Whether you’re looking to launch your first Google Ads campaign, or you’re dealing with plateaued results, you may be wondering how to better tap into Search, Display, Discovery, Shopping, and Video Ads for your business. Unravel the mystery behind Google’s wide variety of ad options with Jyll Saskin Gales as she empowers us to tap into new audiences, boost brand visibility, and achieve remarkable results.
Rich: My guest today is a marketing coach, consultant, and trainer. She advises business owners and marketers across industries helping them get the best ROI from their marketing. She also teaches at Google for Startups, Camp Tech, Jelly Academy, Elevate, boutique agencies, Fortune100 companies, and her own Learn with Jill platform.
She is TikTok’s resident The Google Pro, with more than 60,000 followers tuning in for her bite-sized actionable marketing tips. She previously worked at Google for six years and has an MBA from Harvard Business School. Today we’ll be diving into Google ads with Jyll Saskin Gales. Jyll, welcome to the podcast.
Jyll: Thanks for having me, Rich.
Rich: So you work with a lot of clients on their Google ads. I’m guessing that some of these businesses are new to Google ads, and some have existing campaigns that are already running. How do you approach these two groups? Is it the same approach, or is it a very different approach?
Jyll: What’s the same about both of these groups is we always want to make sure we have a strategy, a plan of action before diving right into the platform. But where it gets really different is how much education I offer along the way and the kinds of tactics we’ll use.
For example, if I’m working with a business owner and coaching them and they’ve never used Google ads before, I’ll say, “Do you want to know how the sausage gets made, or do you want me to just tell you what to do?” And some people want to really understand what is the action and what are my options. And some people say, “You know what? I’m a business owner. I’ve got enough to worry about, just tell me what to do.”
And then same on the marketer side, there are some people who are Google ads specialists who want to become as advanced as they can. And so we’ll get into every little nitty gritty detail together. Others are maybe Facebook ads freelancers and one client asked them to run some Google ads as well. And so they’re like, just give me the TL;DR so I can get this up and running. So it’s a real mix.
Rich: Okay. Sometimes we talk about display versus discovery when it comes to Google ads. Can you explain what they are and the pros and cons of each?
Jyll: Absolutely. So most people think of search ads when you think of Google ads, go to Google, type something in, see the text ad. But Google ads also offers image-based ads and video ads. And if you want to just run image-based ads in Google, your options are, display and discovery. And that’s about where the similarities stop.
What’s different about them is display ads run across millions of websites and apps across the internet. So if you’re reading the news or playing a game and you see an ad pop up, that could be from the Google Display Network or one of its competitors.
Google Discovery only runs on Google owned property. So if you run a discovery campaign, your ads will not show in billions of places around the internet. They will only show in YouTube, Gmail, or the discovery feed. Which is like the newsfeed on Android phones, and if you have the Google app on your iPhone, you’ll see some news in there as well. That’s the discovery feed. So because of that, I personally find that the quality of traffic is really different between these two campaign types. Discovery tends to have very high quality because these are logged in users, Google knows exactly who they are. That makes the targeting capabilities really powerful.
Whereas on display, it’s random people across the internet. Google does not have the same amount of data, so the targeting tends to not be as powerful. But that being said, they can both be great options for advertisers depending on what your objective is. If you are running an awareness campaign, for example, you can’t do that with discovery. You can only bid for awareness in a display campaign. Discovery campaigns can only run a conversion objective.
But all in all things being equal, I generally recommend starting with this discovery first because I do just find the quality of leads to be higher if you’re a lead gen business, and the traffic quality overall to be better.
Rich: If somebody’s just starting out, do you always start them with search ads or might you also include shopping, display, or YouTube?
Jyll: Search is where I start I would say 80% of the time. It’s just the bread and butter. It’s what people come to Google for is search. And then expanding from there, I usually will then go to shopping pretty quickly if we’re in an e-commerce space. Or I’ll add something like discovery or video ads like YouTube, they tend to have quite similar targeting options.
The barrier to those is often that people don’t have good video creative to get started, and it’s just easier to create an image ad than to create a video ad from a creative perspective. Performance Max is the one campaign to rule them all in Google ads where you can run search shopping, display, discovery, and YouTube all out of one campaign type.
And so while Google is really trying to push that for all kinds of businesses, I’ve personally found that Performance Max works best when you already have a history in your account of running Google ads, you understand how it works, you figured out what creative converts, and you can spend at least $50 a day in just that one campaign. So for newer advertisers, that tends to not be the right fit, in my experience.
