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Crafting the perfect PPC account - how to get the basics right

By Ian Oh, Paid media manager

Greenlight (now part of Brave Bison)


The Drum Network article

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September 28, 2018 | 7 min read

As paid search analysts at Greenlight, we continually strive to perfect our PPC accounts. We find ourselves constantly tweaking the campaign’s structure, continuously adding or removing keywords and testing to find the perfect ad copy – it’s a constant battle to achieve perfection.

Interior of Greenlight's office.

Digital marketing agency Greenlight is based in King's Cross, London.

However, this can only be achieved by laying a solid foundation. We know we need to focus on getting the basics right when we build our accounts, so that future tests, expansions, and innovations fit seamlessly.

Back to basics

Granularity is at the base of a solid account build; get it right, future additions and updates will be easy to manage. These are a few ground rules that I recommend sticking to:

  • Keep brand keywords and generic keywords in different campaigns;
  • Ensure keywords are split out as granularly as possible across ad groups so that ad copy is tailored for the keywords within each ad group;
  • Use the website’s category structure as a guide when building out campaigns and ad groups;
  • Ensure each campaign has only one type of keyword match type (we generally use Exact match and Broad Match Modified).

If the account structure has been built out well, it’s easier to add in new keywords on the fly. But beware of going too granular as this can lead to inefficiencies.

Compelling ad copy

You now have a solid foundation of campaigns, ad groups and keywords. Next, you need to create the ads that complement the keywords; ads that are too generic and don’t synergise with keywords can lead to a poor Quality Score which will lower its ad rank. This, in turn, can increase cost-per-clicks (CPCs) because it costs more to be in the top positions with a low Quality Score.

There are no hard and fast rules to creating ad copy, but here are my top tips:

  • Try to include the keyword in your ad copy – if too long, make sure to include the core word in the ad copy;
  • Include your unique selling point (USP) to differentiate the ad from the competition, by including value-added factors such as ‘free shipping’, ‘10 year guarantee’ or ‘90 day money back guarantee’, for example;
  • Make sure to include some form of call to action (CTA) such as ‘shop now’ or ‘get a quote’;
  • Include discounts where possible and test the impact of a monetary discount vs a percentage discount;
  • It’s best practice to have at least three different ads per ad group;
  • Lastly, testing and rotating ad copy is crucial to improving performance.

Dynamic search ads

Dynamic Search Ads (DSAs) are a campaign type that use your website to decide ad headline copy and scan landing pages to target keywords that may not be in your account. They can be really helpful to capture new and rising search queries, as well as highlighting new opportunities for expansion. It’s a safe way to ensure you’re visible when your target audience is conducting searches, and a recommended method of filling any gaps in keyword coverage. Finally, make sure you add existing keywords as ‘negatives’ to prevent cross-bidding on existing keywords.

Keeping in mind AdWords has now changed its interface, DSAs are now created at Ad Group level rather Campaign level.


Extensions are a useful way to expand your ad real estate within the SERPs (search engine results pages) – with the right combination of extensions, your ad could cover 50% more viewable ad space. Overall, there are 11 extensions available on AdWords and eight on Bing, but it’s worth noting that not all extensions are suitable for all businesses, but there are a few must-haves for any account:


These are the mainstay of ad extensions and are a shorter ad text which consist of a headline and a description that appear below the ad and enable the user to be directed to specific site pages.

Recommendation: include four sitelinks per account or campaign.

Callout extensions

These are short bodies of text made up of 25 characters or less that appear below an ad. The text doesn’t have a link incorporated, however, they are useful for highlighting a product’s USP.

Recommendation: have four callouts to maximise visibility and provide sufficient information.

Promo extensions

These are a newer extension, only available in the new AdWords interface. Promo extensions are used to highlight discounts currently active on your site.

Recommendation: include any available discounts on offer, as our tests have shown higher click-through rates (CTRs) when promo extensions appear alongside an ad.

Structured snippets

Structured snippets showcase your list of product types sold, services rendered, brands sold, and much more.

Recommendation: include at least one structured snippet per account to maximise user relevancy when searching.

Price extensions

Price extensions enable you to display product or service prices of key items alongside an ad.

Recommendation: include at least one price extension per account.

Location extensions

These work by linking your Google Business account to your AdWords account, and allows users to automatically view the nearest store location to them during a search.

Recommendation: this extension is a must for any business with physical stores that a customer can visit.

The importance of getting account basics right cannot be overestimated. Put in place a robust and granular account structure which allows for highly tailored and relevant ad copies. Take advantage of the available ad extensions to give users a reason to come to your site (and push your competitors further down the search results!). Focusing your attention on the basics now will set the scene for growth and will futureproof accounts for upcoming innovations too. It also makes your accounts and budgets easier to manage, which ultimately means more time for the fun stuff in paid search!

Ian Oh is paid media manager at Greenlight


Content by The Drum Network member:

Greenlight (now part of Brave Bison)

Greenlight has lived and breathed digital since 2001, when we started as three people in an old North London print shop. Today, we’re a full-service digital and...

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