A Useful Guide to Google Ads and Analytics for Beginners

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Want to learn the basics of Google Ads without breaking the bank? This introduction shows you how to get started by harnessing Google Analytics to optimise your campaigns.

Google Ads are a great way to power up your marketing efforts and reach a larger audience.

In this article, we’ll introduce you to Google Ads, how it works and how to get started.

We’ll also let you in on the secret to making Google Ads a success for your business. (Hint: It involves another free Google tool: Google Analytics.)

Part 1: Your Guide to Google Ads

Officially, Google Ads is an online advertising platform that allows you to create and manage advertising.

These ads can appear in Google search results, or they can be placed on other websites, apps or video content.

There are three types of Google Ads:

Search network ads

When you search Google for products or services, you get what’s called a ‘search engine results page’ (SERP). Above all the “organic” results, you’ll see a few results labelled “Ad” – these are search network ads.

This ad type is good for reaching the front page of search results—every business’s dream!

Display network ads

Sometimes you’ll be reading a webpage and notice some advertising beside the article, usually on the right-hand side. These are display network ads.

This ad type has a minimum price, and you bid for a spot on one of the two million websites, videos, and apps that are part of the network.

Video ads

Non-premium YouTube users are presented with ads before, and even during, the videos they watch.

These ads go for six to 15 seconds and are a great way to reach large audiences.

How much do Google Ads cost?

With so many different types of marketing strategies out there, it’s important to consider whether Google Ads are going to be cost-effective for your budget.

Fortunately, almost any business can take advantage of Google Ads. There is no minimum spend, no lock-in contract duration, and you can stop at any time.

The cost of your Google Ads campaign is directly proportional to how many keywords you bid on and how competitive those keywords are. This also means that cheaper and less competitive keywords will be viewed and clicked by fewer people.

So, whether it’s a cost-effective marketing solution for your business will depend on your unique return on investment from these ads. That’s why optimising is so important (more on that below).

Payment types

Google also offers various ways to pay for your ads so you can experiment with, and choose, the ones that work best for your purposes.

  • Cost Per Click (CPC) aka Pay Per Click (PPC)  you pay only if someone clicks.
  • Cost Per Impression (CPI/CPM) – you pay based on how many times your ad is shown.
  • Cost Per Engagement (CPE) – you pay when a user completes a defined engagement, for example, when they watch your video.

5 steps to creating a Google Ads campaign

As you can see, Google Ads offers a unique opportunity for businesses, but it can also be costly if it isn’t done right.

Just imagine you choose the Cost Per Click option, and you get heaps of clicks to your site, but the visitors never stay long enough to perform further actions!

By “bouncing” in this way, visitors will drain your budget, and your Google Ads will deliver zero return on investment.

But here’s how to optimise your ads and get more bang for your buck.

Step 1: Define your audience

The better you can define your audience, the more likely your ads will be served to the right people at the right time.

We recommend creating audience personas to help you visualise them as real people.

Step 2: Set conversion goals

You need to establish conversion goals for each stage of your sales funnel.

While time consuming, this will save you money in the long run because your ads will be tailored to each stage of the funnel.

Write down your business goals for each stage of the sales funnel. What messages and calls to action (CTAs) do your ads need to convey at each stage?

Do this informally to begin with. Below, we’ll discuss how to do it formally within Google Analytics.

Step 3: Craft your messages

Let’s break down the parts of your Google Ad and how to write each one.

  • The headline

It’s the first thing your audience will read—so make it relevant.

If you have a key search term, then use that as the headline. Be mindful of character limits and have several headlines drafted in advance.

  • Body copy

This is the little paragraph that gives your prospects clear examples of what you’re offering.

Finish it up with a strong call to action to help nudge them towards the action you want them to take. These might be “book a call” or “fill out our form” or “Say: Yes, please.”

  • Final URL

The final URL is the URL that people reach after clicking your ad.

There are different ways to do this, but for beginners, it’s best to match your URL with what your ad promotes, for example by using similar keywords.

This also helps build trust with your audience as you take them exactly where you promised to.

Step 4: Remember remarketing

Google Ads can also be used for ‘remarketing’. This is when visitors who have been to your site several times have abandoned their cart or stopped midway through the sales process.

Using tracking, remarketing allows you to follow them around the web and offer another opportunity for them to complete their purchase.

Remarketing audiences are people who are clearly interested in your product, but haven’t quite committed to the next step yet. Therefore, effective remarketing ads often offer people incentives, such as free delivery, discount codes and first-time buyer offers.

Step 5: Track and review

Review the performance of your Google Ads in Google Analytics.

This process takes a little finagling to begin with, but will make your ads perform better, help you save on marketing budget, and boost your return on investment.

Continue to the next section to find out how it’s done.

Part 2: How to use Google Analytics for Google Ads

Creating ads and blasting them into the ether without any feedback is not just ineffective, it can be costly.

Instead, you need to track the progress of your ads and continually improve on them. That’s when you really start to see the profits.

Google Analytics is the tool that allows you to review and refine your Google Ads by drawing information from your website.

Now that you’ve got a handle on Google Ads basics, it’s time to get to know the secret weapon that makes it all work.

What is Google Analytics?

