The Complete Guide to Google Ads Search Display and Video Ads

I could spend years studying Google Ads and still not know everything. The depths of knowledge in that beast are endless. Yet here I am, your intrepid guide descending into the belly of the beast to emerge with wisdom to share. What knowledge I have gleaned will be imparted to you, dear reader, so you too can navigate the labyrinthine ways of Google Ads.

Search, display, video, apps – the options for parting with your marketing dollars are many. But have no fear, I will illuminate the paths through this digital advertising jungle. We shall explore how the Google Ads auction works, the difference between search and display networks, how to optimize for conversions and clicks. Video ads, app ads, responsive ads – I shall leave no stone unturned!

Come, take my hand, and let us delve into the world of Google Ads. The knowledge may not be complete, but by the end you’ll know enough to get started. And get sucked into a vortex of ongoing optimization and learning. The glamorous life of a digital marketer!

Overview of Google Ads and Advertising Options

So you want to advertise on the largest search engine in the world. As a marketer, I can’t blame you. Google Ads, formerly known as Google AdWords, is a goldmine for businesses looking to gain more visibility and drive traffic. But between search, display, and video ads, where should you start?

Search Ads: For the Direct Approach

If you want to get straight to the point, search ads appear at the top of Google search results based on keywords. When people search for terms related to your product or service, your ad can pop up. You only pay when someone actually clicks your ad. The trick is choosing highly relevant keywords and crafting an irresistible ad to rank higher than the competition.

Display Ads: For Maximum Exposure

For brand awareness on over 2 million websites in Google’s display network, display ads are the way to go. Images, text, and video ads appear on sites matching your audience. You set a budget and pay either when people see your ad (impression) or click it (click). Display ads won’t directly drive sales but will increase visibility to more potential customers.

Video Ads: For High Engagement

Want to captivate your audience? Video ads on YouTube and beyond let you showcase your brand in full motion. Viewers can watch, skip, or engage by clicking. Video ads drive the highest engagement and recall. If you have an awesome product demo or story to tell, video ads are ideal.

The options on Google Ads can be as varied as the millions of advertisers using the platform. With some experimenting, you’ll discover what works to achieve your goals, whether to boost brand, increase traffic, or drive conversions. The key is starting with a solid plan, realistic budget, and compelling message, then optimizing based on results. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some ads of my own to create!

Search Network Ads – Reaching People Actively Searching

When I want my ads seen by people actively searching for what I’m selling, I turn to the Search Network. With search ads, my ads appear at the top of the search results page based on how well my keywords match the search term. The better the match, the higher my ad ranks.

To get started, I choose a list of keywords relevant to my product or service. The more specific the keyword, the more targeted the traffic. For example, instead of just “shoes”, I might use “stylish yet affordable women’s heels”. Google Ads lets me see how many people are searching for different keywords so I can focus on ones with decent traffic.

Once I’ve picked my keywords, I write a couple of ad variations. Google Ads will automatically determine which ad text and landing page combination has the highest chance of getting a click and conversion based on the keyword. I just have to provide the options and let the machines do their thing.

Ad position matters with search ads, so I set a budget I’m willing to spend for the top spots. The more I bid, and the more people click my ads, the higher my position climbs. Of course, the higher the position, the more I pay per click. It’s a balancing act, but the good news is I only pay when someone actually clicks my ad.

While search ads do require managing bids and budgets, for me the effort is worth it. These ads reach people when they’re actively looking to buy, so the leads tend to convert at a higher rate. My search campaigns always drive the most traffic and revenue which is why search ads are the bread and butter of Google Ads.

Display Network Ads – Targeting Based on Interests and Demographics

Display Network ads are all about targeting people based on their interests and demographic info. Google knows pretty much everything about everyone, so they can show your ads to just the right people. Kinda creepy, but also kinda useful.

Targeting Options Galore

You’ve got a ton of ways to target who sees your ads. Do you want 18-34 year old makeup enthusiasts in Los Angeles? Google’s got you covered. How about middle-aged dog owners in the Midwest? No problem.

  • Some of the many options include:
  • Age, gender, parental status
  • Location (country, state, city, zip code)
  • Interests and hobbies
  • Browsing and search history
  • Apps and sites they use
  • The devices they use (mobile vs. desktop)
  • Income level
  • Education level

You can get as broad or as hyper-specific as you want. The more targeting options you choose, the smaller your potential reach will be, but the more tailored your audience. It’s a balancing act.

