How To Set Up Your First Google Adwords Campaign

Starting a Google Adwords Campaign can be a fantastic way of generating more leads to your business, however, for many businesses it doesn’t work out the way they planned and often their costs end up being far too high, meaning their campaigns are never profitable.

After working as a Google Adwords consultant for over 5 years, the most common issue I see in existing accounts, is that they simply haven’t been set up correctly.

In this article I will be showing you some best practices for setting up your Adwords account the correct way, to ensure you have the best chance of a profitable campaign that delivers you cost effective leads and sales.

In this article I will be covering the following:

  • The 5 points you need to cover before starting your campaign
  • Keyword research
  • creating a good account structure
  • Writing good ads and the importance of split testing
  • Settings
  • Setting up tracking (VERY IMPORTANT)
  • Ad extensions

The 5 points you need to cover before starting your campaign

There are 5 main things that I personally recommend you do before you start to create your Adwords account:

  1. The first thing to do is work out exactly what it is you will be selling, for example, if you have multiple products/services you need to decide exactly what you want to promote?
  2. Secondly you need a good web site, the content should be original and relevant to the services you provide and you should also have a decent amount of content, failure to do this could result in an account ban. You can read more about site and landing page quality requirements here:
  3. On your site you need to make sure you have clear ways for people to covert, whether that be a buy now button if you are trying to sell a product, or in the case of generating leads, some sort of lead gen form, a clear phone number, or both.
  4. You will need a clear budget to start with, choose an amount that you are comfortable spending per month and stick with it, also try to be consistent, don’t start and stop your campaign just let it run and you will get much more measurable, usable data.

Finally point 5 ties in with point 4.Don’t be afraid to lose a little money, don’t think of it as losing money, see it as gaining data and knowledge, a lot of people really struggle with this point, but the fact is if you spend $1000 and only make $800 back, although you may have lost $200, there is a massive upside, you just gained $1000 worth of data and there is a good chance you will be able to use this information to tweak your campaign and make it profitable.

Keyword research

Once you are set up with the first 5 points above, you are ready to get started building your campaign. The first task is keyword research, there are many keyword tools out there, both free and paid, I prefer to stick with The Google Adwords Keyword Tool.

In this example I will be doing the research as if I were a web design company in London England (which I am not by the way).

The first thing to do is to just have a quick brainstorm of top level related keywords related to your product of service, for example:

  • Web design
  • Webdesign
  • Web design London
  • Web design company
  • web design Agency
  • web design consultants

A handful of Keywords like this is a good start, next place them in the keyword tool and see what results you get back, in the image below you can see a search I did using the above keywords.

Once the keyword tool completes its search, you will see something similar to the screen shot above.

A great thing that the keyword tool does is grouping keywords together for you, this is essential because, one of the important things in setting up an effective Adwords campaign is to have well structured, tightly themed ad groups.

I advise at this point,you use the + symbol at the side of each ad group to open them up and take a look at the keywords inside, this gives you the ability to unselect keywords that you don’t want in your campaign, this is also a good time to create a list of what we call “negative keywords”. Negative keywords are words you do not want your ads to be shown for, just create a separate list in excel or notepad.

Finally, you need to consider which match types you will use; basically you have three main match types to choose from:

  1. Broad
  2. Phrase
  3. Exact

Additionally you also have negative keywords, which themselves can also be broad, phrase, or exact and finally you have what’s called a modified broad match, which is a mixture of Broad and Phrase.

Now unfortunately explaining match types could be a full article in itself, so it’s not something I can really go into here, the good news is Google already did a good job of explaining it, so you can get a full description here also for a quick explanation you can see the video from this page below:

Creating a good account structure

Having a good structure is very important when setting up your account, the first reason for this, is to make your campaigns much more manageable and allow you to be able to get a clearer view of areas in the account that are working and not working for you.

If we look back at the keyword research section, we already know that it is easy to create themed ad groups, thanks to the grouping feature in the Google Adwords Keyword Tool, so we should have a good structure already in terms of our ad groups, the next thing to do would be to decide if we were going to have any separate campaigns.

