Google Search Beginner's Guide

“We should advertise on Google!”

When small businesses are brainstorming marketing strategies, this phrase almost always comes up. And it should – it’s a great idea! But then comes the part where you actually have to make it happen.

Putting together a successful ad campaign on Google for the first time can be intimidating, so today, we’re going to walk through it together.

If you read our recent pieces on building paid campaigns on LinkedIn and Facebook, you may be familiar with some of these steps. But each platform has its own procedures, so stick with us to learn about Google’s process.

(If you don’t have a Google Ads account already set up, follow these steps before going further!)


Search Campaigns Versus Display Campaigns

Once you’ve found your dashboard, click “Campaigns” on the left side menu and the plus sign to create a new campaign. Then, your first decision will be to choose a goal and a campaign type.

“campaign type” describes your ad’s style and function. While there are several different types to choose from, let’s cover the two most popular (and often confused) ones:

Search Ads

Search ads are the promoted text ads you see at the top of your Google search results. These can lead to a website or a click-to-call button. Search ads are a form of “pull” advertising, popping up only when users search for your company’s related keywords.

Display Ads

Display ads are often graphics-based and found on the outer edges of websites. They’re considered “push” advertising as opposed to “pull.” This is because display ads don’t appear after a search; they’re pushed out to audiences based on specified parameters.

Normally, search ads are used to entice customers who are close to converted or most likely to be interested in your products. Display ads, on the other hand, are often used for broader brand awareness.

Take a look at the difference between these Nike search and display ads.

search campaign vs display campaign marketing google ads

Search and display ads run on two different networks. The search network is comprised of search-related websites or platforms, like Google Shopping and Images. The display network offers over 2 million websites where your ads could possibly appear.

For now, we’re going to be focusing on the search network – we’ll cover display ads soon!


Questions to Ask Before You Start

Before you get started building your campaign, there are four key questions you need to ask . These answers will provide you with all the information you need to know to create a successful campaign.

search campaigns google ads

1. What’s Your Goal?

So, we’ve decided to use search ads. With this campaign type, you can choose between three different goals.

To make this decision, consider what you’d like to achieve with your paid ad campaign. Are you trying to get more traction on your website? Build your email list? Boost conversions?

Once you narrow it down, choose the goal that best aligns with your intended outcome:

  • Sales: For sales-driven campaigns, the goal is to kick off the purchasing or conversion process for new audience members or previous ones who seem close to making a decision.
  • Leads: Lead-driven campaigns encourage customers to show they’re interested in your products by completing a desired action, like signing up for a newsletter or downloading a piece of content.
  • Website Traffic: Website traffic-driven campaigns help users research potential products and drive traffic and users to your website

2. Who is Your Target Customer?

Now, let’s focus on who you’re trying to reach with your ads.

Customer research is crucial to a successful Google Ads strategy. Without it, you’ll be wasting time and money on an audience that may not be interested in what you have to offer.

Start with your buyer personas. When was the last time you refreshed that data? Are your personas still an accurate representation of your ideal customer? Do you have additional insights to add depth to your personas? (Psst – LinkedIn can be a very helpful tool here!)

Your personas should give you a clear idea of your audience’s demographics, pain points and needs. With this information, you can start brainstorming search terms from their point of view.

3. Which Keywords Work Best?

If keyword research is new to you, don’t worry. We’ve covered the basics for you here. But let’s review the main points:

Your keyword research should begin with asking these questions:

  • Who is your target audience/persona?
  • What key products or services can you offer to that audience?
  • If you were your target persona, how would you search for what you need?
  • How will keywords change based on an audience member’s place in the Buyer’s Journey?

From there, it’s time to get creative. What kind of phrases will your audience use to search for your products? Will they be more general (using short tail keywords) or intricate searches (using long tail keywords)?

After building a sizable list, you can use research tools to narrow your options and find the best keyword opportunities. Check out platforms like Google Search ConsoleSEMrush, Google Keyword Planner and Moz. These can help you find stronger keywords, see where your keywords can make an impact and take a look at what your competitors are doing.

4. What Are Your Competitors Doing?

Level up your ad strategy by checking out your competitors’ paid campaigns. What keywords and phrases are they targeting? How does their search volume and visibility compare to yours?

The tools we mentioned above can help here. They’ll be able to show just how competitive a keyword is, the likelihood of you ranking for that keyword and additional variations to your phrases that could help carve an unoccupied niche for your company.

Or you can do your research the old-fashioned way by plugging your keywords into Google and see which of your direct competitors are popping up.

Need some more inspiration for conducting competitor research? Check out our top five recommended methods!

Let’s Create a New Campaign!

Now that we have the answers to all of these important questions,  we can start building your campaign.

After you choose your goal, you’ll follow four steps:

1. Select Campaign Settings

Begin by creating the framework for your campaign.

search campaigns google ads

First, under Networks, make sure only “Search” is checked. (As we said, we’re not working with display ads today. But even if we were, it’s best to run search and display ads in separate campaigns. This way, you’ll have an easier time analyzing individual metrics and performance.)

You’ll then be asked to choose a location for your ads to run in, along with the languages your customers speak.


