The Complete Guide to “Google Ads” for Managed Service Providers (MSPs)
You will learn some actionable, step by step techniques to create ads that reach your target audience, convert your website visitors and perform better than all of your competition.
Uncover your competitors’ ad strategy
Setting up your Google Ads campaign
Creating your Ad Copy
Optimizing your Ad
Ok so you’ve been failing at running Google Ads for your IT business. You’ve watched your Ad budget melt away faster than an ice cream cone on a hot sunny day all the while literally nobody was picking up the phone to call your MSP or filling out that form on your landing page. Your ads have been failing one after the other; no leads, no calls, no conversions; just a bottomless money pit.
What’s happening? And why does it look like so many Ad agencies have no clue how to run a successful Google Ads campaign for IT companies?
That’s because Google Ads have everything to do with the end customer, you know the people buying your IT services. If you start a Google Ads campaign without getting a clear understanding of who you’re targeting, what they’re searching for and what would convince them to choose you over anyone else, you will end up spinning your wheels and wasting away all your budget.
In this guide, I will walk you through all the steps you need to take to be successful at running Google ads for your IT company. I will show you how to find the right keywords for your campaign, how to optimize your ad for performance, how to spy on your competition and steal their best ad strategies and finally how to create a killer landing page that will convert your visitors into buyers.
Creating a successful Google Ads campaign doesn’t start on the Google Ads platform. Before you even log into the Google Ads platform, you must take some time to really understand who you’re targeting with your ad.
If you were a potential client for an MSP, what search terms would you be using when looking for one? What would be your state of mind before doing that search? What situation are you finding yourself in that would compel you to seek an MSP?
These are very important questions to ask yourself before setting up ads. I won’t bore you with the “buyer’s journey” lecture, it’s just marketing jargon for something you know too damn well; Who is it that needs your help? What pushes them to knock on your door? What are the pressing problems that they can’t wait to drop on your lap?
I’ve lost count of how many ad campaigns I’ve seen for IT companies that only target keywords like: “IT support (insert = location)”. “IT support” can be a good keyword to target but when everyone is fighting for the same keyword, you will find yourself in a bidding war that will eat away all your budget when you could be getting much better results by being more strategic about your keyword selection.
So, let’s start by doing a keyword research to find out what people are searching for online that could get them to buy your IT services.
Google Keyword Planner is a great tool to discover search terms to run your ad against, but funny thing is that Google Keyword Planner is only available to you after you’re done setting up your ad, go figure the logic behind that!
So, let’s use another great tool to do your keyword research: Moz Keyword Explorer. Moz is a great SEO tool that can really help you with your discovery process.
You can sign up for a free 30-day trial and start exploring potential search terms for your ad.
Let’s try “IT support London” and see what the list of recommended suggestions is.
You need to pay attention to the search volume; that’s how many times a month people search for that term and consequently how many times your ad could be seen and clicked on.
This is where I like to dig into the keyword suggestions list to find search terms that have a good volume, and for which the competition is quite low.
The way non-IT people refer to IT services can be far off the mark from an IT professional’s perspective. The keyword suggestion list will give you insights into what words people are actually using to search for your services.
For example, you would think that people think about you as an “outsourced IT” company, but if you look at the monthly search volumes for keywords like “outsourced IT”, “outsourced IT support” or “outsourced IT services” we are in the single digits numbers.
People don’t search for “outsourced IT” when they are looking for an MSP. It might seem surprising but it’s a reality you need to take into account. You create ads for people, and understanding what people are searching for is the key element to a successful ad campaign.
I came across this rather odd but interesting keyword that has a decent monthly search volume of 63: “IT maintenance companies”.
People searching for “IT maintenance companies” might be looking for someone to help them manage their fleet of devices and if that is a service you offer, that could be a great target for your ad.
Search phrases that include words like “companies” generally carry buying intent so even if the monthly search volume is not high, it might be an interesting target for your ad specially if your competition is not bidding on those keywords.
So how do you find out what keywords your competition is bidding on, what ads they’re currently running and what’s working for them or not?
Uncover your competitors’ ad strategy!
You can even see the details of their ads copy for each keyword they’re targeting.
Now that you know what keywords you should go after and what your local competition’s ad strategy is, it’s time to build your ad.
Setting Up your Google Ads Campaign.
