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Launching a new AdWords campaign can be quite daunting. Whilst a large budget isn’t necessarily required, you want to make sure your money isn’t wasted and, of course, the ultimate goal is to see a return on your investment. Our guide will highlight areas that are often overlooked during the creation process and how they can be the difference between a profitable campaign and one that leaves a giant crater in your marketing budget.

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Realising the power of AdWords is key to running a profitable campaign. Let’s look at a few figures to help demonstrate this.

Let’s look at the potential reach AdWords has for a keyword such as “holidays in Italy”; the average cost-per-click (CPC) in the UK is around £1.50 and the average number of searches is 12,100 per month. That’s a lot of potential clicks.

Assuming you have a budget of £300 per month and the click-through rate (CTR) is 1.5%, you’d be generating approximately 181 clicks each month. And even when targeting just that one keyword, your budget could be used in no time at all.

Now if that campaign is poorly managed, it could leave an enormous crater in your marketing budget with no positive outcomes, especially if you add more keywords, poor geographic targeting and lack of control with a misunderstanding of how budgets are managed.

On the other hand, carefully-devised campaigns that are monitored properly will result in new customers, acquired within a cost that makes business sense. Together with the right formula to convert searchers into buyers, AdWords really can transform a business.

Every business is different and requires an adjusted approach, but the most important thing is to follow a process for the initial configuration of a new search campaign. By doing this, you’ll identify the right customers and their ideal journey, helping you achieve the right conversion rate (more on this later).

So, where do you begin?

Your customers & objectives

Start by understanding your customers. Keywords, budgets and clicks aside, in order to succeed, you must first establish a clear understanding of your customer’s buying journey. Ask yourself questions like;

  • Who are they?
  • Where are they located? What language do they speak?
  • How do they go about searching online for your products or services?
  • What motivates them to make a purchase?
  • What knowledge of your products do they have?
  • Where do they look?
  • How long do they typically take to convert?
  • What are they worth to you as a business? What’s the average value of each sale?
  • What’s the average conversion rate?
  • What is the most you’re willing to pay for each sale and, therefore, each lead?

Once you have answers to this ‘Customer questionnaire’, you can set correct budgets, keyword bidding and you’ll know where to target, as well as what languages and terminology to use.

This stage is vital when considering your campaign. It’s often overlooked but it greatly affects choices made during the initial set-up and once the campaign’s running later on.


Once you’ve got the above sorted, it’s time to ascertain what the online demand is for your product or service. This includes how many searches are performed for what you offer, what keywords are used, how often and the likely competition.

If no one searches for what you offer, AdWords simply won’t work. So to ensure you’re not going down the wrong path, use Google’s Keyword Planner which shares valuable data on keywords used for searches.

To access this, you’ll need to sign in with a Google account. If you’ve already signed up for AdWords, you can use the same credentials to access the tool. In fact, we recommend that you do use the same account as this can be really handy later; you can export keyword ideas directly from the Keyword Planner into your new AdWords campaign, saving you from having to copy and paste.

But if you don’t have an AdWords account, don’t panic; simply sign in with your Gmail address instead and export keyword groups and ideas via CSV file.

The Keyword Planner offers a variety of helpful tools but, for this purpose, we want to establish the online demand for your product or service. Under the heading ‘Find new keywords and get search volume data’, you’ll see three options but, on this occasion, we want ‘Search for new keywords using a phrase, website or category’.


In the following fields, do what it says on the tin. Firstly, enter your keywords and Google will provide you with similar ideas that are likely to be used by your audience.

Try to keep these broad whilst staying on topic; you want as many ideas as possible, but they must be relevant to what you offer. For instance, if you were an Italian holiday specialist, targeting “holidays” would be too broad – the better choice would be “holidays in Italy”.

Google Keyword Planner Settings

Do you have a specific page on your website that you want to send people to? If so, the URL of your landing page (as it’s known) can be entered in the field below. Google will review the page and ascertain any other relevant keywords.

If you don’t have a dedicated landing page, don’t worry but just be aware that Google will use your home page instead. That’s fine but if it’s quite generic to your business as a whole, Google may offer all sorts of keywords that won’t necessarily relate to your campaign.

Maybe you have a relevant category? If so, add that too; it will help narrow your search.

Use the ‘Targeting’ field to refine things further – this is where the answers to your customer questionnaire will come into play. Where are they located? What language do they speak? etc.

