Turning Fears Into Wins With Expert Insights

For many, getting started with Google Ads can come with an overwhelming number of questions, doubts, and hurdles that prevent them from channeling its potential—or from using it at all. 

We recently conducted a survey asking Semrush users about their biggest challenges with and fears about Google Ads. To overcome these challenges and upgrade your ecommerce toolkit, we’ve turned to the experts, gathering insights and actionable strategies. 

So, whether you struggle with setting up your first campaign or have anxieties surrounding the platform or overspending, read on!

Identifying Common Fears and Challenges

Let’s look into the issues that people running Google Ads struggle with most. We’ve had conversations with our users about their troubles with Google Ads and will put these common fears and challenges under the spotlight. We’ve invited experts in digital marketing to guide us through each of these common obstacles with insights, solutions, and strategies drawn from their wealth of experience.

Concern #1: I’m worried Google Ads will show my ads to the wrong audiences.

The best way to know if your ads are being served to the right people is by investigating the network segments and placements. This will help you see if you accidentally opted into broader placements than you intended. 
Because audiences no longer function on bid adjustments (save for manual bidding), you’ll need to choose audiences to exclude that don’t meet your requirements, as well as observe test audiences. I strongly recommend targeting and observing audiences for low-budget campaigns. 
Because PMax doesn’t let you outright target any audiences, be sure that you have a strong placement, topic, and negative keyword exclusion list.

– Navah Hopkins, International Speaker, Top 25 PPC Influencer 

Concern #2: I believe that choosing the right keywords is crucial for conversions, but it feels quite complicated.

My mentor, Roy H. Williams, a famously successful advertising writer, always told me to ‘talk to the dog, in the language of the dog, about what is in the heart of the dog.’ This means if you want to catch your customers’ interest, you need to really understand what they’re looking for and talk directly about that in a way that is relevant to them. Search engine experts work hard to make their systems understand how relevant a website’s words are to what people are searching for. This is because they want to show people the best matches for what they’re looking for. I presented at a conference in 2012 about how searching online is like dogs chasing a scent. This idea got me invited to share that presentation again with the Microsoft Quality Score team.

This isn’t new information. Dr. Ed Chi from Xerox Research Center in Palo Alto found out way back in 2001 that people look for information online similar to how animals follow a scent. He called this “hub-and-spoke” surfing: you start from a main point and follow the trail if it smells interesting, but go back if it doesn’t until you find what you’re looking for.

Despite knowing this, many marketers still mess up by not keeping the trail interesting enough for customers, who then get distracted by other things, just like beagles do.

Our job as marketers is to figure out what the customer is trying to buy and help them buy it. We need to start with the keywords and understand the customer’s purpose and how they approach those keywords. For example, I had a chat with Keith Goode, a technical SEO expert, about how different people might search for the “best hamburger” based on what “best” means to them. If you don’t match your message to their specific search intent, they won’t be interested. Unlike a dog that would be happy with any hamburger, customers want exactly the experience they were actually looking for.

It’s the business that’s responsible for matching the intent exactly. If you outsource your keywords to an agency, make sure they explain to you EXACTLY how they’re doing this.

 – Bryan Eisenberg, New York Times bestselling author of “Waiting for Your Cat to Bark,” VP of DataTurk.ai 

Concern #3: Choosing the right platforms for running ads feels like a gamble. I constantly wonder how to allocate my budget to achieve the best returns.

Start with the ad platforms that have the most potential to reach your target audience, such as Google Ads. For more specialized networks, try LinkedIn, Meta Ads, or Pinterest Ads. 
Start out by allocating a higher percentage of budget to the wider coverage network—for example, 60-70%. Use the remainder to run ads on one or two other ad platforms. Once performance data is collected, evaluate the best performance based on your goals: branding, leads, sales, etc. Reallocate your budget to invest a higher percentage in the winning platform and reduce or discontinue the others. Always allow for wiggle room to test new opportunities you can add into the mix!

Lisa Raehsler, Google Ads, PPC Strategy, GA4 Customization expert, Big Click Co.

Concern #4: I have doubts when it comes to selecting the right audience for my Google Ads. Making the wrong choice feels like a big risk.

It’s not an overwhelming problem, just a challenge to tackle, as you do research and find out what works. Starting out, you won’t know exactly who your audience should be until you’ve spent several years trying and testing. 
But even if you discover down the line that you spent money on a different audience than you ended up with, it doesn’t mean it was a waste of time or money. 
Every aspect of marketing requires testing and learning. Knowing what to choose after your research and data analysis is as valid as knowing which audience not to choose.

Anu Adegbola, Founder @ PPC Live Networking Events

Concern #5: I’m unsure about setting negative keywords for my Google Ads. I have the fear of excluding potential customers by mistake.

Negative keywords are a critical element of any successful paid search campaign. Negative keywords are words or phrases that will prevent your ads from serving when the user query includes them.
For example, if you only sell athletic shoes, you would want negative keywords for things like “dress shoes, pumps, slippers,” etc. Advertisers should pay as much attention to negative keywords as they do to positive keywords. An athletic shoe retailer doesn’t want to pay for clicks from people looking for dress shoes. 

A great way to find negative keywords for a new campaign is to use the engine keyword tools. Input your desired positive keywords and see what the keyword tool recommends. Find any terms that are irrelevant and add them to your negative keyword list.

