How to know if your Google ads are working

Whether you are running your own ad campaign or paying some national company to do pay-per-click marketing for you, most likely, you have access to reports that give you insight into the effectiveness of the ad campaign. These reports can sometimes be confusing and hard to read, but that’s not your only challenge when running Google ads.

In this article, we’re going to provide you with the three “Must-Have” components of any successful MONEY-MAKING AdWords campaign. They are;

  • Understanding Reports and the Key Terms that Make or Break an AdWords Campaign
  • How To Know Your Ads Are Working Through Keeping accurate records
  • And CAPITALIZING on Opportunities to Close More Sales.

The first step is understanding your AdWords reports. Without this knowledge, there’s no way of knowing if your campaign is working.

Step two is keeping accurate records. An ad campaign can deliver tons of calls, but if you don’t have a way of keeping track of how many of those calls actually turned into money in your bank account, then there’s really no way of knowing if your campaign is working.

Step three is sales. Once you understand how to determine a campaign’s effectiveness and have a way of knowing how many of those calls actually turned into cash-paying customers, the next step consists of improving your sales game. Converting phone calls into sales is something you can control, and learning effective dispatching techniques will make all the difference to your bottom line.

The first thing you need is an understanding of your AdWords reports. To do that, you need to get a grip on just a handful of terms. Gaining this understanding will allow you to know if THE CAMPAIGN is working.

Understanding Your AdWords Report

How To Know If your Google Ads Are Working

Do This First

If you have an existing AdWords account, the first thing I want you to do is to generate a campaign report for the last 30 days using the column headings listed below. It will help you get the most out of this article. If you aren’t currently using AdWords, stick tight, you’ll learn some valuable information you can use going forward.

Comparing AdWords Reports

AdWords reports are for a specified time period. And, if you’re running AdWords, you’re probably familiar with reports that span the last 30 days or the last seven days. If you compare a report spanning a 7-day period with a report spanning a 30-day period, you may come away confused. It’s always best to compare reports using the same time period. This way, you’re always comparing apples to apples.

In AdWords, now called Smart campaigns, there are a lot of reports with dozens of columns. For our purposes here, you’ll want to go ahead and generate a campaign report for the last 30 days with the column headings listed below. If you have a national company running your campaign, you may not see the same terms we mention below. If that is the case, have your ad company convert the report to a conventional Google AdWords campaign report.

Key Smart Campaigns Terms

Below are definitions of the AdWords report terms you need to familiarize yourself with. If you don’t see these terms on your campaign report in your AdWords account, you can add and subtract columns to get them to show up.

Column Headings:

  • Impressions: An impression is the number of times one of your ads was seen in a search query. The better your campaign is optimized, the more impressions your ads will receive.
  • Clicks: Clicks are fairly simple to understand. Clicks are the number of times someone clicked on one of your ads. With pay-per-click advertising, every time someone clicks, it costs you money.
  • CTR (Click-Through Rate): The click-through rate is the rate at which people are clicking on your ads. CTR is expressed as a percentage of your ads impressions. The higher the CTR the better your ads are optimized.
  • Costs: This is the ad spend for the given time period.
  • CPC (Cost Per Click): Every time someone clicks on an ad it costs the advertiser money. The CPC is the average cost per click over the given report period. It’s expressed as an average because the true cost for each click varies throughout the month.
  • Conversions: Depending on the type of campaign being conducted, conversions can mean many things. For the campaigns The Tow Academy runs, specific to towing companies, conversions are the number of phone calls received during the period of the report.
  • Conv. rate (Conversion Rate): The conversion rate is represented as a percentage of clicks to calls. It is the percentage of people who clicked on an ad, and then followed through and called the towing company after clicking.
  • Cost / conv. (Cost Per Conversion): Cost per conversion is simply what it costs, on average, for the towing company to receive a phone call.

To explain what all this means a little better, let’s take a look at the report below. It’s from one of our new AdWords clients. It’s a campaign report for the last 30 days.


  • This company’s ads were seen 5656 times (Impressions)
  • Clicked on 173 times (Clicks)
  • Resulting in a (CTR) click-through rate of 3.06% (that’s 173 ÷ 5656)
  • It cost $1450.84 to get those clicks
  • Resulting in an average (CPC) cost per click of $8.39 ($8.39 x 173 = $1451.47 roughly, remember average cost per click)
  • The number of conversions (Phone Calls) was 147
  • Which, when you divide that number by the number of clicks you get an 84.97% conversion rate (147 ÷ 173 = 84.97%)
  • And when you divide the overall cost of the campaign by the number of phone calls received (conversions) you get an average Cost / conv. (Cost Per Conversion) of $9.87

Clearly, this campaign is working.


