How to Structure a Google Ads Account for Maximum ROI

Advertisers who are progressing from Google Smart Campaigns to Expert Mode will start to ask questions about how to structure Google Ads account and PPC campaigns.

"Where can I assign ad extensions? What are keyword-level URLs? Can I target different ad groups to separate geographic locations within this campaign? The most crucial question would be “why is Google Ads accounts structure important?”.

There are many strategies that only advanced campaign managers know how to answer right off the bat. That being said, understanding the structure of Google Ads Account help managers not only to fully grasp the mechanics of Google Ads, but also optimise for maximum ROI.

Why Is Google Ads Account Structure Important?

There are three main levels of hierarchy in Google Ads: the account, the campaign, and the ad group. Advertisers could also set bids and URLs at the keyword level, which can be considered another level of the hierarchy. Each level is eligible for various settings that may include:

  • Budgets
  • Keywords
  • Negative Keywords
  • Bid strategy
  • Bid Adjustments
  • Bids
  • Extensions
  • Audiences
  • Final URLs
  • Placements
  • Location Targeting

Account structure is an integral part of your strategy and the account’s day-to-day management. Later we’ll discuss some strategies related to account structure that advertisers like to use. First, we’ll give you an idea of how structure influences and sometimes dictates a campaign manager’s decisions.

Take Control of the Money

Each campaign in a Google Ads account has its own budget that funds all ad groups in the campaign. Most bid strategies attempt to allocate funds in the way that provides the best results. Some ad groups might spend much more than others, although, manual CPC leaves it up to you to decide which keywords deserve the strongest bids. You also have full control over the ad groups that you want to pause or keep running.

One of the best ways to keep costs down is by keeping quality scores up. The keywords you choose should be closely relevant to each ad group and ads. This is often known as “structuring by theme.” Better quality scores go hand in hand with lower costs per click! We go into detail about structuring by theme below.

Align Keywords and Ads in Ad Groups

You don’t want to display an ad that doesn’t sell the product your keywords are meant to sell. That’s the reason ad groups exist. The keywords in each ad group should be closely related (e.g. California riesling wine, CA riesling wine, riesling from California) because they can each trigger the ads in their ad group. The ads, in turn, must be engineered to sell the exact product the ad group is meant to sell; in this case, Riesling wine from California.

Good campaign managers write ad copy (text) that includes the keywords of the ad group. Better yet, include the most commonly converting search terms, which are the actual searches that trigger your ads. Searches are matched to your keywords according to the keywords’ match type.

Simplify Google Ads Campaign Reporting & Performance Assessment

The way you structure your account can simplify or complicate the way you do Google Ads campaign reporting. Creating separate campaigns for different regions, demographics, or other targeting makes it easier to see which segments are performing best. Just click on ad groups in the left-hand column (after minimising the dark grey navigation panel if it’s open) and then click columns.

How to simplify google ads reporting and performance

What is the Google Ad Account Structure Hierarchy

Google Ads accounts consist of two components: campaigns and ad groups. Ad groups contain keywords, ads, or both, depending on the campaign type. Keywords can be given bids and URLs individually. These components allow advertisers to easily do a few things.

  1. Align ads with keywords so that relevant ads are displayed on search engine results pages or webpages across the internet (for display campaigns).
  2. Set bids and final URLs (i.e. destination URLs) at the keyword level if necessary.
  3. Use separate bid strategies, budgets, targeting, etc. for different campaigns or ad groups.

Here’s what an account of 3 ad groups with 2 to 3 keywords in each might look like:

Google Ad Account Structure Hierarchy

Now we’re going to discuss how successful advertisers use these “hierarchical levels” to their advantage so your campaigns can perform and impress. Let’s get started.

The Google Ads Account and Account-Level Settings

Each account is allowed up to 10,000 campaigns, although many accounts will contain only a few. Accounts can contain ads and keywords that pertain to different websites, companies, organisations, etc. One account can run campaigns for different businesses. However, usually, an account will serve one business and the account’s ads will link to that business’s website only.