Google Analytics is the premier analytics platform for tracking site or app performance.

It also gives you insight into your search engine marketing (SEM) strategies.

It’s part of a range of tools provided by Google that includes Google Search Console and Google Tag Manager.

How Google Analytics works

Google Analytics collects data about your website that you can then use to create your Google Ads.

In broad strokes, Google Analytics collects the following types of data:

  • How many visitors your pages get
    • Where visitors come to your pages from
    • ​How visitors progress through your site
    • What visitors do on your pages
    • How visitors interact with elements on your pages
    • How long visitors spend on your pages
    • At what stage of a visit users leave your site

Let’s take a look at some of these data points in depth.

Hits

Among the most useful data points collected by Google Analytics are the “hits.”

Types of hits include:

  • Pageview Hit – This is registered each time one of your pages is loaded.

It has information on what device and browser visitors are using and which of your pages they visit.

  • Event Hit – This data point notes when a visitor performs an action on your site, such as filling in a form, clicking a link or playing a video.
  • Transaction/E-commerce Hit – The holy grail of hit types occurs when a site visitor buys something. To give you added insight, it also records which pages they went to before buying, which products they bought, and how much they spent.

Users and sessions

Just as valuable as hits, Google Analytics collects in-depth information about the users who visit your site and the nature of their sessions.

User and session data includes:

  • User Data – Records the number of unique visitors to your site.

Google Analytics creates a unique, random user ID for each visitor, allowing Google Analytics to recognise them if they re-visit.  

Returning visitors must use the same device or they will be misleadingly (but unavoidably) IDed as new. If they clear your cookie from their browser cache, they will also be registered as new.

  • Session Data – A session is the time a user spends on your site. It begins when they first visit and continues until they leave.

Google Analytics collects distinct session data for each session.

Google Analytics reports

About that secret weapon we mentioned earlier…

With your Google Analytics reports, you’ll be able to track, measure, and optimise many aspects of your site functionality, search engine marketing (SEM) and search engine optimisation (SEO).

Reports are used to present you with easy-to-read visual digests of the data that Google Analytics collects.

Best of all, they make it easy to identify patterns and gain insights.

Metrics and analytics

Reports include both qualitative and quantitative forms of data.

These include “dimensions”, which are the basic attributes of the collected data.

“Country”, for example, is a dimension that you could select for your user data to tell you which countries site users come from. (Note: The default is often US, so change this to the relevant region/s.)

You can also collect “metrics”, or quantitative measurements that tell you the number of something.

The “Sessions” metric, for example, tells you how many sessions took place on your site overa given time.

Tips for campaign and conversion tracking

Once you’re familiar with the basic Google Analytics functions, you’ll be ready to use it to track your Google Ads campaign.

Here are two useful strategies to make your campaigns more efficient.

Conversion tracking

When a customer completes an action that you’ve defined as valuable, these actions are called “conversions”.

Google Analytics also gives you free conversion tracking to reveal what happens after a customer interacts with your ads.

This helps you work out if your ads were effective. And if they weren’t, you can use this data to optimise the ads that could perform better.

Conversion tracking includes things such as whether a user:

  • purchased a product
  • signed up for your newsletter
  • called your business, or
  • downloaded your app.

How conversion tracking works

To use conversion tracking, you need to add a conversion tracking tag, or code snippet, to your website or mobile app.

When a customer clicks on your ad from Google Search or selected Google Display Network sites, or when they view your video ad, a temporary cookie is placed on their computer or mobile device.

When they complete the action that you defined, your system recognises the cookie(through the code snippet that you added)and Google records a conversion.

Goal setting

Like with any marketing campaign, you need to set a benchmark against which to measure your success before you can build on it.

Do this in Google Analytics by going to the “Admin” panel and selecting the “Goals” option.

As a beginner, you might like to start with one of the existing goal templates. When you get the hang of it, you can then create custom goals.

Choose from four goal types, including:

  1. Destination: Define a URL to mark a conversion record.
  2. Duration: Assign a duration of time that a user spends on-site to mark a conversion record.
  3. Pages/Screens per Session: Set a number of pages that a user could view in a session.
  4. Event: Mark when a user performs a specific action, such as clicking a certain link or playing a video.

Note: Event goals are a little different from the others in that you have to first set up Google Analytic “Events” before reaching this step. For more info, see Google’s Events guide.

Explore the full potential of Google Ads and Analytics

It isn’t hard to see the benefits you get from these highly accessible Google platforms.

By advertising to casual web users across search engines, websites, apps and video content, you can reach a large—and relevant—audience.

The good thing is that you can use Google Ads and Google Analytics no matter what stage your business is at or what size it is.

For example, if you haven’t quite mastered your search engine optimisations (SEO) yet, you can use Google Ads to get more clicks to your site, which has the effect of boosting your search engine ranking.

Conversely, if you already have solid inbound marketing and SEO, then paid outbound strategies such as Google Ads could be the next step in generating brand awareness or increasing sales.

Whatever your purpose, Google Ads and Analytics are among the most useful and cost-effective tools out there to complete your marketing strategy.

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About

Natalie is a freelance copywriter and digital content producer from Melbourne. Her experience spans across industries including marketing, construction, tourism, and disability services.

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