Google Ads | Part 1: Search

Advertising with Google and other digital ad platforms can be a complex and confusing space to enter. On Google’s platform alone there are a variety of campaign types, each consisting of a variety of unique bid strategies designed to achieve a range of goals from increasing awareness to maximizing conversions on a website. Because of how complex Google Ads can be, it’s important to have a strong understanding of the fundamentals of how different ad tactics work to achieve the overall business goals, and how those tactics form a cohesive and effective digital marketing strategy. 


The best way to think about how Google Search Campaigns work is by picturing an auction house where the item people are bidding on is showing up in front of someone online. Advertisers are the bidders and they are all bidding on keywords or phrases. Each advertiser has set an amount of money they are willing to pay based on a variety of targeting strategies. For this example, we will use a cost per click (CPC) strategy. Advertisers set a target dollar amount they are willing to pay for a click, and whoever bids the highest gets to show up. Typically Google displays three ads before organic results. 


One of the most common questions that is asked is, “Why don’t I see my ad when I search for services or products that my company sells?” It’s a great question and it can be worrying if you are paying hundreds or thousands of dollars a month. The quick answer is that your ad won’t appear every time you search for it. Whether your ad appears depends on a number of factors, such as your budget and other advertiser’s ads competing to appear for the same search phrases. The best way to confirm that your ad is showing for users (even if you can’t see it every time) is to look at your ad statistics. If you find that your ad isn’t receiving any clicks or impressions, it could be due to some of the following reasons:


  • Too Many Searches: If you repeatedly search for your own business on Google but don’t click on your ad, you may stop seeing the ad after a while. That’s because Google’s system recognizes your computer and stops showing ads that it thinks you aren’t interested in. The Ad Preview tool can help you view your ads as they appear in Google search results.
  • Depleted or Limited Budget: With Google Ads, you set an average daily budget for your ad, which we multiply by the number of days in the month to come up with your maximum monthly budget. Your actual spend may vary each day, and there may be days where we’ll allocate less budget. If the budget for your ad has already been met for either the day or the entire month, your ad won’t run.
  • Ad Locations: Ads appear for customers located in the areas where you want to show your ads. If you’re not in your selected location, you won’t be able to find your ad by searching for it. Instead, you can use the Ad Preview tool to do searches within the location that you’ve targeted and preview your ad.


Google’s main goal is to be as effective a search engine for users as they can be while attracting a variety of advertisers who want to pay for ads on their platform. A good experience from a user-perspective is that the ads they see are relevant, do not feel like spam (using ALL CAPS or over-using exclamation marks!!), and drive the user to a specific landing page that mirrors the copy (text) of the ad. Google will never tell advertisers exactly how their algorithm picks winners, but we know from testing that it is a combination of the quality of the ad and the set budget.


As mentioned previously, when setting up a search campaign, advertisers need to select a bid strategy. There are a variety of bid strategies to consider based on different goals of the campaigns. If the goal of the campaign is to focus on conversions (people filling out forms or calling the sales line), advertisers could select Target Cost Per Action (CPA), Target Return on Ad Spend (ROAS), Maximize Conversions, or Enhanced Cost per Click (ECPC). While these are not the only options, they are a few of the most popular.


When using these bid strategies, advertisers will typically experience lower total impressions than if they were advertising with the goal of maximizing visibility and using a Target Impression Share or Cost per Thousand Impressions (CPM) bid strategy. However, Google is choosing to display maximum conversion ads during times when they see users as most likely to click and convert based on previous data and keyword predictions (part of the algorithm that they won’t tell advertisers about).


The main takeaways should be that we should think about Google Search ads like an auction and that search ads show up at a variety of times for a variety of reasons including budget, bid strategies, quality, and competition.