Tips for Structuring Search Campaigns in AdWords

Published August 26, 2015
If you’re reading this article, you’re probably already pretty familiar with AdWords. You know that AdWords offers a highly effective form of advertising to reach prospects that have shown interest in the types of products or services you offer.
However, to reach these people effectively, you need to build your campaigns properly to make them not only eye-catching, but relevant—relevant in the messaging you’re using, and relevant to types of people you’re trying to reach. You want the right ads to show for the right keywords, with the ability to carefully control bids and to tailor messaging toward prospects. The more an ad relates to a prospect’s search, the more likely that ad is to convert.
But how do you do all that? Optimizing your ads to be supremely relevant to a prospect’s search take first optimizing your AdWords account. Let’s see how this may work in practice by reviewing some basic principles of account setup.
First, it’s important to understand the basic organizational structure of AdWords. Within an AdWords account, you can set up multiple campaigns. At the campaign level, you control a number of settings, including geographic targeting, budget, and network targeting (search vs. display). In this article, we’ll deal specifically with search campaigns.
Within each campaign, you can then create multiple ad groups. An ad group contains one or more ads which target a shared set of keywords. Any of the ads in that group are eligible to show when someone searches for any of the keywords in that group. You can set bids down to the keyword level, but can also set default bids for each ad group.


Blog Image AdWords Structure


Separate Search from Display

AdWords encourages you to set up campaigns that run on both search and display networks. In effect, this means the same keywords you’re targeting for search will also be used to target display placements relevant to those keywords. While this option may seem convenient to maximize your reach, we generally recommend against running a campaign that combines search and display.


  • You won’t be able to bid separately by network. The optimal bids for conversion in search generally won’t match up with the optimal bids for conversion in display.
  • You can see stats broken out by search vs. display more easily with separate campaigns.
  • The keywords you bid on for search may not be the same as the keywords that work best for targeting on display. In a combined campaign, if a keyword is active, it’s active for both search and display.
  • Writing ad copy for search often entails a different approach than writing for display. In search, you’re responding to direct intent shown by someone searching a phrase relevant to your brand. In display, you’re trying to stand out in ad slots within website content, attracting users who meet targeting criteria but may not be immediately looking for your brand’s product or service.

To limit a campaign strictly to search, choose Search Network Only when creating the campaign.


AdWords Choose Search Campaign


Group Keywords into Tightly Themed Ad Groups

Ad group organization is what sets apart a high-performing, well-built AdWords account from a low-performing, carelessly-built one. Proper organization starts with grouping keywords into ad groups. Since any ad in an ad group can show up for any of the keywords in that same ad group, you want to make sure that (a) ad copy relates closely to all of those keywords and (b) the keywords relate closely to each other.

For example, let’s say you sell clothing online, and you want to promote both dress shirts and polo shirts. You could create an ad group for “Shirts” and bid on “dress shirts” and “polo shirts.” However, ideally you want to show an ad talking about “dress shirts” to people who search that phrase, and a different ad for “polo shirts” to those who search that phrase. People will be more likely to click, and ultimately to purchase, when they see the specific item they searched for represented in an ad. It’s also likely the audience for these two items may be quite different. So you should break out separate ad groups for each of those categories.

You may end up with ad groups containing keywords such as the following (of course, your keyword selection would likely contain many more keywords):

  • Dress Shirts ad group: dress shirts, buy dress shirts, dress shirt sales
  • Polo Shirts ad group: polo shirts, polo shirts for sale, polo shirts price

Keyword relevance also plays into ad Quality Score, which affects how much you ultimately pay for ad clicks. Keeping keywords tightly-themed and close to ad copy will help raise Quality Score, in turn helping you to pay less for clicks. Note that a number of factors contribute to Quality Score, so keyword relevance doesn’t provide an end-all path to a perfect score, but it will certainly contribute.

Include Multiple Ad Variations

When writing ad copy that relates closely to keywords, it’s a good idea to include multiple variations of ads in each ad group. AdWords will rotate ads against each other so you can measure which ads perform the most effectively for driving clicks and, ultimately, conversions. This process allows you to refine your messaging based on performance.