The following can be specified under the ‘Targeting’ section;

  • Location: Choose which locations you want to gather search data from. Is it worldwide or by country eg/ United States or United Kingdom? Perhaps it’s by state or region? Or, if you serve a local market, by county or town/city? Entering the correct location provides data based on this area only
  • Language: Select the language for your target audience. Google then applies this based on which search engine people use, ie/ Google.co.uk will target English speakers, Google.de will be German etc.
  • Google: For this particular campaign, you want to leave this set to ‘Google
  • Negative keywords: We’ll cover this later
  • Data Range: Leave this set to ‘Show avg. monthly searches for: last 12 months’ to establish an average.

Leave the sections under ‘Customise your search’ as they are because you want ideas on demand. When you’re ready, hit ‘Get Ideas’.

On the next page, you’ll see a list of keywords suggested by Google, along with trend data. The bar graph provides some insight into seasonal search trends based on the keywords, showing when search is at its highest and lowest. It’s important to take a good look at this as you’ll get a good insight; not only will your audience vary, but so will your competition, who will increase their efforts during peak times and pull back during the quieter periods.

Google Keyword Planner Bar Chart

Beneath the chart, you’ll see a tab called ‘Keyword ideas’ displaying further search terms based on the keywords you entered earlier. Each one is accompanied by an estimate on competition (‘High’, ‘Medium’ or ‘Low’) and a suggested bid. This is calculated by the average amount current advertisers have paid for each click, on each keyword over the last 12 months, also taking into account the targeting you set out earlier.

With this data, ask yourself;

  1. Is there an online demand for your product/service? If so, is it seasonal or relatively constant?
  2. Are searchers likely to buy your product/service? What is their search intent? Are they looking for advice? Are they using keywords that include “cheap” or “low cost”, which may not be relevant if you’re promoting luxury products? Make sure buying intent is something you consider strongly when starting out
  3. Can you afford to advertise using these keywords? This is perhaps the most important question. Let’s say you’re bidding £10 on a keyword but the product itself only costs £4, your campaign is unlikely to be a success

Now you’ll have a better idea on whether there’s an online demand, how much there is and your preferred buying intent.

Feasibility & affordability

Assuming the online demand for your product or service is there, you now have an idea of what keywords to use. But before making your selection, you must establish which will work in terms of affordability. To do this, refer back to the information you considered during the first stages ie/ your maximum cost-per-sale and maximum cost-per-lead.

Bearing in mind the most you’re willing to pay for a single lead or sale, we must establish the maximum business CPC. We’ll come back to this as you create your keyword lists because it will help with keyword selection. But, for now, we want to validate that it’s profitable for you to advertise with AdWords.

To confirm this, compare your maximum business CPC to the estimated CPC for each term in the Keyword Planner. For example, if your maximum business CPC is £5, and the majority of suggested bids are £4 or less, you’re likely to advertise profitably using this selection of terms.

Your business CPC is determined by your website’s conversion rate, your profit-per-customer and your advertising profit margin. If you don’t have these, try making a best guess or setting up tracking using Google Analytics and some internal measuring to calculate them from your website’s existing traffic.

What is “Conversion Rate”?

Essentially, it’s the number of users that land on your website and convert into a lead (eg/ complete a contact form or call your business) or, in the case of ecommerce websites, they make a purchase. If your Google Analytics has conversion or goal tracking set up, you can access this information easily. Alternatively, you can use the following formula:

Conversion Rate % = Number Of Sales/Visits To Website x 100
Conversion Rate % = Number Of Online Leads Generated/Visits To Website x 100

Let’s say your website generates an average of 1,000 visits per month and, from these visits, ten convert into new sales or enquiries. So;

(10 Sales/1,000 Visits x 100) = 1% Conversion Rate

Putting this into practice, let’s say you’re comfortable with a 30% profit margin, your conversion rate is 1% and an example average profit-per-customer is £350; these numbers will allow you to calculate your max CPC:

£350 x (1–0.30) x 1% = £2.45

The above calculation produces our maximum business CPC at £2.45. With this, you can now look at your keywords and, if the suggested average bids are greater than this, you’re unlikely to create a profitable campaign. Either you must increase your average profit margin, or your website’s conversion rate. It’s possible that there are less competitive long tail keywords in the list which have a lower suggested bid. But then you may limit your target audience to a handful of keywords, potentially generating a lower conversion rate because the people using these terms may not have an intent that’s aligned with your objective ie/ they may not be looking to make a purchase.

The competition

Now let’s focus on your competition. You’ve got your keywords, your buying intent and an idea of how profitable your campaign is likely to be. By establishing your competitors’ marketing techniques, your risk could be further reduced.

