Achieving an effective PPC account structure. Art or Science?

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Some days ago I have been asked to set the structure of an AdWords account to promote time limited special offers (mainly in the fashion industry).

It came again to me the most frequent question I have had to answer to since I started working on AdWords (more than 10 years ago). What is the “perfect” way to organize an account starting from zero?

In all these years I could not find a simple answer valid in all cases for so a complex question as structuring an AdWords account, but I gained one strong awareness: there is not a single “right” way to do it, all the other being “wrong” ones. In other terms, there are several different structures equally capable of achieving excellent results, while millions of others will result in different grades of money wasting.

This absolute truth is one of the most proven facts I could check (several different times) in my professional experience. Whoever is telling you the contrary is alternatively not knowing the subject or have never tried anything different from preset models pushed through by other PPC professionals.

I have literally seen things in AdWords accounts that you people wouldn’t believe in the attempt to adapt some rigid modeling to a reality systematically tricking it.

But, if there isn’t a perfect recipe to AdWords success, valid in all fields, how can we manage to always obtain good results? Is this science or art?

Personally, I start from the observation of the landing site/pages, passing by the most refined targeting I can aspire to and getting to the simplest account’s structure to achieve it.

In the specific case I was asked to work on quite renowned brands’ clothing/apparel discounted offers divided in separate landing pages for women and men and strictly time limited. So my first choice were 3 different search campaigns:

  • women related queries as: “brand name + product type + women” and some long tail variants including also terms like “offers”, “discount”, “outlet” or the name of the collection (e.g.: +Gucci +tshirt woman);
  • men related ones as: “brand name + product type + men” and the same long tail variants seen above;
  • undistinguished ones (without gender specifications) like: “brand name + product type + offers (or other long tail variations)” pointing to the man/women landing page depending which is the main target for that specific product.

I could have done this in 1 campaign with different sub-groups, but I chose to separate them to be able to use different negative keywords lists (one for women, including all male gender terms and a specular one for men). Of course in the undistinguished campaign I used both lists at the same time, to be sure to always address users to the landing page which best fits their queries.

No other specification were really needed, because these keywords immediately achieved 8 to 10 Quality Scores, and I was not obliged to set different match types queries, except some broad match modifiers on the most important words (like +brand names and +product types), just to be sure AdWords not to target whatever query resembling the ones I chose.

The second reason why I chose this structure is that it could be a perfect pre-set to be used for all gender specific products (to be targeted with different ad-groups within the same 3 original campaigns).

At this point you could ask me how can I be so sure that all other pre-defined models (like separate matching type groups for instance) would be a loss of time? The answer is quite simple: you cannot have Quality Scores higher than 10. Whatever setting is not helping your users to get the most specific landing page they can have or increasing your QS is useless, and I gladly leave it to competitors & self-proclaimed PPC gurus.

Remember that every useless campaign or ad-group will be a time loss multiplier until you succeed to get rid of it. In fact you will be forced to look into it every single time you need to optimize the account.

After having set the minimal structure to get efficient campaigns I then started to push their effectiveness, refining ads (adding variants, all available extensions, countdowns, ads personalizers, keyword insertions, etc.), analyzing conversions (looking for eventual A/B tests on landing site/pages) and, finally, setting the right budget looking at impression shares of each converting item.

Whatever you consider it art or science, you can have an idea of the complete process looking at this infographic summarizing how to check & optimize an AdWords account.

The choice is yours: would you prefer to be the Michelangelo of your PPC campaigns or their crazy mathematician? In any case I prefer to make errors on my own, instead of re-adapting errors made by some other professional.

May the ROI be with you! 😉

About Gianpaolo Lorusso

Freelance AdWords & CRO professional, Gianpaolo is among the first Italian web marketing professionals and ideated ADworld Experience, one of the largest PPC events in the world.