PPC Chat Streamcap – The Ins & Outs of Ad Groups

Hello again!

This week, our host Matt Umbro (@Matt_Umbro) returned to take #ppcchat reins with another great round of pay-per-click questions. This chat’s topic focused on “The Ins & Outs of Pay Per Click Ad Groups”. The following is the transcribed Streamcap from the live chat.

Q1: What have your results been when creating AGs (Ad Groups) where search intent is further along? Eg:”buy dress shoes” vs. just “dress shoes.”

  • Volume is lower, but conversion rate is higher. Necessary to have both types of AGs. – Luke Alley (@LukeAlley) ++
  • Ad group structure should be granular, you should show a different ad to ‘buy dress shoes’ vs ‘dress shoes’. – Justin Freid (@Justin_Freid) +++
    • True, but often times the “dress shoes” ad group will include a call to action to buy. – Matt Umbro (@Matt_Umbro)
      • Agreed but you can experiment with CTA’s in the ‘dress shoes’ AG. ‘Buy dress shoes’ AG should ALWAYS contain that CTA. – Justin Freid
  • Definitely the more specific the ad group theme is to buying intent, the better it converts. – Mike Shollenberger (@webjock) +
  • Much less impressions, sometimes see better conversion rate sometimes not. – Matt Umbro
  • Further down the sales funnel usually equals higher conversion. Need proper conversion attribution for top-funnel ad groups. – Jeremy Brown (@JBGuru)
  • Better conversion rates. But more competition, so higher CPC. – Dennis Petretti (@Denetti)
  • I like using the “buy”/”apply” CTA in the headline for further along AGs. I use broader headlines in the other AGs. – Michelle Morgan (@michellemsem)
  • Keyword Search Volume dictates much of the strategy. Early searches get broader/higher category LP’s. Broader Text ads. – James Svoboda (@Realicity)
  • Don’t forget the negative keyword “buy” in the “dress shoes” ad group. Ad group level negative KWs = very important. – Matt Umbro +++++
    • True! I miss that often. – Luke Alley
    • I call this “Shifting Impressions”. – James Svoboda +
  • Have to keep the top of funnel or you cut conversion opportunities. Separate out those high volume terms and monitor. – Jeremy Brown
  • Also “non-buy” AG themes feed the “buy” AG funnel, so you don’t want to ignore them. – Mike Shollenberger
  • Kind of a moot point. not too many users search with “buy.” The amount of searches made with ‘intent’ word is next to nothing. – John Lavin (@Johnnyjetfan)
  • We use cross target categories through analytics to measure intent/audience qualifications, to breakout top line metrics. – Chris Kostecki (@chriskos)

Q2: Do you utilize separate Ad Groups for individual keyword match types? What have your results been?

  • Higher volume kws get their own match type AGs. Others don’t. Great success so far. Can write more specific ad copy for exact. – Michelle Morgan
  • Never done that actually. Interested to see if others have. – Luke Alley +
  • That’s generally only worthwhile if the volume justifies it. Separating match types if worth managing separately. – Jeremy Brown
  • 100% separate match types into different ad groups. Easier to understand where leads are coming from and how things perform. – Justin Freid
    • How does this practice impact management? – Matt Umbro
      • The cleaner structure allows you report on things easier, which allows you to make actions from your reporting. – Justin Freid
    • I’d say that’s overkill for low-volume keywords. Trade-offs between granularity and efficiency. – Jeremy Brown +
      • Would need to be a huge volume of searches to justify. – Luke Alley
      • I just find it too cluttered to house 10+ keyword in an ad group. – Justin Freid
    • Great way to see true lead source as Justin Freid says, but only do it for super high volume stuff. – Aaron Levy (@bigalittlea)
      • Do you do this from the beginning? – Matt Umbro
        • Yep! easier to differentiate between exact/phrase match results rather than digging through SQ’s. Also, allows you to more easily determine if super High Volume keywords need their own campaigns for budgeting purposes. – Aaron Levy
  • We don’t usually but would love to see others results. – David Beltramini (@dbeltramini)
  • Usually group by intent, but for large volume or highly qualified (brand) yes. – Chris Kostecki
  • I don’t like separating match types into their own AGs. Usually adjust bids at KW level anyway, so no benefit. – Mike Shollenberger
  • Usually they remain in the same themed AG, then based on KW SQ reports & Analytics see if new AG required. – Andrew Baker (@SEOEdinburgh) +
  • You also have to thing about the ads. Should a broad match keyword be shown the same ad as an exact match? – Justin Freid
    • Having exact, phrase, BMM in same ad group is useful if they total something like 10-35 clicks in a month. – Jeremy Brown
    • I like being able to write different ad copy for match types. Diff queries have diff intent. – Michelle Morgan
  • Yes, on high volume KWs, as CTR can be different so need to keep apart, plus can be quicker to find negatives. – James Hume (@zerospin)
  • Depends on volume and # of words in the Keyword. Usually applies more to 1 & 2 word keywords where I put exact in diff. AGs. – James Svoboda
  • More ad groups means it needs more time optimizing. Ok for an account w/ only 10 themes. Too much work for 1000 product acct. – Neil Sorenson (@iNeils)
  • Separating by intent is more important then by match type. Would need to be very high volume query to get its own AG. – Dennis Petretti +
  • Interesting answers I feel a little AG test coming on in one of my accounts. – Andrew Baker
  • It also works well with clustering for bid optimization. Match types should be at different bid levels. – Justin Freid +
  • To me, AGs by match type create too much busy work to maintain, when I can just filter by Dimensions as needed. – Mike Shollenberger
  • I’ve done it once when I wanted to create awareness with one group and drive action with another. Easier to manage bids. – Tracy Henry (@tracy_a_henry)
  • Different AG for match types depends on traffic numbers – the more traffic the more granular the AGs should be. – Anna George (@Koozai_AnnaG)
  • I’ve slowly broken out my top performing kws into their own AGs to write more specific ad copy and I’ve seen instant success. – Bryan Brosseau (@BryanBrosseau)
  • Am I the only one that does if(Left(1)=”[“, etc… formulas on kws? – Chris Kostecki

