The 8-Step Process HubSpot Uses to Optimize Google Advertising Costs

Google Ads is one of the most effective paid acquisition channels available today. With over 5 billion search queries per day and expansive reach across millions of websites via the Display Network, Google Ads provides a massive opportunity for businesses to get in front of their target audience at the exact moment they‘re searching for relevant products or services.

However, Google Ads has also become increasingly competitive and costly over time. The average cost per click (CPC) across all industries is $2.32 on the search network and $0.58 on the display network, but those costs can vary considerably by sector. For example:

Industry Avg. CPC (Search) Avg. CPC (Display)
Legal $5.88 $0.72
Consumer Services $5.87 $0.76
Technology $3.15 $0.46
B2B $2.98 $0.62

Data from WordStream Google Ads Benchmarks for 2022

With CPCs steadily rising and more advertisers entering the auction every day, it‘s essential for businesses to have a solid plan for optimizing their Google Ads performance to get the best possible return on investment.

At HubSpot, we spend millions of dollars on Google Ads every year to drive qualified leads and grow our free CRM user base. Over the past decade, our paid acquisition team has developed and refined an eight-step optimization process that has allowed us to consistently lower costs while improving key metrics like click-through rate (CTR), conversion rate, and ROI.

In this post, I‘ll walk through our step-by-step optimization process in detail. Whether you‘re new to Google Ads or a seasoned pro, you‘ll come away with proven tactics and strategies you can implement to stretch your budget further and drive better results from your campaigns. Let‘s dive in.

Step 1: Group keywords into tightly themed ad groups

One of the biggest mistakes advertisers make with their Google Ads accounts is lumping keywords together into overly broad ad groups. The result is ads that aren‘t relevant to the search queries triggering them, leading to low CTRs, Quality Scores, and wasted spend.

Instead, group your keywords into tightly themed ad groups so you can create highly targeted ads that closely match the searcher‘s intent. As a rule of thumb, try to keep ad groups to 15-20 keywords max and ensure all keywords in an ad group are highly relevant to each other.

For example, if you offer marketing automation software, you might create separate ad groups for related keywords like:

  • Marketing automation software
  • Marketing automation tools
  • Marketing automation platforms
  • Best marketing automation software
  • Easiest marketing automation software

Even though these keywords are similar, creating dedicated ad groups for each will allow you to tailor your ad copy to better resonate with the specific needs of each search and drive higher engagement.

Step 2: Match keywords to the right intent

Google Ads offers several keyword match types to control how closely the searcher‘s query needs to match your chosen keywords for your ads to be triggered. Here‘s a quick overview:

  • Broad match: This is the default match type. Ads may show on searches that include any of your keywords in any order, as well as related terms.
  • Modified broad match: Ads may show on searches that include close variants of your keywords with a + sign in front of them.
  • Phrase match: Ads may show on searches that include the meaning of your keyword. The query can include additional words before or after.
  • Exact match: Ads may show on searches that are the same meaning as your keywords.

Google Ads keyword match types

When building out your campaigns, align your match types to the search intent behind each keyword. Use broad match and phrase match for keywords with lower commercial intent (e.g. informational queries) to capture a wide net of relevant searches. Reserve exact match for your highest value keywords that demonstrate strong purchase intent.

At HubSpot, we start new campaigns with keywords on phrase match to cast a relatively wide net while maintaining relevance. We then monitor our search terms reports to identify high-performing queries we can break out into their own ad groups on exact match.

For example, we might launch a new campaign for our marketing software with ad groups built around phrase match keywords like:

  • "Inbound marketing"
  • "Email marketing"
  • "Marketing analytics"

After letting the campaign run for a few weeks, we might see that the exact match search term "email marketing software" is driving a high volume of quality leads. We‘ll then create a dedicated ad group for that keyword on exact match to maximize visibility and control bids.

