HomeBlog5 Tips to Align Your Google Ads Account with Your Sales Funnel Stages

5 Tips to Align Your Google Ads Account with Your Sales Funnel Stages

Author: Allen Finn
Last Updated: November 22, 2021 | Paid Search Marketing

You bring in a consultant or make a new hire to develop the perfect sales funnel. You’re cranking out quality top of funnel content daily. Your nurture campaigns are building relationships with leads as they drift down, down, down. And your swarm of salespeople, armed with demos and free trials, driven by incentive-laden bonus structures, are ready to close like the dickens.

You’re probably thinking, “What does this have to do with Google Ads”?

And that’s the problem.

The Path to Purchase Is Paved with…Keywords?

For too many businesses, the relationship between the stages of the sales funnel and their Google Ads account structure ends at the very top. Broad keywords, tertiary terms with little indication of a purchase being imminent, drive the majority of the traffic: often to landing pages with only slight copy variance and no real change to the offer.

If your paid search goals include things like “efficiency” and “making money,” there should be a foundational relationship between your sales funnel (the customer’s path to purchase, or sales cycle) and the offer.

Distilled to its most basic level, this means bidding on the right keywords and serving the right ads to drive the right traffic to the right landing pages. Sounds simple, right?

While continuity between ad copy and landing page copy (also known as Message Match) is a frequent topic of conversation among SEMs (in fact, Duane Brown from Unbounce and I just did a webinar on this exact topic), ensuring synergy between account structure and the sales funnel stages often goes ignored.

message match between adwords account and sales funnel stages

This makes little sense to me because building your account to parallel your sales funnel is a surefire way to improve your lead quality and volume.

In other words, Message Match should extend past aligning website copy with ad copy; it should be the bedrock of your paid search efforts.

In what follows, I’ll touch on 5 ways you can ensure alignment between the stages of your sales funnel and the structure of your Google Ads account.

But first…

Why does any of this matter?

In a nutshell, Message Match has a disproportionate impact on Quality Score which, if you ask my boss, means a whole hell of a lot.

quality score impact on sales funnel steps

Of the factors that impact Quality Score (keyword relevance, ad relevance, click-through rate, landing page experience, historical performance, and the opaque “various relevance factors”), the three in red boxes are all affected by Message Match.

For those who aren’t familiar with the terms:

  • Keyword Relevance – How closely related the keyword you’re bidding on is to the search query entered by a prospect.
  • Ad Relevance – Whether or not the search query is present in your ad copy.
  • Landing Page Relevance – Whether or not the search query is present in your landing page copy.

Now, logic dictates that if your keywords and ad copy align, your click-through rate will improve (if someone searches for X and X in is your ad copy, that someone has a greater chance of clicking on your ad). Do this over a long period, and your historical performance will look so good Google has no choice but to give you a 10.

Why is this important? Because Quality Score directly impacts cost per click.

quality score impacted by campaign structure and cpc

The less money you pay for each click, the more clicks you can pay for. And more clicks mean more opportunity to garner conversions.

By ensuring that your account is built in such a way that maximizing Quality Score is automatic and not a chore, you maximize the work every dollar of ad spend can do for you.

Got it? Good.

Without further ado, the list.

Tip #1: Reflect the stages of your sales funnel in your campaigns

There are three main sales funnel stages: top, middle, and bottom.

consumer decision making process

(I’ve used this ice-cream-cone-as-sales-funnel image too many times to count, but it works and makes me want to sprint over to Eataly, so deal with it)

At the top, you’re basically fishing for new prospects: those unfamiliar with your brand or conducting informational searches. They’re likely far from making a purchase. In the middle, you’re nurturing prospects who are in the throes of their decision-making process. And finally, at the bottom, you’re convincing a prospect familiar with your offering (and ideally, your brand) to fork over some dough in exchange for your good or service.

As the largest unit of organization within your account, campaigns are the perfect place to start weaving Message Match into your paid search efforts. While many advertisers will use campaigns to group similar keywords (ie. “sneaker” keywords in one campaign, “boots” in another, and so on), this simply doesn’t go far enough.

What does? Let’s take a look.