If we take our example from earlier of a web design company from London, start with three campaigns like so.

  1. A general campaign, containing the majority of my ad groups.
  2. A local campaign, containing all the London related keywords.
  3. And finally, a brand campaign containing brand related terms (this is very important and often overlooked and is essential to protect your brand).

There are a few reasons for splitting things out this way, firstly it means you can give each different campaign its own spend limit, which can be useful, especially if you are on a tight budget.

There is also a good chance you might want to use different settings in different campaigns, for example you might want the brand campaign running 24/7 in all locations to protect the brand, however, you may decide to run the other two campaigns Mon-Fri 8am-8pm, another reason could be not wanting your general keywords to eat through the budget and not give the local terms a fair chance, plus, it makes the campaign more manageable.

There is one more extremely important reason why account structure is so important and that is quality score, Google measures the quality of your campaign and more specifically your keywords using quality score.

Quality score is determined by 3 main factors which are listed bellow in order of importance:

  1. CTR (click through rate)
  2. Relevancy
  3. Landing page quality

Out of the three, CTR is by far the most important and relevancy comes in second, with that said, your CTR is often directly linked to relevancy, because more relevant ads are more likely to get a higher CTR, this is because they closely match the users search query.

Having a good account structure means that your campaigns and ad groups are split in to tightly themed groups, meaning that the ads in the groups are also tightly themed, therefore, setting your campaigns up in this way means you are guaranteeing your ads will be highly relevant to the users search query.

Writing Good Ads

There are no set in stone rules when writing ad copy, however, I found over the years that whilst different industries respond differently to ad copy, there are a few tips that will see your ads getting a better response than your competition, in most instances:

  1. Use a strong title relevant to the ad group that your ad is in, you can take this one step further by using keyword insertion. You can read a good article about keyword insertion here:
  2. Use offers and benefits in your ad copy, for example, free delivery, 20% Off, Buy One Get One Free. Look at what competitors are offering and try to offer something better, or of a higher perceived value.
  3. Use a strong call to action, one of the biggest mistakes businesses make, is not telling the user what to do, this small change can have a dramatic effect on existing accounts, sometimes doubling even tripling CTR. Close your ad using wording like, Call Us Now! Get A Free Quote Today! Contact Us And Save! You get the idea but be creative! Look at what your competitors are doing and try to test different calls to action.

The final tip, is always be testing, you should always have at least 2 ads in each ad group, it doesn’t matter if your current ad has an amazing CTR and conversion rate, there is always a chance to improve, so keep trying new ideas.

Campaign Settings

Not configuring settings properly is another common mistake seen in accounts, to edit this area, you need to click the settings tab in your account dashboard in the campaigns tab, here you will find a number of different campaign settings which can be adjusted to more suit the goals of your campaign, below is a screen shot of what you should be seeing:

At the top, you can see where it says “type” this is referring to the type of campaign you would like to run, by default Google will set your campaign to run on both search and display, this is not what you want, I recommend that you split the two out into their own campaigns, both sources of traffic perform very differently and require setting up separately, in most cases for new accounts, I recommend selecting Search network only.

Below this is an option that says “Networks” by opening this you can now see where your traffic will be coming from, at the top you will see the Google search network and below this, you will find another option called “search partners”, this second options has the ability to be turned off

Search partners are a mixture of smaller search engines and directories that are partners with Google and serve Google ads in their own search results, this is optional and in terms of turning this on or off, there really is no right or wrong answer,  I  suggest, if you are on a tight budget turn it off and if you can afford to test it leave it on, it really is hit or miss. I have known campaigns where search partners performed really poorly, but on the other hand I have seen instances where it has produced by far the cheapest conversions, basically you won’t know till you test it.

