Be Strategic with PPC Campaign Structure

I know what I’m proposing may be controversial to some – there are as many ways to structure Google Ads accounts and campaigns as there are account managers – but I’ve been managing Google Ads accounts for more than 19 years. So I feel like I’ve got some expertise in this area.

I’ll cover Search structure, then Shopping structure, followed by Display and Video structure. While they have some similarities, there are enough differences that it makes sense to address them separately.

Now, before I get into that, I know Performance Max campaigns are coming, where Search, Shopping, Display, and Video campaigns are all in one campaign type, but we aren’t there yet. 

Search Campaigns

How Many Search Campaigns Should I Have?

It depends (you’ll read that a lot today). Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you offer multiple different products or services?
  • Do you have different goals for your products?
  • Do you have different mark-ups on your products?
  • Do you offer different services that have varying priorities to your company?
  • Do you have a large enough budget that will allow you to give a healthy enough budget to each of the Search campaigns? 

Let’s tackle these questions for both an ecom client and a lead gen client.

Ecommerce Client: You’re a clothing company and sell men’s and women’s t-shirts and hoodies with funny sayings on them. You have pre-printed items as well as custom printed items. You make more money on the pre-printed items and really want to push the t-shirts as they are less bulky to ship. In this case, I’d suggest the following campaigns:

  1. Printed t-shirts
  2. Printed hoodies
  3. Custom t-shirts
  4. Custom hoodies

The bulk of your spend would go to campaign 1, the Printed t-shirts, with smaller budgets to the other three, or if you don’t have enough budget (custom-printed items tend to be pretty competitive), hold the custom campaigns for later when you can increase your spend.

Note: this is a very simplistic set-up. If you have more diverse product lines, you’ll have many more campaigns, but this is good as an example to start.

Lead Generation Client: You’re a vehicle moving company – transporting cars, trucks, and motorcycles – in the US. Your advertising focus is quote requests. You make more money when you move cars and trucks, but you don’t want to exclude motorcycles completely, and you tend to ramp up the spend before the Sturgis bike rally.

For this client, it makes sense to have two campaigns: one for Cars/Trucks and one for Motorcycles, where you can focus more on cars and trucks until seasonally it makes more sense to add budget to Motorcycles.

For both clients, I strongly recommend one more campaign that focuses on your company name and URL. Read more about my thoughts on brand bidding.

How Many Ad Groups Should I Have?

Again, it depends.

There’s no hard and fast rule that says how many you should have. The rule of thumb is to group like keywords together, where you can write ad copy that applies to those keywords and point them to a landing page that makes sense. You don’t want to mix things like t-shirts and hoodies, and you don’t want to include things like men’s t-shirts and women’s t-shirts or printed t-shirts and custom t-shirts in the same ad group. You want unique ad copy and to point the ad URLs at different landing pages. 

With that said, I’m not a proponent of SKAGs (single keyword ad groups) that were all the rage with some account managers. I never ran them myself, and when clients came to JumpFly from other agencies where their campaigns were set up that way, they seemed inefficient and tedious. I know some account managers who swear by them, but even the majority of those have probably moved on from that, based on Google’s changes to match types.

How Many Keywords Should I Have?

You guessed it – it depends. There is also no hard and fast rule that says how many keywords you should have. You certainly don’t need as many as you used to when you had to come up with the word order variations and plurals of keywords. But you should still try to get coverage on the different ways people might search for your products. And you should be continually adding to your list over time as searches change.

A cautionary tale: I actually had a client come to us that had more than 2,500 active campaigns, where each keyword and match type had its own ad group, and the campaigns were named with the dates the keywords were added. More than 1,500 of them hadn’t had an impression in more than two months, and more than 250 of them hadn’t had a single click in two months. It was impossible to manage with any efficiency at all.

Shopping Campaigns

How Many Shopping Campaigns Should I Have?

You know the answer by now – it depends. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you offer multiple different products?
  • Do you have different goals for your products?
  • Do you have various mark-ups on your products?
  • Do you have a large enough budget that will allow you to give a healthy enough budget to each of the Shopping campaigns? 

