The good structure of your Google Ads account is a foundation for effective campaign management. Creating mess just for the sake of initial simplicity is a sure way to your future frustration.
Always when I’m auditing someone’s Google Ads account, the first thing I look at is how structured the whole thing is. This alone can tell me plenty about the severity of performance gaps, loss of potential in reaching audiences, and all the extra time needed for proper management.
There are several prevailing misconceptions about how Google Ads works, and how to use them properly. If I was about to mention just a few common structural mistakes, these would be the winners
- Heavy duty keyword stuffing.
- Poor campaign segregation.
- Absence of meaningful granularity
Just adding keywords like there’s no tomorrow might have worked ten years ago. These days, bidding auction is completely overcrowded with advertisers and marketing agencies trying to outsmart each other.
And that’s why you need a meaningful structure with laser-focused targeting.
1. Basic Google Ads account hierarchy
This is an example of a simple Google Ads account hierarchy.
Google Ads Account
Home of your campaigns, ad groups, strategies, and basically everything related to your Google Ads presence. Unless you are an ad agency or running a business with a high variety of products or services, you will be fine with just one account.
Otherwise, you will have to create a Google Ads manager account (MCC). That will allow you to have as many accounts as you please.
The campaign is a first opportunity to start making the structure the right way. In order to provide yourself a clear focus of each campaign, It’s essential to keep them themed, with ad groups inside relevant to each other.
Having a tightly-themed campaign doesn’t give you just the perks of effective navigation. It’s essential from the targeting standpoint, as ad groups in each campaign share the same features together, like
- Location targeting
- Bidding strategy
- Network (Search Network, Search Parnters on/off, Display Network)
Group of keywords tightly related to your specific product or offer. Besides keywords, ad groups also include text ads and optionally, negative keywords.
Its crucial to be tightly aligned to each other. Ideally, you want only 1 keyword in each ad group plus different matches plus very close variants of the specific KW.
Each Ad copy has to be carefully crafted around the keyword(s) in each Ad group. This is epsecially true for headline. Having a keyword in your ad group as a part of your headline is one of the most important aspects of successful Ad copy
- Negative keywords
You can add specific negative keywords right into an Ad group level. Even if you already have a list of negatives incorporated at the account, or campaign level, you can still go one step further and add negative keywords to each Ad group specifically.
2. Main Google Ads account structure
Let’s start with assessing traffic drivers on top-level and putting them into basic categories. As we already started our guide with a hair salon in NY, we gonna stick with it as a reference.
1. Generic Terms Campaign
This category should contain all terms under which people search for a specific business, but not a concrete service. In our case, this means that the user has the intention to use one of the services which are part of the bigger group, but his search query was not specific enough to direct him to a specialized service.
Let’s start with these ad groups:
- Hair salon
- Hair cutter
- Hair dresser
- Hair services
When it comes to volume, top-level generic terms are usually the biggest drivers of traffic, except for e-commerce, or an industry with a large range of products, for example, hotel booking agencies.
Due to the highest attractivity, simplicity, and common sense, these terms are often quite competitive. That translates into higher CPC and possibly lower ROAS than from more specialized terms.
To avoid setting your budget on fire and burning your money senselessly, avoid bidding on terms where you are not competitive enough or lack complete relevancy. So if you are a freelance hairdresser, don’t bid on the term “hair salon”, or avoid terms like “hair stylists” if you only focus on quick, simple hair cuts.
Note: If you are tightly specialized, for example, providing just waxing services, it’s best to avoid including less specific terms, and focus bidding only on concrete service instead.
2. More specific products or services
This group should be filled with concrete offers from your menu. Both traditional services, and those which only you can offer. Because we are targeting a bigger range of products, it’s less likely that all your competitors can provide the same range of services to their customers.
That translates into a less competitive environment, making it the cornerstone for bringing good ROAS to your business.
Our service campaign can consist of the following ad groups:
- Hair coloring
- Formal styling
3. Brand names
There are two specific reasons to create a campaign targeted around brand names.
- Bidding on your brand
In order to protect whats yours and to minimise the chance of competitors stealing your customers (knowingly or unknowingly), you may consider bidding on your own brand name. It does cost an extra money, but if someone is bidding on your business name while your are not part of the auction, its definitely worth it.
Brand terms are the most targeted search queries, providing highest conversion rates without a doubt. If you are not protecting your brand by bidding on it, try to do a quick research to find out if your competitors are doing this and take immediate action.
- Bidding on competitors brand
A bit controversial tactic, but not uncommon, neither prohibited by Google. At least as long as you dont use others competitors brand names in your Ad, or try to deceive users.
