By Dennis Last update December 14, 2018 Comments: 26


Google Ads reputation as a marketing channel has taken a hit over the last couple of years. It went from being the darling of marketers to being expensive and unsexy.

While most of the headlines have shifted to new and sexier platforms like Instagram, Google continues to post strong revenue numbers. Currently they are still at more than 2x the revenue of Facebook ($28.95 billion vs $13.73 billion in Q3 of 2018).

And of all those dollars, a small part is spent by online stores that are making a killing with Google Ads.

But that’s a minority. Making sales with Google Ads is not all rainbows and unicorns. If you’re just getting started on the platform, Google doesn’t stack the odds in your favour.

In fact it will does exactly the opposite.

In this article, I’ll share 5 things that Google never seems to address, but that have a huge impact on your actual performance.

Fact 1: Google Ads Is Not A Fit for Every Store

While it is super easy to get started with Google Ads, it’s not so easy to run those ads profitably.

If you’re not selling the right products, generating sales with Google Ads could be close to impossible.

So when tells me that Google Ads doesn’t work for them, the cause is usually one of these three things:

    • Average order value: if your average order value is too low, you don’t have any room to pay for expensive clicks. It’s impossible to be profitable selling a $6 product if each click costs $0.5
    • Margins: this is linked with the average order value. If your gross margins are too small, or you have a great margins but a low AOV, there is nothing left to spend on advertising
    • Conversion rate: since you are paying similar CPCs to your competitors, your conversion rate also needs to be in the same ballpark. If not, these competitors can easily outspend you.

These aren’t ironclad rules. But if your business suffers from one or more of the above, you will have a hard time on Google Ads.

Pause your campaigns and work on improving the foundations of your business before moving forward.

Fact 2: Google Ads is Hyper Competitive

Google Ads has been around for over 18 years and during this time the cost to advertise has gone up dramatically.

People around since those early days tell tales of $0.01 clicks. Today you should consider yourself lucky if you only pay 10x that amount.

Rise in Google Ads CPC
Rise in Google Ads CPC – Source: Merkle Q3 2018 report


Throughout the years, businesses using Google Ads have gotten smarter, learned what works and what doesn’t and adjusted their approach. This gives them a huge upside over stores new to the platform.

So if you want to compete profitably with them, you need to bring your A-game.

Very often there is little room to mess around and try things on your own.

So what can you do if you want to start Google Ads today? Here are my best tips:

  • Take advantage of automation
  • Start small
  • Get smarter
  • Get expert help

Take advantage of automation

Learning the nuts and bolts of Google Ads takes a lot of time. But luckily you don’t have to learn everything from day 1.

Google has a type of advertising called Google Shopping, where algorithms handle most of the heavy lifting.

You need to create a product feed from your store and Google Shopping will match your products to relevant search queries.

Here is what those ads look like:


One store owner I recently talked to said this about setting up his Shopping campaigns: “I can’t say I feel good about this as it seemed entirely too easy.”

But he had in fact done everything right. It just goes to show how easy these campaigns can be.

Start small

If you’re selling hundreds of products, don’t start to advertise with all of them at once. Pick a set of products or a category where you’ve got better margins to give you some extra room to play.

A smaller amount of products will also reduce the overall cost. Because as long as you aren’t 100% sure what you’re doing, it’s better to keep your costs under control.
Then when the orders start to come in and the numbers make sense, slowly expand the products you’re advertising.

Get smarter

Learning something new always takes time.

Luckily you’re not the first one.

The best way to learn is to do. So if you’re running your first campaigns on a small subset of products, read up about how to improve those results.

You will find tons of free articles and videos to help you with every piece:

And if you want to learn in a more structured way, there are great Google Ads courses to do so.

Get expert help

You can find freelancers and agencies that have been doing nothing but Google Ads for many years.

They can’t predict the future, but if they have enough experience, they will have probably worked in your industry or with your products before.

That means you can really shortcut your progress.

I’ve included them as the last suggestion in this list for a particular reason.

Getting a basic feel for how Google Ads works and what typical results look like will put you in a better position to hire the right person for the job.

If you don’t have any experience with the job you’re trying to outsource, your BS detector might not be well tuned. This could result into a lot of wasted time and money.

Fact 3 – By Default, Your Ads Will Show In Mobile Games

The first 2 facts were pretty strategic. The next 2 are a lot more tactical.

Both are part of the nasty default options that Google employs. These make it easier for Google to earn more, but harder for you to profit from Google Ads.

There are two places where Google can show your ads:

  • Search network: the search results page
  • Display network: set of third party websites, apps and YouTube

These are very different places to run your ad. On the Search Network, people are actively looking for a solution to their search query. On the DisplayNetwork, people are doing something else and are interrupted by ads.

Most new advertisers want their ads to show up in the search results, not on video sites, games or random mobile apps.

But if you’re not careful while setting up your campaigns, your ads will show in those places.

Here is the checkbox you need to turn off (it’s turned on by default):


While it might seems like a small difference, switching this option off will save you a lot of wasted ad spend.

