Google Ads is the greatest money machine ever invented. As a business Google Ads is more profitable, and efficient than the most profitable banks, insurance companies, casinos or the old world industrial businesses.
Our guide will discuss five hacks with a bit of background on how Google Ads work. You can skip straight to the hacks by clicking on the sections below.
- Hack No. 1 – Google money machine and digital marketers
- Hack No. 2 – How is Google making money?
- Hack No. 3 – Keywords Diet
- Hack No. 4 – Go Negative
- Hack No. 5 – Single Keywords Ad Groups (SKAGs)
Google Controls Search Advertising
Google’s promise is hard to resist. The search engine controls 85–95% of all search in the United States and Western Europe. If you are a start-up or a new business that sells online (and who doesn’t these days?); Google is how most customers will find you for some time.
Of course you maybe a digital marketing genius who is able to by-pass the marketing super highway that is Google.
Google is a brilliant business because it maximises profit by making life easier for businesses to advertise without hiring professional marketers or even if you do hire professional marketers.
Anybody can easily open a Google Ads account and just start spending.
Google figured out that just like in casinos, if you make it fun and simple they will come. If you throw in lots of complementary stuff, they will stay longer and spend more. Add in a promised land of jack pots and wealth, and Google built a cash cow.
The Top 5 Google Ads Hacks
What does that all have to do with you and the Top 5 Google Ads Hacks?
Most people, including myself, start out on a Google Ads journey full of hope and excitement. Someone described Google Ads as a fun video game. Indeed, suddenly, without any training or background in algorithms, you are on top of the world.
The world’s most profitable company has given you the keys to the promised land. You get to use Google’s system to sell your fantastic products and services at a fraction of a cost of hiring sales people and dialling and smiling until you are blue in the face.
As a co-founder of MachFast.com I have traveled the journey.
I am not a digital marketer, but come from finance. Google Advertising is much closer to financial markets than to traditional marketing. This has to do with how Google makes money and how its algorithms work.
Most digital advertising advice and service comes from traditional marketers whose background is neither finance, math, technology or algorithms.
This guide aims to correct the balance slightly.
Our main challenge is to make Google algorithms work for us as much as possible and make Google Ads earn their money by giving us maximum benefits.
№1 Google Ads Hack— Who is Making Money?
The answer, my friend, is: Google is making money.
Repeat after me: “Google is making money, lots of money.”
Please always keep this in mind. Everything you do in Google Ads is about making money for Google. That is not a criticism of Google, by the way. They are a business. They have shareholders. Google wants to make maximum profits for its shareholders. They are as bottom line focused as a Rockefeller, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg.
And Google is absolutely brilliant at this!
Who is making this money for Google?
You are making this money for Google by opening up your credit cards and bank accounts to buy your way into sales heaven.
Repeat after me: “I am making lots of money for Google Ads.”.
You may be wondering why is the above №1 Google Ad Hack?
You absolutely must understand the above before you start your Google advertising journey.
The №1 hack is the foundation for all the other hacks in this article.
This understanding alone should save you money in the long term as you spend money on digital advertising and it applies to other digital advertising platforms.
By the way, even if you hire professional digital marketers, many of them want to get paid as a % of your Google Ads spending.
Think about that for a moment? Does this remind you of the sales commissions you pay to your sales team? Now think how absolutely brilliant Google is.
Google built a business model where their customers pay the sales commission for Google sales to Google’s sales agents (which they call Google Partners or even Google Premier Partners)!
Let that settle in for a moment. Google sells you Ads. You hire a professional team to manage those Ads. You pay that professional digital marketing team a % of your Google Ads budget. The bigger your spend, the more money the professional digital marketing team makes. Economic incentives are a powerful force. Understand who makes what money and how. That is your starting point.
Digital Marketing Mini Hack
You are much better off agreeing a fixed fee with any professional digital marketing agency or a freelancer. That way they absolutely do not have any incentives to max out your spending.
№2 Google Ads Hack — How is Google Making Money — Man/Woman vs. Machine
Man or Woman vs. Machine- that is how Google Ads makes money.
Google’s algorithm knows everything about your product or service in your part of the world. Who is searching? What are they searching? Who are your competitors? How much are your competitors paying for the ads? What keywords/ad words/ad phrases lead to sales? What is the most efficient/cost effective conversion cost?
