If you’ve made it through Parts 1 and 2 of this series and you’re here, chances are you’re definitely convinced how PPC can be a valuable marketing tool for your business. We’ve covered a lot so far, and in this final part we’ll cover Search Campaign Structure, Ad Groups, Ad Extensions, Setting up a Search Campaign, Ads Automation and finally, Additional Targeting Capabilities.
Adwords Search Campaign Structure
Below is an example of a PPC account structure and its content. You could have multiple campaigns running, depending on your business goals and objectives. For example, multiples for different locations or different products and services, perhaps. Each campaign could have multiple ad groups and then finally, the ad group level where the keywords and ads are organized.
The Search Campaign Structure is one of the most important elements to the success of a PPC campaign. There are a ton of ways you could ultimately structure your campaigns, but of course, there are some best practices to consider:
- Create separate Search Campaigns for your brand keywords. Brand campaigns will perform in a much different manner than non-brand campaigns since users would already have some familiarity with your business. It’s also important you can budget, manage and report on brand versus non-brand as well. Make sure to add your brand keywords as negative keywords in your non-brand campaigns to be certain all brand traffic goes through your brand campaign
- Don’t target more than one network in one campaign and keep Search and Display Network campaigns separate.
- Structure the campaign based on your goals. Your non-brand campaigns might be organized by conversion action type, stages of the buying cycle, product or service type, geographic targeting and more. The key is to create a structure that aligns with your business goals and objectives.
Be ready to budget adequately for each of your campaigns and goals or, at least in the beginning, think about either reducing or condensing the number of campaigns.
- Consider the resources you have available for ongoing management of your campaigns as the more campaigns you have, the more time-consuming to manage them.
- Settle on a naming convention that will be easy for anyone managing the campaigns now or in the future. Keep this information in a spreadsheet that is readily available to everyone who will need it.
PPC Keywords: Research & Match Types
When you’re just starting out, it’s typically not necessary to do extensive keyword research. Think back to your campaign goals and consider the ways in which users will search for your products or services. Also consider where they may be in the buying cycle and then group these into themes, which will then become your ad groups.
Negative keywords are words you don’t want your ads to show for or your budget to be spent on. Negative keywords can be set at the account, campaign or ad group level.
PPC Keyword research tools:
AdWords has a Keyword Planner for conducting keyword research providing search volume, cost per click and conversion estimates. There are also many other free and paid keyword research tools, as well as many other places to get ideas, such as the related searches shown on Google search results, Amazon, customer reviews and more. Ask those in other departments of your company for their input, ask sales reps what they hear from prospective customers, ask account managers what words they hear from customers and last, but not least, what words are the competition using?
A great way to manage your budget and qualify traffic in Search campaigns is by using keyword match types. Search engines give advertisers even more control over when their ads will be triggered by a search query with keyword match types. Her are the four match types, in the order of most to least restrictive:
Exact match keywords are represented with brackets around them: [women’s shoes]. They are not however, not really exact. Google allows for close variations, such as reordering of words (if it doesn’t change the meaning), and removal or addition of words such as prepositions, articles, conjunctions, etc. that aren’t impactful to the intent of the search. Given all of this, the priority is still put on identical or “exact” match keywords.
Example keyword: [women’s shoes]
Example search: shoes for women
Phrase match keywords are represented within quotation marks: “women’s shoes”. The order of the words does count with phrase match keywords, but only if the search uses the same order as the keyword. Phrase match keywords can also trigger your ads if there are words before or after the phrase keyword used in the search.
Example keyword: “women’s shoes”
Example search: women’s shoes size 8
Broad Match Modifier (BMM):
Broad Match Modifiers are represented by adding a plus sign in front of the keyword: +women’s shoes. These are a good match choice for trying out new keywords, but still having some control over what searches trigger your ads to show. BMM will show the broad match modifier keyword or close variations, but not synonyms, and the order doesn’t matter.
