A Poor PPC Account Structure Will Make Your Campaign Suffer

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We frequently discuss PPC account structure and with good reason: your account structure can greatly affect the performance of your campaign. Honestly, I believe that account structure is one of the most important (if not the most important) elements of your PPC campaign.

Recently, we acquired a new client who had been using another firm to manage their PPC. Our client hired us because he wasn’t seeing the results that he thought were attainable. Once we dug into the account we found that it was in very poor shape and we want to make sure no one else is making these mistakes.

Campaign/Ad group: The account had only one campaign and within this campaign there were a good number of ad groups that were poorly themed. You should always have your account segmented into high-level campaigns with tightly-themed ad groups. Having only one campaign does not allow you to be as specific with your ad groups, and it makes the account very difficult to manage and optimize properly.

The second major offense, and this strategy puzzles us, is that they had match types separated into different ad groups. For example, one keyword would appear in three different ad groups; one for broad, one for exact and one for phrase. Using match types can help determine user intent and you can use this data to focus on the match type that works best for your audience. But separating the match types doesn’t make much sense.

Negative keywords:This was the element of the account that really puzzled us. In the campaigns that were utilizing broad match, they had inserted negative exact match keywords of the same keywords.

For example, if they had the broad match keyword “red tennis shoe” they also had the negative exact match of that keyword [red tennis shoe] in the same ad group. This means they were essentially canceling this keyword and displaying for every other variation of the same keyword. Does your brain hurt? Yes, we found this confusing as well!

Ad text testing: Each of the poorly constructed ad groups had only one ad text running. You should be constantly testing your ad texts in order to increase your click-through rate. And it didn’t appear as if they were running with their best ads; it looked as if they had only inserted one ad.

Bidding strategy: All of their keywords were set at the ad group level, at $0.36. We aren’t certain where this bid came from or why it was applied to every keyword but obviously, this is not a good strategy. You should have individual bids set up for most of your keywords, especially those keywords that drive the most traffic.

Here are the mistakes to avoid that were made in this account:

  • Your account structure is crucial. A well-planned structure will make for easier campaign management on all fronts: keywords, budget, ad texts, bids. Basically a good account structure will make your life easier and your campaign more successful.
  • Always be split testing your ad texts.
  • Set individual bids for your keywords as you optimize to increase your click-through rate and conversion rate.
  • Utilize your match types properly and use your negative keywords wisely.

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17 thoughts on “A Poor PPC Account Structure Will Make Your Campaign Suffer

  1. Billy

    By separating match types in different ad groups, you can make sure the correct ads are showing for the correct queries. This is probably why they had the negative exact match in the same ad group as the broad match. I’ve done something like this before. Would you want your broad match term ‘red tennis shoe’ triggered when someone searches [red tennis shoe]? Remember, QS comes from your exact match keyword’s data. I’d rather see that term receive the most traffic, as long as it’s relevant!

    I found this structure idea from: http://groups.google.com/group/SEM2/browse_thread/thread/02537ff943862cf0

  2. TomDemers

    Hey Joe,

    Love the blog; I’m a recent subscriber. Anyway…

    “Negative keywords:This was the element of the account that really puzzled us. In the campaigns that were utilizing broad match, they had inserted negative exact match keywords of the same keywords.”

    I think this is called “embedded match” (http://www.google.com/adwords/learningcenter/text/19135.html scroll to the bottom of the page).

    Obviously it sounds like they were using it too liberally, but it’s actually sort of an interesting option. Basically the idea is you can take certain keywords/phrases and “cut off the head”. So I have a term where the tail phrases perform really well but the phrase itself is showing and/or getting clicked a lot and dragging down that keyword’s performance, I can run it with just the tail.

    I like it when used sparingly in instances where I know a head keyword is tripping me up (definitely not something I’d replace broad match with though).

    Incidentally this messed up my CTR pretty bad when I used it (but helped conversions) which leads me to what I think is an interesting question: generally speaking, Quality Score is determined by CTR on the keyword only, right? So if I negative exact match against the keyword itself and my tail’s CTR stinks, am I going to get hammered on Quality Score?