Rich: I’ve heard people complain about Performance Max, that you just don’t have enough control over where your ad spend is going and the creatives. Do you find that to be true? And are there ways of maybe circumventing that problem?
Jyll: I absolutely find that to be true, and that’s the whole point of Performance Max. I used to work at Google and there really is this mentality there that AI knows best, and automation is the answer. And humans, as well meaning as we are, can get in the way because there are certain things humans do better and certain things machines do better. And figuring out the right bid and the right creative for the right auction millions of times a day, machines just do that better if they have the right data.
And that’s the big ‘if’ that I didn’t see anybody really talking about at Google and that I like to tell people a lot about now. If you do not have a website that converts well, Performance Max will not work well for you. Not because Performance Max is the issue, because your website’s the issue. Or if you have never created image or video ads before you’ve only ever done search and you try your hand at that for the first time, your ads will probably suck. And Performance Max won’t perform well because your creative sucks, not because Performance Max is the issue.
So because of that, there can definitely be a learning curve. Performance Max is not a one size fits all solution. But that being said, I will give Google credit that they have been listening to a lot of feedback from the industry. Not necessarily adding more control, but adding a bit more transparency. So you do get better reporting now to understand what kind of searches you’re serving on, which of your products are showing up if you are showing products.
Recently Google announced that now you do have the ability to exclude brand search from Performance Max if you want to. So someone is searching ‘agents of change’ and you don’t want to have to show an ad on that, you’re like, oh, I’ll probably pick them up organically. You can do that if you want to. That’s brand new. So there are a few workarounds, but all in all, if you’re going to use Performance Max, you need to be bought in to the idea that automation, given the right data and time, will outperform what you could do manually. If you don’t believe that, then there’s no point in going towards an automated solution.
Rich: All right. If we’re just starting out or we don’t like Performance Max, and maybe we’re starting with a few different campaign types like search and display, is there a way of knowing that we’ve spread ourselves too thin? Or is there a monthly budget that we should not go under? And I’m sure there’s a certain amount of ‘it depends’ in there, but just what you’ve seen out in the field working with other types of businesses.
Jyll: Yeah, there’s always a certain amount of ‘it depends’. I would say each campaign you’re running should have a bare minimum of $20 a day. So $600 a month, and that’s per campaign. And that operates under the assumption you’re operating in a relatively small area. You’re not trying to target the whole U.S. You’re operating on a relatively niche product or service area, you’re not some giant e-commerce store with 200 SKUs. So just your small business in a small area, just getting online $20 a day per campaign. So if you are on search and discovery and YouTube, that would be $60 a day. Most businesses are not that small and niche.
So actually most businesses I encounter who are just getting started on Google Ads, I advise them to designate something more like $50 to $100 dollars a day to start, and to be willing to let that go for at least 30 days, preferably more like 60 days. Because often the way these things work when you’re just getting started is performance sucks at first until the machine learns and figures it out, and then it gets better. And of course, if you don’t have the patience, then you’ll not be there to see it get better. So that’s why I always say you need the data and you need the patience to make Google ads do the best it can do for you.
Rich: A lot of agencies, like if you’re working with an ad agency, set spending minimums. And it seems like the magic number for years has been $1,500. It may have gone up, it may have gone down, whatever the case is. But what is the argument for setting a minimum of, say, a seemingly arbitrary number like $1,500 a month? And what do you say to clients who are like, but I only want to spend $600 a month?
Jyll: I think it makes sense for agencies to set minimums, partly because often agencies get paid as a percentage of ad spend, so they need you spending enough to justify their fee. And also because as an agency they need to have some wiggle room to test and learn and iterate and try new things. So I’m supportive of agencies setting whatever minimums they need to make it worth their time to service you as a client and to be able to have the leeway to drive great results.
If a business owner comes and only wants to spend, $600 a month, bare minimum, fine. But often what happens in the next sentence is they’ll say, I want to try this and that and the other, and I saw this YouTube video about this other campaign type, and oh while we’re at it, can we also do that? No. So it’s really that balance and trade off and understanding that $600 per month is the bare minimum starting point. The more you spend generally, the better you’ll do.
And there are actually studies that show this. As annoying as it is, the more you spend, the better results you’re going to get. Because you’re often able to be a bit more patient. You’re giving the algorithms more data to learn faster. And so that’s why it’s tricky out there for a small business in this world getting on Google ads.
But as marketers, it’s our job to. Of course it’s fun to have the clients who spend a million dollars a day on Google ads. I worked with clients like that while I was at Google. And when you’re spending a million dollars a day, it’s hard to not get good results with that. But not every advertiser has that level of investment to put towards ads or any marketing tactic.