You will also get the option to generate a code to track conversions on your website.
Read between the lines, if the budget you’ve selected remains unspent because not enough people see your ads in search, Google will use that budget to display your ad in their network.
What is the Display Network?
According to Google, the Display Network is a collection of websites—including specific Google websites like Google Finance, Gmail, Blogger, and YouTube—that show ads. It’s impossible to get your hands on the complete list of websites included in Google’s Display Network. It can range from large news websites to any website that wants to monetize their content by signing up for Ad Sense. There are ways you could optimize your ad on the Display Network by choosing specific audiences based on their interests, demographics, or whether they’ve visited your website before.
But if your goal is to maximize your ad’s performance by honing on actual buying intent for your “IT services”, stick with the “Search Network” option and untick the “Include Google search partners” box.
Your ads will show a lot of impressions because they’re being showcased on all those other websites but they’re not converting because the people that are seeing them are not actually on the market to buy your IT services.
Some unscrupulous Ad agencies intentionally include the display option to rack up impressions (number of times your ad is seen) and give you the illusion that your ad is performing when the most important metrics like “clicks” and “conversions” are painfully low.
Like stated previously, running a successful Google Ad campaign is about having a clear understanding of who you’re targeting and what would convince them to choose you.
If you believe that your prospective clients need some nurturing before buying from you, you can run ads on the “Display Network” or include “Google Search partners”. People that are not necessarily on the market to buy from you will see your ads and be exposed to your brand.
One way that Display ads could work for an IT company, is by limiting the ads’ visibility to a very specific geographic location. People from your local area, visiting websites on the Google Display Network would then get familiar with your brand and services.
For your ad to reach its intended audience, you need to target the right locations. Select all the locations where your ad should be visible.
Select an audience for your ad by browsing the options available to you. For IT services, socio-demographic characteristics like marital or parental status might be less relevant to you but you might want to optimize the “employment” and “industry” sections in the “Who they are” tab.
If applicable, choose your target customer’s company size or vertical.
Audiences targeting setting
This is a time where I would actually advise you to not narrow the reach of your campaign and leave the “Observation” option selected. It’s a good practice if you’re not yet a consummate ad professional. It will give you the option to test your ad on a larger audience while being able to maximize your reach to your ideal audience by adjusting your bids.
Budgets and bidding
If you’re new at running Google Ads, set an average daily budget that you’re comfortable with spending for a 30-day period. You can always adjust your budget at any given time.
See below chapters in this guide on optimizing your bidding strategies.
Using effective Ad extensions will make your Ad stand out from all the other generic IT ads.
Create “Callout extensions” that showcase characteristics that make your business unique and that could decide someone to call you rather than your competitor.
“Callout extensions” are limited to 25 characters and you need to enter at least 2 for a maximum of 4.
See below 3 effective “Callout extensions” options that you can use on your ad.
Structured snippets highlight specific aspects of products or services you sell. These are predefined headers you can choose from.
If you’re aligned with specific technology brands, you could choose “brands” header and list some of your more prominent technology partners:
Setting up Ad groups
Now that you’re done setting up your campaign settings, you’re on to the next step; setting up your ad groups.
You can use “match types” to define how broad or narrow your keyword should match a query.
See in the example below how you can use punctuation to widen or narrow down your keyword’s reach.
Creating negative match types could help you exclude unwanted traffic from people that you know are not your target customer but that could potentially click on your ad, like people looking for IT support for their personal computer. Refer to below chapters in this guide on how to build a Master List of Negative Keywords.
On the right-hand side, you will get the daily estimated number of clicks for your keyword selection.
Creating your Ad Copy.
As seen previously, you can use Spyfu to view your competitors’ Ad copy and their estimated number of clicks to get an idea of what works and what doesn’t.
Put yourself in your prospective customer’s shoes and think of what would entice them to click on your ad.
You need to create a powerful unique selling proposition; Explain the problem your customers are facing; showcase why they need to solve it fast and finally how your expertise is the solution they need.
You can add up to 15 headlines and 4 descriptions to make up your Ad. Use a separate Word document to write your Ad copy and take some time to write, revise and tweak.
In your Word document, list all of your company’s unique selling points, your main services and the pain points you solve for your customers. Don’t forget to use the words your customers use to describe their IT related pain points in your Ad copy.