Example keyword: +women’s +shoes
Example search: shoes for women
Broad match keywords are the default type in AdWords. There are no symbols associated with broad match. They can trigger your ads to show on search queries that Google views as relevant, even if they aren’t keywords in the ad group. This option can provide a lot of good insight and data on how users are searching for your product or service, but it can also create some bizarre matching, requiring that you to keep a close eye on your search term reports. However, in addition to keyword research, broad match can be useful if your keywords have low search volume because the product or service serves a small audience or you’re targeting a limited geography. Another key thing to note is ads may show in searches that include common misspellings, related searches, synonyms and other relevant variations.
Example keyword: women’s shoe
Example search: ladies shoes size 8
How to use match types: You can use any and all of the four match types available for the same keyword, even within the same ad group. Google will show the keyword with the highest Ad Rank, so you want to structure your bids accordingly, by setting exact match highest, then phrase, then BMM and finally broad.
Use exact match more heavily if you’re running on a tight budget since BMM and broad match keywords will trigger for more search queries, costing more. When thinking about what keyword match types to use, always consider your budget.
Campaigns consist of one or more ad groups. Ad groups are simply that: groups of ads that are aimed at a set of related keywords. This structure helps in grouping related keywords and writing ad text around a common theme. Each ad also includes the landing page you want users to be directed to after they’ve clicked on your ad.
Just like mapping out your campaign structure is important, it’s critical to do the same with your ad group structure with the keywords you want to target and exclude, several variations of ad copy and the landing pages that best relate to the keywords. Each ad group should be tied to the goal of the campaign. The keywords should share a common theme and the ad copy should be closely related to the keywords in the ad group and properly reflect the intent of those search queries. This is super important for earning high Quality Scores.
For example, if you’re a retailer selling many different types of shoes you wouldn’t want to have “high heels” and “running shoes” in the same ad group. You would need to write completely different ad copy tailored to each of these products. Additionally, you’ll need your high heels ads to direct to your landing page for high heels and your running shoes ads to direct to your landing page for running shoes.
Adwords Search Query Report
Once your campaigns have run for a time, you’ll be able to see exactly which search terms triggered your ads. Search query reports help determine whether your keywords are grouped properly, if there are keywords you can add to the group (or add as negative keywords), and if you should further segment keywords into multiple ad groups and write ad copy more tailored to those groups.
Text Ad Copy
As shown in the image below, Text Ads consist of two headlines, a description, a display path, a destination URL and ad extensions.
This is the landing page users will come to after clicking on your ad. Be sure the landing page is relevant to the ad and keywords and provides a good user experience. Refer back to Part 2 for a refresher on landing pages.
Each headline can have up to 30 characters (including spaces). They appear on one line at the top of the ad, separated by a vertical dash. This is the most prominent part of your ad and your key opportunity to catch a user’s attention. You’ll want your headline to reflect the search intent and set it apart from the other ads with an offer, benefit or feature. Use the ad groups keywords in the headlines.
The description can be up to 80 characters long. You can experiment with length and content, but be sure the description reflects the purpose of the search.
The display URL will automatically be set to the domain from the final URL and is the URL shown in green under the headlines. You can then set up to two paths of 15 characters each that show after the URL. These give potential customers an idea about the content of the landing page so an ad showing for the search term “women’s shoes” could use two paths /womens/shoes.
PPC Ad Copy Testing & Best Practices
The ad with the best CTR may not necessarily have the best conversion rate, however, ads with better than average click-through-rates will cost less and rank higher in search engine results. Ad testing is an important element of search marketing, but inherently changes as search engines rely more and more on artificial intelligence to determine which ads to serve.
Google recommends at least three ads per ad group. You’ll want two versions of each ad at a minimum to allow for adequate testing. Even with Google’s guidance though, ad testing continues to be an important and progressive part of PPC.
Ad extensions enhance the appearance of your ads by providing additional information, making your ad stand out more, thus giving the user more of a reason to click on it. Ad extensions are served dynamically based on context such as device and location and in combinations predicted to improve click-through-rates. Ads in the top position are eligible for more ad extensions to be shown with the ad.