Let’s go back to our hypothetical clothing company that sells custom and printed shirts and hoodies. In this case, I’d most likely have three different Shopping campaigns:

  1. Printed tees and hoodies – getting most of the budget
  2. Custom tees and hoodies – getting a smaller percentage of the budget
  3. Catch-All – with a small daily budget

The top two Shopping campaigns would be set up using the campaign priority HIGH. If you are using eCPC bidding, these would have higher bids than the catch-all campaign to be more competitive. If you are using Maximize Conversion Value with a target ROAS bidding, you’ll want the goal to be lower than the catch-all campaign goal. The catch-all campaign would be set to a LOW priority.

Why have a catch-all campaign? Catch-alls are important to have for a few reasons:

  1. It’s a safety net. If the filtering you use to segment the campaigns fails, this is your backup, so you still have Shopping Ads running.
  2. It sets you up for what I call the waterfall effect. If a search query isn’t performing well in one of your high-priority campaigns, you can negative the term. It can then potentially show in the low priority catch-all campaign at a lower bid. You can do the same with a specific SKU. If you exclude it in the high priority campaign, it will then show in the low priority campaign with a lower bid. In both cases, you’ll still have a presence but at a lower cost. 

How Many Ad Groups Should I Have?

This one depends on your product line. We rely on product type (which ideally would follow your website hierarchy) to segment. Start broader and let the data guide you to build out or break down to the SKU level. For our clothing company, we’d start with two ad groups per Shopping campaign. 

Campaign NamePrintedCustom
Ad Group 1Printed TeesCustom Tees
Ad Group 2Printed HoodiesCustom Hoodies

Over time, the data might guide you to break out ad groups by age or gender, or ones with your best sellers. 

Display and Video Campaigns

How many Display and Video campaigns should I have?

The answer to this one is still it depends, but it’s different questions:

  • Who am I targeting?
  • What type of ads do I want to use?
  • Am I going to use Smart Display or Standard Display and Video campaigns?

To take the easy way out, you can set up just one Smart Display campaign, that will do all the heavy lifting by adding images, video, ad copy, and connecting your Google Merchant Feed. The problem with this campaign type is you don’t get a lot of information on what’s working. You can’t tell how much of your conversions are coming from people who have already visited your site (remarketing) or who have never heard of you (prospecting). Also, the volume tends to be much lower than running normal Display campaigns. Or conversely, it can be really high without results.

But if you want to really get the data and have more control, you’ll want to set up your own Display and Video campaigns. You’d want to separate remarketing from prospecting and also segment audience types. In an ideal world with an unlimited budget, this would be the setup I’d go with on Google:

  1. Display Remarketing
  2. Dynamic Display Remarketing – for ecom companies that have their remarketing code setup to capture product IDs
  3. Display Prospecting – In Market audiences
  4. Display Prospecting – Custom Segment audiences
  5. Video Remarketing
  6. Video Prospecting – In Market audiences
  7. Video Prospecting – Custom Segments audiences

And if I didn’t have an unlimited budget, I’d start with Display Remarketing and Video Remarketing, then add Dynamic Display Remarketing. Over time, I’d test the rest of them when I had more budget to spend. And I’d also test Discovery campaigns.

For Microsoft, I’d go with this setup on the Microsoft Audience Network (MSAN):

  1. MSAN Remarketing
  2. MSAN Prospecting
  3. MSAN Shopping

How Many Ad Groups Should I have?

Again, no hard and fast rule, but I advise not adding multiple audiences per ad group. It allows easier reporting, cleaner data, and the ability to customize the ads better.

With all this said, the reason this setup works for me is that I’ve set ad campaigns up based on my clients’ goals. This structure helps me optimize the campaigns to work towards those goals, as well as easily report on them. I use clear naming conventions that the client can understand. And if something isn’t working, I can see it and dive in to optimize.

If goals change or product lines become obsolete, I can easily update or pause. I have clients with three campaigns, and I have clients with more than 50 campaigns. It all depends on the client, their products or services, and their goals. 

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