Top 5 Google Ads Best Practices for 2024

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Last Updated on: 15th February 2024, 05:08 pm

You’ve heard all about the changes to Google Ads in 2022 and 2023. Now, the changes coming to Google Ads in 2024 make it necessary to establish proper foundations, harness data and make the right decisions. But how do you ensure your campaigns keep humming and delivering ROI?

I’ve looked at all the upcoming changes, trends I’ve seen in the past year (and beyond), and the campaigns I manage daily. In this article, I’ll show you Google AdWords best practices for 2024.

Test New Google Ads Features (Before They Become Mandatory)

More AI, privacy-first conversion tracking, Performance Max campaigns… If you’re not a Google Ads specialist, the changes are overwhelming.

Unfortunately, you can’t ignore them. The best way to adapt is to test.

Which Campaigns Should You Test in 2024?

Demand Generation campaigns will be crucial in 2024, especially as they’re stepping in for Discovery campaigns. If you’re already familiar with Discovery campaigns’ efficiency (killing three birds with one stone by advertising with the Gmail, Discovery feed, and YouTube placements), it’ll be easy to switch to Demand Generation campaigns.

These campaign types look at your best-performing assets and scale them across channels, which now also include YouTube Shorts. Plus, you’ll be able to target lookalike audiences and optimise for conversions.

Google Ads demand generation campaigns in 2024

Performance Max is no longer an option, either. More and more campaigns (including Smart Shopping) are being converted to this all-encompassing campaign type.

pMax campaigns are sometimes daunting, particularly to someone who’s not a PPC expert, but when done right, they can help you expand your audience and reach more of your ideal customers.

Be Mindful of Cannibalisation

If you run other campaigns for the same channels and keywords (or audiences), ensure the new campaigns you test don’t cannibalise your results. You never want to compete against yourself, so consider piloting them on different segments or channels.

Top Google Ads Best Practice in 2024: Respond to Responsive Search Ads

Jump on the bandwagon; shift completely to Responsive Search Ads.

Analyse your successful Expanded Text Ads to find the best-performing assets (headline, descriptions, CTAs, ad features).

image showing how google responsive search ads work
Source: Archer Education

Then, include them as your RSA variants. RSA combines different headline and description options to provide dynamically personalised ads to searchers.

Learn how to set up a successful RSA campaign with The Definitive Guide to Responsive Search Ads.

Consider the Best Way to Switch to Performance Max

Google draws us deeper into its walled garden with Performance Max. pMax delivers your ads on different channels and leverages machine learning to expand your audience, so make the most of Google’s access to searcher data.

If you haven’t started testing and using Performance Max yet, it’s time to add it to your 2024 to-do list! Google is pretty vocal about transforming everything to pMax, and with the newly added AI assistance (e.g., automatically created assets), it’s time to hop on.

Of course, be mindful. While enthusiasm is nice, pMax can result in cannibalisation, spreading your budget too thin, and losing control over your campaigns. Make sure your negative keywords are set up correctly and your ad groups are distinct.

Follow the 2024 Google Ads best practices for Performance Max campaigns, including:

  • Avoiding campaign cannibalisation
  • Optimising for the right intent level
  • Using search themes to supplement gap areas pMax hasn’t found
  • Mapping your asset groups to intent levels and audience signals
  • Adding negative keywords to your account

Learn how to maximise your results with Performance Max campaigns in The Ultimate Guide to Performance Max Campaigns.

Expand Your Audience with New Google Ads Targeting Options

Audience targeting in Google Ads is changing. Similar Audiences are going away, keyword matching is shifting, and in short – you’d be missing out if you only stuck to traditional targeting options.

Make it your mission to explore new Google Ads targeting options in 2024!

Best Practices for Google Ads Targeting in 2024

If you don’t want Google to proactively find new audiences similar to your existing profitable customers, choose Conservative Audience Expansion or shut it off entirely for your Display campaigns. 

However, as a Google Ads specialist with over 15 years of experience, I sincerely recommend testing audience expansion for your most data-backed campaigns. 

Eliminate poor-performing keywords and reduce your budget, but if your campaign is full of historical conversion data from your ideal customers, it’s worth seeing if Google Ads can attract more of them.

Similarly, look into the Customer Match targeting options, allowing you to leverage your first-party data.

(Of course, don’t let go of the reins completely – and if you’re unsure how to implement the strategy, get in touch with me. I’d love to help!)

Try Affinity and Custom Segments

Based on what you know about your audience, add Affinity and Custom segment targeting to your campaigns. These options will allow you to reach people based on their interests, URLs they visited, and apps they’ve used.

And yes, you can use Affinity targeting for your Search campaigns!

Key Google Ads Best Practice in 2024: Always Sanity-Check Automated Suggestions

Many freelance PPC consultants recommend auto-applying Google’s ad recommendations. I’m not one of them.