    Sounds like that account would be creating some pretty poor Quality Scores just based on account structure, but that might be interesting to test.

    Anyway like I said love the blog; keep up the good work!


  3. Jason

    A couple of interesting points that I was hoping you could expand on. you say that segmenting keywords into separate ad groups based on match type is a poor move. Can you explain? We’ve done this for awhile now (to help with internal tracking) and I’m not sure I understand the concern here.

    Secondly, you question the strategy of negative exact match keywords, but if the client has “red tennis shoes” as an exact match keyword in a different campaign/ad group, then the use of negative exact match in the broad match campaign/ad group seems understandable. sounds like they were trying to funnel the exact match traffic to the exact match keyword.

  4. JB


    You might want to do more research on two of those items.

    1. Many PPC experts recommend seperating each match type into its own ad group, especially for high-volume keywords. I think that’s mostly because of ad creative. You may have one ad that does well with the exact match, but does not perform for broad match. Now that Google’s broad match is extremely broad (see Amber’s ‘sexy’ post), it’s worth testing. Often times I run exact and phrase together in one ad group, but put the broad match in a seperate group.

    2. That negative keyword usage may seem confusing, but the goal is to get more granular. For that particular example, they don’t want exact keyword matches displayed for that phrase match ad group. They would rather have those displayed in the ad group dedicated to exact match. I’m not sure how well this works in practice, but it may be effective for high-volume keywords.

  5. JB

    Oops. I didn’t see Jason’s comment. Mine is very similar, but I would stress that you really should be testing different ad text (and thus different ad groups) for broad match.

  6. Jason

    JB – excellent point about differentiating your ad copy tests by match type. We haven’t gotten that granular yet, but it wouldn’t suprpise me to see different results once we do.

  7. Tom Hale

    I also raise an eyebrow at how easily some of these tactics are dismissed.

    I use two of the techniques you dismiss here. I do not use them in all instances, but they can serve a useful purpose.

    Like so many things AdWords, a technique is often not inherently good or bad, how it is used or mis-used in a given situation is what counts.

    Google Analytics does not distinguish between keyword matching options – that reason alone provides a case for match specific ad groups in some circumstances. Labeling an ad group per a matching option also can make daily management more efficient and provide quick insight into the value chain of your target market. Broad early entry into the cycle vs specific purchase inquiries.

    The negative exact match in conjunction with broader terms and the search query reports can also be very efficient.

    There are other applications for these tactics, the tactics themselves do not seem inherently bad to me.

    The longer you do this, the humbler you get. There a re lots of ways to skin a AdWords cat, depending on the type of cat 😉

    -Tom Hale

  8. JoeJoe Post author

    Hey everyone:
    Wow, I sparked a lot of comments with this post! Either I did something right, or something wrong! Regardless, thanks to everyone for the insightful feedback. Yes, I have used negative exact in ad groups but I haven’t constructed ads groups in the fashion in which these were constructed. And honestly, I don’t disagree with anyone’s comments. And JB, I’ll give this strategy some additional thought in regards to separating match types. That is one thing I LOVE about our blog… I’m always learning. Thanks!

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  11. Patrick

    We recently broke all of our AdGroups down into different match types.

    For example: Keywords “Website, Make a Website”

    We have three AdGroups for each match type. Outstanding success with the best Qscore I have ever seen. Exact Match types give the best conversion rate for almost any business. Now that we have seen these match types broken down, the CPA has dropped big time, and our position hs increased. The CPC has also dropped down too! I can now make simple decisions to pause phrase and broad keywords completlely. Even if I pause my braod keywords, it will lose traffic of course (impressions and clicks) but the traffic I am getting through these broken down adgroups are highly converting.

    Any feedback on long term effects. I see none.

  12. JoeJoe Post author

    Hi Patrick:
    Thanks for the feedback! I have yet to break my ad groups down by match type but perhaps this is something I need to try! Gotta love PPC: always learning!
    Thanks again!

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