Not a day goes by in which the eternal diatribe of search engine acquisition channels is not discussed on the main industry sites. SEO o Google Ads? Free visits or paid visits?
Presented in these terms, the choice appears simple and obvious: between free visits and paid visits, everyone would choose the former! But, at the same time, we cannot help but think of the thousands of companies that invest in paid advertising campaigns every day with the certainty of having a positive return.
How to orient yourself then?
Let's start from the basics and better understand the difference between the two acquisition channels.
If we consider that according to the "Digital In" report 2022 billion Internet users were reached in January 5, with over 4,6 billion users on social media - equal, respectively, to 66% and 58% of the global population -, it is not surprising when we hear that “Marketing is Digital today”.
If you think that, among the search engines, Google maintained a market share average of 91.43%, there is little else to add. With these premises, the need to compete to gain visibility on the search engine par excellence, which for years has held and maintained the position of absolute leader: Google.
This is why, when it comes to paid Acquisition Channels, Google Ads is and remains a must for anyone looking to increase their presence on the web. Whether your goal is to increase ROI or simply make yours known brand, little changes: if it is true that SEO plays a fundamental role, it can also be declared, and without too many words, that organic traffic and paid traffic must be considered jointly within any Digital Marketing strategy.
Google Ads: what is it?
Google Ads it is simply Google's advertising platform, that is a service offered by the digital giant that allows you to promote websites on search results pages through text ads, on other websites, through banner ads and YouTube means video ads. It is the main source of income for Google which in fact almost monopolizes the search engine sector in Italy.
In short, the networks or network which you have access to with this type of ad are the Google Search Network (GSN), that is, the Google Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) and the Google Display Network, a network of affiliate sites. In numbers? There is talk of more than 5,6 billion searches per day and over 1 billion websites including blogs, online magazines and YouTube, with a cover, only in the GSN, of 90% of web users.
You can create different types of campaigns with Google Ads, but the most common is the campaign search, that is the search campaign that shows text ads in the Google SERP (the results of a Google search).
The Google Ads mechanism is quite complex and in this article we will try to explain it in the clearest and most detailed way possible. For the moment, all you need to know is that basically Google Ads is based on the keywords that users search for on Google and on advertisements aimed at satisfying these requests.
The goal of Google Ads is to intercept paid traffic for certain keywords wisely chosen when creating the campaign. To choose the best keywords you can take advantage of one of the many software designed for this purpose - one of many complete and free is Ubersuggest - or rely on the guidance and advice of experts in the sector.
What is SEO or Search Engine Positioning?
SEO, search engine optimization, nothing else is but that set of activities which have like obiettivo theincreased visibility in the free positions of search engines. Each engine is based on an algorithm that decides how to list the best sites for each keyword. Therefore, if you know the rules of these algorithms (which although secret have been interpreted over the years with a good approximation), it is possible to adopt a series of countermeasures to make the site as much as possible in line with what the search engine wants to see.
SEO is constantly changing because it continues to adapt to changes in search engine algorithms.
It is the basis of any visibility strategy and if we put it as established that search engines do not list sites at random, but follow a certain reasoning, then we can say that SEO will continue to exist for a long time.
The goal of a good organic positioning is simple and intuitive: get free visits without having to depend on paid advertising campaigns on Google Ads.
How to choose between SEO and Google Ads
At this point it is good to clarify a fundamental concept: if choosing between SEO and Google Ads seems impossible it is because, quite simply, you cannot choose between two very different channels!
Organic traffic and paid traffic are two fundamental channels for the success of any digital marketing strategy and must be optimized and wisely integrated to achieve satisfactory results.
Both strategies have a reason to exist. It depends a lot on how they are used and the sector in which you operate.
SEO remains the basis on which to build your online visibility. There are few businesses that can base their online promotion solely on paid traffic. Most companies, and especially e-commerce, need a solid organic presence to get free and continuous visits and sales.
Google Ads, therefore, is in many cases the right tool to create a first base, a real hard core, of visits. In fact, the customer can instantly target certain keywords, even for limited and specific periods of time (for example to advertise a particular promotion). In addition, Google Ads give the opportunity to test new landing pages tailored to specific campaigns with very fast and easily traceable responses.