Why? Multiple clients switched to my services because ad agencies automatically applied recommendations. It drove their Google Ads costs sky-high with low conversions.

Don’t auto-apply recommendations.

Sanity-check them to ensure they make sense for your campaign goals.

The same goes for AI suggestions. Google does have vast amounts of data, but its AI wants to test it. Testing means mistakes, which isn’t ideal for advertisers who want to lower their CPC.

What to Automate in Google Ads in 2024

Disclaimer: make sure you have enough historical conversion data in your accounts or this automation approach won’t work.

What Not to Automate in Google Ads

  • Don’t auto-apply Google AI’s suggestions to your campaigns.
  • Don’t automate audience targeting (wherever possible).
  • Don’t automate ad creation (but feel free to test it and see what the results look like).

Targeting and ad creation are such crucial parts of your PPC campaigns that you never want to leave them up to chance or AI. Even though Google’s machine learning is fantastic, it’s still not the same as a PPC expert who understands your audience’s behaviour.

Similarly, I could share an anecdote or two about Google’s automatic ad creation. Even with pMax automated video creation or RSA automatically-created assets, you’re better off creating the ads yourself or hiring an expert.

Create Your First-Party Data Process and Harness Data

iOS 14 changes were just the beginning. Most ad platforms are pivoting in the privacy-first direction. It’ll be challenging for advertisers to rely on third-party data, so we need to collect more first-party data.

At the same time, Google is rapidly shifting towards machine learning. We get fewer targeting options and less data with every new campaign type. 

It’s a bit of a conundrum. To stay ahead and reach our ideal customers, we have to test and optimise new campaigns and targeting types. At the same time, because of data privacy, most advertisers can’t fully understand the mechanisms behind their success.

Build Your First-Party Data Strategy

Explanation of first, second, and third-party data.
A quick refresher on first-party data. Source: Marketop

The best way to adapt is to start gathering data yourself, from setting up Google Analytics 4 to considering cookieless tracking solutions like RedTrack.  

Then, integrate your data with Google Ads through the PPID system.

Start with looking at every possible channel you can get customer data from. This includes your Customer Relationship Management software, lead gen forms, and more. If you use multiple advertising channels in your marketing strategy, you’ll want to get data from each.

Then, identify gaps in your sources. For example, you may have only used Google Analytics without a CRM.

It’s crucial to have a goal. Yes, you’ll use this data for advertising, but how? 

Decide if you want to visualise the customer journey or split your audience into segments, and identify the right data points you’ll need to harness and contextualise to achieve your goal. Then, stay on top of Google Ads Data Manager changes and centralise your data, so you can personalise your ads!

Ultimately, you should integrate your data. Whether that’s through an analytics tool, in your GA4, or simply by funnelling it to Google Ads, I’ll leave that up to you and your Google Ads management agency

Go Back to Basics with Google Ads in 2024: What Makes Your Campaigns Tick?

If you know how Google Ads works at its foundations, you’ll be able to adapt to a lack of data. 

But first, you have to dive deep into your existing campaigns to identify:

  • Why do they perform so well?
  • Which strategies are you using? Which aspects of them reach your customers successfully?
  • What do your customers’ buyer and keyword journeys look like?
  • Which bidding strategies have worked best for you?

In short: you have to break down your success into its components to understand what you can leverage as a Google Ads best practice in 2024

Learn how to adapt to Google Ads’ iOS 14 privacy changes. 

Google AdWords Best Practice for 2024: There’s No Substitute for Customer Research

Even when Google Ads Search campaigns were at the heights of their popularity, and we had plenty of keyword data, I focused on understanding the customers’ keyword journeys:

How do your customers use keywords at different touchpoints in their purchasing journey?

I.e., How can we step into our customers’ shoes using keywords as a proxy for their actions?

With the new types of campaigns we run these days (from Discovery to Performance Max), the question has expanded. In addition to keywords, look at their entire journey: the websites they visit, their social media discussions, and more.

Once you understand your ideal customers’ behaviour, you’ll be set to leverage Google Ads in 2024 with your own best practices.

Google AdWords Best Practice for 2024: Strengthen Your Negative Keyword List

In light of new match types, you have to either:

  1. be extremely careful, or
  2. hire a Google Ads coach

to ensure your ads don’t show up for the wrong keywords. Your best (and simplest) ward against losing conversions is strengthening your account-level negative keywords list.

Add all keywords that historically generated no conversions to your list. For example:

  • “Free”
  • “Samples”
  • “Free quote”

You could even filter out all information keywords if you only run bottom-of-the-funnel campaigns to get purchase-ready leads. For example:

  • “Definition of”
  • “How to”

Speaking of which…

Tighten up Your Account and Campaign Structure

You’ve probably noticed how fuzzy the new keyword-matching methods are. Google is doing this for a good reason: they want us to rely on AI.