Rich: Yeah. So you mentioned campaign, and it’s just interesting. I was just in a meeting with my team and we’re talking about social ads, not search ads, but the same kind of idea about a campaign. You described campaigns, in this case at least, of being like search ads versus display versus shopping, say. But often, campaigns might be around specific things. I may have three things that I offer that might require three different campaigns. Is that correct? And how do you think about campaigns maybe outside of the official Google definition?
Jyll: Yeah, so when I think of a campaign, when I’m doing a marketing training not just a Google Ads training, a campaign is when you’re trying to reach a specific group of people and get them to do a specific thing.
So if you are a clothing company, and you are trying to advertise your pants, you may have one campaign that advertises pants to teenage girls and another campaign that advertises pants to, I don’t know, silver surfers as we call them, right? Those could be two separate campaigns. Or you could put them together in the same campaign, but a key difference between Google Ads and other ad platforms is that in Google Ads your budget is set at the campaign level. So if I apply the same budget and across kind of my teenage audience and my silver surfer audience Google will see working at the best performance and then put the most there. So I may end up spending all my budget, for example, on silver surfers and getting no sales from teenagers, if that is fine for my business.
A-okay fine. But using a campaign to target something tells Google whatever you can do within here is fine by me. And so that’s where the terminology we use as marketers versus Google ads specialists can be a bit different because budget is set at the campaign level. Location is set at the campaign level. So if you were selling the same product or service across multiple locations, you will likely want multiple campaigns. Your bid strategy and bid targets are set at the campaign level. So if you sell one product where you have a 10% profit margin and another product where you have an 80% profit margin, you may want those in separate campaigns.
So there’s a few things that can help you determine in the Google Ads context, what is a campaign versus not a campaign, outside of how we as marketers usually would define that.
Rich: That’s very, very helpful. For the clients or for the businesses out there that have been running Google Ads for a while and they were doing well but they’ve seemed to plateau, what are some things that we can do to jumpstart a stagnant Google Ads campaign?
Jyll: I get this question all the time because I perform Google Ads audits very often for people who’ve been running Google ads a long time. And so the first thing I would suggest is just to audit what’s going your account. You can hire an outside person, but you don’t need to, you can do this yourself. And I always like to start an audit with the data foundation. I’ve used the word data a lot here because it’s so important. And the data foundation is looking at your conversion, tracking your customer data, and your audiences, because that is what’s going to feed into whether or not you have good results. And if you’ve been doing Google ads for a very long time, chances are someone set this up eight years ago who no longer works at the company and no one has taken a look at it since.
So first of all, what are you even counting as a conversion? What feedback are you giving to Google about what works and what doesn’t work? There may be opportunities to update that. And then customer data. This is more and more important, especially with the deprecation of third party cookies coming along.
So you know, you have customer information, whether it’s an email subscriber list, a database of existing customers, a lead list, whatever may be, and if you’re not sharing that with Google, you are missing out. Because that is the best signal as to who is a customer or is likely to be a customer. And then other audiences are leveraging, whether it’s a remarketing list, people who have viewed your YouTube videos before, people who’ve downloaded your app if you have an app, et cetera. So getting those key pieces in place and taking a look there, you can often discover, oh geez, we’re missing out on some opportunities by not having that.
Opportunities beyond that, what are things you can do to kickstart performance if it’s really plateaued. Often I’d say the answer is outside Google ads. It’s your website. I’d say eight times out of 10 if someone comes to me and says, “My Google ads are not performing well”, it’s because their website is not performing well, not because the Google ads themselves aren’t performing well. And that is an issue.
Again, there are people who specialize in conversion rate optimization, but the market and consumer behavior has changed so much over the last couple years. First we all went into a pandemic. Then we’ve come out of a pandemic, and then economic uncertainty. And a lot of people have not changed the way their customer experience and their website works. So that’s actually the second place I would point people if your Google ads performance has been lagging, is to revisit your website.
And even taking a step back from that, the overall user journey of someone first coming in, to when they purchase, to post-purchase. Beyond that, of course there’s the different tips and tricks and stuff in the platform. But I would say those two are the unsexy things, but the things that are going to have the greatest impact on your Google ads performance, your data foundation, and then your actual website experience and user journey.
Rich: Alright. That was great. I do have a couple of follow up questions though. So I think at one point you said you want to make sure that you’re sharing that customer data or customer information with Google. What active steps do we need to be taking to share that, that Google doesn’t already know, if any? I guess I’m just trying to understand that piece.
