All Blog Posts

Google AdWords: Set It But Don’t Forget It

Google AdWords – Set It But Don't Forget It

In my last post, I talked about online advertising types. In this post, I’m going to walk through setting up a campaign, and then how to continue to improve it once you’re up and running.

Please note this isn’t a step-by-step walkthrough. It’s more about what to look for and the thought process behind the campaigns.

This post focuses on keyword search campaigns for Google AdWords because that’s the most popular advertising platform.

Campaign Structure

In Google AdWords, there’s a hierarchy of content.

At the top level are campaigns. These are broad topics (e.g., your service lines) under which several smaller topics can be grouped.

Under each campaign are ad groups. Ad groups are clusters of related keyword phrases.

Each ad group is made up of keyword phrases and ads. 

Google AdWords Hierarchy of Content

Choosing Keywords

Choosing the right keywords is, dare I say “key,” in setting up a keyword search campaign for success.

If your campaign is centered around the wrong keywords, you waste time, waste money, and get poor results.

You can use Google’s Keyword Planner tool to get keyword ideas, estimate traffic, and set bids.

Here’s what my keyword selection process looks like:

  • General research
  • Brainstorm and create a list of keyword phrases and variations
  • Find patterns in the keywords and group them in ad groups
  • See what comes up in search results for each phrase
  • Whittle the list down to 10-20 phrases per ad group

Negative Keywords

Negative keywords are extremely important for avoiding wasted ad spend. They tell Google which words and phrases your ads should NOT show up under.

The most common negative keywords we use are “cheap” and “free.” If someone is searching for cheap marketing help or a free website, we’re not a good fit.

Ad Groups

In a sense, ad groups connect keywords with ads. By separating your campaign into ad groups, you’re telling Google which ads should show for which keywords. That’s why 10-20 keywords is the target for each ad group; if you have more than that, ad relevance decreases.

Once you have your keywords split into ad groups, you’re ready to write the ads.

Writing Your Ads

Google Ads are tough to write because your character count is very limited. Below is the ad structure and character maximums:

Using Google AdWords

  • Headline (25 characters)
  • Line 1 (35 characters)
  • Line 2 (35 characters)
  • Display URL (35 characters)
  • Destination URL (2,048 characters)

There are a lot of best practices for ad content—here are some popular tips:

  • Include keywords in the ads
  • Create at least one mobile-optimized ad for each ad group
  • Include a call to action (“click" is not allowed)
  • Be as specific as possible


Landing page strategy surrounding AdWords is a whole other post—possibly an entire series. But in short, you have less than four seconds to get the attention of the visitor, so it pays to put some thought into it.

A few common reasons users leave right away are:

  • Landing page content doesn’t align with the ad they clicked on
  • They’re not sure what to do because there’s no clear call to action
  • Your product or service isn’t what they were looking for
  • The page loads slowly
  • The page isn’t mobile friendly

You’ll want to keep these things in mind as you develop your landing page strategy.

Setting Bids

Cost per click is based on a lot of different factors. Each industry, and even each keyword, has a different cost per click average. Some are 50 cents, while others are $20 or more per click.

You can find averages for your keywords in the Google Keyword Planner. Google takes bid amount into account when it decides what ads to show, so bid is very important. However, bidding way above average doesn’t automatically lead to top placement.

Google’s recommendations are usually a good place to start, and then you can adjust as the campaign runs.

Cost per click averages (along with your goals) are a big determinant in monthly budget.

Ongoing Monitoring

Google AdWords, as with most marketing, isn’t “set it and forget it.” At the beginning of a campaign, you should be checking in several times per week, possibly every day. After a month or two, you can usually scale back to once per week.

We do basic monitoring and adjustments every week and full reporting every month.

What to Look For

There’s so much information in the AdWords dashboard it’s important to know what to monitor.

These things are relevant to almost every advertiser:

  • Quality score – strive for five and above
  • Search terms – find any irrelevant phrases and add them as negative keywords
  • Cost – make sure you’re on track with your budget

Getting Started

Online advertising is a vast industry, full of nuances. If you’re comfortable venturing out alone, happy trails to you. If you’d like some help getting started, or just have questions, you know where to find us.