8 AdWords Essentials To Create Better Performing Campaigns

In the past year I’ve audited many existing Google AdWords accounts and noticed the same common set up mistakes that are limiting the performance of AdWords campaigns for many companies. In this article I am going to cover the basics in setting up a Google AdWords campaign and share with you my AdWords essentials on setting up your campaigns with the best chance of success.

This article will cover the following set up decisions you will face when creating your campaign:

  • Structuring your campaign
  • Default campaign settings to avoid
  • In-depth keyword research
  • Use phrase and exact keyword match types
  • Adding ad extensions
  • Focus on mobile
  • Setting up conversion tracking
  • Continuous optimisation

1.    Structuring Your Campaign

When structuring your campaign the focus should be on relevance. You’re looking to structure your campaign so that you deliver the most relevant ads to your target audience. The more relevant your ads are, the more traffic you will drive through to your website.
The image below shows a general campaign structure. Your campaign structure may vary based on your campaign objectives.

At campaign level we determine certain campaign settings such as campaign type, budget and location targeting so it’s important to know what you want to achieve from AdWords when structuring your campaign. Campaign settings determine when and where ads are shown and how often.

Campaigns can be structured based on:

  • Products/Services
  • Geographic Location/ Region
  • Seasonality
  • Ad type (visual display ads, video or text ads on the search network)

We then use ad groups to determine the relevance of ads based on the search term a user types into Google. An ad group contains one or more ads for a set of related keywords for which you wish those ads to appear. For example, you may create an ad group for each specific product or service you offer.

Within each ad group we then have a set of keywords that are added based on the product or service being advertised, which trigger ads to show based on the users Google search query. For example, if you are selling mountain bikes you would create an ad group for ‘Mountain Bikes’ that would contain specific keywords related to ‘mountain bikes’.

Content of the ads that are shown is also determined when keywords you are bidding on get triggered, which also determines the landing page that users arrive on once they click on the ad. It is important that you try to focus the ad content around the keywords in the ad group to ensure you’re ad remains relevant to the keyword and drives users through to the most relevant landing page on your website. Be sure to include relevant keywords in your ad text whilst also including USP’s which will entice users to click on your ads.

Take the ad in the red square below for example. The ad title and ad description is relevant to the searchers initial search query in the Google search engine and they are using company USPs to encourage users to click on the ad.

By taking each of these factors into consideration you can create extremely targeted and relevant campaigns.

2.    Default Campaign Settings to Avoid

When you are setting up an AdWords campaign the default campaign settings are not the best settings to maximise your campaign performance. I’ve listed below the best settings to use to give your campaign the best chance of success.

Campaign type features – Select ‘All Features’ instead of standard features. This allows you to access advanced campaign settings, custom ad schedules and ad rotation settings. We will cover these further down.

Networks – By default ‘Include search partners’ is included within Search Network campaigns. This gives Google permission to show your ads on over 100 partner search websites. These websites tend to be low performing and have a low quality of audience.
Deselecting the “Include search partners” checkbox allows you to focus your budget on a higher quality audience in the Google Search Network and can increase campaign performance.

Locations – Regardless of how great your ads are, they probably won’t perform as well if they don’t appear in the right locations. When it comes to location targeting you have full control over which locations your ads will appear.

When selecting your target location you should also add areas within your target location. For example, when targeting Northern Ireland you should also add cities and towns located in Northern Ireland such as Belfast, Lisburn, Bangor etc. This allows you to view campaign performance by city or town and once you have substantial conversion data, you will be able to apply location bid adjustments to top performing cities and towns to increase your campaign performance.

Alternatively you can also apply negative bid adjustments to decrease your spend for lower performing cities and towns.

In the advanced location options (directly above) you will notice that for targeting, the top setting is always selected. The recommended settings allows your ads to display to searchers outside of your target area.

Change this setting to ‘People in my targeted location’ to only show your ads to people in the locations you have selected. This will allow you to focus your budget on users located in your target locations.