Jyll: The actual mechanistic process is super easy. You just upload a CSV file of email addresses or phone numbers or whatever you have, and Google will match it, and they do it in a whole privacy, safe way, hashed, et cetera, et cetera. You can read that out center article for the full details.
Part of that is the onus is on you as the business owner or as the agency is doing this, just to make sure that those people have opted in. So it is against Google ads policy, for example, to buy a list of email addresses from somewhere and then target ads to them. Will Google know whether you’ve done that or not? No. But just it is, for example, against policy to do that. And Google actually puts safeguards in place that Meta does it. So if you’re running Meta ads, Facebook ads, you can also upload a list at any time and just show ads that create a lookalike off that list, et cetera. And Google, in order to use this feature, it’s called Customer Match in Google, you have to have been an advertiser for at least 90 days and you have to have at least $50,000 in lifetime spend on Google ads.
Rich: Wow, okay.
Jyll: So that cuts out a lot of people. But it also puts the safeguards in place that holds bad actors back that they can’t just launch a Google ads account and buy a bunch of spam leads and try to run ads to all of them.
One more thing I actually will mention that’s important along this line, Rich. One more thing that people always get confused about that’s important to mention, is be really careful with this. If you also do email marketing, because one of the placements your Google ads can run in Performance Max or discovery is Gmail. And so if someone has opted out of receiving marketing emails from you, but then totally unrelated they then get advertised to out of the Gmail ad, that can cause some confusion. So that’s another consideration to keep in mind with this list. You can also use customer email addresses as exclusions, not just people to advertise to.
Rich: Jyll, this is great. Every answer you give me, I have two more questions. As we think about the emails that we’re going to share if we reach that criteria, it also just makes me wonder. When I think about search ads, my number one thing is that I’m big on keywords, right? So we’re focused on intent here. I know I have geographic constraints that I can put on my ads, day of the week, time of day, all that sort of stuff. What are the filtering and demographics that I can do? Like can I target just women or just men of a certain age? And what other demographics and filters will impact who sees my ads?
Jyll: Search specifically?
Rich: Search specifically. Yeah. Like if somebody’s searching for web design or Google ads training or plastic bunnies, whatever it is.
Jyll: Yeah, so most of Google’s audience targeting solutions are available in search, and this is something most people don’t realize. So you can do what you mentioned, just target men or women, certain age, certain household income is available in certain countries. But beyond that, you can show ads to people or not show ads to people based on if they visited your website before, if they’re on your customer list, if Google knows that they’re in market for business services, or that they recently bought a home, or that they’re a luxury shopper, or whatever it might be.
So the best way to think about it is Google has its own audiences you can use off the shelf. Like I want to reach people who are in market for a luxury vehicle, and Google knows who those people are. You can just target them. And then there’s also audiences based on your data. So I’m going to bring my customer list, or I’m going to install the remarketing tag on my website and bring what I know about people to Google to show ads.
And then there’s a third kind, but it’s not available in search. So we’ll park that for later. So then with your search campaign, you can decide, do I want to show ads to everyone searching for Google Ads training, or do I only want to show an ad if they’re searching for Google Ads training and they recently started a business and are age 35 are over, for example. So you can use audiences to limit who you reach. The search still has to be there, right? And they have to meet these criteria.
Or there’s another option called observation where you can say, I want to show my ads, or I want to enter the auction to show my ads to anyone searching for Google Ads training. But if they also recently started a business and over the age of 35, just make a note of that in my reporting. And so that’s often a good way to start because you may think you know who your target customer is, and then it turns out you don’t actually know who your target customer is.
And so by starting on this observation setting, you can just see who is converting and what those audience interests are, and then decide if you do want to narrow your targeting further or not. Or you can take those insights and use them in a different campaign like Discovery or something because you find out, hey, what do you know? It’s not people who recently started a business, it’s people who recently bought a home, they happen to convert really well for me.
Rich: That makes a lot of sense. And I did not know about that observation feature. So let’s just say that we want to target lawyers for some service that we’re providing. So if I want to target, and let’s say it’s document storage. I’m going to run search ads around ‘document storage’ or ‘document scanning’, whatever the right terminology is, and I can also filter that down so it’s likely that only dentists will see it, but only if they search for that.
If I also want to show ads, and I don’t know how big an audience that actually is, but whatever. But if I also want to show ads to those dentists who maybe aren’t currently searching for document scanning, but that’s something that they’re likely to buy if they knew about it, then I might go something with like display ads. Does that make sense? Is that the approach you might take?
