Digital Marketing Measurement

Google AdWords ad groups: keywords, ads and bid settings.

In my last post I described the main elements related to the set-up of a Google AdWords campaign. I have also mentioned that each AdWords campaign is made up of different ad groups. To be more precise, a campaign contains at least one ad group, but normally it will contain many.

Essentially an ad group consists of one or more ads, a list of keywords you want those ads to be shown for and bid settings (a Max CPC set for each keyword included).


When you create an ad group you are asked to choose a list of keywords you want to trigger your ads.

The keyword selection process is of vital importance for the success of your ads performance.

As opposed to traditional marketing, AdWords – and keyword advertising in general – provides advertisers with target customers that qualify themselves as leads by proactively searching for terms related to the advertisers’ business.

Advertisers need to capitalize on this by choosing keywords truly relevant to their business. It is also important for advertisers to think like users in order to be able to identify keywords and phrases which mirror what is likely to be the language of users’ search terms.

Normally users search for needs, not for brands.

Keyword research is a very important step in the definition of an AdWords campaign and different ad groups should be shaped and structured based on this preliminary work.

Google provides users with a free Keyword Tool which helps advertisers identify the key terms that are apt to drive traffic to their website or that are related to their business.

You can either enter a word/phrase, enter a specific website or choose a category (or do all of these things at once) and the tool will return a list of suggested relevant keywords and for each of them it will give estimates of their monthly search volumes and their competitiveness.

In my previous post I noted how important it is that the account/campaigns/ad groups structure mirrors the structure of your business and your goals. Each campaign should represent a business goal and the different ad groups should have enough granularity to represent the different aspects of your business.

Ideally you should create a different ad group for each theme that describes your advertising campaign. For instance, you may have an ad group for each product you offer, as in this example from the AdWords help center: here the overall campaign is about Discount Electronics and each specific product – DVD players, VCRs… – has its own ad group.

Each ad group has its own list of keywords.

It is good practice not to have the same keyword included in different ad groups, because the system would only show one ad for the same advertiser for a given query, therefore an advertiser would have two of his/her own ads competing with each other if they were both triggered by the same keyword.

The page linked above from the AdWords help center lists some other important tips related to keyword selection:

multi-word keywords are generally better than single-word keywords, the latter being too broad and likely to trigger the ads for irrelevant queries.

– it is good practice to include singular/plural variations in order to increase the likelihood of the ads appearing on relevant queries.

– as much as it’s important to identify relevant keywords, it is also important to exclude keywords which can create irrelevant targeting by selecting them as negative keywords. This is done at campaign-level though.

The list of keywords contained in an ad group will be common to all the ads in that ad group.


As said, an ad group can contain different ads, where the advertiser can diversify their different components.

The components of an AdWords text ad, which is the standard type of Google ad, are basically 3:

– Headline

It’s the first line of your ad, the one users are most likely to notice. It should be catchy, make your ad stand out and should match the keywords contained in the user query; that way it is more likely to catch users’ attention. A headline can contain up to 25 characters.

– Display URL

This line shows – in green – the address of the advertised website. The display URL has the function of letting users know where the ads will take them. It’s good practice to choose a short, meaningful URL, usually the homepage of your site. The destination URL – which is instead not a visible part of the ad – can be different from the display ads and identifies the landing page users will get to by clicking through the ad. It is good practice to choose a destination URL as relevant as possible with the specific ad. The destination URL needs to be a page of the same website of the display URL though, not a page of a different website.

Many times it makes sense to send users to a deep URL of your website – a specific detail product page, a specific booking page etc – and that URL may be long (mirroring the deep location of that page in the navigational structure of your site) and/or perhaps containing parameters that make it not intuitive for users. Those are cases where you may choose to show users a neater and shorter display URL.

The limit for display URLs is of 35 characters (but only 17 for languages like Chinese, Japanese and Korean, which use double-width characters).

If a display URL is longer than this limit, the URL will be automatically shortened (not displayed fully).

– Description

This is the space for your actual ad copy to describe of the product/service advertised. It can contain up to 35 characters altogether.

A text ad should highlight what makes your business unique. It’s recommended to include practical elements such as prices, promotions and special offers and a clear call to action, in consistency with the ad goal and the landing page (e.g. fostering users to buy your product on your detail product page or book a ticket on your ticket booking page or sign-up to your newsletter on your sign-up page etc).

It is advisable to experiment by creating different ads in the same ad group and monitor their performance.

Bid setting

You can set the same Max CPC for all the keywords contained in your ad group or you can diversify the bidding by choosing different Max CPCs for the different keywords. When you create an ad group, you are prompted to set a default ad group bid (Max CPC) for all the keywords in your ad group. You can then edit this value and override the default bid by raising or lowering the Max CPC for specific keywords in the ad group list.

It is also possible to let AdWords set your bids automatically (automatic bidding). This is a good option in particular if you don’t have time to follow the performance of your ads closely. The system, based on your campaign budget, adjusts your Max CPC bids automatically with the goal of optimizing your performance for the budget available.

For more control, it is possible to set a bid limit.

It is also possible to switch from automatic to manual bidding at any time.


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