Q3: How has the addition of the Modified Broad Match type impacted Ad Group expansion (or subtraction)?

  • Big thing for me on ad groups is that they should be created when new ad copy is needed or it helps management. – Jeremy Brown
  • I have replaced a lot of BM with BMM for similar themes, i.e. debt consolidation. There are only so many ways to say it. – Neil Sorenson
  • I rarely use regular broad match anymore, its nice to have a more targeted keyword that can still cover broadly. – John Lavin +
  • BMM means no more Extended Broad Match for me! Better Themed Ad Groups this way. – James Svoboda
  • Modified Broad Match has not impacted my campaign / ad group structure at all. – Mike Shollenberger
  • For accounts with completely separate and distinct products I’ve only used BMM sparingly. – Neil Sorenson
  • Hasn’t really impacted structure but good lord does it save time w/ cross-group negatives. – Aaron Levy +
  • Mostly has had an effect on keyword selection. No real effect on AGs yet. BMM is replacing broad and phrase in my accounts. – Michelle Morgan +
  • I haven’t changed or added any ad groups, really testing right now. – Darci Mino (@darcimino)
  • Not really caused much addition or subtraction of AGs. – David Beltramini
  • I also use more of what I call “Discovery Match Keywords” for identifying new opportunities that Broad use to discover. – James Svoboda
    • Interesting, Please explain. – Mike Shollenberger
    • Too much to tell. I’ll have to write a post. – James Svoboda
  • Some. More volume on modified broad is better for opt plans than low volume phrase & exact match. Less keywords, less ad groups. – Harris Neifield (@HarrisNeifield)
  • BMM is useful in both expanding phrase/exact terms & reigning in BM terms, largest impact on initials builds & testing the water. – Chris Kostecki
  • Mostly using MBB… But I still use BM for local clients with relatively small markets, i.e. dentists. – Luke Alley
  • Its replaced Broad Match keywords and overall enhanced AdWords by 30%. – Cedric Williams (@cedricwilliams)
  • MBB makes it easier to put that in ad groups with phrase and exact on lower-volume terms. – Jeremy Brown
  • BMM makes it possible to expand an ad group to as much traffic as possible, but still closely stay on the target intent. – Dennis Petretti +
  • Q3 Part 2 – Do you think broad and phrase matches will fade out over time and be replaced with BMM
    • Hard to say yes. Each type has its purpose. – Cedric Williams
    • They certainly will in my account. Won’t cut them out completely. Lower CPCs sometimes with phrase & broad helps w/ kw expansion. – Michelle Morgan
    • No not at all I think that they all have a place. – Darci Mino
    • No – broad & phrase are needed in order to use query reports to mine for new keywords. – Harris Neifield
    • No. Exact match and phrase match are signals to Google that you are more relevant to the query in question. – Jeremy Brown
    • No, still need to target specific phrases “term1 term2” will target different searches than +term1 +term2 & Google will never ever ever get rid of BM (unless legally compelled to do so) …ever. – Chris Kostecki ++
      • Heck, they won’t even stop using broad match as the default! – Jeremy Brown +++
    • Nope, sometimes different spellings or word arrangements can = completely different product or intent. – Aaron Levy
    • No, sometimes I have to have phrase match and not the broadness of BMM or exactness of EM. – Luke Alley
    • I think it will. Definitely reduces use of phrase match. I’m only using phrase match in very specific cases now. – Dennis Petretti
    • I only count on Exact & Fully Modified BMM. Very selective w/ Phrase and extremely critical of Broad or not full BMM. – Realicity
    • Agree with all of you that phrase and broad match will always remain, but it seems more of us are using BMM with greater frequency. – Matt Umbro
    • Certainly won’t. How would they be able to give kw suggestions w/o their fav match type. – Michelle Morgan
    • ALL types have a place, while the importance of some types may fade, each will indefinitely have monetizing potential. – Jordan McCann (@Solancer)
    • BM might fade out, as BMM brings in more qualified traffic. But phrase match will stay. – Nikhil Inamdar (@NikhilInamdar)
    • I think not. Each MT has its own purpose. it ultimately depends on client’s end goals that drive the campaigns. – Cassandra (@imcassy) +
    • MBB is being used more, but won’t replace other match types. Not for those who know the power of exact match at least. – Jeremy Brown +

