If you don’t yet know Google AdWords like the back of the toilet door, this resource will help you get the perfect set up before you hit ‘enable’ and start burning the cash.

Even if you’re already familiar with AdWords, you might find some tips and tools in here which you haven’t yet tried or set up.

Taking the time to set the right foundations will not only improve performance, it’ll also ensure you have all the right things in place to measure your campaigns and get the biggest bang for your buck!

Go forth and conquer your campaigns using this Google AdWords checklist.

Learn How the Ad Auction Works

First things first, it’s important you understand how Google decides which ads to place where in the bidding war. Despite what some folks think, it’s more complex than simply awarding the highest bidder with the top spot. Watch the video below to get an idea of how it works.

Manager Account

If you manage multiple AdWords accounts, set up a Manager Account (formerly My Client Centre).

This allows you to set up multiple accounts all under one roof.

Why would you want to do that?

  • No need for multiple sign-ins for different accounts
  • Easily switch between accounts and campaigns
  • Capture and analyse your data all in one place
  • Remarketing across all of your accounts (more on that below)

💡AdWords Tip: Don’t get fooled by the dodgy user experience on the sign-up page. Make sure you click the ‘Start using manager accounts link’ lower down the page (as shown below), rather than the ‘Start now’ button.

The latter will open a standard AdWords account and mean you have to jump through a few hoops to switch to a Manager Account.

Get started: All of your AdWords accounts in one place
 Google Manager Account

Google Tag Manager

Google Tag Manager is a digital marketer’s best friend. Or one of them at least. Your developers will welcome it more than the office ping pong table.

Gone are the days when you needed to pester your dev to implement yet another pixel on the website.

Once you have implemented the Google Tag Manager Pixel and published the ‘Container’, you can set up Triggers and Tags which will allow you to track whatever you want, without depending on developers. A Container is the name Google gives to the place where you can store tags and rules related to your website.

From setting up simple Pageview tracking to Remarketing Pixels and Events for specific actions on the site, you can do it all with GTM, even if you’re not that technical. That said, it does take a bit of time to get your head around the more complex tags and triggers, but for simple Pixel implementations, you should be fine.

GTM Checklist

  • Setup Container and implement on your website
  • Add relevant Tags and Triggers
  • Preview and Debug
  • Publish your Container
  • Test again with Real Time Analytics
  • Remove old Pixels

Make dev team happy: Google Tag Manager

AdWords Pixel

This goes hand in hand with the point above.

Once you’ve set up Google Tag Manager, get your AdWords pixel in there and test it’s firing.

In some cases, you won’t need to use the AdWords Pixel. For example, if you’ve already linked Google AdWords with Google Analytics and imported your Goals, or set up Audiences for remarketing, you don’t need to worry about this step. More on all of those things lower down.

Find Your AdWords Pixel: Google AdWords > Tools > Conversions > + Conversion button

Link Google Analytics and AdWords

Right on cue.

If you haven’t done it already, make sure you link Google Analytics with Google AdWords.

Once you’ve done that, you’ll get AdWords campaign data in Google Analytics and you can set up Audience lists in Analytics which you then use as targeting methods in AdWords.

As part of this step, make sure you also turn on auto-tagging. Google says “Auto-tagging automatically imports AdWords data into Analytics. Combining AdWords data with the rich post-click information provided by Analytics allows you to see what happened on your site after people clicked on your ads.”

Get Connected: Link Analytics and AdWords

Get Your Keyword Research On

Stating the obvious here, but doing Google AdWords without keyword research is like becoming President without knowing anything about the world. Oh wait?!

Other than potential search volume, find out:

  • What kind of average cost per click can you expect?
  • Is there a lot of competition for the keywords you want to bid on?
  • What kind of search terms match user intent?
  • What kind of words should you use to craft ad copy?
  • Is there any low-hanging fruit (high volume / low competition)?
  • How can you improve the landing page experience?

Bear in mind that if you haven’t been spending on AdWords before, you’ll get limited data from their Keyword Planner tool.

Once you start spending, they’ll start giving you more specific search volumes.

Another thing to consider is that if you choose keywords which don’t have any search volume, Google won’t always show your ads. So in some cases, you may need to broaden your research to make your ads eligible.

Dig deep: Google Keyword Planner (you could also use Moz Keyword Explorer, Ahrefs and various other keyword research tools).

💡 Pro Keyword Resource: I’ve created a keyword brainstorming deck which churns out more than 400 keyword variations in less than 3 seconds. Get in touch if you’d like to know more about that!

Google AdWords Keyword Planner

Experiment With Different Match Types

Blond hair, blue eyes? No, not that kind of match type.

