The Beginner's Guide To A Full PPC Account Setup For SMB Ecommerce Clients

By Kirk Williams | @PPCKirk | Owner of ZATO

old phoneYou hang up the phone and smile. That prospect you’ve been reeling in just saw the light. They are ready to jump on board. Congratulations, you just won the account! Your hard work has paid off and you can sit back and…


Ok, who am I kidding, now is when the real work begins.


Unless you work in-house, it is probably likely that you have worked on a full account setup at one time or another. Perhaps it is for a client your sales team (or you, if independent!) talked into PPC. Or perhaps it is for a company whose current account looks like an unpopular, soon-to-leave the race Presidential candidate: one sad and lonely campaign, targeted at anyone who will listen.


Whatever the state, you have determined that a full account setup is the correct decision in this case.


Now what? Where do you start with a full account setup?


Bearing My Ecommerce Soul


I’d like to present the way that I order and work on setting up an SMB Ecommerce account. My hope is to create a template of sorts for you to be able to reference for future builds.


But first, a few caveats.


  1. TL;DR. This post is too big to read in one sitting. It’s ok if you use it more as a reference and don’t make it all the way through the first time.
  2. This is directed at SMB companies. In some way, enterprise level companies will experience a setup like this, and in some ways they will be very different. My goal here, is to present how I set up my SMB accounts since that is primarily what I work on and that is probably the majority of accounts that will be set up from 2016 and on (since we’re well into PPC for most larger companies).
  3. This is an Ecommerce setup. A lead generation account setup will have different aspects to it (more landing page creation/setup, etc) so I have to pick one, and I like Ecommerce better.
  4. This will be a setup without paid tools. I will suggest some tools that I use in some areas, but primarily my interest is to help you, the agency, learn how I set up my accounts with only the basics (i.e., what many smaller agencies can only afford).
  5. I’ll probably forget something, sorry. I’m not doing a full account setup right now, but writing a blog post. Forgive me if a I forget a crucial part of the process, and point that out in the comments below.


A Step-By-Step Guide To Setting Up A New Ecommerce PPC Account


So let’s get into it. I will give the step, describe it, and give enough details surrounding each portion to give you an idea of what I build out in that particular step. In some of them, I include further resources or tools so you can expand on what is written here.


Step 1 – Client Onboarding


This step is first and one of the most important to get right as doing this well will set the stage for the rest of your buildout. This involves client communication, and is important enough that I wanted to give it its own step!


Here are the things to ensure happen in your client onboarding before the setup begins.


Account Access


One of the first things I ask a client, is to get me set up on everything I need access to in order to do my job well. Suggested items to gain access to include:


  • Analytics platform
  • AdWords account (of course)
  • Bing Ads accountgoogle analytics logo
  • Google Merchant Center (if possible, pull it into your GMS Multi-Client account. Didn’t know about this? Request one here, a MUST for agencies: Request a Merchant Center Multi-client Account).
  • LP provider (e.g., Unbounce)
  • Google Tag Manager (if applicable, if not… consider suggesting them to check into it, it will make future steps a lot easier)
  • Introduction to the dev team contact (who will you have add all your tags to the website if they don’t have or want GTM?).
  • Billing contact (Where do you send the invoice? You want to get paid, right?)
  • Google Search Console (or at least, ensure it is linked with Analytics and AdWords)


As you can tell, there is a lot more you need access to than you would think for a new account build!