In 2013, Google added ad extensions into its calculations for Ad Rank indicating the price paid per click and the position of your ads are directly related to the extensions you use. Ad Rank also decides if ad extensions will show with your ads or not. Highly relevant extensions can lead to lower CPCs and a higher position on the page. Advertisers are encouraged to use every relevant ad extension in their campaigns because they can result in higher positions in search results and lower cost-per-clicks. Google creates some extensions automatically if they aren’t already implemented in your campaigns, such as Sitelink extensions.
The biggest benefit of extensions is allowing you to add additional information to your ads like special offers, discounts or sales, events and more without having to create separate ads for these. Also, naturally, the more information in and attached to the ad will make it stand out more.
Types of Ad Extensions:
Sitelink extensions are clickable extensions that link to other pages on your website. The exact number of sitelinks shown with your ads will differ whether your ad is shown on mobile or desktop. Sitelinks can also show in a list format for ads in the top position. They can be added at the account, campaign or ad group level and adding a description is optional. Google may also create descriptions automatically based on the content of your landing page. There is the option to create sitelinks specifically for mobile devices as well as to incorporate custom scheduling.
Callout extensions are not clickable. The purpose of these extensions is to call attention to users about certain benefits or offers. For example, “Free Shipping and Returns,” “Shop New Arrivals,” “Free Consultations,” “Authorized Dealer,” “Family Owned and Operated,” “Money-back Guarantee” and “24 Hour Emergency Service.” Between two and six callout extensions can display with your ad on desktop or mobile devices. They can be added at the account, campaign or ad group level and can be custom scheduled.
Call extensions attach a phone number to your ad. On mobile, users can click to call directly from the extension on mobile devices. Google could possibly display an automated call extension using the number on your website or landing page if you don’t already have the extension set up. Call extensions settings offer custom scheduling to ensure you’ll receive calls when you’re available to answer them. Call extensions can be set at the account, campaign or ad group level and can be counted as conversions if you have turned on the call reporting feature within your account.
Promotion extensions are great if you’re promoting a sale or special offer. Promotion extensions are clickable and can appear with a price tag icon as well as include up to two lines of text about the promotion.
Structured snippet extension:
Structured snippet extensions are not clickable. Their purpose is to display additional information about the products and services you offer. Structured snippet extensions are listed with a header you choose from a list within the AdWords platform and include options such as “Brands,” “Models” and “Types” as well as a list of values that correspond to the header you choose. One header will show on mobile, but two headers may show on desktop. Google recommends having at least four values per header and setting up at least two sets. Structured snippets can be setup at the account, campaign or ad group level and can be custom scheduled.
Message extensions only display in ads on mobile devices that can send and receive text messages; similarly, the business number also has to be able to send and receive text messages. When a user clicks on the message extensions, a message you’ve created pops up, such as “I’d like to schedule an appointment”or “I’d like to learn more about your special offer”. You do get charged when someone clicks on the message icon within your ad, but not when they actually send the text. Message extensions can be setup at the account, campaign and ad group level.
If your business has physical locations, you’ll definitely want to use location extensions. First you have to link your Google My Business account to your AdWords account. Location extensions can potentially appear in Search results and Google Maps, as well as in display and video ads. In Search results, location extensions can show the location and phone number or a click to call button on mobile devices, which users will also see the distance to the location in relation to their current location. There is also a details page users can click on to view additional details such as that location’s hours, ratings and reviews, photos and directions.
Affiliate location extension:
Brands and manufacturers that sell products in retail chains can enable affiliate location extensions to help users find their products at nearby locations. In the United States, there are currently more than 80 chains to choose from for affiliate location extensions.
