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I’ve seen two types of people building AdWords search campaigns for the first time. The first is a bit dismissive and thinks there isn’t much to it beyond a few keywords and ad copy. The second is completely overwhelmed and believes there’s a secret formula to discover for success.

The truth is actually somewhere in between those two extremes. Yes, keywords and ad copy are elements of a campaign, but there are quite a few nuances to understand in order to manipulate them effectively. Oh yeah – there are a lot of other elements to a campaign beyond those two things. No need to fret, however. There’s no secret formula to building an AdWords campaign either. The highest likelihood of a successful campaign can be achieved by implementing a structured and systematic approach. What follows is a basic rundown of the main campaign components. As this post is meant to be an overview, there are many secondary features or smaller details that we’ll save for future posts. We’ll also be limiting this post to search campaigns, omitting display, remarketing and video campaigns.

Campaign Settings:
When starting a new search campaign, there are a number of settings that AdWords will ask you to choose between. The first is type. Since this post is specifically about search campaigns, the type should be set either to “Search Network Only” or “Search With Display Select.” The first option allows your ad to be seen on Google search and Google’s search partner network. The second allows your ad to be seen on the search network as well as Google’s display ad network. The display network is great for branding or awareness campaigns, but typically doesn’t generate as many clicks or conversions. If driving traffic and generating conversions is the goal of your campaign, we recommend sticking with “Search Network Only.” There’s also a sub-option where you’ll need to choose between options like “Standard” or “All Features.” You can always change this later on, but we recommend going with “All Features” as it allows you access to things you can use to enhance your campaign or implement specific tests.

Other settings include choosing which geographic regions your ad appears in, what type of devices your ad appears on (i.e. desktop, mobile, or both), daily budget, and bidding strategy. It’s worth mentioning that choosing bidding strategy that focuses on clicks and lets you manually set bids will allow you the most control over what optimizations are or are not made. If you’d rather have less involvement in that sort of thing, you can choose to have AdWords optimize your campaign for you. Our preference is to maintain as much control as possible since we like to know which optimizations we make lead to changes in campaign performance.

Campaign Structure:
There are a few different ways to go with this, but a solid basic strategy is to mirror the structure of the website you’re driving traffic to, as that often is a good representation of the product or service structure. Let’s use fictional business Shelby Brothers Ltd. as an example. The Shelbys are bookmakers and set up ad groups for each sporting category for which they take bets, perhaps one ad group for horse races and another for rugby matches. Each ad group has its own set of keywords and ad copy, but we’ll get to that shortly.

Shelby Brothers Ltd logo

The Shelbys have another business providing security services. Instead of including both the bookmaking and security businesses in one campaign, they create separate campaigns for each business. Not only does this facilitate a neat and tidy organization, it also allows them to set different budgets and location targeting for the bookmaking and security campaigns as those are set at the campaign level.

There are other campaign structuring strategies that deviate slightly from this basic concept in order to accommodate more complex targeting, budgeting or product/service structure, but this is the most common and best place to start.


Ad Copy:
When creating a new ad group, AdWords will ask you to create ad copy before prompting you for keywords. Personally, I’ve always thought it should be the other way around as I can list a handful of keywords before having a full-fledged idea for ad copy. Google doesn’t seem to share the sentiment, so we’ll go along with their sequence for the sake of symmetry.

an example of adwords ad copyAdWords ad copy in its purest form is made up of three elements: a headline, two lines of description/body and a display URL. On the left is an example of what ad copy can look like. In this example, the display URL is right below the headline, but it’s more commonly the last line in the ad copy. There are character limits to each element in the amount of 25 for the headline and 35 for each description/body line and 35 for the display URL.

A good strategy for headlines is to write something that clearly states what the ad is for. The two lines of description are where you can communicate product/service details or describe a promotion. It’s both likely and a good idea to have one of the keywords appear in either the headline or description lines. The display URL gives users an idea of the site they’ll be sent to if they click on the ad. It’s an “idea” because the final/destination URL can be more specific and be longer than 35 characters. It’s advantageous to use the display URL to simplify a complicated or lengthy destination URL. Of course, you want to avoid mismatched domains or anything that Google might see as deceptive. Lastly, it’s a good idea to have more than one ad copy version per ad group so you can test what users respond to. Just remember to limit the number of variables in your test.

Coming up with a good set of keywords for each ad group is key (see what we did there?). Some keywords are obvious whereas others can require a bit of thought in the form of putting yourself in the mind of a potential customer. Think about words or phrases that are less common or are more specific.

Another element to consider regarding keywords is the match type. There are four types:
1. Broad. Ex: keyword or phrase
2. Modified Broad. Ex: +keyword +or +phrase
3. Phrase. Ex: “keyword or phrase”
4. Exact. Ex: [keyword or phrase]

Match types influence whether someone’s search query triggers your keyword & ad. Match types can be confusing to understand at first, but they’re a powerful tool at your disposal that can help filter out unwanted/irrelevant traffic or even help you gain insight into what keywords you should add to your campaign. There’s a lot of strategy regarding keyword match types that we’ll cover in a future post, but here’s a good resource for now: AdWords Help: Keyword Match Types

Branded keywords should be in their own ad group. One reason why is that people searching for your brand are in a different state of mind and different point along the conversion funnel. Your ad copy should reflect this notion. This also allows you greater control over what you bid for your branded keywords (typically more since someone searching for your brand is more likely to convert and therefore worth more than someone searching for a generic term).

The last thing about keywords we’re going to touch upon is negative keywords. Negative keywords are searches you don’t want your ad to show for. If you’re trying to sell a service, like the Shelbys, you likely don’t want to show up for people searching for things like employment. Similarly, if the Shelbys don’t take bets for soccer matches, they would include keywords related to soccer as well. So a negative keyword list for the Shelby’s Bookmaking campaign would include keywords like: job, employment, career, soccer, futbol.


Once you have your settings, ad groups, ad copy and keywords, you have the skeleton of a campaign that is just enough to launch. While you give it some time to rack up impressions and clicks, you can get started on putting some meat on those bones by planning advanced testing strategies or building out some of the other features AdWords offers. More on those topics in the future.

Again, this was a very basic overview of AdWords campaign building. Feel free to reach out and ask us questions. Good luck!