How I'd Optimize Google's Google AdWords Ads

November 2, 2015


Maybe I’m an outlier but I rather enjoy seeing ads across the web. I don’t use ad block. I usually recommend to my fellow marketers that they don’t either.


It’s incredibly beneficial to review how different marketers present their services to the masses in different ways. I often find myself saying, “Wow, that’s a well-targeted ad” or “Harumpf, these guys could have done a much better job with this, and they really need LunaMetrics services” or even “Great idea, I’ve never thought to try that!”

It is this understanding of when an ad appears good, bad, or maybe just different enough to be effective that leads to the evolution of digital strategies.

One advertiser I love to keep a close eye on is Google itself. After all, who better to get tips and tricks from than the guys who created the largest, most successful ad exchange the world has ever seen?

Google Doing AdWords Right

The one thing that I love about Google’s approach is the ability to craft a wonderful message that speaks to a specific audience base. You could probably make this statement about most Google products and services, but it is particularly apparent in ad copy.

Let’s dissect a text ad from the search results:

googles google adwords ad 1

Here we see best practices used to perfection:

  • The keyword “ad” is used and almost immediately visible in the  headline
  • Great use of clear calls-to-action – try ads, use the web, find new customers
  • Great offer – we’ll create your first campaign
  • Maximized visibility, usefulness, and real estate by leveraging ad extensions

Looking at another example from the Google Display Network:

googles google adwords ad 2

Here we see best practices, again, used to perfection:

  • Classic, clean, concise design focused on usability and clarity of message
  • Clear call-to-action placed on the button
  • Use of logo near “clickable” element where the eye is naturally drawn

The Best Part

What’s done most effectively is the ability to make these ads speak to a specific audience.  In the text ad, the line “Use the Web to Find New Customers” is an amazing presentation of product benefits.  Translated in the head of an audience member this equates to the statement, “I can grow my business by using this tool.”

That’s the number one opportunity for anyone running ads on Google, right?

In the second example, the display ad, we see a little bit different messaging.  The advertiser here clearly understands that display ads are typically used to target top of funnel interactions.  Instead of driving users to the registration page, they instead invite users to learn about the product first.

The focus is on usability rather than conversion.  Not only is this a clear demonstration of channel efficacy, but the ad’s destination actually matches the organic link in the real search results.  It’s actually a usable, functioning “search.”  Genius.

On top of that fact, the design is amazing.  Anyone who’s anyone recognizes a Google search bar.  If the advertiser is lucky maybe a user will try clicking into that search bar expecting it to work.

I Thought You Were Here to Tell Me How You’d Optimize?

You’re right.  I’m not here just to be a Google AdWords fanboy (which I admittedly am). The fact of the matter is that I’m a little jealous that I didn’t think of these tactics first. And that’s the point. If you can learn to appreciate a well-put-together ad for what it is, you can take those tactics and improve upon them in your own Google AdWords campaigns.

One thing is certain here… I am going to make a boatload of assumptions about the strategy:

  • The primary goal here is probably awareness.  I think that is very clear.
  • Google’s ads are likely run programmatically and maybe there are technical limitations to some of this (although I have a feeling that the phrase “technical limitations” is virtually nonexistent in the Googlesphere).
  • Another thing is that I am fairly certain that Google’s ads not not eligible to appear at the top of results for non-branded search. This makes sense given the whole “Don’t Be Evil” thing.
  • For branded search I would argue that they have every right to claim that space. Either way, I’m going to eliminate anything regarding bid optimization for the sake of this discussion based on the fact that on-page position is probably not at the top of their list of priorities.
  • Also, budget is probably something of a none concern. Obviously.

Ideas for Optimization

All of these ideas for optimization revolve around one concept – putting the right message in front of the right users. Google has already crafted a great user-focused message, but I think it could be taken to a new level with the help of a little Remarketing.

I conducted some searches, cleared my cookies, then repeated those searches. Notice anything interesting?

online ads cookies cleared

search engine marketing cookies cleared

paid search search cookies cleared

That’s right, the ads are unchanged. This looks like a clear opportunity to implement some Remarketing. Using Google Tag Assistant, we can see that Google Analytics is on the page.  That means Remarketing is certainly among our available options.

Google Tag Assistant on Google AdWords

Because we are using Google Analytics to implement Remarketing, we are capable of defining audiences using custom dimensions.  This is immensely powerful in that you are able to create and audience for pretty much anything that is measurable on your website.

In this scenario, I would be particularly interested in segmenting my target audiences by logged-in users versus those who are not.  Some audience criteria might include:

  • an MCC user versus a ‘regular’ user
  • ad spend thresholds over a given period of time
  • have not added keywords over a given period of time
  • engagement with tools like Keyword Planner
  • users of certain ad extensions
  • presence of Google Display Network or TrueView campaigns

The point is that there is a laundry list of opportunities at our fingertips here.  By recording these various user types the ad copy could be spun in a way that appeals to ‘big spenders’ or local businesses or be used to more heavily promote awareness to those who are less engaged with their account.

We have already demonstrated above that Google’s messaging and presentation of benefits are top-notch, there’s no doubt that they could be even more so when Remarketing is introduced.

One rather simple optimization would be to create different ads for logged-in users versus those who are not.   We could exclude logged-in users altogether, or, better yet, we could cross-sell other Google products like Google Analytics, Google My BusinessGoogle Search Console or Google Play all of which can naturally be integrated with Google AdWords.


All this said, this is in no way a condemnation the existing marketing tactics. Like I alluded to earlier, I have made A LOT of assumptions. I don’t really know their strategy but we can make educated guesses.

The point is that even the guys who made the product we all know and love could benefit from using its full range of features.

If Google could use a little optimization help you could, too. Try going through this exercise with your competitors or your favorite brands. What you find might shock you.