PPCHow to Structure an AdWords Account — A Practical Guide

How to Structure an AdWords Account -- A Practical Guide

A walk-through of some of the core components in setting up your Google AdWords account, plus tips on particular AdWords features that can help improve your program's performance.

The initial structure and setup of your Google AdWords account will go a long way in helping you achieve your paid search goals — whether it’s new customer acquisition, lead generation, efficient e-commerce sales, or branding and awareness.

We’ll start with a few assumptions:

Before jumping in to the nuts and bolts of setting up your Google AdWords account, it will be helpful to conceptualize how your account will be structured. Synching up your product categories and subcategories to paid search campaigns and ad groups will help prepare you as you begin the process of actually setting up your account.

We’ll use a fictitious shoe retailer, Rob’s Running Super Store, to illustrate.

Rob's Running Super Store AdWords Account

Campaigns are often best used to house a product category. The ad groups that fall underneath the campaigns will give you the flexibility to describe different attributes of the product that the campaign represents. Ad groups are also where you will be assigning a related set of keywords and ad copy that reflect the product and its attributes.

As you think through this, keep in mind that breaking out your campaigns and ad groups in a granular manner from the start will help keep your ad copy very targeted to the user’s search. The more targeted the ad copy you write for each ad group is to the user’s search, the more efficient your program will be.

Let’s dig in to Google AdWords and begin setting up the account.

The Basic Setup

You're ready to create your first campaign!

You will need to set up a Gmail account, which will serve as the primary login to access AdWords. Once you log in, you’ll be asked to name your first campaign and set the locations that you want your ads to appear. You will have the ability to go back and edit this information should you need to at a later date.

Networks and devices

  • Networks: Next you’ll need to determine what networks you want your ads to appear on. You will see options for both search and display.
    • Search: Within Search, you can choose to show your ads on Google only, or across Google and its Search partners. These Search partners are second and third tier search engines that can help in driving incremental traffic. We’ll normally start off with both Google and its Search partners.
    • Display: Google’s Display Network can also open up volume by serving your ads (both image and text) within content on related web pages like NYTimes.com and About.com. For this example, we will opt out of Google’s Display Network.
  • Devices: You’ll also want to consider the devices your ads will appear on. Desktops and laptop computers are a no-brainer, but iPhones and other mobile devices should be given some consideration.If your mobile shopping experience is cumbersome, consider opting out of mobile devices for starters. You can always go back and activate and test this option later.

Bidding and budget

  • Bidding and budget: To keep things running efficiently, especially in the early stages of your campaigns, you will want to choose Manual bidding for clicks. This will require more work once you begin managing your campaigns — but the payoff will be worth it.The last thing you want is a runaway budget — manual bidding will help keep your program in check. It will also let you make bidding decisions based on your program goals.Google offers some more sophisticated conversion-based bidding options if you have Google AdWords conversion tracking set up. This gets a little more advanced, so we’ll save it for another discussion.

    You’ll also set your daily budget here. You can (and surely will) change this as time goes on and you gain learnings from your campaign.

Position Preference, Delivery Method

  • Position preference: Within the Bidding and budget section you’ll be asked to define your Position preference. This refers to which position your ad will display on the search results page.We’ll commonly set this to the “off” position, managing the campaign to cost-per-click (CPC) levels that ultimately drive at an efficient return on investment (ROI) — as opposed to defining a specific position range. Let your bids dictate your position, not the other way around.
  • Delivery method: It’s usually best to start by selecting Standard, which will show your ads evenly over time. This will be helpful, especially if you’re working with a limited budget, as your budget will be paced over time during the day as opposed to being used up within a matter of hours.


  • Ad extensions: These great features are specific to Google AdWords. Google Sitelinks for instance, allows an advertiser to add up to four additional links, with unique destination URLS, beneath the standard ad.In the initial setup of the account Ad extensions are referenced but you aren’t able to make selections. You’ll be able to go back and add these options once your ad groups are set up.

Ad Schedule

  • Ad schedule: Additional selections within the basic setup include scheduling a start and end date for your campaign, and setting the days and times you want your ads to appear. With proper tracking in place, particular days of the week (or even times of day) will prove to be most efficient for your campaign.For example, we found that weekday hours of 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. spent a sufficient amount of budget but was incredibly inefficient in converting to sales — so we shifted the budget to more efficient times of the day.

Ad delivery: Ad rotation, frequency capping

      • Ad rotation: Select the preferred ad rotation for your campaign. It’s always best to run multiple ads in an ad group and determine top performers through testing. Google will serve ads one of two ways:
        • Rotate: Showing all ads evenly over time.
        • Optimize: Showing ads with higher click-through rates (CTRs) more frequently.

If you plan on being very hands-on with the management of your account (which you should), then select Rotate to show your ads evenly. If you have three ads in an ad group, Google should serve these ads evenly. This will allow you to quickly identify under-performing ads as they will all receive similar exposure in Google.


    Underperformers should be paused, and new ads should be created that contain elements of your better performing ads. Running this process on an ongoing basis will keep your campaigns fresh and performing at a high level.

Creating Ad Groups, Ads, and Keywords

Now that you’ve got the basics set for your campaign, it’s time to create your first ad group, which will fall under the campaign that was created. As mentioned earlier, ad groups will house your ads and keywords, and will be related to attributes of the product you’re advertising.

Create ad group

First, name your ad group.

Next, create your first ad. Five mandatory fields need to be filled out when creating your ad. There are limits of 25 characters for your Headline and 35 characters for your Description lines 1 and 2. Here’s a great reference guide for ad copy best practices.


Adding keywords is the next step. With the help of a keyword tool, you can populate your keywords into the open field in the interface or upload a keyword spreadsheet.

The upload method is great when you’re working with hundreds of keywords. To add keywords to our Men’s Running Shoes_Lightweight campaign, the keyword list might look something like this:

Notice the brackets around the keywords in the above example? We’re defining not only the keywords, but also match types, specifically the Exact match type in this example.

Test out multiple keyword-match type combinations to see the type(s) that help you achieve your goals. Here’s more information on best practices for keywords and match types.

Almost Ready to Launch

You’ve got your basic setting in place, your first ad group is created, your ads written, and your keywords loaded up, but there’s still an important step that needs to be completed before you launch: billing. You’ll be taken here after you create your ads and keywords.

This is a fairly straightforward process. Enter your billing information, and you’re ready to go.

This is Just The Beginning…

Setting up an account’s first campaign and ad group is the beginning to a much more comprehensive process of building multiple campaigns and ad groups, and most importantly optimizing the account based on your performance goals. The ongoing optimization and management process will ultimately determine how successful your account is.

Creating a sound account structure from the beginning will help make the entire management process much smoother. Fortunately Google makes the setup process pretty straightforward.

Hopefully the tips shared here will help you on your way to a successful account creation.


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