I wish I had this list when I was just getting started with Google Ads… It would have prevented countless early mistakes that cost me a lot of time and money.

The reality is that Google Ads is a big, hairy beast of a platform and it’s nearly impossible to set everything up correctly unless you follow a checklist.  To make matters worse, Google Ads is unforgiving.  Small mistakes like using default settings can end up costing you hundreds or even thousands down the road.

That’s why I’m providing a list of questions you need to answer to ensure you’re not missing any important details.  Whether you’re just about to go live with your ads or they’ve been running for years, walk through the questions below to see if there’s any room for improvement…

1. Are you targeting buying-intent keywords?

One of the biggest mistakes with Google advertising is targeting research-intent keywords.  When prospects are doing research, then they aren’t ready to make a purchase so the vast majority of your ad budget will be wasted when you target research-intent keywords.

Instead, focus on buying-intent keywords where you know the prospect is searching in Google in order to make a purchase.

2. Are your keywords grouped into Ad Groups of similar phrases?

The purpose of organizing your keywords into Ad Groups is not to make your campaign look neat and tidy.  Keyword organization actually plays a critical role in a Google Ads campaign because every keyword in a particular Ad Group will use the same ad copy.  That means if you have many different keywords in the same Ad Group, then your ad copy will not make sense for all of them (unless of course, you draft a boring, generic ad, but you know that’s not going to work).

3. Are your keywords Broad Match, Phrase, or Exact?

By default, Google Ads will set your keywords to Broad match. That means your ads will be displayed on any keyword Google considers relevant to your keyword.  Did you know that?  You would assume if you add the keyword “leather journal” that your ads would only display when someone searches “leather journal.”  But that’s not the case unless you use the Exact match type!

Phrase match keywords allow Google Ads to display your ads for any search that includes your keyword phrase.  Clearly, it’s important to review your match types to make sure you’re ads are displaying on the right keywords.

4. Are there any negative keywords?

Unless every keyword is using Exact match type, you’ll need to add negative keywords.  Negative keywords specify words or phrases that you do not want to target with your ads.  For example, if you add “free” as a negative keyword, then your ads would not display for searches that include the word “free.”

5. Are your ads 100% relevant for all the keywords in the Ad Group?

This is marketing 101 — match your message to the market.  If your prospect is searching for a “leather journal,” then your ads should focus on your leather journal products.  As mentioned in question #2, your keyword organization plays an important role in whether or not your ads will all be 100% relevant.  First, organize your ads into Ad Groups of similar phrases and then you’ll be able to draft ads that closely match your keywords.

6. Is the core keyword used in your ad copy?

This should be fairly obvious after the previous question, but it’s worth clarifying.  Review your ads and make sure the core keyword phrase that you’re targeting in the Ad Group is in at least one of your ads.  This will help your relevance score, which leads to a higher Quality Score, and it tends to also increase your ad click-through rates.

7. Do your ads include a compelling offer and call to action?

Search in Google for your target keywords to see what your competitors are offering.  Then put yourself in your prospect’s shoes and honestly consider which ad you would click on based purely on the ad copy.  Would you really click on your ad or would you click on one of the other more compelling offers?  If you struggle with that question then chances are good your prospects are not going to find your ads compelling either.

8. Are all appropriate ad extensions set up?

This one is easy.  Simply check to see if all of the following ad extensions are set up:

  1. Location
  2. Call
  3. Sitelink
  4. Callout
  5. Structured Snippet

In some cases, one of the above will not make sense for your business, but whenever possible set them all up.  Ad extensions tend to increase your click-through rate, which leads to higher Quality Scores, which leads to a better ad position for less cost.

9. Is your landing page 100% relevant for the keywords and ads?

First of all, are you advertising to your homepage? If yes, then create a dedicated landing page ASAP.  Even if it’s a duplicate of your homepage, it’s important to have a dedicated landing page because you need the freedom to make edits to improve conversion rates.  Plus, your homepage is rarely the most relevant page for all of your keywords.

10. Does the offer on the landing page match the offer in the ads?

Often when I review an ad campaign, I’ll notice one of two things:

  1. The offer promised in the ad is nowhere to be found on the landing page
  2. The offer on the landing page does not match the offer promised in the ad

Both cases will hurt sales conversions, but they are easy to fix.

11. Do you have separate Search vs. Display campaigns?

This is another easy one to answer.  Check to see if any of your campaigns are targeting both the Search and the Display networks.  If you’re not sure about the difference between these two networks, then click here to learn more.  Each network behaves quite differently and requires a separate campaign to properly optimize your ads.

12. Are you targeting mobile traffic with a mobile landing page?

We all know more and more prospects are turning to mobile to surf around, and even buy online.  That’s why Google by default will enable all of your ads to target mobile devices.

The problem is that many businesses do not have mobile-friendly websites.  That means you may be spending precious ad dollars to send prospects to a website that is nearly unusable on a mobile device!  To prevent this, make sure you turn off mobile targeting until you have mobile-friendly landing pages.

13. Is all the appropriate conversion tracking set up?

Finally, this list would not be complete if we didn’t touch on conversion tracking.  Even the best-structured campaign will need ongoing tweaks to keep the ads running smoothly and profitably.  That means you must set up conversion tracking.  Without tracking there is simply no way to optimize your ad campaign because you’ll be flying blind.  Here’s the list of all the conversion tracking you should set up:

  1. Webform conversion tracking to measure how many forms are submitted on your website as a result of your ads
  2. Website call conversion tracking to measure how many phone calls are generated from your website as a result of your ads
  3. Ad call conversion tracking to measure how many phone calls are generated from the number displayed on your ads
  4. GCLID conversion tracking to measure offline sales (phone calls or in-person sales) generated as a result of your ads

Congratulations! By making it this far you now know how to ensure your Google Ads campaign is set up properly.  The next step is to take action and fix any issues that may have been highlighted by walking through the 13 questions above.

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