types of valuable offers deliver value to the user and drive higher click-through rates than other, more self-focused ads.

The power of search ads, of course, is that you don’t need to use just one offer. You can feature a different offer for every keyword group to make the offers more and more relevant. We’ve run campaigns with dozens of different offers to meet the needs of users who are searching on different keywords. The more relevant the offer is to the keyword you are advertising on, the higher your click-through rate and conversion rate.

Landing Pages

Once you have your offer strategy developed, you can create landing pages. Landing pages help you avoid the mistake of taking your search advertising traffic directly back to your home page, which may not be relevant to the searcher on every keyword that you are advertising on. Additionally, your home page offers many navigation choices, and if your goal is to drive leads or a sale, the user will be distracted by all of these choices and less likely to do what you want them to do.

A landing page fulfills the goal of the searcher. When someone searches on a keyword and clicks on a specific ad, they expect to go to a place that fulfills their needs. If they don’t see it within seconds, they will hit the back button and continue searching.

A well-designed landing page makes it easy for the user to get what they want, while allowing you to get what you want. If your goal is to drive leads, then you want to make it easy for them to give you their contact information with a simple form that’s easily visible when they arrive on the page. You’ll also want to make it easy for the user to understand the offer by providing a clear headline with short copy and a picture of the offer. The call to action should be clear and simple so that the user can give you their contact information within seconds.

Good landing pages can make a significant impact on a campaign. I’ve seen a 500% improvement in results by creating a dedicated landing page instead of using the home page. I’ve also seen a massive improvement in results by creating a well-designed landing page instead of a rambling, multi-page website. These improvements in conversion rates can create a dramatic improvement in the ROI of a campaign.

Testing with Google Ads

Google Ads is a very powerful testing platform. You can use it to create and manage simple A/B tests or complex multivariate tests to get statistically significant results. And since it’s easy, fast, and relatively inexpensive to get many impressions on a campaign, many companies use Google to test ads, messages, and landing pages, and then roll out the winners to less flexible media.

Targeting and Optimization

Once you create a search advertising campaign with well-designed offers, landing pages, keywords, and ad groups, your work has just begun.

The Google Ads marketplace is always changing with companies constantly competing on keyword bids in a live auction environment. There is a large, but finite number of searches by individuals happening every day, so it’s important to review the campaign daily and make adjustments based on what the marketplace is telling you.

Because of this dynamic environment, campaign results can change rapidly when your competitors adjust their budgets, bids, or keywords. It’s very important to constantly monitor your campaigns to make sure that the elements that were working last week are still working this week.

Key Performance Indicators (KPI)

Search advertising campaigns can produce a lot of data, but it’s important to monitor the most important variables to keep a campaign in line. When we manage a B2B campaign, for example, the most important variables we focus on are the campaign budget, the number of conversions (leads), and the cost per conversion. In other words, are we spending enough money, driving enough leads or sales, and doing it at an acceptable cost per conversion? If we achieve these goals, the rest of the campaign will be in line. It’s important to review this data at the account level, and also at the campaign, ad group, or even keyword level. This way you can determine the effectiveness of each of your campaigns.

By using the principles I’ve outlined here and creating consistent and predictable results, you can accelerate your search marketing results.

Need Help Improving Your Digital Marketing?

Need Help Improving Your Digital Marketing?