This is How to Know if Your Google Ads Are Working

Now that you have an understanding of your campaign’s terms let’s look at where your focus should be. For towing businesses looking to generate more cash calls, the three most important columns in this report are;

  • Conversions
  • Conv. rate (Conversation Rate)
  • Cost / conv. (Cost Per Conversion).

The higher the number of Conversions, the more opportunities you have to make a sale. The lower the Cost / conv., the less it costs you to make those sales. The higher the Conv. rate, the better optimized your ad campaign. A high Conv. rate also positively impacts the number of opportunities you have to make sales.

How Does Your AdWords Campaign Compare?

How many conversions (phone calls) is your campaign delivering every month? Are you happy with your Cost / conv. (Cost Per Conversion)?

How The Tow Academy’s AdWords Campaigns Compare.

Below is a comparison between the results The Tow Academy is getting for our clients compared to the Towing industry as a whole.

Each month we run thousands of ads in markets across the country and we’re happy to say that we’re beating the competition.

  •  Our clients receive a higher average Click Through Rate, 4.21 % compared to 3.50%
  • Our clients’ average Cost Per Click is only $8.06 Compared to $8.87
  • Our Clients experience a higher average Conversion Rate, 70.41% compared to 61.65%
  • And the Cost Per Conversion is lower, $11.45 compared to $12.52


How are we doing this? First, we know the towing industry and your customers’ search habits better than the other guys. Secondly, building a successful AdWords campaign and tailoring it to our client’s specific needs takes time and attention to myriad details.

Unlike most companies offering pay-per-click marketing, our aim is not to spend your entire budget each month. Our aim is to maximize the number of targeted calls you receive, which can only be done by optimizing ad campaigns specifically for the towing industry. To be successful, you need to be committed to the process of continuous improvement.

A Word About AdWords Express

Running a successful AdWords campaign is difficult. It takes time and constant attention to hundreds of tiny details to make it work. AdWords Express (Which is entirely separate from AdWords) does not work as Google suggests, “…an ad campaign you can set and forget.”

Most business owners who try AdWords Express end up spending more money than their ads generate. Why?

One reason AdWords Express doesn’t work is that Google only allows you to use Broad Match keywords.

What’s a Broad Match keyword?

Let’s say you’re using AdWords Express, and one of your keywords is “towing,” and a man in your city has just purchased a new boat. And he is now looking for a new trailer to tow the boat. If he enters the keyword “boat towing trailer”  into the search bar, your ad may appear. If he clicks on your ad that click costs you money.

AdWords Express doesn’t work because Google only lets you choose what categories you show up in and provides you with a list of keywords to choose from. And, because the keywords are Broad Match only, your ads show up for all types of unrelated searches. Steer clear of AdWords Express, either learn AdWords yourself or hire a professional.

Hopefully, by now, you have a firm understanding of the key components of an AdWords campaign report. Knowing what each key metric means and how they correlate with each other will allow you to know if your campaign is as optimized as it could be. Once you know it’s working, the next step is to learn if the calls you are receiving are fruitful. Are you making more money than you’re spending?

Challenges With AdWords

One of the most challenging parts of running an AdWords campaign is withstanding the slings and arrows.  Regardless of the type of marketing you do, not everyone who sees your ad will call. When you run an ad campaign, a percentage of people who click on your ad and call you will still not use your services. So why use AdWords? Because, if done properly, AdWords works more effectively than any other marketing medium available.

Thousands of motorists drive by billboards every day, but only a small percentage will ever buy what the advertiser is selling.  Radio advertisements fall on the ears of thousands who don’t want or don’t need what the advertiser wants them to buy.  And, even though a properly optimized AdWords campaign is targeted to only those people who need your services, there’s no way of requiring that they all use your services.

Comparatively speaking, when it comes to the towing industry, dollars spent on online marketing are much more cost-effective than any other advertising medium available.  Why? Specifically due to the fact that your ad, if properly optimized, only shows up when someone NEEDS and then SEARCHES for your services. That can’t be said about billboards, radio, television, or newspaper.  So, why do so many tow company owners complain that AdWords doesn’t work?

