The Last Guide to AdWords Account Structure You'll Ever Need

One of the most common questions we see here at WordStream is, “How do I structure my account?” so today, we’re going to lay it out for you. This is the last guide to structuring a Google AdWords account you’ll ever need!

Building a successful AdWords account is a lot like building a house – whether you’re starting with an empty lot and building from the ground up, or renovating an old dump of an account that’s falling apart. (Sometimes, you inherit a campaign that’s so irreparably damaged, it’s better to just tear it down and start over.)

In this guide, we’ll cover the basics of building out an awesome AdWords account structure in five parts:

  • The Campaign Level: Laying the Foundation
  • The Ad Group Level: Building Your House
  • Keyword Selection: Interior Decorating
  • Ad Copy: Exterior Design
  • Ad Extensions: Adding a Backyard Pool

In the end, you’ll have a beautiful campaign structure that looks like this:

Let’s get to work.

AdWords Campaign Structure: Laying the Foundation

Campaign type & settings

First, you need to lay a solid foundation for the rest of your account. Start by choosing your tools, i.e. your campaign type. Ask yourself, what is your advertising goal? The right campaign type for your business depends on your answer.

Most businesses will want to start with a search campaign, but if you’re primarily looking to generate calls (if, say, you’re an emergency plumber), a call-only campaign is the right choice. If you’re trying to generate awareness for a completely new brand/product, display campaigns are a great option. You can also create multiple campaign types to satisfy multiple goals.

The next step is planning your blueprint, depending on what kind of business you’re running. In other words, how is your business structured?

When those decisions are made, it’s time to consider your campaign settings:

  • Location Targeting
  • Language Targeting - Any language customers speak
  • Bid Strategy - Automatic vs. Manual
  • Budget

How to set your campaign budget

Where to start? First, you need to know how Google spends your money. Your monthly budget is your daily budget x 30.4. So, start with a monthly budget and work backwards (divide by 30.4). Consider: Based on your estimated CPC (cost per click), how many clicks per day can your budget support?

For more detailed help with managing your budget, check out these resources:

The Ad Group Level: Building Your House

What do ad groups accomplish?

The level below campaigns in your AdWords account structure consists of your ad groups. Ad groups:

  • Create the structure within each campaign
  • Are organized by theme
  • Control keyword/ad association

The golden ratios of ad groups

How big should an ad group be? Here are some guidelines to follow when determining the size of your ad groups:

  • Max of 7-10 ad groups per campaign
  • Max of ~20 keywords per ad group
  • 2-3 ads per ad group

Of course, there will be exceptions to these rules, but for most businesses, these are solid guidelines to make sure your ad groups don’t get bloated and difficult to manage.

Keyword Selection: Decorating Your House

Now it’s time to define your keywords, the level under your ad groups.

Don’t rely on your instincts here – use keyword tools to do your keyword research so you’ll know for sure that you’re bidding on keywords with search volume. AdWords Keyword Planner is available within your AdWords account, and you can also use free keyword tools or third-party paid options like SEM Rush.

They key to great keyword research is intent. You want to choose keywords that have clear commercial intent, meaning that people who search using those terms are looking to buy something. Keywords with intent often include:

  • Qualifying terms such as specific product details, brand names, the word “cost,” etc.
  • Location terms (e.g. “used cars seattle”)

Generally speaking, very broad terms don’t show much intent, and can have very low click-through and conversion rates, and high CPA’s.

Keyword match types

Keyword match types are a way of defining how the keywords in your campaign can match up with the queries people search on Google. There are four keyword match types to choose from, show below from least to most restrictive:

  • Broad match: Your ad may match to any generally related search, including synonyms. For example, if you bid with broad match on “laptop case,” your ad might show when someone searches for “computer bags.”
  • Modified broad match: This match type is a little more restrictive; your ad will only match when the search term includes words that you designate with a plus sign. However, the words can be in any order. More on this match type here.
  • Phrase match: The keyword must include the terms you’re bidding on uninterrupted and in order, but may include other terms before or after.
  • Exact match: Self-explanatory … right?

Google recently announced some changes to the way exact match keywords work. The upshot: exact match keywords aren’t so exact anymore, and your ad may show when the terms in your keyword are reordered or the “function words” change, as in the examples shown below:

What’s the impact of this change?

  • Better for low-volume terms/niche industries
  • Not so good for Branded campaigns

As an example: the brand term HomeRate Mortgage now matches the non-branded search “home mortgage rates.”

So what’s the best match type?

As always, it depends on your account goals, but my personal opinion is that modified broad is king:

  • Casts a wide net not limited by order or use of additional terms
  • Restrictive enough to stay relevant
  • Use 2-3 term keywords
  • Avoid single-term keywords

Max CPC bids

The next piece of the keyword puzzle is setting max CPC bids. This tells Google how much you’re willing to pay for a click. Your Ad Rank is then determined by your Max CPC bid multiplied by your Quality Score. It determines your ad position and your cost per click.

