Brad Geddes / PPC Geek
Official Google Ads Seminar Leader.
Author of Advanced Google AdWords.
Co-Founder, Adalysis.
(703) 828-5811‬
Brad Geddes's Theories on Marketing How to use AdWords Channels to Bolster Your Buying Funnel

How to use AdWords Channels to Bolster Your Buying Funnel

Buying Funnel Stages

When we think of AdWords, we have many channels to choose from:

  • • Search (brand, generic, products, info)
  • • Shopping
  • • 1st party audience targeting
  • • 3rd party audience targeting (Similar lists, affinity, in-market, etc)
  • • Display
  • • etc

Not all of these channels perform the same way; and they shouldn’t – they reach users in various parts of the buying funnel.

Often when we explore attribution models and account expansion; we’re not just looking at last click attribution; but mapping out the customer journey, fall off points, and areas where we want to bring in more traffic.

For example, if your brand terms and product terms are most of your account traffic, you probably have a very high CTR and conversion rate; but not huge amounts of traffic. In this case, you want to focus higher in the funnel to bring in more total traffic and leverage audiences in your marketing.

If you are using mostly display and generic keywords; you have a lot of top of the funnel traffic, but not a lot of users who are ready to buy.

By following a straightforward approach, you can increase your funnel traffic strategically:

  • Step 1: Layout your funnel
  • Step 2: Examine where most of your traffic is within the funnel
  • Step 3: Examine where you don’t have a lot of funnel traffic
  • Step 4: Use the channels that direct traffic in the parts of the funnel that you want to shore up

The Simplified Funnel

There are hundreds of ways to graphing the buying funnel from AIDA (awareness, interest, desire, action) to the standard funnel (Awareness, interest, learn, shop, buy), to the simplified funnel (awareness, consideration, buy). All of these approaches are essentially the same, just with different marketing and explanations.

For our purposes, we’re going to use a simplified funnel with just a few overall steps:

  • • Awareness & Interest: Make more people aware of your products/services and show how it’ll make their life better
  • • Consideration: Actively engaged in comparing products/services and narrowing down options
    • • This includes taking free trials of SAAS software, downloading whitepapers, and non-monetary actions
  • • Buying: User actively engages your company and becomes a customer
  • • Retention: Post purchase support. For SAAS, this is maintaining a customer; for other’s it’s getting a user to buy again and increase lifetime values

AdWords Channels

Next, let’s define the overall channels available within AdWords. We won’t cover everyone as there are many ways to slice the available options; we’re trying to keep this simple:


  • • Brand keywords: keywords that are your brand terms; but not product brand (i.e. Nike is a brand, Nike Air Jordan is a product brand)
  • • Product brand: keywords that are your brand plus a product or service. Some brands are their product (Salesforce, Mailchimp, while others are combinations such as Air Jordan shoes or Nike Air Jordan shoes).
  • • Generic words: words that describe product/service groupings (stereo, computer, etc)
  • • Product/service words: words that describe a product without a brand term: Boston emergency plumber,  Waterproof floating stereo, Size 11 men’s running shoes


  • • Remarketing: ads shown based upon website behavior on the display network
  • • RLSA: ads shown based upon website behavior on the search network
  • • Customer match: ads shown based upon matching email addresses across search or display
  • • Similar to remarketing: Similar users to behavior on your website
  • • Similar to customer match: Similar users to email lists
  • • In-Market:  Users currently researching a product/service (buying a car)
  • • Affinity: Overall user interest (sports fans)
  • • Custom affinity: Overall user interest narrowed down with additional targets (marathon runners as opposed to runners or sports enthusiasts)

Audiences are by far the hardest to group within the funnel as there are many ways to create audiences.

For example, a similar list to your existing customers is going to convert better than a similar lists to users who downloaded a whitepaper. A remarketing list comprised of abandoned shopping cart users is reaching users in the buy stage and should have high conversion rates.

A remarketing list of users who bought a product and you are trying to upsell them should convert well over time; but you are introducing a new item to them so this will be higher in the buying funnel.

Therefore, we’re going to group these with their standard uses:

  • • Remarketing: showing ads to abandoned cart/form users or interested product viewers
  • • Customer match: showing ads to existing customers


  • • Keywords: choose the keywords that trigger your ads
  • • Topics: show ads on pages that match a topic (stock market)
  • • Placements: show ads on specific placements

Placements is far reaching as some placements (New York Times) are a large unfocused audience, while other placements (review sites) are very specific and are comprised of users currently researching purchase decisions; so we’ll break placements into:

  • • Large sites
  • • Review sites

We could break these down even further; but this will give us a general idea of the reach of each type of placement.

Shopping campaigns:

  • Shopping: showing products in ads on search results

While this is actually a simplified examination of channels, for the purposes of increasing traffic through buying funnel stages, this should help to examine where in the funnel you want to increase traffic.

The Funnel by Channel

While we can break this down much further into audiences that are similar to ones who signed up for your email to brand terms that include the word trial or buy vs just brand terms; when we look at the overall channel by funnel it breaks down like this:

AdWords Channels by Buying Funnel Stage

It’s much easier to generate awareness than sales.

That’s also why you want to break down your funnel to understand the customer journey within your organization. Often near the bottom of the funnel, you will rely on call only ads, email, and sales reps to close the sale and not just AdWords channels.

Next time you’re looking to expand your account, first examine what type of traffic you are trying to acquire – and then use the channels more appropriate to that traffic type. By breaking down your marketing into the overall funnel, both from your marketing standpoint, but also in your user communications, the funnel becomes much more manageable and it’s easier to target your weaknesses to ensure you have traffic flowing throughout your sales process.

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