The likelihood is that at least one of your competitors is using AdWords to generate new business and they will already have determined which keywords, ads and landing pages work best for them. With this in mind, there are numerous competitive intelligence tools to allow you access to your competitors’ advertising data.

One such tool is SEMrush which provides several competitive metrics of a particular website; for now though, we only need its advertising intelligence.

Log in to SEMrush and, under ‘Domain Analytics’, select ‘Advertising Research’. Enter your competitor’s URL in the search box at the top and you’ll be given information on how they are utilising AdWords. SEMrush only gathers information on websites that are found in the search engines and that generate a large amount of traffic, so you’re only likely to see reports on the more proactive advertisers. From the basic report, you can ascertain the budget, the advertising frequency, any adjustments for seasonality, which keywords they are bidding on and which generate the most traffic.

Savvy advertisers will remove keywords that don’t convert well. So don’t rely on data from just one competitor; collect it from a few and ascertain a clear pattern. After all, every business is different and some keywords that work for you won’t necessarily work for a competitor.

Numerous other research tools are available – Keyword Spy is another example – so if you’re familiar with another tool that reports this information, feel free to use it and compare data; it’s worth using more than one source so as to obtain an overview of the competitive landscape. And if your preferred tool provides individual keywords and ad copy, even better.

Now we have the ingredients, let’s put it all together

So now you have an idea of profitability and what your competitors are up to, let’s consider it all together with your own unique selling points as these will differentiate you, and must be incorporated into your campaign where possible. They will help to;

  1. Generate more traffic from qualified leads
  2. Get more lead/sale conversions
  3. Remove price comparison

For this you’ll need to focus on your strengths. A good source is by asking your current customers. A great unique selling point is built on customer insight so talk to them and ask why they choose you over competing businesses. What problems do they encounter when purchasing products or services similar to yours? What makes the process easier or more attractive to them? With this in mind, you can analyse your competition, find an opening and discover what sets you apart from the rest.

Define your offer

Study the competition’s websites and marketing material, then consider the following;

  • The offer – What can you use that will make someone want to take action? A free trial? A free consultation? Maybe even a money-back guarantee?
  • Value – We’re talking here about demonstrating your value more so than your price. This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to be cheaper than everyone else. Define what value you provide, such as the convenience it offers or customer support, in the case of complex products
  • Reduce risk – Minimising the customer’s risk can work wonders for your conversion rate. Do this by offering a money-back guarantee, a trial period or samples etc
  • Call-to-action – What do you want customers to do when they find you? Sign up for a free trial? Request a consultation? Make a purchase online? Keeping it simple is key, so make sure the desired action is prominent on your landing page. If you want people to call you, make it clear and ensure customers don’t land on your website wondering what happens next

Ultimately this is your strategy, having considered advertising costs, your objective, the demand and what your competition is doing.

Now it’s time to create your campaign.

AdWords settings

Thanks to Google’s constant tweaks, the setup process makes sure you cover all bases with tips on how the features work, so we’ll leave those explanations to Google. We will, however, discuss some of the more noteworthy elements as, in some cases, Google’s default options are not necessarily in your best interest.

Once you’ve clicked the red ‘+ Campaign’ button, you’ll see a drop down menu with options on the type of campaign you can create. For this article, we’re only covering search campaigns so, at this point, you need to select ‘Search Network Only’. This is to ensure our campaign shows on Google’s search engine and users find our ads with search intent, and no other medium.

Google AdWords Search Network Setup

Search vs/ Display Network

Now don’t get me wrong, the Google Display Network is a fantastic method of online marketing. Whilst it’s not suited to all industries, it can offer some great advertising opportunities for brand and product awareness, and if you want to target customers at an early stage of the buying cycle. It works very differently to the search network with different objectives and ways to target users. It requires a different approach to ad copy, user targeting and landing page design. With the Search Network, we know where users are coming from and can anticipate their search intent.


On the next page, ‘Type’ will default to what you selected previously, so just make sure this is still set to ‘Search Network Only’. To the right, you’ll see a list of options relating to your type of campaign. We recommend selecting ‘All Features’ as you want full control to get the most from your campaign; Google’s default settings are not necessarily in our best interests here.


This determines where your ads will appear. As we’ve selected the Search Network, we will be targeting users based on their search intent and the keywords they use.

The Search Network includes Google Search, Shopping, Maps and Images as well as search sites that partner with Google. The setting by default is ‘Include Search Partners’. Untick this as, again, we want to target people using Google’s search engine rather than partner websites.