As you probably know, Google AdWords has 4 different keyword match types:

Broad Match
+Broad +Match +Modifier
“Phrase Match”
[Exact Match]

By testing different match types, you can check which set up gives you the best performance. Keep an eye on which match types give you:

  • The best CTR
  • Lowest cost
  • Highest conversion rate

Be careful with Broad Match as you may get irrelevant traffic if not managed well.

If I’m teaching you to suck eggs, crack on to the next tip as long as you haven’t had un œuf already.

Improve Your Landing Page Experience

You can take the horse to the water all day long, but if the water is dirty, it won’t drink.

Meaning? Even if you’re getting super relevant, high-quality traffic from AdWords, if your landing pages don’t provide good user experience and a smooth transition to the end goal, you’re not likely to get the return you want.

What should you do?

  • Make sure your landing page correlates to your keywords and ad copy
  • Ensure the page loads fast
  • Test how the page works on mobile devices and optimise where needed
  • Provide a clear call to action
  • Ensure your goal flow works and is super intuitive

Consider How Your Keywords, Ad Copy and Landing Page Tie Together

Correlating your keywords, ad copy and landing page will give you a better quality score, which will lead to a better Ad Rank, higher positions and better performance.

Once you’ve selected the keywords you want to start with, batch them into specific Ad Groups which have ads that only focus closely on the keywords in that group.

Make sure the landing page exactly reflects what you’re talking about in the ad copy and uses the keywords you have assigned.

Segmentation is key here. Don’t try to stuff too much into one Ad Group. It’s much better top set up lots of different Ad Groups which focus strictly on one topic/set of keywords.

Test Your Conversion Funnel

Throwing paid traffic at a page which doesn’t have a slick sales funnel or fully working contact form is like spending cash on fireworks. Without the pretty lights and dogs hiding under chairs!

Check your sales funnel and contact forms are working, sending notifications to the right place and are easy to complete.

Make sure your conversion goals are clear and visitors are in no doubt about where to go/what to do on the website. Think about your calls to action. How can you make them stand out more? Test different wording and ask your designer to work on the visual aspects.

💡 Tip: I also like to set up autoresponder emails which ping a nice message to the customer as soon as they checkout or hit send on a contact form.

Your eyes are biased so ask other people to test your conversion funnels for you. The more brutally honest they are, the better.

Stalk Your Competition

Spend some time being a potential customer.

Search Google with some of the main keywords you want to bid on and see what your competitors are doing.

Types of questions to ask yourself:

  • What are they writing about in their ad copy?
  • Where are they appearing in the SERPs (search engine results pages)?
  • Are they using Ad Extensions wisely? More on those lower down
  • Are they using call, message or location extensions?
  • Where do the ads lead to?
  • How well optimised is their conversion funnel?

Once you’ve got all this kind of information you can make sure you’re doing it all better than they are!

Be aware your competition is probably checking out what you’re doing too, so raising your game is going to be a constant task. Better never quits!

💡 AdWords Tip: Use the Ad Preview and Diagnosis tool to see what other advertisers are doing regardless of where you are based in the world. Using this, you can check how the SERPs look in the US, even if you’re based in the UK for example.

Stalk Your Competition

Improve Page Load Speed

The last thing you want is to be paying for clicks and potential customers bailing out before they even reach the website.

When optimising your landing page experience, make sure your web pages are loading lightning fast on desktop and mobile devices.

If they’re tortoise slow, it’s time to call in the dev team so they can work their magic and speed up response times.

Run the test: PageSpeed Insights

PageSpeed Insights by Google

Implement Live Chat

It’s not something all companies can budget for, but having a member of staff (or two) monitor all website visits and chat with people live online is a sure-fire way to get better performance out of your AdWords campaigns.

By the time you’ve carried out your landing page experience checks and improved your sales funnel, your conversions should flow like Niagara. Add live chat to the mix and we’re talking about floods of enquiries and sales.

If you use a CMS like WordPress, you can implement a live chat Plugin like Tawk.to. That way you can be up and running in no time at all and it won’t cost you a penny to set up.

Find your chatterbox: Top Live Chat Software Products

Configure Your Goals and Events

So now your conversion funnel is slick, but do you have the right set up to track everything?

Before you start spending, make sure you’ve set up Goals and Events in Google Analytics so you can track conversions effectively.

Things you’ll want to track:

  • Sales
  • Contact submissions
  • Phone calls
  • Sign ups
  • Downloads
  • Users who start a process but do not finish (great for remarketing to them)
  • Text copying so you can see when an email or phone number is copied

Once you’ve done that you can better manage your campaigns based on your conversion data.

One you’ve set up your Goals and Events, test them several times to make sure they are firing properly.

