HomeBlogThe 7 Pillars of Building a Future-Proof PPC Account Structure

The 7 Pillars of Building a Future-Proof PPC Account Structure

Author: Navah Hopkins
Last Updated: July 27, 2023 | Paid Search Marketing

Navigating the ever-changing landscape of pay-per-click (PPC) account structure management can be overwhelming. However, you want to iron out your account structure now to avoid future headaches that could leave you feeling like this: 

ppc account structure - spongebob stressed meme

Given the constant shifts in the rules of audience engagement coupled with economic fluctuations, it’s essential to have a clear understanding of how to set up and manage your accounts with agility. 

There are seven fundamental pillars to consider when future-proofing your PPC account structure. Let’s delve into each!

🤓Totally new to PPC account structures and not sure where to start? Our free PPC 101 guide can help!

How to build a future-proof PPC account structure

Follow these seven steps to create a PPC account structure that can keep up with the demands of your industry now and in the future.

1. Be mindful of your budget allocation

An effective PPC account structure strategy should be financially sustainable. It’s crucial to ensure your budget can support all your campaign initiatives. A golden rule of thumb is to have enough budget to accommodate at least 10 clicks per day for non-branded searches. This helps offset the costs of lower conversion rates often associated with non-branded traffic—since those types of website visitors tend to have less commercial intent.

Although branded traffic generally boasts higher conversion rates and is typically cheaper, budgeting for less than 10 clicks per day could put undue pressure on your campaigns to deliver an impractical 10% conversion rate. Additionally, the advent of Google Ads Performance Max campaigns brings new budget considerations. For example, Google Ads auction prices will vary across multiple channels, including display, search, video, and local.

In short, you’ll need to set realistic budget goals for your PPC account. It’s best to limit your account structure to a few campaigns to start to avoid stretching your budget too thin. On top of that, be ready to flex or reallocate budgets as you go.

Our latest Google Ads benchmarks can be a helpful starting point when deciding what type of account structure your budget can afford:

💸 In order to budget mindfully in PPC, you need to know what costs to expect. Find out the average CPC, CPL, and more for your industry using our 2023 search advertising benchmarks data.

2. Adhere to current audience engagement best practices

Understanding and adapting to the changing rules of audience engagement in PPC advertising can be challenging. However, it's crucial to ensure your Google Ads account is always in compliance with the latest targeting best practices and policies.

For example, you may want to structure your account to incorporate placement exclusions for display or video campaigns. First off, this can boost your account's performance since you won't waste any impressions or clicks on someone who might be irrelevant to your business. More importantly, this can stop your ads from showing to sensitive audiences. Your placement exclusions could be a proactive measure using a list of sites or apps you prefer not to show on, or they can be reactive, informed by past data from the "where ads showed" report.

In another example, Google's upcoming update that will factor search volume into the search terms report offers an exciting opportunity to gauge the potential reach of a keyword in relation to its cost. This allows you to make informed decisions about which keyword concepts to prioritize within your account's search campaign structure.

3. Strike a balance between human control and Google's AI machine learning

A contentious issue in Google Ads for small businesses is striking the right balance between human control and AI (artificial intelligence). As AI in marketing becomes more popular, both the positive and negative impacts AI has on PPC have come to light.

For example, generative AI can help you create assets for your PPC account, like images, videos, and ad copy. Meanwhile, Google's Search Generative Experience (SGE) may cause ads to show lower on the page, so your Google Ads Quality Score should be a priority when considering your PPC account structure.

Whether you choose a PPC account structure that relies more heavily on AI control or on manual control, know that each side has its merits and drawbacks. It's crucial to find the blend that best suits your specific needs and circumstances.

However, finding ways to work AI into your PPC account structure to some degree is no longer a nice-to-have option, it's needed. For example, the manual-based single keyword ad group (SKAG) PPC account structure has fallen out of favor.

Firstly, keywords are no longer the guiding light; they have essentially become an "audience" due to Google's updated keyword-matching logic.

Secondly, from a budget allocation perspective, it's challenging to support multiple ad groups with a manual bidding strategy, especially when campaigns have insufficient data to help estimate your bids. A better PPC account structure strategy in this situation would be a few core ad groups under one campaign that uses one of the automatic bidding strategies—which are powered by Google's machine learning. 

ppc account structure - graphic of the typical ppc account structure

4. Remember the importance of negatives 

Negative keywords are invaluable in protecting your costs and directing traffic. They can help you narrow in the searches you show for, so that you're only hitting your core keyword terms.