Google AdWords Search Network Settings


This feature is very powerful and can be the difference between a good click-through/conversion rate and a bad one. It allows you to a/ choose your target audience’s location, or b/ select an area that searchers are showing an interest in. So choose a geographic location that’s relevant to your ads. If your service is provided to local customers only, select the ‘Let me choose’ option and pick an area local to you. The ‘Advanced search’ option is great for this; it allows you to target users by town, city, state, region or country. Radius targeting is also useful for targeting customers within 20 miles of your zip or postcode.

Google AdWords Location Targeting

Locations & area exclusion

As well as targeting areas, you can also specify any you’d like to exclude. For instance, there may be some that are logistically difficult to reach or have a historically bad conversion rate. Simply search for those locations, then click ‘Exclude’. This will ensure your ads are not shown to users in or interested in these areas.

Bid strategy

Now we’re getting into the nitty-gritty, this is where you choose how you’d like to manage bidding. Many new advertisers go for an automated bidding strategy, but we always suggest manual CPC; this allows you to control the campaign bidding, whereas many of the automated options rely on historic conversion and campaign data to work properly. Untick ‘Enhanced CPC’ as, again, this is an automation tool that relies on conversion history

Default bid

This is where some of our initial calculations come into play. The default bid is the maximum CPC you’re willing to pay for all keywords in a group. This is a quick way to set a blanket rate, which shouldn’t exceed the max business CPC you calculated earlier. Don’t worry, this amount is not set in stone and can be overridden at a later date when you’re setting up specific keyword bids.


Most people budget for advertising on a monthly or quarterly basis and your overall budget has probably been decided in advance. Google will require your budget on a daily basis. To do this, divide your overall monthly budget by 30.4 (the average number of days in a month). So, if your overall monthly budget is £1,000, divide this by 30.4 and your daily budget will be £32.89.

NOTE: Upon starting the campaign, you may find the daily spend varies and occasionally goes over your daily amount. Google operates this policy to help your campaign reach its full potential; for instance, it may increase to 20% more than your allocated daily budget when Google is seeing a surge in searches at a specific time of the week or month. Don’t panic though, Google will never exceed the monthly budget and will always account for any overspend as the month goes on. So on other days, you’ll see the spend is less.

Ad extensions

Don’t worry too much about these for now and leave them unticked. They are tools that help increase visibility and the CTR of your ads. Be sure to revisit them in the future though; they’re worth experimenting with.

Time to get creative

Now it’s time to create your ad copy and, at this stage, it’s vital that you get the title and content right for two reasons. Firstly, potential customers will use this to make a snap decision on whether to click through and see what you have to offer. And secondly, a well-written ad can make a huge difference to a campaign’s profitability.

Your ads play two vital roles;

  1. They must attract qualified prospects, convincing them to click through to your website and not your competitors’
  2. If someone clicks on your ad and doesn’t find what they’re looking for, it could use up a large chunk of your budget and result in a high bounce rate (more about that later). A well-written ad will filter out these unqualified prospects

So create ads that will attract clicks from the right customers and you should see;

  1. More traffic
  2. More sales
  3. Less waste on unqualified customers

All of which result in higher profits.

The hidden treasure

Let’s move onto Quality Score. This is a metric added to every keyword in your campaign by Google. They then multiply this with each keyword bid to form Ad Rank which ultimately decides where your ads will appear in the search results.

Google is all about user experience and the reason people use it is because, most of the time, our searches give us exactly what we were looking for; AdWords is no exception. Keep your ads relevant and you won’t necessarily need to bid highly; a higher Quality Score multiplied by a lower keyword bid could mean you achieve a higher ranking position than your competitors who may have a lower Quality Score and therefore must bid more.

Higher Quality Score x Keyword Bid = Higher AdRank & Higher Position For A Lower Cost

So how do you achieve a high Quality Score? First, you need to know what elements affect it. These include;

  • Keyword relevancy
  • Ad copy
  • Expected landing page experience
  • CTR

Now you can work on controlling these factors; start by ensuring your keywords and ad copy are both highly relevant. Next, offer users a good experience from your website’s landing page by ensuring it provides everything they need, messaging that reiterates your ad copy and a clear path for users to take.

The one thing you won’t know much about yet is your ads’ CTR; this is something you’ll discover as your campaign progresses. Compelling ads will generate a better CTR, helping to boost your Quality Score.

Ad elements

So now you appreciate the importance of creating compelling ad copy; not only will it encourage clicks, but the more you get, the better the CTR and the lower your CPC.