Q4: Do you add negative Keywords at the Ad Group level? As a side note, discuss impact on CTR & conversion rate when adding negatives at AG level.

  • Absolutely – AG negative keywords are more important to me than campaign level negatives. – Jacob Hoopes (@JacobHoopes)
  • I always ad them at the AG level; its a safer bet. In fact I exclude negatives at the AG level so I don’t mistakenly add to campaign level. 1 AG at a time. – John Lavin
  • Abso-freaking-lutely! CTR and Conversion % are higher and keeps crazy queries out. – Michelle Morgan +
  • SQR usually produce campaign level negatives, though for the “shifting impressions” have to do at AG level (h/t @realicity) – Chris Kostecki
  • I mostly use Account Level “Keyword Lists” and use Ad Group level negatives to control and Shift Impressions. – James Svoboda
  • Absolutely add Negative KWs @ the ad group level. It sculpts the AG to match user intent. – Mike Shollenberger
  • Yes, helps conversion rates for e-commerce where product names which are close in spelling but very different in meaning. – Harris Neifield +
  • Definitely. To better target keywords but in some cases for triangulation of keywords if match types are broken out. – Anna George
  • Absolutely! If you have hundreds/thousands of AGs, this allows to properly funnel your ads that best matches the users query. – Bryan Brosseau
  • Yes, ad groups are unique, so negatives usually are as well. – Darci Mino
  • Yes, but 90% of negatives are at the campaign level. – Luke Alley +
  • AG negatives are ESPECIALLY important if you are using BM. Otherwise cross pollination WILL happen. – Jacob Hoopes +
  • Of course, different reasons for AG -kw and campaign level -kw. – Tracy Henry
  • Absolutely. IMHO adding negatives at the AG level isn’t done enough. An item that Google should provide more education to newbs. – Matt Umbro
  • In AdWords I use both AG & Campaign level (it excludes both). In adCenter I use just campaign. (Only excludes narrowest group. – Michelle Morgan
  • Some times to force traffic to the right AG but will let AdWords try and work it out first. – James Hume +
  • Generally not at first [always exceptions]. i like SERPs telling me what works & what doesn’t before i make too many limitations. – Cassandra
  • Absolutely, it’s needed to filter traffic to the correct ad and landing page. – Dennis Petretti +
  • I’ve found it really helpful with geoqualified terms. Ex.) Regional based campaigns, state based ad groups. – Steve Hill (@epiclysteve)
  • It’s a mix of both. Some can be used at the campaign level, but other negatives are only specific to certain adgroups. Mark Kennedy (@markkennedysem)
  • Absolutely! If you have hundreds/thousands of AGs, this allows to properly funnel your ads that best matches the users query. – Bryan Brosseau
  • Yes, to sculpt traffic if necessary (can usually do that with bids). – Jeremy Brown
  • Structure/strategy of acct will change how you use negatives. Have to take into affect geo-settings, # of campaigns/adgroups etc. – Luke Alley +
  • I make sure to use both campaign negative keywords and adgroup negatives keywords to filter out the “trash.” – Bryan Brosseau
  • I utilize the “see search terms” feature to identify which phrases may need to be excluded through negatives. – Jacob Hoopes +
  • Absolutely YES! adding -tive KWs at AG level gives more control on campaign. – Andrew Baker
  • I use both types of negative. AdGrp -ves just to better match creative/lp to SQ. Stops cannibalisation by high CPC ad groups. – Richard Fergie (@RichardFergie)

Q5: How and when do you determine whether a set of keywords within an existing Ad Group deserves its own Ad Group or Campaign?

