You’ve heard all about the changes to Google Ads in 2022. Now, the changes coming to Google Ads in 2023 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 2023.
Test New Google Ads Features (Before They Become Mandatory)
ETAs sunsetting, the rise of responsive search ads as the default type, 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. Google is vocal about prioritising automation in the coming years.
The best way to adapt is to test.
Which Campaigns Should You Test in 2023?
If you can afford to set a 10x CPA, try Discovery ads. With proper targeting, you could be pleasantly surprised by their efficiency while killing three birds with one stone (Gmail, Discovery feed, YouTube).
For an advertiser that wants to scale their campaign success, Performance Max is the right fit.
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 2023: 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).
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.
Pilot Your First Performance Max Campaign
Google draws us deeper into its walled garden with a new campaign type: 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.
Be prepared to set aside a portion of your budget for testing Performance Max, but treat it as a learning opportunity.
Follow the 2023 Google Ads best practices for Performance Max campaigns, including:
- Avoiding campaign cannibalisation
- Optimising for the right intent level
- Mapping your asset groups to intent levels and audience signals
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
Make it your mission to explore new Google Ads targeting options in 2023!
Best Practices for Google Ads Automated Targeting in 2023
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.
(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 2023: 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 costs sky-high with low conversions.
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 2023
Disclaimer: make sure you have enough historical conversion data in your accounts or this automation approach won’t work.
- tROAS and tCPA bidding (consider other smart bidding strategies, too)
- Reporting (with scripts)
- Audience expansion (for experimental campaigns)
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.
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, you’re better off creating the ads yourself or hiring an expert.
Create Your First-Party Data Process and Harness Data (Before It’s Taken off the Table)
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.
Update: Google Ads now allows you to use your first-party customer data through Customer Match targeting.
Build Your First-Party Data Strategy
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.
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 2023: 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 2023.
Google AdWords Best Practice for 2023: 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 to work with, 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, you should look at their entire journey; the websites they visit, their discussions on social media, and more.
Once you understand your ideal customers’ behaviour, you’ll be set to leverage Google Ads in 2023 with your own best practices.
Google AdWords Best Practice for 2023: Strengthen Your Negative Keyword List
In light of new match types, you have to either:
- be extremely careful, or
- 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 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 2023 Google Ads best practice I’ll share with you today is to try an exact match campaign structure.
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 2023.”
It wouldn’t appear for: “the best coaching programs for entrepreneurs in 2023.”
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.
Reduce Your Cost Per Lead (and Click) with Google Ads Best Practices for 2023
The average cost per lead across industries has risen by 19%, according to Wordstream’s latest report. And with the economically challenging times, it’s crucial to make your ad budget go further in 2023.
Now, you could roll back some of your campaigns or not invest in research, but that wouldn’t put you ahead of the competition.
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 2023: 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.
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 2023?
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 2023 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!