In this article, we’ll cover how to decide what keywords go in an ad group and what ad groups to put into campaigns. We’ll also look at keyword match types and some campaign types.

We go through a step-by-step creation of search campaigns for in a separate article (including examples of how different keyword match types will or will not match to search terms and how to use negative keywords).

One aim in creating ad groups and campaigns is to create a structure that reflects how Google Ads bids.

The hierarchy in Google Ads is account > campaign > ad group > ads

keywords (words or phrases that trigger an ad when matched against search terms entered by a user) are set at the ad group level.

An ad group should contain similar keywords. The ads shown to a user are associated with the ad group – so another check on whether a keyword fits in an ad group is that the same ad copy (bar automated insertion) makes sense and is relevant for each keyword you add.

When you create an ad group it asks you to select the ‘final URL’ – the page on the site the user will be taken to if they click on the ad – so another way to think about grouping keywords is by landing page – do I want people who trigger ads from these keywords all to go to the same landing page? (note: you can assign a landing page by keyword which allows for multiple landing pages within an ad group).

An ad group is important for reporting – some metrics and dimensions can only be viewed at the ad group level (and not by search term) which is another reason to have the ad group contain either only one keyword or keywords that are closely related (so the ad group can be a proxy for search term performance).

This step-by-step campaign creation for shows how to build a campaign structure that is great for how human brains work – products and search intent are broadly in separate campaigns – the output though is more campaigns than we would ideally want (and if we start running experiments and separating out repeat campaigns, the number of campaigns goes up even more).

There is an innate tension between a structure that is easy for humans to understand (which usually means lots of campaigns) and a structure that makes it easier for us and Google to optimise and manage.

We ideally want as few campaigns as possible as:

  • For smart bidding to work well there has to be a good volume of conversions (at least 15 conversions a month for Target ROAS).
  • You have fewer campaigns to eyeball and manage.
  • You can split campaigns into new and repeat customers and/or run experiments and still have a manageable number of overall campaigns.
  • Webkit (Apple) are intending to launch Privacy Preserving Ad Attribution Management on their Safari browser – it will allow aggregated feedback on conversion by campaign. It assigns each campaign an ID between 0 and 63 – therefore limiting unique campaigns that can be tracked to 64. This has similar characteristics to the ATT (App Tracking Transparency) framework used on Apple Apps.)

Fewer campaigns are consistent with our golden rules for campaign optimisation:

  1. Brand terms must be in separate campaigns from non-brand terms;
  2. Products/services promoted within a campaign should all have a similar margin structure (i.e. CM2% is the same for each product/service);
  3. Keywords in a campaign should have a very similar max. ROAS.

So we recommend an initial structure that follows the step-by-step campaign creation for but once launched and you can see which campaigns have more volume and which campaigns have similar max. ROAS then you should consider folding campaigns together to reduce the overall number of campaigns – using the golden rules above as a guide.

You could end up with a single campaign containing multiple product categories as long as the margin structure and max. ROAS are similar (think about how you report your marketing spend as it might be harder to split spend between category A versus category B at the ad group level).

If you have a lot of campaigns that have a very low percentage of overall spend then you can be more relaxed about the spread of max. ROAS within it.

If you operate in multiple countries then you might try and aggregate campaigns more aggressively in the smaller markets to reduce the overall number of campaigns to manage.

You should not have to reduce or change the ad groups – just how the ad groups map to campaigns.


Keyword Match Types

Keyword match types dictate how closely a user’s search term must match your keyword for Google Ads to bid.

We recommend only using Exact Match and Phrase Match. You can read about match types with a real-world example in this article.

Broad Match is really broad and allows Google to bid on a very wide range of terms – we’ve seen the keyword ‘cross stitch pattern’ bid on the term ‘cricket collection’ for example.

It can look like Broad search keywords are performing well but in our experience this is because they are bidding on exact match search terms (or worse: brand terms).

Our recommendation is to not use Broad Match.

Another problem with broad match is that search impression share becomes unintelligible – you have to look at only exact match impression share to try and evaluate how much genuine room for growth on a specific keyword there is – and if broad match is triggering for some of your exact match keywords then it confuses understanding further.

If you want to use broad match keywords to squeeze out more revenue then we recommend that you have a separate campaign and apply all your exact match keywords from other campaigns as negative keywords (and keep checking that the search terms that are triggering the broad match campaign are different from the search terms that are triggering your non-broad match campaigns).

DSA (Dynamic Search Ad) Campaigns

These are ads that Google creates based on the landing pages you want users to be directed to – Google automatically selects the keywords to bid on based on the content of those landing pages.

We don’t recommend DSA campaigns as they are broad match search by another name. If you do use DSA campaigns then you must apply negative keywords such as your brand name.

Sometimes these campaigns can look like they are performing well when in fact they are a proxy brand campaigns (and usually charge a much higher CPC than the actual brand campaign).

Search Network

On the whole, we see Search Network perform less well than Google Search.

We recommend testing having Search Network included to see if it drives profitable revenue.


>>> Read the next article: What ROAS Target should I set?

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The interactive video below highlights some of the analyses we cover:


Please be really careful making changes to your Google Ads account

  • Google doesn’t always respond how you (or we) think it will. The way we think about Google Ads may not be the best set-up for your account.
  • Only change one thing at a time.
  • If possible, always use an experiment to test a change – particularly for significant changes such as moving bidding strategy to Maximize conversion value (Target ROAS).
  • Protect your financial downside by testing with limited spend in the experiment/change. Note that moving to a smart bidding strategy requires a learning phase where Google may not be efficient.
  • Be careful if adding/removing primary conversion actions – changing what Google is converting to can radically change what and who Google targets and how much it’s willing to spend.
  • Remember, all changes to your account are at your own risk. Mapflo shall not be liable for any damages; losses; lost revenue or lost profit.


Glossary of Terms

AOV = Average Order Value

CM1 = Contribution Margin 1 = revenue minus COGS (cost of goods sold) in an order.

CM2 = Contribution Margin 2 = margin on an order after all costs directly attributable to that order such as COGS, shipping, payment fees, customer service etc. (except for marketing).

CM3 = Contribution Margin 3 = CM2 less marketing spend. An ‘Estimated CM3’ value uses an assumed CM2 %.

CPA = Cost Per Action. In this report taken to mean cost per conversion or cost per order.

Keywords = words or phrases (assigned to an ad group) that match a user’s search term and trigger Google to bid to show an ad.

Lifetime CM3 = CM3 from all orders (or subscription payments) for a customer.

Profit = CM3 less all fixed overheads (such as salaries and office rent). Hence Optimising CM3 also optimises profit at the same cost base

ROAS = ‘Return On Ad Spend’ = conversion value divided by cost. A ROAS of 400% means you get four pounds of revenue back for every pound of ad spend.

Search term = the word or phrase that a user searches for on Google.