The difference between ad campaigns and ad groups in PPC advertising

May 14, 2020


“We will focus on this ad group in our next campaign.” Do these words sound familiar? For many of us, these terms are thrown around without knowing the definition. A common question asked to Channable is how do I structure my account? This article will break down ad account terms and structure, explaining what each means and how they function. So you can make the best decision in any situation.

The difference between ad campaigns and ad groups in PPC advertising

Campaign hierarchy, who is the king?

Ads account hierarchy is always the same for order and influence. Therefore, whatever level is above influences the level below e.g. what’s in the campaign level influences the ad groups. Ranking the hierarchy of an ad account’s structure is as follows:

Ads hierarchy
Ads account hierarchy

Now that we have visualized an ads account structure, let's breakdown the structure of campaigns and ad groups further.

Your account’s campaigns are comprised of one or more ad groups. An ad group contains one or more ads, which share a set target of keywords and bids. The biggest difference is that ad groups are one level lower than campaigns in the account hierarchy. Campaigns then directly control the goal and budget, while Ad groups oversee the bids/CPC, audience/targeting, placement, and delivery options chosen to capture the audience.

Ad campaigns

First, you need to create a definition for the campaigns in your account. Most companies want to start with a search campaign, so let us use that as an example. Search campaigns can potentially create the most awareness, but display campaigns are also widely used or maybe a call-only campaign creates the business you need. Whatever you choose, the goal is to be found on all relevant searches directing them to your website and converting them to a sale/customer.

All campaigns are created with a goal, to sell something, increase brand awareness, etc. The campaign sets the budget, location, and targeting of that goal, so you can focus and get the results that you want. Other settings that are affected under the campaign hierarchy are the set of ad groups, ads, keywords, and bids to reach your goal.

Your account can have one or multiple campaigns running at the same time. For instance, you can create separate ad campaigns to run similar ads but in multiple locations using different budgets.

Ad groups structure
Ad groups structure

Once a strategy and a goal are chosen for your campaign, it is time to think about the settings:

  • Target location

  • Target language

  • Budget

  • Bid strategy - automatic (AI learning) or manual

Ad groups

Ad groups may contain one or more ads that have a similar target. It is up to you on how to organize an account, but often within ad groups, a separate ad is defined and created by the different types of services or products that are offered.

Ad groups contain and control the following functions:

  • The structure within each campaign

  • Separate and organize each theme or product

  • Control keyword/ad association

How big should my ad group be?

There is, of course, no set limit but a few guidelines are:

  • 6-10 ad groups per campaign

  • +/- 20 keywords per ad group

  • 2~3 ads per ad group

Ads, keywords, and negative keywords

At this level you have your actual ad, targeting potential customers with your chosen keywords.

As a company that functions in five languages, Channable knows the importance of search volume and choosing the right keywords. Make sure you use research to confirm the keywords you are choosing have search volume!

At this level, the information/keywords provided are connected directly to your product data feed. Target potential clients by using keywords with intent. In general, broad terms have low intent, e.g. sport shoes, and do not have a high click-through rate. Focused and specific words, also called long-tail keywords, usually have higher intent because the buyer knows more about what they want, e.g. Nike air max 270.

Keyword match types

This may be preaching to the choir, but (search types) or match types are the ways keywords and phrases can be configured to match up to searches on your campaigns. There are four query match types recognized by Google and Microsoft Advertising:

  • Broad match - as the name states this is the broadest term your ad can be matched, including synonyms for your keywords. An example would be if you used 'discount running shoes' as a broad keyword your ad may be displayed when a potential customer uses the search term 'sports shoe sale'.

  • Modified broad match + - This is a bit more restrictive and the ads will only activate on the keywords you have set, but they can be in any order. An example would be a search for ‘sale sport shoes’, and your keyword is ‘sports shoe sale’.

  • Phrase match “ ” - A phrase match must include keyword terms you are bidding on in the same order and unbroken. There can, however, be words before or after the keyword.

  • Exact match [ ] - An exact match will only trigger when the exact keyword is searched for.

A little side note, Google has begun restructuring what it considers an exact match. This now means that word order and function words like “the”, “for”, and “to” will be ignored. Along with plurals and close variants of the chosen word.

Google adwords functions
Google AdWord functions

What does this change mean to your account strategy?

Google’s exact match modifications have meant that modified broad match has become the most popular choice for most campaigns. This is because it is strict enough to stay relevant, yet still offers enough flexibility to catch interested buyers.

If choosing this strategy it is useful to create 2-3 long-tail keywords and try to avoid single-term keywords. That being said, your campaign goals are always your own and a different strategy might yield better results to meet your needs.

What are you willing to pay per click?

Let’s talk about bids and choosing a max CPC (cost per click), starting with your quality score. Your quality score is made up of keywords, landing page quality, and relevant content. Keywords along with your max CPC help determine your ad rank. More specifically, your maximum CPC bid multiplied by your quality score helps determine your position and therefore, cost per click, bringing everything together.

There are two options when choosing your bidding strategy: manual or automatic.

  • Manual bidding - Manual bidding gives you complete control. When starting a new campaign it might be a good idea to look at Google's “Page #1 CPC”, and “Top of Page CPC” metrics to give you a good idea of what your max bid should be. These two metrics are both estimations Google creates for each keyword.

  • Automatic bidding - This gives Google control to play around with your ad spend, using Google's AI to find the optimal price for you to be bidding on. This strategy can be helpful when starting a new campaign and if you do not have an idea of what a reasonable price would be for your ads. A tip would be to play around with the ‘Maximize Clicks’ option. Google will then try to get as many clicks as possible with your ad spend. An important note on using this feature is to set a Max CPC bid limit so that Google does not exceed your limits or budget. This strategy isn’t ideal for the long run, but should be checked after a few weeks to determine a good price per click vs .conversion.

Automating your ads

With all this information you should be ready to tackle optimizing your ads account structure and getting those ads rolling. If handling all these campaigns and ad groups now sounds like a daunting task, there are data feed management and PPC tools to help manage your workflow. Channable is a tool that can combine your data feed directly to your text ads. Making automation and campaign management easy.

Read this article in different languages:

Jacob JørgensenMarketing Nordics

Stay ahead of the curve

As we keep on improving Channable, we would like to share the latest developments with you.

First name

Last name

Company email *