Say you run a haberdashery. You sell dapper handstitched flannels and fine leather accoutrements. You just launched your new line of woolen overshirts, and have decided to market them with your Google Ads account.

ecommerce path to purchase woolen mens shirt

So you build 3 campaigns: “Overshirts – ToF,” “Overshirts – MoF,” “Overshirts – BoF.” In each, your goal is different:

  • In the top of funnel campaign, you’re introducing your shirts to people conducting pre-purchase research (folks searching for things like “shirts for winter” or “alternative to jacket”).
  • In the middle of funnel campaign, your goal is to concretize your product and brand as the authority.
  • Finally, in the bottom of funnel campaign, you’re bidding on long-tail keywords that convert intent AKA readiness to buy (really anything containing synonyms of “purchase,” or so loaded with detailed information that it’s clear your prospect isn’t just conducting research).

Leverage the power of Dynamic Remarketing and Google Shopping Ads to make this system even more effective (and, depending on your industry, as wholesale replacements for your middle/bottom-of-funnel campaigns).


Will this take longer to build than a single campaign for each product or service? Yes. But doing so gives you an unprecedented level of control over how your dollars are spent because it allows you to tailor ad copy to both keywords and searcher intent.

Tip #2: SKAG (Single-Keyword Ad Groups) or GTFO

It doesn’t get more tightly-knit than one keyword (with multiple match types, of course) per ad group. Single keyword ad groups (SKAGs for short) represent peak granularity

You see, it becomes incredibly easy to work the term you’re bidding on into your ad copy when there’s only one keyword to worry about. Shoehorning three or four terms into a single ad is an impossible task, even with the 47% expansion offered by expanded text ads. Inevitably, within the sprawling ad groups present in most accounts, there are situations in which ads are being served for terms to which they are only tangentially related. This ain’t good, folks.

Unfortunately, due to the ad group creation interface within the AdWords UI, many advertisers don’t even think of using SKAGs.

adwords single keyword ad group

Think back to the factors that impact Quality Score. Remember “Keyword Relevance”? It’s virtually impossible to achieve synergy between search query and ad copy when a single ad is served for more than a dozen keywords. The only way to do it is to lean on Dynamic Keyword Insertion which, though useful, takes control out of your hands. If you wanted to relinquish control you’d be paying for bench ads.

I disagree with Google’s suggestion to lump “10-20 keywords” together (side note: there’s some nice irony in the line that follows, which tells advertisers to “be specific”).  Specificity demands granularity, and for that, you’re gonna need SKAGs. Lots and lots of SKAGs.

What does a Single Keyword Ad Group look like? I’m tickled you asked.

adwords keyword pricing tiered bidding skag

While they’re called “single keyword,” SKAGs should actually contain three keywords: one term, three match types. In the example above, we’ve got the term “adwords keyword pricing” in the same ad group as broad, phrase, and exact match keywords.

In addition to giving you the ability to work keywords into your ad copy with ease, by implementing a tiered bidding strategy (lowest bid for broad match, highest bid for exact match), you ensure that your broad match (or BMM) term doesn’t cannibalize impressions from the phrase and exact match iterations.


say no to overstuffed ad groups

Tip #3: When it Comes to Keywords, the Name of the Game is Intent

I’ve mentioned this above ad nauseum, but it bears repeating: keyword intent is incredibly important.

At the highest level, there are three kinds of search query: navigational, informational, and transactional. Navigational queries offer very little commercial intent and, realistically, you can probably avoid bidding on them. Informational and transactional searches, however, make up the bulk of what you’re actually bidding on.

keywords by customer intent

Grouping keywords with similar intent in the same campaign allows you to have a measure of control over messaging. This is valuable because someone making an informational query is likely looking for something different than someone making a transactional query.

For example, a prospect conducting an informational search is going to respond better to a whitepaper or webinar than an opportunity to make a purchase. Conversely, someone looking to buy isn’t going to care about general information, so making the buying process as easy as possible is the name of the game.

By understanding the intent of a searcher, you can construct a message (evinced in your keyword, ad copy, and landing page copy) that solves their problem.

Choosing to cluster “hmmmm” keywords with “buy now” keywords in the same ad group or campaign as transactional terms will cause them to lose their potency.

