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Why You’re Structuring Your AdWords Account Wrong


If you aren’t an AdWords professional, I’m almost certain that you’ll have fallen so deep into one of these common pitfalls that you’ll have forgotten the colour of the sky. I can’t blame you for it though, as if you’ve learned AdWords via Google’s online support and accreditation system you’ll have been taught to do things the Google way, which isn’t the best way. We love Google here at DSA but our own experience and conclusions proves far more valuable than anything else.


The fallacy of the keyword-heavy ad group

Google states: “Most advertisers find it useful to have somewhere between five and 20 keywords per ad group, although you can have more than 20 keywords in an ad group.”

The vehicle is an ad group, the people and baggage are keywords. Do your ad groups look like this?


This is true, most advertisers do use multiple keywords per ad group, and many ensure that these keywords are tightly clustered around the ad group’s theme, like in this example:

Ad Group: Red Shoes

Keywords: red shoes, men’s red shoes, women’s red shoes, kids’ red shoes, cheap red shoes

Can you spot the problem with this? We would be showing the same ad for ‘men’s red shoes’ as we would for ‘women’s red shoes’. “Use Dynamic Keyword Insertion so the ad is always relevant tben!” you cry. This might work in some cases, but men and women will respond differently to the same ad text; this is why having multiple keywords per ad group is not the best way to structure your account. Having multiple keywords per ad groups makes the link between the searcher’s psychology and the ad’s message fuzzy, for lack of a better word.

What we can do that’s much better, although more labour-intensive, is build our account with a one-keyword-per-ad group structure in order to achieve maximum granularity:

(Ad group: keyword)

Red shoes: red shoes

Men’s red shoes: men’s red shoes

Women’s red shoes: women’s red shoes

Kids’ red shoes: kids’ red shoes

Cheap red shoes: cheap red shoes

Don’t do this.

Trickier to manage because of more things to click on, but this granular ad group/keyword structure offers superior levels of granularity and control. Now we’re not stuck with one button controlling 20 different things, instead we have 20 buttons for 20 things. This allows us to split test ad text based on an individual keyword rather than a cluster of keywords. If we used a large group of keywords per ad group, we’d be stuck split-testing Ad A and Ad B for them. With the one-keyword-per-ad group we might discover that Ad A is effective for one keyword and Ad B is effective for a variation of the same keyword. We’d never know that if we bunged them all together in one ad group; each keyword needs a separate ad group in order to be optimised individually and efficiently.

Do this.

Once you’ve reorganised your ad group/keyword structure into the one-keyword-per-ad group method, I absolutely guarantee you will see a rise in clickthrough rate. What effect does increased clickthrough rate have? It boosts Quality Score, the keystone of AdWords account optimisation, with Quality Scores of 10 being the holy grail. Good Quality Scores make you pay less, so your ads can be ranked higher than competitors and cost loss per click.

Having multiple keywords per ad group waters down the relevancy of the ads to the keywords, and DKI is just a lazy way of solving it, so don’t do it.

You’re not using ad group-level negative keywords

Negative keywords can be assigned at both the campaign and ad group levels. It’s quite normal to see accounts using a shared pool of campaign-level negative keywords, but this is far from optimal. If you have clustered groups of similar keywords that aren’t exact match, the shorter broad/phrase keywords will suck impressions away from the long-tail keywords. This leads to you paying more per click, as you typically will with shorter keywords. Also, if you’re using the one-keyword-per-ad group method, as explained above, your strategy of assigning single keywords to ads will fall short for your long-tail keywords as the short-tail keyword ads will take priority.

Get your head round this: blocking desirable traffic at an ad group/keyword level is a good thing. Think of it as a diversion rather than a total block.


To prevent our short-tail keywords sucking away our long-tail keywords’ impressions, we use exact match ad group-level negatives like this:

(Ad Group: keyword:  ad group level negative keyword)

Red shoes: red shoes: men’s, women’s, kids’, cheap

Men’s red shoes: men’s red shoes: cheap

Women’s red shoes: women’s red shoes: cheap

Kids’ red shoes: kids’ red shoes: cheap

Cheap red shoes: cheap red shoes: men’s, women’s, kids’

Cheap men’s red shoes: cheap men’s red shoes: [men’s red shoes]

Cheap women’s red shoes: cheap women’s red shoes: [women’s red shoes]

Cheap kids’ red shoes: cheap kids’ red shoes: [kids’ red shoes]

The non-bracketed keywords are broad, the bracketed keywords are exact. With this structure of single keyword ad groups and ad group-level negatives, you will guarantee that your ads will show for their intended keywords and that your short-tail keywords won’t suck up all of the impressions.

Once you’ve ensured your users are being served the precise ads for their search terms, the next step is to ensure that they’re being sent to a landing page that’s closely related to that term. It could be an exact product or a page with a list of closely related products. Returning to red shoes, if a user searches for cheap men’s size 10 red shoes, they should ideally land on a product page that contains only a selection of discount men’s red shoes available in size 10. It’s like a rat entering a maze and finding its favourite cheese at the end, a bit.

The cheese is your landing page, the mouse is the user. Make sure your landing page is Gouda if that’s what the mouse wants, rather than a stinky piece of Stilton.


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Jonny Holmes

When it comes to PPC, SEO and CRO, Jonny's skill and attention to detail make for consistently great insights. His work makes a measurable contribution to the business

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