At the account level, you can set or manage the following:

Billing settings

It’s not possible to set up different billing for different campaigns or ad groups. Bidding settings are only at the account level.

Conversion Settings

Conversions like contact form completions and e-commerce purchases are defined at the account level. If they’re left alone, all conversion actions apply to all campaigns. You can select account-level conversion settings to exclude conversion actions from a campaign. This is helpful when some conversion actions should not be counted in every case.

For example, let’s imagine a guitar manufacturer called Niran Guitars. The business is running some e-commerce campaigns. It sells guitars online and ships nationwide. In Niran’s account, there is a conversion action that counts one conversion every time someone fills out a contact form. It’s called “contact form submitted”.

The marketing team at Niran has noticed a lot of people are searching for guitar companies and then sending their resumes via the contact form, hoping to get a job. These events shouldn’t be counted as conversions. They don’t contribute to Niran’s top-level goals. That’s why other conversion actions, but not “contact form submitted”, should count in Niran’s e-commerce campaigns.

Edit the campaign-level conversion action settings by selecting the campaign to which the settings will be changed. Then, click settings in the left-hand column. Expand the conversions section, select choose conversion actions for this campaign, and then click select conversion actions.

Conversion setting

Account Access and Security

You can invite users to use your Google Ads account. Google gives account owners a range of access levels that restrict user access from “view-only” all the way up to “administrative access,” which allows users to invite new users and set their access level.

Reports and Dashboards

Reports and dashboards are created at the account level. If your Ads campaign reporting pertains to only some of your campaigns or ad groups, you’ll have to filter the data by campaign name, ad group name, or other criteria.

Campaigns and Campaign-Level Settings

Most accounts contain a few campaigns. Some that advertise a wide range of products or services may contain dozens. It’s a matter of deciding what kind of flexibility you want to have.

For example, do you want to limit the spend on a product by giving it a separate budget? Or, do you need to limit the conversion actions that apply to one? These are questions that tend to arise after an account has been running and the manager wishes to optimise it. However, there’s no harm in asking them at the start.

Here’s what you can do at the campaign level.

Daily Budgets Are Defined at the Campaign Level

Daily budgets are assigned to each campaign, not to ad groups or the entire account. Although, if you want to combine budgets for multiple campaigns without combining the ad groups within them, you can use a shared budget.

Commonly, advertisers think of budgeting as a key consideration when deciding how many campaigns to create. There may be a cash cow product that deserves more budget than the others, or there’s more profitability in the local region, to which a campaign with a larger budget is assigned. There are countless scenarios.

Each Campaign Can Have a Goal

Campaign Goals are a campaign-level setting that tell Google what kind of events are most beneficial to the campaign. Select sales if you want to sell products in your e-commerce store, leads if you want leads (i.e. if you want potential customers or clients to submit their contact information so you can talk business with them), and so on.

Google will recommend features and settings that can help by alerting you with pop-ups from time to time. It’s possible to run a campaign without setting a goal but if you do, you’ll forfeit the recommendations..

Targeting Locations, Networks, & Languages

There are a few targeting settings that you can edit at the campaign level but not ad the ad group or account levels. Some campaign types have different networks, such as the search network and the display network (GDN), that you can include or exclude.

If you’re creating a search campaign, it’s usually a good idea to exclude the display network because it can complicate the process of assessing performance. Just make sure to deselect Include Google Display Network when you’re setting up a search account.

Campaign level settings

The campaign level is the only level where you can set geographic targeting. You can’t select a region in which you want your ads to be displayed at the account level. You can’t do so at the ad group level either. That makes locations an important consideration when you plan your strategy.

Another setting you can only apply at the campaign level is the language setting. Select the language of your keywords, ad copy, and landing pages (and the rest of your website if applicable). This will make sure the people who see your ads have chosen that language in their Google settings.

Bid Strategy

The all-important bid strategy is also a campaign-level setting. As you may know, there are 11 bid strategies. Some are eligible for search campaigns while others are useful for other campaign types. Bid strategies are ways to indicate to Google what you want most in return for your advertising expenditures.