Ads consist of five components;

  • Final URL
  • Headline 1 (up to 30 characters)
  • Headline 2 (up to 30 characters)
  • Description (up to 80 charecters)
  • Two optional ‘Path’ fields (up to 15 characters each)

Let’s explore these further to ensure we get them right and achieve the best CTR.

Final URL

This is your landing page; the URL of the page you want to send people to. As default, Google will display your domain name as part of the ad, but there may be a more relevant page you want people to visit.

Headlines 1 & 2

These are vital because they will catch a person’s eye and you can approach them in a number of ways:

  • Try including relevant keywords where possible as, if the headline is similar to a term used in the search phase, your ad will be appealing and relevant
  • Include your key offerings such as mentioning your specific service and/or location for a local audience
  • Consider using a question eg/ “Need A Dentist In London?” Not only does this include a keyword but it also qualifies potential customers in your local area

Our two pieces of advice here are a/ make it count and b/ keep it short and snappy; you have two brief headlines and milliseconds in which to grab a person’s attention. Consider the message you wish to convey and create your headlines around that, bearing in mind that, on desktop browsers, the headlines are separated with a hyphen, whereas on mobile screens, the second headline wraps below the first. So make sure it’s something that’s easy to read on different devices.

Example Google AdWords Ad


Here’s where you create the body of your ad copy; use this to communicate your unique selling points (USPs), along with any benefits of using your service. You could also include further information to pre-qualify customers such as location.

You have up to 80 characters to convey your message. The description displays below the ad’s URL and the format depends on the user’s device, or if Google predicts the alternative format will improve performance.

Here’s an example of an ad that we think has missed a few opportunities:

Poor Example Google AdWords Ad

Firstly, the website URL is repeated in the title - this has wasted vital characters that could be used to communicate additional selling points or calls-to-action, especially given that the URL is already featured as standard below the title.

Secondly, the description is too brief. Yes, it conveys a USP offering a discount for new patients, but there’s plenty of additional room for more information to either qualify new patients, invoke a positive emotion or promote an action.

Optional path fields

Use these as another opportunity to communicate what users can expect when clicking your ad. Entering a term in either of these fields will place ‘/’ after your URL creating an additional path name. So for example, if the landing page encourages sign-ups for a free trial, use the word “free-trial” and the URL will read “www.mydomain.com/free-trail”. This provides an expectation of what action you want users to take, making them more likely to click the ad.

Keywords & keyword matching

During your initial planning, you’ll have collated a list of keywords to target. Google’s Keyword Planner will help you determine a seed list and decide how to group your keywords together, creating different ad groups. This will give you close variations of the terms you entered, together with the same keywords it provides everyone else ie/ your competitors.

Creating a killer keyword list

To find more keywords, what other options are there after using the Keyword Planner? Well, the internet is the key.


Forums and online portals related to your industry are a good place to have your ear to the ground. You’ll see consumers interacting, discussing various related topics, together with the kind of terminology used when discussing your products or services. These can be gold mines full of people looking to solve problems and can therefore provide a valuable insight.


Head over to the well-known source of information, Wikipedia, and enter a broad keyword for your niche. Browse the content and you may be able to identify new terms.

Google related searches

A handy little resource provided by Google itself, offering insight as to what people are searching for based on their initial search. It provides the opportunity to drill down and discover how users refine their search. Use a broad keyword related to your niche and conduct a search (for instance, if you are a personal trainer, use something like “Fitness”). At the bottom of the page you’ll see suggestions related to your search, based on data from Google on past search sessions.

Google AdWords Related Searches


Similar to Yahoo! Answers, when searching for a keyword, you will see the most popular questions containing terms used when searching for information and solutions.

Once you have your list, return to the Google Keyword Planner and establish search volumes, CPCs and the amount you should bid, bearing in mind your maximum CPC we established earlier.

Keyword matching

Control is vital throughout this entire process and when it comes to keywords, you can also control how they trigger your ads.

Match type is a very important part of your strategy. As keywords are added to your campaign, Google automatically sets them to ‘Broad match’ by default. In essence, this means if someone performs a search containing any of your keywords – or something Google thinks is closely related to your keyword - then it will trigger your ad. This includes searches with misspellings, synonyms and other relevant variations.

  • Example keyword: women's hats
  • Example search: buy ladies hats

One advantage of this is that you don’t need to be as thorough in building your keyword list. Another may be that you’re displaying ads based on searches related to your keywords.

However, the down side is that you have very little control which may negatively affect your Quality Score as your ad copy might not be relevant to the keyword that was used in the search.