Jyll: It does make sense. And in the example you mentioned, trying to reach dentists and the thing you offer is document scanning, right? So search is about people searching for document scanning, but it’s going to be really hard to filter and only show if they’re also a dentist. There’s not an audience of dentists that are available. You’re going to get anyone searching for ‘document scanning’. And you can try to weed it out, but dentists is a great example because it’s a hard one. There’s not an off the shelf audience for that.
So what might work better in that example is say, okay, rather than going after what I sell, I’m going to go after the audience I’m trying to reach, which is how we use Meta ads, right? Because Meta doesn’t have intent like Google does. And so you can create the third kind of audience, which I alluded to earlier, which is called a custom segment. And so through that you can use Google’s data about people, but sliced and diced in a way that’s unique to your business.
So when you create a custom segment or custom audience, you can do it based on things people search for based on websites they visit, or based on apps they have on their phone. So if you wanted to reach dentists, I’d recommend creating a custom segment. And you could do that by thinking, what are things that only dentists search for? Doesn’t matter if it has to do with document storage, what would only a dentist search for? We could put those in there. Or what are websites that only dentists visit? Is there like a Reddit type thing for dentists or dentist industry associations or dentistry conferences or websites that sell dentist office equipment? I don’t know. And then with apps, are there certain apps that only dentists would have on their phone? Not people looking to get their teeth cleaned, but just the dentists.
So you can create this custom audience based on what you know about dentists, and then go out and show ads to them. I’d probably start with discovery or video rather than display, that’s my own bias. And then show them your great document storage and why they should consider that.
Rich: Awesome. You mentioned dentist isn’t an off-the-shelf audience. Can you just give us a couple examples of what is an off-the-shelf audience that you know of?
Jyll: Yeah, there’s hundreds of them. I’ll give you the broad categories of what exists. So there’s your demographics, age, gender, household income, but also education level, parental status, industry you work in, size of companies. So that’s your demographics.
There are in-market audiences. That’s people who in those are currently shopping for something. It could be in market for a new home, in market for shoes, in market for trips to Singapore. There’s again, hundreds of these in-market audiences.
Then there are affinity audiences. So unlike an in-market audience where I’m in market for a trip to Singapore. I book the trip and then Google realizes I’m no longer in market for that trip and I leave that audience. An affinity audience is something consistent over time. Like I am someone who is a green living enthusiast. Next year I will still be a green living enthusiast. Or I’m someone who’s a luxury shopper or a value shopper, or I frequently eat dinner outdoors, whatever it might be.
And then life event targeting. So there are a bunch of life events you can target off the shelf, and you can target people who are going to do that thing or recently did that thing. So about to retire, recently retired, about to start a business, recently started a business, about to start a new job, recently started a new job, et cetera.
And again, there’s about a dozen of those different life events, so I could be forgetting one off the top of my head, but those are the main, off shelf Google audiences you can pick from. And if you just Google ‘ads audiences’, you can go to Google’s help center to see a full list.
Rich: This has been great. And honestly, I’ve taken more notes than I almost ever have before. And I’ve got more questions for you, but we’ll have to have you come back another time. I know that you’ve got Google Ads courses for people who are interested. What are some of the things that you teach in your Google ad courses that our audience might be interested in?
Jyll: Absolutely. So my landmark course is called Inside Google Ads. And actually, initially when I started my business about two years ago, people kept asking me to create a Google Ads course and I said ‘no’. Google has their own training. People have done that. I don’t need to do that. But people kept asking me. And what I learned that what was missing was someone to actually show you in the Google Ads platform, step by step, how to do things. That’s something Google doesn’t offer and that I haven’t seen many people out there offer.
So I offer Inside Google Ads as a subscription membership program because you get a monthly meeting with me, and I’m updating it every month as the platform changes. So there’s more than 80 lessons, and I show you how to do all the things we spoke about today plus many more. It’s called Inside Google Ads.
Rich: Awesome. And for people who want to learn more about you, check you out online, where can we send them?
Rich: Awesome. And we’ll have all of those links in the show notes. Jyll, an absolute pleasure. Thank you so much for swinging by today.
Jyll: Thank you, Rich. I’ll talk to you soon.
Jyll Saskin Gales has taken her knowledge form working at Google and turned that into a marketing consultancy with insider knowledge of their products to help marketers and business owners better understand and utilize all that Google ads have to offer. Check out her website for info on her and her courses. Follow her on TikTok, or virtually any social platform.
Rich Brooks is the President of flyte new media, a web design & digital marketing agency in Portland, Maine, and founder of the Agents of Change. He’s passionate about helping small businesses grow online and has put his 25+ years of experience into the book, The Lead Machine: The Small Business Guide to Digital Marketing.