Account organization is one of the most time consuming, but also one of the most important things to get right in your AdWords account. If you have a poor account structure, no amount of sophisticated bidding or great copywriting can compensate for this. However, if you have a great structure, you’ll reap many benefits:
- Better performance because you’re showing the right ads to the right users.
- Easier and faster account management thanks to a clear naming convention that makes sense (and that can be used to filter on). Especially if multiple people work on the same account, you’ll want the campaign and ad group names to be self-evident.
- Better control over your budgets.
- Expansion becomes easier.
- Campaign level reporting makes more sense.
Assuming you already know the difference between an account, campaign and ad group, I’ll dive right into best practices for campaign and ad group organization.
At the end of this post I’ll list a few tools that can be huge time-savers for creating and (re)organizing your campaigns and ad groups.
There is no one right way to organize your campaigns. Technically, campaigns are mostly about settings (especially budget and reach) and these could apply to all your keywords and ads in which case you could do with one campaign. But that’s rarely optimal.
So the first question about campaign organization would be: when do you need a separate campaign?
- For your branded keywords, which should always be in separate campaigns. You want to be able to monitor and report branded and non-branded results separately, as discussed in the Goal Setting part of this series. Don’t forget to add your brand name (and common misspellings) as a broad negative to all non-branded search campaigns (tip: use a negative keyword list for this).
- For your display campaigns. Even though it’s possible to target the search and display network in the same campaign, your life gets much easier when you run your display campaigns separately, as discussed in the Campaign Settings & Bid Adjustments part of this series.
- For different goals. Maybe you’ll also want to run campaigns to generate awareness or traffic, that don’t need to be as directly profitable as your other campaigns. By separating campaigns by goal type (or by phase in the buying funnel), you’ll know what to optimize for in each campaign. This also makes campaign level reporting more insightful.
- For different messaging or budgeting in different locations. If you just want to bid differently for different locations, you don’t need a separate campaign as you can do this with bid adjustments. However, if you want to use different ads or different budgets for different locations, you’ll need to create separate campaigns for each location.
- For different ad scheduling settings. As these are set at the campaign level, each time you’ll want to use different ad scheduling, you’ll need a new campaign. If you want this because of time zones, this reason hopefully coincides with different locations.
- For different daily budgets. Although you can also use a shared budget across multiple campaigns.
These are the reasons when you really should (or will simply have to) create separate campaigns. Before enhanced campaigns there were more technical reasons for separate campaigns: devices, sitelinks, bidding methods and bids per location. These are no longer reasons to have separate campaigns, thanks to bid adjustments and sitelinks and flexible bid strategies at the ad group level.
There are also reasons for which you don’t necessarily need to, but still may want to create separate campaigns:
- Product lines & Services: it’s probably best to have a separate campaign for each product or service (category) you offer. That way you can easily keep track of their performance and know where to find a specific keyword in your account.
- Brands. If you sell multiple brands, creating a separate campaign for each brand makes sense. Just make sure any product category campaigns you may have don’t target the same queries. For example, the query “sony led tv” could be matched on the “led tv” keyword in a category campaign as well as in your Sony campaign. So you’ll have to add all your brands that have their own campaign as negative keywords to your generic campaigns.
- Match types. Some people like to separate their match types at the campaign level. For (very) high volume keywords this can be worth the trouble, but doing this for all your keywords means you’ll double or triple the number of campaigns and will have a hard time to keep keywords and ads synchronized across campaigns.
- Performance or volume. Once you’ve found your proven winners, you want to make sure they get special treatment and don’t miss any impressions. Having separate campaigns for those keywords is a great way of achieving this. It’s what David Rodnitzky calls the ‘Alpha Beta account structure’. I’d recommend reading How to Capture & Control Your PPC Keywords to Achieve a Better Account Structure to learn more about this. You can also download the official whitepaper at 3Q Digital (by the way, I can highly recommend all their whitepapers) or listen to AdWords Keyword Structures with Mike Nelson.
