The following guide will introduce you to best practices in the world of Search Engine Marketing. Following these steps will help you create a more efficient AdWords account, lowering cost and improving the overall ROI of your account.

Before setting up an account you must first determine the Key Performance Indicators, or ‘goals’ of the account. Is the objective to simply drive traffic for awareness? Or are you looking to drive conversions such as sales or email sign-ups?

Once you have determined the objective of the account, you can use this to help organise the campaign, ad group and keyword structure.

In this guide, I will assume you are familiar with the basic layout of an AdWords account and the terminology associated with advertising on Google.


Campaign Settings


Campaign type: Typically for a general search campaign you should be using Search Network Only – All Features.

Networks: Google Search; Search Partners.

Note: Once your activity is running you can segment your activity by Network (with search partners) to see how the Search Partners are performing in comparison to activity on Google search. Search partner’s means that your ads are eligible to show in Gmail, YouTube and other Google sites.

Devices: All

Once you have your activity running, you can then apply bid adjustments to your devices based on performance. A bid adjustment placed across Mobile devices of +20% will turn a $1 bid to a $1.20 bid when someone is searching on a mobile device. If a device is significantly underperforming, you can apply a bid modifier of -100% to prevent ads from showing for that particular device.

Locations: Choose whichever location is most appropriate for your business.

Target: people in my targeted location.

You can also choose a language to target e.g. English.

Bid Strategy: Manual CPC – using manual CPC allows you to have more control over your account and adjust bids according to performance. If you feel as though you do not have the time to monitor your account regularly enough to justify this bid strategy, you can choose Automated bidding (maximise clicks). If using automated bidding, be sure to set a Max CPC limit to prevent some clicks coming through at costs beyond your budget.

Delivery Method: Accelerated – If you have sufficient budget you should be using accelerated delivery. This will ensure every time your ads are eligible to be shown, they are. However, if you are working with a limited budget, this delivery type may cause you to use up your entire budget early in the day, leaving your ads ineligible to show until the next day’s budget kicks in or more budgets is applied.

Standard ad delivery will ensure your ads are shown evenly throughout the day. This is recommended for small budgets.

Shared Budgets: These are great to use when you have multiple campaigns with a single allocated budget. You may want to only spend 80% of your budget on Branded activity and the remaining 20% on your generic campaigns. By using a shared budget you can group your campaigns and apply separate budgets to each grouping. This is a great way to avoid overspending on your advertising.

Ad Rotation: If you do not have the time to consistently monitor your account for optimisations, you should choose ‘optimize for clicks’. This will rotate your ads to show those which are expected to provide more clicks.

If you are looking to optimise your account, I would recommend using ‘Rotate evenly: show ads evenly for 90 days then optimize. This will allow you to see in the account, which ads are performing the best optimise accordingly.

You should be pausing the underperforming ads and creating a duplicate of the best performing ad (and adding a slight variation). This will allow you to A/B test and increase the performance of your ads over time.


Campaign/Keyword Structure


The structure of the account is vital in determining the overall cost efficiency of the activity. Having you account structure as granular as possible will allow you to have tightly knit ad groups and keywords, increasing the relevancy of your ads. This will, in turn, lower your average cost per click.

You should be looking to organise your campaigns and ad groups based on the terms you are targeting. The categories of keywords will generally be as follows:

Branded keywords: e.g. ‘McDonalds’

Brand + Generic keywords: e.g. ‘McDonalds Burger’

Generic keywords:  e.g. ‘Burger’

Competitor Keywords:  e.g. ‘Hungry Jacks’

Branded keywords are generally less expensive to bid on. This is because these terms are usually less competitive and your own ads (if it is your business) will be the most relevant to the users search query.

Once you know the kinds of keywords you will be targeting, you can structure your Campaigns. I would recommend having separate campaigns for each kind of keyword. I would also recommend you use both Exact and BMM match types in your advertising.

Exact match keywords are the most precise form of targeting and will typically come through at a lower average CPC. The BMM (Broad Match Modified) campaign will be used to pick up additional search queries which you may not have thought of including in the initial keyword research.

Using Branded activity as an example, the campaigns would be labelled as follows.

  • Branded|Mcdonalds|Exact
  • Branded|McDonalds|BMM


Keywords and Negative Keywords


You will be regularly reviewing the Search Query Reports (found under the ‘Keywords’ tab in the AdWords interface to identify any frequently occurring search queries to add into your Exact Match campaign.

Once you have added these terms into your Exact match campaign as a keyword, you would add that same term as a negative keyword in the BMM campaign. This is called a ‘cross-match negative’ and will ensure the traffic is coming through the most efficient channel in your account (the Exact match campaigns).