Here’s where your customer research comes in handy! Now, you’ll have two ways to add audiences – Browse and Search.

search campaigns google ads

The Browse feature allows you to choose from In-Market Audiences, where Google has already categorized users who would be the most interested in your products.

The Search feature allows you to create custom audiences using the Google Audience Manager feature. This can be found in the Audiences section or on your main Google Ads dashboard under Tools & Settings, Shared Library.

The Audience Manager is where you store your audiences and find important insights. You can choose to create new audiences here through first-party data (such as Google Analytics, Google website tags, etc.) or upload previous customer data to use.

Once you have chosen one of your audiences or an In-Market one, let’s scroll down to budget and bidding.


search campaign google ads

Here’s where we’ll set a daily budget for your campaign, which works a little differently than it sounds. Here’s how Google breaks it down:

For the month, you won’t pay more than your daily budget times the average number of days in a month. Some days you might spend less than your daily budget, and on others you might spend up to twice as much.”

If you’re wondering what you should be spending, Google recommends a beginner’s daily budget of between $10 and $50. You can learn more about choosing the right budget for your business here.

When you’re asked if you’d like to use an individual or shared budget, stick with individual. A shared budget would allocate funds across several different campaigns, and right now we’re focusing on only one.


search campaigns

Each time an ad shows up on a Google results page, it goes through an “ad auction.” Whether or not your ad appears depends not only on your budget but the quality of your ad. Even if a competitor has a higher budget than you, your ad could win out due to other factors like stronger and more specific keywords and phrases.

While there are several types of bidding strategies for paid campaigns, here’s the two you need to know for your beginner search campaign:

  • Target CPA (Cost-Per-Action) Bidding: With Target CPA, you’re setting a budget for how much you’d like to spend on your desired action. For example, a Target CPA of $20 means you wouldn’t want to spend more than $20 on a click or conversion. Target CPA bidding will focus on serving successful, converting ads. It will also “throttle” (or limit) unsuccessful ads, so you don’t waste your daily budget or CPA budget on them.
  • Maximize Bidding: Maximize bidding doesn’t have a set cost-per-action. Its goal is to get the most number of clicks or conversions no matter what. This means it will still bid on underperforming ads until the daily budget runs out or the ad finally converts.

When it comes to picking a strategy, we suggest starting with Target CPA to get a sense of which ads are successfully converting. And then, as the campaign continues or you start a new campaign, you can transition to a maximizing strategy.

search campaigns google ads

In the bidding section of your campaign setup, Target CPA is already chosen for you. Here, you can set your CPA dollar limit or choose a different desired action (Ex. clicks instead of conversions.) If you’d like to Maximize Bidding, click on “Change Bidding Strategy.” There, you can uncheck the “Set a target cost per action” box and switch to the Maximize method.

2. Set Up Ad Groups

Now we’re ready to move on to the second step – setting up your ad groups.

Ad groups help segment the different audiences within your campaign. For example, for Simple Machines, our ad groups might include manufacturing businesses, IT businesses, etc. Each ad group should have a specific theme.

search campaigns

When deciding how many ad groups you should have, less is more.

Google recommends that every ad group have at least three different ads with varying copy. That means three ad groups would have you monitoring nine different ads. For beginners, stick to one or two ad groups so you don’t get overwhelmed.

Name your ad groups and paste in your desired keywords as a list. On the right, you’ll see an estimate on your ad group performance, based on your daily budget (which you can change here if needed).

3. Create Your Ads

When it comes to writing your ad copy, Google makes it pretty simple for you. Once you choose “New Ad,” you’ll be taken to a screen where you can just plug in your ad copy.

First, you’ll add in your headlines. There are three possible placements for your headline copy – position one, two or three. Here’s how those break down:

search campaigns

You can use the little pushpin icon to specify if you’d like specific phrases in certain positions. Otherwise, they’ll be rotated and mixed as Google sees fit. We recommend specifying your headline positions – for example, always placing your services in the first position and your company name in the second.

search campaigns

Next, you’ll repeat the same process with descriptions – the text beneath your headlines. You can also decide if you’d like certain descriptions to be in position one (first sentence), two (second sentence) or shown in any order.

Both headlines and descriptions have character limits, so use that space efficiently. For smaller screens, the third position and second description line won’t be shown, so prioritize your most important information in the first and second sections. The ad strength section will give you recommendations on whether you need additional headlines, different keywords, more variation in your text and other suggestions. Focus on creating copy that can clearly communicate your company’s services and value in as few characters as possible. 

4. Review

search campaigns

Time to make sure your campaign is in good shape. Double-check your budgets, bidding strategies, ad groups, keywords and, of course, your ad copy before pressing “Publish.”

You can navigate to previous choices by pressing any of the steps on the top headline.

Publish Your Google Ads!

You made it! We hope by now you’re feeling ready to publish your first Google Ads campaign. You certainly should be! You know how to conduct customer research, choose an ad type, find some killer keywords and bid with confidence. Next, you’ll be ready to tackle display campaigns, which we’ll be talking about soon – stay tuned!

If you’re still feeling unsure about your paid search ad strategies, let’s talk. Our team is ready to help you advertise like a pro on Google.