Goal Communication & Understanding


sign-5-in-the-park-1241479-1599x2424Another key conversation with the client (which probably also took place during your sales communication) is to get on the same page as them regarding their goals. I will tip my hand, I don’t think I’ve ever worked on an Ecommerce account where ROAS was not my most valuable KPI. In fact, I would argue that it can be detrimental to focus on CPA in Ecommerce since different transactions carry different values. Is your client aware of this as well? Now is when you want to get an idea of their ROAS goals. This may be new language to them. If so, ask this question:


  • What is your estimated product & shipping cost per product? Even a ball park figure gives you an agreed upon target to shoot for. Perhaps they estimate all external costs eat up 70% of their product revenue. That’s fine, now you have a hard target (30% of revenue must be > ad spend) for your ad budget. You have to make sure your advertising remains within that window (and eventually beat it soundly). It’s not as exact science as it could be, but especially with SMB Ecommerce clients, it can be a great place to start for getting you both on the same page for a trackable goal.


Current Marketing Breakdown


I find it immensely helpful to learn what they have tried before and what they are currently running in other areas of marketing. This will help you think through consistent branding across multiple online and offline channels, and also give you potential resources for things like Display ad design.


Bonus, this will also give you an idea of their overall marketing budget to gain a better idea of where they actually stand in terms of funding. Some businesses are maxed out, and even if you see room to grow they just don’t have cash on hand. However, if you learn your client is spending $50K per month on magazine ads, you could potentially use this information in the future to suggest more PPC spend once you are delivering results.


Relevant Information Call


It is essential to have a meeting on the phone, in person, or through hangout that allows you to learn everything there is to know about their business. No detail is too small. Soak it all in and take notes like crazy.  I’m always amazed how much I am able to pick up from these initial calls for these areas:


  • Benefits to include in ad text. (“We hear from a lot of customers that they love our personal phone service.”)
  • Potential keywords & themes (also, negative keyword opps)
  • Call outs regarding the company in general or specific products (can be used in sitelinks, callouts, ads, etc)
  • Competition (make sure to find out who they think their main competition is, not just what shows up in SpyFu or Auction Insights. Who do they care about?)
  • Ad spend budget (nail down how much they want to spend in that first month)
  • Top products? (what products do they want  to see sell the most? What do they see actually selling?)
  • Pricing consideration (Are there MAP policies on any products? Do they have a Price Match policy? Do they often get into pricing battles with key competitors?)
  • Customer support level, does this client want to receive inquiry phone calls or chats? Is that part of their system, or do they prefer to keep everything pushed online.
  • Post-sale process, what do things look like for them after the sale? Do they follow up at all? Lots of repeat customers?


Step 2 – Preliminary Research


ppc researchIf Step 1 was client facing, Step 2 is all about you and your investigative powers. Don’t build anything yet! You’re still in research phase (I promise, it’s worth it. The more research you do before-hand, the better setup your account will be).


Here are the areas I research before I begin any actual build.


Tags Firing


Once you get access to everything from Step 1, make sure to do the necessary investigation as to whether everything is actually working! One easy way to tell if tags are firing correctly is to use the Chrome extension Google Tag Assistant.


  • Conversions firing successfully? Revenue reporting accurately in both Analytics and AdWords?
  • Any secondary goals? Those firing successfully & appearing accurately in Analytics?
  • Remarketing tags firing correctly?


Competitor Websites


Use your client call, Auction Insights (if you have any data at all), tools like Spyfu or SEMRush, and good ole manual Google searches to identify top competitors. Then spend some time on their websites checking things out. What promotions or offers are they running? What products are they pushing the hardest? Any leg up your client has on this competitor (maybe your client’s warehouse is more centrally located so you can ship faster to anywhere in the US than a competitor)?


Competition Ads


Now, check out what your competitor’s are doing in SERPs. What are the main callouts they are using on top products and industry category terms? How successful are they in utilizing ad extensions, Shopping, remarketing?


Sign Up For Competition Newsletters


Sign up for your competitor’s newsletter, keep an eye on what sales they are running and products they are promoting.


Sign up for Client Newsletter


It’s not rocket science, but it can be easily forgotten! Keep track of what your client wants to position by keeping track of their newsletter. Bonus points for getting yourself included in the newsletter conversation before they are sent out each time to help combine PPC and Email efforts.