As we want the highest Quality Score possible, we’d recommend using ‘Phrase match’ and ‘Exact match’ for your keywords. Offering far greater control, these match types are better when predicting user intent, helping you create ad copy and tailoring the landing page experience accordingly.

So what’s the difference and how do you use them? Well, phrase match triggers an ad when that exact keyword phrase forms part of the user’s search. For instance;

  • Example keyword: “women's hats”, example searches that trigger an ad would be: “buy women’s hats”, or “women’s hats online
  • Example keyword: “London dentist”, example searches that trigger an ad would be: “find a London dentist”, or “London dentist surgery
  • Example keyword: “family days out”, example searches that trigger an ad would be: “fun family days out”, or “family days out when it’s raining

As long as the example keyword is precisely the same somewhere within the search phrase, this will trigger your ad. So in the first example above, ads would be triggered because the keyword “women’s hats” in the order of “women’s” then “hats” displays within the user’s search. If the search were “women’s wedding hats” our ad would not be displayed. Phrase match is useful for tightening your campaign’s targeting and allows for additional terms to be included both before and after the keyword phrase. To use phrase match, simply wrap your search terms in quote marks eg/ “my keyword phrase”.

Exact match is similar to the above but allows for even tighter control. An exact match keyword is fairly self-explanatory; it will only trigger an ad if the exact term is used.

  • Example keyword: [women's hats], example search that triggers an ad would be: “women’s hats”, example searches that would not trigger an ad would be: “women’s hats online”, or “buy women’s hats
  • Example keyword: [London dentist], example search that triggers an ad would be: “London dentist”, example searches that would not trigger an ad would be: “find a London dentist”, or “London dentist surgery
  • Example keyword: [family days out], example search that triggers an ad would be: “family days out”, example searches that would not trigger an ad would be: “fun family days out”, or “family days out when it’s raining

So as you can see, the search term has to exactly match one of your target keywords for your ads to trigger. This provides even greater control, but you must be more thorough in considering which keywords to use, as well as including all longer phrases in your specified keyword list. To use exact match, simply wrap your search terms in square brackets eg/ [my keyword phrase].

To recap, here’s how you would enter your search terms using different keyword match types:

  • Broad match keywords
  • “Phrase match keywords”
  • [Exact match keywords]

Negative keywords

Another method to gain greater control and reduce wasted clicks is by using the ‘Negative Keywords’ field. An area which is often overlooked at the start of a campaign, Negative Keywords effectively filters out irrelevant searches and prevents your ads from triggering.

For instance, if you sell wine glasses, a few negative keywords you’d consider adding are “eye”, “prescription” and “vision”; these would be to prevent your ads from triggering for the more generic searches like “glasses” where the user in question is actually looking for a pair of spectacles. Additionally, if you don’t offer free products or trials, you’d want to add “free” to your list of negative keywords; you don’t want to spend money on clicks that won’t convert for you – this is why negative keywords are so useful.

Add these to your campaign by clicking the ‘Keywords’ tab and selecting the ‘Negative Keywords’ section.

Google AdWords Negative Keywords Tab

You’ll then see two areas for negative keywords; one is for ad group level, the other is for campaign level. Either you could add negative keywords for the whole campaign, meaning it will block across all ad groups – like a blanket block for a given keyword – or you could apply them to certain ad groups. So if, for instance, you have a group specifically for a free trial which doesn’t apply to other groups, you could add “free” as a negative keyword to the the appropriate ad groups.

Google AdWords Negative Keyword Setup

Negative keywords work in the same way as keyword matching; you can apply them as broad, phrase or exact match.

Finding negative keywords

Most advertisers find negative keywords as the campaign progresses, monitoring search terms that generate clicks and identifying any as poor quality or unrelated to the user intent. You should definitely do this as you go along, but you can also get a head start by adding some at the beginning.

Firstly, you may already have some idea of terms that won’t be relevant to your ads (like we mentioned above, this could include “free”, or location-based terms, for instance) so feel free to add these now. But other than this, where else can you get inspiration for negative keywords?

Whilst it’s near impossible to guess what users will search for, if you conduct a Google search for one of your main keywords followed by the letter “a”, you will see that Google displays suggestions based on your query so far. From this, you may discover phrases that are not applicable to your search.

Google Search Suggestions

Google believes these are the most popular results to accompany your keyword and provides an insight into what people regularly search for. So if you’re a personal trainer, “apps”, “apprenticeships”, “accessories” and “apparel” would not necessarily be applicable to your campaign; you can therefore add these as negative keywords.

