PPC

Part Two: How to Build a Google Ads Account – Campaign & Ad Group Structure

Ryan Moothart

This article on PPC campaign structure is part 2 of a multi-part series which will cover just about every facet of a successful Google Ads account top to bottom. Whether you’re building a new account from scratch or auditing an existing account to find improvements, we hope you’ll use these posts as a guide to help make sure your Google Ads account is in pristine condition and driving your best possible ROI.

If you missed the first installment, Part One: How to Build an AdWords Account – Campaign & Network Settings you may want to start here.

If you need a more entry-level primer about how pay-per-click advertising works, this guide will get you up to speed quickly.

What’s in this post: Campaign & Ad Group Structure

This installment covers the importance of structure in PPC. The success of your entire account often relies on a healthy, scalable structure to ensure you have the right level of insight, optimization, and budget control. Inconsistent or poorly-designed campaign structure will turn into wasted money. Use this article to make sure your structure is solid, and stick with that proactive organization as you grow.

Pay-Per-Click Campaign Structure

When you build a new PPC account, your goal should be to create a logical structure that reflects the categories and sub-categories of product or service that you offer. Start with the end-goal in mind that you want to be able to easily evaluate broad yet distinct categories as a whole, but also to understand or optimize that performance at the sub-category level without having to skip all over the place to find things.

To complicate things, you’ll also need to consider the user’s journey and mindset, so that if visitors who search for your site a certain way convert better with a different message you can identify and cater to that. As an example, think about what you’d show to someone who searched for your brand and a specific product, versus a visitor who originally searched for a non-branded term like “jacket” or “winter coats”.

To get your bearings and avoid getting overwhelmed, it’s often useful to start by considering the navigation of the website you’re advertising, whether it’s your site or a client’s.

Often times, especially with e-commerce sites, the primary categories and sub-categories featured in the main navigation can serve as an adequate starting point to break out your paid search campaigns. There may be layers of sub-categories, or sub-sub-categories that aren’t reflected in navigation, but in a well-designed site the high-level options are typically both accurate and exhaustive for the broad product groups.

Once you break out the categories, here are a few additional best practices to follow:

PPC Campaign Structure Best Practices

Branded keywords are typically housed in their own campaign(s)

If a visitor includes your brand name in a search, or the brand name of one of your products, that’s a powerful indicator that they’re in a different relationship with your company than others.

Because branded search queries typically indicate a current customer, or a well-researched prospect who’s already close to purchasing from you, that’s exactly the kind of user behavior you want and need to track separately to get a clear picture of what’s working and what’s not.

Keyword match types can also factor into campaign structure

While it’s certainly not required, similar to breaking out branded search into its own campaign, it’s common practice to break out campaigns by category, and then again by match type. If you can identify meaningful differences in what a user wanted by virtue of how they searched it, this may be a valuable addition.

Bid modifiers can help you handle device-type without extra campaigns

While a lot of PPC practitioners used to advocate splitting your account and campaigns out for visitors coming in via desktop vs mobile search, you don’t actually need to do this at the campaign level.

You absolutely do need to look at how visitors from different device types perform for ROI and optimization purposes. But with bid modifiers that allow you to adjust precisely how much you’re willing to pay for certain types of click within any campaign (e.g.: mobile vs desktop), duplicating every campaign by device type is a waste of time and over-complicated tactic for most accounts.

Identify high-volume keywords for stand-alone campaigns

Over time, you may find a particular keyword attracts a significant amount of impressions and clicks which warrant putting into a stand-alone campaign with its own budget.

While the traffic is often welcome, a high-volume term in a given campaign may prevent your budget from being used on lower-frequency but high-ROI keywords. You might be setting yourself up to sabotage your results by ignoring these instances and not adapting your campaign structure.