Now that you’ve created a great copy for your Ad, it’s time to understand which factors will be influencing your ad’s performance and the overall cost of your campaign.
Google assigns a Quality Score to your Ad which will determine your cost per click, and in which position your Ad will rank in search results comparatively to similar ads.
You obviously want your Ad to be ranked at the top of Google search results and pay as less as possible for every click you get, so how can you achieve that?
According to Google, your quality Score is calculated based on the combined performance of 3 components:
- Expected clickthrough rate (CTR): The likelihood that your ad will be clicked when shown.
- Ad relevance: How closely your ad matches the intent behind a user’s search.
- Landing page experience: How relevant and useful your landing page is to people who click your ad.
When more people who see your ad click it, that’s a strong indication to Google that your ads are relevant and helpful to users. Accordingly, Google rewards you with:
- Higher ad rankings
- Lower costs
How Can You Increase Your Google Ads Quality Score?
If you want to increase your Quality score, don’t skip any of the important steps we previously reviewed like your keyword research and writing a great Ad copy.
Google will reward you for creating Ads that are aligned to what people are searching for (setting up the right keywords and audiences) and for the overall quality of your Ad copy in relation to users’ pain points (matching intent with Ad copy).
Another important factor that weighs into your Quality score is your landing page.
Let’s review how you can create a landing page that increases your conversion rates as well as your Quality score.
If your landing page has a high bounce rate, that is a negative signal to Google which will negatively impact your quality score.
If we refer to Goggle’s definition, A bounce is a single-page session on your site. In Analytics, a bounce is calculated specifically as a session that triggers only a single request to the Analytics server, such as when a user opens a single page on your site and then exits without triggering any other requests to the Analytics server during that session.
I’ve seen so many Ad agencies set up isolated landing pages that are not even connected to their clients’ main domain or that have no internal links or navigation. That is the textbook definition for high bounce rate when you’re not giving the option for your visitors to get more information before taking a decision.
Do you believe that a single landing page is enough content for someone who’s in the market for IT services to take their decision? They will most likely want to learn more about your services, your team and maybe even review case studies of other companies you’ve helped.
Use your landing page for its intended purpose as a place to land for your visitors but not the place to leave you just yet. As a best practice, always host your landing page within your main website and leverage strategic internal linking from your landing page to other webpages on your site.
That should help you improve your bounce rate.
Match your landing page content to your Ad
Match your landing page content to your Ad copy especially your “Title Tags” and landing page URL. There needs to be a clear correlation between your Ad content and the content of your landing page. That will send a signal to Google that the offers and services you’re promoting in your Ad are indeed supported by your company.
Another best practice is to always make your landing page mobile optimized as mobile browsing is an important factor in Google ranking.
Structure and Content
Your landing page needs to be clear, easy to navigate and easy to understand. Don’t go over the top with the design but instead focus on clarity and great copy.
Keep your main value points and CTA (Call to Action) above the fold and leverage bullet points to make your page easily scannable.
Using rich content like video is always a great idea to improve your conversion rates.
Finally, give your visitors’ several options to get in touch with you like a phone number, an email, a form and a chatbot. People have different preferences and ticking all the boxes will make sure you’re not turning away any potential client.
Optimizing your Ad.
Let’s review some of the bidding options available to you with Google Ads and which could work best for your goals.
There are 11 options available to you for bidding strategies:
Conversions is probably the most desirable goal when you’re advertising for IT services, so let’s review the bidding strategies geared towards that goal.
Target CPA (Cost per Acquisition) is a bidding strategy you can use when you want to optimize conversions. Target CPA is a Google Ads Smart Bidding strategy that sets bids to help get as many conversions as possible at or below the target cost-per-action (CPA) you set.
For Target CPA bidding to work effectively, you need to have a good idea of what your acquisition costs are. Based on average contract revenue and length, IT services cost per acquisition can be quite high.
This is where you need to do some calculations and consider what your competition is willing to pay for those same keywords.
Target Return on Ad Spend (ROAS) requires you to perform even more calculations. Target ROAS lets you bid based on a target return on ad spend (ROAS). The goal is to get more conversion value or revenue at the target return on ad spend (ROAS) you set.
This number is percentage-based and this how you calculate it: Sales ÷ ad spend x 100% = Target ROAS.