Choosing the right strategy is always very personal and depends both on the sector in which you operate and on the goal you want to achieve. The important thing is to approach alanalysis of strategies without prejudice and with the aim of finding the right mix of Digital Marketing activities for your company.
How Google Ads differs from SEO
What are the key differences?
Trivially, SEO is a strategy designed for the long term, while Google Ads responds to temporary needs and immediate.
- La speed of implementation it is different: if SEO requires efforts and continuous improvements before being able to give - after a few months - the first results, Google Ads allows you to obtain visibility instantly.
- The downside is the duration of visibility: While the rewards of SEO remain over time, Google Ads ads disappear as your budget runs out.
- La quantity of keywords it is different: if with SEO it is physiologically impossible to use a large number of keywords and you can aim to position yourself only for a certain group of words, Google Ads, on the other hand, does not provide any limit of keywords that can be associated with the ad group.
- Not only the quantity, but also the possibility to change the Keyword it's a big difference: on Google Ads it only takes a couple of clicks, for SEO this would take several weeks of work.
- La precision and optimization reachable with Google Ads are decidedly different. First of all, in terms of geolocation: however well designed and structured, SEO will never allow the same precision as a Google Ads campaign and this can really make a difference. Secondly, the Google algorithms allow the use of an almost infinite amount of data, giving the possibility to perfect the target in an optimal way. Furthermore, Google Ads campaigns can be automated with formulas and Java Script to operate and change automatically based on certain variables, from hours to CPC: this kind of automation cannot be implemented in SEO.
- Last but not least, it should be noted that Google Ads is an auction, and this involves risks linked to the fact that the cost of the campaigns depends on the offers of competitors. For example, if a competitor raises the CPC, it becomes necessary to ask whether it is possible to reduce its margins by the same percentage to keep the campaign sustainable.
When to choose Google Ads campaigns?
With this in mind, when is it worth using a paid channel like Google Ads?
- When you have limited timing. For example, if you have to promote an upcoming event or communicate a limited-duration promotion, or you simply want to sell off a product left in stock.
- If you already know you have a product "that sells", that works, but has not yet reached a sufficient ranking.
- When you want to activate campaigns in several countries at the same time - in terms of SEO this would require a lot of effort, and a long timeframe - or you simply want to get quickly into a new market, for which you are not yet positioned with SEO.
- When you want to use one geolocation precise to optimize the campaign, for example if you operate in a particularly competitive sector.
- When you have a large amount of products, impossible to sponsor with SEO alone, being able to work only on a limited number of keywords.
- complete the organic positioning, positioning itself on keywords other than those used in SEO, giving a further boost where the positioning is not yet optimal for some keywords - for example for the more specific and niche ones - or simply to consolidate one's presence on the front page.
- test different landing pages: it is possible, by activating two identical campaigns for two different pages, to see which works best considering a uniform incoming traffic, and, based on the results obtained, to optimize the SEO.
- identify the keywords that work meglio and optimize the SEO campaign based on the results: with Google Ads it is possible to clearly see which keywords have led to conversions - or purchases - and in what number.
- To do remarketing, that is to direct the campaign to all those who have visited the site without causing conversions.
Does the Google Ads Campaign Affect Organic Positioning?
Let us try to answer this very common question.
If my site has an active Google Ads campaign, does it positively influence the organic ranking of the site?
Nobody knows for sure the Google algorithm but numerous empirical studies demonstrated the direct non-correlation between the two channels.
The short answer is therefore: no, Google Ads does not affect SEO ranking.
This fully reflects the logic of Google, which wants divide the organic positioning from the paid one and prevent large companies with large advertising budgets from buying all the space on Google. Google's goal is in fact to create a positive experience for all users and prevent them from preferring to use another search engine.
However, there are some indirect correlations between Google Ads and SEO.
One of them is the increase of the CTR. Users who see an advertisement for a site are also more likely to click on the organic result of this site and this increases the CTR and therefore gives a small increase in the ranking for a given keyword. Similarly, a user who has known a site thanks to Google Ads is more likely to click the organic result of the site again on a subsequent visit, always benefiting the CTR of the site.
In general a Google Ads campaign makes a site more visible and this can indirectly benefit from new links or shares on social networks. All elements that can positively influence the organic positioning.