App extensions are clickable links providing users a way to access your mobile app listing in the Google Play or Apple App Store from a text ad , however, the ad headline still directs the click to your website. The App extension isn’t meant to replace app promotion ads for driving app downloads. Google automatically detects the user’s device type and only shows app extensions on the compatible devices. App extensions can be setup at the account, campaign or ad group level and only one app extension can display with an ad.
Price extensions are clickable extensions highlighting prices for products or services. Each price extension includes the option to customize the header and add a 25 character description to each. Google recommends having at least five price extension items and on mobile devices, up to eight price extensions can show.
Setting up an Adwords Search Campaign
When you add a new campaign in AdWords, you’ll see the following menu to choose Search, Display, Shopping, Video or Universal App. Click on the Search option.
Search campaign settings:
The primary settings at the campaign level include:
- Campaign type.
- Daily budget.
- Location targeting.
- Bidding method.
- Ad rotation & scheduling.
When you create a new Search campaign in AdWords, you’ll be asked to select a goal of sales, leads or website traffic. When you select a goal, Google will show recommended settings and features. However, you can also opt to set up a campaign without a goal and without seeing step-by-step recommendations. No matter which option you choose, Google will ask if the goal is to get website visits, phone calls or app downloads.
Here are the steps of the Search campaign settings when you choose not to set a goal:
Search and Display advertising campaigns are completely different making it best to separate the two, so the first step is to check ‘No’ under “Add Display Network.”
The next setting is Location, indicating where you want your ads to show. If you sell your products and services all over the United States, for example, you could select that option.
Location targeting can be much more fine tuned, however. You can hone in on a state or province, a city or cities, neighborhoods, zip codes and more. Additionally, if there are areas within your chosen target locations you don’t want ads to appear, you can also choose to exclude those areas.
The “Advanced search” feature allows you to to add multiple locations or target a radius around a specific area. If you have physical locations and have linked your Google My Business account to your AdWords account, you can set your campaign to show ads within a specific distance surrounding each of your locations.
Once the location targeting is complete, you can modify the bids in specific areas based on how much you want to pay for clicks within your target locations.
Next, choose the languages your customers speak. With language settings, you can restrict where your ads can appear based on the user’s language settings and the language of the site.
Daily Budgeting is an average, not a maximum. Some days the daily budget may not be met and other days it may be exceeded. To account for lows and spikes in daily search activity, Google balances out the daily budget so you don’t spend more than your daily budget times the number of days in a given month.
If for some reason you see the notice “Limited by Budget” in your campaigns, this is not good and should be avoided. When you manage your spend by limiting your budget, your ads won’t show all day and Google will let you know because you’re missing out on impressions and clicks they deem as valuable to your campaign.
The Shared Budget option is located under the Shared Library and allows you to spread your budget across multiple campaigns. AdWords controls how the budget is allocated and if one campaign is under its daily budget, the remainder will be used in your other campaigns.
The Delivery method within the budget setting gives you two options: Standard or Accelerated.
The Standard delivery method is the default option in AdWords. The objective is to deliver your ads, distributing the daily budget evenly throughout the day. Although your ads can be seen throughout the day, they may not show at every opportunity possible as Google is holding out to make sure your budget lasts throughout that day. Alternatively, your entire budget may not be used entirely since the algorithm used to determine the ad impressions and the cost-per-click uses historical data to make these predictions.
The Accelerated delivery method doesn’t aim to help your budget last throughout the day, but instead will show ads as often as the auction allows, resulting in the likelihood your whole budget will be used and fairly quickly.
The disadvantage of the Accelerated delivery method is if you have a limited budget, your ads could possibly stop being delivered earlier in the day, missing opportunities for search traffic later in the day. Also, your ads won’t start showing again until the next day when your daily budget resets.
The advantage of the Accelerated delivery method is it allows you to account for the highs and lows of daily search volumes and your ads will show more often; ads that show more often likely result in more clicks.
Bidding is the next campaign setting, but essentially it’s setting the type of bidding you’ll use in the campaign based on your goals. The Bidding section defaults to a guided walk-through based on your other campaign settings.