Maximize Conversions is one of the simplest bidding strategies that Google Ads offers. Maximize conversions automatically sets bids to help get the most conversions for your campaign while spending your budget. It uses advanced machine learning to automatically optimize bids and offers auction-time bidding capabilities that tailor bids for each and every auction.
When you set automated bidding strategies, you are relying on Google’s data and the information they have access to, to track conversions. Therefore, for your conversion-focused automated bidding to work effectively, you need to adequately set-up your conversions.
What do you consider a conversion to be? A page load (someone lands on your page), a click on a specific button (subscribe to our newsletter), an add to cart action, a checkout action?
Here are all the options Google gives you to track conversions.
If you only use top-of-funnel conversions like page load that drive unqualified leads, this can lead to poor optimization by the algorithm, focusing on cheap leads that don’t end up converting to your IT services.
You also don’t want to go too narrow and end up with a very low conversion rate by setting up a high engagement action like a purchase when we know that the sales cycles for IT can be longer and more complex. You could opt for an action that qualifies the lead without making the engagement too high like downloading a “Best security practices e-book” or opting for a free “Technology Review”.
Here is how to set up conversion tracking on your website. This is an important step for your ad to be effective and for the automatic bidding to work.
An important factor you need to consider with automated bidding is that you need to have enough traffic and conversions for the algorithm to effectively handle your campaign.
Google officially recommends at least 15 conversions in the past 30 days. Performance of the algorithm improves as you get more traffic, data and conversions.
If you don’t want to rely on the algorithm, you can also choose to go manual by opting for Manual CPC Bidding. It will allow you to set bids for different ad groups or keywords on your own.
More control means a lot more time spent monitoring your ad and adjusting bids yourself. If you are not well versed in Google Ads, this might not be the best strategy for you.
If you still want to go manual, I highly recommend that you leverage bidding automation rules to make your life a lot easier.
Set up automated rules
Google Ads allows you to create automated rules to make changes to your account automatically when specific conditions are met.
For example, you can choose to pause your ad every weekend because you only want to reach people that are at work during weekdays or automatically pause low performing keywords to not impact your quality score.
All of that is possible and can be automated; here some of the common ways you can use automated rules.
Google Ads scripts
If you want to set up even more sophisticated automation rules, you can leverage Google Ads Scripts.
Google has a library of code snippets to get you started; see here some of their bidding related scripts.
I also recommend you to check out this article that lists the “100 Google AdWords Scripts You Should Be Using”.
You can find some cool scripts in that list like this one developed by Russell Savage from FreeAdWordsScripts.com that allows you to pause the lower CTR ad in each ad group. (Which means improved quality score and money savings). That’s a time-consuming task if you do it manually.
Creating a Master Negative List of Keywords
Using Google Ads script to create a master negative list of keywords is a great use case.
A master negative list of keywords helps you filter against keywords that drive unwanted traffic to your website.
If you have a single Google account for your company, I recommend you create a master negative list of keywords that you can run on all your campaigns.
IT related search ads can drive a lot of unwanted traffic from topic adjacent queries related to technology or consumer technical support. Creating a master list of negative keywords will protect you against that unwanted traffic.
First you need to head back to your keyword explorer tool and analyse your keyword suggestions list to find search terms that could potentially trigger your ad and generate unwanted traffic.
You can see here that the search volume is very high for unwanted HR search terms like: “IT support jobs” or “IT support salary”.
You should also keep an eye out for software related queries and consumer support keywords like: “apple support” or “office 365 support number”.
Once you’ve scrubbed your suggestions list and built that negative keyword list, it’s time to apply it to your campaigns and automate.
This should greatly improve your ad’s performance and protect you against budget killer keywords.
In this article we have reviewed some of the best practices to create successful Google Ads for your IT company.
I want to conclude by saying that optimization is a never-ending process and that there is not one bullet proof strategy that works for all IT companies across the world, you have to continuously adapt and learn from your mistakes, which is what I do every day.
Don’t hesitate to drop me a line, ask any further question or share your experience with Google Ads email@example.com.
I would love to hear from you!
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The Ultimate Guide to “Google My Business” for Managed Service Providers (MSPs)
You will learn some actionable, step by step techniques to optimize your listing, set yourself apart from the competition and grab a prime spot on the Google map pack.