You can also use cross-match negatives in your generic campaigns. In this instance, you would add the branded term e.g. ‘McDonalds’ as a negative keyword across all your generic campaigns. This is because any search queries with the term ‘McDonalds’ should be triggered by your Branded campaigns.

Cross-match negatives can be added at the account, campaign or ad group level. The level you add the negatives into will be determined by the structure of your account.

A good use of ad group level cross-match negatives would be Ad Groups which each contain a different product model. For example, if you were selling speakers and one ad group was variations of the model number keywords ‘sony xc1890’ and ‘sony xc1890 speakers’ you would want to add ALL other model numbers as negative keywords in that particular ad group. This will ensure your traffic coming through that ad group is specifically for that model number.

Once you have your campaign structure set out, I would advise having the keyword bids of Exact match keywords about 20% higher than the bids of BMM keywords. This will help Google direct the traffic through the Exact match campaigns, which will generally be more cost efficient.

Note: Your text ads within this ad group would then mention the model number (XC1890) in the headline of the ad itself. This will increase both relevancy and engagement (click-through rate), lowering your avg CPC.


Ad Copy


You should be looking to include the keywords in the headline of your ad copy. This will help increase relevancy in the eyes of Google and help lower your avg CPC. The granular structure of your campaigns, ad groups and keywords should allow you to have highly targeted ad copy (which is tightly knit to the keywords contained in each ad group).

Generally, best practice with ad copy is to have three ads within each ad group. Two ads will be the same but with one variation. The third ad will be a ‘wild card’ where you will try something a little different. You can then see which ad performs the best over time (given you have your ad rotation settings on ‘rotate evenly’.

Once the ads have attracted a decent amount of volume you will begin to see the top performer. You can then pause the underperforming ad, duplicate the best performing ad and change one component of the newly created ad to test against the original.

Over time, you will be able to determine what is and isn’t working in terms of your messaging and call to actions (CTAs).


Landing Pages


When determining which page to send your SEM traffic you should be thinking as a user would. Which page is the most relevant to the keyword you have in the account? The more relevant the page to the keyword and ad copy, the higher your quality score will be.

Google takes into consideration the landing page experience when determining your ad rank. Therefore this will directly impact your CPC (by how much exactly remains unknown).

Note: You can have the final URL at both the ad copy and keyword levels of your account. Google will always take the final URL from the most specific area, which would be the keyword URL. Therefore if you have the URL at both levels and make changes to the ad copy URL, the ad will still direct to the keyword level final URL.


Ad Extensions


Ad Extensions are a known factor in Google’s Ad Rank calculation. The inclusion of Extensions will help you increase the Quality score of your activity and help you lower cost.

The following Ad Extensions can be included in your account:

  • SItelinks
  • Callouts
  • Structures Snippets
  • Call Extensions
  • Message Extensions
  • Location Extensions
  • Price Extensions
  • Review Extensions
  • Visual Sitelinks

As a minimum, you should always include both Sitelinks and Callouts.

Callouts will allow you to provide additional information to the user without sacrificing any of those valuable character limits. An example of a callout could be ‘Free Shipping’ or ‘Price Matching’.

Sitelinks will allow you to provide additional links below your ad to direct users to other relevant pages. You will also get additional ad space underneath the sitelink headline to add some additional copy (although the description does not always show). You can have up to 4 sitelinks at any one time and Google is known to show all four, or just two of them.

You can add these sitelinks and callouts at the account, campaign or ad group level. I would typically add the extensions at the campaign level. This allows you to be more granular with the sitelinks/callouts you include. Since different campaigns may warrant different messages.




Opportunities to expand and improve your account will come from reviewing the Search Query Reports. This report is vital in gradually improving your account.

 You need to be excluding any terms which are not relevant to your campaigns and adding in any keywords that were overlooked.

You can also look to the Google Keyword Planner (screenshot of location below) for keyword ideas. This will help you with keyword volumes, ad group ideas and budget planning.

google adwords keyword planner

Google Trends is also a great free tool to identify the seasonality of certain search terms. As you can see in the below screenshot the search term “get rid of ants” shows a distinct pattern. Experiencing increases in search interest during the hotter months (in Aus) of Jan and Feb.

google trends

This information would be extremely useful when planning your search campaigns for related products.

It is always worth a look to see if your business/niche/product may also experience similar search interest patterns. This will have an impact on your budget planning.

If you follow all of the above tips you should be well on your way to setting up and maintaining an efficient AdWords account.

If you have any questions or would just like to say hello, feel free to reach out to me at [email protected].