Retailers who take the time to optimize their AdWords campaign structure are rewarded handsomely for their efforts. The catch is that there is no single “silver bullet” for campaign planning. Each retailer will have different audiences, different goals, different products, etc. Also, a structure that works well, for now, could be improved upon as the business further evolves. 

By intuitively structuring your approach for each unique situation at the campaign level, you can improve ROI, strategic planning, and overall ease of operation.

Why Does Google Ads Structure Matter?

Your Google Ads structure matters particularly because daily budgets get set at the campaign level. You could have an impeccable bidding strategy, for instance, but your AdWords (now called Google Ads) campaign structure and budget allocation would still limit the success of your bidding strategy.

To help out all retailer types, we have curated a set of structure options that work well in general. Over years of developing successful AdWords campaigns for many different clients, these options emerged as the simplest yet most effective approach.

How to Set Up a Google Adwords Campaign

If you’re a retailer looking for a better way to structure AdWords campaigns, here are a few methods you can try. Your mileage may vary, but all the structure options listed below are both intuitive and flexible.

Your primary options are to:

    • Start with a product category structure.
    • Split campaigns based on performance and priority.
    • Split campaigns based on location or user lists.
    • Split campaigns based on keyword intent.

In the following sections, we’ll go through each of these potential structures in-depth and explore the pros and cons of using them to help you select the structure best suited to your business.

Google Ads Product Category Structure

A huge portion of retailers simply organizes their Google Ads campaign structure by product category. It has become the most basic and universally accepted method out there. Google even explicitly recommends it in their AdWords guidelines.

Using a product category structure makes life easier. You get to use the existing categories your company has created to manage inventory. The fact that these categories match sales reports also makes tracking performance and ROI easy.

Product category structures also comfortably fit the way most retailers manage product and promotion strategy. Leadership tends to think of performance at the category level, even if just one specific item is the ultimate profit-driver in that category.

For this reason, we recommend that retailers just starting out with AdWords or trying to overhaul their marketing strategy begin this way. You establish a benchmark to measure performance from, and you likely have less friction when trying to get the ball rolling with your new campaigns.

When Doesn’t a Product Category Approach Work?

A product category-based AdWords campaign structure may not work past the experimental phase for some retailers. This situation occurs for many reasons, but the most common ones are:

    • You have a limited overall budget but want to compete for high volume searches. This scenario requires more careful planning and a focus on high-performers. Otherwise, you could quickly spend through your budget with little to show for it.
    • Your product categories have an extremely uneven mix of low-margin items and products with a high-profit margin or a tendency towards high marketing ROI. Many retailers have primary money-makers in each category they want to focus on as well as low-margin items that offer poor ROI at any sales volume.
    • You prefer to run item-specific offers, promotions, and sales. These generally don’t apply to every product category or every product within a category.

Plenty of retailers fall into one of these categories. Others find that a product category structure doesn’t seem right for some other reason. If that’s the case, you can try one of the following alternative approaches.

Split Campaigns Based on Performance and Priority

Splitting your campaigns by performance maximizes the ROI from your budget while controlling spending on low-ROI campaigns. This is ideal if your campaigns fit into any of the three exceptions listed above for the product category approach. It works particularly well if you fall under the first exception with a limited overall budget, but the need to compete for high-volume searches.

Start by creating performance tiers. Assign products or promos with great performance to tier 1. “Performance” can refer to ROI, sales volume, conversion rate, or any other preferred metric.

So, for example, a company could create a tier 1 campaign for [garden chair], [denim jacket] and [car cleaning kits] since these are the items that rock their e-commerce. In the bottom tier, they can have low-earners assigned to long-tail keywords with low bids, bumping up their ROI.

Use labels and adgroup naming for easier reporting, so you can know offhand what’s in each tier.

When Doesn’t a Performance/Priority Split Work?

Splitting your campaigns based on performance or priority may not work well for:

    • Retailers or items that have strong seasonal performance. If your business or its offerings are highly seasonal, this approach would force you to constantly retool campaigns throughout the year.

In this instance, splitting campaigns based on location or user lists may be your next best option.

Split Campaigns Based on Location or User Lists

This approach is similar to a performance/priority split, but — instead of looking at products — you look at high-performing segments.

This approach helps you optimize your messaging to appeal to specific audiences. Many marketers find greater success by breaking apart purchasing groups according to similar traits. They then approach them each with unique messaging.

When Doesn’t a Location/User List Split Work?

This method is less than ideal if:

    • You’re just starting out. If you lack insights into your audience, you don’t yet have high-performing segments to inform your split.
    • Your products appeal to a variety of people. Some products are generalized, like coffee, while others are more specific, like baby strollers. If you are selling general items that appeal to the masses, you may have a more difficult time narrowing down your audience or you may find it less-than-effective when you do.

The next option is to split your campaigns based on keyword intent.

Related: Read about targeting Hispanic markets with your Google Ad campaigns

Split Campaigns Based on Search and Keyword Intent

Many AdWords campaigns focus on a specific type of search intent. For instance, some might target people looking for a specific brand-name item, like [Beats Bluetooth Earbuds]. Other campaigns may want to steer away search volume for people looking for [Beats Bluetooth Earbuds] towards an even higher-margin item.

Say, for instance, the retailer specializes in audio equipment, and they have a purchasing deal with a particular supplier. This supplier lets the retailer sell equipment white labeled with their own brand name. Selling Beats headphones nets them just a 12% margin, but selling their own items nets them 22%.

In this case, the retailer will want to take a few different approaches based on keyword intent. Each approach corresponds to a different AdWord campaign category. Here’s an example:

    • Campaign 1: All “cheap” “discount” or “offer” related product keyword searches
    • Campaign 2: All brands + generic product group campaigns
    • Campaign 3: House brand campaigns only, which can use competitor brand keywords to drive traffic to your brand

Understanding the search intent associated with various keywords is a perquisite to using this method. However, when implemented properly, it’s considered highly effective.

When Doesn’t a Keyword Intent Split Work?

There are actually few instances where a keyword intent split would be a bad idea, but it will prove more difficult if:

    • You’re just starting out. If you lack insights into your audience and you’re only just beginning to understand which keywords represent purchase intent and lead to action, this structure may be less-than-effective.

Taking the time to understand your audience and the keywords they use is essential before you ever try guessing at keyword intent and restructuring your campaigns. If you’re working with an experienced agency, they can do all of the research for you.

Work With an Experienced AdWords Marketing Agency

Symphonic Digital can help you choose which Google AdWords campaign structure best fits your unique product mix and goals. We provide consulting and strategy as well as total end-to-end management for paid search. We can also fit your paid search campaign with other campaign goals to create an omnichannel strategy that drives success.

Optimize your AdWords performance and get strategic guidance when you contact us today.

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