Do you want to maximise your conversions, maximise the return you get from your ad spend, maximise ad impressions, or just bid a specified amount on each keyword, for example?

Because bid strategies are so important, so is your campaign structure. If you can fit all your ad groups into one campaign and apply a strategy across the whole campaign, great. If you can’t, take your time and decide how to divvy up your groups so that your spend returns the right results.

The Ad Group

Ad groups contain a grouped set of keywords and their corresponding ads. It’s a good idea to group keywords into themes and create an ad group for each one. Each campaign is allowed up to 20,000 ad groups.

Usually, a campaign will contain no more than around about 20. It depends on your business and strategy. Make sure your ad groups include keywords that have similar meanings or are of the same theme, as we’ll discuss below.

Assign Keywords to Ad Groups

Each ad group gets its own keywords, which trigger the ads in the same ad group. Any ad in an ad group is eligible to be displayed when a keyword in the same group matches a Google search. In the case of display campaigns, keywords give Google an idea of where the ads should be placed. Your keywords will try to match the content of the page where ads are displayed.

It’s important to carefully and diligently conduct keyword research before you even decide how to structure your PPC campaign. Starting off with a strong list of different types of keywords and then grouping them is the way to go.

Create Ads for Each Ad Group

Each search ad group should contain 2 or 3 text ads and 1 responsive ad. Display ad groups should contain 2 or 3 ads as well. Each ad is given a landing page URL, which is the page your visitors will see after they click.

The exception to this is when keywords are assigned their own URLs, called keyword-level URLs. When that is the case, anyone who clicks the ad that has been triggered by a keyword with its own URL will be directed to the keyword-level URL instead of the ad URL. Unless you’ve changed the ad rotation settings, Google will display the best-performing ads most.

Settings & Elements at Multiple Levels

Some settings, keywords, URLs, and other things can be applied at multiple levels in the Google Ads account structure. The programming around these elements can be confusing. One of two things will happen. Your settings will apply to a specific level only (e.g. in the case of negative keywords) or the setting at the lower level will be the one that counts (e.g. in the case of bid adjustments).

Ad Extensions

Ad extensions are the only element of an ad, as displayed on a SERP, that can be set at the account level. All ads in the entire account may appear with account-level extensions when they are active.

Often, advertisers create account-level callout extensions showing off their awards or certifications. Extensions can be added at the campaign and ad group level as well. Google displays extensions that are predicted to improve performance for a particular search.

Use all the extensions relevant to your business goals for the campaign, ad group, or account to which they’re added. We compiled the more commonly used ad extensions below, but you may want to check out our in-depth guide for more ad extension options.

Sitelink extensions

They link to specific pages of your website. They’re often applied to ad groups because they are best when they’re closely related to a themed group of keywords. You usually don’t want to promote something completely unrelated to a user’s search.

Sitelink extensions

You can see above that several sitelinks can fit into an ad. They do a great job of making your ad larger and giving it a little bit of extra colour so that users won’t overlook it so easily.

Location extensions

Location extensions display your business address so that consumers can easily navigate to you. All the users need to do is click the address and then the “directions” button in Google Maps. You shouldn’t use location extensions if you don’t want consumers to visit your store or office location.

location extension

Location extension

Affiliate location extensions

Affiliate location extensions help consumers find stores that sell your products. Like location extensions, there’s no need to put these in campaigns that target regions where your products can’t be found. All kinds of brands use affiliate location extensions. For example, Caulipower uses extensions to direct people to local grocery stores that sell their cauliflower-crust pizzas.

Affiliate location extensions

Callout extensions

Callout extensions are short, simple phrases that encourage people to click your ad, such as “Free Delivery!” It’s just important to make sure these are applicable to everything in the ad groups or campaigns to which they’re applied. If they’re at the account level, make sure they’re applicable to everything in the account.

You can see below how CastleCraft Canoes attempts to give consumers a sense of trustworthiness with a callout extension showing off their BBB accreditation. This is probably relevant to their entire Ads account.