Fact 4: Your “Keywords” Aren’t Your REAL Keywords

Advertisers often put a lot of thought into the keywords with which they want to show their ads.

I have even encountered corporations where keyword lists were debated in executive meetings 😫.

Imagine their surprise when Google Ads will actually show their ads for a bunch of very different keywords.

This is due to something called keyword match types. A match type is something that’s added to a keyword and it decides how much close Google will stick to that keyword.

The biggest problem is Google’s default option: broad match.

Here is how Google defines broad match:

Ads may show on searches that include misspellings, synonyms, related searches, and other relevant variations. So if your keyword is “women’s hats”, someone searching for “buy ladies hats” might see your ad.

But the reality is that Google is a lot more aggressive than mere synonyms or related searches.

The example of “women’s hats” might very well trigger ads with a search for “women baseball caps” or even “yankees baseball caps”.

A simple fix for this is to use different match types like modified broad, phrase or exact match.

A curious thing happens when you try to add negative keywords. Then the reverse happens and Google will add it as an exact match negative keywords.

This means that only searches for that exact keyword will be filtered from your campaigns. If the search query is a little bit different, your ad will still show.

How to Make Google Ads Work

It’s clear that there are many pitfalls when it comes to being successful with Google Ads.

And if you are sloppy or clueless, you’ll pay for it and get nowhere with your campaigns.

But if with the right approach and patience to learn, Google Ads can still deliver good results for your online store.

Were you blindsided by one of the above? Let us know in the comments!


Want to get your Google Ads strategy right from the start? Get your free 6-page worksheet that will set you on the path to profitable sales!

About the author


Dennis is the founder of Store Growers. He's an ecommerce PPC expert from Belgium and has been running Google Ads campaigns for over 8 years.

His goal is to cut through the BS when it comes to ecommerce advice and provide you with tactics and strategies that will make you more money.

Read more

26 responses to “Does Google Ads Work? Here Are 4 Facts Google Doesn’t Want You To Know

  1. I had one realization after reading this post, that is, it’s very important to do a research first about the strategies and other application you used for your brand’s campaign. Adwords can help online marketers somehow but I agree that you have to think about its negative effect for business too. This post of yours is an eye-opener. Thanks for sharing it and making us all aware of it.

    1. Glad you enjoyed the post Damon!

      You are right, if you’re clueless about this and you start advertising , you are likely to waste a lot of money and get really frustrated.

  2. You are spot on about google ads regarding keywords – we were surprised to find the keywords potential customers use to find our site is vastly different set from what we use in the google ads.

    1. Thanks for taking the time to comment!

      Even if you’ve done a good job with your keyword research, it’s only after you launch your campaigns that you see which keywords are out there and what the actual traffic volume on them is.

  3. Great article. You shouldn’t just start straight off with adwords. Use Google Analytics first with the Webmasters tools to understand how your website is being used. Then you can see the search terms people are using to access your site. Take those keywords and put together a small campaign and go from there. If you don’t have much spend, ensure you go for a the exact match or phrase match option. The broad match option can suck dry your funds on misclicks.

    1. Thanks a lot James!

      I like your approach a lot, starting small and really focused with match types and slowly expanding when you see that things are working.

  4. Dennis – I only just found this article today in a search for a related query. You offer a very valuable perspective. IMHO, Adwords is one platform that works best with very deep research before and while spending money on advertising.

    I do find that Google’s new assistance to help AdWords managers better understand shifts in ad performance via the Report Editor is a nice step forward. How is your experience with it?

  5. Thanks for the article I have been using adwords for my paint service business and have seen some results I keep my bid lower than my competition and it has helped me move up in organic search while costing next to nothing.

    1. Glad to hear it’s working for your business!

      Most advertisers simply rely on raising their bids to get more traffic. But once you understand how the system works, you can get away with spending a lot less, while getting increasingly better results.

  6. Hi there Dennis. First off thanks for emphasising the default setting issue on ad-words a pitfall for many newcomers i am sure. I am doing research into ad-words as i have a few top ranking organic positions. What my competition has done however is started using ad-words. My websites visitors and overall conversion dropped and im pretty sure its due to this.

    Ive started learning about adwords and its a whole new ball game on its own, there is the generic what google says you should do, then you find what people whom have experience have to say in online articles , and then you find that just like in traditional seo everything cannot be covered until you actually start using it and testing.

    My question is is there a way for a organic listing to compete with a paid listing ? I have seen at times my organic listing will appear above the local search pack along with the ads. At other times the adds appear at the bottom of the screen.

    Before i actually invest in this i just want to know if it is as you say the right fit.


    1. Hey Juan,
      Thanks for your comment.

      To answer your question, it really depends on the search query. But if it’s an informational query, your organic listing can compete with an organic one. But if it’s more commercial or transactional, ads will very often show before the organic ones.

      If you are getting a lot of business from your top organic listing, and find that their performance has dropped because of competitors running paid ads, I think it makes sense to start testing what would be possible for your business.

