Launch Your First Google AdWords Campaign – A Step-by-Step Guide
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Launch Your First Google AdWords Campaign – A Step-by-Step Guide

Malaika NicholasMalaika Nicholas

July 19, 2021

Let’s get your first Google AdWords (now Google Ads) campaign launched on the right foot!

I’ll document how I created the campaign from start to finish (including some successful AdWords text ads) so junior marketers, business owners, and entrepreneurs will know what to look out for when setting up a campaign.

Step 1: Get familiar with Google Ads

Before I launched this first campaign, I had Ladder’s director of marketing, walk me through Google AdWords.

(It’s going to be a while until we start calling them Google Ads. Old habits die hard!)

He started by briefly explaining some common terms you’ll see often as you set up a Google campaign.

Like “campaign” and “ad group” — they’re not the same!

Ad group
An ad group contains one or more ads which target a shared set of keywords.
A set of one or more ad groups (i.e. ads, keywords, and bids) that share a budget, location targeting, and other settings.

You also may be tripped up by the “daily budget” and a “bid amount.”

Daily budget
The amount that you set for each ad campaign to specify how much, on average, you’d like to spend each day. When you’ve reached yourbudget, your ad will stop showing.
Bid amount
The maximum amount of money you’re willing to spend each time someone clicks your ad.

Then, our director walked me through the process of selecting a daily budget, selecting the right keywords, budding options, and so much more.

If you don’t have someone to walk you through how to set up Google AdWords, I recommend reading some supplemental beginner’s guides on the ins and outs of AdWords campaigns. Here are a few that I referenced:

Step 2: Create a New AdWords Campaign

Step 2 is creating a brand new Google AdWords campaign. We wanted to create a new campaign targeting small business.

To get started, open your AdWords account, then click on the blue + Campaignbutton.

When you do, you’ll see a list of Google AdWords campaign types. I want my ads to display at the top of Google Search Results, so for my campaign, I selected Search.

After that, you’ll be asked to “Select the single goal that would make this campaign successful to you.”

We’ll choose leads since we want people to sign up for our free growth audit. And we’ll say we want to reach our goal through website visits.

Next, you’ll enter the name of your AdWords campaign in theCampaign namefield.

Now, choose which networks you want your Google ads to run on. Here you can decide whether or not you would like your ad to be displayed on sites owned by Google’s search partners. Search partners are websites in theSearch Networkthat partner with Google to show ads and will extend the reach of your ads.

While using Google’s Display Network can be a great tactic, we’ll stick to Search Network (a classic) for this ad. To save money, I decided not to show my ad on search partner sites.

Next, I selected which locations and languages to target. For this my campaign, I decided to target only the United States. In future campaigns, I plan on also including the United Kingdom.


Step 3. Setting Your AdWords Budgets and Bids

The next big step is figuring out the budget and bidding strategy for your Google AdWords campaign.

For my daily budget, I started at $30 per day, because I know if a particular ad performs well or performs poorly, I can always adjust the budget accordingly. No need to choose Accelerated Delivery method since we’re going to need some time (but not too much!) to figure out if the ads are working or not.

Google AdWords bidding can actually get pretty complex.

There are different automated bid strategies that can help you accomplish specific goals. If you click “Select a bid strategy directly,” you can choose toMaximize clicks, which will set bids to get you the most amount of clicks within your budget. Or you canTarget CPA (Cost-per-acquisition), which automatically sets bids to get you the most conversions while maintaining your target CPA.

If you choose automatic bid strategy, Google automatically sets bids for your AdWords campaign based on that ad’s likelihood to result in a click or conversion. The great part about using an automatic bid strategy is that Google will do most of the heavy lifting for you. However, since you’re not in direct control of the amount your spending, you can easily run through your budget faster than you thought.

We’ll start with a manual bid strategy.

This allow me to set my own maximum CPC bid amount. After selecting a manual bid strategy, Google will prompt you to enableEnhanced CPC, where they will automatically adjust your bids to maximize conversions. For this first Google AdWords campaign, we’ll skip it.

I’ve selected my bid strategy — how did I come up with an amount to bid?

I started with Google Keyword Planner. Since my target keyword is “small business”, I ran that keyword through Google Keyword Planner to figure out, on average, how many people search for that keyword every month, how competitive the keyword is, and a suggested bid.

As you can see, the keyword “small business” has 27,100 monthly searches on average, low competition–meaning my ad has a better chance of ranking in a higher position–and a suggested bid of $3.55.

Google Keyword Planner -Suggested Bid

Therefore, in Google AdWords, I set my bid at $3.55 — with the knowledge that I can always increase my bid later (I eventually bumped it up to $4).


Step 4. Scheduling

The next step is scheduling your campaign. Start by selecting a start date and end date, but if you want your ad to run indefinitely, selectNoneas the end date–which I did with my campaign.