Example of PPC Campaign Structure

Example: You’re building a pay per click advertising account for a website that covers 3 primary categories. Your campaign structure could look something like this:

  • Brand Only (Exact Match)
  • Brand Other (Exact Match)
  • Brand Other (Modified Broad Match)
  • Category A (Exact Match)
  • Category A (Modified Broad Match)
  • Category B (Exact Match)
  • Category B (Modified Broad Match)
  • Category C (Exact Match)
  • Category C (Modified Broad Match)

When it comes to display campaigns, including remarketing, you’ll want to break your campaigns out by targeting criteria. For example:

  • Remarketing Audience A
  • Remarketing Audience B
  • In-Market Segment
  • Interest/Topic Category A
  • Interest/Topic Category B
  • Managed Placements

 

Ad Group Structure

Moving one level down from campaigns, Ad Groups should be tightly themed and (ideally) contain no more than a dozen keywords each. That’s not a rule, but it’s usually a good idea to keep ad group keyword lists small. This will allow you to easily tailor ad copy, even if you just tweak a headline, to better match specific keywords. Ad groups should also contain keywords with only one match type.

To maximize granularity and increase your chances of improving quality scores, you could give each keyword its own ad group. However, this is often times unnecessarily granular.

Here are some examples of useful ad group structures within a PPC campaign:

Campaign: Category A (Exact Match)

  • Sub-category A – Exact Match
  • Sub-category B – Exact Match
  • Sub-category C – Exact Match
  • Sub-category D – Exact Match

Or, if your campaigns are not broken out by keyword match type:

Campaign: Category A

  • Sub-category A – Modified Broad Match
  • Sub-category A – Exact Match
  • Sub-category B – Modified Broad Match
  • Sub-category B – Exact Match
  • Sub-category C – Modified Broad Match
  • Sub-category C – Exact Match
  • Sub-category D – Modified Broad Match
  • Sub-category D – Exact Match

Pro-Tip: In cases where you have ad groups with keywords in phrase or broad match, and these keywords also exist elsewhere in your account in exact match, you’ll want to use negative keyword lists which contain your account’s exact match keywords in these ad groups to ensure search queries get funneled to the most relevant keywords.

Remarketing Lists for Search Ads

Remarketing lists for search ads (RLSA) are remarketing audiences applied to search campaigns or ad groups, and they can be incredibly powerful if used thoughtfully. Creating these targeted groups of past visitors allows you to bid up or down in your campaigns or ad groups for users that have seen very specific content, or have simply interacted with your brand.

For example, if you have a particular search campaign with a lot of competition and high click costs, you could apply an RLSA of users who’ve visited your site previously and apply a bid modifier of +50%. That way, in this campaign, you’d only increase your bids by 50% for users who have already visited your site at least once. Similarly, if prospects have visited a specific vendor comparison page on your site, you might consider bidding even higher for this precise group using RLSA.

Laying the groundwork for future RLSA targeting

Pro-Tip: it’s important to ensure your campaign or ad group’s targeting flexibility is set to “observations” when using RLSA’s. This ensures your ad impressions are not limited only to users in these audiences. If your targeting flexibility is set to “targeting,” ad impressions will be limited to users in your RLSA’s only; all other users will be excluded.

Recap of Paid Search Campaign and Ad Group Structure

Take a look through your account. Do you have a coherent and consistent structure throughout each of your campaigns? How about your ad groups? Are you utilizing RLSA appropriately? Any room to expand? Are there any high-volume keywords or categories that dominate a budget shared with low-volume high-performers?

Closely evaluate your keyword categories (including sub-categories) and match types as part of your overall structure. So long as you organize your campaigns and ad groups effectively on these two dimensions from the start, optimization and analysis will be much easier going forward. It will also be simple to expand and add more campaigns as needed.

For those of you who have more experience in Google Ads, do you have a preferred structure for your paid search accounts? What have you seen work well in the past? Let us know in the comments below.

In part 3, we’ll cover keywords: selection, match types, quality scores, and more. Stay tuned!

Ryan Moothart
PPC Architect

Ryan is a PPC Architect and has been with Portent since 2010. He has over seven years of hands-on PPC experience including large-scale e-commerce, international B2B lead gen, and everything in between. Graduating from Willamette University with a BA in Rhetoric and Media Studies, he became a published author in 2016 with the release of his book, Towards Cascadia, which is a non-fiction exploration of Pacific Northwest identity, bioregionalism, and nationhood. He and his husband, Paul, enjoy traveling and are avid followers of Sounders FC, Seattle’s Major League Soccer club.

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