You can brainstorm more negative keywords using a keyword research tool, like this:

wordstream free keyword tool results

An example of how WordStream's Free Keyword Tool can help you sort through which terms may or may not be relevant to your business. 

Moreover, the use of negative audiences alongside placements is an essential strategy often overlooked. If you only use audiences to target, you miss out on the opportunity to proactively protect your budget from unforeseen variables.  

5. Ignore audiences and placements at your peril

Audiences in Google Ads provide a unique chance to target or exclude potential traffic based on exhibited behaviors or predictive signs of future actions. Audiences can be applied at both the campaign and ad group levels of your PPC account structure as well as baked into broad match targeting.  

As keyword targeting becomes less about the syntax of the keyword and more about the implied meaning and associated audiences, the significance of audiences only increases.

When building your PPC account's campaigns, it's imperative to identify your most critical buyer personas and understand the creative strategies best suited to engage them. As a general rule of thumb, you should have unique ad copy and visual strategies for each primary persona. This could mean having several ad groups per audience so that you can have tailored ads that fit each one accordingly.

Meanwhile, audiences and placements play slightly different roles when optimizing any Performance Max (PMax) campaigns within your PPC account. In standard campaigns, audiences function as active targets or exclusions, while in PMax, they serve simply as signals for Google to know which placements are best for you. However, we are increasingly being offered more opportunities to exclude incorrect targets.

6. Harness the power of first-party data (or, at minimum, pretend to)

First-party data plays a pivotal role in determining where your ads serve and who they are served to. If you're unsure whether you can leverage first-party data—that is, having consent from your prospects to track them and hold their emails—consider using algorithmically learned audiences like in-market or custom intent based on search terms in the meantime.

While these audiences may not perform as effectively as ones sourced from your first-party data, they at least provide a fighting chance compared to not using audiences at all.

7. Manage your privacy and conversion tracking practices

The final component in future-proofing your PPC account structure lies in your conversion tracking setup. It's crucial to strike a balance between being privacy-compliant and maintaining visibility into your campaign's performance.

Consider the pros and cons of using GA4 events or other analytic events versus the native advertising conversion actions Google Ads provides. Although native ad platform tracking can capture more information, the moment you use external sources, like GA4, you'll have to grapple with some degree of attribution data modeling.

However, we saw at Google Marketing Live 2023 that Google is rolling out updates to make building and tracking your PPC account's audiences via GA4 more doable:

google marketing live - ga 4 audience builder screenshot

Recently, there has been a new development allowing the use of enhanced conversions to build a customer-match audience list. If you decide to leverage this intriguing tool, remember that your audiences from enhanced conversions still need to meet minimum targeting requirements—typically at least a thousand people on the list. However, this strategy can be a potent way to build those lists if you didn't have one before, and to back up the data that the ad platform is seeing.

In conclusion, ignoring audiences and placements in your PPC account structure could be detrimental. Harnessing their potential while considering the importance of first-party data and balancing privacy with conversion tracking will set you up for success in this ever-evolving digital advertising landscape.

Your PPC account structure matters now more than ever

Creating a future-proof PPC account structure may be challenging, but focusing on these seven core pillars will help you navigate the terrain. Remember to continuously review and update your strategies to keep up with evolving trends and changes in the industry. Work on your PPC account structure now, your future self will thank you!

To recap, here are the seven components of a future-proof PPC account structure:

  1. Mindful budget allocation
  2. Engaging the right audiences
  3. Both AI-powered and manual assets
  4. Negative keywords and audiences
  5. Strong audience and placement strategies
  6. Using audiences sourced from first-party data or in-market and custom-intent audiences
  7. Solid privacy management and conversion tracking

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Meet The Author

Navah Hopkins

Navah Hopkins is a Top 25 PPC Expert and international speaker who has been in the digital marketing industry since 2008. She specializes in paid media strategy and helping brands build relationships with profitable partners and customers.

She’s a cofounding member of the Paid Search Association, a group dedicated to empowering the next generation of PPC practitioners, and she continues to give back by sharing lessons learned at conferences and local universities, and in blogs and webinars for SEJ, SEL, Semrush, and WordStream.

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