Structuring a Google Ads Search Account

KLIK Staff

May 23, 2021

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How to Split out Campaigns & Ad Groups in Google Ads

A well-planned and logical account structure is essential for running a successful Google Ads search account. Account structure is about how keywords are organized into ad groups and how ad groups are organized into campaigns.

The Google Ads platform is an intentionally blank canvas that allows you, the advertiser, to create boundless groupings of keywords, ad groups, campaigns, and ads. You could take a “throwing paint at the wall” approach and add every keyword you can think of, grouping them into campaigns and ad groups as the inspiration strikes. However, this approach will likely produce an account that is poorly optimized to target desired audiences and difficult to manage.

No matter what your business goals are, a thoughtful account structure will benefit account performance in the long run and make it easier for you, the advertiser, to read performance and make optimizations.

Google Search Account Hierarchy

First, let’s review the Google Ads Search Account Structure Hierarchy. Accounts contain campaigns; campaigns contain ad groups; ad groups contain keywords and ads.

*Note: Technically, URLs can be set on a keyword level. However, Google will flag an error message if keywords within the same ad group have different URLs.

When considering how to group your keywords into ad groups and how to group your ad groups into campaigns, it is important to consider the different settings that can be applied to each level of the structure. The chart above shows settings & attributes that are applied on each level of the hierarchy.

A guiding principle for deciding how to split your structure is that at the most basic level, campaigns are split out to benefit you — the advertiser (and/or other stakeholders) — while ad groups are split out to benefit the user. That is, campaign splits allow you to easily optimize and monitor different levels of granularity, while ad group splits allow you to serve more precisely targeted content to users to best match their specific intent.

Splitting Out Campaigns

Campaigns should be split based on the levels of granularity you need to easily manage and control within the account. For example, if your business prioritizes traffic from various states differently, you should split out your campaigns into multiple geo-location tiers to view performance from each region separately and spend more of your budget in the higher-priority geo tier. However, if your business equally prioritizes traffic from all targeted locations, you can target all locations in the same campaigns and not worry about where traffic is coming from specifically.

As another example, let’s say you want to run a certain set of keywords only on weekends. Those keywords should be split out into their own campaign because ad schedules are set on the campaign level.

The reasoning behind each campaign split should be to make it easy for you to track performance at your desired granularity and to make optimizations for specific locations, audiences, time frames, keyword topics, etc.

When splitting out campaigns, it is also helpful to anticipate future priorities or actions you may want to take. If you think, one day, you may want to increase your reach to a Spanish-speaking audience, you should split out your campaigns by language so that, when the time comes, you can easily make optimizations that target more Spanish speakers.

It can also be helpful to split out campaigns by a common keyword topic. For example, if a client requests increased spend for all keywords related to “free shipping”, it would benefit you to have all of your “free shipping” keywords grouped thematically into campaigns. That way you can easily adjust settings such as budgets and ad schedules for this group of keywords.

Splitting Out Ad Groups

While thematic groupings can be useful in campaign splits, this type of grouping is especially important in ad group splits. While campaign groupings work to make your account management easier, ad group organization works to optimize user experience with tailored ads and landing pages.

Google calculates a quality score for each of your keywords which measures how well your ad serves the users who search for that keyword. The score is based on several factors including how well the keyword aligns with the ad copy served to the user. The more tailored your ad copy is to each keyword, the better each keyword’s quality score will be.

Grouping keywords into ad groups allows you to maximize keyword-ad alignment (and so, maximize quality score) and to minimize the amount of ad copy you must create. If you wanted to make the greatest possible positive impact on every keyword’s quality score, you could put every keyword in a separate ad group, and write ad copy specifically tailored to each keyword. However, this would use up a LOT of valuable time and resources. It is much easier to group all keywords thematically into ad groups and create copy that is relevant for each theme. This saves time while ensuring that users are served the right ad to match the topic of their search query.

When it comes to matching the right ad to each ad group, Google has a setting that makes this much easier. The setting is called Ad Rotation and can be found within campaign settings, though it mainly affects ad groups. When you set Ad Rotation to “Optimize: Prefer best performing ads”, Google will use performance data to determine which ad variant is most relevant for each ad group and will then serve that ad for the keywords in that ad group. When you apply this setting, you don’t have to do the work of choosing which ad variant is the best match for each ad group. You can simply add all, or several, of your ads to every ad group and then, automation will do the matching for you!

For this automated setting to work as it should, it is important that you carefully group your keywords thematically into ad groups. For example, if your account contains keywords related to “buy shirt” and keywords related to “buy pants”, you should create two ad groups and at least two ad variants — one variant with copy about “buying shirts” and one with copy about “buying pants”.

When you choose “Prefer best performing ads”, you can use both ad variants in both ad groups and the automation will work to make sure the “shirts” copy is served with “buy shirt” keywords and the “pants” copy is served with “buy pants” keywords. However, if you had created just one ad group containing all keywords and all ad variants, the optimization won’t work. The “pants” copy will still perform best when served with “pants” keywords and the “shirts” copy will likely perform best when served with “shirts” keywords. However, the optimization will not recognize this pattern because it treats a single ad group as one unit and does not perceive variation within the ad group. Therefore, it will not match the relevant ad with each keyword.

Example Scenarios

Thematic Groupings

Ask yourself: “Should users searching for these keywords be served different ad copy?”

If so, you should split the keywords into multiple ad groups.

Then ask yourself: “Will I be managing these keywords differently?”

That is, do you want to spend a lot on some keywords and very little on others? Do you value traffic from some of these keywords more than traffic from others? Will you want to use some of these keywords for a certain time frame?

If so, you should split these keywords into multiple campaigns.

Location Groupings

Ask yourself: “Will I be managing these locations differently?”

That is, do you want to spend more in some locations than others? Will you value traffic from some locations more than traffic from others? Do you want to view any performance differences that might exist across these locations?

If so, you should create separate campaigns for each location or group the locations by common goals/priorities. You can then add the same keywords to each set of location campaigns. If you want to target many locations but don’t care to manage them differently or view granular location data, you can create many location targets within the same campaigns.

Note that you cannot set different location targets on the ad group level. If you have different ad copy to be served in different locations, you will need to split at the campaign level.

Time-Based Groupings

If you have a set of targets (target keywords, locations, audiences, etc.) that you want to use for a limited time, you should create specific campaigns for this period. You can set start and end dates for these specific campaigns.

If you have a set of targets that you only want to run at certain times or on certain days, you should create specific campaigns for them. You can then set a specific ad schedule for these campaigns.

If you have a particular ad schedule in mind for your WHOLE account, you do not need to create any specific campaigns. Simply apply the same ad schedule to all campaigns.

Match-Type Groupings

Match-type is set on the keyword level so, technically, you may have any number of keywords of different match types within ad groups and campaigns. However, there is often notable performance variation between match types, so you likely want to manage keywords of different match types differently. Following our splitting guidance, any keywords that you want to manage differently should be split into separate campaigns. Therefore, it is generally recommended that you use separate campaigns for each match type.

Final Thoughts

When in doubt, consider how much control and visibility you want over the elements in your account. For any elements that require granular management and performance visibility, you will benefit from splitting out campaigns.

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