Tip #4: Put the Kibosh on Superfluous, Non-Converting Traffic

Now that your account is built in a way that maximizes the power of Message Match at every possible level, it’s time to ensure that you aren’t wasting valuable spend on search queries that stand no chance of converting.

Leveraging negative keywords is the simplest way for you to dampen and, with diligence, nearly eliminate, the impact of fruitless search queries. But how do you know what to negate? Intent.

account level negative keywords

Negative keywords can be implemented at three levels: Account, Campaign, and Ad Group.

At the account level…

In the image above, notice how most of the search queries outlined in red contain the word “free.” If you’re a retailer, negating the word “free” at the account level is an excellent way to ensure broad match and phrase match keywords don’t show for queries with little to no commercial intent. You may also want to consider adding other terms that are either antithetical to your business, or that you consider morally reprehensible.

At the campaign level…

If you’ve structured your campaigns with Message Match in mind (as recommended above), your campaign level negative keywords should include some of the terms that you’re bidding on in similar campaigns targeted at different parts of the funnel. So, returning to our digital haberdashery example, in the top of funnel overshirts campaign we might negate the keywords we’re using in the bottom of funnel overshirts campaign. This stops the broader terms from cannibalizing the longer tail, high commercial intent terms (the ones we want to convert).

And finally, at the ad group level…

Last (but by no means least) the ad group level is where you’re going to want to add your daily or weekly negative keywords: those individual search queries that your keywords actually match out to. This is should be a routine activity: it isn’t glamorous, but adding ad group level negatives ensures you’re keeping a constant eye on the queries you’re paying for (and it can give you ideas for new keywords!).

By building out negative keywords at each level, you’ll begin to trim superfluous impressions, moving closer to a world in which your ads are most often served to those searchers who are likely to click.

Tip #5: Leverage Advanced Targeting Features

The internet has an estimated 3.4 billion users worldwide. No matter how fantastic your product or service is, unless it turns gravel into gold, it’s unlikely 46% of the planet’s population want it. This is why we use geo targeting.

But targeting on the Search Network can extend beyond simply choosing a city or state to advertise in. Google also gives advertisers the opportunity to target searchers based on demographic information like age, gender, parental status, and household income.

Why is this valuable? Because, once again, by having the opportunity to control who your audience is, you can better cater to that audience with your ad copy and offering.

Let’s dig into a couple of the targeting options that can help you lock up the local SERP.

Income-Based Targeting

If you own a locally focused business odds are you rely heavily on location-based targeting in Google Ads; if you run a national or global operation, it’s likely you’ve got bid adjustments in place to attribute more or less of your total spend to the geographic areas that perform well (or don’t).

adwords income targeting customer funnel experience

If you have a model of your ideal customer, average household income was probably something you considered. It’s part of how you determine what you sell and how you sell it. Now, you can leverage this data, courtesy of Google, to help you to decide where to advertise.

Demographics for Search

Demographics for Search allow you to create bid adjustments for certain audiences based on gender, age, or parental status. You can also completely negate entire groups using these bid adjustments, then build parallel campaigns (so you could have a campaign in which you’re targeting people from age 18-24, and another in which you’re targeting their grandparents). Pretty cool, right?

adwords demographic difference path to purchase

A word of warning, though: do not forget about the “Unknown” group. Google, the all seeing eye, doesn’t know everything about everyone. As such, there are always going to be searchers whose demographic information the big G doesn’t possess. Overlooking these folks would mean actively avoiding a large subset of the population that you should be advertising to!


Building your Google Ads account to parallel your sales funnel ensures that every search query is met with compelling ad copy and the perfect landing page offering.

By thoughtfully deciding who to target (culling your audience from worldwide to one in which region, income, age, and gender are taken into account) you strengthen the effectiveness of your newfound structural advantage, making your dollars do more work without having to increase your Google Ads budget. What’s not to love?!

If some of the strategies outlined above seem daunting, don’t just bury your head in the sand: let us help you! Try WordStream Advisor for free today.

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Meet The Author

Allen Finn

Allen Finn is the co-founder of Toasted Collective, a cannabis-focused digital agency. Many moons ago, he worked at WordStream, where he reigned as fantasy football champion for some time.


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