  • When the volume gets too high or the quality score gets too low. – Tracy Henry
  • When the AG’s keyword list becomes unmanageable, probably when it hits about 60 KWs. – John Lavin
    • Agreed, with this many keywords you can’t realistically have effective ads for each term. – Matt Umbro
  • If they have a low q-score, I will pull them out and give them extra attention in their own adgroup. More targeted ad, etc. – Mark Kennedy +
  • Volume and conversions… and I should add the amount of time I have to work on that account. – Luke Alley
  • I let the traffic & performance determine, the closer you can align kws/ads/lps the better they will perform. – Chris Kostecki
  • Depends on quality score. I’ll break out kws into their own adgroups if quality score is low. – Bryan Brosseau ++
  • Whenever it makes fiscal sense to get more granular. (granularity = relevance = ROI). – Jacob Hoopes +
  • Low QS, high traffic, developed a new meaning, testing shows a different landing page works better. – Michelle Morgan +
  • Considerations: If Quality Score for a set of keywords is very diff. -and- if search volume warrants it. – James Svoboda
  • Volume. If it justifies separate management, then try different ad copy. Ad copy is big factor for new ad groups. – Jeremy Brown +
  • Targeting settings which are done at the campaign level – do they need to be different? If so, need a new campaign. – Harris Neifield
  • Also keep in mind the fundamentals, 2 different keyword themes need 2 different ad groups. – Matt Umbro +
  • Some reasons to break out new AGs: too many keywords, too much search volume, discover oppty to further segment intent. – Mike Shollenberger
  • Based on the volume of queries. Unless there is a clear intent that isn’t already being addressed by any other ad group. – Dennis Petretti
  • The perfect account would have every keyword in its own adgroup, time has to be a factor for us all. No? – Luke Alley +++
    • Very true & it would discredit using AGs at all. – Cassandra
    • IDK…i cant wholeheartedly agree. – Chris Kostecki +
    • Every keyword in its own ad group equals the original GoTo/Overture. – Roger Sikes (@rogersikes) +
  • Depends on volume, QS, relevance to ads, if the exisiting AG isn’t cutting it I’ll make a new one. – Andrew Baker
    • Agree, When there is volume plus the opportunity to write better ad text using that keyword term. – James Hume
  • Biggest reason to breakout is if all the kws in the adgroup are not seeing impressions, either by budget or cannibalization. – Chris Kostecki
  • Time definitely a factor. You waste time on minor things, that doesn’t leave enough to work on the major ones. – Jeremy Brown
    • Exactly. Prioritizing then becomes huge. Where can my time be BEST spent. Maybe that is the question. – Luke Alley
      • Generally, answer to that is ad copy testing if other basics are in place. – Jeremy Brown
      • Grouping relevant targets seems more focused than only 1-offs. – Chris Kostecki
  • If targeting is the same, will volume be significant enough on the new keywords to justify writing new ads? If so, new AG. – Harris Neifield
  • Depends on volume / conversions of queries and relevance of the ad. – Martin Röttgerding (@bloomarty)
  • Just remember, winners do what others are not willing to do. When In Doubt, Break it Out. Granularity is never bad. – Jacob Hoopes ++
  • Look for outliers. Major difference from the average on any metric is a candidate for action. Richard Fergie
  • It would be interesting for all of us to get the same set of keywords and see how we break them into ad groups. – Matt Umbro ++++

Q6: What features and settings would you like to see at the Ad Group level?