Bidding Strategy – Ensure that ‘Manual: Manual CPC’ is enabled. If you have conversion tracking set up, ‘Enable Enhanced CPC’ will automatically be ticked.

Untick this checkbox until you have at least 30 conversions within your account to get the best performance from this feature. Google AdWords needs to have substantial conversion data in order to know what changes to make to maximise your conversions.

Custom Ad Schedule – With ‘All features’ selected you will now be able to apply a custom ad schedule to your campaign. As default your ads will be set to show 24/7 but you can easily edit this. Your ad schedule will be unique to you and when you wish to reach your target audience. If you sell to businesses for example, you may only want to run your ads between Mon- Fri 9am to 5pm when you know business owners are most likely to be searching online for your product.

Over time you will be able identify what time of the day and days of the week that your ads perform best using the dimensions tab report and can apply bid adjustments to certain times of day/days of week to maximise your visibility when you know your ads perform best.

3.    Carry Out In-Depth Keyword Research

It is important that you have carried out keyword research to identify what keywords or keyword phrases you’re target audience will be searching for when searching for your product or service. Whilst you might know personally what keywords you want to bid on, it might not necessarily be what a user searches for in a search engine whilst looking for that particular service or product.

Keyword Planner is like a workshop for building new Search Network campaigns or expanding existing ones. You can search for keyword and ad group ideas, get historical statistics, see how a list of keywords might perform and even create a new keyword list by multiplying several lists of keywords together. A free AdWords tool, Keyword Planner can also help you choose competitive bids and budgets to use with your campaigns.

The three main functions of the keyword planner are:

  • Search for new keywords using a phrase, website or category
  • Get search volumes and data trends
  • Get click and cost performance forecasts

4.    Use Phrase & Exact Keyword Match Types

There are 4 main keyword match types. It’s extremely important to understand these when selecting your campaign keywords. They are:

  • Broad match
  • Broad match modifier
  • Phrase match
  • Exact match

I’ve summarised each of the keyword match types below.

Broad Match

Triggers ads when the search query includes the keyword or keyword phrase in any order, as well as on similar phrases and relevant variations

E.g. the keyword ‘ppc whitepaper’ may appear for

  • Ppc blog
  • Marketing whitepaper
  • Ppc techniques
  • Online ppc tutorial
  • Whitepaper on display advertising

Broad Match Modifier

Broad match modifier lets you reach more people than phrase match and gives you more control than broad match. Each word preceded by a + has to appear in your potential customer’s search exactly or as a close variant. Close variants include misspellings, singular/plural forms, abbreviations and acronyms, and stemmings.  To add a keyword as broad match modifier use the following format +keyword1 +keyword2

  • E.g. the keyword +laminate +wooden floor+ may appear for the search term ‘laminate wooden flooring’

Phrase Match

Triggers ads when the search query includes the keyword phrase in word order. To add a keyword phrase as phrase match use the following format “keyword1 keyword 2”

E.g. the keyword “ppc whitepaper” may appear for

  • 2012 ppc whitepaper
  • Seo and ppc whitepaper
  • Online ppc whitepaper report
  • Ppc whitepaper pdf download

Exact Match

Triggers ads only when the search query exactly matches. To add a keyword as exact match use the following format [keyword1 keyword2]

  • •    E.g. the keyword [ppc whitepaper] will only appear when that exact query is searched on Google

In general, the broader the keyword matching option, the more potential searches that keyword can show for. Conversely, the narrower the keyword matching option, the more relevant that keyword will be to someone’s search.

Most AdWords advertisers upload broad match keywords to their campaigns. Broad match keywords increase the number of search terms your ad can appear for and decreases the relevance of your ad to the original keyword you are bidding on. Broad match keywords also increase the chance that your ad will appear for keywords that are irrelevant to your products or services.