Google Trends


If applicable, investigate top industry terms in Google Trends. Get an idea of seasonal activity and general search trends for your client’s industry. Tip: maybe drop that super soaker client.


google trends supersoaker


Industry Forums


If you really want to dig deep, search for and read through general industry forums. I have gained valuable client information from these. It can also get you bonus points with the client if you happen to find someone talking about them specifically and can share the feedback with them! The power of reading industry forums is that you are actually viewing the industry from the eyes of your client’s potential customers. This can give you insight into new keyword theme, ad callouts, etc.


Client’s Website


This research is going to help you immensely as you plan account structure. Oftentimes, a client has structured their Ecommerce website menu according to natural category and brand lines, or sometimes even best selling product lines. Studying and understanding their menu structure can help you immensely learn how their products work together, and thus how you will organize your campaigns.


Keyword Research


No brainer here, but the AdWords Keyword Planner is still a valuable resource for finding keyword themes and top search queries and average CPCs.


Erin Sagan just wrote a great article on doing keyword research for ecommerce accounts, check it out here for more ideas: 5 Tips for Dominating Your E-Commerce Keyword Research.


Prep Negative Keyword Lists


I find that the best time to build your negative keyword lists is during the research phase. Kill two birds with one stone while you are doing all your research! Whenever you come across a possible negative keyword, take it and throw it into a spreadsheet in the appropriate column. You will THANK YOURSELF later for doing this.


negative keyword excel list


Also, don’t forget to check out a great negative keyword list to find easy fruit to pick.  Here are 2:



Make Test Order


Your research needs to also include their ordering process. After all, it won’t do any good to pay money to send people to a site with a terrible checkout process! Make sure to work with your client so they can cancel the order right away, or add the option to pay later. You might as well test the Google Analytics conversion code to make sure it’s working correctly at this time, too. You’ve done this before, keep an eye out for potential issues in the process and work with your client to smooth them out.


Analytics Review


Finally, dig into their analytics account (if not a completely new site). I don’t necessarily have a goal when I do this, but I hop into some common reports and see if anything jumps out.


  • Any obvious landing pages to use?
  • What pages other than the checkout pages have a super high page value?
  • Learn what are “Normal” User metrics for this site (bounce rates, avg site speed, page load times, most common exit pages, etc) so you can get an idea of where PPC is at once that starts.
  • Identify cart abandonment rate. This can shed a lot of light on PPC issues if this is especially high already! Also a great tool for you to have when you suggest those Checkout UI changes.
  • Identify Top selling products/manufacturers. At this stage, you are trying to get an idea for what the data says are the top selling products, not just what the client thinks (or wants). Keep in mind, the client could have phone sales in mind as well for top selling products, and those may not do so well online. For instance, a retailer that sells $20,000 commercial Projectors may do many sales over the phone talking to a sales rep, but their primary online revenue may come from the more affordable consumer televisions.


Step 3 – Search Campaigns Setup


Now that you have spent a good of deal time and energy learning about the client’s products and business structure, you can create a draft of the account. I find it helpful to do this in Excel (especially since you can import it into Editor).


Mimic Your Client’s Menu Structure (If Good)


In this case, your goal is to identify the basic structure of the client’s business and replicate it in your campaigns. For my Ecommerce accounts, I generally choose to go with both Product Brand-centric campaigns, and Product Category-Centric campaigns. Obviously, it gets more complicated than this, but this is a great place to start.


Campaign Naming


This is more important than you think, make sure you name your campaigns well! This will save you countless time in the future with filters, tools, and an assortment of other ways in which it helps but I’m currently forgetting. More info on that here: Naming Your PPC Campaigns, It’s More Important Than You Think.


