How to Improve Your AdWords Account Structure

How to Improve Your AdWords Account Structure

7th January 2014

Gleðilegt nýtt ár! (Happy New Year) from Iceland. Many of you have probably made some New Year’s resolutions for 2014 and some of them might be focused on better PPC account management and hopefully this article is a step towards that goal. For my first post in 2014 I thought I‘d cover the various ways you can structure your AdWords accounts, like in most of my previous articles covered on State of Digital it aims to enlighten account managers on the various ways you can utilize the AdWords platform.

We recently inherited an account. It included one campaign and one ad group that included one generic ad copy and over 320 keywords… that revolved around some 20 different products, their brand and branding strategy – yes people still do this.

The following article walks through six different ways you can structure your accounts with the aim of creating an easy-to-navigate, comfortable structure as well as saving time and money at the same time.

1. Structure by Geolocation

Ever since enhanced campaigns, account managers have been able to make bid adjustments based on the Geo locations they‘re targeting, having said that there‘s still the question of budget control. While including various Geo locations in one campaign and simply making bid adjustments might work well for some it‘s still important for small businesses to have as much control over their spend as possible.


The example below visualizes four campaigns running in the same region but with different Geo targeting settings, the campaigns with corresponding numbers include the same product keywords e.g. 1 and 1a as seen in the example below. After having identified a city that returned a high conversion volume within the targeted region we decided to isolate it, create a campaign around it and assign a special budget for it while lowering the budget on the original campaign which we decided to keep it live for branding purposes.


One last note regarding this aspect; if you’re not budget restricted and run campaigns that target various cities or countries, then I recommend that you create a special account per location as this can e.g. greatly help you get more accurate keyword data (not keyword data for 10 different locations) which in return makes your automated bid rules more effective. In this regard you might want to have a look at Google’s My Client Center.

2. Structure by Products

The key phrase here is „by campaign“ because while it is possible to pour all/good portion of your products into one campaign it is ill advised, but for what reason? In my opinion; having tens, hundreds if not thousands of ad groups with various keyword clusters in one campaign can be an unbelievable headache.

Splitting your products by campaigns creates a better organized structure that is easy-to-navigate and offers great budget control over every single product. It also gives you a quick overview of your products performance as opposed to constantly having to filter them within a single campaign. If limited budget is a problem for you can always create a shared budget (Shared library > Budgets > +Budget)


3. Structure by Performance

An important note to keep in mind in this regards is your campaigns naming convention. In many cases there are more than one account managers that handle a single account, with that in mind I don‘t recommend naming campaigns „Top performers“, „Top keywords“, “top 10”, “T10KW”  etc. but something a bit more descriptive so that it doesn’t create confusion. Example; “Summer Shoe Collection 2013 – High Converting Keywords”.

Having said that it‘s widely practiced to split winning keywords (e.g. keywords that are returning the most conversions, highest conversion rates and/or lowest cost per conversion) into their own campaign/s, by doing so you‘re able to allocate additional or assign a special budget towards them to increase your revenue.

The difference between this approach versus the one I talked about in the “Structure by Geo location” section is that here you isolate “winning” keywords as opposed to “winning” location/s.

4. Structure by Seasonality

Almost all businesses experience some form of seasonality. For clothing it’s winter, summer, autumn and spring collection while for tour companies there are seasonal tours e.g. northern lights tours. Then of course there are big annual events like Christmas, Black Friday, Boxing Day, El Buen Fin and more.

It can be helpful to have some strategy in place to tackle seasonality, be it; different ad copy, different bid rules or different focus, different keywords etc. Utilizing account structure in this sense can also serve as a good help as account managers can create campaigns that focus on a special seasons or holidays. This way you’re able to have a campaign in place which you can easily turn on when the time is right as opposed to having to constantly change your ads and pause/enable keywords.

5. Structure by Sales Cycle

People behave differently according where they are in the buying cycle, they‘re less likely to make a purchase early in the cycle/funnel and more likely the further they are in it; it‘s important that account managers understand this widely known fact so the results you see e.g. in your early stage campaigns which often entail higher CPA‘s doesn’t cloud your judgement or cause a panic.


When I look at my campaigns to see whether they fulfill their roles or not and also to see if my estimations as to where users are in a client’s sales cycle when using the keywords I’m targeting I like to look at the Assisted Conversions report in Google Analytics (Conversions > Multi-Channel Funnels > Assisted Conversions). It gives good insights as to whether e.g. a campaign is closer to playing an assisting or last click role when looking at conversions.


6. Structure by Match Types

This approach can cause a lot of headache if you decide to split every campaign within your account by match type, what was once 100 campaigns quickly turns into 300 campaigns etc. And while I don’t necessarily recommend that you triple your whole account structure I’d still recommend that you’d try it e.g. for your top 5 campaigns as a start. Why? well, mainly for two reasons:

  1. By splitting up your match types by ad groups or campaigns you’ll get a much better control of what search queries trigger what keywords. Example: the keyword [awesome bass collections] (I was listening to Stanley Clarke while writing this) triggers an ad copy when it matches the whole search query as opposed to its broad match counterpart, helping you gain the desired ad position (whatever it is). Just keep in mind to include corresponding negative keywords in the ad groups/campaigns.
  2. Knowing that one match type (usually your exact match keywords) return a better %ROAS than others you can split them into different campaigns and allocate your budgets according to results.

Final Remarks

So what conclusion can one draw from this? At the end of the day we’re always trying to “push the right buttons” and in my honest opinion it’s knowing where and how to spend your budget to create the highest returns, that’s where I feel account structure plays an important role. Additional notes;

  1. Structure your ad groups in a way that your ads talk directly to the user. Instead of including 20 different product related keywords and a generic ad copy in one ad group, create 20 different ad groups for your products with corresponding ad copy.  In return you’ll most likely see a great lift in performance.
  2. Check out “10 Quick PPC Tips, Improvements & Fixes” by Jackie Hole and “AdWords Tactics For Local Businesses”, both tackle account structure strategies to some degree as well as include other juicy content that is very useful.


Written By
Haukur Jarl Kristjánsson, a.k.a “the Hawk” (@haukurjarl), is a well-rounded PPC strategist, SEM consultant and trainer based in Reykjavik, Iceland.
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