Callout extensions

Call extensions

Call extensions display your phone number or a phone number that forwards to your business. Don’t use these if you don’t want phone calls. For example, if a campaign focuses on e-commerce sales of t-shirts, you probably don’t need (or want) to do business on the phone.

Google Ads Call Extension

On mobile devices, you can click call extensions to call businesses directly. On full browsers, that’s not the case unless an app or browser extension allows it.

Price extensions

Price extensions list products and their prices so that people can see what you’re offering. Make sure you haven’t mistakenly added prices to the wrong ad groups or to a campaign that doesn’t sell fixed-price products or services. Price extensions tend to appear on searches in full browsers more than on mobiles, where you’re more likely to see shopping ads. Both link directly to your site.

Price extensions

Price extensions appear as shown above, with a drop-down button to view more prices. We saw this ad when we searched “ryzen laptops”, which means these prices (for computers, drones, etc.) are not very relevant to us. The advertiser should include some prices of laptops with Ryzen processors instead.

Structured snippet extensions

Structured snippet extensions organise and display lists into categories like brands and amenities. This is another extension that deserves a review once in a while to make sure they’re applicable to the level (campaign, ad group, or account) where they’re found.

Google Ads Structured Snippet Extension

Lead form extensions

Lead form extensions put a lead form into the search results page so users don’t need to visit your website to provide their information. Don’t apply this to a campaign or ad group for which leads are not desired, such as an e-commerce campaign.

Lead form extensions

Above, you can see what a lead form extension looks like on a mobile device. Once the button is clicked, the user will see the form to be filled out. As of September 29, 2020, lead form extensions are only available in some accounts.

Negative Keywords

Negative keywords restrict the searches that trigger your ads so you don’t end up getting clicks from users who aren’t going to convert. It’s especially important to use them if you’re running broad or modified broad match keywords.

Negatives can be added at the campaign or ad group level. Also, they can effectively be added to the entire account by creating a keyword list and then applying it to all campaigns in the shared library (Tools & Settings > Shared Library > Negative Keyword Lists). Before you do that, make sure all of the keywords in the list are going to be helpful in all of the campaigns to which they’re added.

For example, what if an ad group includes the keyword Type C USB cable and another includes the keyword “micro USB cable”. One day, you look through your search terms in the Type C cable ad group and notice lots of people are clicking your ads after searching for micro USB cables. But this ad group is sending users to your Type C USB cable page. You go to a shared negative keyword list that’s applied to all campaigns and you put micro USB in it. But you’ve forgotten that the list is applied to the campaign containing your micro USB ad group. Since you can’t apply negative keyword lists at the ad group level, tighten your match types in the Type C USB cable ad group so that nobody (or at least fewer users) searching for micro USB cables click Type C cable ads.

Our keyword match type guide explains how “close variants” broaden your audience, even when you might not want to, and how to prevent your ads from showing in cases when they shouldn’t. Familiarize yourself with the match types before you create a negative keyword list.

Demographic & Audience Bid Adjustments

Bid adjustments are percentage increases or decreases that can be applied to demographic segments, like age groups and genders, or any audiences you have assigned. If you set a bid adjustment of 10%, it tells Google to bid 10% higher on the segment or audience the adjustment pertains to.

Demographic and audience bid adjustments can be applied at the ad group or campaign level. If an adjustment is applied to a campaign and also to an ad group within that campaign, the ad-group-level adjustment will be the one that counts. However, you can set a -100% bid adjustment at the campaign level to exclude the entire group throughout the campaign. That will override adjustments at the ad group level, according to Google.

Strategies for Structuring Google Ads Accounts to Maximise ROI

Imagine a small account with 1 search campaign and 1 remarketing campaign to accompany it. It’s a typical account for service providers that make up such a large part of the economy. These accounts are fairly straightforward to structure. Just organising your keywords into closely related ad groups, which we’ll explain in detail below, does most of the job.