Ad Group Structure


This will also be the time for you to determine what type of ad group structure you prefer. This is not the time or place to solve that debate, but here are a few helpful resources on that:



Example Structure:


Search – Nike Shoes – Category Terms – US


  • Nike Tennis Shoes
  • Nike Soccer Cleats
  • Nike Shoes
  • Nike Football Cleats
  • Nike Wrestling Shoes

Perhaps, then you want to dig even further into those by adding Specific Product Ad Groups, depending upon all that research you did for what your customers are searching for:


Search – Nike Soccer Cleats – Colors – US


  • Nike Orange Soccer Cleats
  • Nike Blue Soccer Cleats
  • Nike Red Soccer Cleats
  • Nike Green Soccer Cleats


Maybe you have products where people type in the SKU (not as uncommon as you would think), these are high-potential queries so you might want to pull them into their own campaign as well.


Search – Nike Soccer Cleats – SKU – US


  • Nike Tiempo Rio II
  • Nike Mercurial Superfly
  • Nike Mercurial Vapor II
  • Nike Magista Onda


You get the point, this is the time to figure all  of this out, and draft it up in your csv. Once you’re ready, hop into Editor and start bulk creating your campaigns.


optmyzr logoTOOL TIP: there is a ridiculously powerful script from Optmyzr worth checking out that can dynamically build ads, ad groups, keywords, and labels with your parameters. It has the potential to save hours of time! Check it out here: Enhanced Script: Create Ads From a Spreadsheet.


Don’t Forget


I would be remiss if I didn’t at least remind you to take advantage of all of the necessary steps of setting up Search campaigns. Make sure to spend time on Campaign Settings, Ad Extensions, Dayparting, devices, budgets, and all the other factors that play into a Search Campaign.


Because all of these deserve their own blog post (and have received multiple posts per topic), I’ll let you figure out how to get better at them elsewhere. Just know that they are part of your Search Campaign build out.


Step 4 – Shopping Campaign Setup


I cannot stress the importance of setting up your Shopping campaigns well from the beginning. A major difference between setting up a new account, and taking over an existing Ecommerce account, is that you can do what you want with Shopping strategy without having to figure out how to “play nicely” with the existing strategy (likely a single campaign and ad group).


My suggestion to you would be to identify the core account product structure, as well as the potential query groupings by profit. Here is what I mean by that.


Account Product Structure


Similar to how you built out your search campaigns, you want to identify the best way to group your products together. This is essential in Shopping for organization, but also for query targeting. If you have one ad group including both shoes and boots, you can’t exclude one or the other to send the correct queries to the correct product. Technically, Google tries to do this automatically, but a good structure can only help.


I try to make my campaigns be whatever is most obvious in that particular client. It could be that in one client, you want to have your campaign be at the product category level (Shoes) and the ad groups be the individual brands (Nike). Or perhaps it makes more sense to make the campaign be the product brand (Nike) and the ad groups the category (shoes). I find it depends on the client heavily.


An example campaign might be:


Shopping – Shoes – US


  • Nike
  • Adidas
  • Puma

On the other hand, you might get enough traffic and see enough reason to go a step further:


Shopping – Shoes – Nike – US


  • Nike Soccer Cleats
  • Nike Wrestling Shoes
  • Nike Football Cleats
  • Nike Tennis Shoes


You get the idea.


Query Groupings By Profitability


I won’t say too much here, because I have already spelled out exactly how to create this strategy on Search Engine Land.


A Step-By-Step Guide to Query-Level Bidding In Google Shopping


I will say, unlike that post emphasizes, there are far more ways to be creative with query targeting in Shopping than simply Non-Brand, Brand, and SKU. This is especially the case with products where the SKU is unknown (or not utilized) by the consumer. In that case, you need to do a little thinking on the matter and identify if there are core groups of queries that tend to convert better than others. Then, use the strategy to siphon the correct query in the correctly bid campaign to maximize your exposure.


With tests like 16 PLAs at the top of SERPs by Google, Shopping will only continue to grow in importance in your Ecommerce account. Make sure you are set up for success with it from the very beginning.


