Blog An app marketer’s guide to Google Ads

An app marketer’s guide to Google Ads

Formerly known as Google AdWords, Google Ads has come a long way since its launch in 2000. It’s famously regarded as the first-ever self-serve advertising platform. Fast-forward to today where nearly 80% of internet users are reached by Google Ads display campaigns every day. This monolithic reach testifies to the vast influence Google has over internet users. So, if you want to refresh your Google search ads strategy or desire a step-by-step Google Ads guide, continue reading.

What is Google Ads?

Google Ads is a pay-per-click (PPC) model. Therefore, Google’s PPC model means that app marketers can target and bid for a specific keyword on Google. Businesses of all types utilize this platform to gain visibility and advertise on Google.

As the ads on Google’s pay-per-click model are paid, they differ from organic search results, which webpages earn through search engine optimization (SEO) tactics. For example, in the image below of Google search ads, we see that the user has searched using the term “app marketing”. The first three listings are paid ads, and the listings after that are organic search results.


How does Google Ads work?

Here’s an easy step-by-step Google Ads overview on how it works based on a cost-per-click (CPC) bidding campaign.

  1. An advertiser creates an ad for target keywords.
  2. A user performs a search (query) on Google.
  3. An auction is triggered among ads with relevant keywords.
  4. Google allows all relevant ads—only one per account—to enter the auction.
  5. Utilizing Quality Score and Ad Rank formulas, a winner is chosen.
  6. The advertiser pays only when their ad is clicked on.

But wait, how does Google decide which ad to show?

With over 80% of businesses worldwide utilizing Google Ads and only a few spots for Google to display ads on the search engine results page (SERP), Google employs algorithms to quickly determine the auction winner for each ad.

The advertising platform uses the following three factors to filter ads.

1. Quality Score

On a scale from one to 10, Google assigns each ad a Quality Score based on how useful the user experience of the landing page is, the expected click-through rate, and the relevance to the keyword that the user searched.

The more relevant ad text, landing pages, and keywords your website has, the higher your ad’s Quality Score will be.

2. Ad Rank

While there is no perfect Ad Rank score, just remember that the higher the score, the better! Google takes the Quality Score and multiples it by the advertiser’s maximum bid to calculate an ad’s Ad Rank.

So let’s say you have a maximum bid of $4.00 and a Quality Score of four; then your Ad Rank would be 16. This would be lower than a competitor’s ad ranking of 20, resulting from a bid of $2.00 and a quality score of 10.

3. Cost per click

Believe it or not, the higher bids don’t necessarily win the ad auction. Cost per click for Google Ads is calculated by dividing the Ad Rank of the advertiser below you by your Quality Score + US$0.01.

In short, Google rewards ads with higher quality and lower costs per click to provide users with the most relevant search results.

Types of Google Ads

There are eight types of Google Ads campaigns, and within each of these are different ad formats. Overall, there are 22 different ad types on Google Ads that fall under the eight main types of Google Ads campaigns.

Types of Google Ads

The 8 types of Google Ad campaigns

  1. Search: Text ads that appear when a Google search is performed.
  2. Display: Image, text, or video ads that are passively shown on Gmail or a website.
  3. Video: Video ads on YouTube.
  4. Shopping: The product listings on Google.
  5. App: Text and images from an app store listing are displayed on YouTube, Google Play, Search, Google Display Network, and Discover on Google Search.
  6. Smart: Automated ads appearing on Google and across the web.
  7. Discovery: Ads on Google’s feeds like Gmail, YouTube, and the Google app for users to discover products and services.
  8. Local: Ads based on geographic location to drive users to physical locations.

Most app marketers utilize a wide array of the above eight Google Ad campaigns. For example, below we can see how the food delivery app DoorDash employed Discovery ads to appear in different Google feeds for users: YouTube, Gmail, and more.

The most popular ad type? Google search ads

Google search ads function just as their name suggests. These ads are designed to match keywords and phrases users search on Google, also classified as intent-based targeting.

These ads are the first thing users see at the top of the listings from a query on Google’s search engine. Brands compete for the top spots because the first three paid ads in search results get nearly 46% of clicks.

Bonus: How do Google Display Ads grow marketing results for advertisers?

In contrast to Google Search ads, Google Display Ads are not confined to search engine results but respond to the environment in which they appear, displaying video, text, or images.

1. Increase brand visibility

As these ads can appear across millions of sites and mobile apps, Google Display Ads serve to build brand awareness for businesses.

2. Introduce your brand

Related to the first point, because Display Ads appear across the entire Google Display Network, they offer the chance to promote your app to potential users who wouldn’t otherwise find it during a Google search.

3. Pursue niche markets

Because Google Display Ads are environment-based, they can be highly contextualized. Advertisers can decide whether to use website or user-based targeting for their display campaigns. Utilizing machine learning to optimize targeting, Google Ads can help direct your Display ads to the most relevant environments.

In the example below, the advertiser decided to employ website-based targeting. A website ad for the company Better Homes & Gardens seems to fit nicely on a blog about gardening books, avoids looking like spam, and will likely appear to readers on this website as the categories are similar.

How to run Google ads

First, if you’re new to Google Ads and need a complete overview of how to use Google Ads, check out this Google Ads Tutorial 2023 by Metics Media for a step-by-step Google Ads guide. Second, we recommend organizing the following paid search best practices for Google Ads.

1. Utilize proper naming conventions

The level of ease with which your future self or new team members will be able to navigate your Google Ads account depends entirely on your naming conventions and structure. While the structure can vary depending on your app vertical or preference, ensure your account is organized from the beginning.

Here are some common naming conventions and examples:

  • Campaign type: Search, Shopping, Display, Google Display Network
  • Geography: Japan, Turkey, U.K.
  • Language: EN, DE, ZH
  • Bidding type: CPM, CPC, ROAS
  • Optimization goal: AddToCart, Lead, SignUp

For example, many Google SEO ad campaign managers abbreviate their naming structure like so:

2. Uncover the top keywords for your ads

Do not run Google Ads without first nailing down your target keywords. Note that Google Ads has three keyword matching options: Broad match, phrase match, and exact match. These types dictate how closely your keyword needs to match a user’s query.

Google also recommends utilizing negative keywords, meaning that your ads will not be shown to users if they search for one of your negative keywords.

Lastly, Google Keyword Planner is a free tool marketers can use to discover new keywords for their search campaigns. Your keywords matter, so make sure you’re performing keyword research for each campaign.

3. Determine your bidding strategies

There are four main bidding strategies for Google Ads, and each corresponds to a different advertising strategy for app marketers. Select one of the following based on the goal of your campaign. Note your bidding strategy will vary from campaign to campaign.

  1. Get clicks: If your primary goal is to get more traffic to your app or website, then we recommend a click-based strategy.
  2. Boost conversions: Turn on conversion tracking to see the source of an install or purchase. This information can be used to help determine the quality of the source.
  3. Increase views: While related to impressions, bidding on video views is a must for marketers wanting to track engagement with their videos.
  4. Maximize impressions/views: Focusing on impressions is key for app marketers desiring to increase brand visibility. In this bidding strategy, you’ll pay for the number of impressions, that is, for every 1,000 times your ad is shown to a user. Relatedly, view-through attribution is a strategy many app marketers are diving into. Check out our ebook Gaining Visibility with view-through attribution to stay in the know.

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