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Google ads deep dive

April 22, 2021

I’m Augustinas Tarabilda, the Performance Marketing Manager at Cognism. I’m always looking for a marketing edge, and in doing so, I’ve picked up a few tricks.

I’ll be writing a series of articles on paid ads, in which I’ll share some useful tips and best practices.

In this instalment, I’ll be focusing on Google Ads.


It’s by far the largest ad platform. There are 3.5 billion Google searches monthly, equating to billions of potential impressions.

So why use Google Ads?

Because there are going to be more needles in the bigger haystack.

But that’s not all…

When people search for things on Google, you can pretty much guarantee intent. They’re looking for your solution already, and that’s information you just don’t get on LinkedIn.

But we haven’t reached the main strength of Google yet.

The Google algorithm.

It’s just ridiculously good. Google has the most data out of all ad platforms, and this is all fed into their algorithm.

This is why advertisers love Google Ads.

Machine learning will do a lot of the heavy lifting for you, you just need to get the ball rolling.

We’re going to take a deep dive into what makes a great Google Ad.

You can either click the relevant section below. 👇

Placements | Ad types | Targeting | Bidding strategies

Or get scrolling. 👇


Most people think Google Ads are just the ads that appear on top of search results, and they are...

But they’re much more.

Google Ads also contains the Google Display Network. It’s the largest ad network in the world, containing millions of websites. If you see a banner advert on a website, more often than not, it’s on the Google Display Network.

Websites partner with Google and make a bit of cash by hosting their ads. This gives Google Ads users the potential to find their ideal customers where they’re most likely to be.

“Hey, d’you come here often?”

Another placement opportunity you might not be aware of is YouTube. Google bought YouTube in 2006, meaning those ads you see before you watch football highlights or hair curling tutorials, are also Google Ads.

The variety of ad placements Google offers allows a few different ad types.

Ad types

Google ad types can be split into search ads, banner/display ads and YouTube ads.

Search ads

These are the ads that appear at the top of a Google search, and they’re based on keywords. You choose which keywords you want to rank for, and you bid for them against other advertisers.

Your main focus here should be on relevance. The keywords you’re ranking for have to be relevant to your ad message. If they’re not, you won’t get many clicks and over time, your keywords will become more expensive to rank for.

Google values relevance.

The value of search ads is that you can guarantee a level of intent. Someone has already searched for your keyword, so as long as your ad delivers what they’re after, you’ve got a pretty good chance.

One way to make sure you’re creating the right ad is to test it. This should be at the forefront of every digital marketer’s strategy. Run a couple of ads to find out what works, and learn from your marketing data!

Banner/display ads

These are the ads placed on websites within the Google Display Network. I’m sure you’re familiar with the banners that appear on shopping websites and news pages. These are most likely Google banner and display ads.

These don’t have the benefit of intent like search ads, but to make up for this you have more control over the audience and location of the ads.

The two main controllables here are the quality of the banner, and the quality of the targeting.

For the banner, make sure your ads are the right size for the location. This information is all available here. Also, make a design which is eye-catching and highly relevant. Bland ads are going to be ignored.

Does this sound a bit complicated?

Don’t worry about it too much. Google has another trick up its sleeve.

Responsive display ads are the ads that Google compiles based on your uploaded assets. If you upload a few headlines, descriptions, CTAs and visuals, Google will test all possible variations and will pick the winning combination.

Google does a lot of the heavy lifting for you.

What’s more, Google Display Network supports over 100 different ad dimensions, and unless your graphic designer has eight arms, four computers and doesn’t sleep, they might struggle to optimise your ads for each one.

When Google optimises your ads, you’re able to compete for every available ad space, including the ones with less common dimensions. This means less competition and cheaper impressions.

For the targeting, you need a good idea of your TAM. If you’re struggling with target market identification, feel free to try out our free TAM calculator. Work out what distinguishes your leads, and target them specifically. The more accurate you can be, the lower your CPL (cost per lead) will be.

YouTube ads

If your YouTube ad gets skipped, you don’t have to pay for the impression.

That’s my favourite thing about them. It lowers the damage of an ineffective campaign, which means you can run them with more confidence.

Much like display ads, YouTube ads don’t have the benefit of intent, which means you have to be more accurate with your targeting. Take the same steps here - identify your TAM, and try to target them as efficiently as possible.

Another tip here is to qualify within the first few seconds of your video. Make sure the viewer knows what you’re advertising, so if they’re not interested, they’ll skip the video before it costs you!

I recorded a video of my top 5 Google ads tips - press ▶️ to see them!


We’ve mentioned using our TAM calculator to identify your audience, but how can you target them effectively through Google Ads?