In short it works like this: your Alpha campaign is for proven winners that are added as exact match, each in their own ad group. Your Beta campaigns contain modified broad keywords that you’re still testing. Once you’ve found a winning query (I’d say at least 2 conversions within your efficiency target to prevent going after false positives or one-hit wonders) you promote it as exact match to an Alpha campaign and exclude it in the Beta campaign. Obviously, poor performers will also be excluded from your Beta campaign.
I think the Alpha Beta structure is especially useful for high and medium volume keywords.
If you sell thousands of products (or a niche product) and have low volume long tail keywords, it will take you too long to have enough data for those keywords. So those keywords could stay in a ‘Beta’ campaign forever, which is fine.
All these possible reasons and strategies to organize campaigns may be overwhelming. So let’s not forget to mention the most used way to organize your account: mirror the site structure. If your site has a sitemap, definitely take a look at that to get started. You can always refine your structure later on.
Ad Group Organization
As many ways as there are to organize your campaigns, there’s only one right way to structure your ad groups, which is to always make them tightly themed.
As discussed in the Quality Score part of this series, you can consider your ads as the answers to the queries (questions) that are matched to the keywords in the same ad group. One of the most classic mistakes in paid search is to put too many (different) keywords in the same ad group. What happens in those cases is that you provide the same answer to different questions.
That’s far from optimal and will hurt your results in many ways: lower CTR’s and Quality Scores, higher CPC’s and lower conversion rates if the landing page isn’t the best match you have.
Some guidelines to keep in mind when organizing your ad groups:
- For your highest volume (or best performing) queries you’ll want to use single keyword ad groups (SKAGs) with an exact match keyword for maximum control. That way, you can fully focus on testing ads and bid management to get the most out of these queries. This is also how Alpha queries are treated in the Alpha Beta account structure.
- For all ad groups your keywords should be strongly related, each essentially asking the same question. A good way to ensure this happens is by applying the ‘two-word rule’ (as discussed in Brad Geddes’ Advanced Google AdWords). With this rule, you pick two root words that will signify the theme of the ad group. Then every keyword in that ad group should have those same two words in them but may have additional modifiers before or after the root words.
- Regularly apply the ‘Peel & Stick’ strategy (as discussed in Perry Marshall’s Ultimate Guide to Google AdWords) in your ad groups. This means pulling out low performing keywords (e.g. lower CTR’s and Quality Scores) from an ad group and putting them into new ad groups with better matching ads (and landing pages, if possible).
- As a general rule of thumb, keep the number of active keywords in an ad group below 20. There are exceptions of course, but less is always better. Use search volume to guide you whether or not a separate ad group is justified.
As mentioned at the beginning of this post, account organization can be quite time consuming. Luckily, there are tools out there to make your life easier and save you lots of time:
- AdWords Editor: Google’s free must-have desktop tool. Especially powerful in combination with Excel.
- PPC Campaign Generator: easy to use tool to quickly generate campaigns and tightly themed ad groups. Cost: $127 (one-time fee).
- SpeedPPC: similar to PPC Campaign Generator, but has more features and it’s also web-based. Pricing starts at $53.90 a month.
- WordStream PPC Advisor: account organization and keyword grouping is just one of the many features of this PPC management software. Pricing starts at $249 a month.
Account Structure: Your Audit Checklist
Is the naming convention for your campaigns and ad groups clear, consistent and easy to filter on?
Do you have a separate campaign for your branded keywords and added these as negatives to all your non-branded search campaigns?
Do you target the search and display network in separate campaigns?
Have you made sure (by proper use of negatives) that different campaigns or ad groups don’t target the same search queries (from the same users)?
Do you separate your highest volume (and best performing) queries in single keyword ad groups?
Are all your ad groups tightly themed? Apply the two-word rule and regularly peel & stick to increase the relevance of your ad groups.
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