In order to properly rotate ads, you’ll want to change a default campaign setting. By default, AdWords optimizes ads based on click performance, automatically showing ads that are more likely to receive clicks.

However, this setting too often results in AdWords skewing traffic toward one ad before enough statistically significant data appears. In addition, this prevents you from manually taking the reins to test ad copy.

Within your campaign, select the Settings tab.


AdWords Settings Tab


Scroll down to “Ad delivery” and click to expand that section. Choose the “Rotate indefinitely” option and click Save. Note that Google will warn you about possible performance issues when using this option; however, note that as long as you’re planning to carefully pay attention to your ad performance, this option is best for hands-on management.


AdWords Custom Ad Rotation


After ads have had some time to run, you can now analyze performance stats to determine which worked best. In this example, we can see results from two ads that ran against each other for three months.


AdWords Ad Analysis


First, we want to look at CTR (clickthrough rate), the percentage of ad impressions that actually resulted in clicks. This metric helps to show how relevant people found ad copy to what they were searching—if they clicked on the ad, it’s a good indication it matched their intent. We can see that the second ad received a slightly higher CTR, at 1.36% vs. 1.12%.

However, CTR doesn’t tell the whole story. We ultimately want to look at conversions, showing how well these ads resulted in leads for the business. Reviewing the conversion columns, we see that the first ad drove four more Converted Clicks at a significantly lower Cost/Converted Click (about $12 lower). In addition, the first ad converted at a higher rate, 12.94% vs. 9.46%. Based on the higher conversion rate and lower cost per conversion, we can declare the first ad the clear winner of the two. This is the ad we’ll decide to keep running.


Starting your search campaigns with the right framework will help you to achieve the best success from AdWords. Make sure you separate your search campaigns from display, carefully group keywords in ad groups, and craft multiple ads that are closely relevant to those keywords. Building off this framework, you’ll be able to strategically test performance of your ads, using the data to establish campaigns that convert.


When the client first came to you, you talked up the value of Google Analytics. You emphasized the importance of seeing where your traffic was coming from. You went on and on about how Google Analytics can show traffic sources to pinpoint whether people came from search, social media or a specific site referral, and how valuable this data was. You sold them on it, so much so that your client looked forward to receiving that first report, the magical day when they would finally understand where visitors were coming from.
But then the report came, and it looked like this:



It showed that 10% of your client’s traffic came from “(direct)/(none)”. What does this label mean? How do you explain Direct traffic to your client? Better yet, how do you explain “none”?
Let’s take a closer look at understanding Direct traffic in Google Analytics and how we can address it with clients.
Digital marketers spend a lot of time focused on PPC and SEO campaigns in order to drive desirable traffic to a website. The phrases we’re ranking for and bidding on get meticulous attention, so much so that we often forget about some of the other ways that visitors find us.

We put a tremendous amount of the effort we put into reviewing organic search data and PPC campaign performance in analytics. But how closely do we monitor referral reports?

If that’s not a channel you review regularly, you may be missing out on seeing traffic that is coming directly from links you’ve obtained around the web, local business listings, news mentions, and more. Many times, links are only considered as a means to an end, a metric that Google uses in determining how to rank sites in the SERPs (search engine results pages). But the fact is, many of a site’s links may be directly contributing to its traffic.

In this article, we’ll review how to look at referral reports in Google Analytics, and some of the many ways to use that data to better inform your web marketing decisions.


Remember how your mom told you not to stand too close to the television because it might hurt your eyes?

The same rules can apply to data. If you’re too close, you may miss the patterns and trends that are crucial to understanding your website’s performance. You can’t judge a site’s performance looking at data in the bubble of a single day, you must consider any day’s traffic compared to the days before and after.

Google Analytics makes it fairly easy to analyze trends over long periods of time. But it also allows you to stand right in front of that TV, to look at more granular levels of time, right down to the hour.
There’s a better way to get that close to the data, without burning your retinas. We’ll cover how to analyze traffic effectively in today’s post.