Here’s a breakdown of Google Ads’ audience types.


Google’s algorithm determines people’s interests. This means you can run campaigns to a new audience with some level of assurance that they’ll fit your ICP.

It’s a great idea for growing companies which don’t have a long list of leads to target. It’s also a great idea for any company which wants to increase its reach.


Age, gender, country, parental status, household income.

Those are the main categories here. They can also be combined with other targeting strategies, so it’s always worth throwing in a couple of demographic filters - even if you’re not relying on them alone.

It’s also worth noting that the household income filter is only applicable for certain countries:

Australia, Brazil, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, South Korea, Singapore, Thailand, U.S.A.

Life events

These are audiences in the midst of certain lifetime events, such as getting married, graduating, becoming parents, moving house. These are going to massively narrow down the number of people you can target, but if laser-sharp targeting is what you’re after, this might be useful.


These people are actively searching for a product like yours.

Intent data is a huge part of marketing today - which is why it’s just been added to Cognism’s arsenal. Knowing which people are interested in your product before they’ve even heard of you gives you a massive advantage.

It gives marketers mind-reading superpowers, it’s a bit freaky, but it’s very effective!


These people have already interacted with you in the past. This could be a website visit or a webinar attendance.

It’s always a good idea to target these people. Often they’ll visit your website and then drop off the face of the earth if you don’t retarget.

If you’re still not convinced, here’s a stat for you:

The average CTR for a display ad is 0.07%, the average CTR for a retargeting ad is around 0.7%. 🤯

If the audience recognises your brand, they’re far more likely to click on your ad. This is even more likely if you previously provided a positive experience.

Customer match

This is your uploaded list.

If you have a list of people stored in your CRM who you want to target, you can upload it to Google Ads.

It’s useful if you already have a large list of contacts, but not as useful for finding new people (obviously!)

Similar audiences

These are also commonly known as lookalike audiences.

You basically upload a list of contacts, and Google uses this seed list to find similar people.

You’ll get out what you put in. If you’ve got a high quality, large seed list, you’ll get a large audience. You’re putting the ball in Google’s court here, but it actually works really well.

It’s a great idea if you’re trying to grow your audience.

Bidding strategies

Google Ads bidding strategies can be split into three groups: manual bidding, automated bidding and semi-automated bidding. I’m going to run through the options, and tell you which ones I think are best.

Manual bidding

There are two manual bidding techniques:

1 - Manual CPC

This is where you set a maximum bid on a click. It’s manual, it’s time-consuming, but it does give you a lot of control. It’s also one of the most cost-effective methods, if you have the time to implement it.

2 - Viewable CPM

This is where you set a maximum bid on a thousand viewable impressions. A big benefit here is that you pay only for impressions measured as ‘viewable’. This is when your ad appears in a ‘viewable’ position on a page.

Automated bidding

There are six available automated bidding strategies on Google Ads, but I’m going to talk about the four that I use.

One thing to bear in mind - automated bidding can only be done when you have sufficient conversion data. It’s an AI functionality, so the better the input, the better the output.

1 - Target CPA (cost per action)

Google automatically sets bids to get as many results at the CPA you set. It’s not an exact science, and the CPA will fluctuate. It’s one of the easier performance marketing methods to manage, but it still requires close attention.

2 - Target ROAS (return on ad spend)

Just like before, Google automatically sets bids. This time the goal is return on ad spend. Sounds too good to be true, right? The problem with this bidding strategy is that it’s hard to scale. You can turn down the return you’re looking for, but that always makes scaling more expensive.

3 - Maximise clicks

Google automatically sets bids with the goal of maximising the number of clicks your ad gets. This is a good strategy for increasing the number of website visits you’re getting, so it’s great for brand awareness.

4 - Maximise conversions

Google automatically sets bids with the goal of maximising the number of conversions you get, whilst staying within budget. This is an easy way to run high-performing campaigns (once you have enough conversion data).

With all of these methods, they’ll get better over time. The Google algorithm will learn from your campaigns, so have a bit of patience.

Having said that, if you’ve given a campaign a chance and it’s still not working, it’s got to be axed. 🪓

Semi-automated bidding

Semi-automated bidding is also known as ‘Enhanced CPC’. It’s basically splitting the control between yourself and Google. You decide on the CPC bid, and Google will increase or decrease it by 30% to help the bid convert.

Humans and robots working in perfect harmony.

Get more data-driven marketing tips!

When it comes to data-driven marketing, there’s always more to learn.

The landscape of marketing changes every day, and that’s why we love it! You have to constantly evolve to stay on top of trends and build your path to reliable revenue.

With that in mind, we created a manual with some of the most up-to-date marketing advice.

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