Step 3: Create compelling ad copy

With your keywords and ad groups in place, it‘s time to craft your ads. Writing compelling ad copy is a critical component of Google Ads success. Your headlines and descriptions need to grab the searcher‘s attention, convey your key selling points, and entice them to click through to your website.

Here are some tips for writing click-worthy Google Ads:

  1. Include your keywords: Use the core keyword for each ad group in your headline to show relevance and earn bolding, which draws the eye.
  2. Highlight benefits: Focus on the value and benefits you deliver for customers, not just features.
  3. Use numbers and symbols: Figures, statistics, and special characters like "%," "$," and "&" help your ads stand out.
  4. Create urgency: Incorporate time-sensitive offers or language like "limited time" to drive response.
  5. Strong CTA: End with a clear call-to-action like "try for free," "get a quote," or "buy now."
  6. Test: Experiment with different variations of copy and run A/B tests to optimize performance over time.

For example, here are two ads we might run for our "email marketing software" ad group:

Intuitive Email Marketing
Create & send emails that convert
Join 150,000+ growing businesses
salesforce.com/MarketingSoftware

Get More Opens, Clicks & Sales
Powerful email software for just $20/mo
Try free for 30 days, no CC required
activecampaign.com/EmailMarketing

The first ad highlights our key benefit (creating emails that convert) and social proof (150,000+ users). The second focuses on specific value props (driving opens, clicks & sales), transparent pricing, and an enticing offer (30 day free trial).

We would then let these two ad variations run simultaneously and evaluate metrics like CTR, conversion rate, and CPA to optimize performance over time.

Step 4: Choose landing pages that convert

Getting clicks is only half the battle. To turn traffic into leads and sales, you need to craft high-converting landing pages that deliver a relevant, seamless experience and compel visitors to take action.

When selecting landing pages for your Google Ads campaigns, aim for message match – ensure the headline and copy align closely with the ad the visitor clicked on. The tighter the message match, the more likely the visitor is to convert.

Ideally, create dedicated landing pages for each major ad group to maximize message match and conversion rates. At a minimum, ensure the landing page delivers on the promise made in your ad and includes these essential elements:

  • Benefit-focused headline
  • Clear unique selling proposition
  • Engaging visuals or product demo
  • Social proof like testimonials or client logos
  • Strong, specific call-to-action
  • Lead capture form above the fold

Over the past year, HubSpot has increased our conversion rates from Google Ads traffic by 32% by building targeted landing pages for each of our key ad groups. Rather than dump all traffic on our homepage, we direct searches to pages laser-focused on the topic they searched for, whether that‘s marketing automation, sales software, customer service tools, or a specific feature like live chat.

Step 5: Set up conversion tracking

To measure what‘s working and make data-driven optimization decisions, it‘s essential to set up accurate conversion tracking in Google Ads. Google‘s conversion tracking allows you to specify key actions on your website and attribute them back to the campaign, ad, and keyword that drove them.

Common conversion actions to track include:

  • Form submissions
  • Free trial signups
  • Product purchases
  • Phone calls
  • Key page views like pricing or contact us

To implement, you‘ll place the Google Ads conversion tracking code on the relevant pages of your site and configure the details of the action in Google Ads. Be sure to assign values to each conversion type based on the expected revenue generated. That will allow you to measure return on ad spend and make more informed bidding decisions.

HubSpot‘s marketing team relies on conversion data as our north star for optimizing campaigns. We track a range of micro and macro conversions, from content downloads to product signups to closed deals, to build a full picture of how our Google Ads investment is translating into real business results.

Step 6: Add negative keywords

Adding negative keywords to your campaigns and ad groups is one of the quickest ways to eliminate irrelevant traffic and wasted spend. Negative keywords prevent your ads from showing for searches containing terms you specify.

For example, if you sell enterprise marketing software, you likely don‘t want to show up for searches like "free marketing software" or "marketing software for small business." Adding negatives like "free" and "small business" will automatically filter out those queries and save you money.

