Using IF functions on Google Ads to improve productivity

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Back in the days when I was learning PPC, one of the two biggest growing pains I had were:

  1. Learning the difference between segmenting campaigns out to maximize efficiency
  2. Reaching the point where the juice is no longer worth the squeeze

Rather than creating clutter and a burdensome account to manage, I’ve since learned to make use of everything I can to speed up my workflow and free up bandwidth to focus on things that actually make a difference.

IF functions are a versatile means to tailor your ads to users in real time, using either the type of device they’re browsing on or the audience segment they belong to as signals to serve up specialized ad copy. The right message at the right time can make all the difference between a conversion or another bounced visitor. Search marketing is rapidly moving towards heavy automation and personalization, so IF functions are helpful because they’re a simple way to keep your seat at the table.

Setting up IF functions

The process of setting up IF Functions is painless. You could easily set one up in the time it will take to finish this article, regardless of your comfort level with Excel formulas. And if doing it on Excel is too daunting, you can set them up directly in the Google Ads UI under the Ads tab.

The basic logic is as follows

{=IF(condition is met, show this text):If not, show this text}.

So, if you wanted specific messaging for users on mobile, the logic runs something like this:

IF the user is ON a mobile device, show mobile-friendly CTA. If not, show the general CTA.

To put that in the basic formula

{=IF(device=mobile, Call Now!):Get a Quote.}

Another common usage of IF statements is serving specific offers to specific audience segments.

The basic formula for audience-based IF functions is

{=IF(Audience IN(audience name), Audience-specific copy.):General copy}

To put the above into a sentence: “If a user is IN this specific audience segment, serve them this specific copy. Otherwise, serve this more general copy.”

Suppose you were running a tiered promotion, where Club Members were eligible for an additional 15% discount on top of a 30% off sale, that text would look something like this:

Shop Now for{=IF(Audience IN(ClubList),45%):30%} Off!

Or, if your nurture campaigns weren’t entirely broken out and you wanted to move recent visitors into booking a consultation, you might have something like:

{=IF(Audience IN(Returning Visitor 7 Days), Book Your Consultation Today!):Download Our Free Guide.

Take note that you can target multiple audience segments in the same IF function. However, you are still limited to two copy options. The syntax is the same, just with your audiences separated by commas in the Audience IN section –

{=IF(Audience IN(Segment1,Segment2,Segment3)Learn More!):Get a Quote.}

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by keeping track of all of those brackets, commas, and colons, you can also build IF functions directly in the Google Ads UI. Simply add an open bracket in an ad field, anywhere from the headline one to URL paths one or two (note that ad customizers in Final URLs are not supported) and let the system walk you through putting it together.

Things to note while using IF functions

  • The character limits for each field still apply (but only for the ad text defined in your functions).
  • Symbols in the function’s ad text options like quote marks (both single and double), commas, and colons will need to be preceded by backslashes () for the function to work properly. For example, rather than “SearchEngineWatch’s” your function copy would read “SearchEngineWatch/’s.”

Using IF functions for fun and profit

Although IF functions don’t offer as many options to customize ads as using a business data feed, the options they do provide are staggering.

Shaping expectations based on device type is a must. While mobile browsers have come a long way in recent years, filling out long forms on a small screen with no keyboard is a slog, and desktop users might not have the same propensity to turn into brick and mortar visitors.

Tailoring your copy for devices isn’t a replacement for setting realistic device bid modifiers and taking cross-device/cross-channel conversions into account. But it is another way to squeeze more efficiency out of your ad budget.

Beyond device-type, the real power of IF functions come from the ease with which you can target specific audience segments. If you have a large enough CRM list to make customer match audiences viable for search, great. If your lists aren’t quite big enough, have no fear, you can create details of the possible audiences in Google Analytics and import it to Google Ads, the options are endless.

Bonus: Countdown ads

Countdown ads are yet another feature that is effective and easy to use but tend to fly under the radar. Beyond highlighting promotions, I’ve seen success in highlighting shipping windows (keep that in mind for the holiday shopping season), special events (for example, store openings), and more. Just like the other customizers available, countdowns can be put anywhere in an ad except for the URL.

The syntax is pretty straightforward

  • Specify a date in Year/Month/Day, pick a time in Hour:Minute:Second
  • Specify the language you’re targeting, and how many days you’d like the countdown to run

In the below example, the countdown will end at midnight on June 7, 2019, after starting seven days prior

{=COUNTDOWN(“2019/7/7 12:00:00″,”en-US”,7)}

The future is now

Running a successful paid search campaign has always required knowing who your customers are. Ad customizers make reaching the right user with the right messaging easier, and at scale. IF functions are easy inroads towards better tailoring of your users’ experiences towards their needs. It gives you more control over your ad copy than dynamic keyword insertion or responsive search ads, with a lower likelihood of matching to undesirable search queries than dynamic search ads. And with less setup needed than the Ad Customizer feeds, IF functions ultimately give savvy search marketers a powerful tool to boost performance.

Have any queries or interesting functions you know? Share them in the comments.

Clay Schulenburg is Director of SEM at PMG.

The post Using IF functions on Google Ads to improve productivity appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

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