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  • Conor Mc Niffe

A Technical Deep Dive into Search Advertising Optimization

This blog post will take you on a deep dive into the technical aspects of Search ads performance, covering everything from keyword research and ad copy optimization to bid management and conversion tracking. By the end of this post, you'll have the knowledge and expertise to launch and manage high-performing search ad campaigns that deliver results.

Introduction to Search Ads on Google and Microsoft

Search ads are a form of digital advertising that where the ads appear on search engine results pages (SERPs) when users search for specific keywords that you are bidding to show up for. They operate on a pay-per-click model meaning you only pay when someone clicks on your ad rather than than each time your ad appears. Search ads, available on both Google and Microsoft, can be highly effective in driving high intent, relevant traffic to your website and generating leads or sales. Read About the Differences between Google and Microsoft Search Advertising Platforms.

Understanding Ad Auctions

Ad auctions are the process by which search engines like Google and Microsoft determine which ads to show for a given search query and the order in which they will appear on the search results page. The winner of the ad auction is the advertiser who is willing to pay the most for their ad to be displayed. The amount that an advertiser is willing to pay for a click on their ad is called the bid. The higher the bid, the more likely the ad is to be displayed in a prominent position on the search results page.

In addition to the bid, there are a number of other factors that can affect the position of an ad in the search results, including:

  1. Keyword relevance: The relevance of the keywords in the ad to the search query. Tip: Make sure that the keywords in your ad are relevant to the search query.

  2. Ad quality: The quality of the ad, as determined by factors such as the click-through rate (CTR) and the ad copy. Tip: Make sure that your ad copy is clear, concise, and attention-grabbing.

  3. Landing page quality: The quality of the landing page that the ad links to, as determined by factors such as the relevance of the page to the search query and the user experience. Tip: Make sure that the landing page that your ad links to is relevant to the search query and provides a good user experience cross-device.

Keyword Research Tools To Optimize

Keyword research is essential for successful search advertising. It allows you to identify the keywords that people are using to search for products or services like yours, and to create ads that are relevant to those searches. There are a number of different keyword research tools available, both free and paid. Some of the most popular tools include:

  • Google Keyword Planner: This free tool from Google provides you with search volume data for different keywords, as well as suggested bid prices.

  • SEMrush: This paid tool offers a variety of keyword research features, including competitor analysis, keyword difficulty scores, and organic traffic data.

  • Ahrefs: Another paid tool that provides keyword research data, as well as backlink analysis and competitive intelligence.

  • Moz Keyword Explorer: This tool provides keyword research data, as well as recommendations for improving your website's on-page SEO.

These tools can help you to find relevant and high-performing keywords, analyze competitors' keywords and ad strategies, match keywords to specific ad groups and campaigns, and optimize keyword bids. Once you have launched your campaigns, your own data will become your most reputable source for keyword optimization. By leveraging your search term report and seeing the actual searches users make that prompt your ads to show, you can optimize in two ways: 1) for irrelevant search queries, negate the search term as a negative keyword; and 2) for relevant search queries, add that search term as a keyword in the relevant ad group. By using keyword research and optimization tools, you can improve the effectiveness of your search ad campaigns and get a better return from your advertising budget.

Responsive Search Ads: Ad Copy Optimization

Responsive search ads (RSAs) are the method of creating your Search Ad copies on Google and Microsoft. Responsive Search Ads leverage both the advertiser input and Google or Microsoft's machine learning for the specific user search to create the ad copy in real time. The advertiser provides a minimum of 3 headlines but you can enter up to 15 and a minimum of 2 descriptions but you can enter up to 4. The more input you provide in RSA for each campaign, the more flexibility Google or Microsoft Ads have to personalize your copy into relevant ads, which may improve click-through-rates positively influencing other key metrics like cost per click and conversion rate.

To optimize your ad copy for RSAs, follow these best practices:

  1. Use dynamic keyword insertion (DKI). DKI allows you to insert keywords from a user's search query into your ad copy. This can help to improve your ad relevance and click-through rate (CTR).

  2. Craft compelling headlines and descriptions. Your headlines and descriptions should be clear, concise, and attention-grabbing. They should also highlight the benefits of your product or service and include a call to action. Keep in mind that headlines and descriptions may appear in any order.

  3. Include relevant ad extensions. Ad extensions can provide additional information about your business, such as your location, phone number, and website. They can also help to improve your ad CTR and click-through rate (CTR). We will discuss ad extensions in more detail below.

