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AdWords Search Campaign Structure Best Practices

January 10, 2018
Table of Contents

There are many variables that factor into the success of an AdWords account. Ongoing management and optimizations are a major key to their success but before that begins, you have to build a strong foundation with the structure of your campaigns. There are many different approaches to doing so, but here are some best practices to follow that we’ve achieved success with at Power Digital Marketing.


Every AdWords account consists of several components. These components include campaigns, ad groups, ads, and keywords. Within each campaign you have ad groups that have their own set of ads, and every ad group contains keywords.

The basic framework of AdWords accounts is relatively simple, but how to actually structure them is where advertisers can use some direction. You’ll need to understand what your strategy is before moving forward with an account build, whether you’ll be creating Display campaigns to create brand awareness, search campaigns to drive action on your site, or a combination of both (which isn’t recommended). Since search campaigns are typically the starting point for most business, that is what we’ll focus on.


Campaign Level

To begin with, how you set up your campaigns is crucial to future success. It’s important to not over complicate your campaign structure in order to make management and optimizations run more smoothly as you begin to collect data. Each campaign should be based on a broad theme that will then incorporate more nuances of said theme within the campaign. So where should you begin?

Brand vs. Non-Brand

Separating your campaigns by brand and non-brand should be the first step that you take. Your branded campaigns will always perform differently from your non-brand campaigns and should be isolated. Required budget for a brand vs. non-brand campaign will also be different  You can still incorporate your themes into your branded campaigns, but can also do so at the ad group level depending on the breadth of your product/service offerings.

RelatedThe Ultimate AdWords Account Setting Activation List

Non-brand campaigns will typically have increased competition and will require added management from budget adjustments to ad scheduling. Because each campaign will focus on a high level theme, budget allocation becomes much more efficient when your campaigns are structured this way.

Match Types

Your campaigns should also be broken out by match type. Our best practice is to have one set of campaigns only containing broad match, broad match modified or phrase match keywords along with a duplicated campaign with only exact match keywords. In other words, you’ll have two campaigns with the same keyword sets, only one will consist of broad match keywords and the other exact match. Your exact match keywords should then be applied as negative keywords and applied to all broad match campaigns, this will prevent internal competition amongst keywords in ad auctions. Now why do this you may ask?

Your broad match campaigns will cast a wide net and draw in search queries that you can potentially add as new keywords while your exact match campaigns trigger ads for the keywords that you’re bidding on. Once search queries are promoted to keywords, they can be added to an exact match campaign and applied as a negative keyword to all broad match. This keeps campaigns clearly defined, clean, and organized so optimizations can be much more manageable.


Related: 11 Settings You Need to Check Before Posting a New AdWords Campaign

Ad Group Level

Your ad groups should be categorized by more granular themes. Each ad group should contain a keyword set that is as relevant as possible to your ad group. By doing this, you can more easily identify keyword sets that aren’t being engaged with by your audience as well and make the necessary adjustments to improve in these areas.

Having your keywords organized like this will also help improve the Quality Score of your keywords. You’ll want your ad copy to be as closely related to your keywords as possible in order to generate high click-through-rates and improve the ad relevance of your creative. When keywords are in tight clusters, your ad copy will reflect a highly relevant message to your audience and boost the performance of your campaigns. On the topic of Quality Score, there is another method of setting up your campaigns at the ad group level.

Single Keyword Ad Groups (SKAGs)

SKAGs are exactly how they sound, every keyword receives its own ad group. This can be extremely helpful in situations where keywords are in hyper competitive ad auctions or their average cost-per-click is extraneously high. In these circumstances, Quality Score can pay huge dividends to the amount you pay per click and pay per acquisition.

When each keywords is in its own ad group, your ad group will (at least it should) contain ad copy that has the keywords directly placed into it. Matching ad copy to your keywords greatly improves CTR (try resisting clicking on an ad that has what you searched on Google displayed right in front of you) because your copy will be highly relevant.

It is important to note that this type of structure does require added maintenance in the long run. Each time a new keyword is added to a campaign, a new ad group and set of ads must be created as opposed to bucketing new keywords into an ad group theme in the first strategy mentioned. While some extra hours may be put in down the road, benefits will be reaped with strong performance.

Related: The Power of SKAG’s

Ad Level

At the ad level, it’s a best practice to have no more than 2-3 ads per ad group. This allows you to test different variations of your copy to see what resonates best with your target audience.

Every ad consists of several components:

The best components of ads to test are either Headline or the Description. When running a test, every component of your ad should be exactly the same with the exception of the component that you are testing. With this, when generating test results, you’ll know exactly which component of your ad is responsible for a winning ad. A new variation can then be drafted and implemented into the rotation.

Wrapping Up

The structure of an AdWords account can be the difference between a well-oiled machine or a complicated juggernaut that requires hours of manual labor. It’s imperative to build a strong foundation if long-term goals are to be accomplished. By structuring your AdWords account using the best practices outlined above, you can more easily dive into campaigns and identify where you’re seeing success, pinpoint the root causes of poor performance and positive results overall.




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