Define your goals: Google Analytics > Admin > Goals > Click ‘+ New Goal’

For Events, it’s a little more complex. These can be configured by your developer or if you know how to use Google Tag Manager, you can define them yourself in there. Lost? Give me a shout and I will help you out.

Remarketing Lists and Custom Audiences

Remarketing is such a powerful tool.

Even if you don’t intend to launch remarketing campaigns right away, you need to set up your audience lists right away.

Why? Because the lists only grow from the moment they are set up and you need at least 100 hits on your lists (web pages in your audience segment) to be able to use them as a targeting method.

The more the merrier.

You have two options. Either set up remarketing rules directly in AdWords. Or, create custom audiences in Google Analytics which you can pull through to AdWords. I prefer the latter option.

Go as granular as you can. The more remarketing lists you have for specific category pages and detail pages, the better. Now you can reach a potential customer whilst they are reading the New York Times for example, and bring them back to finish the job.

If you’re using a Manager Account, you can also set up shared remarketing tags and lists which, for example, allows you to advertise website A to visitors of website B. If websites A and B have similar audiences but are none competitive, this could be lucrative.

As well as the Google Display Network, you can use remarketing on your search campaigns. Set up a RLSA (remarketing list for search ads) and you should see high performance using this targeting method.

💡Remarketing hack: Set up audience lists with rules like ‘Visited Page A but didn’t visit Page B (the contact success or check out page). That way you can target people who have been on your website but didn’t convert. BUT, instead of bringing them back to the page they didn’t convert from, use another page as your Destination URL. One that answers common objections.

That might encourage the horse to drink from the water. Test, test and then test again.

Create Audience Lists on Analytics: Admin > Audience Definitions > Audiences > + New Audience button

Create Audience Lists on AdWords: Campaigns > Shared Library > Audiences > View > + Remarketing List button

Google Remarketing

Set up a Customer Match List

Customer Match isn’t some sort of dating site for your customers. It’s a super powerful marketing technique which everyone should try.

For this to work, you’ll need a database of more than 1000 customer emails. Ideally, you’ll want many more than 1000 for this to work well.

Using Customer Match, you can target your ads to people on your email list when they are surfing the web.

As Google explains, there’s a number of ways you can use this targeting method:

  • On YouTube, reach new audiences, by targeting similar audiences to your most valuable customers
  • On Gmail, reach your customers or a similar audience with personalised ads at the top of their inbox tabs, in addition to your email campaigns
  • On the Search Network, optimise your campaigns by adjusting your bid based on what you know about your customers’ activities

Match it up: AdWords > Campaigns > Shared Library > Audiences > View > + Remarketing List > Customer Emails

Design Click Worthy Banners

If you plan to launch some campaigns using the Display Network, you’re going to need some banners.

Google AdWords has some built in tools which allow you to build ad banners based on your website content, but the results are pretty pants compared to having some custom made by a design pro.

If you have a Designer, get them to mock up some clicktastic designs.

If you don’t have a Designer, no worries! Jump on 99Designs and you can have lots of designers pitch their ideas before you choose the winner.

Otherwise, you could try making them yourself with a tool like Bannerwise.

Banner tips:

  • Use the best images you have which work well with text
  • Think about which banner sizes work best
  • Write compelling copy to go on the banners
  • Consider adding ‘call to action’ buttons to the design
  • Get plenty of variations so you can test what works best
  • Make sure your banners correlate to your landing page experience

Google Display Network

Automate What You Can

I love automation. If I could automate my commute to work, I would.

There are so many things you can automate on AdWords. For example, if you’re using a manual CPC (cost per click) bidding model, that means you have to check various things every day.

If you don’t keep on top of it, your bids might fall below the minimum amount needed for your ads to appear on the first page of Google. That means fewer or no impressions which leads to fewer or no clicks.

Chances are your competitors are in a bidding war with you so you need to be on it to make sure you get enough impressions and clicks to meet your goals.

That’s where automation can really help by making sure your campaigns are performing even when you’re commuting to and from work!

Automate it: AdWords > Campaign View > Check the Options in the ‘Automate’ Drop Down

Google AdWords Automation

Check Previous Campaign Data

If you’ve run campaigns in the past, or you’re taking over an account which someone else used to run, dig deep on the previous campaign data.

You’ve got a gold mine of information in your account, so go mine it!

What happened in the past will give you key insights into things like:

  • What keywords you should be using
  • Ad copy/creatives which got good interaction rates
  • What bidding strategy worked best
  • Which landing pages converted/didn’t
  • What kind of seasonal trends you could learn from
  • What kind of costs were forked out in the past

Mine Data on Google Trends

Speaking of trends, Google Trends gives a super high-level overview or search patterns over time.