While Google algorithm knows all of the above — you do not! That is how Google makes money.
Google guides you on a journey of discovery — it is like looking for treasure when you were a kid. Google knows where the treasure is, and what it looks like and how to get there — but it will not tell you.
Instead, Google Ads take you on a joy ride to figure out for yourself if you can find that precious keyword with a high conversion (sales) ratio at a reasonable price where you can make money. The joy ride is not free and can take a long time. You have to pay to play.
Treat Google Ads optimisation recommendations with caution.
Your number one objective is not to make Google algorithms happy, your number one objective is to lower your cost / sale or cost/conversion or cost/acquisition.
If you are doing that well, and are satisfied — that is the only outcome that counts.
Do not be tempted to get a perfect 100% Google Optimisation score.
That could mean that you are maximising Google’s revenue without improving your own.
Now, lets remember hack №1 — Google wants to maximise revenue and profits.
The key to Google’s success is to make your adventure super easy, with lots of perks and lots of money spending opportunities, but with enough rewards to keep you playing.
Think about Google Ads as a Casino-like experience
What is the number one rule for Casino operators? The number one rule is that the house always wins (aside from Poker which is a game of skill as much as chance).
Think of Google algorithms in the same way.
These algorithms are designed to maximise profits for Google, while giving you sufficient rewards to keep playing.
It is very tempting to let Google’s algorithm do everything for your Google Ads account — bidding, finding keywords, setting up ad groups, coming up with 100s of variations for your ads etc…
Remember, Google Ads algorithms are optimised to generate the best revenue outcomes for Google. That is perfectly OK, but you should be aware of that.
Treat with caution any Google Ads ‘free algorithm support’.
Sometimes Google algorithms may help, but often you may end up spending much more money than needed.
Remember why casinos offer free food and cheap hotel rooms to their gamblers — it is not out of the kindness of their heart, it is because they want you to keep playing and spending more money, while swimming in the laps of luxury.
Partner Allergy Mini Hack
Google Ads partner networks tend to have more ad fraud than when you advertise only on Google’s own search engine. If you want to avoid dealing with google ads click fraud at scale, initially turn off partner network advertising. It will save you a lot of money. Google algorithms will automatically default you into advertising across all the Google partners.
Location Mini Hack
Restrict your Google Ads to your country and or town if you are super local. Google algorithms will automatically advertise to people who ‘may be interested in your location’ rather than those ‘who are in your location’.
People ‘who are interested in your location’ may be on the other side of the world. That is completely irrelevant if your customers are in one country or one location.
If you are selling internationally, know which countries generate the sales and target them narrowly.
№3 Google Ads Hack — Keywords Diet
Google makes money when you pay to display your ads for specific search terms called keywords and when people click on those ads.
The more keywords Google sells to you the more money Google makes- remember Hack №1.
Always keep in mind how Google makes money.
When you begin your Google Ads journey, everybody (including Google) strongly advise you to experiment with as many relevant keywords as possible to figure out what works best for you.
Here is the big point: you know your business, you know what you are selling and why your product or service is the best one or better than the competition. If you don’t, before you start advertising, make sure to figure out what makes your product or service the best.
Don’t just plunge into Google advertising with 100s or thousands of keywords and different ads. Do a quick research, see what ads appear for your competition. Look at the language, what and how they are saying it. If their ads appear at the top of page 1 in google search, that means that Google algorithm really likes their ad copy and/or they are bidding/spending the most for advertising.
Take a note if the largest advertisers are big spenders. For example, big telecom and utility companies or consumer goods companies spend a lot of money on advertising. That gives you a signal that you need to understand the cost of the most direct advertising keywords.
It may simply be cost prohibitive for you to expect to make money from Google advertising. That should trigger a lot of thinking and discussion whether Google Ads is the right platform for you.
The more you get away from the most relevant keywords for your product or service, the more money you will spend with Google with limited results, but Google will always make money.
Always try to research the most specific ad terms you can. For example, you may be selling your graphic design services in Brooklyn, New York or Bristol, United Kingdom or Edinburgh, Scotland.
The most immediate customers who may want to use you are going to be in your immediate area.
In the above example, the very first term you want to research is ‘graphic design services New York.’
If you have an industry specialisation, that is even better- ‘graphic design food industry new york’.
Of course you can be selling globally, but then perhaps there are other marketing venues— such as freelancer platforms — — that will enable you to market directly to the audience that hires talent globally.