Placement Targeting

You also get to pick exactly where your ads appear—websites, apps, YouTube channels, etc. Want your ads only on DIY home reno blogs? You got it. Prefer they show up in mobile games and news apps instead? Can do. The options seem almost endless.

I have to admit, as much as I like to think I value my privacy, I do appreciate how the targeting options allow ads to be more relevant to me. If I’m going to see ads at all, I’d rather see ones for things I might actually care about, like the latest true crime podcast or DNA test kit, instead of luxury yachts or cryptocurrency. But that’s just me. Whether display ads pique your interest or make your eyes roll, there’s no denying Google has this targeting thing down to a science. For better or for worse.

Video Ads on YouTube – Engaging Viewers With Visual Content

Video ads are the shiny new toy in the Google Ads playground. As a marketer, I have to admit videos are an appealing format. Who doesn’t like watching a mini commercial or two when scrolling through YouTube or streaming their favorite show?

Catching Eyes and Ears

Video ads grab attention in a way static images and text just can’t. Motion, sound, visuals—they activate more of our senses and light up our brain’s reward center. If an ad can make someone laugh or tug at their heartstrings, they’re much more likely to remember your brand.

As an advertiser, you have lots of options for using video ads on YouTube and across the Google video network. Want to run a 15 or 30 second spot highlighting your product? YouTube’s got you covered. Rather make a short how-to video or product demo? Go for it. YouTube also offers bumper ads, which are 6 seconds of glory to grab interest and drive traffic to your site or channel.

Targeting the Right Viewers

The best part about YouTube ads is that you can target audiences as precisely as search ads. Use keywords, interests, demographics and more to make sure your video reaches the right people. Why show an ad for organic dog food to someone searching for info on adopting a cat? With YouTube, you don’t have to.

You can also choose between two bidding options: cost per view (CPV), where you pay when a viewer watches at least 30 seconds of your ad, or cost per click (CPC) bidding which charges you only when someone clicks your ad. For brand awareness, CPV may be better. If you want traffic and conversions, CPC is probably your jam.

While YouTube ads may seem like small potatoes next to TV commercials and Super Bowl spots, they pack a lot of punch for small businesses and marketers on a budget. Videos create connections and tell stories in a way that resonates. On a platform where over a billion hours of video are watched daily, that’s an opportunity no brand can afford to ignore.

How Google Ranks and Optimizes Ads for Relevance and Performance

Google wants your ads to be as relevant and useful as possible to searchers, so they’ve developed an elaborate system for ranking and optimizing ads based on performance. As an advertiser, the more clicks and conversions your ads get, the higher Google will rank them. It’s kind of like a popularity contest, but for ads.

At first, Google has to figure out if your ad and keywords even match what the searcher is looking for. If so, you get entered into the contest. Then, Google evaluates how well your ad performs based on a few factors.

Click-through rate

If people are clicking your ad, Google assumes it’s relevant. The higher your CTR, the better. I aim for at least a 2% CTR to start, but some industries average 3-5% or more. Google will rank high-performing ads higher and lower-performing ones lower in the search results page.

Quality score

Google uses a voodoo formula to determine your ad’s “quality score” based on CTR, keyword/ad relevance, landing page experience, and more. The higher your score, the lower your costs and the higher your ad position. I check my quality scores regularly to make sure none are below average in my industry.

Conversion rate

If your ads lead to sales or leads, Google will optimize them to get you even more conversions. The value of a conversion is determined by the advertiser, so you set a conversion value for things like phone calls, form fills, purchases, etc. The higher your conversion rate and value, the more Google will favor your ad.

At the end of the day, the ads that drive the most value for searchers and advertisers get top ranks in Google. So make your ads extremely relevant, use high-performing keywords, have an optimized landing page, and track conversions. Do all that, and Google will be optimizing and ranking your ads in no time. It’s not magic, it’s just good old competition. May the best ads win!

After reading this article, you should be able to navigate the labyrinth of Google’s ad products with the confidence of a Minotaur. Just remember that no matter how much you optimize for clicks and conversions, you can’t force people to buy your products or services against their will. Well, not legally anyway.

At the end of the day, advertising is really about manipulating human psychology on a mass scale. But don’t think about that too much – it might make it harder to sleep at night on your giant pile of money. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some ads to create and some clicks to generate. The life of a digital marketer is never done!

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