Having a Google Ads campaign could therefore indirectly improve your organic ranking slightly, but these effects do not cease if the campaign is deactivated. The doubt of many Google Ads advertisers is that when they stop investing in Google Ads, their organic positioning will suffer. This does not happen, as Google does not punish those who stop advertising!
The goal of a Digital Marketing campaign is to find the right mix of different tools to bring the maximum benefit in terms of visibility and sales for the customer. SEO and Google Ads are both excellent tools to achieve this goal and each online reality has different characteristics and needs to be evaluated from time to time.
How to create an account on Google Ads
Before you can start creating Ads campaigns on Google you need to create your own account. The process is easy and intuitive and takes only a few minutes.
First, you need to have a email address (better if corporate and already connected to a Google account) and a website connected to your business. This last requirement, however, is not binding, as thanks to smart campaigns (which we will talk about in the following paragraphs) you can start creating Ads on Google even without having your own web page.
Google Ads delivers two types of accounts: Smart and Expert.
The Smart account it is created automatically when a Google Ads account is activated and represents the simplest and most practical way to start creating advertising campaigns on Google. The Smart version is in fact one simplified version of Google Ads which allows you to create intelligent campaigns, therefore automated thanks to the machine learning Google, and optimized to the best to achieve your goals with ease.
Expert mode it was instead designed for Digital Marketing professionals. To activate it you need to enter the Settings of your Google Ads account, click on the icon instruments and select the option “switch to expert mode”.
Attention! Once the Expert mode is activated, it will no longer be possible to return to the Smart mode. Therefore, carry out this step only if you are sure you can independently manage a Google Ads campaign, or rely on industry experts.
The Expert mode leaves greater autonomy in campaign management, with the possibility of selecting the type of Ads that is deemed most suitable for your needs. This greater freedom, however, also determines the need for greater control of the progress of the campaign which is not automated. Therefore, it is best to avoid switching to this mode if you are not yet fully aware of how Google Ads works.
How to create a campaign on Google Ads
Once you've activated your Google Ads account, it's time to create your advertising campaign:
- Define the budget. The first step to take when deciding to carry out an advertising campaign of any kind is always the definition of the expense. Google Ads allows you to set up a advertising budget on a monthly or daily basis; moreover, Google Ads is designed to optimize spending throughout the month. To create your first campaign, select a budget that you feel is appropriate for your goals and strategy and monitor your campaign performance to see if any changes need to be made.
- Choose the target audience. Google Ads allows you to show the campaigns you create to specific users who make up your target. In fact, you can select your audience based on geographic location: you can then choose to show your Google Ads ads to a target linked to a specific area that can range from various countries around the globe to a specific district of a city. Audiences can also be segmented based on the sites on which the ads will appear and you will have the choice between the Google network (i.e. Google searches related to the ad) and the Google Display Network (i.e. the websites related to the ad). Finally, there is the option of define a target based on keywords, that is the keywords set for your ads.
- Select the offer. Google Ads allows you to define the maximum amount to spend when a potential customer clicks on your ad: this is the so-called CPC (cost per click). How is the cost of a campaign calculated? Each ad is paid per click- the famous Cost Per Click (CPC) or Pay Per Click (PPC) in English. Each keyword is associated with a CPC, defined by an auction, and the ads will be shown until the budget is exhausted. At this stage you can decide whether to opt for one automatic offer management by Google within the limits of the budget set by you or for one manual management that you will need to carefully monitor to independently optimize the performance of the campaigns.
- Write the ad. For your first campaign, we recommend that you create a text ad, which basically consists of a large auction of keywords which allows "buyers" to obtain visibility in the best positions of Google (before the organic results or in the right column). How does it work? In short, campaigns have a hierarchical structure: campaign, ad group. Each ad group consists of a title, three lines of text (in which it is good to insert a call to action) and a link to a specification landing page. When creating your ad text, try to relate it to the keywords you have selected to capture the attention of users who have started a search based on these keywords and who will see your ad as relevant to their interests.
The different types of Ads Campaigns
Google Ads is the suitable tool for creating online advertisements as it offers the possibility to select between different types of campaigns depending on the marketing goals you have set for yourself.
Text ads are certainly the most widespread and used type of campaign, especially for the ease of setting up the different ads, but Google Ads also offers other possibilities: so let's try to discover them!
