Ad Groups

Google AdWords ad groups

Now that you have a fair idea about campaigns, let’s navigate to the Ad Groups tab of the interface…

Try splitting your campaigns into main themes for your products. Let’s say you sell watches, so you may have different campaigns for various brands of watches or watches for men. Now, let’s take all the keywords you’ve got for ‘Rolex watches.’ Obviously, they’ll be different from the keywords for something like a ‘Citizen watch.’ Great, but now we have to segment them further, so that you can write specific ad copy for each individual keyword.

Thus, you can create different ad groups for Rolex watch A, Rolex watch B, Rolex watch C, and so on. This way you can serve an ad that is very specific to Rolex watch A. Let’s be practical—if someone is searching for Rolex watch B but gets served an ad that relates to Rolex watch A, how likely do you think they are going to click on the ad? Not very likely. 

Remember, we are trying to maximise our quality score for each keyword here, and CTR contributes the most towards the quality score.

Ad rank equals Quality score times Bid; the higher the CTR, the higher the quality score and the less you’ll pay per click for the same ad position. A well structured campaign—with ad groups split out in the most granular way possible—will give you the most control over your campaigns. Therefore, it is definitely worth spending some time on the structure of the campaign as it will really pay dividends.


This is where it all starts for 99% of all AdWords advertisers. The keyword is the basis of everything in PPC—it is here that you think about the search terms your potential customers might be going for and the ones that’d promptly trigger your ad. Optimising the right keywords for your business is imperative; you want to choose and bid on the keywords that are going to bring people that are the most likely to convert to your site.

Choose the wrong keywords, and you’ll very quickly see a whole load of wasted spend on traffic that is of poor quality and/or of irrelevant.

One should ideally use keyword research tools such as the AdWords tool (available within the AdWords platform) or any other free or paid keyword research tools available externally. But wait—it’s not as simple as just plugging in some keywords. To really do things properly, you need to understand match types. Match types are the way you instruct Google on how restrictive to be when matching search terms to your keywords.

Here is a handy table, summarising all the match types there are. They are explained in more detail below.

Match typeExample KeywordExample Matching Search Term
Broad Matchmens shirtsbuy mens polo tops
Broad Match Modified+mens +shirtsshirts for men
Phrase Match“mens shirts”buy mens shirts
Exact Match[mens shirts]mens shirts

Broad Match

Example: Dog Coats

This is the default match type in AdWords. It basically gives Google a carte blanche to match anything and everything it possibly can to your keyword. AdWords will serve your ad for anything even remotely contextually relevant to your keyword. Let’s say we’re dealing with ‘dog coats.’ Any related search term, say ‘dog leads,’ ‘dog food,‘dogs’ or even ‘canine food’ is likely to trigger your ad.

As you can tell, this is great for driving traffic to your site, but you will certainly end up with a lot of people who are not interested in those lovely dog coats you are selling. You’re also likely to get bad CTRs as your ad isn’t targeted to all the traffic that might be looking for dog grooming services. As a general rule of thumb, it’s best to stick away from pure broad match keywords.

Broad Match Modified

Example: +Dog +Coat

The little plus that precedes keywords tells Google to match your ad only to search terms that include both ‘dog’ and ‘coat’, but however, not necessarily in that order. Therefore, a search term like ‘coats for dogs’ will trigger your ad—much more targeted than pure broad match, but remember there is still plenty of room for unrelated search terms.

For example: ‘winter coats with dog patterns on the lining’ could also trigger your ad. Broad match modified keywords are great and should definitely be used, but just make sure you are checking your search query report regularly and adding negative keywords to your campaigns to limit the number of unrelated search queries (more on this below).

Phrase Match

Example: “Dog Coats”

Keywords within the quotation marks further restrict how Google matches your ads to search terms. With phrase match, you are asking Google to match search terms that contain your keyword phrase in its specified order, but with a prefix or a suffix. That means it will match to any search term that contains ‘dog coats,’ but only with anything before or after it in the query. For example, ‘which company makes the best dog coats in the UK‘ would match to this keyword. As you can see, it’s giving you much more control.

Exact Match

Example: [Dog Coats]

As the name suggests, the user must search for the exact same keyword you are bidding on. Nothing before or after—it has to be exactly as you have specified. Simples!


Negative Keywords

Magnifying glass with negative in the middle on a red background

These are like keywords, but the complete opposite. I know that sounds weird, but bear with me. In AdWords, you can specify keywords that you definitely don’t want your ads to match to. These negative keywords can be specified at campaign (applies to all ad groups and ads in the campaign) and ad group level (applies to the entire ad group) too, and work in the same way as normal keywords in terms of match types.

Let’s say you have an ecommerce store that sells computer hardware. You have loads of products and you are bidding on their brand and model names as well as product numbers. As with anything these days, people turn to the internet to not only purchase items, but also to consult with the online community on ‘how good that particular piece of hardware is’, to read reviews and get others’ opinions before taking the plunge and purchasing it themselves.

Generally people do a lot of research before purchasing, resulting in loads and loads of searches made for keywords that won’t result in a sale. Adding the term ‘reviews’ as a negative in phrase match will prevent those people searching for ‘brand HDD XYZ123 reviews’ from seeing our ad, without preventing people who might be searching to ‘buy brand HDD XYZ123‘ from seeing the ad.

People searching with the term ‘buy’ in their query are people who are far, far more likely to convert than people, who are still well within the research phase of the purchase cycle. It is important to spend just as much time on negative keywords as you would do for the positive keywords, as doing this will reduce the number of irrelevant impressions, thereby optimising your CTR.

Match typeExample KeywordExample Blocked Term
Negative Broad-red shoesred shoes, shoes red, buy red shoes
Negative Phrase-“red shoes”red shoes, buy red shoes, buy red shoes online, red shoes reviews
Negative Exact-[red shoes]red shoes