  • Sitelinks! – Matt Umbro +
    • Hard to argue with that one. – Dennis Petretti
  • Call Tracking. – Cedric Williams
  • Geotargeting! – Mike Shollenberger ++
    • Wow people, really?? Geo-targeting?? Isn’t that what campaigns are for? Am I missing something? – Jeremy Brown +
  • Ad extensions, especially sitelinks. – Martin Röttgerding
  • Geo-targeting! Dear lord pleaaaase geo-targeting at the AG level. – Aaron Levy +
  • Ad Extensions and Geo-Settings. – James Svoboda +
    • I just can’t see ad group geo-targeting. What type of advertiser needs this? – Jeremy Brown
      • Breaking out a state camp by city keywords. – Chris Kostecki
      • Businesses w/ multi locations in 1 city? – Mike Shollenberger
      • Service-based business with 10 services, 5 branches. Each does SOME services; I want to pick & choose what branch gets what kwds. – Aaron Levy
      • Campaign targeting Metro and then Individual Ad Groups that target Cities within metro. Also, mobile is going to give us better geo-targeting in the future with much more search volume. – James Svoboda +
  • Easy one. Exact Match Impression Share. I want it at keyword level, but would settle for ad group. – Jeremy Brown +++++
    • I spend a lot of time trying to figure out what agroups not getting the impression love! – Luke Alley
  • Sitelinks and geotargeting! – Bryan Brosseau
  • Call metrics and radius targeting. – David Beltramini
  • All the setting available at the campaign level. – Jacob Hoopes +
  • Day-parting. – Harris Neifield +
  • Different sitelink extensions for different adgroups. – Mark Kennedy +
  • Negative kw lists at the AG level would be nice. Definitely Sitelinks. – Michelle Morgan +
  • Impression Share & Ad Extensions. – Andrew Baker +
  • Scheduling, dayparting, extensions, geo targeting…all of the above! – Chris Kostecki
  • Ability to change individual AG settings, esp in AdWords. – Nikhil Inamdar
  • Think there has to be good reason for features at AG level, don’t want to be copying same settings over 100s of AGs. – James Hume
  • Ad Group settings that override the campaign settings. – James Svoboda
    • Unless campaign settings are ‘defaulted’. – Aaron Robb (@aaron_robb)
  • Maybe Google doesn’t want to give us more AG level features because they fear discussions like this one occurring! – Matt Umbro
  • Too many settings in too many places makes for an infinitely flexible structure. In the real world we call this a Jelly Fish. That being said, the advertiser should get to decide how to structure (whether at AG or Campaign levels). – Jacob Hoopes
  • If a small budget is the issue, why not have a daily budget option for the entire account? – Roger Sikes +
  • AG geotargeting OPTIONS would be stellar. if you don’t want to utilize them, campaign-level it. – Cassandra

Q7: Do you segment Ad Groups any differently between mobile campaigns and desktop/laptop campaigns?

  • No, but I probably should 😉 Would love to hear other’s opinion on this one. – Jacob Hoopes
  • No, mobile is set up the same way. AGs and all. Gets lower bids. Only diff is that lps are all mobile friendly. – Michelle Morgan
  • I have not started that yet, but plan to experiment in the future. Only different is you need to account for is misspellings. – Justin Freid
  • Testing it now. Not enough data yet, but curious to see the outcome. Different ads as well. – Mark Kennedy
  • Shorter keyword variations in Mobile AGs. – Mike Shollenberger +++
  • Normally just a copy of the desktop then see how the search queries develop to create extra AGs as needed. – Mike Hume
    • Not the ideal way, but usually how I’d do it… until volume picks up on mobile. – Martin Röttgerding
  • Generally, the same. Possibly fewer ad groups as volume is lower. – Jeremy Brown
  • Yes on mobile misspellings and short high volume words are the norm. since keywords are different the ad group structure is also. – Harris Neifield +
    • That makes sense. Wasn’t thinking of it that way. – Roger Sikes
  • I lean towards tighter groups to account for more specific searches (but not blanket 1:1). – Chris Kostecki
  • Only difference is AGs made up of 2-3 word KWs max… short search queries on mobile. – Andrew Baker
  • Shorter queries, but don’t forget Google Suggest. Start typing in ‘cloud computing’ and Google pulls longer ones. – Jeremy Brown
    • Stuff key terms in the beginning! – Chris Kostecki


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About the Author

James Svoboda is a PPC Consultant at WebRankingThis is a guest post by James Svoboda, managing partner at Portland based WebRanking, an infrequent blogger, Sphinn Editor, SEM content hound, and Co-Founder of the Minnesota Search Engine Marketing Association.

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One Response to PPC Chat Streamcap – The Ins & Outs of Ad Groups

  1. Dave Thomas says:

    Q3…Google themselves have even made phrase pretty much redundant from their own structureand no longer utilise. Speaking to some folk there just recently and it seems the concensus is that phrase is pretty useless now.

    regards to seperating out match..only works if you tirelessly add negatives against the exact phrases or increase the bid by a few increments so that the exact term is higher and therefore shows as the prominent term or you will have exacts showing from the broad,phrase and BMM adgroups too..

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