However, if you’re planning on running a seasonal AdWords campaign or promoting a limited-time offer, I recommend setting an end date.

Later down the page, you can determine the exact days and times you would like your ads to run by creating a custom schedule. For instance, if you want your ad only to run on Mondays from 12:00 AM to 6:00 PM, create a custom schedule to prevent your ad from showing on any other date and time.

I recommend using a custom schedule only after you’ve gathered enough performance data from your campaign to determine the most effective ways to optimize your campaign.

Step 5. Advanced Campaign Settings

When setting up a campaign with Google AdWords for the first time, you can be tempted to try out all the features Google has to offer. Many of them are things like additional business information shown at the bottom of your ad, like an address, phone number, store rating, or more webpage links.

For our Google AdWords campaign, we’re only going to use a couple.

Pay special attention to the Ad rotation option. This is extremely important becauseif you have multiple ads in an ad group, this will allow you to choose which ads are shown more often.

Here, you can choose to optimize your best performing ads, meaning they will enter the auction more often, based on clicks.

So why did I choose to rotate my ads indefinitely? I knew that I wanted to test 3 different copy variations in this campaign’s ad group and in order to determine the best performing variation performs better, I want to make sure they are all shown as evenly as possible. When I determine a winner in about 2 weeks, then I can manually optimize the best performing ad.

After determining my google ad delivery rotation, I skipped the more advanced features, like setting up dynamic search ads and campaign URL options and hitSave and Continue.

Step 6. Set up ad groups

The next big step is selecting your target keywords. If you have no idea what keyword you want to target in your AdWords campaign, stop right here and read this blog post on performing keyword research before proceeding.

After performing your keyword research, you’ll want to select a handful of keywords to add to your ad group. Before you do, make sure you’re familiar with match types.

  • Broad Match:Broad match will allow your ad to show whenever someone searches for that phrase, similar phrases, singular or plural forms, misspellings, synonyms, stemmings (i.e.floorandflooring), related searches, and other relevant variations.
  • Phrase Match: A phrase match will display your ad in searches that match a phrase, or are close variations of that phrase, with additional words before or after–but not in the middle. To designate a phrase match, use quotation marks around your keyword (i.e. “small business”).
  • Exact Match: An exact match will display your ad in searches that match the exact term or are close variations of that exact term. To designate an exact match, use square brackets (i.e. [Small business]).

With these match types, enter 5-20 keywords using these modifiers.

You’ll also see in the screenshot below a box to the right with long-tail keywords. These are keywords from previous or existing ad groups that I can add to a new ad group. This feature may not be available when you create a new ad group.

Author’s Note: Not all of the keywords in the screenshot above are currently active in my campaign.

Step 7. Create ads

Now comes the fun part: creating your Google ads! Remember that your ad group is where you’ll create one or more ads which target a shared set of keywords.

For my AdWords campaign, I decided to create three text ads. To set them up, you’ll need to include a final URL to your website or a dedicated landing page (don’t forget your UTM codes for tracking!).

Next, you’ll need to create up to three headlines for your ad. Each headline cannot be more than 30 characters (including spaces), and each is separated by a pipe or vertical bar (” | “) character.

How do you write headlines for a successful AdWords text ad? Here are a few tips:

  • Use a Twitter character counter to help you keep track of your character count.
  • Follow Upworthy’s Headline Writing Process. Upworthy’s editorial team is required to write a minimum of 25 headlines before choosing the best one. It can be a time-consuming process, but this is a great process to follow if you’re having trouble creating a headline.

Then, you can create a unique URL path. A URL path is part of the display URL in expanded text ads, typically displayed in green text below the headline and above the description. You can fill out these fields to give potential customers an idea of where they will end up on your site once they have clicked your ad, so the text you put in the fields should describe the product or service described in the ad in more detail.

Finally, you can write two descriptions of 80 characters each. That means your Google AdWords will only have 160 characters (if you use both) to convince a potential customer why they should click on your ad and visit your website. This is a perfect place to provide value, talk about a discount or offer, describe the benefits of your product or service, etc.

In my campaign, I created three text ads targeting people searching for “small business” that directed potential clients to our homepage. Here’s are my ad variations:

You’re almost done! Once you’ve created your ad, if you have a new AdWords account, make sure to set up your billing information. You can learn how to do that here.

Once that’s set up, click Finish and create ad and you’re good to go! Note that may take a few hours for Google to approve your ad and begin running it.

Managing Ads in Google AdWords

That’s it! Have any questions about Google AdWords? Tweet us at @LadderDigital. We’re here to help!

P.S. Once your ad campaigns have run for a month or so, you’ll want/need to audit your account for insights on where to optimize.

*This post was originally published March 2018, updated October 2018

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