How Long Does It Take for Google Ads to Work?



A Google Ads campaign takes time and continuous optimisation to produce results. Most campaigns run upwards of a year, seeing competition in paid marketing can be especially fierce.


Key Takeaways:

  • Several factors affect the speed at which PPC campaigns achieve success, such as keyword and bidding competition.
  • The campaign tends to start off slow in the first few months, as Google tries to know more about the advertiser’s business.
  • Past the three-month mark, the campaign will undergo repeated optimisation work to adapt to market trends and scale with the business’s growth.

One of the advantages of pay-per-click (PPC) marketing is that it delivers results far quicker than SEO or other digital marketing methods. Whereas optimised content will take a while to bear fruit, PPC ads appear on search results almost instantly. They also cut the journey from lead to customer short, thanks to tailor-made ad copies and landing pages.

As for how long before PPC ads start being real moneymakers, it’s complicated.

I talked in one of my earlier posts about how SEO can take more than a year, if not forever. It’s a slow start, with the first few months seeing only minor gains as the algorithm adjusts to accommodate the content’s optimisations. The same can be said for PPC, even with its quicker lead generation and conversion.

As with that post, I’ll also break down a typical PPC ad campaign timetable here. But first, let’s look at the factors that can shorten or lengthen the timetable.

What Can Affect the PPC Timeline?

One point worth remembering about digital marketing is that success doesn’t happen in a day or two. This is especially true in PPC, more so in a widely used platform such as Google Ads, due to the numerous factors playing to your advantage or disadvantage.

Keyword Competitiveness

Some keywords are simply harder to rank for than others. Sure, a Mexican restaurant can rank for “Mexican restaurant,” but hundreds or thousands of others within the same area will do the same. Before you know it, the search results page becomes crowded with your competitors all vying for the coveted top spot.

Many SEO tools measure how heated the competition for a keyword is. If you use Ahrefs or SEMrush, this is referred to as keyword difficulty and is displayed using a 100-point grading system. The higher the score, the harder it is to rank for.

Source: Ahrefs

Of course, this metric is a rough estimate and doesn’t necessarily tell the whole story. Still, it provides good insight into how much work you’ll need for your Google Ads campaign to see success on certain keywords.

Auction Competitiveness

Keyword auctions are a core component of PPC marketing. Advertisers set the maximum cost-per-click (CPC) bid for a keyword. But unlike a normal auction, having the highest bid doesn’t mean your campaign gets to run for that keyword. The maximum CPC bid is one of six factors that make up the Ad Rank, Google Ads’ measure of an ad’s display priority.

In other words, you can get stuck in a bidding war for a long time, searching for that sweet spot in your bids. An ad can get the highest Ad Rank even if its bid isn’t the highest among the bidders if it compensates with quality ad copy and landing page.

Traffic Disparity

It pays to know that PPC ads receive less traffic than optimised organic content. The latest statistics state that over half of a website’s traffic comes from organic search results, with paid ads making up a little over a quarter.

This isn’t surprising, considering people’s tendency to trust content unvarnished by factors like paid marketing. It also explains why many ignore or steer clear of paid ads unless their content really resonates with users.

Make no mistake: this doesn’t make Google Ads any less advantageous, as it outperforms SEO in lead generation and conversion. That said, relying on either instead of both is a slow route to business success.

Click Fraud

Ad or click fraud is an underhanded tactic some competitors use to make PPC marketing as costly for their enemies as possible. This is primarily done by using click bots to click on their rival’s ad but without taking further action. With enough clicks, the target’s budget will be drained for little to no gain.

Such acts are more common than you think. According to a study by Juniper Research last year, businesses lost $84 billion in potential ad revenue to click fraud in 2023. It forecasts a doubling in such losses to $172 billion over the next four years.

Source: Juniper Research (via Search Engine Land)

How will this slow your Google Ads success? The platform automatically stops a campaign if its budget runs out. Whether you have the capital to replenish it or wait a while before you can do so, the resulting delay can give your competitors time to establish themselves.

The Google Ads Campaign Timeline

Now that’s out of the way, let’s discuss the timeline in-depth next.

First 24 Hours: Monitoring for Issues

According to Google, campaign data can start showing within 24 hours of starting. In some cases, the campaign may see little activity after the period. The cause can be attributed to a low bid for a highly competitive keyword, inappropriate location and scheduling settings, or the advertiser hasn’t verified their preferred payment method.

Consider keeping an eye on it for two days. If the ad has barely moved after that, you can submit a request for manual review. Google says this is a common phenomenon among new accounts, and a review will help facilitate more effective use of the platform.

First 15 Days: Learning Phase

Google will take this time to understand your business and, more importantly, your chosen keywords and landing pages. After collecting enough information, it’ll compare your bids with others in the niche. It’s advisable not to make any changes to your campaign during this period, as doing so risks Google starting the learning phase from scratch.

Once past the learning phase, the campaign will have gained enough data to help discern keywords to focus on and discard moving forward. Nevertheless, experts still recommend not making major alterations, as Google continues to gather further information.

Month 1: Zeroing In

PPC ads will most likely struggle gaining traction in the first month as the search engine adjusts to accommodate them (provided they comply with guidelines). More importantly, the targeting may not be as precise as you’d hope, but that’s okay.

As the learning phase progresses, most of the suggested keywords will be targeting a broad location or audience group. In this case, experts advise running ads with broader targeting and working your way to more focused keywords over the month. The longer you exercise patience, the more data you can work with and the more accurate your targeting will be.

Month 2: PPC Optimisation

At this point, you have enough data to improve your PPC campaign for increased reach and better targeting. Start by dropping the worst performing keywords and, if necessary, search for negative keywords. The last thing you want is to attract people who aren’t in the market for your goods and services by muddying their search results.

In addition, take this opportunity to optimise your bids by evaluating your best-performing keywords relative to their CPC. Our PPC pages have probably said this a dozen times, but it’s worth repeating here: there’s no point in gaining from a Google Ads campaign if the cost of managing it is too high. In the end, it’s all about maximising your ROI.

Month 3: A/B Testing

I talked about A/B testing before, so if you need a refresher, give it another read here. On that note, at this point in the campaign, you should be exploring various ways to optimise its returns. Fortunately, this is a breeze with Google Ads through responsive advertising.

Responsive advertising utilises machine learning to automatically adjust certain parts of an ad to determine which version performs the best. A single ad can have up to 15 various headlines and four descriptions, which Google Ads can run around 43,000 combinations with them. It’s a great way to lower your CPC while boosting conversions.

This is also a great opportunity to set yourself up for the long haul. With a wealth of data now at your disposal, you can plan out the campaign’s roadmap for the rest of the year.

Months 4 – 8: Rinse and Repeat

Market trends and movements may have changed this far into the timeline. You’ll need to study the data, observe patterns, and run further A/B testing to tweak your campaign again. Consider expanding your data points to include heat maps and click patterns.

Months 9 – 12: Lead Management and Remarketing

There’ll inevitably be some visitors that won’t be ready to become your new customers or complete the journey. When your Google Ads campaign has been running close to a year now, getting in touch with them again will be a good idea. Find and fix cracks in the sales pipeline and nurture leads to improve their chances of converting.

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