Google is rather intent on getting advertisers to choose an automated bidding strategy versus setting bids manually.
To see all of the bid strategy options available, click “Select a bid strategy directly” and you can view all of the automated options available to you.
Smart Adwords Bidding strategies:
Smart Bidding strategies are subsets within the group of automated bid strategies. They each rely on machine learning algorithms, meaning they use historical data to predict conversion outcomes. They require a sizeable amount of historical data to optimize for conversions and conversion value. The bids are made in real time at each auction, known as “auction-time bidding” and are based on many signals, including the user’s device, browser, location and location intent and demographics, whether they are on a remarketing list, the day and the time of day and even more. AdWords conversion tracking must be set up for Smart Bidding strategies to work for Search campaigns.
Smart Bidding strategies:
- Target CPA (cost per acquisition): Target CPA sets bids with the goal of getting the most conversions possible while reaching your average cost-per-acquisition (CPA) goal. This strategy is best for advertisers that have had at least 30 conversions over the past 30 days.
- Target ROAS (return on ad spend): Target ROAS aims to maximize revenue or conversion value based on the target return on ad spend you set. The ROAS formula is: Conversion value/ ad spend x 100%. It works best for accounts that have had at least 50 conversions within the past 30 days.
- Maximize Conversions: Maximize Conversions automatically sets your bids to help you achieve the most conversions for your budget.
- Enhanced CPC (ECPC): This strategy raises the max CPC bid in auctions that the algorithm predicts are more likely to convert and lowers the bid in auctions deemed less likely to convert. Google aims to achieve an average CPC that is below the max CPC over time. This strategy works best for advertisers that have had at least 30 conversions within the past 30 days.
You may have several campaigns using the same target CPA or ROAS settings. With a portfolio strategy, a single strategy can be applied across multiple campaigns.
You can create a portfolio strategy when creating a new campaign, in campaign settings or in the Shared Library.
Next, choose a start and end date if you’d like. If you don’t indicate a start date, the campaign will begin when you hit “Save” at the end of the setup process. If you do not choose an end date, the campaign will run indefinitely.
After that step, be sure to click “Additional Settings”.
Ad rotation: This setting provides two options: Optimize or Do not Optimize.
Optimize: This option uses machine learning to determine which ad shows.
Do not optimize: With this setting, the ads show in even rotation for as long as the campaign runs.
With “Optimize,” the default is for Google to optimize for clicks. If you want to optimize for conversions, you’ll need to use one of the Smart Bidding strategies discussed above.
By choosing the “Do not optimize” setting, advertisers are able to manually run A/B ad testing and measure performance against whichever metrics they choose. Google, however, has strongly encouraged advertisers to select the “Optimize” option and has moved away from A/B testing in which two ads run in each ad group. Instead, Google recommends advertisers run at least three ads per ad group and gauge success by looking at ad group-level metrics rather than those of individual ads. This is a big shift from the A/B testing best practices most advertisers have used since PPC’s earliest days.
If you want to manually run your own ad tests (and many advertisers do), rather than rely on Google’s algorithms to get it right, you can choose “Do not optimize,” but you won’t have access to other functionalities, such as Smart Bidding strategies.
Campaign URL options:
Tracking template is the URL you want the ad click to go to for tracking. Tracking was covered in more detail in Part 2.
Dynamic Search Ads:
Dynamic Search Ads target relevant searches automatically based on information from your website, then use headlines automatically customized to people’s actual searches. Google automatically generates headlines for your ads matching what it determines to be the most relevant landing page on your site to the search query. You have control over the description in the ads. These ads can help expand the world of keywords that trigger your ads to show. You can then use keywords found in the search terms report for your DSA campaigns as positive or negative keywords in your other Search campaigns.
If your site content changes often or is dynamically generated, DSAs are not recommended.
Additional Targeting Capabilities
Aside from keyword and targeting there are several other useful targeting options available (navigate to the left side column in the platform).
