3 Opportunities to Take Google Ads From Cost to Investment

Many marketing leaders see Google advertising as a cost item rather than an investment in the business.

This is especially true when Google Ads performance is sluggish.

It’s only when their Google advertising leapfrogs in performance that they start to conceive of the value Google advertising can bring.

Sadly, there’s no magic formula to achieve this leap in performance and change the minds of leadership. However, if you’re looking to take your Google Ads performance to the next level and beyond—here are three areas I would explore.

1. Vertical video ads

YouTube is a great place for many advertisers.

But it can also be a confusing place. YouTube has so many levers you can pull—and a minor adjustment in one area can reverberate across the entire account, good or bad.

Let’s take vertical video ads (i.e. those that play on YouTube shorts), for example. Google Ads has been pushing vertical video ads lately, and they seem to have great potential for B2Cs promoting consumer products.

But do vertical video ads also perform well for B2Bs? In preliminary testing with our B2B clients, vertical video ads have higher CPCs and very low conversions. In contrast, horizontal video assets do well across the board for our non-profit and B2B clients.

Still, we have more testing to do. What happens to performance if we adjust the orientation to square, for example? Or if we pair different orientations with different campaign types, such as a vertical orientation with an Effective Reach campaign? Or a landscape orientation with a Drive Conversions campaign?

YouTube advertising is a rapidly evolving space, so vertical video ad formats should remain on your test-and-learn schedule. Opportunities for optimization will likely present themselves.

The same advice applies to B2Cs marketing consumer products—but in reverse. Even if vertical ads perform well for you, consider testing square and landscape orientations with different campaign types too. You never know what you will find!

2. Campaign types

As with video ads, campaign types are rapidly evolving—with Performance Max at the forefront.

If PMax is performing well, I recommend that you go deeper to make sure all is as it seems. We’ve seen cases where the marketing team is super happy with all the leads PMax campaigns are generating. But when they talk to the sales team, they discover that sales is complaining about junk leads. As always, communication among teams is essential.

Part of the problem lies with PMax reporting. Until recently, we had little visibility into the search terms that trigger these ads. Google Ads introduced a new report to address this shortcoming in February 2023, but even then the new search term data couldn’t be included in scripts.

As my colleague Frederick Vallaeys recently wrote, this bug has now been fixed. Check out his article to get his script and process for optimizing PMax campaigns.

If you haven’t gotten great results with PMax, or haven’t tried it yet, now’s the time. Many advertisers remain wary of PMax, and I’ve seen some advertisers comment that they won’t try a new campaign type until it’s been around for at least a year—enough time to work out all the bugs and know what they’re dealing with.

I understand the sentiment, but I worry that these advertisers are missing out. After all, this is a pattern we see over and over again—Google introduces a new campaign type, everyone hates it for the first 12 months, and one year later, it’s everyone’s darling.

By waiting until everyone is comfortable with the new campaign type, you’ve missed the opportunities that can come with being an early adopter. By testing early, at the very least, you’ll be armed with insights and data when others are just getting started.

3. Your marketing team

If you really want to prove the value of Google advertising and shift the thinking around it, you need to open up a conversation with your marketing team.

When a Google Ads account underperforms, the agency or team managing the account usually gets the blame. But Google advertising doesn’t happen in a vacuum, and performance issues often stem from multiple areas.

Maybe Google increased CPCs so you need to adjust your strategy. Maybe you’re expecting too much from your ads—such as expecting new prospects to fill out a contact form on first acquaintance. Or maybe a minor adjustment made at the request of a stakeholder brought unexpected consequences.

Example: A Google Ads client account we started working on in January previously had steady leads. However, the marketing manager wasn’t happy with the cost per acquisition, so the team added a target CPA.

This wasn’t the wrong thing to do… but it wasn’t exactly right, either. The adjustment ended up slowing leads, likely due to the target CPA being set too low.

This type of mishap is why most Google Ads program managers hesitate to make even seemingly innocuous changes. Things can spiral quickly—and it can be a long, hard road back.

Understanding why performance isn’t what it used to be—or what it could be—means going beyond the blame game. Both stakeholders and ad managers need to align their advertising goals with the business goals so that everyone can win.

Google Ads Is an Investment in Your Business

It’s easy to think of Google Ads as a cost item when you’re cutting a check to Google or a Google Ads agency every month.

But Google advertising can return those costs in leads and brand awareness—and then some—if given the opportunity.

And that may mean taking some big swings in the areas described above.