      Because of your organic positions, you’ll cover more real estate (top organic + paid) than those competitors, giving you a better return.

      Hope that helps!

  7. The adwords information is the tip of an iceberg of information that google do not want anyone to know. Over time organic search has been killed off and replaced with paid search made to increasing look like organic search results.

    Google offer adwords coupons of USD 100 all over the internet because it costs them next to nothing and that is what you get, nothing. Google deliberately fail as a search engine because they want you to pay for high ranking. When I made a negative comment on google adwords advertising on facebook, all my future comments became “marked as spam” and hidden after three seconds. No appeal possible. Google closed down a website of mine in Jan this year which is critical of google. They crush critics. we must fight back and stop them indexing our websites.

    Google have been bullying webmasters for years. The last straw for me was their demand in late 2016 that I duplicate all my webpages and make an accelerated mobile webpage version of the hundreds of pages I have made. But html pages were made to be served on any size screen and the google AMP version is not much faster and uses a lot of javascript. They demand to cache your work cached on their website and do whatever they want with it.

    This arrogant company must be brought to heel. They also demand https though there are also many security flaws with https. http is the backbone protocol of the internet and google are penalising sites who do not use https;. Damn them.Google deliberately fail as a search engine because they are demanding that you pay to be included in search results. Organic search is dead and increasingly google top search results are advertising made to look more like organic search results

    But if you pay google you are supporting tax evasion, copyright theft and Internet crime. Their version of SEO wrecks websites, their demand that people make two versions of every webpage, one (Accelerated Mobile Pages an AMP version) to help them serve advertising on phones IS INSANE.

  8. This is a giant waste of money. Google own employees set up the modified keyword search. They assured me that the ad would not be clicked or I would not be charged for a click if it did not match exactly the words chosen by Google.

    Thats a bold face lie. I get charged for things that are so far away from what we do its inconceivable how I got charged for a click or how my name came up in the first place. Googles own algorithm is obviously this: Find a match let no search go unpaid!! Thats without question and sense there is absolutely no accountability in this country they are free to steal as much money as they like.

    Have a problem with that?? Call Google or should I say India.

    This is he biggest ponzie scheme since Bernie.

    The only people making money are the PPC companies and web designers who also say you will make money using Adwords

    Its never the the Gimmick that makes money, its those who show you how to use the Gimmick. If the Gimmick made money everybody would use it.
    Currently the only people that use Adwords are those that spend other peoples money or those who are new and will be out of money soon.
    The turnover is huge Im sure.

    1. Hey Danny,
      It sure sounds like you’ve had bad experiences with Adwords!

      I get a lot of your comments: unhelpful Google reps and companies that try to sell you on Adwords no matter what.

      But really Adwords is just one way to market your products. It’s a very competitive place and not ideal for every business or product.

      That said I have clients that have been spending big money on Adwords for the last 5 years. They are making a profit and grow month after month.

      So it definitely IS possible to make money with the platform.

  9. Hi Dennis

    Thanks for the info.

    I’ve made the mistake of using Adwords Express (I thought it would be a simpler system to get my poor head around) but I find that I cannot reduce my minimum daily spend so trying to get set up in Adwords.

    One of my concerns is that since I’ve frozen my AExpress account, my natural ranking has gone from top of second page to bottom of third! Its as though Google are punishing me or trying get me to restart my AExpress account. Any thoughts?

    I make and sell a unique product (eiderdowns) and there are only a handful of people making/selling these online. I’ve always thought that was an advantage, so long as the people that want to buy my product know what they are looking for and use that keyword. I know I need to work on other keywords and phrases in order to find people that don’t know what my product is called but really want one (they’re out there of course :D)

    Anyway, I did read your very well written blog but my brain starts to fry after a few paragraphs so I was wondering if its is possible for a very simple set of instructions on how to get Adwords set up without us one person run small businesses get the best out of adwords? Am I asking for too much? Should I accept that I’ll never understand Google Adwords, Express and SEO in general and give it up and spend more time on Instagram?


  10. Great article Dennis. Very insightful. You’d think with all the competition for online advertising dollars that Google would make it simpler but no! Keep up the good work Dennis.

  11. and yet my client seems doesn’t care about it, even if i try to explain that its going to be expensive. all i can do just make sure their ROI is above spending. and i couldn’t agree more about dynamic remarketing.

  12. Hi dennis,

    Can you help me on this.

    I have a client, I want to convince them how much money they wasted in the past on unrealted terms. When i open the Adwords search terms , There are 145,873 terms there, how can I find out the actual wasted ad-spend, should I go one by one on those terms or any procedure, Please tell me any formula or steps.

    1. Hi Shivendra,
      I would export those search terms into a spreadsheet (make sure you include columns like CPC/total cost/conversions).

      Take out every search term that had a conversion. Then apply some rough filters to get rid of most of the useful keywords: your client’s brand, some key phrases in your op 10-50 keywords.

      You can get as granular as you have time for.

      Let me know when you find out what % was wasted, always eager to hear that number.

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