I Spent $8 Million on Google Ads Last Year – Google Ads Expert

Here are 4 lessons I learned, including an underrated platform to advertise on as a Google Ads Expert.

I had an unlimited budget. I could spend as much money as I wanted on whatever ads I wanted.

But I had to be profitable.

I was working in-house for a technology company. We had aggressive revenue targets and I wanted to play a major part in making that happen.

I managed to grow ad spending from $3 million to $6 million per year because I found creative ways to profitably scale my campaigns.

I crushed our revenue targets.

Here’s what I learned.


1. The Creative Is Everything

This is true across every major paid media channel, be it Google, Facebook, Youtube, whatever.

A good creative trumps everything else. No amount of planning, research, targeting, or audiences will have as big of an impact as your creativity.

A good creative will get you tons of clicks. There’s so much machine learning and AI built into digital ads now and they’re trained to look at early engagement signals. The algorithms will start giving you more and more exposure because they’re trained to make money. And engagement makes money.

Always be testing new creatives. What didn’t work a year ago could work now, so don’t be afraid to revisit past failures and try to breathe fresh life into them.

Draw inspiration from other industries. If you’re in e-commerce, see what’s working well in mortgage or auto insurance. Those highly competitive industries breed insane amounts of innovation because failure to innovate means falling behind the competition.

2. The House Always Wins

I’ve sat through countless demos for all the major bid management platforms. Marin, Kenshoo, Quantic Mind, and more.

They’ll all try and convince you how they’re better at bidding than Google. But they all have one thing in common: they have really good marketing and sales teams who come up with all kinds of slogans, testimonials, and case studies. Their entire job is to convince marketers their systems can outperform Google.

One of their sales guys gave me this great analogy for Google’s Target CPA algorithm:

Target CPA is like buying a car and telling the salesman the highest price you’re willing to pay right at the beginning. Of course they’re going to sell you the car at that price, but you could’ve gotten it for less.

Technically true, but if you’re not using Target CPA, then you’re leaving conversions on the table.

3. YouTube Is Still a Hidden Gem

Creating YouTube ads is hard. You need experience making videos, complex software with a steep learning curve, and more assets.

You need audio, video, b-roll, and animations. Or you pay an agency to make your videos. Or you use an out-of-the-box provider that does all the hard work for you.

Iterating on a video creative requires much more time than search or banner ads so the barrier to entry to Youtube Ads is higher.

The difficulty and cost associated with creating video ads are exactly why YouTube is still a hidden gem. There’s tons of room for optimization, and if you nail the right creative you can get a crazy good scale.

YouTube is also great for conquesting your competitors. In the SaaS space that I’m in right now, I pay over $20 per click to bid on my competitor’s search keywords.

I get those clicks for less than $4 on Youtube.

4. Gmail Ads Can Scale

Gmail generated an incremental 10–20% net conversions each month on top of what I was generating in search — at comparable acquisition costs.

That level of incrementality can make or break your revenue targets.

Gmail ads are unique in the Google ecosystem because they require two clicks: one click to open the ad like an email, and a second click to the website.

Your creativity needs to be on-point in two places:

  • Intriguing the user to click on your ad in the first place
  • Convincing them what you have to sell is worth exploring more to click a second time

Failure to realize the two-step thought process for Gmail ads is the most common mistake I see.

Think about the user. Email is a very personal space that you’re intruding on. Your ad is sitting there among chain emails from Grandma, updates from groups they’re a part of, and marketing emails from The Gap.

If you’re having trouble succeeding with Gmail ads, your creative is busted.

Wrapping Up

Succeeding in digital marketing is all about iteration. No strategy works forever and failing to consistently test is a recipe for failure.

Creative is king. Embrace machine learning and automated bid strategies, especially Google’s Target CPA.