Repeat your search using “b”, “c”, “d” etc and work your way through the alphabet; soon you’ll have a list of irrelevant searches to filter out from the day your campaign kicks off.

The importance of ad groups

Whilst you may be tempted to throw all keywords into a single campaign with one ad group, dividing your terms into separate groups and creating a well-structured campaign is vital for achieving success.

Whilst you could create ad groups based on the categories of your website, you may find that you have too many keywords in a single group, making it virtually impossible to ensure ad copy is relevant to every search term.

People tend to click ads when the headline includes the keyword they searched for, or if the copy is very relevant to their enquiry. So with this in mind, you’ll want control over ad copy that displays when it’s triggered by searches with different keywords, ensuring the message matches the search term and making your ad more relevant.

Not only that, you will also have greater control over your entire campaign as, for each ad group, you‘ll have;

  • A maximum CPC based on the level of competition
  • Relevant ad copy, maximising relevancy based on user searches

As we know, more relevant ads will attract a better CTR, increasing Quality Score and lowering your costs.

Ad groups and ad copy

It’s vital to consider your keywords when creating ad copy as including a main term can increase CTR. Bear this in mind, combining it with what we’ve already discussed, and this will decide the best way to group keywords and devise relevant ad copy for each group.

Landing pages

These play a key role in the success of an AdWords campaign, acting as the step between potential customers finding you and giving you their information or making a purchase.

Many advertisers choose to direct users to their home page. Whilst this can sometimes be acceptable, it isn’t always necessarily the best destination, as your home page will be an overview of your entire company and less relevant to the specific ad. The likelihood is the user is then unsure of how to proceed as you’re failing to deliver what was promised in the ad, resulting in them clicking (or ‘bouncing’) back to the search results.

A dissatisfied user, a wasted cost for the click and an increased bounce rate can have a negative effect on your campaign, especially if they occur on a regular basis.

What do we mean by ‘bouncing’ and the 'bounce rate’?

It’s when a user lands on a web page and then leaves without taking any other action, such as visiting another page, filling in a form or making a purchase. The bounce rate is the percentage of users that land on your page and leave without taking any of these actions in comparison to the total number that land on your web page.

It’s better to have landing pages specifically designed for your AdWords campaigns, containing content that’s highly relevant both to your keywords and your ad copy.

A dedicated landing page for each campaign – or, even better, each ad group - can be tailored with the same messaging and content communicated in the ad copy and will be highly relevant to the user’s search. A carefully devised journey reduces confusion and leads the prospect down the right path.

Remember those questions we thought about way back at the beginning of this guide? Well those also apply here when creating your landing pages;

  • Who is it for?
  • What are the goals?
  • What is the competition offering?
  • What makes you different?
  • How will they get here?

In a nutshell, the landing page should be short, sweet and uncluttered, offering all the necessary information without overwhelming people. On-page content should reiterate the offers made within the ads. USPs, offers and benefits should be repeated to clarify they’re still valid. If you can, include social proof in the form of reviews and testimonials, helping to add credibility and communicate that you are a legitimate business.

Last, but by no means least, you must include a strong call-to-action. Do you want users to sign up? Provide them with a prominent sign-up form, with clear information on what they’ll get after handing over their details. Do you want them to make a purchase? Provide a prominent ‘Add to basket’ button. You absolutely must make it simple for people to convert into customers.

Conversion tracking

Another important aspect is conversion tracking, which allows you to measure sales or leads generated directly from your campaign. It can tell you which keywords are generating sales and which are just burning your budget. Without this, you’ll have no idea how well you are performing and little hope of optimising your campaign.

To set up conversion tracking, you need to add some code to your website; usually within the page people land on after completing their conversion. For ecommerce businesses, this is likely to be the ‘Order received’ page users see once they have made their purchase. For lead generation, it will be the ‘Thank you’ page that users land on once completing an online web form.

Setting up conversion tracking is relatively easy. In AdWords, click ‘Tools’ at the top, and then ‘Conversions’:

Google AdWords Conversions Setup

The next page lists all your established conversions but if this is your first time setting one up, this page will likely be blank:

Google AdWords Conversion Tracking Setup

You can track numerous actions in AdWords;

  • Website action – Tracks purchases, form submissions or other actions that result in a completion page
  • App downloads – Tracks the number of app downloads or in-applications
  • Phone calls – Tracks calls to your business using a Google forwarding number
  • Import – Tracks conversions from other data sources

In this guide, we’ll be tracking actions taken on a website. Let’s say we want to track users that complete an enquiry form; we’d need to select ‘Website’:

Google AdWords Conversion Tracking Setup Options

You’ll then need to set up your conversion details.