Much like your budget, the question when it comes to Max CPC bids for a new campaign is “Where should I start?” There are a couple of good ways to determine this.

Option 1: Automatic Bidding

Most of us at WordStream preach the value of Manual bidding over Automatic, because it gives you control over your keyword bids rather than leaving it up to Google. That said, starting a new campaign is one of the few good use cases for Automatic bidding. Let Google determine your Max CPC bids for a bit, and keep an eye on the data to get an idea of how much clicks will cost. You can switch back to Manual bidding once you have some data to work with.

A couple of guidelines for using Automatic bidding:

  • Use the “Maximize Clicks” bid strategy. Google will try to get as many clicks as possible out of your daily budget.
  • Be sure to implement a Max CPC bid limit. Although you don’t have control over your keyword level bids with this strategy, you can set an overall limit that you don’t want Google to exceed for a single click.

Option 2: Manual CPC

If you want total control, you can use the Manual CPC bidding strategy right from the start. To determine where to start your Max CPC bids before your campaign starts running, there are a couple metrics that can help:

  • Page #1 CPC
  • Top of Page CPC

These are both estimations that Google provides for each keyword, giving you an idea of what it’ll cost to rank on the first page of results and at the top of that page. Placing your Max CPC bid between these numbers is usually a good starting place when using Manual bidding.

Ad Copy: Exterior Design

Now we come to part four of the guide, writing your ad copy – the part of your account “house” that most people are actually going to see.

First, a reminder that we’re living in an Expanded Text Ad world. So-called ETA’s are now the default ad type, and they’re about twice as big as AdWords text ads used to be.

Make sure you’re following ETA best practices, and pay attention to these dos and don’ts for ETA’s.

Ad copy A/B testing

It’s crucial to run tests on your ads so you can find the text/creative that resonates most with your audience, driving more clicks and conversions for lower costs. Here are a couple of examples of A/B tests I love.

Test keywords vs. creativity

The first ad focuses on straightforward, keyword-centric ad copy. The second tests a more creative, attention-grabbing approach. Don’t assume you know what your audience will respond to! Run a test and get conclusive data.

Test price vs. no price

Another thing to test: including a pricing information in your ad.

Specific numbers often drive clicks, but might also help you qualify your audience (weeding out people who aren’t truly in your market, for example if you offer a luxury product).

Writing conversion-friendly ad copy

Make sure you’re setting the table for conversions. A couple of tips:

  • Use self-selecting ad copy – As mentioned above, including pricing info can help you reach your best audience and avoid clicks from non-buyers.
  • Match your call to action (CTA) to your landing page – When the same CTA appears in your ad and on your landing page, people are in the right mindset to convert before you even pay for the click.

See how the ad below has great “message match” with the corresponding landing page?

Ad Extensions: Honey, Let’s Get a Pool!

Ready for some home improvement?

Ad extensions are a foolproof way to make your ad more enticing – they garner high CTR’s at no added cost to you. (I can’t say the same for adding a pool, unfortunately.)

Which extensions should I use?

There are many ad extensions available with new ones popping up all the time. Not all of them are going to be right for your account.

Here are my top four favorite extensions:

  • Sitelinks
  • Callout extensions
  • Call extensions
  • Location extensions

Sitelinks and callouts are almost universally applicable. Sitelinks are clickable links to other pages on your site (more options for the searcher than just one landing page) – but if you’re using static lead capture landing pages, you may want to avoid these. Callouts are additional snippets of text that form an extra line of copy (but are not clickable).

Call extensions and location extension are not always, but often applicable. Call extensions make it easy for mobile users to call you direct from the SERP (skipping the landing page entirely). Location extensions offer your physical business information, great for local businesses.

Depending on your business type there may be other extensions you should explore. All of these extensions have the power to:

  • Provide a more direct path to conversion
  • Take up more real estate on the results page
  • Improve your Quality Score (by raising your click-through rate)

Don’t launch your ads without them!

TL;DR – AdWords Account Structure, Simplified

Whether you’re ready to build a brand-new AdWords account from scratch or want to overhaul a messy account you’ve just inherited, here are your main takeaways:

  1. Start with a strong foundation. Give your campaign structure and settings the attention they deserve.
  2. Ad groups are simply containers, but they’re very important to control keyword and ad association.
  3. Make your keywords work for you: Start with modified broad match keywords (2-3 terms in each keyword) that show clear intent.
  4. Write ad copy that sets you up for conversions and always be testing!
  5. Remember ad extensions are your friends. Choose wisely and don’t start spending money until they’re enabled.

Follow my advice and soon you’ll be moving into your beautiful house.

About the author

Bobby Kittredge is a Customer Success Manager at WordStream. He is building a team of PPC Wizards that onboards our software clients to set them up for success. Outside of work, Bobby skis well and plays golf terribly. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

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