Now, I love testing the AI features, but they’re not there yet. Budgets get wasted. Low-quality leads show up in the funnel.

So, the final 2024 Google Ads best practice I’ll share with you today is to try an exact match campaign structure.

Google ads keyword match types
Source: Wordstream

Create specific ad groups with corresponding ad copy for each campaign.

Your ads will show only when searchers type your specific queries.

With exact match campaigns, your ad would appear for: “the best coaching programs for beginner entrepreneurs in 2024.”

It wouldn’t appear for: “the best coaching programs for entrepreneurs in 2024.”

The best account structure for Google Ads

This is an excellent approach if you’ve extensively tested your Google Ads and found your winning formula. Double down on what works to maintain your ROAS as you try new features separately.

Don’t Forget to Clearly Define Performance Max Search Themes

Similarly, Performance Max wants to use AI and ML as much as possible for campaign targeting. However, there are gaps — and you can make sure nothing slips through them by adding search themes to your ads.

They’ll be treated as phrase and broad match keywords, there to expand your placement.

Reduce Your Cost Per Lead (and Click) with Google Ads Best Practices for 2024

The average cost per lead (and click) is constantly rising. And with the economically challenging times, it’s crucial to make your ad budget go further in 2024.

Now, you could roll back some of your campaigns or not invest in research, but that wouldn’t put you ahead of the competition.

Instead…

Focus on Lead Quality

Get rid of any keywords and campaigns that no longer serve you by pausing them. 

If they drive time-wasters, leads who never go beyond the introductory offer, or simply low-quality prospects that don’t help your business grow year over year, find and eliminate the targeting that’s adding them to your funnel. 

For example, if you see that some keywords have a higher-than-average CPA, pause them.

Increase Your Quality Score

The best way to reduce your CPC (and consequently, your cost per lead) is by increasing your ads’ Quality Score:

  • Strengthen your account structure. Make sure you have dedicated ads and landing pages for each customer segment.
  • Test different keyword match types. For the highest Quality Score, go with “Exact Match.” 
  • Use relevant ad extensions.
  • Research your competitors. What are they doing that’s working well for them? Where are the obvious gaps in their advertising approach? Outshine them and emphasise your differentiators with a different ad experience.

The higher your Quality Score, the lower your CPC!

Consider Remarketing and Competitor Bidding

If your budget is tight, consider remarketing to your existing profitable customers. It’ll be much easier to convince them to buy from your business again since they trust you, but you’ll need a good up-sell or cross-sell offer.

Similarly, bidding on competitors’ brand names has always been my favourite tactic for making an ad budget go further. 

These keywords are usually much cheaper than traditional top and bottom-of-the-funnel keywords. You’ll get more bang for your CPC if you showcase how you’re better than the competition. 

Google Ads Best Practice for 2024: Set up Your Tracking Properly

If you want to scale your campaigns with smart bidding strategies, you’ll need the right data. 

I can’t count all the times I’ve seen ad accounts get lower ROAS than they should be getting just because Google Ads conversion tracking hasn’t been set up properly. 

Once your conversion tracking has been enabled, Google will be able to understand your leads’ behaviour and place accurate bids. Still, check them manually to make sure you’re not bidding more than you’d like to.

Keep an Eye out for Google Ads Placed in the Search Generative Experience

As Google’s team announced in May 2023, they plan to start incorporating ads into the conversations you lead with their AI.

In the future, we can expect ads to be slotted differently in the SGE (Search Generative Experience), too.

Google Ads in the search generative experience

Pay attention to what Google decides to display. In the above example, there’s the title, rating, brief description, brand name, and shortened product description. Knowing what I know about Google, it’s very possible that they’ll auto-generate these descriptions from your landing page – not just from the ad copy you included.

Remember to optimise your landing pages and write compelling copy!

Similarly, Google has announced plans for tailored ads. For example, if a lead searches: “outdoor activities in Maui,” and then narrows down the search to: “activities for kids” and “surfing,” Google might serve them with a unique ad offering surfing lessons for children.

Bonus: Should You Use Automated Google Ads Bidding Strategies in 2024?

Automated and advanced bidding strategies might help you increase your revenue, but I don’t recommend implementing the changes on your own unless you’re an experienced advertiser.

When it comes to testing new bidding strategies, consult a professional. With so many Google Ads changes, accidentally ticking a campaign setting that spirals your budget down is (too) easy.

Advertising in 2024 will be exciting, but remember to test first and follow Google’s hype train second. 

If you need professional assistance with your Google Ads, I’d love to help! Get in touch with me, and let’s maximise your revenue together.

Ready to take the reins? Achieve rapid Google Ads success in 7 easy steps with your copy of my best-selling Google Ads book!

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