Give your conversion a name, something you will recognise whilst reviewing conversion information as you’ll want an idea of what each one is and what action is associated.


You can assign an average value for each lead or sale completion in a number of ways:

  • Each time it happens, the conversion action has the same value (input the value)
  • The value of this conversion action may vary (eg/ by purchase price, in the case of ecommerce websites). This is handy if you plan on optimising your campaign based on generated revenue
  • Don’t assign a value – This simply counts each conversion and reports the number. This is more applicable to lead generation perhaps where the sales value will vary.


This is how AdWords records each conversion:

  • Every – For example, if one customer completes the desired action three times from only one ad click, it’s recorded as three conversions
  • One – If one ad click leads to three purchases, it will just count as one conversion

Conversion windows

This indicates how long you’d like to track conversions from the initial click. It can be anything from a week to 90 days. So after making an initial purchase, if the user returns to the site and makes another purchase within one week, it would be recorded as a conversion through AdWords.

There is an additional option in this section called ‘View-through conversion window’. This records users that have seen your ad but it’s more applicable to the Display network.


You can choose to categorise your conversions by:

  • Other
  • Purchase/sale
  • Sign-up
  • Lead
  • View of a key page

This is purely for grouping and does not affect how the data is recorded.

Include in ‘Conversions

Be sure to tick this as you want the ability to view conversion data in its own column relative to ads and keywords.

Attribution model

This only applies to the Search Network and Shopping conversion but, as we’re focusing on paid search, we don’t need to worry about this.

You’re done, so click the ‘Save and continue’ button. Google will then provide you with a tracking code that you must copy and paste in between the ‘<body></body>’ website code of your target page. If you’re not confident with adding tags to your website, we’d recommend letting your webmaster handle it.

Once that’s done, your first AdWords conversion action is now set up. You may notice the conversion tracking you’ve created is ‘Unverified’. But don’t worry; Google will verify it after a few hours of installation.


So let’s review; your campaign is live, you’ve got a killer keyword list, a well-organised campaign, perfectly optimised ad copy, your landing pages are seeing new visits and you’re generating new sales. But it doesn’t stop there. Very few campaigns are profitable right from the get-go; most require constant, careful tweaking and management.

With that in mind, here are four tips to help you focus your optimisation efforts;

  1. Keyword bids - Once you begin earning clicks, you’ll see the average CPC and the average position for each term. These will give you an idea on the cost vs/ visibility balance to help you generate sales profitably. For example, if you are seeing a good profit from clicks, you could increase your bids which would increase your ranking position, resulting in more clicks to your site and more sales. On the other hand, if you’re not seeing a profit, you may need to lower your bids or pause individual keywords if they’re not converting or if they’re costing too much. Be careful not to over-bid; a well-optimised campaign doesn’t have to pay top dollar to earn first position, nor does the number one position always suit you best. Remember the seasons; if you’re in an industry that’s affected by seasonality, you may find competition varies throughout the year, meaning you must keep an eye on bidding to maintain visibility and profitability
  2. Click-through rate - We’ve already discussed the importance of Quality Score so here’s your chance to improve it and lower your CPC. Test ad copy continually to get the best CTR. This may require further categorising of keywords into more focused groups, ensuring they are relevant to your ad copy and landing page; both of these can influence your CTR. Keep an eye on the ‘Opportunities’ tab as Google often provides tips along these lines
  3. Conversion rate optimisation - We’ve said it once and we’ll say it again; it’s much better to send someone to a page that’s optimised, relevant to the keywords used and the ad that was clicked, rather than just sending them to the home page. When people land on your site, do you want them to convert? Split testing is a good way to find out how effective your landing page is. By this, we mean sending some of your traffic to one landing page and some to an adjusted version, aiming to improve engagement and your conversion rate. AdWords has a built-in tool for this, allowing you to split traffic between landing pages without needing to run separate ads
  4. Small adjustments - As you optimise your campaign, you must allow time for the changes to take effect. Don’t change too much at once, as you’ll need to review the data and see if your adjustments had a positive effect on your campaign. Too many changes will mean you may not know which caused the desired effect.

You should now be well on your way to running a profitable AdWords campaign. Whilst we’ve covered lots of areas, remember, there’s always more to look at with a complex platform like Google AdWords.

Still need a helping hand? Give us a call.

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