How MSPs can use Google display ads as their secret marketing weapon


Most advice on online marketing for managed service providers is very prescriptive. They just tell you what to do as if everyone should be doing the same thing.

We all know that there isn’t a magic formula to success, yet we try to do the same thing everyone else is doing and find that it doesn’t work. The key to success is to “know your audience.” Get in their heads and walk around a bit. That is when you will find success.

The lesson that most MSPs forget — know your audience

My last marketing class was in college in 1998. You will be shocked, but things have changed a tad bit since then. When I co-founded a start-up, Gozynta a few years ago, I decided to tackle our online marketing. And if you have ever tried to start online marketing, you know “tackle” is the correct word.

There are many questions to answer: where to advertise, what to say, and all the questions you have to answer as you set up: target market, demographics, like audiences. So I read up to figure out how to become an expert on PPC Marketing. Those brown amazon boxes were being delivered daily with “Your Guide to Having A Million Followers,” “Use Google Ads to Get Your Business Started,” if there was a book that touched upon any sort of online marketing from social media to PPC advertising and SEO, it is in our business library. I have devoured it probably multiple times.

But that phrase from when I took my marketing class in 1998 and was drawing up storyboards and making radio copy (No, young ones, we didn’t use typewriters) stayed in my head, “Know your audience.”

That got the wheels turning. “What sites are my customers going to? What are they thinking about while they are there?” Knowing that I can’t do “all the things” simultaneously, I decided to choose a platform that best allows me to reach my target and give them my message.

Facebook ads, Reddit ads, or Google ads?

I tried Facebook Ads and found it didn’t allow me to target my audience at all. There seemed to be set categories and allowed for lots of irrelevant clicks. I liked RedditAds because I could target a subreddit where people were talking, but it was a regular group, so the same people saw the ad a lot and didn’t get to a lot of new people. Finally, I found that Google Display Ads allowed me to make up an audience based on interests and sites they have visited in the past six months. Based on that, I decided to focus my first effort in Online Marketing on Google Display Ads.

Google display ads — a quick introduction

Display Ads will allow you to target your MSP customers when browsing websites, on YouTube, or even checking Gmail. It is a bit like potty training a child at the start of it. But it is worth it in the end. Don’t get frustrated.

According to Google, “The Google Display Network Reaches 90 percent of Internet users worldwide, across millions of websites, news pages, blogs, and Google sites like Gmail and YouTube.”

We now have utilized all of the different ad options from GoogleAds, but I still find that Google Display Ads are the most effective because I can target and alter my messaging for those specific customers.

So let’s walk through the process at a high level. First, remember that this is different from Search Network Ads, where you select keywords and then bid to get an ad positioned on the search results page. Instead, Google Ads will show an image ad that will show up to your customers as they browse around your managed services business website. (We all know this happens.)

So, let’s say that MegaAwesome MSP has a vertical of medical offices. Where would people who make computer decisions for a medical office go? How about targeting visitors to EMR software like eClinicalWorks? I’m sure you can come up with an extensive list of places that your verticals would visit. But you also want to think about what area you are targeting in your geotarget. That way, you aren’t showing it to everyone who visited eClinicalWorks in the world, but just the area you serve.

Setting up and optimizing Google Display Ads

So first, go to Google Ads and click Start a New Campaign and click Create a campaign without a goal’s guidance.


From here, you will select “Display Ad.” It will give you three options: “Standard,” “Smart,” or “Gmail”. Let's start with a “Standard” campaign and put it on your website.


Give your campaign a name and make it a bit specific to the target audience you are going after. So, in this case, “Display ECW Austin.”

Go through the rest of the steps and select an Ad Group. One other place to change on this screen is the Locations. Be sure to click more options to get the screen to target the ad to a location where you are doing business and not shown to people interested in the area you are doing business. That will save you money.


In addition, pay attention to the budget at the bottom. It is essential to start small. I put a daily budget for my ads when they start at $1 a day. I watch it and tweak it. Watch to see if it has an impact. It seemed to be driving traffic, so I slowly upped the daily amount. Suddenly we were getting tons of inquiries and purchases. We went from 4 customers for our new product to 50 in about six months with no other marketing efforts. You can set your budget high and get no relevant traffic to your site at all. Bleck!


Now let’s go to our Audiences and create a new audience for your ad. This will be how you target that group you want. Click on the plus sign for “CUSTOM AUDIENCE” Name the audience for the product or site they were searching on and Include people with any of these interests or intentions to purchase. You can then put in your search for “EClinicalWorks,” or other sites they may be visiting that could share this group of ads.


Go to the Campaign Settings tab and be sure to select your Geotarget. In this case, we are setting it for a radius of 15 miles from Austin.

That should get you a nice audience to start with that will be relevant to your sales. Do remember that Google’s goal is to expand your reach. While people may click, it may not be a relevant click and costs you money, so whenever Google asks during set up if they can expand their reach or find like audiences or targeting expansion, it’s best to say no. You know who you are trying to reach. (I also feel the same about the Smart Campaigns — I stay away from those as they have never brought me conversions). Also, Google will call you and try to expand your search. Take the phone calls with them because they often have helpful advice, but explain that you need to narrow your audience down to be relevant to this search term. You do not want to expand it, and it will be more apt to narrow it further.

On to the ad itself, this is a great time to use your imagination. Think about someone in Austin who has a medical office and is at the ECW website trying to figure out how to implement this software themselves. Go to Canva (if you haven’t gone yet - you are welcome) and use their templates to make yourselves a cute little ad that says, “ECW giving you a toothache? We can help you get set-up, quickly and securely.” Make a few of them in different sizes; you may want to look at Google to see what sizes they want. I know they require at least one square and one rectangle ad, but they also have other sizes that you can have — the more you have, the more opportunity for your ad to be shown in places where only a banner ad or another less standard size.


I like to upload them all to a Responsive Display Ad — which I think is now their default option. This takes your graphic ads and combines them with text ads. It will walk you through the process but put as many headlines, images, and descriptions as possible. I know it gets boring to keep coming up with them, but the ad performs better.


You want to come back often to check on the results of how each property is doing about once a week. Takedown phrases that aren’t performing well and replace them. Get new images when needed. And have fun with it! People like to laugh. They are bound to visit your site or landing page if you have given them a smile.

We have since added many other tools, but I always recommend starting with Google Display Ads. Spend some time thinking about your MSP customer and what they may be thinking or feeling, try to address it in your messaging, and enjoy the rewards. Have fun with this, too! It takes time to get it right, so don’t expect it to be raining gold in an hour. It takes some dedication to set it up and some TLC to tweak it.

This certainly isn’t a complete guide to all things Google Display. It would be a large book to go through all the options and settings, but try them out or look them up. But always keep who your audience is in your mind at all times.

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