By Kim Palacios

In June, we wrote about the #1 common mistake we see clients make in Google AdWords.  Something we’ll call “ad group confusion” comes in at a close second.  Specifically, when we are hired to clean up and turn around an existing AdWords campaign, we usually have to scrap the ad group structure the company has in place, and start over.

Here’s why: companies tend to structure ad groups in the same way they structure products and organizations internally, or structure ad groups in the way that they think about their products.  However, internal views may have little to do with the way somebody searching for or discussing a product may think about it.

So, forget your product. Start with what your customers care about.  Regardless of what you sell, do your customers care about saving money?  Do they care about visiting a retail location?  Do they care about buying online?  The first set of ad groups you build should focus on who, what, when, where, why, and how your customers might want to do business with you.  So, to keep with the candle business theme from Example #1, suppose you run Xyz Candle Company, which sells candles online, has retail locations where people can make their own candles, and also employs the world’s foremost expert on candles.  The who, what, when, where, why, how, etc. exercise might reveal the following ad groups:

  • Who might like Xyz Candle Company? crafts enthusiasts, kids, home décor enthusiasts
  • What kinds of candle products and services might people be looking for? Catalog*, candle expert, make your own candles, classes
  • When might people be particularly interested in Xyz Candle Company?  Holidays, special occasions, housewarming
  • Where can people buy Xyz Candle Company products/services?  Online, retail location
  • Why might people be particularly interested in Xyz Candle Company (vs. a competitor)?  Low prices, online discounts, high quality candles, all natural candles

Not everything you come up with will be relevant or usable, but it’s good to do this brainstorming exercise and whittle your list down to a set of ad groups that will align well with the types of keywords that actual users will type into a search.  For example, the ad groups above would create a place for the following searches, each of which represents a very different user:

  • Candle making classes
  • Handmade holiday gifts
  • Order candles online
  • Local candle shops
  • Discount votives and tapers*
  • Unique home décor

If it feels like you’re shaping up to have a long list of ad groups, don’t worry—it’s not too many.   Campaigns are most successful when they link keyword lists with the ads users eventually see.  Ad groups serve as the backbone to this alignment.  The broader they are, the more often they will miss the mark.

*”Catalog” indicates the entire product offering.  These keywords should often be limited to a single ad group that contains detailed keywords; in this case, votives, tapers, pillars, would apply