In order to ensure that your ads appear for the most relevant keyword searches to product and services you are selling, I recommend that you use phrase and exact keyword match types. If you find you are not getting the traffic you wish using phrase and exact keywords, add broad match modifier keywords but you will need to pay particular attention to what keywords are triggering your ads to prevent wasted ad spend accumulating.

5.    Adding Ad Extensions

Ad extensions are a great way to create more reasons for a user to click on your ad over a competitor’s ad.

They are a type of ad format that show extra information about your business. Some can be added manually and others are automated.

You pay the same cost per click for a click on an ad extension as you do for a click on the actual ad.

Ad extensions can:

  • Improved visibility: Ad extensions tend to improve your ad’s visibility. They often appear above the search results, rather than along the sidebar. If two competing ads have the same bid and quality, then the ad with greater expected impact from extensions will generally appear in a higher ad position than the other.
  • Better return on investment: Extensions can help improve the click-through rate (CTR) of your ads. More clicks mean more customer traffic.

To add ad extensions to your campaign, click on the ad extensions tab in the campaign interface

Location Extensions

Location extensions help people nearby to find your nearest shop front again without having to click through to your website.

Review Extensions

Showcase positive, third-party reviews from reputable sources.

Sitelink Extensions

Add sitelinks to help people to find what they’re looking for. If you are targeting people searching for a generic keyword phrase such as ‘trainers’, you may want to provide them with sitelinks to click through to specific brands of trainers such as ‘nike trainers’ & ‘Adidas trainers’

Callout Extensions

Add descriptive text to your ad to help people learn more about what you have to offer

Automatic ad extensions include:

  • Customer Ratings
  • Dynamic Structured Snippets
  • Seller Ratings

6.    Focus On Mobile

Last year Google announced that mobile searches had surpassed desktop searches for the first time. With more and more users using mobile devices to search on Google, it’s vitally important that you ensure your campaign has maximum mobile visibility.

Real estate above the fold on mobile is a lot smaller than that of desktop which makes the top of Google page 1 real estate on mobile devices very competitive.

To ensure you maintain an average mobile ad position of 1-2, implement a mobile bid adjustment. Go the settings tab within your campaign and select devices. You can then apply a mobile bid adjustment to ensure your ad maintains an average position of 1-2 on mobile devices.

*Make sure that your website and landing pages are optimised for mobile. Driving users to a mobile landing page where there have a bad user experience will have a negative impact on the performance of your campaign.

7.    Set Up Conversion Tracking

It’s important to set KPIs and objectives in order to measure the success of your campaign. Your KPIs will depend on your business objectives. For example, if you are running a brand awareness campaign, ad impressions would be a KPI as you want to get your brand in front of as much users as possible.

An example of some KPIs and objectives would be:

  • Brand impressions
  • Visits to website/ campaign landing page
  • Brochure downloads
  • Sales enquiries
  • Request sample packs

Ensuring you are able to track these KPIs and objectives is also extremely important. You can track KPIs through goal or event tracking in Google Analytics and import these into Google AdWords through linking the two accounts, allowing you to optimize your AdWords campaigns for your KPIs. By identifying what keywords are generating the most KPIs, we can optimise our AdWords campaigns to increase campaign performance.

Without conversion tracking we have no idea how our campaign is really performing.
To link your Google Analytics account to your AdWords account, click on the settings cog in the top right hand corner and select linked accounts.

Once you have linked your accounts you can go to the Tools tab and select conversions where you will get the option to import your goals from Google analytics.

8.    Continuously Optimise

Setting up your campaign is just the beginning, once it’s live you will need to monitor the account on a regular basis, identifying what is working well and what isn’t and take actions to improve campaign performance and stop wasted ad spend. Campaigns that get regular attention out-perform campaigns that are set up and then neglected.

Always remember to base all decisions around your KPIs and to make sure your decisions are based on substantial data. A keyword with a high bounce rate after just 1 0r 2 clicks does not represent the entire target audience.

I hope this article helps you to create better performing campaigns and remember to continuously monitor your account to get the best performance.


Stephen Brennan – Digital Success Executive @ Engage

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