This can be useful when setting up your campaigns. Google AdWords Keyword Planner also gives seasonal data, but I like to use Google Trends as well so I can quickly see when spikes have sprung up in the past.

For example, if you’re in the fitness business, Google Trends shows there is a big spike of interest in getting fit and going to the gym around January (obvs).

So using that kind of information, you can plan your advertising calendar more effectively.

Google Trends Data

Add Campaign Negative Keywords in Shared Library

Even before I start an AdWords campaign, I like to build a list of negative keywords (words you don’t want your ads to appear for).

Many PPC folks add their negative keywords at Campaign or Ad Group Level, but you can save time by adding them in the Shared Library.

That allows you to quickly assign a common list of negative keywords to new campaigns.

Yes, at this stage you don’t know what kind of irrelevant search terms may show your ads, but that doesn’t stop you doing some research beforehand and preempting.

For example, if you’re selling skis but not snowboards, you can add ‘snowboard’ and such like to a negative keyword list so you don’t pay for clicks when someone is looking for something you don’t sell. I like to search Google with the high-level keywords I’m targeting and see what else is out there with similar terms. That gives you a good list of non-relevant stuff to start with.

Once your campaigns are running, keep a close eye on the search queries which get clicks. If anything looks irrelevant, add it to the list!

Set it up: AdWords > Shared Library > Negative Keyword Lists > + List button

Get Your Campaign Settings Right

Getting the campaign settings right is a must. Stating the obvious again, I know! But it’s often overlooked.

Familiarise yourself with all possible options like search and/or display ads, dynamic ads and set up multiple campaigns and ad groups using different settings to test what works best for you.

Think about your bidding strategy, geographical targeting, ad schedule, ad delivery methods etc.

Go as deep as you possibly can and keep tweaking until you get the best performance. This is a part-time or full-time job and needs constant surveillance. If you don’t have the time, get help.

Put AdWords Editor to Use

Saving time is a running theme in this article, I love saving time.

Google AdWords Editor will become an essential part of your PPC toolkit.

It allows you to make changes at scale, super quickly. What’s more, you can use it offline. Perfect for getting some AdWords work done on your commute! Beats scrolling aimlessly through your Facebook newsfeed anyway.

You can also download your ads to a spreadsheet so you can edit in bulk. Either way, you can scale and manage your campaigns in double quick time.

Download it: Google AdWords Editor

Don’t Forget Ad Extensions

Ad extensions are good for many reasons. One, they help take up more SERP (search engine results page) real estate as your snippet will be larger than ads without extensions. Two, they help to improve your ads Quality Score which helps improve performance. Three, they help people instantly know more about what it is you’re offering. Four, they help to improve click through rate.

Those are good enough reasons for the extra setup time, aren’t they?

Extend your ads: AdWords > Ad Extensions tab > Choose Extension Type from Drop Down > Click ‘+ Extension’

Set up Google My Business

Assuming you have a physical presence like a shop or an office, make sure you set up a Google My Business profile so you can use location extensions and guide customers to come and visit you.

Once you’ve done that you can use location extensions which show your address in your ad as well as giving customers information on your opening times.

Set it up: Show people you’re open for business

Google My Business Page

Get the AdWords App

AdWords has an official app which is great for checking performance on the move.

It’s not easy to make any meaningful changes via the app, but if you’ve got 10 mins waiting for the train, have a gander and see what happened the day before.

💡 Hot tip: Download your campaigns to AdWords Editor on your laptop. Then on your commute, check the app on your mobile to see if you need to make any changes. Edit on the move, then when you get back to the safe land of Wi-Fi, post your changes. You’ll be one step ahead of the competition before you’ve even set foot in the office!

Get the app: AdWords for iPhone

Set up Billing

No sh*t Sherlock! An obvious one, but there’s nothing worse than your campaigns grinding to a halt at key times.

Make sure your credit card won’t expire anytime soon, and set up a backup payment method too.

Inform the Team

Before you launch your campaigns, ping an email to your team and any partners, friends and family asking them not to click on your AdWords ad if they search for you.

That way you’ll save your budget for actual customers rather than wasting clicks on people who aren’t going to buy!

Conclusion

Yes, AdWords is quick and relatively easy to set up and run at a basic level. But it’s even easier to waste money if you don’t fully understand how it works.

Using this Google AdWords checklist you can be safe in the knowledge you’ve done all you can to cover the bases and have a solid foundation to build on.

If you haven’t got the time or know how to do all of these things yourself, find a Google AdWords certified professional who has the skills and expertise to do it all for you. 👋