- Research network campaigns. They appear as text ads (which we have already briefly talked about previously) that are shown to users when they search on Google related to what you are sponsoring. As we have pointed out, this type of campaign is suitable for those who are starting to use for the first time Google Ads as it can be easily configured and addresses a target selected based on search keywords. In addition, the campaigns on the network are suitable for those who want increase sales and lead generation.
- Display campaigns. I am image ads or banners shown by Google on websites related to its network. This type of campaign allows you to expand your reach as the ads not only appear on the Google search page, but also on the sites linked to it and in applications such as YouTube or Gmail. For these campaigns, Google Ads allows you to adapt the format and target of the ads thanks to its machine learning system which therefore allows you to get the best results.
- Video campaigns. They allow you to present video advertisements on YouTube. Google Ads offers different formats that can then best suit your needs: skippable in-stream ads, non-skippable in-stream ads, bumper ads, in-feed video ads, out-stream ads. Video ads are primarily meant for increase the awareness of your brand and to make your products and services known to the large audience of users who use YouTube on a daily basis.
- Shopping campaigns. They appear as product presentation cards on Google and they are suitable for those who own an e-commerce and want to have a privileged window to show their brand. These Google Ads ads in fact show the image of the product accompanied by a brief description and some information relating, for example, to the price. This type of campaign is also suitable for physical stores that are not linked to an online store: it will be enough to activate an account Merchant Center to upload the inventory of available products to be used as a basis for creating sponsored product sheets.
- Campaigns App. They are campaigns designed for those who want promote your app on different channels such as the research network, Google Play (Google's online store), YouTube and other Google-related platforms. This type of campaign has three different sub-categories designed to promote the installation of a particular app, entice external users to perform actions on an app, promote pre-registration on an app before it is made available on Google Play.
- Local campaigns. This type of campaign is meant for whoever wants promote physical stores on different channels. They are therefore composed of ads aimed at enticing users to go to the store in person and are suitable, for example, to advertise events and / or particular promotions that will take place on site.
Smart Campaigns for your Google Ads
Le smart campaigns represent the simplest and most intuitive way to create automated advertisements that take advantage of the machine learning system at the base of Google to create always optimized campaigns. When you activate an account in Smart mode, all the campaigns created will be smart campaigns that will allow you to create ads in a simple and effective way, with minimal management effort, but also with the possibility of analyzing their performance.
This campaigns have been conceived as a solution for small businesses and for those who are starting to take their first steps in the world of advertising on Google.
Smart campaigns were born as an evolution of Google Ads Express which in the days of Google AdWords provided automated processes for the creation and activation of online campaigns. It was a suitable tool for small businesses that could invest their incentives in this platform for business digitization.
With the birth of Google Ads the features of Google Ads Express have been incorporated into the same platform, precisely through the possibility of creating intelligent campaigns.
When you decide to activate a smart campaign, simply create your ad complete with title, description and any additional but non-binding data, such as the URL of your website. You can then indicate the themes of the keywords to be associated with your ad and you will have to set the budget, as is essentially the case for the creation of other types of campaigns.
All other activities will be managed automatically directly by the system, without any necessary interventions for optimization from time to time, an activity instead necessary for Google Ads campaigns that are more complex.
The advantages given by this type of campaign are truly remarkable starting from the resources to be deployed which are lower than those necessary for the management of other campaigns. In fact, the time to devote to these campaigns is limited as Google Ads optimization is managed automatically. Furthermore also the initial budget to be allocated will be smaller and much more contained when compared to that required by other Google Ads campaigns.
Smart campaigns, as pointed out, are ideal for those entering the world of Google Ads for the first time. The more experienced, in fact, could see some limitations in this type of campaign, mainly related to the ability to customize the Ads campaign on Google.
For example, for smart campaigns the offers are managed automatically within the limits of the preset budget and therefore there is no possibility to select a personalized offer strategy. Also, in Smart campaigns you can only indicate the keyword themes to use, while in the other types of campaign it is possible to manually set all the individual keywords. Another limitation that catches the eye of the most experienced is undoubtedly theimpossibility to choose on which networks and devices to show the Ads campaign: smart campaigns, in fact, will select for you where to display your ads.
