In many ways, effective Adwords account management is a balancing act. Whether you’re trying to balance sales volumes with the cost per sale or trying to write a compelling advert whilst trying to stand out from your competitors, you’re often pulled in opposite directions.

I am often approached to appraise accounts for advertisers, and one of the most common problems that I see is also perhaps one of the most understandable, it’s the result of failing to find the balance between relevancy and optimisability.

In a well-managed account, the advert should relate to the keyword, and frequently, a tailored landing page is beneficial. In addition, the conversion rate could be slightly different for every keyword, so if you take this to an extreme, you could argue that having an Ad Group for every keyword would make sense.

However, there can be problems if you take this too far. Assuming that you have a reasonably complete keyword list, most of your keywords are likely to get very few clicks and conversions.

On a recent review of my accounts, I found that typically, 70% of my clicks were being driven by around 3% of my keywords.

So how do you go about managing the bids and optimising the adverts for the other 97% of your keywords?

Most of them will get one click per month, if you’re lucky. As a result, at a keyword level, you’ll never get a clear idea of the conversion rate for most of your keywords, and you won’t be able to reflect the value of the clicks that they generate in your bids.

Similarly, establishing which advert is more effective in a test is impossible unless you achieve a minimum level of traffic.

There are other problems as well. Suppose that you have an Ad Group targeting ‘Toasters’ on Phrase Match, and another targeting ‘Hinari Toasters’. Your generic Ad Group would need the word ‘Hinari’ as a negative keyword, in order to ensure that searchers see the correct advert. 

That’s fine, but what happens if you have hundreds, or even thousands of Ad Groups with the potential to overlap each other? It would be almost impossible to stop the same search query from triggering adverts from different Ad Groups, meaning that your bid adjustments would be ineffective and advert tests flawed.

It’s interesting that if I look back five years, I was seeing the opposite problem far more often – all of the keywords lumped into a single Ad Group, with a generic advert and one bid for everything.

Now, things are frequently going too far the other way.

Where is the balance that will allow you to get the best results from your campaign?

There is no perfect solution for this that will fit every account, but here are a few thoughts that may help with the balance.

Ad Groups should be mutually exclusive

No search should be able to trigger adverts from different Ad Groups , otherwise you won’t be able to set your bids for that search query; reducing the bid on one Ad Group will simply drive the impressions into another one.

In order to do this, every Ad Group needs a distinct identity. You need to be able to explain what the people in that Ad Group are looking for, whether it be cheap toasters, Hinari toasters, 4-slice toasters or just toasters in general.

Follow this rule, and it should be easy to generate a list of negative keywords to apply to the other Ad Groups in order to ensure their exclusivity from one another.

Bids should be set at Ad Group level

This sounds contentious, but my argument is simple. If the conversion rate is sufficiently different on two keywords in the same Ad Group that you need to apply different bids, surely this indicates that there is a fundamental difference between the people that are searching for them.

If this is the case, then there’s a good chance that different advert text, and even different landing pages, may work better for them. If two keywords in an Ad Group perform very differently, split them into separate groups and manage them separately.

There are two reasons to split keywords into different Ad Groups

Either you want to apply different bids to them (i.e. you believe or know that the conversion rate or conversion value will be different), or they are likely to respond to a different advert or landing page (e.g. putting the word ‘Hinari’ in the ‘Hinari Toasters’ Adverts, and landing people on the Hinari toasters page).

Only split your keywords if there is a clear benefit to doing so.

Following these simple rules will allow you to write and test relevant advert copy very easily, adjust bids at Ad Group level without reducing your return on investment, and manage your negative keywords much more easily.