But what about accounts that advertise for regional offices, advertise numerous brands, send visitors to e-commerce stores, or cater to various carefully segmented groups that each require different ad copy? Deciding how to structure PPC campaigns in these scenarios may be slightly more difficult. Here are some different ways to organise for best results, depending on your business model.

Why Build a PPC Campaign by Themes?

It’s not so much your account that will be structured by themes. It’s your campaigns. Each contains ad groups full of closely related keywords, like this:

Ad GroupOXO TongsCuisinart Tongs
Keywords (examples)“OXO tongs”“Cuisinart tongs”
+OXO kitchen +tongs“Cuisinart stainless tongs”
+OXO heavy duty +tongs+Cuisinart commercial grade +tongs

Why build a PPC campaign by themes? For one thing, it helps you to create ads that are relevant. You want the ad to sell the exact product or service the keyword mentions. Likewise, the landing page should mention the exact product in the headline and do a good job of selling it. Another way to put it is that you must “align” your keywords, ad groups, and ads. Grouping keywords into themes is the only way to do that.

Secondly, organizing by theme can increase your keyword relevance, which in turn increases your quality score. And better quality scores decrease your costs per click.

If you’re a retailer that sells lots of different products, you might want to create separate campaigns for different product types. That way, your budget won’t be spread across too many keywords, making it difficult to analyze performance. If extra organization that goes beyond themes is needed, such as for regions, segments, or budgets, think about creating different campaigns for them as well.

For example, a campaign might be called “Northwest Region Fine Silverware” and another might be “South Region Fine Silverware,” assuming you want a campaign for fine silverware in each region.

SKAGs

Some advertisers swear by single keyword ad groups or SKAGs. They’re exactly what you’re expecting: ad groups with just one keyword in them. Although this allows for extremely relevant ads and landing pages, SKAGs have fallen from favor in recent times.

Advertisers now recommend ad groups containing several similar keywords that don’t overlap. “Overlap,” in this case, means to trigger an impression for different searches. Try your best to use match types so that you cover all of the relevant searches you can without overlap because overlap complicates the optimisation process.

Structuring an Account by Location

It might be best to create accounts for different geographic (location) targeting if you have stores in a few regions, if you want to spend more money to penetrate a particular regional market, or if you just want an easy way to visualise which regions perform best.

Let’s say you sell a particular model of mechanical pencil, the EZwriter, and a pen called “FriendPen.” You want to see how they perform in different regions of your country. Your campaigns would be something like this:

  • EZWriter North Region
  • EZWriter South Region
  • EZWriter West Region
  • EZWriter East Region
  • FriendPen North Region
  • FriendPen South Region
  • FriendPen West Region
  • FriendPen East Region

Your campaigns page would display all of the metrics you want for each region and product without the need to create a report or even navigate to one that has been saved (which can sometimes slow the platform down). As far as work efficiency goes, this is a good choice.

Create a Campaign for Your Brand

Sometimes bidding on keywords that include your own brand name can cause Google to spend too much money on them in comparison to other keywords in the account. This often becomes a problem with automated bid strategies like “maximise conversions.”

You don’t want all of your sales to come from people who already know about your brand and are searching for it, especially if there’s an organic result they’re likely to click anyway. Create a campaign with a smaller budget for your own branded keywords to solve the problem.

If a competitor is bidding on your brand, you can use a branded campaign to fire back and get the top-of-page spot. It’s usually easier to get the top spot when you’re bidding on your own brand name.

Structure Your Account by Products & Services

Sometimes a particular brand, product line, or product/service stands out in terms of profitability. To make sure these high-profit cash cows get the budget they deserve, create campaigns for them and give them a bigger portion of your total budget. You would be surprised how many advertisers don’t do this and keep spending too much money on lower-profit or lower-ROAS keywords.

Structure Your Ads Account Just Like Your Website

This one might be considered “overkill” but it won’t hurt and you’ll be able to quickly and easily discern the performance gaps between each campaign and ad group. You can pause the poorest performers for a quick fix, or decide which ones to focus on during your optimisation tasks.