In conclusion, smart campaigns they limit human intervention in favor of campaign automation. This undoubtedly has advantages for those who have little time to devote to managing advertisements on Google, but at the same time it prevents them from creating personalized campaigns that would allow you to achieve specific goals. Our advice is always to ask for the opinion of experts who will be able to help you in the online promotion of your business.
Performance Max campaigns: what's new in Google Ads
In the summer of 2022, Google Ads introduced a new type of campaign called Max Performance, designed to allow access from a single campaign to all inventory of Google Ads campaigns. This type of campaign is distinguished by the simplicity of configuration and for aautomatic optimization, two features ideal for those who want to increase sales and leads or advertise visits to physical stores.
Precisely for this reason, starting in August 2022, Google Ads will run a automatic upgrade of all Shopping and Local campaigns in Performance Max campaigns.
This type of campaign allows you to maximize conversions and to involve a greater number of customers thanks to the use of the various channels linked to Google. In addition, it provides real-time information related to the target audience and thus enables you to find new audiences.
The machine learning system behind Performance Max campaigns allows you to have accurate predictions on audience behavior and thus enables you to optimize your campaigns in order to bring the greatest number of customers to make conversions, or to perform an action on your website or on your e-commerce.
These campaigns are therefore suitable for those who have set themselves a very specific goal (such as online sales), for those who want an automaticwide visibility on different channels, for those who want to maximize the results of the campaign and for those who want one simplified management.
What has been said for smart campaigns also applies to Performance Max campaigns: they are a suitable tool for those who are starting to know the world of Google Ads, but for the more experienced they undoubtedly have limits linked to customization.
How to Optimize an Ads Campaign
Once you have created your campaign on Google Ads, it is essential to keep track of its progress and its results, in order to be able to promptly intervene if it is necessary to optimize it.
improve the performance of an ad group it is essential to pay attention to the following elements:
- Keyword: Google Ads lets you know the search volume, competition and cost per click of each keyword. During the optimization phase it is good to observe all these data and keep another parameter under control: the quality score. This score is assigned by Google Ads to each keyword based on three factors: the tied percentage to the possibility that the keyword leads to a click on your ads; the degree of relevance between the key word you are looking for and your announcement; the user behavior within the landing page associated with each ad. By carefully observing and analyzing this quality score, you will then have the possibility to select the more performing keywords for your campaign.
- Ad groups: Google Ads campaigns are structured on the basis of ad groups which in turn contain different types of ads. To optimize your campaign, you therefore have the option of intervene on the organization ad groups. In fact, it is good to segment your ad groups on the basis of specific keywords: in this motion you will have the opportunity to address a target genuinely interested in your products or services.
- Geographic target: Google Ads allows you to indicate precisely the geographical area where your target audience is located. To optimize your campaign, you can then check which area responds positively to your ads and which does not respond in the way you would like.
- Timing and devices: are two other elements to consider when you want to intervene on a Google Ads campaign to optimize it. You can indeed plan the time slots more profitable during which to show your ads and you can also identify which devices (tablet, mobile or pc) generate the most clicks on your ads.
- Ad exemptions: Google Ads allows you to add extensions to the ads in which additional data appears such as the phone number of your business, its location, links that refer to the site or social pages and more. Remember, in fact, that the more structured and curated ads generate more clicks!
A "successful" campaign?
A few last tips:
- First of all, in general, it should be emphasized that it is about complex campaigns: there are many variables to take into consideration, the parameters are different and not always easy to interpret. In short, creating a Google Ads campaign is not simply "writing an ad", but create a real strategy, which must be based on data and analysis and which requires constant attention and refinement.
- Obviously, considering the costs, it is good to remember that popular keywords are equally contentious and expensive in terms of CPC: a good mix of keywords specifications, carefully selected after an adequate market study, is an essential prerequisite for the success of a campaign and, above all, to avoid its failure.
- To determine the success of the campaign it is good as always to consider income and expenses, but this can be reductive: ROI is not necessarily the only sign of the success of a campaign, there are other empirical considerations to be made, starting with the results in terms of brand awareness.
- Considering the conversions, it is good to remember that these they are generally underestimated: in fact, only the first visit is recorded: after the "expiration" of the cookie downloaded by the user, Google Ads is no longer able to associate the purchase with the campaign; moreover, trivially, any purchase made from another device - for example, if you look at an item from smartphone and you buy it from your PC - it is not considered among the campaign conversions.