Ad Extensions Implementation

Ad extensions are additional pieces of information that can be added to your search ads to improve their performance. They can provide more details about your business, such as your location, product prices, or images representing your business. Adding extensions can significantly increase the size of your ad, taking up more space on the search results page making it more likely to attract user attention. There are a variety of different ad extensions available, each with its own unique benefits. Some of the most common ad extensions include:

  1. Sitelink extensions: These extensions allow you to add links to specific pages on your website, such as your product pages or contact page.

  2. Callout extensions: These extensions allow you to add additional text to your ads, such as your business hours or special offers.

  3. Location extensions: These extensions allow you to add your business address and phone number to your ads.

  4. Structured snippets: These extensions allow you to add specific information about your products or services, such as their price, availability, or ratings.

  5. Call extensions: A call extension allows you to include a phone number with your ad, facilitating immediate call conversions from the mobile search results page.

  6. App extensions: These extensions allow you to promote your mobile app and encourage users to download it.

  7. Image extensions: These extensions allow you to display images of your store or products but not your logo.

  8. Lead Form extensions: Lead form extensions allow you to collect user lead information directly from the advertisement in the search results page.

  9. Promotion extensions: These extensions allow advertisers to promote limited-time offers in the search ad.

Ad extensions can be a great way to improve the performance of your search ads and drive more traffic to your website. By using the right extensions, you can make your ads more informative, engaging, and interactive, which can lead to more clicks, conversions, and sales.

Quality Score Algorithms

Quality Score is a metric used by Google and Microsoft to determine the relevance and quality of your ads, keywords, and landing pages. It is a key factor in determining your ad rank and cost-per-click (CPC). Quality Score is calculated using three main components: expected click-through rate (CTR), ad relevance, and landing page experience.

Expected CTR measures how likely people are to click on your ad when it appears in search results. It is based on factors such as the relevance of your ad to the search query, the quality of your ad copy, and your historical click-through rate (CTR). Ad relevance measures how closely your ad matches the search query. It is based on factors such as the presence of the search term in your ad copy, the overall relevance of your ad to the search query, and the quality of your landing page. Landing page experience measures the quality of the user experience on your landing page. It is based on factors such as the relevance of your landing page to the ad, the ease of use of your landing page, and the speed of your landing page.

Quality Score is a dynamic metric that can change over time. It is important to monitor your Quality Score regularly in your keyword report and make adjustments to your campaigns as needed to improve your score and reduce your CPC. Here are some tips for improving your Quality Score:

  • Use relevant keywords in your ad copy.

  • Write clear and concise ad copy that is relevant to the search query.

  • Create a high-quality landing page that is relevant to your ad and easy to use.

  • Improve the speed of your landing page.

  • Monitor your Quality Score regularly and make adjustments as needed.

Bid Management

Setting the right bid amount is essential to the success of your search ad campaign. If you bid too low, your ad may not be shown at all, or it may be shown in a less prominent position. If you bid too high, you may be wasting money on clicks that don't convert. The ideal bid amount is the one that generates the most conversions at the lowest possible cost. As such, bid management is a dynamic and evergreen component of search advertising optimization.

There are a number of different bid strategies that you can use to achieve your desired results. Manual CPC allows you to set a maximum bid for each keyword. Automated bidding uses algorithms to set bids for you based on your campaign goals and budget. Target CPA (cost per acquisition) sets bids to achieve a specific cost per conversion. It is important to experiment with different bid strategies as well as the bidding tactics to ensure continuous learning and optimization.

In addition to setting the right bid amount, you can also optimize your bids based on device, location, time of day, and other targeting options. This allows you to show your ads to the people who are most likely to convert, and to avoid wasting money on clicks from people who are not interested in your product or service.

Conversion Tracking

Conversion tracking is essential for measuring the success of your search ad campaigns. It allows you to track the actions that people take on your website after clicking on your ads, such as making a purchase, signing up for a newsletter, or downloading a file. To set up conversion tracking, you will need to use Google Tag Manager and Google Analytics 4. Google Tag Manager is a free tool that allows you to easily add tracking code to your website. Google Analytics 4 is a free web analytics service that can be used to track website traffic and conversions. Learn more about Google Analytics 4 (GA4) with our step by step guide.