There are some cons and pros of doing that, and there is definitely not a simple answer to “should i bid on my competitors?” If you want an answer, you should ask “Do i want to start a bidding war with my competitors?”. I would say that its worth it, especially if your brand is weaker then theirs, or if they are already doing it anyway.
Possible campaign structure:
- Your brand name
- Competitor #1
- Competitor #2
- Competitor #3
- Competitor #4
What we’ve achieved here, is by simply setting up 3 core campaigns, we created a very simple, but efficient and easy-to-navigate structure for our campaigns and ad groups inside a Google Ads account.
Now it’s time to take focus on the deepest layer
3. Keywords and ads in the ad group
We have nicely structured our services and segregated them into 3 main campaigns. Now it’s time to fill up these ad groups with relevant keywords and ads.
To better understand our case, we will take a look at one of our ad groups as an example, and talk about do’s and don’ts.
Keywords (hair salon ad group):
Examples of good keywords:
“hair salon in new york”
[hair salon in new york]
“hair salon ny”
[hair salon ny]
The keywords above are a pretty safe bet as we are targeting users who are located only in our area. So if someone is located in Ohio and types “hair salon” to Google, we don’t have to worry much about showing him our ad and wasting money if he clicks on it.
Since we are targeting only users in our area, why do we have to include keywords like “hair salon in new york”? Shouldn’t the “hair salon” phrase match take care of it? The reason is, so we can set a different bid for each specific keyword.
Long-tail keywords tend to convert a bit higher in general, so we will essentially keep our more specific keywords on higher CPCs.
Let me give you a couple of reasons why “hair salon in new york” will convert higher than its shorter counterpart.
- Location targeting is not 100% accurate: this may be due to an ISP, VPNs, or variety of reasons. In the majority of cases, it works. But since its not completely accurate, it may lead irrelevant users to our ad from time to time, and less specific keyowords might perform worse because of this.
- Under-optimized competition: Plenty of businesses are running their pay-per-click in a less than an ideal way. Not everyone have their keywords reach covered from every corner. Thats why incorporating long-tail keywords, even if they seem redundant at first, will lead to a less competitive area, and those keywords will perform better overal.
Examples of not so good keywords
“haircut in new york”
Even though the keywords are completely relevant to our business, we are trying to keep our Ad group tightly themed around the “hair salon” keyword.
Examples of bad keywords
Hair cut videos
How to color the hair
job in a hair salon
For first, these keywords have low relevancy to our ad group. Second, none of them can be perceived as keywords with the intent to buy your services. In fact, all of these keywords should go straight to the negative list (or at least parts of them – “videos”, “how to”, job”).
Ads (hair salon ad group):
Text Ad #1:
Headline: Best Hair Salon in New York
Landing page: homepage
Our headline contains both a keyword and the location of our business, which is crucial in our case. The final URL leading to our homepage is good enough because the user didn’t specify his search request in more detail.
Text Ad #2
Headline: Hair Salon, New York
Landing page: sub-page with hair salon services
Same as our previous example, except we lead users to our hair salon services, This is perfectly fine as users will find see our offers immediately.
Text Ad #3
Headline: Waxing services in New York
Landing page: sub-page with hair salon services
Non-relevant headline. Even though we are offering waxing as part of our services, it’s not what most people were searching for. This ad will not necessarily lead to worse conversion rates, but it will definitely make a big impact on your CTR, and not in a good way. This will spiral into a poor quality score, and our CPC will go through the roof.
Text Ad #4
Headline: Hair Salon in New York
Landing page: blog section
The landing page is informational, not well optimized for call-to-action. While this may not affect our CTR like our previous case, we will not achieve an optimal conversion rate if we bring users to a landing page with weak selling points.
3. Advanced Google Ads account structure
We already have various keywords targeting a specific user’s intent, which we can adjust according to the value each of them brings to our company. But that’s still far away from the ideal setup. Depending on our needs, budget, and complexity of our business, we might go deeper and use a campaign segregation technique
The goal of campaign segregation is to ensure that you are paying lower CPC for less targeted traffic while ranking on top for your most valuable prospects. In order to segregate our campaigns, we have to duplicate the current ones and target a different set of rules in each of them.
That way, we can focus on adjusting factors like distance or language in better detail.
Popular segregation rules
There are many ways how to achieve an efficient campaign granularity, but explaining all the possible scenarios and tactics is well beyond the scope of this article.
However, the most important segments you may want to keep separate are:
- Bidding strategies (these can’t actually be mixed within one campaign anyway)
Starting with a proper Google Ads structure will save you plenty of trouble in the future. Plan ahead when making your first campaign and think about the future-proofing your efforts.
While it’s possible to completely redo your structure if it becomes unmanageable, you will most likely lose valuable pieces of data in the process.