Google Ads may simply not be the most relevant platform.
For example, Bing Ads is now integrated with LinkedIn and you can target specific industries and professions for b2b services.
With keywords, as with many other business metrics, the old 80/20 rule holds more often than not. 20% or fewer of your keywords will generate 80% of your sales and/or conversions.
Keywords Diet Mini Hack
Focus on a few keywords.
Google algorithms (and digital marketers) regularly encourage and nudge you to add more ‘relevant’ keywords that ‘people are searching for’.
Treat this nudging with care.
Remember, Google will make more money when you add more keywords- guaranteed 100%. Whether you make more money is very unclear.
You are more likely to be better off with fewer keywords.
First, make sure you you do well with the few most direct keywords before adding more.
Keywords Google Algorithm Mini Hack
In fact when you will go on a Keyword Diet, you will realise that Google’s algorithms will bid on more search terms than you have listed in your google ads keywords list.
The reason for this is that Google algorithm is based on natural language processes.
That means that it will bid for words that are close synonyms for the keywords or phrases that you are bidding for.
For example, if you are bidding for ‘marketing services in New York’; Google algorithms will automatically enter you into bids for ‘marketing services in NY’ or ‘NY marketing services’.
Even if you don’t want to broaden your bids, Google will do it for you.
So you can not be super slim with the Keyword Diet, but you can be in good shape.
Keywords Symbols Mini Hack
Use narrow symbols [ ] to bid for keywords.
That means when you bid for a keyword, type the keyword inside the brackets.
Remember that Google makes more money if you buy more keywords and/or keyword phrases.
Google and digital marketers also promote lots of experimentation. Experimenting is good, but if it is too easy, you have to watch out.
If you just pick any keyword and list it in your keyword list, Google algorithms will go wild bidding for anything that resembles your keyword- not the close synonyms but anything that may be associated with the keyword.
For example, lets say you are bidding on the word pizza. If you just bid on that word and do not put it into brackets, you may end up paying for a high school student researching the history of pizza or italian culinary culture.
None of this is relevant to your business, but if you let Google algorithms bid on these keywords, Google will make money and you will not.
Keywords Diet 80/20 Mini Hack
If you are already running a Google Ads campaign, check which keywords generate the most sales or conversions for you. Does the 80/20 rule hold for your account? Concentrate on the keywords that make the most sales (even by pausing the 80% of the keywords that generate a small portion of your sales).
№4 Google Ads Hack — Go Negative!
Remember how Google makes money — they make more money when they sell more keywords or key phrases to you.
That means that you have to control Google’s algorithm so that it works for you, rather than for Google.
Thankfully Google gives us a very powerful tool that you must max out. This tool is called Negative Keywords.
For a novice in digital advertising, this is a very strange term. All that term means is that you are ‘forbidding’ google algorithms to bid on a combination of keywords or individual keywords that you believe will not lead to a sale or ‘conversion’ as marketers call it.
In practice this means that you want to narrow your google advertising to the people who are interested in purchasing a service and a product.
You want to reach potential customers who are close to buying and are ready to make a purchasing decision. Unless your goal is to broaden your brand awareness (i.e. more people know about your business, but not necessarily buy your products/services); you really want most of the people to buy your products or services as soon as possible after clicking the ad.
This is where you need to put your thinking cap on and try to think of every possible additional word or phrase that may not be relevant to your business.
You include these phrases in your negative keyword list and that will block google from spending your money on those phrases.
For example, if you are selling ready made pizzas in the United Kingdom, you may want to block google from advertising how to make a home made pizza. Someone who is typing that into google, is less likely to be looking to buy ready made pizzas. Another phrase you may want to blockn is academic papers on ready made pizzas. Again, Google algorithms may decide that this is close enough, unless you forbid it.
For MachFast.com, we have a Negative Keywords list that is in the thousands. It has saved us a lot of money.
Negative Mini Hack
You can get started with Negative Keywords very quickly. Very knowledgeable digital advertising folks have put together basic foundational lists that are relevant to most businesses. You have to review these pre-made lists and see if they make sense for your business.
You also have to constantly add to your list as Google Algorithms will regularly try to sell you more than what you bargained for.
№5 Google Ads Hack — Single Keywords Ad Groups or SKAGs
This perhaps is the most controversial hack that your average digital marketing person may disagree with.