There are a few common mistakes that people make when setting up conversion tracking. One mistake is to not track all of the important conversion actions. For example, if you are selling products on your website, you should track how many people are adding products to their carts, how many people are initiating checkout, and how many people are completing purchases, not just the latter. Another mistake is to not set up conversion tracking correctly. Conversion tracking can be a complex process but is the most important component of your Search Advertising set up so ensure that the stakeholders responsible for your Search Ads are reputable in this area. The same recommendation applies across all digital advertising channels - without trust in the conversion set up, the associated advertising data cannot tell a reliable story.

Attribution Models

Attribution models are an essential part of measuring the performance of your search ad campaigns. They help you understand which ad interactions led to a conversion, so you can allocate credit to the appropriate channels and optimize your campaign accordingly.

There are several different attribution models available, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. The most common models are:

First-click attribution: This model gives all the credit for a conversion to the first ad that a customer clicks on. This is the simplest model to implement, but it can be misleading if customers click on multiple ads before converting.

Last-click attribution: This model gives all the credit for a conversion to the last ad that a customer clicks on. This can be more accurate than first-click attribution, but it can also be misleading if customers click on multiple ads after the one that actually led to the conversion.

Position-based attribution: This model gives credit to the ads that appear in the top positions on the search results page, regardless of whether they were clicked on. This can be useful for understanding the impact of ad position on conversions, but it can be misleading if customers click on ads in lower positions.

Data-driven attribution: This model uses historical data to determine which ad interactions are most likely to lead to a conversion. This can be the most accurate attribution model, but it can also be complex to implement and manage.

Custom attribution models: You can also create your own custom attribution models in Google Analytics. This gives you the flexibility to allocate credit to ad interactions in any way you want.

The best attribution model for your business will depend on your specific goals and objectives. If you're not sure which model to use, start with last-click attribution and then experiment with other models to see what works best for you.

Ad Fraud Detection Prevention

Ad fraud is a significant concern for advertisers, as it can lead to wasted ad spend and inaccurate campaign data. Here are some strategies to detect and prevent ad fraud:

Click-Through Rate (CTR) Monitoring: Monitor the CTR of your ads to detect any unusual spikes or drops. A sudden increase in CTR could indicate click fraud, while a sudden decrease could indicate ad blocking.

IP Address Filtering: Use IP address filtering to block traffic from known bot networks and proxy servers. This can help prevent bots from clicking on your ads or skewing your campaign data.

Bot Filtering: Enable bot filtering in your ad platform to automatically detect and block bot traffic. Most ad platforms have built-in bot filtering capabilities, or you can use third-party bot detection services.

Conversion Tracking: Set up conversion tracking to measure the actions that users take after clicking on your ads, such as making a purchase or signing up for a newsletter. This can help you identify any discrepancies between clicks and conversions, which could indicate ad fraud.

Third-Party Fraud Detection Services: Consider using third-party fraud detection services that specialize in detecting and preventing ad fraud. These services often use sophisticated algorithms and machine learning to identify fraudulent traffic.

Regular Audits: Regularly audit your ad campaigns to identify any suspicious activity. This includes reviewing click data, conversion data, and user behavior. By staying vigilant and taking proactive measures, you can help protect your ad campaigns from ad fraud and ensure that your ad spend is being used effectively.

Advanced Analytics

Advanced analytics techniques can provide even deeper insights into the performance of your search ad campaigns. Google Analytics 4 is a powerful tool that can be used to track website traffic and conversions, and it can be integrated with Google Ads to provide even more detailed data about your campaigns. Cross-device tracking and user journey analysis can help you understand how users interact with your ads and website across different devices, and data visualization and reporting with Google Looker Studio can help you make sense of all the data and create impactful reports. Advanced segmentation and audience creation allow you to target your ads more effectively, and machine learning and AI-powered insights can help you optimize your campaigns for maximum performance. By leveraging these advanced analytics techniques, you can gain a deeper understanding of your search ad campaigns and make informed decisions to improve their performance.


In conclusion, optimizing search ads performance requires a comprehensive understanding of the various factors that influence ad success. By conducting thorough keyword research, crafting compelling ad copy, optimizing Quality Score, utilizing ad extensions, implementing effective bid management strategies, setting up conversion tracking, choosing the right attribution model, preventing ad fraud, and leveraging advanced analytics techniques, you can elevate your search ad campaigns to drive the best ROI for your advertising.

Sign up for a free digital advertising audit and let our team of experts analyze your current campaigns, identify areas for improvement, and provide actionable recommendations to boost your performance and achieve your business goals.

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