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Monday, December 4, 2023

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Things To Consider When Organizing Your Ad Groups & Campaigns

If you’ve been diligently following this column for the past three weeks of keyword posts, your list should be quite large by now. You’ve exhausted all of the research resources available and basically looked under every rock you could find (and then some) to find terms that might have even the slightest relevance to your advertiser’s target audience. Now you have the laborious task of organizing this list into ad groups and campaigns.

There are so many things to consider when grouping keywords. Here are some hard-earned tips, tricks, and best practices that I can share with you help you with this task.

The golden rule: no duplicates

One of my own golden rules is that you shouldn’t have the same keyword in multiple ad groups. In fact, some of the engine platforms have settings won’t even allow you to do this. But for those that do, if one of your ads is triggered by a keyword appearing in multiple groups, the system must decide how to choose. What this means is that you lose the control to decide which set of ads should be shown for the term. This can be problematic later in the reporting and optimization phase because it can end up generating false information about how that keyword actually performed (and why).

A caveat: you can certainly use the same keyword in multiple ad groups as long as they appear in different campaigns which are targeted in different ways. So, for example, if you have created individual campaigns for each state and geotargeted them, there wouldn’t be any conflict, so that’s fine.

Think ahead before grouping

When new search marketers begin grouping keywords, they tend to create too few groups or too many. It takes time to truly craft the right grouping strategy for each campaign, so don’t worry too much at this stage. You can always move things around as the account matures. However, if you have too few groups, you won’t be able to generate as many insights quickly during your optimizations.

Consider, for example, a used car dealership. If you were to group all of your car brand terms into a single ad group, you won’t be able to split messaging that speaks to the unique intent of each keyword. Certainly there’s a difference between users looking for energy efficient cars vs. HumVees, right? What about BMWs vs. Ford trucks? By splitting these terms into different groups, you can address the users who are searching on them in different ways.

The other common mistake that new search marketers make is creating too many groups. Yes, it can be argued that there are different user intents with terms like used car, used auto, and used automobile. One could make a case that they should be split into different groups. But remember, you are going to be spending a lot of time with your accounts while optimizing, reporting, and analyzing. Whereas too few groups give you less to work with, too many groups can become challenging to manage. I know it may be difficult at first to grasp what’s too big and what’s too small, but don’t worry, you’ll get the hang of it after awhile.


Keywords are segmented into ad groups and ad groups are assembled into campaigns. Before you start grouping keywords, you should have an idea about how your campaign structure will look. The reasons you will decide to create different campaigns will basically come down to the available settings that the engines offer at the campaign level.

For example, in Google AdWords, the following settings are unique to each campaign:

Budget. If you have keywords that need their own budget, they’ll need to be split into different campaigns. A good example of this occurs when you have one account with different business units such as a software company with different products or a large consumer package goods (CPG) company (Kraft, Proctor & Gamble, etc) that has many different brands.

Geotargeting. You can only set location targeting at the campaign level. So, if you need to address different countries, states, cities, metros, etc. in different ways, you’ll need to break those out into new campaigns.

Dayparting. Google provides very robust day of week/time of day targeting at the campaign level. If you want to bid differently or use different ads for the weekend or nights, you’ll have to use different campaigns.

Flight Date/Scheduling. Used by many retail companies who have certain promotions that they want to highlight during key areas such as the Christmas holiday season.

Language. If you’re targeting other languages, you’ll need ads in those languages—thus, new campaigns.

Networks. Google allows you to target either search users on Google.com or partners in the Google search network. You can also decide whether you want your ads to appear outside of search-related web pages such as the Google content network (which we’ll discuss later in this course).

Bidding options. These allow you to bid in different ways such as manual or automated bidding tactics or even cost per acquisition (CPA) targeting where you input your desired cost per action (such as a sale or a lead generation form signup) and the system will attempt to optimize your account to meet that goal.

There are some other options available that we’ll talk about later, but as you can see, there are many settings that might require new campaigns.

Ad groups

What dictates which keywords should go into which ad groups? Well, there are many things to consider, but the top decision driver here is that every keyword in a single ad group will share the same ads. And remember, those ads each have a single landing page URL. But that’s it. That’s the main thing to remember. If same ad can be shown to users who searched on those keywords/can be driven to the same landing page and it will still make sense, then you have a good group.

The obvious solution, then, is to cluster ad groups thematically. Put all the dog terms together and the cat terms together, etc.

Some other things to consider for grouping terms:

Purchase intent. Okay, you have a bunch of dog terms that could go into one group, what would be best is to split them based on the buying cycle. Terms segmented by attention terms, interest terms, browse terms and buy terms definitely makes sense. This way you can pause, activate or change ads to meet your needs at that level.

Head terms vs. tail terms. The terms you know will have huge search volume (such as real estate, car, computer and so on) should be split out. Because your head terms will be generating the most volume, you’ll want to keep a closer eye on them. Even if they would certainly fit into a group with tons of other terms, by splitting them out, you’ll be able to manage them better.

Brand terms usually get their own ad groups and campaigns. They tend to perform very well and most certainly should be treated with more care than general terms.

Misspellings/plurals. Plop these in their own ad group so you can see how those specifically are performing versus properly spelled terms. When testing new terms you may want to put them into their own campaigns and ad groups so you can see if they are helping or hurting your campaigns before releasing them into your standard groups.

Quality score. This is something we’ll be touching on later, but just know that the engines will reward those keywords that perform best.

A grouping tool

If you need some help to sift through your huge keyword list, why not try WordStream’s free keyword grouper ? It’s a pretty cool tool that will let you paste in your terms and get some good grouping ideas in seconds.

The process of manually organizing huge lists of website keywords to find a valuable grouping can take hours, even days, using typical keyword tools or spreadsheets. WordStream’s Free Keyword Grouper automates that process – just paste in up to 10,000 keywords and the tool finds the most profitable keyword groups for you to target in just seconds. The keyword groupings that you discover are incredibly valuable for informing and optimizing both SEO and PPC marketing.

Good luck with your groupings! Once again, don’t get frustrated if you’re having trouble figuring out how to group your terms. Just put them together in a way that makes sense to you and you can always regroup them later. Over time, you will get a good handle on this task and be able to quickly organize your key terms.

Next week we’ll be talking about keyword match types and their implications on your account.

This week’s question: “What are some other considerations when grouping keywords?”

PPC Academy is a comprehensive, one-year search advertising course from beginning to end. Starting with the basics, PPC Academy progressively explores all of the varied facets of paid search, and the tactics needed to succeed and become an advanced paid search marketer.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

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