Audience targeting has continued to play a greater role in Search campaigns in the past few years. Ads can be targeted based on behavioral signals rather than just keyword intent signals
Reporting and targeting by age range, gender and household income percentiles are available here, but you’ll often see a higher percentage of data categorized as “Unknown” where Google doesn’t have enough information about the user.
Advertisers can set campaigns to run in specific locations. Location bid modifiers allow you to increase or decrease the maximum CPC you’re willing to pay for clicks from target locations. It’s also possible to exclude locations within a target area.
At the campaign level, you can set the days and times you want your ads to show. Times are based on the time zone of your account so you’ll need to consider the span of time zones in the regions you are targeting in your campaigns.
It used to be common for advertisers to separate campaigns out by device so they could control the budgets and format ads and landing pages according to device, but since Google introduced bid modifiers there are not near as many situations where separating campaigns is necessary. In Search campaigns, device targeting is managed entirely with bid adjustments.
Adwords Bidding & Bid Adjustments
Bidding and bid adjustments let you to manage your budgets and optimize paid search campaigns based on your targeting objectives. The following details how bidding and bid adjustments function in PPC campaigns.
Ad group & keyword level bidding
Smart bidding strategies are set and automated at the campaign level based on the bidding goal, but you aren’t allowed to adjust those bids manually. When you’re using manual bidding or Enhanced CPC bidding, individual bids can be set and adjusted at the ad group or keyword level.
If you’re just starting out and don’t have the same keyword with different match types in an ad group yet, you could begin with setting bids at the ad group level only until your campaigns are up and running for some time so you can accumulate CPC and performance data on the individual keywords.
Once you have some data to work with, you’ll want to start setting bids at the keyword level. Keyword bids take precedence over ad group bids allowing you to have more control and giving you the ability to prioritize keywords based on performance.
PPC Bid simulators
When Google has enough data on a keyword, Bid Simulators (enabled from the columns option at the keyword level) will provide estimates for how your ads could have performed with different bids based on historical data. They’ll show the potential impact bid changes would have had on impressions, clicks, conversions and conversion value. Simulation data may not be available if your campaign regularly hits its daily budget before the end of the day or if you changed your bid recently.
Adwords Bid adjustments
Regardless of what bidding strategy you’re using, bid adjustments can be set at various levels of a campaign. Bid adjustments are percentage multipliers you set to automatically adjust bids depending on factors such as device, location, demographics, time, audience and more. Google continues to add more bid adjustment options.
Bid adjustments can offer a lot of flexibility when used, but they can also add significant complexity to account management when you use more than one bid adjustment in a campaign. Bid adjustments are usually multiplied together when determining your final bid.
Bid adjustment ranges (and where they can be applied) are as follows:
- Device: -100% to +900% (campaign and ad group level).
– If a -100% bid adjustment factors into the mix, the final bid will be zeroed out. If you don’t want your ads to show on desktop, for example, you can decrease the desktop bid adjustment by 100%.
– If you’re using Target ROAS bid strategy, the only device bid adjustment available is -100%.
– If you’re using Target CPA, device bid adjustments change the CPA target, not your bid.
- Location: -90% to +900% (campaign level).
- Ad scheduling: -90% to +900% (campaign level).
Note: – Maximize clicks is the only automated bidding strategy that works with ad scheduling bid adjustments.
- Remarketing lists for search ads (RLSA): -90% to +900% (campaign and ad group level).
- Call adjustments/Interactions: -90% to +900% (campaign level).
Remember, this is just the beginning of your adventure with pay-per-click campaigns. There is constantly more to explore and more learning and testing. Understanding the basics from the start will help to ensure you don’t spend a lot of money with nothing to show for it. In order to maximize efficiency in PPC, it takes a lot of practice, patience and high attention to detail to understand how all the various levels work together to achieve your ultimate goals.
The key to success with PPC is to consistently tie your efforts back to the objectives of the business and understand its part in your company’s marketing as a whole and how it can benefit and support your other means of marketing.