- One last important premise: in order to develop a correct strategy it is essential that the set-up is as error-free as possible: data accuracy is essential, setting up data tracking correctly is a fundamental prerequisite for a successful campaign. A tool that can be used to obtain useful tracking data is Ahrefs.
Remarketing campaign: when and how to use it?
Il Remarketing (also called Retargeting) is a Google Ads feature that allows you to reach all those users who have visited your website without completing any activity. These are therefore users who have not made a conversion, that is, who arrived on your website and have not purchased any product, have not completed any contact form or have not downloaded any files made available by you.
Google Ads allows you to reach all of these users again through targeted ads that are intended to push them back to your website with the aim of making them perform the action they had not carried out during their first visit.
- remarketing or retargeting ads on Google Ads have countless advantages. First of all, they are aimed at users who already know your website or your e-commerce and therefore have a better chance of taking an action on your site. These ads have therefore a conversion rate and a click-through rate higher than all other types of ads.
This type of ad is also easy and simple to create and generate at the same time another return on the budget invested.
To start creating remarketing ads, you need to have a special list. This can be created thanks to the so-called cookies, i.e. very small files that are saved in the browser of the user who visits your site and that anonymously track his activities. Google Ads then creates predefined lists that you can customize by entering parameters that best fit the objectives of your campaigns.
Google Ads also offers five different models of Remarketing campaigns on Google Ads:
- Standard remarketing shows your ads to users who came to your site from other websites or from the search network.
- Dynamic remarketing it is more advanced and is suitable for e-commerce as it shows ads to users who have viewed your products and / or services.
- Search remarketing allows you to show ads in the search network only to users who have already viewed your website or your e-commerce.
- Video remarketing is designed to show ads to those who interacted with your YouTube video ad.
- App remarketing allows you to show ads within apps used on mobile devices.
From Google AdWords to Google Ads: much more than a rebranding
Until a few years ago, the platform for managing Ads on the Google search engine was known as Google AdWords
In the summer of 2018, however, we witnessed a real rebranding that touched not only the name, the logo and the design, but led to the birth of Google Ads, as a tool of integrated advertising for Google and its partner sites.
This change brought with it one new interface level experience with Google Ads and the launch of new types of campaigns, as well as features, enhancements, and even targeting options and tools.
Compared to Google AdWords, Google Ads has introduced two new ones trends that will invade the world of marketing, or Public and Automation, thus giving a lot more importance to the audience than the keywords.
Google Ads has moved world of Ads towards the context and the people. Keywords have retained great importance, but the focus has shifted towards the search for the public to ensure high performance.
This change has led to an increasing attention to creation and optimization of audience segments and customers. Also, this made it personalization of the message is required based on studying your target audience to understand what types of viewers are looking for certain products and services.
Automation and Artificial Intelligence with Google Ads
With the latest in Google Ads - smart campaigns and Performance Max campaigns - automation and Artificial Intelligence they started laying down the law. In fact, more and more intelligent features and functionalities have been introduced on Google Ads that have improved the integrated automation features. The contribution of automation and artificial intelligence led to the birth of corrective announcements, that is ads capable of adapting to different advertising spaces on the basis of the size, appearance and space required.
Responsive ads adapt automatically and are therefore designed for both a PC experience and a mobile experience. So if you create just one ad, it can appear in one position as a small ad and in a high position as a large ad.
Le cross-channel advertising experiences have become the strength of Google Ads.
Automating Google Ads campaigns has undoubtedly encouraged small businesses to start running advertisements on this channel as well. However, as we have highlighted in the paragraphs dedicated to smart campaigns and Performance Max campaigns, automation is not always suitable for everyone because while optimizing the performance of the ads, it does not allow you to create customized strategies based on specific objectives.
In fact, companies that wish to achieve particular objectives through Google Ads campaigns will have to learn how to correctly define the settings of their campaigns and carefully evaluate which channels to display their ads on and which target to target. Relying on Google's artificial intelligence may seem like the simplest solution, but it's not always enough.
As we said at the beginning of this article, Google Ads is just one of the many tools you can use to promote your business online as well it should never be considered as an alternative to SEO.
To define the most suitable online promotion strategy for you, it is good rely on expert agencies capable of following you in the creation and management of personalized and winning advertising campaigns!
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