This works best for businesses with at least several products or services. Jimmy J’s Marketing does SEO, PPC, and Email marketing, for example. Each of those categories can be divided into several services.

PPC can be divided into search campaign consulting, display campaign consulting, and e-commerce campaign consulting. Campaigns could be created for each of those so that each gets its own campaign-level settings. Or, if Jimmy J is satisfied with giving each service the customisability an ad group allows, they can all go into ad groups within the same campaign. But that means the ad groups will be sharing their campaign’s budget.

Creating campaigns for brands is a good idea for businesses that sell or own more than one because it simplifies the process of finding out which brands have the best performance. Just put the metrics you want to follow into a column on the campaigns tab.

Structure Your Account by Network (Search & Display)

It’s considered a best practice to create separate campaigns for different networks. That is, advertisers usually don’t target the search network and display network (or Youtube) in the same campaign. It complicates your statistics.

For example, if both networks are enabled in a campaign, you may see 5 conversions logged but you’ll have to navigate to the display network stats to find out which placements resulted in some of them. Using both networks in the same campaign will also throw your overall CTR and average CPCs off because the display network and search network tend to provide very different performance in terms of the two metrics.

If your plan involves getting impressions on niche websites, create a display campaign dedicated to that. For ads to be displayed on SERPs, create a search campaign and exclude the display network from it.

Structure by Budget

We’ve mentioned budget throughout this page because it’s always an important consideration. It’s about designating more money to campaigns that matter most in maximising ROI. You could put more funds into performing campaigns, or test out new strategies on underperforming campaigns that would eventually reap rewards.

Some situations that would prompt us to create separate campaigns are as follows.

  1. There’s a group of keywords that has performed well and now you want to run a promotion on them. Since you’re fairly certain the promo will help the keywords perform even better, you give it its own campaign and a good chunk of your budget. That way, other campaigns can’t cannibalise it.
  2. You run a number of ad groups and optimise them for a month. Then you keep gathering data for another month. You have enough clicks to accurately assess performance for a bunch of keywords. Some of the keywords perform so well that you want to make sure they get the budget they deserve. You create a separate campaign for the less-profitable keywords and give the more profitable ones in the old campaign (which has the algorithmic benefit of good historical performance) more budget.
  3. You’re running some keywords that include your brand name. They convert very well; so well that Google’s “maximise conversions” algorithm is starting to spend most of your budget on them. You want to reach consumers who don’t know your brand yet, though, so you split your budget between two campaigns. One of them contains your branded keywords and the other contains non-branded ones. Giving the branded campaign a smaller portion of the budget prevents overspending on it.

It’s worth mentioning that most of these scenarios assume you’re using an automated bid strategy, which will allocate funds towards the best-performing keywords and ads without your input.

If you want to give more funds to certain keywords without giving them a separate campaign, you could switch the campaign to Manual CPC or ECPC bid strategy and manually bid on each keyword. However, that will mean you’ll need to spend more time monitoring and editing bids, which may not be desirable.

Things to Remember about Google Ads Account Structure

Now you know how each level of the Google Ads account can be utilised. You have also learned some different structures advertisers set up to get more in return for their ad spend. An account’s structure has ramifications for targeting, budget, and even quality score. That’s why every advertiser should think about how a different structure could help them out whenever there’s enough data to help them make informed decisions.

Your structure should be reassessed periodically. When you create the first campaign for a business, you won’t know exactly what’s going to happen. You can do your best to start with a good structure and estimate your clicks but continuous improvement is always necessary. Get off to a good start and then use the data you gather to make improvements.

Heroes of Digital has helped over 600 clients generate over 2 million leads. If you want expert assistance to take your campaigns to the next level, we’re here for you. Get in touch.

Xavier Tan
Co-Founder
Xavier is the Co-Founder of Heroes of Digital. He started social media marketing and SEM long before it became popular in Singapore. His passion is in helping businesses grow through effective lead generation. He has overseen campaigns for Amara Hotel, NTU, Marina Bay, L'Oreal, and 100+ SMEs.

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