Regularly review your search query reports to see what user queries are triggering your ads. Add any irrelevant keywords as negative keywords.

Negative keywords can be applied via a negative keyword list or at the campaign or ad group level. Negative keyword lists are useful for universally irrelevant keywords, like the “dress shoes” example for our athletic shoe retailer above. Create a list of universal negatives and add that list to all of your paid search campaigns.

Negatives can also be applied at the campaign level. An example of this is to add keywords from one campaign as negatives to another to help the right ads serve for the right keywords. The same can be done at the ad group level.

With careful thought and some ongoing optimization, negative keywords will help improve the performance of your paid search campaigns.

Melissa Mackey, Director of Paid Search, Compound Growth Marketing

Concern #6: I worry about ensuring my ads appear on reliable networks that aren’t display crowding. It’s also challenging to find quality Pay-Per-Lead or Pay-Per-Acquisition networks that align with my goals.

Even today, many affiliation systems are still not very transparent and do not allow self-service planning with respect to the sites where the advertiser is published. To define a strategy aimed at producing conversions (leads/sales) in relation to display channels, I recommend relying on Google DSP and external DSPs that provide transparency and offer self-service management. Google has its own DSP known as “Display and Video 360”, which nevertheless provides reliable targeting and tracking/reporting capabilities.

The advantages of launching campaigns on external DSPs in addition to Google’s are mainly three:

  1. Ability to reach users even outside the “Google network of sites” thanks to different technologies. This can be extremely important when it comes to reaching niche audiences or in outreach campaigns where you don’t want to be limited to just users on Google’s network.
  2. Additional creative choice for advertisers: including banner, video, audio, and native formats.
  3. Additional specific targeting options, hundreds of targeting parameters, as well as the ability to apply brand safety, page quality, and third-party viewability filters to ensure every impression is served to an appropriate user in a high-quality environment and safe for the brand.

If you have a limited budget, the Google Display Network alone is an excellent system with which to start taking the first steps towards achieving your goals. 

If you have a medium-high media investment budget and want to impress users with ads with high creative impact and be able to take advantage of numerous targeting options, external DSPs must be integrated into the media mix.

– Andrea Recalcati, Head of Performance & Advanced Advertising, Italiaonline

Concern #7: How do I justify the cost of awareness advertising in Google Ads when it’s hard to see direct conversions. How do I know it’s not just a waste of resources?

The topic of awareness advertising is always an interesting one to broach, as there are lots of different opinions about it. Some think it’s essential, while others think it’s a waste of resources and effort. So, what’s the real answer? Well, like most things in marketing, it’s somewhere in between these two positions.

Very few brands are in the category where both the problem they solve and their brand name are extremely well known. Most brands will need to spend resources to raise awareness of one or both of these. If you are entering an uncharted product or service area, where people might not even know about the problem you solve or the types of solutions available, you will want to start there. 

Demand is not something that just magically appears after all! Demand happens when people who might need what you sell are aware that there is a purchasable solution to their particular problem. If no such solution has previously existed, you will need to get the word out to the right audiences that a solution now exists.

If, on the other hand, the market already exists, but you are new to it or trying to expand your presence in it, then you will have to concentrate your efforts on getting your brand name associated as a positive solution option for the established problem. 

Both require patience. So much of what we do in digital marketing is based on the idea of quick results and immediate data. And that is the case (though less so with recent automation advances) when you are engaging in demand capture advertising. The demand is already there, and you want those dollars allocated for that product or service to go to you. Awareness advertising is more of a long-game strategy. Don’t expect to start an initiative and see results right away. It takes time to build that awareness. 

Some also think that after a certain point, you can just abandon awareness advertising. If you think you’re at that point, go ahead and try turning it off for a month and see what happens. You might be surprised that your awareness campaigns are actually continuing to drive sales your way!

Julie Friedman Bacchini, Lead Generation PPC & SEM Specialist, Neptune Moon LLC, Top 25 Most Influential PPC Expert

Introducing Ads Launch Assistant

It can be intimidating to dive headfirst into the Google Ads tools. If you’ve been grappling with the decision to launch Google Ads for a while now, consider our new AI-powered tool.

With the Semrush Ads Launch Assistant, you can tackle and run search ads like a pro. Ads Launch Assistant is packed with features that remove the common hurdles users face while setting up and managing ad campaigns.

Campaign creation becomes a breeze with keyword ideas and tailored suggestions from the AI assistant every step of the way. Once you’ve created your campaigns, you can get a comprehensive visual overview of which campaigns are doing well and which need a little more attention. You’ll be able to analyze your performance with a visual report outlining impressions (how many people see your ad), spend, and clicks so you can get the most out of your ad budget.


How exactly do you use Ads Launch Assistant? 

Once you have access to the tool, there’s an easy step-by-step process to start launching Google Ads.

  1. Create a new campaign with personalized suggestions throughout the setup process.
  2. Run your ads and take advantage of our deal: spend $500 in 60 days and get up to $500 to spend on future campaigns.
  3. Analyze your performance with visual reports and campaign data.

Ads Launch Assistant makes creating and managing Google Ads much less intimidating for beginners and more efficient for pros. Having this intelligent ad assistant by your side, you can do everything from choosing the right keywords to writing effective ad copy. Start launching ads with Ads Launch Assistant and experience the difference it can make to your Google Ads experience today!

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