Your next option is devices; Adwords serves ads to computers, mobile and tablets. currently, you can select which devices you would like to be shown on and up to recently, a common best practice has been to split different devices into different campaigns, however, this is something that is changing slightly as Google is in the process of introducing a new update called “Enhanced Campaigns”, this will mean all devices will soon be controlled in the same campaigns. Again, this is quite an in-depth topic and not really something I want to get into here, if you are interested to know more about enhanced campaigns, you can see what Google has to say on the subject here:

The next option is locations, this is where you can decide who will see your ads, for example, in our mock London web design agency, we might decide that we are only interested in working with companies in a 20 mile radius of London, we can achieve this by editing the location settings and targeting our campaign to only display in a 20 mile radius of London, like so.

Generally the only other setting I  recommend you always change, is ad delivery, by default Adwords will deliver impressions to the ad that has the highest CTR, at first sounds like a good idea, however, the system makes its mind up very quickly as to which it deems the best ad, the problem with this is it isn’t really a fair test, plus CTR is not the only thing to consider, as there is no reason why an ad with a lower CTR wont perform better in other ways like conversion rate, also as we mentioned earlier, we always want to be testing new copy, so, we really want our ads to receive a more even share of impressions, this way we can make educated decisions, of which ads are performing the best, so set this option to “Rotate Ads Evenly”.

There a few other options and you should definitely take a look around this area to get a better understanding of the things you can change at a campaign level.

Setting Up Tracking

Tracking your campaigns is vital; you should always be tracking your results. Google provides you with a tracking pixel (a piece of code) which you can use to measure conversions, this can be used to track when a user completes a desired action on your site like filling out a form, making a purchase or completing a download, the most common way to use this pixel is by placing it on a success page where people are directed after converting,  this measures the conversion in Adwords, this is extremely useful as it reveals the areas in your account that are responsible for the conversions, for example, it will tell you which  campaign, ad group, keywords and ad caused the conversion this sort of information is essential to getting the best possible results out of your campaign.

Another form of tracking available, is call extensions, these work with mobile where a user can choose to call you directly from your ad, which is then measured as a conversion, currently, this is the only type of call tracking Google offers, they do not offer a solution for tracking the actual telephone numbers on your site, however, there are 3rd party solutions that allow you to track phone calls at a keyword level, here in the UK, one of the most popular is Response Tap and there are a few others and also a number of companies in the US that provide this service one example would be Mongoose Metrics.

Ad extensions

In this last section, I want to touch on ad extensions. Ad extensions are extra features you can use to extend your ads to make them more appealing, there are a number of different types which I have listed below:

  • Location extensions
  • Call extensions
  • Site link extensions
  • Product extensions
  • Social extensions
  • Dynamic search ad extensions
  • App extensions

The three top ones are the most widely used.

  • location extensions are particularly useful when you are running a locally targeted campaign, basically, what they allow you to do is extend your ads by dynamically attaching your business address, you can do this by linking to your local Google profile or manually adding the address into the extension options.
  • Call extensions are great if you are wanting to get direct phone calls from your mobile campaigns, by using call extensions (click to call) you can add a call button to your ads, so for example, someone searching for information about insurance on their smart phone would see an ad that looked something like this

    Obviously, this can really help conversions on mobile campaigns.

  • Site link extensions are probably the most commonly used ad extension, what these extensions do, is allow you to extend your ads by adding links to other areas on your site below your ad copy, this has multiple advantages, firstly, you can direct users to different areas of your site from the same ad, you could have links to different product pages, contact pages, special offers etc. Also, as well as the first benefit, you considerably increase the virtual real estate your ad takes up, below you can see how Google themselves are using it in their own ads to promote Adwords:
    Using sitelinks alone has been proven to significantly increase CTR.Some people may consider sitelinks to be a more advanced feature of Adwords, however they are not hard to implement, plus they can improve your campaign considerably, so my advice is set them up right from the word go!


That brings this article to a close and concludes my guide of Best practices for setting up your first Adwords campaign; I really hope you found this useful.

Hopefully, I have covered all the important aspects to get you off to the best start with Adwords, however, if there are any questions about anything in this article, or anything else you would like to know about setting up Adwords, please leave questions and comments below and I will be more than happy to answer them.