Step 5 – Remarketing Setup (RLSA and GDN)


Remarketing is another campaign type that can prove extremely beneficial for Ecommerce accounts. I’m not going to get into strategy in this one, there are a billion blogposts out there on it!  Here is just one to get you started:


Ultimate Guide to AdWords Remarketing


ppc remarketing meme


When I first land a client, I like to build a few initial lists to begin with, and get them pushed live ASAP. As time progresses, you can go back and build more complex lists.


Here are lists I usually build out in the beginning. By no means an exhaustive list, but at least it gives you some initial ideas. Remember with remarketing lists that even if you don’t use them all right away, it is a huge benefit just to get them collecting visitors so they are ready by the time you are ready to try them!


  • Cart Abandonment.
  • Checkout Abandonment
  • Checkout Complete (use this as an excluded list so you don’t annoy your loyal customers… unless you use it as a means of upselling similar products!).
  • Every Product Brand (1 list each).
  • Top 10 Products (1 list each).
  • Top Category Pages (there are always some that the client wants to focus on, or that convert well).
  • Check Analytics for top visited pages for list ideas.
  • Check Analytics for Top Page Value pages for list ideas.
  • Whatever fun custom combinations you use.




Be aware of one key thing with Remarketing Lists for Search ads. That is, that your list is itself a significant filter. What this means, is that you can be more courageous with your match types, since you know the people searching for those terms have already demonstrated interest in your brand and industry in the past.


Because of this, I use straight broad match in my RLSA campaigns. A helpful tip for quickly and easily setting up RLSA campaigns is to use Editor:


  • Copy your top category Search campaigns. Let’s say your Search – Product Categories – US campaign and Search – Product Brands – US campaign.
  • Paste these as new campaigns and change the names to something like: Search – RLSA – Product Categories – US campaign and Search – RLSA – Product Brands – US campaign.
  • Bulk edit all keywords to broad match, deleting all the duplicates.
  • Adjust the KW bids to an appropriate level.
  • Assign the correct Remarketing list to each of the ad groups
  • Add the “all users” remarketing list as an exclusion into the original 2 Search campaigns (so all your remarketed visitors get sent to these RLSA campaigns).
  • Post your changes.


Step 6 – Push Live


You did all the work, now push it live! I always, to this day, feel a literal giddy thrill when I push a brand new account live. There is so much potential! So much money to be made, and data to collect, and opportunities to take advantage of!


Keep a close eye on things, checking your budgets and CPCs. Make sure nothing is running away from you. I am pretty attentive to a new account in that first week!


steadybudget logoTOOL TIP: One tool I will throw out there is SteadyBudget (I get nothing for saying this). I began using SteadyBudget last year, and really value it as an alert system. It allows me to monitor AdWords and Bing Ads budgets for a client in one place (other benefits to it as well!) which is hugely valuable to me. It is especially nice for new account builds because I can set my alerts at closer budget intervals so I am notified immediately if spend for some reason goes crazier than expected in a new account build. I recommend giving it a look-see!


Step 7 – Miscellaneous Campaigns Setup


There are lots of other fun campaign types that can be used for Ecommerce, but I personally like to get things set up, and then turn to focus on these more “experimental” and “supplemental” types.

These are:


DSA – Dynamic Search Ads


I have completely changed my tune on DSA. I used to hate them. “Google is in charge with DSA, that’s bad!” I would cry. Then I learned some tricks, Google made some tweaks, and I have really grown to like them for Ecommerce accounts. Secret story I share reluctantly: DSA is one of the top performing campaigns in one of my Ecom clients.


If you want to learn more about DSA, here is a great (slightly dated, especially in the setup) article written by Sam Owen: Why AdWords Dynamic Search Ads Work Better Than You Think. It is well worth a read!