You see, Google’s algorithm is rather complex. Remember hack №1 — Google algorithms are maximising revenue for Google while trying to give a valuable service to advertisers and people who search.
Google algorithms (both for Google Ads and for their normal (organic) search) want to make sure that the general public gets the best answers for their search requests. That is how Google became famously successful — they want searchers to find relevant websites quickly.
That is why being on page one of Google Search results is so important (for ads or for organic searches). 80%+ of searchers do not go beyond page one in Google.
Google uses a Quality Score (Q/S) measure to evaluate how good your advertising is on a scale of 1 to 10.
If you score 1, Google will not allow you to advertise. If your Quality Score is between 2 and 5 you will pay more than if your quality score is between 5 and 10.
In other words, if you are scoring 5 you are not getting discounts and Google is not penalising you. If you score above 5, your keyword costs decline as Google Ads give you discounts per keyword.
Quality Score is 70–80% black box and 20–30% something that you can control.
Our hack is focused on the 20–30% that you can control.
The Quality Score is composed of your Ad Relevance, Landing Page Experience and Expected Click Through Rate (CTR). CTR is the % of clicks per number of advertisements that you get.
When you pick keywords, you have to group them together in Ad Groups.
You then create Advertisements and Landing Pages that are linked to the Ad Groups.
One of the ways Google Ads measures the quality of your advertisement is whether it contains a keyword that you are advertising for.
Imagine that you only have one keyword in your Ad Group. You can be incredibly precise with your advertisement.
You can really focus on the keyword. Lets say the keyword is [ny pizza]. Your ad can start with ‘The Best NY Pizza’. Google will score this at average or above average relevance score.
Now imagine that you have [best italian pizza] in the same keyword group. Your ad is now missing ‘italian’ and you are restricted to 30 characters. So your ad will get a lower quality score.
That is why you are best advised to start with one keyword ad groups. It is much easier to optimise a one keyword ad group because you can be exceptionally precise and experiment with optimisation to get it right.
Once you get this right, you can always add more keywords that are very closely related to the single keyword. This is where Google algorithms will become very helpful. They will always keep suggesting new keywords.
If you are disciplined (see hack №3) you can modestly add a couple of closely related keywords later (based on your judgement).
In our experience you should stick with under five keywords at most in a single group.
The same logic goes for Landing Pages. Always create unique landing pages for your Google Ads keywords (make sure to tell your web designer to make these landing pages No Index to avoid confusion with your home page).
Landing Pages quality is a complete black box; but we know three critical variables that you must get right.
First, your landing page has to be super fast (above 90 on google pagespeed tool).
Second, the keyword has to appear in the H1 headline (the big one that loads first) and throughout the text.
Third, your landing pages have to describe the product or service that is directly linked to the keyword, and talk about your customer experience, disclose information about your company (address email, etc…).
Google has put together an excellent guide on what they want from your landing pages.
You can also have a look at MachFast.com to see how we aim to follow Google’s guide on our home page and other landing pages.
Google algorithms are constantly changing. They are beginning to focus on ‘benefits of product or service’ as measures of quality. If that becomes the critical variable, it may be that you can have more keywords in an ad group and still be super optimised.
SKAG Mini Hack 1
In our humble opinion one of the best books ever written on advertising is Scientific Advertising by Claude Hopkins written in 1923.
If you want to know everything about composing powerful, short ads, you could do worse than reading this book.
The best part is that the book is free to read.
SKAG Mini Hack 2
When you design your landing pages, follow Google’s lead.
Google does not use many complex forms, media or fancy moving graphics. You want your landing page to be text heavy (but well formatted) with a few relevant images and videos (optimised for speed).
If you are using WordPress then we highly recommend using Gutenberg Blocks’ plugin called Qubely. It is super light, free-to-use (with a premium version if you want) and with great free blocks.
You can have a great landing page in no time without complex coding that is super fast and optimised.
If you are not using WordPress, then you can use a number of sites such as Unbounce that can manage landing pages for you.
SKAG Mini Hack 3
If you really want to score 100 with Google Mobile Speed score, create an AMP — ready landing page. This is for more advanced users and we recommend you hire a web developer to do this. Google AMP is a bit controversial for a number of reasons beyond this article. However, it can further optimise your Google Ads quality score efficiency.
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