Google Ads: A Look at the Basics

Marketing and paid digital advertising can cause some anxiety. When it comes to PPC and Google ads, there can be so much confusion that, if you’re not careful, you can end up hurting your chances of success. This is not news to anyone, but it is understandable. Fear of the unknown is a very real thing, and for a busy business owner, it can be impossible to know all there is to know about marketing. We don’t want the fear of the unknown to prevent entrepreneurs and business owners from taking advantage of Google Ads. So today, we’re covering Google Ad basics for digital marketing.

Understanding the Basics of Google Ads

The key to not making a mistake with Google Ads is understanding the potential errors and implementing a strategy to avoid them. This sounds complex, but using a basic plan can be extremely effective when you understand your target audience and set the correct goals.

A few things your Google Ad strategy should avoid include:

  • Avoiding broad keyword terms
  • Running irrelevant Ads
  • A low Quality Score (QS)
  • A poorly optimized landing page
  • Choosing the wrong campaign type
  • Setting the wrong KPIs

When you work with a PPC expert, they should have an established process that explains why it’s important to avoid each of these errors with Google Ads, as well as how their strategy for execution will effectively do so.

Understand Your Ideal Customers

Google Ad basics begin with knowing who you want to write your article for—your prospective customers and current customers. Your strategy will vary by industry and company KPIs. However, you must always remember that your ads serve your customers.

If you have an ad that features a service area that your company wants to grow in and you don’t have the staffing structure to support the growth, you run the risk of attracting a massive audience who turns around and leaves negative reviews about their experience with your products or services.

On the other hand, if you don’t clarify who your ideal customers are, you are less likely to identify the keywords they are using to search for your products and services.

Keyword Match Types

When you decide to advertise your business online using Google Ads, you need to tell Google what keywords you want to use to trigger your ads. In other words, what are the words and phrases that someone will search for to see your ad?

To do this, you make a keyword list for a particular group of ads. This is where things can get tricky because you might be tempted to make a list of 100 keywords so that all possible search variations are covered. For instance, let’s say the owner of Joe’s Autobody Shop is making a keyword list and wants to ensure potential customers see his ads. He might be tempted to add keywords like “autobody shop,” “autobody shops,” and “auto body shop” ‚Ķ As you can imagine this would go on forever. Luckily for Joe, Google lets you choose how to match a search query to a keyword on your list. When done right this reduces the number of keywords you need to add to a list.

Let’s take a look at our match type options.


The ability to choose how things are matched is called the keywords “match type.” There are four match types to choose from. A Broad Match is the most basic of search types and allows your ad to show when keywords that are just slightly similar are searched. For example, if Joe were to use the Broad Match type for the keyword “auto body repair” his ads may show for “auto repair” “car repair” “car dent removal” “auto engine work.” As you can see this match type allows for his keyword to cover the most ground but in most cases, it is too broad, and Joe’s ad dollars will end up being wasted on search terms that have nothing to do with his business.

Modified Broad

A Modified Broad Match is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a way to keep some of the broad search aspects that work for you while specifying what keywords are most important to you. Using the “+” symbol as a modifier our friend Joe can use this search type for the keywords “+autobody” “+repair” and his ads will show up for “autobody repair shop,” “autobody accident repair” “repair dents and autobody scratches” and the list goes on. However, his ads won’t run for “car engine repair” which means he is not wasting money on searches that don’t matter to him.

It’s important to understand this search type as it is very common and usually is the most misunderstood. For example, as Joe’s marketing agency we might suggest the modified keyword “+car +care,” and Joe might resist us because the term “car care” usually has nothing to do with his business. However, using the Modified Match, we are opening the term up to options like “car dent care” and “post-accident car care.” Both of these would work for Joe.

Phrase and Exact Match

I don’t want to spend too much time on the other two match types. Both Phrase and Exact Match allow someone to have even more control of their keywords without wasting ad dollars on unwanted searches. However, this list of keywords is way more restrictive and will require someone to add a lot of well-thought-out terms to their list. There is also less room for error and interpretation of search intent.

These match types can be perfect when using your brand or company name as a keyword. Choosing relevant keywords will help you avoid running irrelevant ads and will increase your opportunities to write quality ads.

Google Ad

Ok, so I blew past the last two match types remember, we’re covering Google ad basics today, and you should have an idea of the importance of selecting the correct keywords.

Knowing how your ads play a role is essential. It might be the most important part of this entire blog. Let’s assume that there are no dynamic elements in the ads I’m running for Joe’s Autobody Shop. This means that the ads appear on Google exactly as I write them. Now, remember Joe was hesitant to let me use the keyword “car care” because he was worried that people looking for “car care cleaning” and “car care monthly maintenance” might find his ads and click on them, wasting his money.

This is where your understanding of Google Ad basics will pay off. Joe needs to remember that just because some of the keywords he is worried about might have multiple meanings, the content of his ads won’t change to represent a service he doesn’t offer. He will never wake up and see an ad that says “Joe’s Car Care | Oil Change And Tires.” Often the most significant pushback I receive from clients is from a fear that they will get unwanted clicks. This is a legit fear, but that’s why it is important to have ads with a clear message. That way, if your ad does appear for an unwanted search query, you won’t have to worry about it being clicked on.

Types of Google Ads

Once we’ve established your keywords, the creative fun begins. There are several different types of Google Ads campaigns to choose from, and each adds SEO value in different ways. You can target ads based on age, location, gender, device type, interest categories, keywords, and many other factors.

There are four main types of Google Ad campaigns:

  • Search campaign ~ This allows advertisers to bid on certain keywords. For example, a local restaurant could set up a display campaign targeting people searching for restaurants nearby.
  • Display ads campaign ~ These ads appear above search results and on mobile devices. They allow advertisers to choose where they want to show their ads. If someone searches for “restaurants near me,” a restaurant might pay to appear next to those words.
  • Shopping campaign ~ These ads appear on sites like Amazon and eBay. An advertiser bids on a keyword associated with a product, such as “shoes,” and pays whenever someone clicks on it.
  • Video campaign ~ These ads run alongside YouTube videos. They allow advertisers to place text overlays over video footage. For example, a car dealership could buy ads that appear beside a car commercial.

Working with a Google Ads expert is helpful when setting your daily budget as well. This is one of the areas that can be most stressful for people who are new to Google Ads.

Ok, so the basics of Google Ads could be a 2,000-page book, but I hope this short blog is enough to get you going and improve your understanding of how things work. If the entire thing seems too complicated, it might be time to allow an agency to run things for you. Give SMA a shout, and we can discuss all the ways we can help you.

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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in April 2019 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness. 

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Jared Stanton joined the SMA team in April 2017. He has worn a lot of hats during his time at SMA but has found his permanent niche running the company’s paid-per-click advertising campaigns. PPC allows Jared to make data-driven decisions in the best interest of his clients.

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