RDSA – Remarketing for Dynamic Search Ads


Technically, Matt Umbro invented this campaign type. It is just how it sounds. You create a DSA campaign and ad audiences to it. This can be a low traffic campaign, but it is so highly targeted and automated that it has the potential to be a great supplemental campaign type. I am never “wow’ed” by these when I set them up in accounts, but they’re nothing to ignore.


Matt’s article is here: RDSA: A Powerful New AdWords Campaign


RLSA Shopping


Imagine a campaign where Google takes the two most conversion friendly Ecommerce campaign types and morphs them into one. Well, that’s basically what RLSA for Shopping is. This was only recently moved from Beta, so there is still much to be learned about it, but it is already proving to be a great revenue source (albeit lower traffic) in my clients.


I am still trying to figure out a great strategy, but I have noticed the “query specific” strategy isn’t really the best way to go with RLSA for Shopping. If you think about it, again, the Remarketing list is your filter, so you can be more confident your bids and Google’s algorithm are giving you good traffic. Just grab your core Google Shopping campaigns, copy them, add remarketing audiences, and go nuts.


Dynamic Remarketing


Dynamic Remarketing is interesting. I have set it up with Google AdWords and seen few results in multiple clients. On the other hand, I know some swear by it so it’s possible I’m doing it wrong, though I suspect it has to do with industry/clients as well.


If you want to dig in more, here is a good place to start: Getting Started With Google Dynamic Remarketing


Google Display Network


The GDN is a campaign type that I have tried in numerous ways for Ecommerce, and just haven’t really seen the results my direct sales clients want to see. I understand there are benefits in terms of branding, and I think there is potential for this to be added more successfully into an Ecommerce strategy, but I tend to leave it as a “secondary expansion” option for my SMB Ecommerce clients (if they want to go into it at all). I have seen it convert for Ecommerce clients I have assisted with in the past, but my clients tend to be smaller and more limited on budget. If they only spend $2,500 in a month, they want to make sure that is resulting directly in sales so it is not uncommon for me not to get to the GDN in these clients. It is what it is for now.


Step 8 – Import into Bing


Finally, for those clients interested in expanding into Bing as well, you can go ahead and import your campaigns directly into Bing.


adwords to bing import


Bing has continued to improve it’s UI and importing process and I find Search Campaigns import directly with almost no hassle anymore.  Make sure your budgets and settings and targeting are all correct and you are good to go! Oh, and give image extensions a try while you’re at it!


UET – Universal Event Tracking


This is Bing’s newfangled tracking tool. Setting it up allows you to track conversions and utilize remarketing, so it is well worth the effort! Frankly, it’s not too much effort at all so just do it!


More info:


What is UET and how can it help me?


Shopping Campaigns


Bing’s Shopping campaigns can import directly from Google, which saves a lot of time! They have continued to work on these campaigns, though there are still some frustrating aspects. For instance, be aware that there are no Shared Budgets in Bing (which is a key part to the query-targeting Google Shopping strategy I wrote about on Search Engine Land) and it is really a pain to bulk edit product group bids!!




Bing’s RLSA acts a lot like Google’s. In fact, you can even import your Google RLSA campaigns, just make sure to pause them until you manually add Bing Remarketing Audiences to your ad groups! When you import them, Bing does not import your Google Audiences, so you run the risk of treating these like normal Search campaigns (with all broad match terms, yikes!).


Otherwise, just like Google’s Remarketing lists, go ahead and create your lists in Bing as well. One important note with Bing’s RLSA is that you cannot exclude any audiences in Bing RLSA campaigns yet. Therefore, you want to exclude audiences (for instance, your Checkout complete visitors) in each list as you are building it.


bing ads rlsa list creation


Step 9 – Get A Drink


While I’m sure there are ways we would differ, or steps you would add, I hope this has been a helpful post as you contemplate full account setups for future Ecommerce clients! I wish you the best with your clients. Please do feel free to leave any suggestions or additions in the comments below as we all grow in our knowledge of PPC together.