To identify negative keyword opportunities, regularly scan your search terms report in Google Ads for irrelevant terms that received impressions or clicks. Pay particular attention to terms that indicate low purchase intent like:

  • Competitor brand names
  • "Free" or "cheap"
  • Locations you don‘t serve
  • Unrelated products or features

At HubSpot, our SaaS brand drives a lot of informational searches from people looking to learn about marketing, sales, and service strategies. To avoid blowing our budget on clicks from folks not actively shopping for software, we utilize an extensive negative keyword list, with terms like:

  • Blog
  • Article
  • PDF
  • Template
  • Definition
  • How to

We add those negatives at the account level to automatically exclude them across all campaigns. We also tailor negatives at the campaign and ad group level as we see searches come in that aren‘t relevant to the specific theme and intent of those keywords.

Step 7: Use ad extensions

Ad extensions are additional snippets of information and links you can add to your Google Ads to expand your presence and entice more clicks. Extensions typically boost CTR by 10-15% while adding zero cost to your CPC.

Google Ads offers several types of extensions to highlight:

  • Additional site links
  • Phone number
  • Specific products or offers
  • Address or map
  • Pricing
  • Callout text
  • App downloads
  • Customer ratings

Aim to add at least 3-4 extensions to each ad group. Select the extensions most likely to enhance your ads and motivate searchers to engage. For example, sitelinks are almost universally effective, while price extensions tend to work best for businesses selling physical goods rather than services.

Here‘s an example of an ad for HubSpot‘s CRM with callout, sitelink, and structured snippet extensions:

HubSpot Google Ad with extensions

The callout extension reinforces key benefits like "free forever," while the sitelinks direct traffic to relevant pages like product features and pricing. The structured snippet showcases the breadth of our CRM offering to stand out from competitors.

Step 8: Automate with Smart Bidding

Last but certainly not least, take advantage of Google‘s AI-powered Smart Bidding strategies to optimize your bids for peak performance automatically and in real-time.

Smart Bidding utilizes machine learning to analyze mountains of contextual data and adjust your CPCs to hit your specified goals like target cost per acquisition (CPA) or return on ad spend (ROAS).

Some of the key signals Smart Bidding uses to optimize bids include:

  • Device
  • Location
  • Time of day
  • Audience lists
  • Query intent
  • Likelihood of converting

By factoring in these real-time signals, Smart Bidding can zero in on your most valuable opportunities and maximize efficiency far beyond what‘s possible with manual bid management.

To get the most out of Smart Bidding, feed the algorithms a steady stream of accurate conversion data – aim for at least 30-50 conversions per month for each campaign utilizing a Smart Bidding strategy. The more data you provide, the better the algorithms can learn and optimize to hit your goals.

At HubSpot, we‘ve seen stellar results from transitioning many of our campaigns to Smart Bidding strategies like Target CPA and Maximize Conversions. One recent experiment utilizing Maximize Conversions delivered:

  • 24% increase in conversion volume
  • 17% decrease in CPA
  • 46% increase in conversion value/cost

For campaigns rich in historical conversion data, Smart Bidding is a no-brainer to save time and improve performance. Pair it with the other tactics covered in this post for an optimization double-whammy.

Wrap Up

There you have it – the 8 key steps HubSpot‘s paid acquisition team takes to systematically optimize our Google Ads campaigns and maximize return on investment:

  1. Group keywords into tightly themed ad groups
  2. Match keywords to the right intent
  3. Create compelling ad copy
  4. Choose relevant, high-converting landing pages
  5. Set up accurate conversion tracking
  6. Add negative keywords to eliminate wasted spend
  7. Enhance ads with extensions
  8. Automate bidding with Google‘s Smart Bidding strategies

Keep in mind this process is iterative – we‘re constantly analyzing our campaign data, testing new approaches, and evolving our tactics based on performance and new features Google rolls out.

Optimizing Google Ads is a marathon, not a sprint. But by following the framework laid out in this post, you‘ll be well down the path to lower costs and better results. I hope these insights from our years of hands-on experience help you extract more value from your Google Ads spend.