Why Your AdWords Campaign Isn’t Working

Even though AdWords is the most targeted form of marketing available today, many tow company owners still complain that it doesn’t work. There may be a multitude of reasons why YOUR SPECIFIC campaign isn’t working, and it begins optimization.

Optimization is defined as the act of making the best, most effective use of a resource.  When it comes to an AdWords campaign, optimization includes placement, budget, keywords, type of keywords used, negative keywords, and more.  Of all the self-run campaigns we’ve audited, the single biggest reason they weren’t working was a lack of optimization.  But lack of optimization isn’t the only thing that can cause your ad campaign to be ineffective.  An AdWords campaign can deliver a large number of quality phone calls, but if you don’t possess the skills necessary to make the sale, more often than not, you’re wasting money.  Also, if you don’t keep accurate records and compare sales receipts, then how will you ever know if it’s working?

Developing Your Dispatching Skills

If you are using pay-per-click to get your phone ringing, you need to improve your phone answering skills.  When answering the phone, many tow company owners and dispatchers come across harsh and uncaring. The excuses for this behavior include “irritating customers,” “dealing with rude motor-club dispatchers,” “people only want to know the price,” and on and on.

I’ll just say this one time. Your excuses are harming your ability to make the sale.

Regardless of how many times you have answered the phone, you should always begin each phone call with a smile on your face and a clear head.  You must forget about the preceding calls and what you perceived as rude customers.

The use of the word “perceived” in the previous sentence is because much of what you “hear” in what a customer is saying is made up in your head.

I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.  Mark Twain

“Yeah…But all they want is the cheapest towing company around.”

If that’s what you want to believe, then that’s what you’re going to keep on getting. And if so, you should cancel your AdWords campaign right now because you are costing yourself money.

To avoid being viewed as a commodity and to be seen as the professional that you are, you need to start thinking differently.

There are two types of people in the world, those who think in terms of scarcity and those who think in terms of abundance.  If you believe that the only thing motorists are concerned with is the price, you are a scarcity thinker.

But, if you are an abundance thinker and accept that “Price” is just one consideration, you’ll have a much better chance at avoiding being seen as a commodity.

Motorists care about time, money, simplicity, and their treatment. If you can change your thinking and your business operations to accommodate all of these, you’ll have a much better batting average over the phone.

If you want to learn how to make more sales through the use of better dispatching techniques, we’ve written an extensive article on the subject.

Train your dispatchers to use proper etiquette when talking to potential customers. Teach them to smile before the conversation begins. This can help convey an empathic image in the caller’s mind, which will aid in landing more sales.

Comparing Sales To Determine If Your Ads Are Working

To know if your ad campaign is making you more money than it’s costing you, you need to have the ability to measure.  One quick and dirty way of measuring the effectiveness of an ad campaign is to compare sales by month.

Let’s say that in the month of February 2019, you decide to run an ad campaign. You did no pay-per-click marketing in January 2019 or the previous year, 2018. If you’ve kept your books properly, you should have all your sales by month. So, when March 2019 rolls around, all you do is compare your February 2019 sales with your February 2018 sales.

I call this “Quick and Dirty” because this method has flaws.  There are many things that can affect your sales from month to month and year to year, either positively or negatively. There could have been a blizzard in February 2018, and even though you pulled in a great deal from your Ad campaign in February 2019, the numbers paled in comparison.

Another problem with simply comparing monthly sales is not taking into consideration the number of calls received through your other efforts online. Pay-per-click marketing is not the only way customers can find you. If you have a Search Engine Optimized website and are constantly working on improving your visibility online, then customers will have the opportunity to find you organically on Google’s first page. If you have an optimized and effective Social Media Campaign, then this provides more opportunities to be found.

Listening To Your AdWords Recordings

The most effective way of knowing whether your AdWords campaign is working is also the most costly with regard to time.  If you have the manpower available, some companies will provide you with access to listen to the calls received through your ad campaign.

If done daily, this can allow you to not only monitor your dispatchers to see if they’re answering the phones properly, but it can tell you, one way or another, if your ads are working.

If you are unhappy with the results you’re getting from your existing campaign, or you would like to set up a managed Pay Per Click marketing campaign, contact us.

The days of  “Paper-Search” are gone. The yellow pages are no longer a viable option. Billboard marketing, radio advertising, newspaper marketing, and other forms of print marketing are all passive marketing. Passive marketing has little to no value to the towing industry. Motorists only need you WHEN they need you, and you must be found WHERE they are looking.

Online marketing is the cheapest form of marketing available when it’s done right.