The Google Ads Toolbox

There is more to the Google Ads System than just “Search” Ads.  This is important, as many purchase decisions are made over many touchpoints, and these tools allow strategic advertisers to target potential customers at various points along that journey, whether they need to get information out, build brand awareness, or promote a new service or special offer.  

Google knows a lot about what people are interested in and looking for, and with the right targeting, that can be leveraged to get in front of the most relevant people.  

In addition, while well targeted “Search” ads can be very expensive, other options, including Display, Video & Discovery (now “Demand Gen”) are often quite inexpensive, offering thousands for impressions for a few dollars.   

Here are the tools in the Google Toolbox that advertisers can use to great effect.  


Google Ads Example

Search Ads are what most people think about when they hear “Google Ads”. They are where most of most budgets go.

 Ad impressions should be based on the keywords you choose, and if so, Search Ads are one of the most targeted ways to spend your advertising dollars. They get in front of people when they are actively searching for something. To get onto your potential customer’s shortlist, this is your best opportunity.    

 Google Search Ads have been getting harder and harder. They are increasingly competitive, given Google’s near monopoly in this area.  Google is also pushing to boost the value of its biggest revenue generator. To do that, they are pushing for flexibility.   

 What used to be “Exact Match” is not exact match anymore, and Google is increasingly looking to take more and more control over your campaigns and giving you less and less information about where your dollars are going.

 Google will tell you about how their “AI” and Machine Learning are working for you and your campaigns, but you can be sure that it is also working for Google’s bottom line.  

 Google Ads clients who ensure their budget is well spent are the ones who will stay ahead of the competition. 


Display Ad Sample

Done right, Display ads can be very effective at inexpensively building brand awareness,   When I take over accounts that are not performing well, very often, they are not running display ads.  On the surface, they don’t convert, but if you know the tricks to set them up properly, Display Ads get your business or brand on the map and increase the chances of an organic or Search Ad click.  They can also build your brand and let potential customers know what you are about.    

 Remarketing & Beyond: once you get someone to your website, likely, and hopefully early in their search, how do you keep your brand top of mind?  People who have searched for what you sell and have already visited your website can be key targets to convert to a sale.  This is where “Remarketing” comes in.  Everyone feels they have been followed around the web by something they recently searched – these ads are effective.  The next step is to target people who searched or visited your competitors or are searching for things related to your product.   

 With millions of websites, videos, apps and more out there where Google can show your ads, the display network has an almost infinite number of possible placements. One important key to success here is to closely target where the ads show, and target the right ad to the appropriate part of the customer journey.  

 There are two main kinds of display ads – “Graphic” ones where you make and load them onto the platform and Google places them on websites where they fit.  Then there are “Responsive Ads” where pictures, headlines, and descriptions are loaded and Google mixes and matches the collateral to create ads.

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Could your Google Ads be running better?  Are you taking advantage of all of the avenues, ensuring your budget is being used effectively, and using all of the right channels to connect with your potential customers?  

DEMAND GEN (Discovery) ADS

Google used to call these “Discovery” ads, but at the start of 2024, changed the name to “Demand Gen”.  These ads appear in Feeds on Android phones, under Google Search on some phones, in YouTube, or in Gmail.  They can reach a good percentage of the population. 

 There are 3 formats available, and all of them can work very well with the right collateral.  You can tell a story or get key points in front of people with a Card Carousel, bring people to an article or web page that offers great info about your industry or brand with a picture and a headline, or add a video to a headline to capture attention and fully explain your brand or product.

 What is great about Demand Gen ads is that they often get to people when they are in “Information Gathering Mode” and are more likely to click on a well-targeted ad, especially if they are actively researching something.

 How much do widgets cost?  What are the best widget brands?  What should you consider when buying a widget?  How do you get the most out of your widget?  There are an unlimited number of possible hooks to draw potential customers to your website to learn more about what you offer.

YouTube/ Video ADS

YouTube is the world’s second most popular website, and every day, there are millions of impressions available for a very low cost.  You can get thousands of very well-targeted impressions with a few hundred of dollars in spending … or less.    

 Combined with custom intent audiences, YouTube advertising allows you to get in front of a well-targeted audience with anything from a 5-7 second “bumper” video to build brand awareness, to longer “Explainer” videos that can walk a potential customer who is searching for exactly what you sell through the key benefits and advantages of your product or service. 

Often, for a lot of people, YouTube is the go-to source of information to get reviews of products, compare them, or find out whether they will fulfill their needs. 

There are several YouTube Ad formants that fit different needs.  


Shopping Ads Sample

If you are in e-commerce, then Google Shopping can be a great way to get your product in front of people exactly when they are shopping for your products. Shopping ads appear prominently at the top of the search results with a picture, price, and description. The way the ads are displayed means that a lot of the people clicking on your ads are in shopping mode and are good prospects to buy. That said, Google Shopping can be very competitive, with dozens of products on offer.

 Shopping Ads are particularly effective when you have a lot of products – too many to set up individual campaigns or ad groups for.

Building brand awareness through other marketing channels and shopping remarketing ads will help your Shopping Campaigns perform much better. 

Custom Intent Audiences

Custom Intent Audiences are the key to running any of the non-search campaigns well.  Google knows a lot about what people are interested in, looking for, and shopping for.  Google knows what websites people visit, and what they search. Through carefully creating custom intent audiences, advertisers can leverage this information to target your ads to the right people at the right part of their customer journey. 

One key strategy I almost always implement is to create an audience of people who search or visit competitor websites, and then target those people appropriately: Get a competitive quote? Build awareness if your brand is less well-known. There are limitless options. You can target your competitors’ customers without having to pay for expensive search clicks.  

Beyond competitors, I have had great success in all kinds of businesses.  One strategy, particularly for B2B, is to create a custom audience of more technical keywords – things that only their potential customers would be searching for. This can get your ads or videos, or articles in front of a niche target audience inexpensively.    

I have also created custom audiences to get display ads and more in front of people who have searched for things they will need before they need a client’s product.

Performance Max Campaigns

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Performance Max campaigns are a rather new (2021) campaign type. Basically, they do what I have done for years – set up coordinated display, video, shopping, and search campaigns to target the whole customer journey and, in theory, make the most of your budget to bring in sales.  For things like e-commerce or new products that no one is searching for, they can work well, especially if you have good quality collateral. 

 On the downside, “Performance Max” campaigns are largely a black box, and advertisers cannot see all the data on search terms, placements, or other key metrics. This could be fine when campaigns are running well and meeting expectations, but it is a huge problem if things are not meeting expectations, if you want to improve, or if, as often happens with Performance Max Campaigns, performance drops. 

 Also, the lack of transparency is frustrating.  When I added Performance Max campaigns to some established accounts, the results looked great, but they were clearly cannibalizing other campaigns that had been running very successfully for years. 

Google Tag Manager

GTM Logo

Google Tag Manager is an essential tool for tracking what people do on your website beyond what Google Analytics can track.  Did they call? Purchase? Fill out a form? Setting up Google Tag Manager can be tricky, but as long as your content management system accepts it, it can provide great information and help with Conversion Tracking – which is essential to evaluate the success of your Google Ads campaigns and give the advertiser and Google the information needed to continually improve campaigns.