Practical Ecommerce

Google AdWords: Structure For Success

As I work with many companies to improve and refine their conversion rate from paid search efforts such as Google AdWords, I have noticed a general misunderstanding about how the structural elements of Campaigns vs. Ad Groups should be used.

Correctly structuring your Google account allows you to more easily monitor and refine your performance. Proper structure is critical to achieving an ROI from paid search campaigns.

Taking Google AdWords as being the most widely used (and even perhaps the “model” for Yahoo and MSN), let’s review the levels of organization available:

  • Account — The log-in level. Used to designate a single payment method. Generally a company with a single website will only have one account. For multiple websites, it probably makes sense to have multiple accounts. These can be linked together with a Master Account for ease of administration and management.
  • Campaign — The highest level of organization. Used primarily for regionalization and budgeting.
  • Ad Group —The critical level of resolution. Used to specifically address a single idea or concept.
  • Keyword —The actual search phrase itself. Can be defined in various levels of broad/specific focus.


Campaigns are perhaps best explained by looking at the main controls that Google provides at this level. Within Google, four key decisions are made at the Campaign level:

  • Region — Select where your ads will display. Country, State, City level. (Determined by IP address.)
  • Networks — Search matching for Google and partner network, and content (also called contextual) matching for the Google network.
  • Budget — Set a daily budget for this campaign. Begins at midnight, ads will stop displaying when budget is spent.
  • Ad Scheduling – Display ads, or alter bids based on time of day.

When you are planning your paid search strategy, begin with a single campaign, then create another if you need to alter any of the four options listed above.

If all of your keywords should be displayed to the same region, on the matching basis, under one budget, at the same time — then you need only one campaign. Sub-organization should be accomplished with Ad Groups.

If you have three different regional needs, then you’ll need three campaigns. If you also want to control the budget on a 70/30 basis within each region, then you’ll need six campaigns (two budget separations for each regional separation).


Ad Groups are the most important level of organization within Google. They are collections of keywords linked to a single ad. This is essentially the “idea’ level” — one idea per Ad Group.

The key to grouping keywords into appropriate and effective Ad Groups is to remember these keywords will be represented by a single ad. This will tend to mean that, in most cases, no more than 100 keywords should be represented in a single Ad Group because it’s very hard for a single ad to be compelling for a large number of keywords.

Because of Google’s use of Quality Score in the bid/position calculation, Ad Groups become even more important because they directly impact the amount you will pay per click. As a general rule, every Ad Group should be small enough that every keyword can appear in the ad. At the very least, part of the keyword phrase should appear in the ad.

Now, before you run off and begin to use squiggly brackets to include the keyword in every ad, consider that the site still needs to convert those visitors into action takers. In many cases, using the squiggly brackets just creates an ad that bears no resemblance to the web page that the visitor lands on. Spending the time to set up more Ad Groups, with fewer keywords in each one, will generally produce a much better ROI.

Although the approach that I am suggesting can be more time consuming, it will provide the appropriate structure to sweep aside your competitors and win the paid search battle!

Mat Greenfield

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  1. Legacy User September 4, 2007 Reply

    Thanks. This is helpful, but more advanced that we are at this time. We are very new and really would love to read a basic primer, a 'how to do AdWords for totally new unfamiliar with it all' for beginners. There's so much that people assume everyone already knows and maybe we should, but we don't. Everything at the Google site itself is written for people with a much higher level of knowledge and information. It's like gobbledygook and Greek combined. All the jargon is overwhelming.

    This seems to indicate you could write such a basic Adwords 101 article OR if you guys would rather recommend something like that that already exists (we haven't found it yet) that would be most appreciated.

    Sorry if that request is too basic but we come from the no question is stupid school of beginners — we don't know what we don't know (yet).

    Thanks for this excellent resource because once we do KNOW what we don't yet know, we plan to learn even more from here.

    — **

  2. Legacy User September 4, 2007 Reply

    I second the comment. Where do you get the basic 101 about AD words?

    — **

  3. Legacy User September 5, 2007 Reply

    Regarding the basic Adwords 101 Article to the readers & writers above, if you don't know what you're looking for then you never will. For God's sake, just try not to let your emotions get the better of you and leave Google alone. We all have the Internet as a resource tool, it is visible and appropriately placed at our disposal. If you really want something, just like when you throw the ball for the dog, "You fetch"! It's definitely out there boys & girls, grab it before it disappears.

    — *frank burns*

  4. Legacy User September 5, 2007 Reply

    It's hard to find good articles on complex AdWords management. You guys should check out "Adwords for Dummies" (it's real), and spare the author from having to write a children's book with his extensive knowledge on the subject.

    — *john richardson*

  5. Legacy User September 5, 2007 Reply

    I really do understand the tension between beginner and advanced AdWords. The challenge is that a truly effective AdWords campaign will have an effective foundation, which takes some advanced understanding to get right.

    Honestly, instead of going the 'Dummies' route, I'd suggest that you consider engaging an agency to manage your account for you. Or if you're really sure that you want to do it yourself, consider Andrew Goodman's book 'Winning Results with Google Adwords'. You'll still be in for some fairly expensive trial and error though…

    — *Mat Greenfield*

  6. Legacy User September 5, 2007 Reply

    I would also recommend for beginners. Great resource for PPC 101.


    — *Greg Laptevsky*

  7. Legacy User September 5, 2007 Reply

    I found this to be very helpful. As someone with a little bit of experience using Google Adwords, this cleared up a lot of questions for me. I fall closer to the beginner's end of the scale, but I can say, I'm glad I didn't give up. I find that the more I get in there and start taking action, the easier it gets, and the more sense it makes…even all the Google-lingo.

    — **

  8. Legacy User September 11, 2007 Reply

    Don't listen to that negativity. You'll get it if you want to! I'm just taking off from novice hood, and anyone can with effort. Starting out, Check out The Definitive Guide to Adwords by Perry Marshall and even the salesy white pages by Network Solutions to help you pickup the lingo.

    — **

  9. Legacy User September 13, 2007 Reply

    I started a online outdoor supply store with no web design, buisness management, or advertising experience. Heck I am a fire fighter who was lucky to be able to put my report in the computer, but I strived for nothing less than perfection and with alot of determination I have done it. I have just launched my site but the single most difficult aspect in my venture is learning how to maket my site. I understand many buisnesses use Adwords, Yahoo Marketing, and other PPC campaigns with great success, but learning how to use them properly to acheive success can be overwhelming to say the least. I have studied search engine algorythms for optimization and adwords, but if there is a good book for me to read that could help me I would be grateful for the suggestion.

    — **

  10. Legacy User July 8, 2008 Reply

    Thanks for the very helpful information.

    Best Regards
    Arpit Kothari

    — *Softweb Solutions*